What’s the difference?

Sure, I play my fair share of shooters–Call of Duty, Halo, Medal of Honor–but when reading this article, I was taken aback with the notion of rewarding a player $100,000 emulating the ballistics of JKF’s assasination with hopes of dispelling the many conspiracy theories that surround that tragic day. The question I asked myself while reading this was: how is this different from Call of Duty? or any game for that matter that involves the assassination of any figure of histortical relevance.

Tracey Fullerton introduces the term documentary games, which serves as an “umbrella term for commercial war games that feature fictional recreations” (62). Now, this may apply to Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, but it appears the same for JFK Reloaded, which doesn’t make sense–the assassination wasn’t fictional, it really happened.

How is this different from killing Fidel Castro on Call of Duty: Black Ops, for example? In the game, players are given the objective to storm Fidel Castro’s stronghold, and neutralize him. As you break through security, exchanging gunfire with hostiles, you reach Castro, and put a bullet right between the eyes–awesome, right? Of couse it is! You completed the objective, but would players feel awesome putting a bullet through JFK’s head, and if so, why? Is it because you accomplished the assassination, or is it because your ballistic marks match that of Lee Harvey Oswald’s?

This article was interesting because it questioned my morals. How is it that I can streight-faced run into an enemy stronghold, kill everyone, put a hole through the head of a communist revolutionary, continue through the rest of the campaign, and not feel disturbed? I can’t really see JFK Reloaded as a game–a documentary, sure, but not a game. In Call of Duty you can game over very easily, and continue from a checkpoint. Conversely, JFK Reloaded only has one way to win–there are no chekpoints, or game over screens.

Poetry and poker

Poker was never my cup of tea. It was one of those things I wanted to be good at just to look cool, but it failed as I still remain a horrid poker player. I was given a second wind, however, when I spent about an hour with Stud Poetry by Marco Niemi. In the game only your words have values because the goal is to construct the strongest poetry–and win money, too!!–line you can muster with the cards you are dealt.

The objective of Stud Poetry is to create the best poetry line possible, using words that are “dealt” to you. The player is only given the option to “call” “raise” or “fold,” and, from this, the player determines the value of the words dealt–just as in poker and how the many combinations of suits have a particular value–which is interesting because all writers use specific words for their particular writing style and most writers have a unique style and vocabulary. When you have a bad hand, however, the only logical option is to fold, but at times, I felt as though my words were decent–I could have smashed together something creative, poignant and deep with the words I was dealt; however, compared to the other AI-controlled players, their word combinations surpassed my own.

After my short time with Stud Poetry–I still, unfortunately, suck at poker, and I’m a pretty bad poet, as well–what I took from this work is a better understanding of how difficult it is to create great poetry. Before taking this class, my view of poetry continued to flip-flop; either it was a bunch of words slammed together, luckily creating a work that filled the souls of readers with intellectual satisfaction, or the words are personally and specifically chosen by the poet, so that his or her emotions aren’t misinterpreted. Poetry and poker is an awkward mix, but then again, what isn’t awkward in new media?

The database and narrative are enemies?

Lev Manovich’s “The Database” was interesting, but a little confusing as well; particularly when the work touches on database and narrative. To elaborate, Manovich states that “database and narrative are natural enemies.” I don’t see how these two are enemies, but what it comes down to is what is considered a database?

If you still have an old-school Playstation, and memory card, then this will sound familiar–hopefully, your save files from decades ago survived. When you boot up a first gen Playstation, putting a memory card in the respective slot displays the memory card icon, in which you can select and peruse through various save files of your games, just as you would a CD-ROM, flash drive, etc. The files will show various data, including: the last date that particular game was played; a particular characters name, usually the member of the party that was used at the save point; the last in-game location where the player saved last (i.e., “The Dragon’s Cave). This is useful information, primary because If I choose to not play a specific game for a certain duration of time, I can look at the data on my memory card and remember where at what I was doing in the game. So, the question is: how are they enemies?

Manovich states that “database and narrative are natural enemies.”  What does this mean? For instance, drawing back to the memory card example, the narrative–or game can only progress when I hit the power button, press start and go to “load game,” however, the option to quit playing is there. I can come back to the narrative when I desire, and that is all thanks to my memory cards, which could technically serve as a database; glancing at the save file–time, date, last location–I can recall where it was I last left off. So, I can’t see how narrative and database are enemies, if anything, they are working together.



Ah, memories.

Growing up, I was always told to go put down my Game Boy, Game Gear, Super Nintendo Controller, go read a book, or go outside. Now, nine out of ten–I didn’t, I would remain diligent and complete my quest; get to level 8 of Super Mario Bros; try another left field strategy for that one cheap-ass boss that just always seems to get the leg up on you. I wasn’t a complete hermit after all. I did read, played outside–with friends, but gaming was my passion.

Tailspin by Christine Wilks tells the story of an old man dealing with tinnitus, a condition that effects an individuals perception to sound. The story also includes his daughter, Karen, and her two grandchildren, who are playing a “dammed annoying game.”  When you begin, you see small, whirling circles–going either clockwise or counter–outline the shape of an human ear, more specifically, the inside of the ear. As you move the the arrow to one of the circles, you get a snippet of the story. Repeating this will prompt a blue circle to appear in the middle, allowing you to go deeper into the story, or in this case, the ear.

What’s interesting in this work is a number of things. For instance, as you move from circle to circle, they fade out and become gray. This could symbolize the old man’s hearing is fading, and perhaps those annoying sounds from his grandchildren’s handhelds are becoming even more faint, which upsets him further.

The story itself has no particular order. To elaborate, remember those whirling circle mentioned earlier? Well, there is no specific order of those snippets–you can guide the arrow to the circle of your choosing. Maybe this is how the old man, or grandpa, perceives sound; his ear processes particular sounds at certain times, and throughout the story, this really ticks grandpa off, all he can hear is, again, is that “damned annoying game.” In a sense, this work reminds me of my upbringing–just a little.



Eliza a therapist?

After reading Janet H. Murray’s work on the four essential properties of digital media, I was somewhat confused, especially the bit on Weizenbaum and Eliza, the experimental natural language computer program in which Weizenbaum created.

In the reading, Murray describes Eliza as, ” a Rogerian Therapist, the kind of clinician who echoes back the concerns of the patient without interpretation.” (69). Now this may sound like a plausible idea, but upon further reading, Murray begins to call Eliza a “comic interpretation.” What’s confusing is that Murray calls Eliza a therapist who “echos back concerns.” So what is the overall purpose of Eliza? Does it serve as a computer programmed therapist who reflects and flips the participants questions, or is she simply programmed to parody the profession and role of a therapist?

Murray credits Eliza’s credibility due to Weizenbaum implementing “rules of discourse that   are based on the ways in which  a therapist would behave.” (73). This gives Eliza  credibility, but not so much on Murray–primarily because she never states anything on Weizenbaum’s knowledge on the subject of therapy, as well as the profession itself. I believe Weizenbaum had a general idea of how a therapist interacts when in the office with a patient. Additionally, Murray describes how Eliza processes particular words such as “everybody,” “depressed,” or “father.” It is safe to assume the reason Weizenbaum programmed Eliza in such a way is because those are a few of the fundamental words that you would hear in a therapist’s office.

It is a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that Weizenbaum created a program that is “the comic simpleton whose role is to misunderstand whatever is happening around her.” (73). I believe Murray is over-thinking, or going off a random tangent on Eliza’s purpose greatly, saying that the program was created to poke fun at therapists is a little ridiculous.

Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The MIT Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts. pg. 65-94. 1997.

Interactive Storytelling

Interactive storytelling is great. Not only does the reader get to immerse themselves into a digital world that tells a story, but in some instances, the readers participation can influence the entire story–beginning, middle and end– and its characters if the options are available.

In Donna Leisman’s “RedRidingHood,” the audience embarks on a playfully, but dark retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood.” In the work there are no words, which was interesting because if you think about it–there was no use for the words; the story is ubiquitous. We all know what happens to the bed-ridden grandmother; how the wolf looses his “lunch,” so the words would, in a sense, be a little redundant, to older individuals that is.

To elaborate, we could look at a picture book titled “Little Red Riding Hood,” open the book, see that there are no letters, and still know the story just by pictures alone because the pictures will tell the story in sequence as we mentally put the words with the pictures. Sure, we might not know the exact words of the story, but we have a general idea of what is being said in the story due to the repetitiveness of the story.

What I’m getting from the work is a new approach to tell the story of “Little Red Riding Hood,” but in an aesthetically unorthodox way. Some of the imagery in the work is extremely bizarre (Red Riding Hood can become pregnant–at least, I think she becomes pregnant–with twins given you select certain actions within the story, but this is where the work shows off its interactive storytelling elements. There is a dream sequence in which Red Riding Hood is asleep, participants can either awaken her, or allow her to “keep dreaming.” Choosing the latter will open up new story line possibilities, and for some, new interpretations of a story that has remained the same for decades.