Author Archives: Dani

Jane McGonigal is wonderful.

I was so incredibly impressed by Jane McGonigal’s presentation, that I decided I wanted to investigate her further. So as my link for this week I found her PhD dissertation entitled “This Might Be a Game: Ubiquitous Play and Performance at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century.” (In case I didn’t embed that right  the URL is According to the website, the entire text is 573 pages, so it would be quite the feat to read it all, however browsing through the first 4 chapters definitely gave further insight to her research.

I’m going to go ahead a say that I completely agree with Ms. McGonigal. Even reading through the first article by Frank Rose, I was completely enthralled by the bolded letters and understanding the pattern that it created. This was before hearing anything about the four things that games teach us like urgent optimism and desire for epic wins. I feel like what McGonigal is attempting to accomplish is taking our most fundamental, tried and true teaching mechanism and apply it towards todays problems – which is awesome. My main question would be how to get non-gamers to see the possibilities of this type of learning avenue? Obviously, I’m a fully invested gamer and completely buy into the benefits that they can provide on an individual as well as a larger level. However, there are many differing opinions just within our classroom regarding the significance of games. So I guess the big question is how do you get everyone to buy in?; because quite frankly, if everyone does, I think ARGs could be a phenomenal teaching tool.

Not to mention that her last name sounds like a teacher from Harry Potter, so she obviously has the power to change the world.

Videogames are what you make of them

I think both of the articles for tomorrow’s class are fascinating and have valid points. While I think it’s hard to argue that videogames have absolutely no effect on the player’s ability, psyche, minset etc., I think the extent of that influence is definitely debatable. A large majority of the Penny  article discusses first person shooters and the fact that there are many real life simulators that help to improve the marksmanship of real life soldiers. While this is definitely valid, I don’t think that any videogame will ever make anyone a marksman or someone with a gun on a psychotic rampage. The real effect boils down to reflexes. Videogames help to train your reflexes visually and kinetically. So even though you are holding a gun in virtual reality, if approached with a similar situation in real life you would have a similar reflex to flip around and point/defend yourself against the object that is about to attack. (Regardless of whether or not you have a gun.)

I feel like this extends beyond first person shooters, because other games that require you to look for secrets or put puzzles together in your mind can have a real life effect as well. They help with things like multi-tasking and being able to assess a situation from multiple angles. Honestly, good reflexes and the ability to multi-task don’t sound too terrible to me.

Side note – I think it would be fascinating to play some of the games mentioned in the second article, if only from a psychological standpoint. Rather than being frowned upon, I think situational games of intense pressure and intensity like 9-11 survivor could be used to study the human psyche and learn about those people who go against the grain.

A merger of different perspectives

I thought this chapter of Galloway, while not directly discussing videogames, was still incredibly interesting. The use of POV vs. subjective view point in different mediums really raises the question of what each view point is used for and what is most affective.

Going off one of the examples in the book and something we talked about in class, I wanted to talk about the movie Fight Club further. Throughout the entire movie, the notion of perspective is constantly changed or challenged. One scene in particular seen here, \”Not Your Effing Khakis\” , displays this constant challenge of perspective. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie – beware, I’m about to spoil it. If you have seen the movie, you know that the narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) are really the same person. However, what is interesting about this scene, is going back the second time you realize that you are viewing your conscience. So it’s like the subjective of the subjective. Then, the movie throws another wrench when it starts to mess with the screen, having it appear as though Tyler Durden is controlling the film reel. It reminds the audience that they are not part of the same world as Tyler Durden even though you are in the subjective point of view.

A similar thing occurs when you watch the movie a couple of times and notice that Tyler Durden randomly appears on the screen, very faintly for a few seconds every now and then. You can’t really tell what is reality and what you are really seeing – which makes you question whether or not you are in POV, subjective, third person or fourth person.

The Sound of Music

I think Whalen does a beautiful job of describing the effects that music has on a player’s perceptions in videogames. I feel like the article may be a bit difficult to read if you have never played a musical instrument before, because Whalen makes reference to multiple musical terms that aren’t used in everyday language.

I completely agree with the way Whalen describes the effects seamless changes in music have on the game. In my opinion, Koji Kondo is a musical genius and I feel like his soundtrack is half the reason that Ocarina of Time was so successful. Not only does the music correspond to the action in the game, but it also changes depending on the area that you are in. This creates non-diegetic ambiances that work in accordance with diegetic musical cues as Link encounters various enemies, items etc. The music is so good, that the noise for collecting a small item is my text message alert on my phone.

My question would be are there any games without music out there? And if so, are they actually something that can hold your interest for a long period of time? Or is that just the equivalent of muting the game? And what effect does muting the game have on the amount of attachment a gamer has with the game they are playing at any one point in time?

Infiltration of Japanese Culture into America Through Video Games

So since there were not any posts to respond to, I decided to focus on the video that we watched during class on Tuesday. There was a part that discussed the focus on youth in games and the fact that video games allow you to remain in a child-like world even as you develop into an adult. This sparked my memory of an article that I read in Vanity Fair entitled “Addicted to Cute.” While the first part of the article discusses exactly how cute is displayed in a variety of mediums throughout the United States, the discussion of Japanese “kawaii” culture on pages four and five have a connection to the article on Nintendo’s marketing technique. There is a discussion of a 10 year time lag and the creation of this kawaii culture during the postwar 1940s and 1950s. While companies like Sanrio and HelloKitty had a big influence on this, I feel as though Nintendo was a power player as well in fusing Japanese culture into American society. Not to mention that the adoption of kawaii into American culture could easily be a representation of a switch of positions with the Japanese in a much more powerful position than they were 60 years ago and the state of depression on the United States. I wonder to what extent that the family-oriented, graphically cell-shaded Nintendo video games had an influence on this? And does this perhaps a political commentary attached to it as well?

I think I get Galloway?

So I had a hard time picking out a passage for this particular post, because I feel like I understand where Galloway is coming from. There were certain passages about the cockfighting and what not that required some extra glances to sink into my brain, but most of Galloway’s ideas seemed to mesh seamlessly.

However, on page 35-36 the following passage gave me a little trouble “The HUD is uncomfortable in its two-dimensionality, but forever there it will stay, in a relationship of incommensurability with the world of the game, and a metaphor for the very nature of play itself. The play of the nondiegetic machine act is therefore a play within the various semiotic layers of the video game. It is form playing with other form.”

While Galloway does qualify his statement beforehand, one clear exception to the rule is Metroid Prime for the cube. I think the word I get stuck on here is incommensurability, which would imply that the HUD is completely and utterly separated from the world of the game.  Also, the fact that Galloway describes it as “uncomfortable in its two-dimensionality.” I understand the point he is trying to make; that it is base level machine work giving you further input on how to execute your mission in a game. However, I would disagree that it is not part of the game world. Metriod Prime offers a great example of this, especially in just the small effects like the water evaporating off of the visor after its been wet. However, even in other games where the HUD could consist of just a map and a health bar, I think it would almost be impossible to play the game without those elements. So should they really be considered in a relationship of incommensurability if they are absolutely necessary for the world of the game to function?

The uber story

So this is piggy-backing off of Brandi’s post, but I completely agree with the points that she made.

Like Brandi said, stories have been around since humans have had a need to communicate. Stories were originally created for the purpose of spreading knowledge that has already been obtained by other people. Only later did they evolve into a form of leisure time pleasure.

What I find interesting is that Koster’s whole argument is that “fun is the act of mastering a problem mentally” or, in essence, learning. Now, as academics have come to classify, there are three main types of learning: auditory, kinesthetic and visual. A story that is simply written down on a piece of paper can only serve as a good medium for those that learn via an auditory or visual style, or potentially a combination of the two. Even stories transcribed into plays and dramas can really only play with auditory and visual learning. In contrast, a video game easily conquers all three learning styles in one by providing spoken plot lines and music (auditory), an ability to actually try your hand at a task (kinesthetic) and being able to take in what you’re learning through pictures and movement (visual). So if anything, video games should be considered uber stories as they clearly trump the original.

I also wanted to comment on  Koster’s argument that “games are largely about getting people to see past the variations and look instead at the underlying patterns.” However, I feel that Escape The Bookstore 2 easily challenges this idea. Most games that are classified under an adventure genre would have multiple, similar challenges that lead up to a big boss, like going through the dungeons in Zelda and ending up at Gannondorf. However, in “Escape the Bookstore 2,” there really is no pattern that I can see. There is just incessant clicking that will hopefully lead you to an exit from the room. So would this game still be considered a game in Koster’s eyes?

Life as games

Caillois and Koster seem to understand how intrinsically games are connected to real life. Koster describes how games are used to simulate real life activities and skills. This is reinforced by how Caillois splits the majority of games into Agon, Alea, Mimicry and Ilinx. Competition, socially acceptable miming and reaching limits/exploring unknowns (my application of vertigo to life as a game) are all basal parts of the human experience. Not to mention chance is always thrown into the mix somewhere, depending on your spiritual view.

What really intrigued me is this idea of escaping reality in order to learn about life and, in essence, reality. Koster explains how minds like to chunk ideas. Perhaps games and videogames are just a physical manifestation of human’s chunking record from the beginning of time. While many games seem to teach primitive ideas, they are still concepts that all humans need to understand and be able to apply. As technology improves, our ability to convey these ideas through games also increases. Used as a medium for learning, games are an incredibly easy way to teach concepts to children. Could this be why what seven year olds now are learning seems so much more advanced in comparison to what I learned when I was seven? And what kind of effect will this have on children in the future? Are they just chunking already pre-chunked ideas by learning directly from games? Will this cause them to eventually not understand certain basic concepts or become even more advanced human beings?

And where do adults fall in this category? Assuming they have mastered these base reptilian concepts, is this why adults no longer like games? Is this why their games become the challenge of being able to manipulate social situations or compete through jobs and work? And what does that say for adults who still like games and videogames?

What makes a classic?

As we have come to see through our discussion and reading, play and game are really a matter of an individual’s perspective. This can easily be seen through the wide range of views across the first reader responses. Games and play are everything from serious competition to a learning tool to a way to stretch the imagination. In my mind, it all boils down to diction and the context in which you wish to frame your situation.

However, an underlying theme that has not been fully explored is what exactly makes a good game? I feel like we began to examine this as a class through the Thousand Blank Card game. What most would consider to be an absolutely pointless game suddenly becomes increasingly more interesting once you reach level five and a whole new rule set can be introduced. This novelty can quickly become irritating when there is game anarchy though and every rule can be overturned at a whim. So what are the necessary components to a classic?

In my mind, a really good game is something that has a multitude of layers. There are challenges built within challenges and that only the masters can really achieve. For instance, when playing an RPG like Zelda you can play as a beginner feeding into the base plot line. As you increase your skill level you can start to hunt for Skulltulas and find the secret holes with bombs. Even beyond that, you learn all of the glitches and secrets to a game, or the small details that a game developer has included that really make you fall in love with the game. Nonetheless, a good game isn’t just building on challenge. As Koster stated, it really is a balance between simplicity and complexity, where you can build your way through a game, chunk a portion and continue on. Then, once that chunk gets a little fuzzy, go back and play it again… this time beating it faster.