The Pulse: May 16, 2023

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  • 22°C: Sunny. Local smoke. Wind northwest 30 km/h gusting to 50. High 22. UV index 6 or high. (forecast)
  • Green: The High Level Bridge will be lit green for International Celiac Disease Awareness Day. (details)

A still from Times & Galaxy depicts the character-building screen. There are three different robots in the centre-right, and fields for name, pronouns, model type, and colours on the left.

Ex-reporter creates journalism-themed sci-fi video game

By Colin Gallant

An Edmonton-based journalist-turned-developer is getting ready to release a new video game that draws on his experience as a reporter.

Times & Galaxy is the latest product in the works from Copychaser Games, an indie studio founded by former Edmonton Journal reporter Ben Gelinas. It's a bit of a marriage of two passions.

"I have a Super Nintendo controller tattooed on me next to a newspaper," said Gelinas, who founded Copychaser in 2017 after working for almost six years at BioWare.

The game centres on a playable robot-reporter intern who gathers information and writes stories with the goal to be hired permanently by the titular newspaper, the Times & Galaxy. Its trailer dropped on May 2, ahead of a planned release in early 2024.

"I've often said that you can make a video game about anything, and I wanted to make a game that really focused on exploring a unique science-fiction setting," Gelinas told Taproot. "But I didn't want the player to go around needing to shoot things every 10 minutes like you see in a lot of science-fiction games."

Funded primarily by the Canadian Media Fund, Gelinas works full-time on the game alongside a team of 10 part-timers. Writers Sunny Evans and Paul Blinov (who was once the arts editor for the now-defunct Vue Weekly) also bring real-life journalism experience to the game.

"We're bringing in our experiences from our past lives to inform the game's story and setting, and to really bring a sense of reality to this very unreal world that we're creating," Gelinas said.

While there are already some games that involve journalism, such as The Republia Times, they are often "dystopian" and focus on the roles of editors rather than reporters, he said.

"We wanted to go left of field there, and still say things about the practice of journalism," he said. "But really put the player on the ground so that they have this experience of what it's like to gather news, and how challenging it can be to decide what is important for your readers."

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Headlines: May 16, 2023

By Kevin Holowack

  • The city announced that it has selected 19 locations for temporary pop-up dog parks this season as part of a six-month pilot program. The parks will be open from mid-May to November, weather permitting, and located in areas considered underserved by existing off-leash areas. A report summarizing the city's first phase of public engagement found that 59.3% of respondents were somewhat or strongly supportive of having a pop-up dog park in their neighbourhood, while 35.7% were somewhat or strongly opposed. Residents can share feedback about visiting or living near a pop-up dog park through an online survey or an on-site paper survey at one of the park locations until Oct. 1. City council's community and public services committee voted in favour of the pilot project in January.
  • An expected shift from southeast to northwest winds may lead to "unpredictable wildfire behaviour" across the province, warned wildfire information officer Christie Tucker, even as temperatures are expected to fall somewhat in the coming week. Wildfire officer Josee St-Onge cautioned that Alberta's "peak burning period" is still ahead. On May 15, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was in Edmonton to meet with military personnel, who comprise about 300 of the 2,500 people battling wildfires in the province. About 26 of 90 active wildfires were considered out of control and more than 17,000 Albertans are currently displaced from their homes, down from about 30,000 people last week.
  • The Edmonton Elks reported a loss of $3.3 million in 2022, marking the fourth consecutive year in which the club ran a deficit. The Elks blamed the deficit primarily on lost revenues, including sponsorship revenues, and an absence of government assistance compared to 2021. Attendance at Elks games fell 9.2% in the past season, with an average of 23,787 fans per regular season game. "Despite these clear realities, we believe last season will end up being a bridge to brighter days," said Elks president and CEO Victor Cui, adding said that, despite the shortfall, the team made "strong progress behind the scenes" overhauling its football and business operations.
  • Punter, the mascot of the Edmonton Elks, is among the 18 mascots nominated to join the Mascot Hall of Fame, a museum in Indiana that celebrates the "world's most beloved mascots." If successful, Punter would be the first CFL mascot and the second Canadian mascot to join the institution. Fans can support Punter by voting on the Mascot Hall of Fame website until May 27. The inductees will be announced June 3.
  • Sports journalist Steven Sandor recounted the playoff performance of Edmonton Oilers goalie Stuart Skinner, who was pulled four times in his 12 playoffs starts and recorded a .883 playoff save percentage. "I needed to be better," Skinner said after the team's loss against the Vegas Golden Knights on May 14. "I got pulled countless times. It's hard to take this one on the chin, for sure."
Two people sit in the street-level area of Edmonton Unlimited's new building, one holding a phone. There are large windows, green plants, and furnishings with pops of blue, yellow, and purple.

Edmonton Unlimited opens innovation headquarters

By Ashley Lavallee-Koenig

Edmonton Unlimited has opened its new headquarters downtown with a desire to welcome innovators and restore some vibrancy to the corner of Jasper Avenue and 101 Street.

"We are very much open-door," CEO Catherine Warren told Episode 220 of Speaking Municipally. "I invite you in: Come to our offices, blast open the doors, check out the community café, meet with some fellow founders, and really make this place your own."

More than 500 people attended an open house for the new facility on May 12. In addition to being the home base for Edmonton's organization to encourage innovation, the building offers street-level space for program participants and alumni.

According to Edmonton Unlimited's annual report, Edmonton's startup ecosystem has increased in value by 236% since 2020, and Warren said there is still emerging potential. She noted the building is across the street from the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) and just down the avenue from Enterprise Square, where the University of Alberta expanded its presence earlier this year.

"We really see ourselves as playing a key role in revitalizing downtown, in bringing international trade opportunities to our city, creating something we can all be proud of," Warren said in her return visit to Taproot's civic affairs podcast — she last appeared in December 2020, shortly after becoming CEO of what was then called Innovate Edmonton.

Hear more about Edmonton Unlimited's new building and plans for the future in the May 12 episode of Speaking Municipally. You will also gain some insight into the city's long-awaited solar rebate program, which is now taking applications.

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