I started playing Bioware’s  newest release last night. Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening  is full of gaming goodness, thus far I am quite pleased with the expansion – other than not being able to connect to the Dragon Age servers, that is. I only had time to play it for a couple of hours last night, but I am really liking the new skills and abilities. So many more decisions to make on character development and tactical slots. There are undoubtedly many players who are much further into the chapter than I am, but I haven’t gone looking on the Bioware Community Forum for any reports back because I don’t want any spoilers. I am kind of missing having my warrior dog and the companions from Origins, but thus far Oghren and Anders are keeping me amused. I am only just starting to venture out from Vigil’s Keep (yes, I play slow because I explore absolutely everywhere I possibly can and I talk to the NPCs often, because you never know what you may find out. There was a surprising turn of events during the Joining ceremony near the beginning of the chapter, but you can be sure I will be playing this chapter more than once to see what other differences or surprises there may be, depending on the choices I make. Now on to getting the rest of today’s news posted so that I can go and continue my journey in Ferelden.
Burnaby – The dev crews over at EA Black Box  have been very busy. Yesterday the studio announced the official Need for Speed World  beta launch, and today they’re inviting gamers to team up and throw down in Skate™ 3 , the latest installment in the award-winning franchise. Skate 3 will be in stores in North America on May 11th, 2010 and worldwide on May 14th, 2010. Redefining the skateboarding experience, Skate 3 breaks new ground by letting gamers build their ultimate skate team both offline and co-operatively (*internet and EA account required for online play) to take on new challenges or competitive battles against other teams. 
“Since the very beginning of the Skate franchise, we have captured the true essence of skateboarding, be it from the feel of nailing that perfect trick, to the feeling of just hanging out and sessioning with your friends,” said Jason DeLong, Senior Producer. “For us, SKATE 3 is the culmination of this endeavor – the most connected, accessible and social skateboarding experience yet.”
In the all-new Skate.School, Coach Frank acts as a mentor and teaches newcomers the ropes by showing them all the ins-and-outs of skateboarding as they hone their skills on the sticks before hitting the streets with their team. Veterans will also feel right at home in Skate.School as they refresh their skills but also learn all the new tricks SKATE 3 has to offer including darkslides and underflips.
Gamers can hit the streets with the pros in the all-new city of Port Carverton – a true skater’s paradise with unique districts, skate parks, and endless lines. For fans with a creative flair, the new Skate.Park editor allows gamers to create their own dream plaza or mega-ramp park from scratch or use the Object Dropper to alter the landscape of Port Carverton to truly change the face of the city. In the end, SKATE 3 delivers a completely immersive and connected experience, giving gamers the tools to build and share their own skate parks, videos, and photos with all their friends by uploading them via the internet directly from their console or by importing custom created graphics & logos from the Skate website (*internet and EA account required).
SKATE 3 features a deep roster of the world’s greatest skaters including several Thrasher Skater of the Year winners:
|Andrew Reynolds||Eric Koston||Mark Appleyard|
|Benny Fairfax||Jason Dill||Mike Carroll|
|Braydon Szafranski||Jason Lee (as Coach Frank)||P.J. Ladd|
|Chris Cole||Jerry Hsu||Pat Duffy|
|Chris Haslam||Joey Brezinski||Ray Barbee|
|Colin McKay||John Cardiel||Rob Dyrdek|
|Dan Drehobl||John Rattray||Ryan Gallant|
|Danny Way||Josh Kalis||Ryan Smith|
|Darren Navarrette||Lizard King||Terry Kennedy|
|Dennis Busenitz||Lucas Puig|
SKATE 3 will be available on the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system and the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and is rated “T” for Teen by the ESRB.
Ottawa – The Cultural Human Resources Council  has asked The Conference Board of Canada  to examine the cultural sector workforce in Canada. They want to learn about your opinions on the opportunities, challenges, trends and issues that you face; as well as your suggestions for enhancing the quality and sustainability of Canada’s cultural sector.
The Cultural Human Resources Council works for and with all the cultural industries and arts disciplines in the cultural sector including: Live Performing Arts; Writing and Publishing; Visual Arts and Crafts; Film and Television Production; Broadcasting; Digital Media; Music and Sound Recording; and Heritage.
To help to maintain funding and programs specific to the need of the cultural sectors, please take the time to complete the survey. There is a survey tailored to employees, freelancers and employers. The survey can be accessed online .
Sault Ste Marie – There is plenty of activity going on at Algoma University  as well. The University will be hosting the 3-day Digital Storytelling Workshop  organized by the Queer Voices of the North  Film Festival. The workshop will be held in the Round Room at the George Leach Centre March 22nd to the 24th, 2010, and is intended to provide a venue for local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, two-spirited, and other transgendered or queer (LGBT2SQ) youth to share their stories about living in the North.
Algoma University’s Diversity Advisory Committee first became involved with the festival in February, 2010. It is Northern Ontario’s only LGBT2SQ film festival and seeks to provoke important discussion on queer topics, to increase queer visibility in the North, and to celebrate local LGBT2SQ history. “Algoma University embraces the diverse composition of its student population.” said Diversity Advisory Committee Chair Dawn Elmore, “This workshop and festival provide an opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and two-spirited youth to come together and share stories about their experiences in the north. This sharing of perspectives enriches our learning community and promotes respect and understanding in our community.”
“Algoma University’s on-campus club Proud Algoma hosted the very first Queer Voices Film Festival, and since then it grew to be a size that required use of both Galaxy Cinemas and the Grand Theatre.” said festival co-director, Sarah Broad, “It really feels fitting that at its 5-year anniversary, it will be back at the University for the capacity-building piece.”
The Digital Storytelling Workshop is being conducted by Toronto’s Centre for Digital Storytelling. The workshop will bring 10 LGBT2SQ youth through the process of creating their own digital stories which participants can opt to screen on Saturday, March 27th, during the Queer Voices of the North Film Festival. Digital stories are two to five minute videos created by individuals sharing their own stories through voice, images, music, and other found objects in their lives. The digital storytelling workshop blends creative writing, oral history, and digital video production to support individuals and communities in making connections between their own lives and the lives of others.
The workshop is quickly filling up, and any interested individuals are asked to apply soon. Applications are available at the Queer Voices web site , and can be submitted online or they can be picked up and returned in person to Desireé Beck, Healthy Sexuality Co-ordinator at HARP, located in the Group Health Centre offices at 262 Queen St. East. Applicants must identify as a member of a minority sexual or gender identity (LGBT2SQ) and be under the age of 30. Some subsidies are available for Northern youth from outside Sault Ste. Marie to attend the workshop.
Algoma U has also opened its Games for Health studio, which is student-run and will focus on developing video games which have therapeutic benefit. Over the past few months, Algoma Games for Health has been working with Toronto Rehabilitation on a prototype for recovering language skills after a stroke. The concept is to develop a game that can be used remotely by patients and therapists.
Speaking about the partnership in a press article released today, studio director Dwayne Hammond stated that “games can bring value to so many different areas. In health care, there is enormous potential for games to be employed therapeutically. Traditional rehabilitation techniques can be tedious for the patient, but by adding interactive gaming style content, patients are often more motivated to stick with their therapy.”
Games can also automatically collect valuable research data and monitor patient progress, and they can be delivered to those in need in a cost effective manner that is not restricted by geographical concerns or proximity to therapists.
Furthermore, Algoma Games for Health presents an excellent opportunity for its bachelor’s and master’s students to work in a professional studio on real-life projects. Last year, two students worked on the prototype of the language skills recovery game.
Algoma’s innovative MSc program in gaming  (linked by videoconference over advanced networks such as ORION and CANARIE to the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland) has graduated its first crop of graduates – some of whom have found employment in the field in the Sault Ste. Marie region. In addition, the Algoma Games for Health initiative is not only an ideal learning ground for students in real-world gaming applications, it may also become an incubator for program graduates to work on specific projects.
With funding from the municipal, provincial and federal governments and now with a full-time staff of four developers, Algoma Games for Health is also exploring the potential of videoconferencing technology to connect therapists to patients in their homes.
Toronto – Portfolio Entertainment Inc.  has brought together a diverse and prominent pool of jurors from across the globe to weigh-in on the top 15 finalists and select the winner and runner-up of the company’s recently launched “In Toon With Tweens ” animation contest.
Lending their expertise to select the two most entertaining, innovative and bold projects are Carole Bonneau (TELETOON Canada inc.), Marc Buhaj (Disney Channels EMEA), Rick Clodfelter (Cartoon Network), Jocelyn Hamilton (Corus Entertainment), Linda Simensky (PBS KIDS), Andra Sheffer (Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund) and Shari Cohen (Ontario Media Development Corporation). Contest prizes total $10,000 CDN in cash as part of Option and Development Agreements and winners will be notified on September 15, 2010. The announcement was made today by Portfolio Entertainment’s Co-Founders & Presidents, Lisa Olfman and Joy Rosen.
“We are thrilled to have such a diverse group of industry experts involved with our inaugural animation contest. Each juror was chosen for their extraordinary background in kids entertainment as well as their valuable understanding of the market,” said Olfman. “We want animators and creators to know that we want to encourage them by providing this opportunity to unleash their creative talents, articulate their distinct visions and gain unprecedented access to the insights of our judges.”
Hailing from one of Canada’s leading children’s broadcasters, Carole Bonneau is VP, Programming for TELETOON Canada inc. where she oversees the acquisition, original production and scheduling strategy for four distinct nationwide specialty television channels, TELETOON English and French, and TELETOON Retro English and French.
Representing the world’s most recognizable mouse, Marc Buhaj currently serves as SVP Original Programming for Disney Channels EMEA overseeing all aspects of Disney Channels Europe, Middle East and Africa’s content including Disney Channel, Disney XD, Playhouse Disney and Disney Cinemagic.
Providing support from global powerhouse Cartoon Network, Rick Clodfelter, serves as Director, Acquisitions & Co Productions and is responsible for acquiring pre-produced series, specials, short-form product and series co-productions that fit the Cartoon Network and Boomerang brands.
Representing Canada’s leading kids broadcaster, Jocelyn Hamilton, VP, Programming and Production, Corus Kids, oversees the programming and content strategies for YTV, Treehouse and Nickelodeon in Canada, as well as Nelvana Studio.
Stepping-in to represent the renowned U.S. public broadcasting service, Linda Simensky is Vice President of Children’s Programming for PBS KIDS. In her role she collaborates with producers, co-production partners and distributors throughout development, production, post-production and broadcast for existing and new series.
Offering insight from the world of digital media, Andra Sheffer, Executive Director for Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund manages three private funds supporting the Canadian television and new media industries: the Bell Broadcast and New Media Fund, the Independent Production Fund, and the COGECO Program Development Fund.
Rounding out the panel of judges, Shari Cohen, Program Consultant for Ontario Media Development Corporation, brings decades of animation production and entertainment law experience to the table. Currently, she specializes in facilitating the development and production of creative content for screen-based delivery platforms through programs such as the OMDC Screen-Based Content Initiative and the new Intellectual Property Fund.
The “In Toon With Tweens” animation contest is an initiative designed by Portfolio Entertainment to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking by throwing the doors open to new voices within the global animation community. Animators and creators with serious comedy chops are invited to submit their original television or multiplatform projects targeting kids 8 to 12 years old for a chance at $10,000 CDN in cash as part of Option and Development Agreements. Entries must be received by June 15, 2010 and winners will be notified on September 15, 2010. Complete guidelines, eligibility requirements and instructions for submission can be found online .