Author Archives: catedgreat

Final Project

For my final project I am looking at Jason Rohrer's game "Cultivation". 
Rohrer developed this game to stimulate a non-violent conflict setting. 
The game will be interesting to analyze both as a videogame and as an art form/statement.
The trouble I am having right now is finding a balance between an analysis of core mechanics verus the "deeper meaning behind the game".
Also, playing the game may pose difficulties. There are no walkthroughs and I keep ending up in the middle of a lake with no way to get back to land...
Anyways, with so many different concepts and theories it will be difficult to decipher the most applicable ones. Only time will tell the outcome...

Casual Games for Casual Gamers

Disputed in Roger Ebert’s “Video Games Can Never Be Art”, Kellee Santiago has declared that videogames are in fact an art form. In light of recent readings, the following link illustrates Santiago’s philosophy as well as provides a super easy to understand diagram of core gaming:

Also, below is the website for “Casual Gameplay Design Competition 5”. Not all of the games featured match Jesper Juul’s basic elements of a casual game. See “Numbers Reaction 2”, for example. Comments and personal playing experience of this game has shown that the game is not necessarily “easy to play” in regards to usability, one of Juul’s elements. Do these games appeal to “stereotypical casual gamers”, as defined by Juul? Do they “sell to a casual audience”? Answers are, of course, subjective.

The really interesting part of the following link, however, is reading what changes the designer made to their game after reading given comments (“dRive” in particular). You can see how the game is becoming “more casual” or at least how it is changing in attempts to increasingly appeal to the casual gaming community.

Unethical Videogame Results in Trigger Happy Teen… Or Not…

In class, it has been continually reiterated that individuals who lack the ability to differentiate between reality and videogames are mentally unstable or just downright stupid. The roles of sex and gender within videogames were deemed as having an insignificant influence on videogame players and the way in which women are viewed.

Yet, despite videogames having “no effect” on individuals divorce rates, eating disorders, and body image issues among women remain prevalent in today’s society. In today’s readings Simon Penny explores the concept of videogames in a different arena. Penny analyzes videogames as being capable of desensitizing individuals towards violence.

Penny introduces David Grossman, a retired Lieutenant-Colonel with an expertise in desensitizing soldiers in order to increase killing efficiency. Grossman strongly opposes violent videogames. He claims that the entertainment industry conditions youth in a militia-like style – that “they hardwire young people for shooting at humans”. Simon also argues that, videogame advocates do their best to downplay such associations.

When videogames are used in training soldiers to effectively kill the enemy, it simply seems ignorant to suggest that videogames do not alter the mindset of a given individual. Videogames cannot be ruled out as a catalyst for violence, sexism, and discrimination. We must honestly ask ourselves can/do videogames alter mindsets of individuals? Or, do they truly have no effect on individuals at all?

It must be realized that videogames do have an effect on people’s lives and that the extent of this effect must be questioned. On the other hand, is the extent of this effect really worth altering the current design, production, and marketing of violent videogames to more “ethical” standards? Probably not. But, if we are all currently being brainwashed by videogames, it would be kind of nice to know.

*Disclaimer: Generalizations Will Be Made

With a plethora of topics introduced in Tuesday’s class, the following “response” is in regards to gender and the four playing techniques. We have discussed the overlap of various playing techniques, applied these personal qualities to Tomb Raiders, and placed them in quadrants. As a class, however, we have not discussed how the four playing techniques can relate to the genre of Interactive Fiction. Subsequently how the gender ideals within videogames, as developed by the studies of Carrie Heeter et al., were exemplified.

While playing The Baron how many boys in the class tried to make the main character sleep with the wife? How many girls did?  How many boys initially killed the she-wolf? How many girls initially spoke to/hugged the she-wolf? What, in short, were the different approaches by gender?

From playing the game in a mixed gender group yet sitting in proximity with an all female group and an all male group, personal comparisons can be made. Generally speaking, the males within my group wanted to win and kill everything that was in the way. The all male group explored a bit, as in they seemingly spent a long time trying to sleep with the wife. The female group spent a long time within the game reading everything and talking to the characters along the way. When playing time had expired the mixed gender group and the male group had been finished with the game but the female group had just gotten inside the castle.

The above observations simply suggest that girls do fall into the categories of hearts and spades while guys seemingly, within this specific genre, fall into the clubs and diamonds categories. Later, after playing the game individually and outside of class, I found myself more closely related to the female group. It took me about double the time to complete the game when playing alone. The female group, and myself, did value, or at least tried to establish interpersonal conversations within the characters along the journey, juxtaposing the males within my group who had immediately set out to win.

Conclusion: Yes, there are exceptions to every rule but gender generalizations undeniably hold some truth within the video gaming community.

The “Other” Links

Today’s class discussion introduced the concept of platform point of view. The following link portrays the result of a cross between Super Mario and Half-Life 2. Point of view, along with Mario’s newly acquired weaponry, allows the audience to witness the role of point of view within a first person shooter. Combining these two genres of videogames applies multiple aspects of Galloway’s concepts.

Super Mario Bros in First Person

A second link provides a trailer to the movie “Gamer”. Although the movie correlates with numerous class discussions, the direct interaction of a first person shooter and “looks of film” are evident within this trailer. Emphasizing states of Otherness creates anxiety and estrangement within the movie and within the movie’s videogame.

Gamer – The Trailer

Musical Mind Games

Whalen’s article examines videogame music on multiple levels. The author uses previously discussed Galloway concepts of diegetic and nondiegetic to classify different music clips. Whalen discusses how the source of the music itself is diegetic while associated character actions are seemingly nondiegetic.

In my opinion, the most intriguing aspect of the article is the psychoanalytical analysis of videogame music effectiveness. This lens allows the effectiveness of sound within videogames to be related to previous class discussions and new questions to be introduced. In previous classes, it has been discussed why a player relates to a videogame character, how the given soundtrack of game provides a trademark for that particular game play, and the role of the game as a narrative.

By providing the research of Annabel J. Cohen, a psychologist who studied subject interpretation of movement and emotion in relation to music, Whalen successfully combines the preceding class discussions. Exploring “the potential for simple shapes and sounds to evoke a narrative, cognitive meaning” (Whalen 2004) conveys how stories are told through diegetic and nondiegetic gamic actions.

As previously mentioned, early class discussion included the connection of the player to the game character. Cohen’s studies suggest that the reason for this connection may be a subconscious reaction to the sound accompanying character actions while a trademark sound allows the brain to create a correlation between the game and reality.

With the above statements one must ask what other factors create subconscious or conscious relationship with an aspect of the game? Is it universally agreed upon that music has an immense impact of game play? How would a change in music result in the alteration of the game narrative?

Re: Reading Galloway

Citation: Galloway, Page 5.

Quote: “Video games create their own grammars of action; the game controller provides the primary physical vocabularies for humans to pantomime these gestural games”.

Not knowing how to even start interpreting this quote, please find questions and a primitive analysis below.

Grammar, as defined in the New Oxford American English Dictionary, is “the basic elements in an area of knowledge or skill”. Action is defined as “the fact or process of doing something”. Thus a “grammar of action” is seemingly knowing how to complete the process of ‘doing something’.

Is this thought process evenly slightly correct? What does “primary physical vocabularies for humans to pantomime these gestural games” mean? How does all of this become “code”? Basically, what the heck is this guy talking about?

Questioned Conventions

If “delight strikes when we recognize the patterns but are still surprised by them” (Koster 94), then do you enjoy playing the following game?

Markuu questions “why everything should be represented objectively to a player who is always assumed to be in a normal and not altered perceptual state” (Markuu 23) This game portrays what happens when the norm is altered and the altered norm then becomes the underlying feature of the game. Issues of standard and accepted control keys, as discussed in class, are exemplified within the game. The frustration or excitement level achieved by the player can differ based on reaction interpretation. Also, Espen claims that “Games are not “textual” or at least not primarily textual… central “text” does not exist — merely context” (Espen 9) Text acts as the narrator of the above game. Without the text would the game be as effective? Or does the text simply reflect the contextual elements of the game thus rendering itself useless?

Thou Shall Denounce Thy Childish Ways

At a certain age, one must discover that Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Bob your imaginary friend do not exist. Neither does the tooth fairy… and, oh yeah, the monsters under your bed- just a figment of your imagination. Furthermore, who is better equipped than an adult to set you straight on matters of reality?

Adults are always differentiating between the real world and make believe. An adult serves as “the one who breaks up the game, the one who denounces the absurdity of the rules, [and] now becomes the one who breaks the spell” (Caillois 8). Whether at home, school, or church you can always count on the adult of the group to demand one to ‘grow up and stop playing silly games’.

Both Koster and Caillois introduce the concept that “with age, some games turn serious” (Koster 51) thus posing the questions: Why are some games suddenly considered unacceptable because you turned a year older? How does society deem which “games” and “play” are tolerable based upon age? Why are adults so anxious and entitled to destroy the make believe world of children?

As life progresses an awareness of societal propriety increases. Transformation of games within a collective norm is severely altered by the opinions and beliefs of the surrounding adults. We, as individuals, must strive to accept, renounce, or proclaim the ideals of play under the societal hierarchy.

The Ethos of Winning

An ideal seldom alluded to, yet an underlying motif of previous posts, is the derivate of the need and of the want to play games– competition. Why do we “play” games? What is “fun” about games? The answer is simple: an individual enters a game to master, conquer, and win. It is through unarguable achievement and positive recognition that “fun” is derived from a game.

Yes, as a collective group we can arrive at the consensus that clear, undisputable definitions of “play” and “fun” may never be achieved. However, all individuals can agree that winning is better than losing. Continually winning offers an incentive to continually play.

The “fun” of games is derived in ultimate mastery of the game. Why does chess appeal to 80-year-old “masters” of the game? Is it a coincidence that an individual’s favorite game is usually the one that they have a high scoring record? It is the high possibility of a win that creates the desire to play a game and it is winning that allows the fun in a game to occur.

Play teaches us to master the game and beat the competition thus individuals are motivated to play the game until mastery is achieved. Competition is the core of fun, play, and the game itself.

Global, societal, and individual competition allows progress to be made. While the need and want to play is an intrinsic characteristic that fosters the principle of competition; games solidify and establish necessary traits associated with survival and success.