I stumbled upon this lecture on robotics and was reminded of the uncanny valley. The robots mentioned are impressive and quite emotive, but many still fall into the valley for me. The one ‘zeno’ robot featured around 4:30 is on the other side of the valley, with its cartoonish eyes and piecey spiked hair reminiscent of dragonball z.
I have talked with a lot of my male videogamer friends in order to find a game that they believed would be good for the presentation and final project. I’ve decided to go ahead with the recommendation of playing Portal. Although I haven’t started working on the game yet, I predict that I may have difficulty playing the game or getting through the game at an acceptable rate. I plan on remedying that problem by watching some clips of gameplay on youtube and also by watching some friends play the game in my dorm.
If you made it the end of EoEE, you will recognize the poetic line above from the song in the ending video. In fact, the song, although (in my opinion) lacking relevance and preparation, was quite catchy and has stuck in my head for awhile.
Rather than focusing on one game in my blog post, I thought I would discuss some of the characteristics all the games share. With Transparency vs. Foregrounding, Nelson’s games didn’t exactly “reveal the code” like some of Galloway’s examples. They did “break the fourth wall” in the film-sense of the term, with Nelson making it quite obvious you were playing a game. Aestheticism certainly overshadowed Gameplay in the four games, as the player sometimes didn’t have to utilize much skill to reach another level; in This Is How You Will Die, the player only clicks in a slot-machine manner. Nelson certainly focused on the visual aspects of the game in order to convey his artistic message/social commentary. Accordingly, I found that the games leaned heavily towards the Diegetic Machine quadrant of Galloway’s gamic actions.
As for his Diegetic focus, read ‘artistic message/social commentary’, was (to put it quite frankly) over my head. I didn’t really understand what he was trying to convey most of the time. I found that a lot of his ‘poetry’ (or what I am guessing was his poetry) was grammatically confusing and/or surprisingly uncalculated. Many of the videos were unrehearsed and the home videos seemed disjoint from the game’s message as well. Unless one of the artistic messages of the game was to satirize the way we consistently try to find messages in things that aren’t really there, Nelson has failed to convey his message to me.
Although I’m not in the Links group this week (and I think even first readers are supposed to wait until Wednesday/Thursday to post) I thought I would share this game called Tetris Hell that a friend of mine showed me when I told him about countergames (and how bizarre the Nelson games are). I’m pretty sure it qualifies. I found it quite funny, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people in the class have seen it already..
After discussing the graphically ‘gifted’ female character Lara Croft in class, I began to think more about how people percieved her effects on gamers and designers. While some students believed she could be a “positive role model” in society, others thought that she created unrealistic expectations or ideals. Although I believe Ms. Croft is an acceptable character, cranium-sized breasts included, would some people go as far as advising the censorship or regulation of game characters and graphics in order to mitigate the “objectification of women” and/or “better society?”
After posing this question, I recalled a banned x-box live commercial (which classmate Calvin Poe showed me) that portrays people around a train or metroesque station shooting one another with, well, their hands. Pointing the index and middle finger toward a person with your thumb extended and shouting “Bang!” implies the firing of a handgun. Holding, in an air-guitar fashion, a larger gun and miming rifle-like jolts is seen as well; one character even simulates grenade attacks. Although people fly backward with the impact of these bullets and shells and dramatically clutch their chests with each blow, there is nothing of what you would commonly call violence. More blood and gore is seen on the nightly news, but this commercial was censored.
Upon further examination of the commercial, I realized it related to this weeks topic of gender in games in a different way. We classically think that the most common demographic of videogamers is 10-22 year old males, more specifically males that are still in some form of schooling. This commercial somewhat challenges that notion, as the station is filled with an unexpected variety of people; kids are left out, but businessmen, a few older gentlemen, and many women participate in the mayhem.
Like some of my other classmates, I found the interactive fiction video games quite intriguing. This is basically the first game I have played that makes the player visualize the game play. I found it quite interesting that players all visualize a different game before them.
This kind of game was both fun, entertaining and frustrating for me. Some of the actions I could take in the games were quite unexpected and difficult to discover. The unexpected violent actions, such as the ability to attack the woman with the Gnocchi, or the sauce cans, were especially eye-opening for me. Like other classmates, I was also somewhat perturbed by the lack of finality to the game. I usually feel a sense of productivity and accomplishment when I finish a level of a game, win a certain amount of points, unlock hidden game aspects, or win the game entirely.
These senses of accomplishment are almost always the main focus and reason I play games. The diegetic aspect of games was often the most intriging part of a game for me; the lack of a concrete ‘story’ in these games bothered me, as a multitude of endings were possible.
The topic of flow has brought a few things to my attention. After reading Kristine’s blog post and looking into the psychological definitions of flow, I realized how applicable the visually appealing graph she noted was to my experiences.
We discussed the ‘flow’ one finds in some sporting activities, including bobsledding and gymnastic snowboarding, but I realized that some sporting flows may actually be more accurately positioned in the ‘Relaxation’ section. In personal experience, swimming has often been a relaxing activity. During more challenging practices, I could no longer classify the activity as relaxing exactly, and I was most likely experiencing flow. When I lacked the skills necessary in some extremely difficult sets, my flow and relaxation were broken and anxiety set in.
This graph also seems quite relevant to the way we learn and complete educational assignments. Assignments and readings that are quite easy may cause students to react with apathy, boredom, and maybe even relaxation. More challenging assignments can put students into a flow, if that student possesses the correct skills. If that student lacks the skills necessary, or at least doesn’t believe he possesses the proper skills, homework can create a great amount of anxiety.
Unfortunately, I don’t usually experience flow when I play videogames. I now understand that it may be a result of a shortage of skills.
The past discussions this week have reminded me of the learning games I played throughout my childhood. My brother and I loved playing Mathblaster, Gizmos & Gadgets, and Treasure Mathstorm!. Although some gamers are critical of the cut scenes and strong story lines of the videogames they play, I found that the story in these computer games was essential to the game. It could be because the games were geared towards education and not ‘play’ or ‘fun’, but I often found that getting to the next cut scene was the focal point of the gameplay for me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp8FpkR_Lao
I, like my fellow students, found myself quite surprised when I was actually able to digest a portion of the Galloway reading. Specifically, the beginning of the section ‘The Dromenon’ was familiar because of our prior readings. Unfortunately, my understanding of the reading ranged from, “well yeah, that makes perfect sense!” to, *stare blankly; reread; Google terminology; reread; reread; stare blankly…*.
Aside from the technical jargon that hindered my understanding, I found that my ignorance of videogaming was probably holding me back. Although I could often break down and at least logically understand what Galloway was writing, it was likely that my potential understanding from experiencing the games and terms he discussed would have been greater.
The first quadrant is about the machinic phylum and the vitality of pure matter. Consider Yu Suzuki’s Shenmue. One plays Shenmue by participating in its process. Remove everything and there is still action, a gently stirring rhythm of life. There is a privileging of the quotidian, the simple (8-9).
Although this made sense, I didn’t fully understand it because I am completely ignorant of the game Shenmue.
I am quite ignorant of videogames, whether they be from 20 years ago, or the game that everyone was standing in line to buy last week. I played mostly computer games: the Backyard Sports series, games by The Learning Company, various versions of The Sims, and RollerCoaster Tycoon were my favorites; so I often have no background in the first-person shooter games that are quite often the topic of discussion. However, I was relieved to find that Nick Montfort’s critical analysis of Combat through different contextual levels of the game increased my level of understanding. The way Montfort broke down the parts of gaming helped me digest the complex information much easier. Although some of the analysis was still a tad over my head, I found that the presentation through levels was quite appropriate and almost familiar, even for a non-avid videogamer.
The levels of context I could most relate to were the Platform and Interface. My friend (and our classmate) Lauren and I have bonded over the music we listened to while playing and watching Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3. I was listening to a song from the soundtrack one day, when Lauren looked at me and exclaimed something about Tony Hawk. What followed was a lengthy discussion of what we remembered about the various skate parks, characters, and the game’s soundtrack. We soon learned that our experiences differed at the Platform level, for Lauren used an Xbox, and I a Playstation. The platform difference seemed to affect the game (and interface) in many ways; the controls differed, some skating venues were not shared, not all viewpoints were attainable on one game system, and some music selections differed. Looking back, I found that the music in many computer and video games has affecting my playing experience. One memorable aspect of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 was the ability of the player to select the songs for the game’s playlist. Possibly because of the popularity of the game and its songs, a soundtrack was released. Unfortunately, some of both Lauren and my favorite songs didn’t make the cut.
Our discussions in class and the reading made me look at the definition of a game much closer. We use the word ‘game’ so frequently and in so many contexts, that the definition can be quite broad. Academics in the reading assigned the adjectives ‘voluntary’, ‘unproductive’, and ‘outside ordinary life’ to games. However, I find that we often use the term ‘game’ to describe situations that contradict these descriptors. We play games with others’ minds, we use games (and bribery) to elicit tangible outcomes from children, and we study games (game theory) in which the players have not necessarily voluntarily entered.
The concept that games require voluntary play made me think of a popular movie series in which game players have not voluntarily agreed to play, let alone have fun. Want to play a game?