Author Archives: Professor Sample

About Professor Sample

Mark Sample is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at George Mason University, where he researches and teaches contemporary and experimental literature, electronic literature, graphic novels, and videogames.

Roger Ebert on Videogames and Art

Roger Ebert has long maintained that videogames should not be considered art, and he’s recently posted an elaboration of this argument on his blog. Video Games Can Never Be Art is worth the read, especially given our discussion on that subject. It’s also worth looking at the 500 or so comments he’s gotten (some of the comments are actually thoughtful).

Killology in the News

You’ve no doubt heard about the horrific video of American soldiers firing on unarmed civilians in Iraq in 2007. In an article today in the New York Times, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is interviewed about the incident. Grossman, you may remember, is the “killology” expert quoted in the Simon Penny article on simulation and enaction. The NYT article is definitely worth reading.

Reading Galloway

Here’s what I want you to do after you’ve read the chapter on “Gamic Action, Four Moments” in Gaming. Cite one passage (give the page number and a key phrase or two from the passage) that totally confuses you and describe your confusion on the blog.

Approaches to Game Studies

Here is the collection of various articles that HNRS 353 students studied for Inquiry #1: Approaches to Game Studies:

Using Stella to emulate the Atari VCS

Here are a few tips on using Stella, the Atari 2600 emulator you need to install on your computer in order to play a few of the required games this semester.

  1. First you need to get Stella (it’s open-source and free). You can find Stella for Windows, Macs, or Linux operating systems from the project’s download page.
  2. Once the file is downloaded, open the installer just like you would to install any other program.
  3. Accept all the default settings.
  4. Once Stella is installed, you’ll need a game “ROM” — this is essentially a tiny piece of software code that mirrors the code on the original game cartridge. There are plenty of places online to find ROMs. Atari Age is the premier Atari site, and in addition to scans of the original packaging and instruction manuals of different games, you can find many ROMs there. Go to individual game pages and look for the “Download ROM” icon (it looks like a white Pac Man in a blue circle). Experiment with different games, but definitely try to download and play the following classic Atari games: Combat, Pac-Man, Air-Sea Battle, Yar’s Revenge, Asteroids, Demon Attack, Space Invaders, and Frogger
  5. The ROMs at Atariage are often compressed as .zip files to speed up downloading (even though they are already extremely small files). Once the game is downloaded, you’ll have to “unzip” the file to extract the .bin file inside. This .bin file is the actual ROM. Most Macs and PCs can uncompress the games without any problem. Remember where you’ve placed the unzipped .bin file that is the game ROM, and you’re ready to load it up in Stella.
  6. Run Stella. When you first open the program you’ll see a DOS-like directory. Navigate through here to find where you saved the various .bin files you’ve downloaded.
  7. You might have to experiment with the different controls and functions keys. In general, press F2 to begin the game.

The Military and Games

We’ll be talking throughout the semester about the ongoing relationship between videogames and the military. Here’s a Defense Department announcement from Monday, in fact, that describes one reason the military continues to invest in gaming technology: According to the Office of Naval Research, “video game players perform 10 to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability than normal people that are non-game players.”

Yes, playing games can make you a better soldier. But what are the implications for the non-soldier players out there?

Welcome to HNRS 353

Welcome to the course website and blog for HNRS 353:004, an Honors College seminar focusing on the cultural impact and analysis of videogames. Here you’ll find all the course documents, including the most up-to-date version of the schedule as well as the requirements for the course.

If you are a student in HNRS 353, you can go ahead and register for the blog. After I approve your registration, you’ll be able to post here, something we’ll be doing almost every week. Don’t delay: you’ll need to start posting almost right away!