I Have No Mouth and I Must Blog

The phenomenon of blogging has been going strong for the last five years, and, in a fit of navel-gazing, the phenomenon of reporting about blogging (or, God forbid, blogging about blogging) has been going strong for about four of those years. What are the roles of blogs? How much power do they have in regard to traditional media? How careful should you be when blogging about your personal or professional life? Blah blah.

Currently Technorati is tracking 60 million blogs. Some people have more than one blog, wanting to segregate parts of their lives into personal, business, political, gardening, etc. Sixty million blogs, slightly less than 60 million bloggers.

Well, now there are more. Not bloggers, though. Just blogs. Because your Xbox 360 can have a blog and give its opinion about you, your gaming progress and how depressed it gets when you fail to give it attention.

The Xbox Live service makes gamer information public; their rankings, reputation, what games they’ve played and so on. This information is used not only in Xbox Live, but several websites that gamers use for everything from finding opponents to establishing bragging rights. Microsoft emphasizes the ability to personalize your information in Xbox Live with a user icon, personal likes and dislikes, what zones you game in, and what games you’re playing.

IT developers and members of the Xbox Community Developer Program, Trapper Markelz of Chicago, IL, and Steven Sopp of Durham, NC, decided to take the information and do something more than the typical community registration site.

In early 2006, Markelz attended the O’Reilly Emerging Technology Conference and was introduced to the term “blogject.” Coined by technologist Dr. Julian Bleecker, it refers to an object that gathers data regarding its interaction with people or its environment – just like the Xbox stores information about the games it runs, how often it’s played, player reputation, etc.

In discussions with Sopp, Markelz realized how the term could relate to the Xbox 360, and they had an Xbox 360-blogging prototype up in a couple of days. “The response from the prototype was so huge that we immediately developed it into a full blown product which became 360voice.com.”

All the user needs to do is register his or her Xbox information at 360voice.com, and Sopp and Makelz will give the player’s Xbox a voice. And now, what we have are well over 50,000 Xbox 360s proudly blogging away.

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V1GILANC3’s Xbox – 10/29/2006
V1GILANC3 really threw down yesterday. It was good to see! I wish you could have been there! Last time I checked, his gamer score is 6164. That is an improvement of 30 points over last time! He made some progress on Splinter Cell D.A. finishing 1 achievement, and after that powered me down without even saying good night. I mean what the hell?

The blog posts usually include how excited the Xbox was to be played, the gamer score, the game and how many days in a row the gamer has played.

Although thousands are registering their consoles, user response to this service is varied. Many gamers discuss the service on their personal blogs, musing on what their Xbox is saying about them, or just how they feel about their machine getting a voice.

“The Gears of Dennis Spin and Grind” posts on his Myspace blog, “I decided to allow my Xbox360 to start its own blog..check it out..Dennis’ Xbox360 Blog … This will show you just how sad and pathetic I am at times..plus it says just how much I play, haha.(Give it a few days..its takes time for it to get started).”

Jame Healy has thought more about the concept: “Obviously this is a fairly straight-forward concept… it analyzes your gamer tag and scores, etc. and applies some built-in comments (that are actually quite humourous and/or original)… When is my refrigerator going to comment on the amount of beer and milk (and lack of vegetables) in its blog…”

And some comments are simply straightforward. Matt posts on his Myspace blog, “My XBOX360 is watching me. This is weird.”

The blog also takes a page from some Nintendo games and employs guilt tactics seen in Animal Crossing and Brain Age. If you don’t log in for a while, it begins to whine, asking if anyone else saw you, mentioning how it cried (“manly tears”) and eventually getting angry and claiming that you are no gamer.

V1GILANC3’s Xbox – 11/10/2006
Where is V1GILANC3 at? I want to disown him. I am putting myself up on eBay ASAP.

Posts like this makes one wonder about the future of blogjects, wondering if this could really happen. Are these Xbox blogs just a slippery slope of allowing our machines to have a voice?

Of course, the posts at 360voice.com are pre-coded responses repeated on many of the blogs, and real posts like this would take some pretty advanced artificial intelligence. But if the future of these gaming consoles includes such sophisticated computing advances, we might actually begin to see our consoles getting their own blogs and saying what they really think about us. You’d have to make sure you were buying a console system who liked your puzzle games so it wouldn’t talk smack about you on its blog about not letting it play GRAW with its friends.

One thing these blogs lack is the full community aspect of blogging: namely, allowing comments. Would Xboxes put comments on each others’ blogs? And what about if other machines began blogging, like our cars and refrigerators? I can see a flame war happening with the console system flaming the car when you drive away from home on vacation.

The blog script is, as Jame Healy said, original and fun. One aspect of Xbox live is the reputation system, where if someone is a bad sport or not fun to play with, they will be tagged as such. The Xbox is proud when your reputation goes up.

Princess Sushi’s Xbox – 11/13/2006
Princess Sushi decided to ride the gamer-train yesterday. I will admit it… I was happy. What is the gamer score? 1499 is what it is! That is a profit of 60 points over last time! She rallied Viva Piñata adding 3 achievements, Gears of War, and then I came out of my trance and realized it was all over.

Did I mention that I like it when people like us? Princess Sushi’s gamer reputation increased yesterday proving that she is an all-around nice girl.

When the media looks at blogging, they call it “citizen journalism” and wonder about the role of blogs in the future of media. But let’s face it, most people use blogs as online diaries, listing what they did, whom they saw and how it made them feel. These blogjects fall heavily into the second category, and a good thing, too. I’m not sure how I’d feel if my console system began telling me its opinion on the latest elections (especially if it disagreed with me; that would be awkward). What these blogjects do, at present, anyway, is remind us that blogging needn’t be the definitive next step in journalism. With the scandals surrounding blogging – people who don’t check sources, libel lawsuits and job losses over whistleblowing – it’s actually refreshing to see people using the blogosphere for just plain fun.

“What we are doing right now scratches the surface of what is possible once you start caching all this gaming data,” says Markelz. He and Sopp keep a developers blog at http://blog.360voice.com/, and they are constantly looking to see what else they can add to their service to build a community as well as an innovative and fun tool for Xbox Live junkies.

Although, I must admit I’m not sure if what console junkies need is encouragement to play more.

Fatty Chubs’ Xbox – 10/26/2006
Fatty Chubs… I beg you! Please don’t make me hurt another day… please?

Mur Lafferty is a freelance writer and podcast producer. She has dabbled in as much gaming as possible while working with Red Storm Entertainment and White Wolf Publishing. Currently she writes freelance for several gaming publications and produces three podcasts. She lives in Durham, NC.

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