This weekend over 16,000 people across 78 countries will come together in the annual Global Game Jam (GGJ) where teams of designers, developers and artists come together to form teams and produce games based on a prescribed theme within 48 hours.
“GGJ is about having fun and creating something that’s awesome because the time and theme constraints force you into a new way of thinking. After we finished our Screencheat prototype we were so happy with the execution of the idea that we had to take it forward. I’m super excited to see what we come up with this year and, as always, will have a great time making games,” said Screencheat’s director and artist Nicholas McDonnell.
Organisers have been working hard on increasing the number of women involved in GGJ, having reached their long-standing goal of 20% female jammers in Melbourne for the first time this year.
Despite failing to gain the initial 38 votes from Members of Parliament needed to block the National Security Legislation passing, the #StopDataRetention community is not ready to give up yet.
Electronic Frontiers Australia has a detailed guide to the metadata retention legislation and shows you how to submit your objection to the inquiry being carried out by the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security that will lead to a mandatory two year data retention scheme for all Australians.
Submissions close 5pm AEDT Monday 19 January 2015.
It has been a big month for Elon Musk in the news and we are only into the second week of January.
This week Musk had some news for Australians from his Tesla Motors company on the heels of its Model S release last year. The company has released its plan for 16 supercharger stations between Brisbane and Melbourne by 2016.
There were a lot of quality indie games at PAX this year. But these are the games that I went home and could not stop thinking about. I downloaded them, I played the still-unfinished demos, I talked about them with others online. The thing about Australian indie games is that everyone is focused on quality. Every game has a strength; be it artwork, story or gameplay. We just make good games.
2015 may be the year for science after a week of quiet achievements for the struggling Australian science agenda.
With the Cabinet reshuffle one Minister retained his portfolio and had another one added: Ian MacFarlane is now the Minister for Industry and Science. The science portfolio, which had previously had its own minister for over 80 years, was split between the industry and education portfolios by the Abbott government in 2013.
The Commonwealth Science Council has been busy since its first meeting in November. Last week the Council announced eight key areas it will be focusing on as science and research priorities in Australia as part of its revised strategic approach to science and technology investment.
Annie Parker has a day job at the Telstra Foundation’s start-up incubator program muru-D where she was coming across an ongoing problem: there were not enough people coming out of school with coding skills. The only people who had such skills were those who had actively chosen formal technology training. And even then, Australians were vastly outnumbered by other countries.
How ridiculous – this was 2014. These skills were as fundamental as literacy and numeracy for getting by in the world. So Parker decided to launch a nation-wide program to get coding literacy into primary schools. 15 schools signed up upon her initial efforts, and within nine months she had secured over $500k in funding.
This week the Code Club Australia held its official launch at Australian Museum, Sydney.
You say you are “ending the crime of intergenerational theft.” I know you’re talking about the budget. But you ARE actually stealing from our past and future generations.
Let me make it nice and simple for you Mr Prime Minister. Science advances our society. We discover things that improve our economy (like new products, or better ways of doing things), our health (like medicines and methods of treating diseases), and our lifestyle (by making things more comfortable or more fun!).
My memories of early motherhood are not nice. I had post natal depression and anxiety and that first year was the worst thing I have ever been through.
None of these things is my son’s fault. I was suffering from mental illness. I refused all outside help, not wanting to appear weak, and as a result made things harder for myself. By the time things got really bad I had given everyone the impression I was fine. I wasn’t. I hated motherhood. But because I have woven these events and my feelings together as one event, my idea of caring for an infant is inevitably tainted.
Right now I am also well-practised at recognising the good things in my life, the things to be grateful for. And it makes me want to capitalise on the good. Which begs the question: should I reconsider my one-and-done stance?
But the thought that absolutely terrifies me is this: I don’t want to become that person again. Read more at Daily Life.
But it’s what these Year 12 students did next that got our attention. They donated their prize money and their time to set up a five year scholarship at their school, Elwood College, specifically focused on getting girls and disadvantaged students interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
This year PAX Australia played host to the awards ceremony for the first Inaugural Australian STEM Games Challenge, which attracted over 550 school-aged participants to create their own games that were “interactive, stimulating and meaningful.”
These games were easily as good as some indies already on the market; and I don’t mean any disservice to independent developers. These kids were GOOD!
Problem, meet solution. If the government won’t give us the funding we need then we will find our own help, the researchers say.
HealthHack is an initiative of The Open Knowledge Foundation, which also runs the nation-wide GovHack. It is a community of people with all kinds of skills and knowledge who are passionate about the importance of accessible data, and want to make a difference to society in their own way. They recognise that the government isn’t interested in funding science and technology – yet they see its importance – and so they are going to ‘fund’ it themselves .
The gaming industry held its breath this weekend as gamers, developers and journos of Australia flocked to Melbourne for the Penny Arcade Expo.
There was an air of excitement in the more serious panels. Politics, education, journalism, parenting, medical care, LGBT representation; the sessions were well-attended and the audience were keen to make a difference to society with their beloved form of entertainment.
Ok so there may have been an undercurrent of nervousness about the weekend and the GamerGate controversy that was swirling around us at the time.
It’s official – we are spending less on research and development as a country than ever before.
Greens Deputy Leader Adam Bandt responded to the news by attacking the Government’s commitment to scientific funding.
“Cuts to CSIRO, clean energy programs and tax concessions for R&D have contributed to this woeful result.”
Perhaps the real issue here is that the government isn’t placing enough importance on science. As discussed on ABC’s Q and A this week and is under constant discussion in the education community, schools teach kids about English, sport, even the arts – but STEM is not a priority.
From the team that brought you The Bionic Ear comes The Bionic Eye – now in prototype in a Melbourne laboratory near you.
A collaboration of Melbourne-based researchers, including those from the now-legendary cochlear ear implant team have been able to bring this tech to human trials through the Bionic Vision Australia project.
It looks like Melbourne is the hub for vision technology, with another implant in development at Monash University.
Bushfire season in Australia evokes powerful images of ferocious blazes destroying everything in sight. Australians have learned a lot about living with bushfires. They are incredibly hot, uncontrollable, dangerous – wouldn’t it be good if this knowledge could be used for gain?
Now the very thing that causes the intensity in the summer bushfires is being studied to fuel something else: passenger jets. Imagine flying with the power of a bushfire beneath your wings.
The genome of the iconic Australian eucalypt has been sequenced and the data will be made freely available as part of an international project to harness the superpowers of the species that grows easily through much of the world (in some places as pests).
For some reason I have concocted this idea that other parents – even my dear friends, who have been by my side through pregnancy, the newborn haze of sleep deprivation and colic, who have supported my struggle with postnatal depression and anxiety, and with whom we have celebrated our children’s first milestones – are now judging the decisions I make with my son.
Just as we have our own styles of raising our kids in terms of feeding, childcare and fashion, we all have our own styles of discipline. Unfortunately we’re now at the part of parenting where the foundations you’ve laid (and are still tending to) now show their strength and their ability to support outside influences.
Originally published in Hyper Magazine issue 249, June 2014.
As the visual element in videogames has leapt ahead in recent years to match that of film and television, so too has the audio experience. It is an important element in videogames these days, with recent releases displaying complex and emotionally-charged soundtracks. Consumers and reviewers are expecting as much: a well-received game must not only excel in plot, graphics and gameplay – audio quality is another requirement for a good game.
Current gaming technology allows for high fidelity audio rates and game developers are understanding the importance of quality audio in their games. It has come a long way since the days of sound chips and the nostalgic soundtracks of Pong and Tetris.
Australia is currently building the Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) which is 36 separate 12-metre antennas that will work together as a single instrument through a computerised system.
This month we got to see the first images from the giant space scanner which is already operating twice as fast as any comparable telescope in the Southern Hemisphere; at a dynamic imaging range of 50,000:1. The project members are excited to say the least, especially the Aussie scientists.
Did you know Robert Frost plays an active role in Brisbane’s game development community?
Inspired by ‘The Road Less Travelled’ the theme of this year’s Game On symposium is Routes, reflecting the local game-making community and the many stories they have to tell.
Despite news of the Australian games market suffering closures, with Brisbane losing major studios such as Pandemic, Krome, THQ in recent years the indie studios have managed to fill the local void.
The community is tight-knit, using events such as the symposium to network (or reunite) and to encourage young up and comers into a career that most certainly continues to be a viable option after study.
Women who are hunting for part time work to fit around their family schedule know the feeling all too well: there is no job out there that suits me. The job hunt is just that little bit more difficult when you’re not only working around your own needs, but the needs of others too.
Now add to those difficulties a chronic health problem. Maybe it’s a visible disability, like something requiring the use of a wheelchair. Or perhaps it’s a health problem that people know of but very few people actually comprehend the reality of living with, like diabetes. Or a mental health problem.
How on earth do you find a job that suits you when you have such a long list of requirements before you can even consider applying, let alone accepting, the position?
Don’t let these cooler Autumn mornings and shorter days fool you. As you head outside with your family over the Easter long weekend, it’s just as important to ensure your little ones – and you – stay safe in the sun as it is in the height of summer.
Thanks in part to the popular message, ‘slip, slop, slap’, drilled into us from childhood, we’re now seeing the benefits of being a more ‘skin-cancer-aware’ generation (thank you Mum and Dad!).
Having anxiety isn’t a choice. For a while I resigned myself to it just being one of my characteristics, like my short stature and my freckles. But now I consider it to be something that I manage.
To the outsider, sufferers of anxiety just look like worriers. We are taunted with well-meaning comments: “Look on the bright side! Don’t worry, be happy!” As if we don’t want to be happy.
But when I think about the good things in my life, I’m overwhelmed with thoughts of losing it all. Losing my loved ones. That I am disappointing everyone with my ‘issues’. Even my happy moments are ruined because I know they are but a moment. Memories, both good and bad, are painful.
Gosh there are so many rules these days, aren’t there? ‘No TV before two years of age.’ ‘Don’t praise your child too much, he will expect praise for every little thing.’ ‘Don’t be a helicopter parent – kids have to make their own mistakes.’ ‘Don’t let your kids call the shots.’ ‘Make sure your kids do some chores.’
Ok, so these all sound quite logical. But am I allowed to show my child I love him? Can I have fun with him? After all, his childhood is my motherhood too.
The new year is here and so begins work on my new project. 2015 ended with many lessons on pain, illness and boundaries and with a self-inflicted work sabbatical. Though I’ve been itching to start on the new project for a number of months now, I have not had the clarity of mind to do so.
This week, it begins.
The Knowledge Economy (working title) is a non-fiction book, bringing together the two years’ worth of writing I have done as a journalist covering the innovation problems in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sector – and its potential for economic gain. Given Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s recent enthusiasm for the topic I feel it is time to dig deep into the topic and bring discourse to the issue in the hope that Australia can salvage its struggling STEM sector and also that the Government’s efforts are not misguided.
I will be analysing the economics, politics and social applications of STEM innovation in both research terms and business applications. If you are a pure researcher or a hybrid applied researcher; an incubator or a science communicator; are a crowdfunder or are living grant to grant, then get in touch: I’d love to hear what you have to say.
New year, new project. No time for slacking so I’ll report back later!
I don’t want to be an ambassador. I don’t want to explain to you how it feels to live like this, day in, day out. To have people look at me in confusion.
To tell of the physical pain I go through nearly every day that pushes my brain into my skull, the pressure mounting to the point where I wonder if my brain is actually too large for my skull. Will it rupture?
The bedroom is sealed, curtains pulled tight, pillows stuffed against the door to keep every sliver of light from piercing my eyes. I retreat to bed to sleep away the pain but the agony keeps me awake.
Numbness steals my left side. In the fetal position, I tremble terrified not of what is happening but of what could happen. The memories of a previous attack torment me to the point of tears.
Recovering I plan for the worst. My son’s best days without his mother – she’s home in bed. I cannot commit to a job because the illness is unpredictable.
Planning for the worst is the easiest thing to do. And the hardest. No plans are made, because I don’t know if I will ever feel well enough to do the things I used to do. My world shrinks.
Why would you have such intellect if you can’t use it? Why would you be a mother if you can’t watch your son grow? Why would you be a wife if you never spend time with your partner? Still, these are the things that keep me going.
I don’t want to have to explain to you life with chronic illness, or depression, or anxiety. And yet I realise I just have.
I have read it many times before, and it really is true: editors are incredibly busy. In the times when print budgets are shrinking and web publishing means editors are expected to produce more measurable content, production teams regularly consist of one writer/editor, one design person (a graphic designer who can move effortlessly between print and web), and a web designer/coder/IT helpdesk/analytics expert *cue laughs from the web industry*. Throw in a marketing manager who moves around the whole company, who is also expected to know their way around content, design, web design and SEO.
This kind of set up is very common, and for the companies that focus solely on online publishing, some of those roles are merged further.
Keeping that in mind, and also that these are MY personal preferences, I offer you:
Freelancer Tips for Working with Crazy Busy Editors who Wear Too Many Hats
Email the editor. Don’t phone, I don’t have time for chit chat. Please send me an email and get straight to the point within the first paragraph. Include examples of your work, or a link to your website.
Follow up. We receive dozens, hundreds even, of emails each day from news alert agencies, PR/media reps, freelancers and other writers, plus the usual office crap from colleagues and bosses. It is entirely possible we put your email in a folder to be actioned, but have forgotten about it. But if you don’t hear back from us after two follow-ups, drop it – we’re not interested. DO NOT CALL. Anecdote: I was once commissioned by an editor for a freelance pitch I sent two months after I sent it. The editor had forgotten to get back to me but luckily I hadn’t sent that particular article onto another publication yet (it was a case of perfect fit for that website).
Make my job easy. File on time. Supply images if agreed. Don’t make me chase you. Your story will be cut and you’ll never be commissioned again. We may be forgetful, but we remember the people that piss us off.
I LOVE on-spec articles. Better yet, send an on-spec article (that is obviously researched and relevant to my publication), along with five pitches for other articles. A one-sentence pitch is perfect. Note: On-spec writing is a contentious issue, but they are a good way to learn and bulk up your own writing portfolio. They are not a good way to spend your precious writing time if it is your sole income.
How to pitch:
(a)As mentioned, email the pitch. Personally, I don’t get offended if you send it to the wrong person first and it gets forwarded to me however I know some of the old-school editors don’t like that so much. If in doubt, contacting reception or the editorial assistant is the way to go.
(b)Send more than one, but make them brief. Go with titles, one (short) sentence, or a combination title + super-short sentence.
(c)Mix up time-sensitive topics and ‘evergreen’ topics. If an editor already has Christmas features lined up, but is looking for wellness features you will be prepared. You might even snag the ever-present search for the ‘run of press’ or “the editor is running this story because she likes it” feature. However, if you only pitch along the one attack line, you will get turned away which will only be a blow to your confidence.
(d)Have another go. If you get turned down, pitch something else. Have a deeper look at the website/publication and return with a re-pitch or re-query the editor to see if you can work together to find a topic to develop. Editors have one mission: to find the best content. It is in their best interest to have someone on board who is willing to work for it, provided you are doing your best to write something that suits the publication (not just score a job).
And to be SUPER nice, don’t hassle the editor about the invoicing. Ask them who handles the finances, and move your focus onto this person when it comes time to get paid.