Archive for December, 2009

December 14, 2009

Why should the salaries of MLAs continue to rise, when there are Islanders who are struggling to make ends meet, says Liberal MLA Valerie Dochery.

Salaries both MLAs and deputy ministers will be frozen for two years.

Premier Robert Ghiz made the announcement in the legislature Dec. 2.

Usually the MLAs and deputy ministers would see a pay increase on April 1.

The salary for an MLA is $65,344, while the opposition leader makes $111,032 and the premier $136,438.  The salaries will remain frozen until the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

Docherty said, the plan shows good initiative.

“At the end of the day, it is an example of good leadership on behalf of the premier.

“Having our salaries continue to increase while there are those living on the Island who are out of work or are making a limited income.

It just wouldn’t be right, she said.

House speaker Kathleen Casey said the independent committee that sets the salaries for the MLAs presented her with the proposal to freeze the salaries.

“The decisions which the Indemnities and Allowances Commission makes regarding the salaries of MLAs are binding. They are an independent commission who will report to the speaker.”

Speaker of the House, Kathleen Casey working hard in her office for the people of Charlottetown.

Women of P.E.I. Legislature respond to 5th place ranking

December 14, 2009

It would be good to see P.E.I. ranked at number one when it comes to the number of women in provincial legislatures, says the leader of  the Island Conservatives.

According to recent research conducted by the P.E.I. Coalition for Women in Government, P.E.I. ranks in fifth  among provinces and territories. There are seven women MLAs in P.E.I. Legislature.

Morell-Mermaid MLA Olive Crane said the Island needs more female representation in legislature and the best way to do it is through the political parties.

“We have been focusing too much in just trying to get women interested in politics. “We should be trying to attract more women through the political parties, so they can find a party which supports their political views.”

Another way women could be attracted to politics is to appeal to women through issues they care about, she said. She used child care as an example.

“There really isn’t a financial plan for child care right now. Getting more women involved would be a great way to get different perspectives on the issue.”

Crane said every time she gives a speech to a local school or event, she attempts to get more women interested in politics.

“I explain the opportunities for worthwhile careers in government as well as what they can do to make a positive change in the community. There are a lot of positive rewards when you work with people.”

As the leader of the opposition, Crane said she serves as a role model for what women are capable of when getting into politics.

“It is my job to make sure the government is held accountable when it is not doing what is best for Islanders. To make the governement work for the people of Prince Edward Island and not the other way around.

It is also my duty to make sure the members of my own party are up to par and are making the right decisions for Islanders.”

Straford-Kinlock, Liberal MLA, Cynthia Dunsford said there many attempts to try and get women interested in politics.

“Their have been a number of campaign schools, which have been mentoring younger women who want to get into politics. These schools offer the education and  encouragement needed to preapre them for a career in politics.”

Even with programs such as these, there are still some obstacles which prevent some women from getting into politics, she said.

“There are a lot of women who serve as caregivers. Whether they are younger women raising children, or older women who are taking care of older relatives, taking care of others is a dominating task. There isn’t any type of initiative to help these women get into politics.

A daycare facility for the children of women with government jobs would be a great way to help solve this problem.”

Dunsford said this is an important factor because all of the women in legislature either have no children or have older children.

“This is not an accident.”

The Liberal Party is trying to get more women involved in politics by trying to increase the number of women who seek nominations, she said.

“The party aims for an at least 33 per cent mark when it comes to the number of women coming out for nominations. During the last provincial election one-third of those who put their name in were women.”

The best way for women to get involved in politics is to join a political party, even if it is still an uphill battle, she said

“There are some women who feel they can not be aggressive enough to enter politics. This is a problem as any job in politics you can not show up without your boxing gloves on.

“It is not a gentle process where people use gentle words. The main goal should be to encourage women to develop there assertativeness and become leaders in their community.”

Crane said she would like to start a new program to help draw more women into politics some time in the new year.

“I would like to get women of Legislature together and form a speakers bureau to encourage other women to get involved in politics and in the community as a whole.”

The challenges of creating a quality title: Sega’s Ethan Einhorn discusses his move from PR to the production team

December 14, 2009

Sega producer Ethan Einhorn showing the platform of some of his most recent work, the iPhone. Conway photo

A young boy grew up in Chicago during the video game boom of the mid-eighties.

He would spend his time chatting with his friends in the schoolyard about how to get to the minus worlds or how to save the fair princess Zelda from the evil Gannon.

Now a grown man, he works for one of the biggest video game developers in the world. If you had told him this 20 years ago, he would have never believed it.

Ethan Einhorn has gone from a film student, to a freelance editor at Electronic Gaming Monthly and associate editor of GameNow, to a member of Sega’s PR team. Now he is a producer of digital media for the company.

“After a few years in public relations, I wanted to get closer to the games themselves and I requested a shift to the production department and I moved over to work on a lot of Sega’s classic IPs. From there I have worked on Sonic games, Super Monkey Ball games, Golden Axe games and a few vintage collections.”

A producer at a company like Sega manages development teams and the expectations of others within the company, he said.

“I make sure that the game is hitting its qualitative level and that we’re all very happy with the game. If we’re behind in one way or another from a development standpoint, or if we are not quite hitting the quality bar we want to, it is my job to work with the teams to fix that.”

The first game he worked on as a producer was Charlotte’s Web for the Gameboy Advanced and Nintendo DS. It wasn’t exactly a game he would purchase for himself, but it is he is proud of.

You get a real sense of pride and ownership in anything you end up contributing to creating, he said.

“After I had finished working on it, I was very proud of what I was able to get worked into the game.”

Chris Sharpley worked for several different companies including Sega before becoming the instructor of the Video Game Arts and Design at Holland College in Charlottetown.

It’s always important for anyone working on a game to give their best effort, Sharpley said.

“On the one hand, you feel you should be putting some extra effort in when working for a big name company like Sega. But on the other hand, they are an employer like everyone else, so it is best to do the best job you can whether it is a big name or a small developer.”

Einhorn’s proudest moment (thus far) was his work on the iPhone port of Super Monkey Ball.

“We had a very limited production cycle but put out a real high-quality game. The controls are a little challenging at first but once you’ve mastered them, the game is hard to put down.”

Einhorn has come a long way since picking up his first controller on the Odyssey 2, from the video game crash to the rise of the Nintendo Entertainment System, to the 16-bit war, to today’s three-way dance between Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, he’s seen it all.

Once a sixth grader exchaning strategies with his friends, he is now a grown man who has turned his childhood passion into a carrer.

“We have found at Sega that a surprising number of people who are playing games are in their 30s, so I think an entire generation starting with my generation you can call lifetime gamers.”

He is happy to work for a place responsible for some of the experiences he enjoyed as a child.

“If I could go back in time and tell my pre-teen self and say that I was working for Sega, I would have been very excited.”

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Public relations in the gaming industry

Public relations in the gaming industry

December 14, 2009

Sega producer Ethan Einhorn showing the platform of some of his most recent work, the iPhone. Conway photo

How do gaming related magazines and websites gain access to exclusive information and access to the hottest titles? It’s all a matter of PR.

Ethan Einhorn is a producer of Digital Media for Sega of America, but before that he was a member of the company’s PR team.

Few people can discuss the relationship between the gaming press and game publishers within the industry as well as Einhorn, as he has worked on both sides of the spectrum. Prior to his work at Sega, he was a freelance editor for Electronic Gaming Monthly and an associate editor for GameNow.

It was a comfortable transition shifting to PR after being an editor, said Einhorn.

“When it comes to getting the review copies of games, the exclusive interviews, the cheats, etc, it was matter of dealing with the publisher’s PR teams.”

The managing editor of Gampro magazine, Mike Weigand, has also had his fair share of dealing with public relations.

The use of information provided by the PR teams of different publishers are used in a variety of ways, he said.

“For product descriptions on Gampro.com and for background on any articles or features that we may be doing on a game we primarily obtain press releases from the companies, be it via a press email blast or the company’s press or FTP site.”

Einhorn says he enjoys promoting a company that has brands loved by people all over the world.

“We have a company heritage that people have always responded very well to, so that is definitely helpful to make sure that your getting press for the titles you are working on.”

The first game he worked on as a member of the PR team was the company’s first Sonic game released for a non-Sega console, Sonic Heroes.

“It’s a different level of work that you do when you’re working on a game from a marketing standpoint. It’s generally pre-release/post-release support and not actually working on the game itself.”

His regular duties were tied to managing the visibility of Sega’s Japanese games.

“Anything coming from Sega of Japan, I was deeply involved in promoting. That included working with enthusiast magazines and websites like EGM and IGN. Getting them assets for the game and giving them press releases .

“Securing exclusive interviews, exclusive hands-on experiences and just trying to think outside of the box of how to approach and engage consumers.”

To give an example of how PR is used in the gaming industry, Einhorn recalled the promotion behind the game, Shining Force Neo.

“Enthusiast magazines like Playstation Magazine for example, were given an exclusive prequel comic to the game written by comic book authour Paul Chadwick. Things like that add value to the consumer and get them excited about the game.”

Has the time spent in public relations influenced his current position on the production staff?

“It gives one a much better understanding of the importance of marketing and helps me to work closely with the marketing team.”

It helps especially when it comes to working on a title for a system like the iPhone, he said.

“Understanding how to make games as visible in iPhone space as possible, when there is a lot of clutter is crucial. Up to 30 games a day get released on the iPhone, so it is really helpful to have a producer who is paying careful attention to how other games are marketed. I can make sure that my games are marketed well.”

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CBC reporters offer tips to cut through the media spin

December 4, 2009

The best way for someone to sense they are being spun is to listen for jargon or trigger words repeated over and over, says a reporter for the CBC.

With the seemingly never ending barrage of news stories popping up in the media related to politics, citizens are constantly exposed to political spin. Most politicans have become masters of trying to influence the behaviour of voters.

How can a regualr person see through the spin tactics of politicians and make an informed decision?

Political reporter Bendan Elliott said if someone keeps going back to or repeating the same message using different words, then this person is more than likely trying to spin you into hearing their version of the story.

“Also, regular news observers should listen to whether a question is actually being answered. If a journalist asks a question, and the person does everything except answer the question, then there’s a good chance that person is spinning.”

a It is hard for the average person to counter this spin, he said.

“The only suggestion would be for the person to continue asking their question until they feel satisfied that their question has been answered.”

CBC producer Donna Allen, said people should stop and ask themselves a few

questions,when considering whether or not they have been spun.

“Does this sound likely, reasonable, does it pass the smell test? What aren’t they telling me? Why is this person saying what they are saying? Might there be an ulterior motive? Does this person seem credible to me?”

A parents guide to video game ratings

December 4, 2009

The holiday shopping season has begun and many shoppers are already flocking to the stores. Some cheerful Christmas music is playing in the background.

Is it Jingle Bell Rock today? Or are they going to loop Silver Bells for a few more hours?

Customers are scurrying from aisle to aisle, franticly trying to get everything on their lists before the end of November (because you have got to beat the rush). Somewhere in the hustle and bustle of it all, a mother has stumbled into the electronics department. She sees a copy of Modern Warfare 2, she knows if junior doesn’t see it under the tree, he would be ever so disappointed. She picks it up, pays for it and walks away happy. But after she sees the violent content her young son will be exposed to, she will not be a satisfied customer.

This could be you. But it doesn’t have to be this way. These kinds of situations can be avoided rather easily through simple observations.

Like movies and television shows, video games have ratings. The good folks over at the Entertainment Software and Rating Board have provided and easy-to-understand rating system.

The ratings are as follows: EC- Early Childhood. These are games, which are appropriate for very young children who are in the three to five age group.

Next comes E-Everyone. These are games are the safest and most common family friendly titles on the market. They are usually aimed at people who are six and up.

This may sound confusing at first but there is also an E10 rating. This rating means the game is aimed at those who are 10 and up but there isn’t usually a whole lot of difference between this and the regular E rating. There might be a higher level of difficulty and maybe some stuff that younger children don’t understand but other than that there isn’t really much difference between the two. Think of E as G and E10 as PG.

T for teen is where you’re beginning to wander into adult territory. These games would have the same level of sex, swearing, violence, and blood as a PG-13 movie. These games are intended for players who are 13 or older.

Then there is M for mature. This is the most important rating for parents to look out for. Games with the mature rating are the ones that are only recommended for older players (ages 17 and over). These titles have all of the graphic violence, heavy swearing and sexual content that most parents don’t want their children to see. If you do not want to exposure your child to this level of content, then don’t purchase an M rated title. Plain and simple.

All of these ratings appear twice on the cover of every game that is released. Once on the front and again on the back. I recommend reading the rating on the back of the box, since it will have a short list of reason as to why the game has that rating.

I hope this has been helpful for anyone who doesn’t know anything about games but is thinking of buying games as Christmas presents. If you follow the ratings, you should be able to find a safer title your youngster can enjoy. If you feel your child can handle the mature content of certain titles, then more power to you. But if are you absolutely opposed to exposing the little ones to certain content and you still purchase an M rated game with all of the information you can access, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

Gaming journalists explain the process of reporting on their favorite past time

December 4, 2009

Sega producer Ethan Einhorn showing the platform of some of his most recent work, the iPhone. Conway photo

Electronic Gaming Monthly had a frat house like atmosphere, with plenty of late nights and crazy humour. Contributors would throw ninja stars at cardboard standees of their favourite characters and were always up for some bowling in the hallway.

Just ask Ethan Einhorn.

He is now a Digital Media Producer for one of the biggest video game developers in the world, but would you believe his career in the gaming industry began as a freelance editor for EGM?

It was an incredibly fun place to learn.

“I was actually working at a local television  station because I was a film major and one of the guys I was working with saw that I had a poster for EGM in my house. He told me that he used to work for the company as an archivist. He kept in touch with those guys and asked if I could talk with them because they had an opening.”

It seemed as though everything was falling into place for Einhorn. It did, but not in the way he expected.

“Turns out, I didn’t get the opening, but I did get a freelance gig that I took very seriously.”

He devoted a year to getting as many opportunites as possible to write for the magazine. Eventually, his hard work paid off with a full time position.

He didn’t have journalism training but rather his focus in college was on screen writing.

“I was furiously reading video game magazines at the time, so I really understood the language of game editors and how to clearly communicate with readers.

“That kind of knowledge was critical, because when you are given the chance to do freelance work, they are looking very carefully at your writing style and if  it matches the expectations of the magazine you will get more jobs. If it doesn’t, you will not.”

The process was challenging to get the hang of at first, but as time progressed it became easier to master, he said.

“Eventually I could do quickly and easily reviews that would take me a much longer time to compose when I started out.

“Didn’t get paid much. I had to take a second job at a game store to be able to support myself, but it was well worth it. Working full time for the magazine was certainly a livable wage, but it took me a year to get it.”

Even though people have the conception that working at a game magazine is all about fun and games, there is actually a lot of effort put into every issue, Einhorn said.

“Most people think when you’re an editor at a gaming magazine you’re just sitting around playing games all day. The reality is you’re taking the games home with you so you can play them there. The time spent in the office is entirely spent on editorial. Getting information from developers, deciding what the news stories and layout are going to be.

“It is a tremendous amount of work, but there are few things more gratifying than going somewhere out of state, going into the Walgreens and picking up a magazine that has your words in it.”

Over the past few years, gaming journalism has expanded beyond the format of print magazines. With the growing popularity of the Internet, video game journalists can now report the news as it happens on various websites.

Destin Legarie of Screwattck.com, is the host of the site’s news show, Hard News.

He may not consider himself a journalist, but he does his fair share of reporting. For each story on Hard News, Legarie said he browes the web, going over countless different websites looking for the best stories of the day.

“Once I find three, I’ll run with them after reading the articles I have found and those articles sources etc.”

Sometimes he’ll get news tips from viewers and investigate those as much as possible before running those stories, he said

“Looking up the person’s name, the facts they’ve given me, etc. Aside from those methods, we do get a lot of the same press releases that all the gaming blogs get and occasionally I will use information  from those.”

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Sega producer teaches students ins-outs of industry

December 3, 2009

Sega producer Ethan Einhorn showing the platform of some of his most recent work, the iPhone. Conway photo

Prince Edward Island is the best place to visit when heading out to see a game developer, says Sega of America’s digital content producer.

Ethan Einhorn spoke to students of both the Video Game Arts and Design and Interactive Media programs at Holland College’s Charlottetown Centre on Oct. 8.

He praised the students.

“They had a lot of great questions. They are clearly focused on wanting to understand what major publishers are looking for in games.”

The presentation was made possible through Video Game Art and Design instructor Chris Sharpley, once a co-worker of Einhorn’s.

Before becoming an instructor at Holland College, Sharpley was a game artist who worked for several different developers, including Sega.

While working at Other Ocean in Charlottetown, he did some of the design work for the iPhone version of Super Monkey Ball,  a popular Sega property and a game produced by Einhorn.

Of all of the producers he has worked with, Einhorn was one of his favourites, Sharpley said.

“He was probably the most easygoing and easy to get along with and I’ve never had any problems with him.”

Sharpley saw the presentation as a possible source of inspiration.

“Hopefully the students aspire to follow their dreams like he did and if you put the hard work in you can work anywhere you like.”

The students enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Einhorn individually after the lecture, Sharpley said.

“Afterwards, he must have spent twice as long casually chatting with students, just as he did during the presentation.”

During the presentation, the students learned about the role of a producer in a game’s devlopment and a little bit of Einhorn’s background before he worked for Sega, said Sharpley.

If the presentation demonstrated one thing, it was even though P.E.I. is a small part of Canada, it is still possible to be employed with a full-time job, Sharpley says.

“You could work on top international brands, dealing with people in San Francisco and Tokyo and see your work releashed globally and appreciated by millions of people.

Einhorn said he wished he had the same opportunities growing up that the students of the Holland College Video Game Arts and Design program have.

“I wish there were schools like this available when I was a student myself, but there was really no such thing as video game programs that long ago.”

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Liberal MP’s can no longer support Harper

December 3, 2009

Stephen Harper, as a leader of a minority government, should work cooperatively with the other parities to help all Canadians, but he just doesn’t get it, says Malpeque MP Wayne Easter.

The comment came in early October after Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff said he had lost faith in the Conservative government when it come issues such as the economy.

Ignatieff wants to become prime minister after the next federal election so he make changes in the national economy, said Easter.

“The Conservative government puts politics ahead of people. It does not use the stimulus funding as a vital means during difficult economic conditions. Nor does it see the EI (employment insurance) as the fundamental and critical part of our social infrasturcture necessary at a time of complex economic conditions.”

The Conservatives have used the infrastructure spending and EI as a political tool, said the Liberal MP.

“A blunt instrument to divide Canadians and to divide Parliament as part of a strategic ploy hatched to distribute false and misleading information to Canadians.”

Harper’s government is using false statistics and never allows facts or truth to get in his way of dividing the country, Easter said.

These are  the traits of this government, he said.

“I believe Parliament should be a place to debate ideas and form consenus. However, instead we are witnessing Conservative members stalling valuable committee work, creating unnecessary delays and bringing nothing to the table. I personally believe this is intentional.”

Canada was experiencing economic prosperity when the Liberals held the prime minister’s office, Easter said

“The Harper government inherited a $12 billion surplus from the Liberals and because of their poor fiscal management we can expect to have a $165 billion deficit in five years.”

P.E.I. has been affacted by what he feels is the government’s mismanaging of the economy, Easter said.

“It is important to remember that it was only one year ago that the Conservatives were still projecting  surpluses. Only a few months later they acknowledge a $34-billion deficit. They are now estimating $59 billion.”

It might appear the Conservatives are providing more money than ever, but they are not, said Easter.

“In an effort to influence the public, they are making announcements and then making re-announcements about the exact same funding time and time again. We cannot trust a government that completely misleads Canadians.”

The Liberal Party can restore Canada’s fiscal integrity, as history shows, Easter said

“Unlike Stephen Harper, Mr. Ignatieff and the Liberal Party of Canada believe in a strong national government. We offer Canadians sound fiscal management, social eqaulity, and justice for all provinces and Canadians. A Liberal government would be honest and transparent with the public on program costing, as any good government should.”

Charlottetown Liberal MP Shawn Murphy said the Conservative’s stimulus package is helpful to Canadians in some areas but weak in others.

“The unemployment rate is a real problem with 500,000 Canadians being unemployed. There is also the $60 billion deficit that has to be paid back.”

P.E.I. hasn’t been hit as hard as other provinces by the economic downturn but the province has taken a hit in the manufacturing base, Murphy said

“The manufacturing base includes the mining, forestry, and lobster fishing industries, which are effected by the economic downturn. The lobster fishery suffered a 25 per cent price drop.”

Ignatieff would make stronger investments in the manufacturing base, such as the forestry, and would also make sure Canadian workers would have emploment insurance, said Murphy.

“Mr. Ignatieff would also stimulate the economy by strengthening the green job market.”

Liberal reactions to Harper’s conduct at G20 Summit a mixed bag

December 3, 2009

The Prime Minister has not represented Canada well at any time, let alone at the G20 Summit, says Malpeque MP Wayne Easter.

The economic summit was held Sept. 24-25 in Pittsburgh. The leaders of the 20 largest global economies met to discuss foregin policy and other global issues.

Easter has not been impressed with the way Stephen Harper has been dealing with other world leaders.

“His pattern of avoiding productive communication with other countries is appalling, especially with respect to action on climate change.”

Not all Liberal MPs are completely unsatisfied with Harper’s diplomatic conduct. Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy commended the prime minister’s decision to not attend Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at the UN.

“He made the right choice.”

Although he agreed with this decision, Murphy said he did not agree with Harper’s choice to leave the summit a day early.

“He didn’t stick around for the last day for the enviromental talks because he has no plan for Canada when it comes to dealing with climate change. It’s disappointing that he doesn’t have anything to say.”