When the going gets tough, Seattle's toughest get going to...Safeco Field?
While Microsoft stock took a beating on the Nasdaq the day before
Labor Day weekend, and reports continued to circulate that the
European Union was expanding its investigation against the juggernaut,
were the 20,000 Microsofties who gathered at Safeco Field for the
company's annual employee meeting, well, glum? Get a clue! They
whooped and cheered as if they were watching the Mariners hit the ball
out of the park and notch up another win in extra innings!
Making his pitch from the middle of the ball field, Chairman Bill
Gates looked like the latest closer out of the M's bullpen as he laid
out his vision for computing in the coming decade. Company Chief
Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, who leapt out of a cake at last
year's 25th-anniversary meeting, gave an impassioned speech about the
opportunities facing the company and employees. On the stadium's
diamond-vision? Why, demo's from upcoming X-Box software, of course.
This has been a year of identity diffusion for Seattlelites, with
Boeing relocating its corporate headquarters to Chicago, and Microsoft
headlining the public enemies list, not to mention the potential
anti-trust duopoly initiative in the music space occupied by MusicNet
and Pressplay. Still, the Web-footed among us have not lost our sense of
purpose, or of humor.
Case in point: Last Spring, two young Russian hackers were arrested and
indicted after the FBI set up a bogus Internet-start-up firm in Seattle,
aptly called "Invita," and let the men hack into it. They were quickly
And the Emerald City (that's E-city to you and me) is rapidly becoming
the Internet gaming capitol of the world. I don't just mean Microsoft's
penultimate X-Box. Each day, RealNetwork's RealArcade attracts and
retains enough game "buyers" to fill Seattle's Husky Stadium to the roof
-- people who not only enjoy playing games online, but who have also
downloaded one or more virtually shrink-wrapped demo's for offline play.
Can you say "new game sales
and distribution model?"
In fact, RealArcade is much more than the world's up-and-coming biggest
game store. It's also the engine of a complete online gaming system that
can help users download, install and manage their game play. And it's
the platform for a dazzling array of Web-based games, including
Smallball (imagine "The Sims," Major League Baseball and Tamagotchi
rolled into one). The success of your team of miniature sim-ulated
baseball players depends on how long and how well you train them and
develop their personalities as time goes by.
Microsoft's Gaming Zone is also seeing its casual gaming audience swell.
Brand new from "The Zone," those wonderful folks who brought you the
6,000 player VGA (Virtual Golfer's Association) and the fantasy
role-playing adventure known as Asheron's Call, comes a new
celebrity-based game show called "OutSmart." The "PC Gameshow"
challenges players to test their pop culture knowledge against the stars
themselves-and attempt to beat them at their own fame. The
"OutSmart" pilot episode starred TV's 'Dark Angel" and top cyber-babe
Jessica Alba. Upcoming celebrity challengers include Grammy
award-winning reggae musician Shaggy, the last decade's biggest-selling
female Mariah Carey, double platinum hip-hop star Sisqo and the Soul
Train Music Award host and R&B singer Mya. A new episode featuring a
different celebrity will air twice a month with
previous games available for play in the "OutSmart" Gallery.
Even Sierra has jumped into the "game show" business as the software
manufacturer behind the plethora of "You Don't Know Jack" trivia games,
now being supported by a new prime time television show of the same
On the simmering cyber social scene, impresario Khody Golshan of PR firm
MWW Savitt continues to host the local chatterati every two weeks at
Dot.tales and Cocktails, his biweekly soirees' held amidst the
luxurious flora and decor of the Garden Court inside Seattle's original
grande dame - The Four Season's Hotel. Or you can catch the dot.tales
Net set at the bohemian Zig-Zag Club on the Pike Place Hill Climb. Last
month, Khody could also be found shmoozing at the bar of Dimitriou's
Jazz Alley with none other than Woody Allen when the latter's dixieland
jazz band pulled into town for a rousing two-night gig.
One of Seattle's most outgoing Internet groups is the Seattle Network
(seattlenetwork.com), founded by impresarios Dan Sundgren and Kristine
Asin (co-founder Tim Reha having moved on to the Seattle Investor
Forum). SON's third-Tuesday membership meetings have attracted the
otherwise un-unified local community of Internet-related workers. It's
easy to see why: gatherings have been held at venues such as Safeco
Field, the Seattle Aquarium and the
Museum of Flight.
Success for some of Seattle's special-interest groups has not been
without growing pains, however. When Betsy Aoki, a user-interface
designer with Pacific Edge Software, founded the Seattle chapter of
jWebgrrls International six years ago, there were about a half-dozen
women in the free-membership group. Roughly a year later, WGI grew to
800, and last fall the chapter totaled about 3,300 women. Around that
time, membership dues were mandated by the national Webgrrls office,
sparking a city-wide debate on the dot-org's profit-oriented (vs.
non-profit) status and the Webgrrls e-mail list-an unsurpassed source of
local job openings and tech support-was temporarily shut down to
restructure and reorganize. Before the cyberdust settled, though, many
women had already left to join Digital Eve (digitaleve.org) , another
women's technology organization that, for the most part, operates
fee-free. Since taking over the Seattle
Chapter, Webgrrl's new leader, Jeanette Stanhope, has brought a new
sense of purpose to the group - finding its members gainful employment
and career resources.
For sheer altitude, the pinnacle of the Seattle Cyber Scene has to be
the quarterly TechViews events organized by Chase Norlin, CEO of
ShareYourWorld.com, in conjunction with the Tower Club inside Seattle's
largest skyscraper, the Bank of America Center. Convened on the 75th and
76th floors of the tower, the spreads are lavish, VC's charming and the
cigar smoke intoxicating full inside the designated cigar, deal and
port room. Former ZDNet Anchorman Jesse Berst is a frequent master of
ceremonies, Goldman Sachs an ongoing sponsor.
Go Mariners! (For high-quality, imported, northwest Web marketing
talent, correspondent Larry Sivitz can be recruited from
firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com