Friday, July 11, 2008
I logged in under the name AuroraNever during my play of
My passageway inside the cave was blocked by a stack of large crates. Therein, “[I] saunter up to the pile of crates and, pretending that it's the jukebox back at Al's Diner, hit it in exactly the right place with your elbow. It sets up a series of reverberations that resound through the corridor, blasting all of the crates to powder. Moxious!” After all of my effort, however, this only marked a dead end., I gained two sarcasm points from this adventure and ended up ‘looking cool’ in the act, so all in all, I can’t really complain.
A cave in! Oh no! This marks the second of my twists-and-turns in this game. I move the boulder and gain one ‘fortitude point’ while commenting on how good this will be for my figure. I move, under the boulder lifted above my head, and continue on. Luckily, at this point in my journey, my growing thirst does not go unanswered, as I come upon a blue body of water. There, I use a Frisbee to scoop the water and drink it. Apparently, it was delicious.
Finally, my actions do not go un-awarded, as I found behind a pile of laundry the pile of shiny pebbles the Toot had sent me in after. I bring the pebbles back to the bird, but he doesn’t do much of anything in response. From there, I adventure into the Hall of The Legends of The Times of Old. Herein, I do not have the proper keys to access the doors, and gesture to one day find my way through.
All in all, I found the tone of this game interesting and its twists and turns rather random and funny. I like the minimalist approach taken by the games authors in creating a world in which I can roam about unabated while getting a few laughs out of the process.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I began playing KoL just before the beginning of the week, hoping to get an edge on the work I knew that I'd need to do. Overall, I chose it, largely because I was looking for something that wouldn't have a truly MMO feel. I've seen too many people get sucked into WoW or other games, and I didn't want to be yet another casualty to them.
Making my character, I patterned it after my best friend (as much as one could), and so I quickly decided that she would be a Sauceror (my best friend is more saucier than pasta chef).
Quickly, one of the things that I found most appealing is the way in which turns are handled. There are only a finite number of turns that you can use in a particular real-world day. In essence, the game only lets you play just so much, and after that, you simply cannot adventure any longer for the day. In a way, this puts a natural limit on the ability of a player to just gun a whole crap-ton of hours on the game, and just continuously farm an area for cash. If you want to farm an area for value, it absolutely will LITERALLY take you days to do so, if you want to really spend the time. Personally, I love this feature. It also helps to both stoke and suppress the addictive nature of the game.
Since I took that screen shot of my campsite, I've progressed a few levels, and am soon to make Level 7, I hope. Right now, I'm at Thyme Wizard. Wish me luck in leveling up!
I don't consider myself one of those "hardcore", end game players. I'm more into the PvP (player vs player) part of the game. PvP consists of Battlegrounds and Arena games. The battlegrounds are instances where 10v10, 15v15, or 25v25 players battle it out in games of capture the flag, controlling areas, or killing a leader. In arenas teams of 2v2, 3v3, or 5v5 battle each other to the "death" with the winner's rating going up and the loser's going down. All of these reward the player with "honor" which he can turn in for items. I've had many experiences in the BG's and arenas, most being the victor.
My character at the moment is "Wait" a undead priest. For the past two months I've been leveling as fast as possible so I can play with my friends at 70. I cheat and use mods to quest--mods that show me what to do, not actually cheat the leveling system. I plan to PvP with my friends until the summer is over and they quit, then try to sell my account for whatever I can get for it.
I highly discourage anyone to play the game, since it can be addicting and a waste of time, lol.
The screenshot below is a shot of me "camping" another player. Camping is when you wait by the players corpse until they resurrect and then killing them again, etc etc.
The tour ends up being more than half of the article and needs no explaining, but there were three important moments in it. He goes over all three in the most important section of the article, "reality check".
The first of the moments he reflected over was when the avatars attributes felt like they were your own. He states that it seems to be psychologically natural because you begin to feel the avatar as just an extension of your own body. He claims it is similar to a man with a prosthetic arm calling it his own arm.
The second moment is when you acquired an emotional investment in a virtual world event. This occurred when Ethelbert took 5 of the 10 bottles Sabert had found and Sabert became angry. It may seem silly to those who haven’t ever played an online game to become emotionally flustered because someone took something that is made of 0s and 1s from you.
The third and final point of reflection is when Sabert was thankful for Ethelbert when he gave him the gold piece. The difference between the bottle and the gold piece is the gold piece cant help you fly like the special ale. So what value does it have? Financial value. Massive online games have an economy just like in the real world. That is why Sabert was filled with joy when he received the gold.
Castronova then goes on to talk about how factors in the game can jump the digital line and effect events in the real world. The real world economy can be affected by events in the game. A good example of this is the gold farmers that are well known from World of Warcraft. He also goes into that social effects and political effects can also spill over and affect the real world.
Overall this article is like an “idiots guide to” MMORPGs. It is clearly meant for readers who are inexperienced in the online gaming world or those who are looking to learn about it.
We quickly got into the game and, as I played for purposes of class, I remembered how truly addictive it is. The hook, in this case, is to see what quirky, fun inside joke lies around the corner; it's certainly not cool graphics that brings one into the game.
The other great part of the game is that it's browser-based, making it accessible from just about any computer with an Internet connection. No fancy software is needed, and it's easy to log in and play a few moves from, say, work - not that I am advocating this.
I chose to be a Pastamancer this time around, and I am tickled by the fact that the game has both Pastamancers and Saucerors, mirroring the classic RPG distinction between various kinds of magic users...oh, the list of references to the canon of RPG and geek culture goes on and on and on. This game is so clever.
Thanks for getting me cracked out again.
All things considered I enjoyed my time in the KoL. The stripped down user interface did present some problems (I had issues returning to the main screen after entering the inventory, skills, etc.) but the sarcasm and overall style presented a truly enjoyable experience. I never made it out of the training area, which I beleive to be the reason why I was working/playing in isolation, but hope to soon. I wouldn't recommend this game to people who have never played a MMO or RPG before, but for fans of the genres it is a wonderfully loving and insightful spoof.
Sharendipity was founded by Gehring, Greg Tracy, Jeffrey Hoffman and Dale Beermann, who all worked together at UltraVisual Medical Systems. UltraVisual was acquired by Emageon in 2003.
Emageon went public in 2005, and moved its operations from Madison to the Milwaukee suburb of Hartland the following year. The quartet had made enough money in the IPO that they could afford to leave Emageon and stay in Madison.
"We didn't actually have a concept," said Gehring. "We actually sat around a conference table and brainstormed about things we might work on. We had worked together for years, and we knew all it would take was the idea, and we could build whatever that was. We had broad experience and different areas of expertise. We just had a lot of confidence that we could figure something out."
Gehring said that inspiration for Sharendipity came from his two daughters' math schoolwork.
An early idea for the company was software that would allow students to visualize and better understand algebraic equations.
That evolved into a more general platform that would enable algebra teachers, students or parents to make algebra software. But it was broad enough that other users could take the software and create physics software, or a game. The company hopes to help people create their own applications.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
But, what this really gets me thinking about is how now that we've advanced graphics so far (think about how good GTA4 looks) they are going back to retrogaming programs. I've heard rumors that if this megaman does well, they are going to start up making sequels to old classics with the same graphics and platforms as the games we remember and love. Siiiiigh. It's a happy thought.
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Article summary- Marlon H.
This article starts out by noting the creative power offered by several games, including City of Heroes (Coh), which behaves much like a “high-tech deck of crayons,” serving the gamer in their ability to create (even in cases of copyright infringement) super heroes. This, again, reminds us of the upcoming game Spore, in the two games abilities to create worlds, obscene creations (if intended, such as Boobalicous, a Spore character created by someone that caused controversy for her robust, naked mid region). With the use of these “Creation Engine’s” as the starting point of his article, T.I. Taylor makes it perfectly clear that from creating “tax protests in Second Life, to offering out underage prostitutes in the Sims, anything is possible in the world of games such as these.
The many spheres of communication orbiting around any video game—e.g. fan forums, etc.—represent the “collective production of game experience.” That is to say, if these newer forms of media did not exist, the game would not be recognized as the same, as they have been incorporated on the fringes of the game space, and once clean, now tangled boundaries separating the game from the rest have become faded and smudged. Consumers, essentially, serve as a wall of the echo chamber for game creators, “beta-testing” games for creators.
Other than the game creators there exist a plethora of co-constructions that play a hand in deciding the formulation of the space surrounding the game.
Culture matters- today’s ‘culture’ sees a great extension in authorship rights, explains
.With so many corporations being considered legal ‘citizens’ in the court of law, Taylor argues that copyright laws, which are meant to die off after said author kick’s the boot, can today be as immortal as any number of undying corporations. And what about the creators of the pieces within the larger work owned by the corporation? Well, they have no rights to it either. It’s the corporation that owned them when the piece was created and therefore the corporations it remains.
This leads the discussion down a familiar avenue dealing with file-sharing networks such as Napster. “Game worlds,” explains
Clearly, with the ban on auctioning characters and powers, many people feel cheated, as the labor they invested in the game should be worth something. The corporate realm, however, controls the sword and usually wins out in battles over intellectual property. When an entire account can be whipped out at corporate headquarters, players are reminded squarely about where the power lies. Relying heavily on his example of EverQuest (EQ),
When EQ players found a way to open more than one application while playing the game—such as an mp3 or another game screen—this allowed players to play the game in a way the company had deemed ban-able. This would give someone a chance to undo mistakes, to look up directions online, etc. that was unfair to the other players who knew not these secrets. The author is not interested in the rightness or wrongness of this debate, but is rather interested in the discussions this raises about ‘fair play.’
Taylor then folds this debate back into earlier considerations taken into account by the article, such as EQ’s right (or lack-there-of) to pull the account of a player that chronicled a violent rape and revenge murder scene that took place within the game space. Should not this person have the right to freedom of speech, to print a fiction about the game? According to EQ, they did not. The biggest question coming out of all of this is, of course, whether or not the corporations have such rights to do such things to consumer authors?
Eventually EQ apologized to the author, perhaps pointing this debate conclusion in the direction of the consumer. With EQ itself being deeply rooted in fantasy lore that came into being before the game, people are forced to extend the same debate about ownership into the past, along with projecting it to the future. Are EQ creators hypocrites for creating such a double-standard?
Remapping Ownership- With new ideas of market relations emerging in the face of this dilemma, one is reminded of Sharendipity, at least for this class, as
The idea of creating a “Guild Summit”—a congress of sorts in which top players represent the world of gamers in negotiations with management—plays into the conclusion of the article as an interesting segue into future possibilities. This issue is far too complex for game designers to tackle alone, and thus, there must be an interplay and exchange through all of the areas surrounding a game space. There must, more than anything, be movements towards employing more progressive depictions of intellectual property, and of the possibly elastic nature of those rights.
First, the authors give us a little timeline that shows the goings on in the company and the games that they were putting out, along with the economics as well.
Like I said before, the company started out with some LCS students at MIT creating this game Zork. Zork was a text-based game where the screen consisted of text and a command prompt. The player enters text to respond to the prompt and then the game returns with more text. This game was cool to players in that even though they couldn't see anything on the screen, they could picture the game playing out in their minds. In 1979, the MIT guys decided they wanted to work together outside of the lab and started their own company and their first objective was to make Zork available to the blossoming home computer market. The demographic of computer buyers worked out in Infocom's favor in that computers were expensive, so the buyers were wealthy and refined people who liked to read.
However, Infocom ran into many problems in getting their game to fit the memory specs of the personal computer. The authors go on to describe their Z-machine design which just went right over my head. The company was finally able to fit the game and really took off when the Apple II version sold 6000 copies. Then, they describe the company's culture which was very laidback and I got some laughs about the trial they held for the death of goldfish.
Going on the success of Zork, the company began coming out with more and more games. Marc Blank wrote Deadline, which was a mystery game. Dave Lebling wrote a science-fiction game called Starcross, and Amy Briggs wrote the first romance game aimed at women. Each game had to be different since it was only text-based. So it had to be new and have new puzzles. The games were made cheap and the company was turning huge profits. They were consistently at the top of the bestseller lists of computer software.
The games appealed to players because the brought the intellectual aspect of reading a novel with the puzzling nature of logic puzzles. Then, the authors go on to talk about Infocom's unique marketing strategies. After publishing unsuccessfully with a company called Personal Software, Infocom decided to do it themselves and repackaged all the games. Infocom also got into the published tips aspect as well selling books to help the gamers through puzzles.
Unfortunately, the downfall was not included in our reading.
I think that the article was an interesting read into how some of these game startups got started. And how the evolution of gaming started out without even graphics, but just text-based. It says something to the appeal of video games that these games were successful.
And for those of us who played Resident Evil 4, is this any different than the racial stereotypes that are included in that game? (For example, the rural Spanish-speaking Eastern European zombies).
After the virtual rape, the community of LambdaMOO was forced to decide how to punish Bungle. Many called for his “toading”—for all intensive purposes, a death sentence on LambdaMOO. His character would be turned into a toad, thereby wiping all of his character traits. The only users able to make this happen are known as wizards. The wizards are not only users, but they are also programmers. One problem stood in the way, however. The wizards had recently shelved their judicial powers in LambdaMOO. They decided to relinquish any powers they had that could affect the social lives of the MOO. Now, members of the community would be forced to fend for themselves. In effect, this forced the users to create a kind of social system, complete with laws and rules, in regards to the conduct of LambdaMOO members. The need to punish a crime created the need to make a system for punishing crimes.
The different kinds of social structures varied, and there were arguments on all sides. Many wanted to see if Bungle could be tried under RL (real life) laws. Still others didn’t believe that LambdaMOO was about ultimate imaginative freedom. These users take a very anarchist look at the society, and instead of “toading” Bungle they instead wanted to see him banished from LambdaMOO. This discussion prompted many larger questions poised by the narrative. Many ask if it is not better to release violent fantasies in an online environment than in real life. Even others began to point to the way that this kind of virtual crime was really a crime of the mind, leading to the question of “Where does the body end and the mind begin?” (22). While the form of virtual government continued to be discussed in a forum called *social, a large meeting was finally called. Almost all the members of the community showed up to the online debate, including Dr. Bombay and eventually Mr. Bungle himself. When Bungle shows up to the meeting the tension is palpable, almost as if this were a RL community meeting about a criminal. However, Bungle answers for his actions only in sociopathic ramblings, so he is quickly ignored. While no concrete form of social law was settled upon, in the end a wizard named Tom Traceback made the decision to toad Bungle.
The aftermath of Bungle’s toading is both felt by many and felt by none at all. That is to say, very little had changed in LambdaMOO after, but many still remembered the horror and question of Bungle. There was however, a new system set up, wherein wizards would only act according to a series of votes and petitions put forth by users. Therefore, the action of the wizards became dependant on the will of the users. Yet Bungle was not dead. A few days after his initial departure, Bungle returned under a new name—Dr. Jest. Through a loophole he managed to set up a new, totally clean account. A guilty user now became a new, clean name.
This drives the narrator, Dr. Bombay, to seek out Dr. Jest and try to get some answers from him, which he never does. Bombay then dips back into the argument for rape as a “crime against the mind,” since even in RL it is classified with other “crimes against person or property” (27). He goes into saying that the actions you command into a computer don’t so much “communicate as make things happen, directly and ineluctably, the same way pulling a trigger does” (28). In the end, Bungle’s ultimate trick is revealed: Bungle was not a single user, but instead a community account of an entire NYU dorm floor. On the night of the rape it wasn’t just one user acting, but one user typing while a room of others encouraged the action and suggested new, twisted ways to torture the other LambdaMOO users. The new user, Dr. Jest, was just a fragmentation off from the original group that was Bungle. From this Bombay is left questioning the essence of LambdaMOO and other online virtual community spaces, the difference between appearances and the “realities” of a virtual reality.
Monday, July 7, 2008
This was the library that was in my neighborhood when I was a kid, and I spent many hours, especially in the summer, perusing its shelves.
I was very surprised to discover a seemingly dwarfed library; truly, the space is the exact same size but seems much smaller to me now that I am older.
This library is also filled to the gills with children - there were probably ten, or more, of them on site during my brief visit.
The library's shelf space has been largely repurposed since the last time I visited (probably 20 years ago). Simply put, there are much fewer books, and those that are there are dominated by nonfiction (Visual C++ for Dummies, etc.). Beyond that, there are racks and racks of media - DVDs, books on tape, DVDs for kids, books on tape for kids, music CDs for kids and adults and so on.
What there is not, in this small and unruly library (filled with screaming kids), is any type of game or software for checkout. I was surprised by this, given that so much of the small space in here is consecrated to every other type of media imaginable.
When I inquired as to what the status of games were at this library, and at others in the system, the reference assistant told me that they simply are too cramped, spacewise, to be able to offer any titles. When I asked where I would have to go to find something (already knowing that the downtown main library does offer software), we honed in on the Sequoia branch, further to the west side of town, which is probably triple the size of poor Monroe Street.
Sure enough, we were able to locate titles in the online catalog - but for kids - available for the Mac and PC as CD-ROMs (at least that's how they were coded in the catalog).
The state of the Monroe Street library makes me awfully depressed. This is not how I remember it from childhood.
The public library branch on Mifflin Street was an interesting experience. There were a few rows of games, and far more than I expected. The games were largely educational, it seemed, with a few things that were clearly 'after my time' ("The Magic Schoolbus"?), and also a surprising amount, to me at least, of branded projects. A few Barbie titles, but also a TON of Star Wars titles. This was maybe the biggest surprise. It seemed like it was a pretty clear split between Mac and PC.
They were kinda messy. It looked like the games might have been, at one point, in alphabetical order, but it had fallen out of order at some point. I imagined that there were some small number of kids that were hitting it up, going through, checking out as often as possible, but overall largely ignored by the majority of the people that go up to the kid's section.
Overall, it was definitely a surprising, interesting experience.
Green Sticker(GS): Suitable for all ages
Yellow Sticker(YS): Life like violence mild
Red Sticker(RS): Life like violence strong
The game machines at Union South consisted of:
Ms. Pac Man GS
Tekken 3 RS
Die Hard YS
Time Crisis II RS
Monopoly Pinball GS
Crisis Zone RS
Trophy Hunter (rating N/A)
Dance Dance Revolution Super Nova GS
2005 Golden Tee GS
Police Trainer GS
Gauntlet Dark Legacy YS
Silent Scope RS
Emergency Call Ambulance YS
From these results we can see that five games had a green sticker rating, three games had a yellow sticker rating, and four games had the red sticking rating. So our union has done a well job of maintaining game machines for everyone and supplying a diverse amount of games within each rating category. It is good to see that the Union, while mostly occupied by people with ages 18+, is still concerned for any young goers that may happen to be bowling there or what not. It was especially nice to see that they still had some taste for the retro games even though they only had one: Ms. Pac Man. Unfortunately Memrial Union got ride of its game room, but it would have been nice to see how they would have compared.
Now, with only five videogames available (including the "claw" machine) the selection obviously leaves much to be desired. Looking at the lobby as you enter, to the right is a "Mrs. PacMan / Galaga" game, left standing all alone, and to the left is the claw machine, a boat-racing game, a pinball machine and "Time Crisis 2". The potential audience for these amusements ranged from 5 year-olds to octegenarians, with a roughly equal split between male and female. Note that I said "potential audience", as the actual audience engaging with these games was much smaller.
During the 2 1/2 hours spent observing from 5 to 7:30 on Friday night(and yes, I did get to talk to the manager after about an hour), I only saw three people actually use any of the games, all of whom came from the same group of about 12 boys and girls in their early teens. The game of choice? The claw machine (ah, young love), at which no one was a winner. There were, of course, the requisite young children who would run over and start mashing the buttons and pretend to play, but for the most part it appeared that people did not even register that the games were there.
At this point I decided to become a part of the experiment and see how people would react to someone playing one of the games. Unfortunately, the only game I have prior experience and some modicum of skill with is "Time Crisis 2", a first person shooter where you have a gun and a foot-pedal. Releasing the foot pedal causes your character to crouch, with no other controls provided. I played for approximately 25 minutes, timing the gameplay to include the exit of viewers who had just been watching "Wanted", a styled and brutal, but semi-laughable, action movie (exploding rats as a weapon? yeah right). I figured if any group would have a reaction, it should be them as they were already "primed for violence". The actuallity of it was quite different, with my "spotter" (a friends sister who works as an usher) noting no reactions among any of the exiting crowd. The only reaction either of us observed was again a small child who was "playing" beside me (the game allows for two players) until his brother dragged him away to go see "Wall-E".
Sunday, July 6, 2008
I was quite surprise with the range of games the library had to offer. Being a huge sports game fan, I looked for new sports games right off the bat. They had Madden 2008, but only for the Wii. I thought that was interesting, that the library didn’t have any game for the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3. I don’t know if this was because the 360 and Ps3 have M rated games and they are against that or if they feel that the Wii would attract more rentals. The vast majority of their games were for the ps2 including, Ratchet and Clank, Sly 2 Band of Thieves, Star Wars Battlefront, Yu-Gi-Oh! The Duelists of the Roses, Robotech Invasion and Winning Eleven 8. There were also a few Gamecube games such as Sonic Mega Collection, Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door and Mario Kart Double Dash. I asked the librarian if they had any other games and she suggested I look on the computers. So I went on to the computer catalog and noticed that you can request any item from the system of Brown County librarys. That means my video game options were 7x’ed. I searched the catalog for a number of games, including most of the major sports ones, and they had everything I searched for. Oh the other hand when I searched for GTA or a war game they didn’t have it. They are clearly stocking up on games that are very player friendly and for teens or younger.
Also when I was on the computers I noticed a number of computer games that I could sit there and play. They were all little kids games such as, Backyard Basketball, Kelly Club, Dora the Explorer: FairyTale Adventures, Star Flyers: Royal Jewel Rescue, and Arthurs Computer Adventure.
Overall I was happy with my visit to the Kress Library. Most of the games seemed to be pitched at the tween to teen age groups, while the games actually on the computers were more so for the younger kids. The library is a much cooler place with computers and video games, I might have to check it out more often.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
College Library turned out to be the go-to source among Wendt Library and the Union South on this fine Saturday afternoon. The latter two must have been closed on account of the holiday weekend. Nonetheless and ergo, this hands-on assessment will recount a journey that took me to the farthest reaches of campus (ok, so it isn’t that far from my house to get to College Library), wherein I discovered much about the excess of games that make their home at the educational utopia that is College library (no, really, it’s alright though).
I have categorized the games based on a number of earmarked differences that look into whether the games are ‘sports’ related, ‘fantasy’ or ‘racing’ related, or whether they are what one could consider for ‘all ages’ (along with all other game rating’s according to the same criteria), or ‘war’ based games (or ‘first-person shooter’ games, including the genre of ‘survival horror’), all encompassed by the larger category of ‘violent games’ (that could, in all reality, be considered in the assessment of virtually every game category herein assessed, depending on ones definition of ‘violence’).
Sports Games offered by College Library:
NBA Live ’08 (PS3 & Xbox 360), College Hoops (NCAA) 2K8 (PS3), NCAA ’08 Football (Xbox 360), Major League Baseball 2K8 (Xbox 360), Wii Fit (Wii), Hotshots Golf (Wii), NHL ’08 (PS3 & Xbox 360), and PES 2008 (Xbox 360), Summer Sports Wii (Wii), provisional game titles: Smack Down vs. Raw 2008, Tony Hawk’s: Proving Grounds,’ and Pinball Hall of Fame (Wii)accepting that in terms of this assessment, professional wrestling and skateboarding will be called sports).
Total: (≈12 games)
*Note: Though Wii sometimes represents a challenge for categorizing its games along with other systems—due to its uniqueness of style, sometimes befuddled graphics and strange controls—Wii will still be considered on an equal field of assessment, especially because its range of games vary from family oriented titles such as Summer Sports Wii to grotesqueries such as Resident Evil, House of the Dead, and the Godfather; demonstrating a range of both violence and nonviolence like any other system considering its game options.
Racing Games: are subcategorized because racing in certain contexts is for sport: Burnout Paradise (PS3), Motorstorm (PS3)
Total: (≈14 ‘sports games or two ‘racing games’)
Fantasy Games offered by College Library:
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (Xbox 360), Dark Sector (PS3), and Night’s: Journey of Dreams (Wii). [And a subcategory]
Adolescent/Youth Fantasy: Castle of Shikigami III (Wii), Folklore (PS3), Star Wars Lego (Wii), Pet 2 Dogs 2 [contestable] (Wii), Viva Piñata (Xbox 360), Blue Dragon (Wii); Super Donkey Ball: Banana Blitz (Wii)
Total: (≈10 fantasy games)
War Games & Explicitly Violent Games offered by College Library:
Battalion Wars 2 (Wii), Virtua Fighter (Xbox 360), Condemned 2: Bloodshot (PS3 and Xbox 360), Evil May Cry (PS3) Deadrising (Xbox 360), Dynasty Warriors 6, (PS3), Mass Effect (Xbox 360), Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (Xbox 360), Prey (X
Total: (11 war/violent games)
What’s interesting to notice is that each game category occupies roughly 1/3 of the overall makeup of College Library’s collection. The world’s being explored within these categories often represent (1) Sport’s world’s (which often entail underlying forms of violence) (2) Fantasy games (often dealing with war or violence on some level); and (3) War and explicitly violent games, which often contain an underlying premise of gore and horror).
Though in my 30-minutes at College Library, no other patron visited the game kiosk, it was clear to me that the primary audience meant to be reached is male college students with extra time on their hands and little cash in their pockets, as most of the games dealt with genres predominantly pertaining to masculinity—sports, war, gore and guns—stretching the breadth of boy culture and societal indicators of that culture, present here on campus today. This peace-sign amalgamation of games—each occupying roughly 1/3 of the selection) illustrates two things:
(1) What ‘rents’ on campus in terms of video game’s accessible via one of the university’s major library’s—assuming that the product matches the demand—are games dedicated to competition, expressing masculinity, and living out fantasies on either the field, court, or the 3D fantasy landscape, or
(2) These video games represent a concession by the public that exciting, fast paced, violent and competitive based sandbox, RPG, and non-educational games are wanted by college kids wracked by studies and just looking for a good time.
For the Nintendo Wii, games included The Godfather, Summer Sports, Lego Star Wars, We Ski, Petz Dogz 2, the Wii Fit, and House of the Dead, just to name a few. For the Playstation 3, the games they had in the library were NBA Live 08, NHL 08, Grand Theft Auto IV, and a game called Bloodshot. Finally, for the X-Box 360, they had NCAA Football 08, MLB Baseball 2K8, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, WWE Smackdown v. Raw 2008, Burnout, Dead Rising, Saints Row, Viva Pinata, and Tony Hawk to name a few.
Looking at this selection, I couldn't help but notice a few things. This immediately made me think about the gender articles we read. It seems like almost all of these games would be games that would apply to males. Many are sports and first-person shooter/violence type games. However, it's hard to make that assumption when I saw games like Petz Dogz 2 and Viva Pinata also available to be checked out. So it seems that even though College Library has a wide variety of games, most of them are themed towards males.
Even that College Library has video games that students can check out makes a huge statement as to how important video games are becoming as media in our society. Video games are being accepted as valid forms of media and are important to society in it's influences and College Library has realized that the impact of video games cannot be ignored. And if there is a demand for them, which there is because the library website says they have 110 titles and they probably only have about 40 not checked out, then I think it's awesome that UW has stepped up and started including video games in our libraries. Another thing that is cool is that you can go to the website and request video games that you think the library should purchase.
Friday, July 4, 2008
Thursday, July 3, 2008
One moment very early on in the article that I found incredibly disturbing was the take that Macedonia seemed to have on Ender's Game. This is a truly fantastic book, and the author manages to give it an excellent one paragraph synopsis. I always viewed it as having a cautionary element, with a military willing to use children playing games for their own ends. To quote the author, in speaking on this topic to Macedonia: "He explains that it was a source of inspiration for lots of people in the militaary when it came out in the eighties. 'I've always been fascinated by what you could do with a six-year old,' Macedonia muses." I find this take-away from Ender's Game seriously disturbing, and I know from that moment on, personally, I looked at Macedonia with a huge element of revulsion.
"If you can play Nintendo, you can operate this." This seems to be the thing that the US Military is taking advantage of: a culture that is preprogrammed to be savvy with certain kinds of complicated controls and means of thought. While I don't personally think that it is likely that violent media CAUSE violent behavior, I do have a feeling that it lowers the threshold required to bridge into violent behavior. Again, another illuminating quote, talking about ROTCs lining up to play the game: "They're a little glassy-eyed and utterly delighted, just like you can imagine the children who followed the Pied Piper into the ocean might have been." It is also worth noting that the military itself has concluded that there is no direct correlation between videogames and an urge to kill, but they use these games as a means to teach HOW to do certain things properly. Knowledge can be disseminated. Quoting Col. Wardynski, from the article: "What a video game does, at heart, is teach you now, in the midst of utter chaos, to know what is important and what is not, and to act on that."
After the end of the cold war, the US Military, left as the sole military force of a superpower had to evolve into a force that could handle the new challenges of no singular enemy, but rather small, disparate groups who viewed the US as an enemy. This new military challenge couldn't be handled the same way that old forces were handled, on major battlefields. In this space, a new kind of military was needed, and a new soldier.
The new soldier of the future will be wired - with multiple network access, graphic overlays, lightweight computer which provides further assistance. In essence, it makes the soldier almost like a cross between two figures from movies: Predator and The Terminator. This isn't just providing info directly to the soldier, but back to command, for their knowledge as well.
THe military's use of games began with 1980's Battlezone (a 1st-person tank game), then Flight Simulator, and then Doom, to the Sims, and beyond. Doom was a flashpoint, where it seemed as though moving into games seriously began to be thought about by the military. America's Army follows in the vein of what these others were, but is geared to prepare people so that entering the US Army would be an experience that they might already be prepared for, from day one. (I somewhat wonder what it might mean for the US's ENEMIES to get and use this to prepare for the US Army as well, but from a 'know thy enemy' perspective...)
What really stands out to me is how the 'protaganists' of this story, as it were, evoke to me the kind of images of formerly nerdy children who never managed to find emotional maturity and became bitter man-childs. They seem angry at the world, smug and wallowing in privileges now, king of their new castles (Macedonia p204, Zyda p205). Games permeate their existence, but in a way that seems to suggest to me that they view the world as a game, rather than the world as a real play THAT CAN BE INFORMED by games. The distinction, to me, seems to be an important one.
J.C. Herz, "The military-entertainment complex," Joystick nation: How videogames ate our quarters, won our hearts, and rewired our minds
Readings for this class do not get much more straightforward than this chapter from JC Herz's book on videogames (referenced yesterday by Dr. Steinkuehler, incidentally). Herz, herself, has, interestingly enough, worked as a consultant for industry and for defense concerns, which I found quite salient.
At any rate, this chapter has as its goal to point out and then document the profound interlinking of the videogame/entertainment and defense industries. The interest the two share is technological, financial and even philosophical, to a certain extent. Earlier in class, it was pointed out (perhaps by Dr. Halverson) that the need to synthesize and analyze great deals of information presented dynamically and simultaneously is growing ever important in our information economy, and the case is the same for military applications. Herz notes that "most modern warfare takes place behind the screen, anyway," with controls and gadgets becoming secondary to their virtual information displays. She also points out that the use of videogame technology does a great deal to validate it (whether positively or negatively is a personal interpretation) outside of the confines of wasteful passtimes in video arcades - although it is worth noting that the entire chapter is characterized by a sarcastic, cynical tone. Perhaps Herz's knowledge of the inner workings of both industries, independent of each other as well as collectively, is to blame.
The type of gaming most often relevant to military applications, as we have already learned, is simulation ("M&S," it is called), and this article simply underscores that point. She was also able to glean interesting insights from some important industry insiders in the defense contracting, military and gaming industries, all of whom cited the relationship among them as being critical to military advance and success and game and technology development. In short, Herz suggests, all one need do is follow the money trail to establish this relationship.
Also of note is another point we have discussed previously, which is that there is a reality threshold that designers and military personnel are aware of, in which, on the one hand, games become unplayable for entertainment purposes due to being too realistic, and the realism in the military arena becomes counterproductive to the ends of training soldiers to kill (i.e. empathy for the enemy is inadvertently instilled if the enemy appears too real).
The bottom line for this chapter is simply that there is an intrinsic relationship between military and gaming development (and, arguably, with all digital technology development, really). Perhaps awareness of this fact is the important first step in being able to develop mindful critiques of them both. Herz does not offer a particularly hopeful solution to this situation - in fact, she might not see it as problematic, per se, in the first place - but the direct connections she has drawn among the various players involved are important for any student and scholar of video games, and for any social critic interested in a broader picture of how technologies are developed in our society.
I went to the America's Army website last night. I "can't" play the game, because, as far as I know, it doesn't run on Macs. That having been said, I'm not really comfortable downloading it, anyway, and would prefer not to. Instead, I looked over some of the media and support materials for the game, particularly some of the videos on the site.
The one I want to share with the class is called "The Frag Dolls." I watched this video that is just a few minutes long. It features footage from a gaming convention or some kind of competition or event. From what I gleaned, Ubisoft, who must now have some sort of relationship with this game/project, assembled a group of gamer girls who also happened to be "hot" (in the gamer convention sense), andthen let people challenge them on AA.
From the comments of the Frag Dolls, it was apparent most of them hadn't even played the game before, which I found amusing. I wondered if they were maybe Ubisoft employees, or something. Given that, I also found it amusing that they were mostly kicking ass for the majority of the competition.
In the interest of brevity, I'm not going to spend too much time trying to deconstruct all the issues at play here of commodification, gender portrayal, selling via sex (appeal), etc. It's all pretty surface. One thing that also bothers me, though, is the term "frag" in the first place. I realize that this is now common parlance in video game culture, particularly in FPS games and in militaristic ones, but I really have trouble separating it from the way it was historically used in Vietnam and elsewhere, where it meant murdering a CO of your own unit (who was usually a jerk, a bad person, mistreated soldiers, etc.). It's just an ominous, creepy term to me. The way it's bandied about now just kind of weirds me out. The way it was then applied to a bunch of T&A girls (who were also obviously really good gamers, but that is secondary to why they were chosen) just seems crass and disrespectful.
After 37 years of operation, the video arcade on the first floor of the UW's Memorial Union shut down in May. In its place, a Peet's Coffee Shop will open in the fall.
The revenue for the arcade room had plummeted 80 percent in the last five years alone, according to Roger Westmont, vice president of Modern Specialty, a southern Wisconsin company that rents out video games, jukeboxes, pool tables and dart boards.
Now, all those games have been "dispersed into the ether," as Bob Wright, the Union's recreations service manager, puts it. Modern Specialty has relocated most of the machines to the Dells.
Update: A related article -- the rise of the DIY neo-arcade? -- at Isthmus.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Throughout this article Diane touches on gender in video games through its representation, players and player culture, and aspects of the games industry. She starts by talking about gender and how it is represented in games. First she introduces some statistics on female gamers. In the UK the average age of women who game is between 30-35 years old. She points out that many theorists believe that women are turned off from video games because of the “look” of female avatars. Female bodies in video games are greatly exaggerated, and while males are exaggerated too they are not solely view for sexual interest.
She goes into how the whole industry of video games is male by default. Some games such as The Thing and Abe’s Oddysee where all the characters in the game are male. But she also urges us to remember that although representational factors are important they aren’t the only factor dealing with gender and video games, as we all know a player controls the avatar.
In the section on how the rules of the game are just as important as the representation Carr brings up the example of Baldur’s Gate where the characters, whether male or female, have the same characteristics. But then in the Sims the gender of the characters determine how the act etc. She argues for these and other reasons mentioned that the manner in which gender is inscribed in the game at a representational level might be over-ruled by the player. She also mentions then creation of “Jen” the main character in the game Primal. When the company attempted to export the game to Japan, the Japanese claimed that Jen wasn’t attractive enough and wanted a change.
From that she starts to talk about the culture of the gaming industry and how it is male heavy. The games are made by males and marketed for males, in fact she shows a stat where 90% of the makers of Anarchy Online where men. The majority of women working in the video game industry are those “booth babes” who take pictures with eager boys.
Next she goes into the “pink games” or attempts to make games for girls and the “grrl gamer” which relates back to From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. She also briefly talks about how sometimes gaming magazines try to lure girls in by having special girl issues, but most the time they are just filled with things guys want to see.
She ends by saying that with games becoming mainstream media the line between male and female players my become forgotten or at least reworked. Also she realizes that just by having female avatars doesn’t mean more females will start to play games because there are so many other factors dealing with gender in games.
The American Library Association (ALA) will launch an innovative project to track and measure the impact of gaming on literacy skills and build a model for library gaming that can be deployed nationally. Funding for the project will be provided by a $1 million grant from the Verizon Foundation.
The announcement will take place later today at the American Library Association Annual Conference in Anaheim, Calif.
“Gaming is a magnet that attracts library users of all types and, beyond its entertainment value, has proven to be a powerful tool for literacy and learning,” said ALA President Loriene Roy. “Through the Verizon Foundation’s gift, ALA’s gaming for learning project will provide the library community with vital information and resources that will model and help sustain effective gaming programs and services.”
As part of the grant, the American Library Association will work directly with 12 leading gaming experts to document the use of gaming as a literacy tool and monitor the results of gaming initiatives. The information will be used to build “The Librarians’ Guide to Gaming,” a comprehensive, online literacy and gaming toolbox, which will then be field-tested by additional libraries.
The experts creating the best practices during the initial phase are from the following libraries:
Ann Arbor District Library, Ann Arbor, Mich.;
Public Library of Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, N.C.;
Columbus Metropolitan Library, Columbus, Ohio;
Georgetown County Library, Georgetown, S.C.;
Minneapolis Public Library, Minneapolis, Minn.;
Old Bridge Public Library, Fords, N.J.;
Pima County Public Library, Tucson, Ariz.;
Reidland High School, Paducah, Ky.;
School Library System of Genesee Valley BOCES, Le Roy, N.Y.;
The New York Public Library, New York;
Todd Wehr Library, De Pere, Wis.;
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Ill.
“In today’s technology-driven world, where learning does not stop at the classroom, the role of libraries in supporting literacy and learning is more critical than ever before,” said Verizon Foundation President Patrick Gaston. “Gaming for learning presents a tremendous opportunity for libraries to further literacy skills in children as well as adults.”
Introduction: Young People, Games, and Learning
Certain research suggests that video games affect children disproportionately, augmenting the incidence of childhood obesity (fueled by “addiction” and addictive tendencies), and strengthening gender socialization, poor academic scores, intensification of aggressive behavior, and, presumably, providing fortification for racial pseudo-identities, stereotypes, and racial perceptions (or presumptions).
The burning question on Everett’s mind is how do young people interact with videogames while (or through) learning about race and difference in the world? Everett’s “critical framework” pushes for an assessment of popular game titles, their maker’s intentions, and how they “reflect, influence, reproduce, and thereby teach dominant ideas about race in America” (Everett, 140).
Are video game player’s influenced by certain video game author’s perceptions about a certain racial group within certain contexts? Could the context itself provide an insight into the racial arguments made by said game author? With television media research having already provided a map for critics to assess the ghosts out of any burgeoning technology, all video games were up for inspection and consideration, or for the guillotine, correlated with a angered third party prosecutors.
That is, of course, why this article is meant to explore “how the shift to digital and more interactive forms of media influences how and what young people learn from race” (Everett 1). How certain can we be that the racial lessons impressionable children have learned from video games are the proper ones?
Though things may look bleak, despair not, for video games may have one largely redeeming quality—they have the potential to provide a superior educational platform and access to a tailor-made, more enriching learning environment. (BUT, one must remember to question what form of educational experience users will be experiencing? And investigate to what end the ‘teacher’ (video game console or software) is pointing the ‘student’ (video game player).
Do video game creators reflect societal standards or are they creating a demand that didn’t exist before they overtly fell down the slippery-slope of sexually explicit and gratuitously violent content. Certainly, the underlying premise of Oregon Trail was that Indians were the enemies, and that people had to wrangle their wagons into circles to keep the enemies out at night. Does this not reflect the dominant ideas surrounding race relations between Caucasian, Anglo-Saxon people and Native American. Is not the underlying premise that the winners write the history and this effects feelings towards certain racial groups?
Racial perceptions take root at a young age. Anna Everett points to research indicating that from the age of five, children have often already formed strong opinions about race and differences between people. “Racial narratives “are “representations [of] belief systems” that follow the same line of logic that keeps “sexist and misogynistic constructs” afloat. Moreover, racial narratives have been largely overshadowed by the general portrayal of the woman as a sex object, prizes, and stereotypes. As the struggle for woman equality has more often then not followed a similar trail to that of the African American, so too is their portrayal often misguided.
Learning Race & Portraying Eace: Urban/Street Games, etc.
“Richly detailed and textured urban landscapes” provide a familiar setting for inner city children to learn and assess, from a safe gaming environment, the perks and pitfalls of living in the city. This type of game performs a crucial academic function—grounding the game in reality. These games blow GTA out of the water in their ability to put the gamer in situations relevant to actual life. Rather than dealing drugs as a Russian immigrant in America (the game makers holding desperately onto that day watched Scarface and got really excited) and deal with powerful, persistent and problematic lessons about race in American culture” (Everett, 142)
Grand Theft Auto – GTA
Key- “GTA teaches dominant attitudes and assumptions about race and racial otherness through what we term ‘racialized pedagogical zones’ (RPZs)”
From Mario to the Godfather
The use of racially marked characters is a relatively new occurrence. Mario represents the first major racially identified (Italian) character marked by some stereotypical attributes, and the common misconception that all Italians like squishing mushrooms with their butts. Based on the fact that Shigeru Miyamoto, the Japanese creator of Mario is, well. Japanese, one could expect that some archetypal images and borderline stereotypes made it into the game design, such as Mario’s love of pizza and pasta—but who doesn’t like pizza, really? The Godfather: The Game represents a much more blunt example of negative Italian-American stereotypes.
Despite the plethora of options to work with, racial depictions remain regrettably narrow. Evidence in testament to this is 50 Cents Bullet Proof. These misconceived plots steer societal perceptions toward fulfilling the prophecy selected for them by the media. As soon as every black male wants to be 50 Cent, a whole century of civil rights work will be seriously damaged.
Urban street games, however, represent a movement in the right direction. With culturally specific cities as the playing field, players learn important lessons about race and urban culture. These games are meant to “capture the cultural sensibilities of particular racial and ethnic group’s world experience.” A sense of “perceptual” and ‘social’ realism us crucial to the success of this conception of gaming.
Characters continue to be predominantly white in video games. Black characters generally play the more stereotypical version of African American’s—an athlete, a violent man, a gunman, etc. Most of the time black and Latino males are secondary characters. In newer, better urban street games, “designers strive for greater cultural authenticity, the spatial environment itself, where the characters live, play, fight and compete, also becomes a culturally specific location that animates ideas about race, class, and gender” (Everett, 145)..
In these urban street games, one must master a set of skills, technical (navigation, etc.) and cultural (subject matter and game play). NBA Ballers represents a vise city of sorts in which basketball players must learn how to balance life in the fast lane and on the court. Moreover, African American females still represent the most victimized group in games. This, of course, does not compliment the misogynistic portrayal of many women in games. Urban street games give the power back to the women and to the African American community. The loopholes that the urban street game industry will have to jump through include first-person shooter games that portray minorities as brutal or violent, and “fantasy-driven notions of black masculinity “ (Everett, 149). The ultimate goal is to produce a platform for “technologically mediated notions of race.” (DISCUSSSION question: does a notion so subjective render it dangerous to manufacture or program into gamers through gaming?)
RPZs – Racialized Pedagogical Zones – Chess as an example: is there any reason why white always gets to move first? It represents a double edged sword—video games as tools for teaching about acceptance and as tools for hate speech. It remains common to have the “super predator black male stereotype” terrorizing the ‘hood’ on any number of games—e.g. 50 Cent. The violence found in these games, similar to GTA, have a tendency to push for the values and attitudes of a “larger social structure” (Everett, 155). And what if a gamer wants a white Avatar while they only come in black, is that a legitimate gripe (as some GTA players grumbled)? This is an interesting question to consider. From the digital divide (and the lack of home computers in the inner city) to the uneven portrayal of black and other minority characters, it is interesting to dedicate time to assessing the effects of video games on children in comparison to depictions of minority groups.
The Brighter Side? Pedagogical Value
“What matters most to our inquiry, is the fact that video games teach—they are pedagogical—and that ‘what we’re learning from them bears no resemblance whatsoever to what we think we’re learning’…the video game playground on- and offline too often replicates racist attitudes, values, and assumptions found in larger social structures.” Boy culture was centered around division, rivalry and conflict. The “descriptive trifecta of nonwhite as uneducated and poor, etc. also pervades video game atmospheres. The digital divide also renders inner city kids with access only to gaming consoles, stunting their ability to do more difficult computer related tasks.
Any discussion of games in the future should consider two perspectives:
(1) Must continue to act like watchdogs over racial content making it into video games, including research, etc.
(2) These discussions should consider more closely the educational opportunities that present themselves in terms of video games.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Once I was in the game section I noticed that while most of what they offered was “educational” gaming (including games from the Reading Rabbit series, a few How Does it Work games, some Dora the Explorer tie-ins), there were definitely a lot of entertainment games. Today in class we mentioned Oregon Trail, and there was an edition of that on the shelves, a game that to me blends genres. In particular, I saw a lot of Star Wars games. I had a touch of nostalgia when I saw the original Rebel Assault game, along with a few other oldies. They also had a copy of Myst. There were a couple Pokemon games, a few Sim games (Simcopter, Simtower among them), also Roller Coaster Tycoon. And, bearing on our game play and discussion from today, even a couple of Barbie games. I choose to make note of what I saw as the two ends of the spectrum for Barbie: they had a copy of Barbie: Secret Agent and also a copy of Barbie: Fairy Princess.
From these findings it seemed to me that the target group for these games was definitely kids, no doubt about it. I found it interesting that the woman at the help desk seemed completely confused by the idea of the library having games, be they educational or other, while the man working in the children’s section knew precisely what I was looking for. My guess is that a lot of kids come in looking for games, but not too many people on the first floor are. Seeing as how there were some action games, the library obviously wanted the option to be open for games to be (as the clerk put it) “fun.” The fun never got more violent than the assorted Star Wars space battle simulators. I don’t think they had a gender or race in mind. I feel that the library was doing its best to provide games that would teach, while still allowing early teens to find something with a little bit (but not too much) of a punch to it.