Author Archives: brandi

Still Alive

I don’t know if anybody still reads this, but Portal, the game Carly covered in her presentation, is free to play until May 24th~

Har har har.

For the final project, I’m making a countergame. I have a good portion of it done already (thank you, three-hour-long politics class), but I’m not sure if I want to continue it. I have no programming or game-making skills at all, so I downloaded the Scratch program. It’s easy enough to use.

What I wanted to explore in my game is the whole social acceptance angle– how some games seem to offend people. How far will a person play a game if they’re being offended? If they don’t like the content?

The only thing I’m worried about is how the game is going to be graded. It’s a countergame so, you know, it’s not very good. I’d just like to know more about what kind of qualities it would be graded on, so I can make sure I’m not going completely off the mark.

You silly elitist.

In the second chapter of Casual Revolution, the characteristics of a causal versus a hardcore game are discussed. Eric Zimmerman offers this explanation of the difference: “As a producer of culture, I like to think that my audience can have a deep and dedicated and meaningful relationship with the works that I produce. And the notion of a casual game implies a light and less meaningful relationship to the work.” I think this is a perfect way to describe causal versus hardcore games. Hardcore games require more investment (in time and emotional involvement), so players develop a deeper relationship with the game. Casual games are not as demanding of the player, so the relationship is not nearly as developed.

Later in the chapter, however, hardcore games are defined as being difficult, time-consuming, and emotionally negative. Casual games are defined as positive and easy. Wait, what? Now there’s not just a division between games, it’s turned into.. elitist gamer versus noob. Noobs play happy, easy, casual games– and elitist play the good games. I have a hard time accepting Zimmerman’s way of dividing games. I can see what he describes as hardcore games being a category, and causal games being another category, but amongst other categories. Not just hardcore and casual.

Games that aren’t dark and heavy aren’t always easy. What about rhythm games? What about puzzle games? What about RPGs? What about adventure games? Yes, these categories tend to be easy– but it’s unfair to say that just because they’re not shoot-em-up games, they’re easy. Overall, I see Zimmerman as dividing games this way: what he personally finds to be a “good” game, and then everything else. This chapter is elitist. He needs to expand his horizons and keep an open mind to different types of games.

Ah, controversy.

In class on Tuesday, I remember there being a ton of discussion about whether the dead-in-iraq film was really a memorial to the soldiers, or if it was disrespectful. Well, when I was searching for links relevant to class, I discovered an even bigger version of our class argument– the game Six Days in Fallujah. The battle of Fallujah was an important and intense battle in Iraq, and the video game company Atomic was working with a group of soliders before they left for Fallujah. When the soldiers came back, they asked Atomic to make a game to portray their experiences in the battle. Atomic agreed, and for a while, so did their publisher, Konami. However, when the game was announced, a ton of controversy and criticism popped up. Parents of soldiers who died in that battle were outraged, saying that it was belittling their children’s deaths by making them into a game.

So the discussion begins again– what is a memorial? Can a game be a memorial, or should the two categories never be mixed? This article explains some of the controversy of the game, and there’s also a an animation that touches on the Six Days in Fallujah game.

It seems as if people are very adamant about what kinds of things games can and can’t do. It’s so difficult for a game to break out of the standard mold and be something different, whether it be a memorial or a way to tell a story.


Galloway spends this entire chapter talking about the importance of the camera angle. He details exactly how powerful the subjective shot can be, because it is capable of conveying so much more than just a visual. He says that these types of shots are perfect for FPS games because of the connection it establishes between the player and the environment. He’s definitely got me convinced, except for one thing– what about those videogames that allow the player to switch between camera angles? There’s typically a far-away angle where the entire character is visible, a behind-the-shoulders angle where the player is thrust up against the character’s shoulder and head, and a first-person angle.

For some games, this first-person angle would only be classified as a POV shot– it merely situates itself in the player’s place, showing things from their height. It has nothing of the intricacies that make it a perspective shot, where it conveys all the nuances of actually seeing. This is usually the case for adventure games, but some seem to enter into perspective shot territory. In some games, the camera shakes around when the character jumps, and becomes fuzzy when the character falls. If the character gets hit, the screen goes red and pulses.

So my question is this– if a perspective shot carries so much thought and meaning, what do they become in games that allow the player to switch between camera angles? The perspective angle is obviously not important to the story in those cases. Personally, I’ve never been fond of the first-person perspective, or even the over-the-shoulder one. I feel like I’m not “getting” everything if I can’t see the character– because the story revolves around this character, not around me. This brings up the question of story-telling in games and its relationship with camera angle, which seems similar to movies– it’s hard to tell a story in first-person POV, and requires a unique aspect of the story to make it work.

When I was little, I hated when my food did this…

Video game music is not staying in its own little container. It is slowly but steadily creeping out into the real world, mixing with popular culture and breaking away from the stigma of 8-bit “noise.” The world is starting to consider video game music “real” music, as silly as that may sound. The Ivor Novello Awards have expanded to include a video game category (The MTV Music Awards had a video game category from 2004-2006, but it hasn’t reappeared since then). Video game music has also become popular in clubs and with techno fans. There are also video game cover bands, who adapt video game music into full-length songs in their own styles (my favorite is Powerglove’s Power, Wisdom, Courage— it’s Legend-of-Zelda-turned-metal). So not only is music playing a bigger part in video games, it’s also becoming recognized in the regular music world as a legitimate form of music.

Games change culture?

I feel like I would need to re-read Galloway about nine times before I fully understand him, but this passage in particular confused me:

“Acts of configuration are a rendering of life: the transformation into an information economy in the US since the birth of video games as a mass medium in the 1970’s has precipitated massive upheavals in the lives of individuals submitted to a process of retraining and redeployment into a new economy mediated by machines and other informatic artifacts… The new “general equivalent” of information has changed the way culture is created and experiences. The same quantitative modulations and numerical valuations required by the new information worker are thus observed in a dazzling array of new cultural phenomena, from the cut-up sampling culture of hi-hop to the calculus curves of computer-aided architectural design” (16-17).

I start out following him just fine in the passage before this one, but he loses me here. How exactly is culture being changed here? By what? In what context? What is this “general equivalent?” It seems like I’m missing quite a bit of context for his claims.

Chunking & Aging

This has absolutely nothing to do with video games– absolutely nothing– so Professor Sample, please feel free to delete it if you’d like.

I was just reading this article on why life seems to go by faster as you get older: linky linky linky~ The middly bit made me think of this class.

“Of course, you can see this in everyday life,” says Eagleman, “when you drive to your new workplace for the first time and it seems to take a really long time to get there. But when you drive back and forth to your work every day after that, it takes no time at all, because you’re not really writing it down anymore. There’s nothing novel about it.”

This seemed really similar to the “chunking” process that Koster introduced in the earlier chapters. Apparently chunking really does happen in everyday life, outside of video games, and it’s also what makes time seem to go by faster when you’re old. You’ve already chunked everything, and are just repeating it over and over… (like Every Day the Same Dream?). Interesting.

Oh No He Di’int.

Ralph Koster, I thought you were a pretty cool guy. But you had to go and mess it up, didn’t you? Yeah. Good job.

What kind of elitist is this guy? “Games are not stories.” I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume that he’s never played Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Or any of the Final Fantasy series. Or Fable, or Chrono Trigger, or or or or…

What made those games amazing? Obviously, people who played the Final Fantasy games just really liked to grind. Except… no. People play those games for their stories. They don’t suffer through battling the same mobs over and over again because they like to– they do it because Sephiroth cast Meteor and it’s going to freakin’ destroy your planet and you might not actually be a human and oh, my god, Aeris is in danger and you’re going to tell me you wouldn’t put up with 600 of the same mob just to save everything?! And you know the funny thing about Final Fantasy VII? I’ve never even played it. When I was in elementary school, my best friend got the game and I stayed over at her house for two days straight, watching as she played through the game (I wasn’t much of a gamer myself back then). If I can get this worked up by a game’s story even though I’ve never played it, that says something about the ability of video games to tell stories. And what’s this about games being all about people’s actions, and stories being all about people’s emotions and thoughts? I mean, sure, puzzle games don’t really have a lot of emotion. But there’s more than one type of game. In Japan, dating simulation games are a very popular (albeit creepy) genre. Those games are all about emotions and being empathetic. (And in my opinion, a book where people just sit around and talk about their emotions through the whole thing doesn’t sound like a “good story.” It sounds like the exact thing you want to avoid being trapped in with your girlfriend.)

And it’s not like stories have always been what they are today. Stories used to be set to music and told in rhyme. They used to be spread by mouth, as a community activity. I’ll bet the story elitists of way back when got pretty huffy when Beowulf was written down. I’ll bet they got themselves in a tizzy again when films started telling stories. I’ll bet they said something like, “Films are not stories. They’re for lazy people! Where’s the imagination aspect of a novel?”

Don’t be such a conservative. Don’t be so opposed to change. Is it really such a blasphemous idea that the story could benefit from an interactive aspect? In the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the story and gameplay merged seamlessly together to create one the most highly praised games ever created. And when people reviewed the game, did they rave about how powerful it made them feel (because, like you said, games are all about power and control)? Did they gush about what a sense of accomplishment they got from putting that nasty ol’ Ganondorf in his place? No. They extolled the amazing and epic journey of that brave boy who didn’t have a fairy. (I say they extolled it, but what I really mean is they creamed their pants and could manage no more than a “HOMG.”) Would it have been the same game if the story element had been removed? Since a story only “adds interesting shading to the game but the game at its core is unchanged,” and all that jazz. The answer is no. Games can be a perfectly viable vessel for storytelling. The genre of interactive storytelling could even evolve to have an edge over regular storytelling.

(Also, “commonest” is a silly word. So there.)

This looks familia– Oh, hey! Look! It’s shiny!

While reading chapter four, I was particularly struck by Koster’s assertion that, after a point, certain types of games just recycle old material instead of coming up with something original. I believed him, but I thought he wasn’t giving those games enough credit. Sure, they might be following the same old formula, but they’re still fun. After thinking this, I stored the chapter away in the back of my mind– until I played one of the assigned games for Thursday’s class: Asteroids. It seemed oddly familiar, even though I’d never played it before. After poking around on the Internet for awhile, I realized why. It was exactly like Geometry Wars! Except, you know, less pretty.

Geometry Wars is a game (or series of games, really) for mainly the Xbox 360, but also for Wii and Nintendo DS. It’s simple, but as you can see, completely over-the-top with its graphics. There are explosions of light, pulsing neon colors, and often catchy techno background music. But underneath all of that, it is almost the exact same game as Asteroids.

You can play the significantly less visually astounding flash version on Newgrounds here, and see for yourself the similarity between it and Asteroids. This is an example of how videogames are just reusing the same old formulas instead of being innovative– do they think that if we get distracted by all of the pretty colors and explosions, we won’t notice the recycled material?

(The braver of you folk can download a more-authentic-but-still-knockoff version of Geometry Wars, called Grid Wars, here. The links are down at the bottom.)