Archive for January 7th, 2013

My very good friend Robb Sherwin is working on a new computer game, titled Cyberganked. It’s a text adventure (er, Interactive Fiction) game that takes place a few years in the future. In his game, Robb wants to include pictures of random people, and that’s where we come in. Anyone who e-mails me a usable picture by midnight this coming Friday will be entered into a drawing to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card. Are you interested in having your picture appear in a computer game and possibly winning $50? If so, keep reading for details!

I’ve talked about Interactive Fiction several times in the past — they’re the games that require players to type in commands like GO WEST and TALK TO GUY instead of using a joystick to interact with them. And yes, people still write these types of games! But not all works of interactive fiction are limited to strictly displaying text. Robb’s games also typically contain still pictures to accompany the text. In these games, a person typing ENTER CAR would then see a picture of the inside of a car displayed. If you type TALK TO JILL, you might see a picture of Jill.

Each year, interactive fiction games go head to head at the Xyzzy Awards (pronounced “zizzy”). In 2011, Robb’s most recent game (Cryptozookeeper) won Best Game, Best Writing, Best Setting, Best NPCs and Best Individual NPC. In a recent review of Cryptozookeeper, long time interactive fiction enthusiast Jacek Pudlo referred to Robb as “Shakespeare” when compared to some other contemporary authors of interactive fiction (if, one assumes, Shakespeare talked like a sailor.)

In Robb’s current game in progress, riots have broken out in the streets after everyone’s internet access has been cut off. For an early proof of concept test of Cyberganked, Robb asked me to send him a picture. In the demo I play a mercenary, so for my picture I I threw on a coat and a hat and a pair of sunglasses and sent him the following picture:

In this game, this is how I appear:

Here are a couple of other characters that appear in the game’s early demo:

Don’t worry about dressing up in a costume. According to Robb, he needs pictures for (at least) the following classes in his game: Adrenaline Junkie, Burglar, Carny, Communist, Crack Addict, Embalmer, Homewrecker, Illiterate Polish Web Forum Troll, Mall security guard, Motorcyclist, Mountain Climber, Nurse, Policeman / Policewoman, Private Detective, Programmer, Prohibition Advocate, Racecar Driver, Surfer, Swordsman/ Swordswoman, Whig, Wikipedia Admin.

So, what do you need to do to appear in Robb Sherwin’s next computer game and have a chance at winning a $50 Amazon Gift Card? It’s simple!

01. Take somewhere between 1 and 5 digital pictures of yourself. The best pictures will be of you from the waist up, although pictures from the shoulder will also be accepted. If you only take one picture, have a “neutral” look on your face. If you send in more than one, you can try a few different expressions. (Happy? Mad? Insane?) Pictures taken in front of a plain wall will make it easier to cut your picture out in Photoshop, but if that’s not possible, don’t worry about it. (Both I and Rob are pretty handy with Photoshop.) The main colors in the game will be red, blue, purple, black, and white, so if you can wear one of those colors, that’s a plus. If not, again, it may get digitally changed later.

02. E-mail the pictures to me. If you don’t know my e-mail address, click here. To be eligible for the drawing, pictures must be received by midnight on Friday, January 12, 2013.

03. In either the subject or body of your e-mail, please include the phrase, “Robb Sherwin has the right to use this picture/these pictures in in his game.” Please, only send pictures that you have the rights to.

04. Robb needs both men and women to appear in his game. If you would like, you can also send in pictures of your significant other as well. If you do, I will enter each one of your names in the drawing. What a great way to double your odds of winning!

05. Everyone who submits a photo has the option of having their name appear in the game’s credits. If you would like your name to appear in the game’s credits, let me know how you would like your name to appear. It might be your real name. It might be your online alias. You might not want your name to appear in the credit. Whatever you want is okay — just let me know.

On Saturday, January 13th, I will wake up and add everybody’s name into a big spreadsheet. Each line will have a unique number. If you sent in pictures of your significant other (or a friend, or whatever), each person will get their own line and own number. After that is done I will use an as-of-yet-undetermined random number generator to select the winner. This process will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube. After the video has been uploaded to YouTube, a link to the video will be posted on robohara.com to announce the winner.

When the game is finally released, each person who mailed me a picture will receive an e-mail containing a link where the game can be downloaded for free. Additionally, I will create a photo gallery where you can go online and find the final version of your picture, in case you don’t want to play through the game just to see it. Other than that single e-mail, your e-mail address will not be used for anything else. I will not share them. I will not post them. I will not sell them. I will not spam you with e-mails. I won’t even give them to Robb. The goal of this contest is not to harvest people’s e-mail addresses; it’s to collect usable pictures for Robb’s new game. That’s it.

I think I’ve covered all the bases here. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing your pictures. Good luck!

(EDIT: The Amazon Gift Card has not yet been purchased. If you would like a gift card to some other online store, we can discuss that as well.)

About a year ago I signed up for a free website named Failin.gs. After signing up, the service allows people around you to leave anonymous suggestions and feedback — the idea being since all comments are anonymous, your friendships won’t be affected and you can get real, true comments and suggestions on ways to improve your life. If you’ve ever wanted to secretly tell a friend that they have stinky breath or dress like a rock star from the 1980s, this would be perfect way to do so. Or so I thought.

Except for the first week I haven’t been able to get anyone to leave suggestions for me, and every single person I’ve mentioned it to has had the same comment: “nothing on the Internet is anonymous.”

And in a way they’re right. Technically speaking very little of what happens on the Internet is truly anonymous. TCP/IP, the language of the Internet, uses IP addresses to figure out what information goes where. When you visit robohara.com, your computer sends your IP address to my website, which in turn determines what information you requested (like a blog post or a picture) and sends it back to your IP address. Web servers by default log this information — for how long those logs are kept or what is done with them is up to the site’s administrator.

There are ways to hide your IP address, like using a proxy server for example. To use one of those, your computer connects to a proxy server which would in turn connect to robohara.com. My website would then send the information back to the proxy server, which would then send it back to you. The only IP address robohara.com would ever see would be the one belonging to the proxy server. This still isn’t truly anonymous as the proxy server still has your IP address. I, Rob O’Hara, wouldn’t have any way to get that IP address from the proxy server owner unless you committed some sort of crime, and even then I would be depending on the owner of the proxy server to maintain logs. The real key here is to use a proxy server in another country, or better yet, hop from one proxy to another. This is pretty safe unless you start pissing off three letter agencies, at which point you had better hope you are using proxy servers that are far away in countries that don’t like cooperating with this one. I am digressing off topic.

The point is, at least with failin.gs, they do not reveal people’s IP addresses, e-mail addresses, or any other information to its users. So while it might not be anonymous in the technical internet routing definition of the world, it was anonymous to me. Still, people are so hesitant to believe that in this day and age something online would truly be anonymous that the basic requirement for users to trust a random website and believe that it was truly anonymous was more than people were willing to do.