Author Archives: ksteinman

Final Project Videogame

I chose to study the game, ‘Manhunt 2’ for my final project. The system I chose to focus on is the Nintendo Wii. The reason that I chose this game is because of the controversy surrounding its gameplay- specifically on the Wii. The game is very violent, and requires the user to copy the motions of the lead character while he murders a slew of nurses, doctors, and various other people. So far, I have played the game myself, have watched others play the game, and have also tried playing the game on the PSP. I have been thinking about what I will talk about for my final project, and I think I will most likely focus on the difference in gameplay from system to system, and why the Nintendo Wii version of the game has caused the most uproar. When I watched others play the game, I found their reactions to be very interesting, so I wanted to talk about that as well. The more I play this game and research this game, the more I find to talk about.

My next step is to start looking for academic sources which focus on violence in videogames. I will also be looking for articles in newspapers and magazines that talk about the controversy surrounding this game.

On ‘i made this. you play this. we are enemies.’

I think Nelson is a pretty weird guy. Out of the four games I played ‘I made this. You play this. We are enemies’ the most extensively. I found the experience a little bit depressing and fruitless. I know that the purpose of Nelson’s game was for it to act as a piece of media-art, so I tried to appreciate it in that way- but I found the experience not enjoyable. Nelson stated that the game includes “scribbles and ideas from the back of my brain, way-way back in the storage room for contextual whims.”

I guess that was Nelson’s point though – one of them at least. The very title of the game suggests that there will be conflict between the player of the game and the developer of the game. After I played through the first time and went back to the home screen I noticed a button in the upper left corner labeled “game?” I placed my cursor over the button and a kind of artist statement dropped down. It included the following: “There is a conflict, an Appalachian-style battle between the game-maker and the player, the artist and those wanky enough to like art, the poet and those who sing-song themselves through bittery selfish sexual what-nots.” So that much is clear- Nelson purposefully made this game frustrating.

I understand this whole idea- Nelson wants to explore the relationship between the developer and the player. However, this annoys me. Nelson wants us to explore his ideas, his poetry, the imagery he created in the game- and then he makes the player struggle for it? He purposefully makes the experience frustrating? How conceited is that? Why does he think he is so special that would make anyone want to struggle to understand the inner workings of his brain?

Oh, I’m sorry. We aren’t supposed to understand. As Nelson says, “figuring out is for control centered hedonists and sharks with bees for hair, such fast stinging chomping machines.” So, how am I supposed to take anything from this game? Nelson’s game is clearly trying to be an art piece, and using Professor Sample’s suggestion for a definition of art – something that changes/affects you in some way that you have not experienced before – how can this game succeed?

Let me get this straight. Play the game. Struggle against the developer to get some sort of meaning out of the experience. Don’t try and understand the meaning. Sweet game.

America’s Army Clip

I agree – it was certainly a lively class discussion today, although I was most interested in the discussion about the YouTube clip. I was intrigued by it, to say the least. The more I think about it, the more annoyed I am with the person for doing what he did. I found it a little bit disgusting and even offensive.

First of all, I agree with what Calvin said in class about how it could be offensive to the families of fallen soldiers. Their names are being associated with a cause that they might not agree with or support. I know that there was mention of a debate over who ‘owns’ the right to memorialize, but I think using other’s names in such a controversial piece as this one is just not appropriate and in bad taste. I feel like he is taking advantage of something tragic and tailoring it to his own agenda.

Second, it was clear that he was trying to show that the people playing the game were insensitive jerks by displaying the interaction between himself and the players on the chat screen, which he eventually got kicked off of. I felt he was taking advantage of the people playing the game by not telling them his purpose, which was not immediately obvious. I guess I felt like he did not even give the players a chance to respond to his actions – perhaps if the other players heard his message they might rethink whether or not they should play the game. Instead, they were purposefully portrayed in a negative light with no chance to defend themselves whatsoever.

Third, I was even more annoyed when I found out that he did performances of portions of this project in Britain… How in the world is the accomplishing anything? Isn’t the point to protest the game and to keep young Americans from playing – to make the players of the game realize that there are real-life consequences? What is the point of going to another country to protest a game that is meant for American citizens? Is he really trying to accomplish something, or does he just like stirring up trouble?

This guy reminds me of those people that stand outside the JC spouting off their stupid controversial opinions (or word vomit, as I like to call it).  They are just trying to start conflicts and then feed on the attention.  I feel like this was a lame piece of protest performance art because there are about 2 million better ways to get his point across without being such a jerk and where more people would be able to hear and consider his message.

I don’t understand why artists strive to do projects like this – they purposefully do something controversial and one step over the line of bad taste, and then when they are criticized act all attacked and innocent. If you read over the comments on the YouTube page, the artist’s responses to some of the posters are straight degrading. He talks to them like they are inexperienced 3 year olds.

Ugh. I’d be happy if we didn’t talk about this game anymore.

How to get your Girlfriend to Play Videogames

Looking around online I found the following wiki-article: ‘How to get your girlfriend to play Video Games.’ Apparently it has been of use to some men out there because it has about 260,000 hits and its rated as a featured article by the wikipedia articles. I’ve included some of my favorite excerpts in my post:

“Many men will be forced, at some point, to part with their beloved game console by supreme order of their female companions.”

“Do not grab for the controls or tell her what to do every 10 seconds. Unless she asks, don’t tell her what she did wrong every time she makes a mistake. You figured this out on your own – she will too.”

“Try some simple button mash games, such as God of War, and Devil May Cry. They are really simple and have easily recognizable humor, and in devil may cry, you can have her play as the girl.”

And, my favorite: “When and if she starts to beat you on a consistent basis, do *NOT* stop playing the game with her. Remember you wanted this.”

I highly recommend scrolling through the article- it provided me with many laughs. But then, it also made me think about why I thought some of the parts of the article were funny – because I think they are true! When the authors suggest that girls will be more willing to play as a female character, I agree. When the authors say that most girls enjoy making their characters (such as a Mii or a Sims character), I think they are spot on. After our class discussion yesterday and the articles I have stumbled upon in my online searches, I think there is something to be said for the ‘girl-gamer sterotype’. And although I that attitudes towards women as well as video-game playing women have been the primary focus of the ‘gender in videogames’ discussion, I think that attitudes and stereotypes towards videogaming men are important to consider as well.

All in all, the article seemed more focused on how to get a new gamer to start playing videogames. I am pretty sure that most of the methods outlined in this article would work for you brother, best friend, uncle, or mom. The linked article at the bottom, ‘How to find a girlfriend who likes videogames’ was almost as amusing as this one!

P.S. I found this chart on another article, a comical look at how men and women would construct an exchange rate:

relationship chart.bmp

Shopping for different endings…

I found this set of readings/videos/games to be extremely interesting. I thought the games were fun, and I had an especially enjoyable time playing Aisle. I found that this might be the kind of game Montfort talks about when he says that one should pause and think before labeling interactive fiction as a game. Aisle seemed to fit better into the ‘work’ category Montfort describes it rather than a game. What I assumed to be the point of the interface was to gain an understanding of the back-stories of each of the different characters you become in Aisle. I do not think the author had a particular end in mind. Montfort even says, “It would be bizarre for an interactor to claim to have won [Aisle]. Aisle reminded be a little bit of Storyteller, a game we played earlier in the semester. The point of storyteller was just to move things around in order to see different endings to the story. I think that is exactly what Aisle was trying to do.

I felt the same way after working with both ‘Storyteller’ and ‘Aisle’ – both amused but unfulfilled at the end of my session. I suppose I did feel productive, uncovering more and more endings, but in the end that was meaningless, because there was no way to tell if I had found them all (In Storyteller, the possibilities were so few this was possible, but not so in Aisle). It is impossible to even manifest my own ‘end’ or my own idea of ‘winning’ to the game. This was incredible frustrating, so much so that I could not rest until I had searched the Internet to find alternate endings that I might not have thought of. Even worse, I could not find an official walkthrough or list of possible endings. All I found was an ongoing list of endings with an invitation to add your own if one was missed.

So, I suppose I will reevaluate my claim that the point of Aisle was to uncover the different possible back-stories for your character. Perhaps this is the point of the game, although it seems debatable, because there is no way to tell whether you have discovered all the available pieces of information from the IF. If it is not the point, than I am at a loss.

On a side note, I love the idea of Interactive Fiction. A person’s game experience can be completely different from interactor to interactor – depending on how they visualize their atmosphere. Although the author seems to paint a picture of one’s surrounding, much is still left to the imagination, making a lighthearted and goofy game to one person a dark and gloomy game to another. It’s genius how these game developer’s can utilize aspects from outside the game to affect the game experience. This also makes me wonder where that type of action would be categorized in Galloway’s four different types of gameplay….

Background Music

I agree with many of my classmates that this article was one of the most informative and entertaining assignments we’ve had so far. I loved how Whalen incorporated the sound clips into his article- it really took the content one step further. I even found myself so interested in the material that I was jumping back and forth from youtube and Whalen’s piece, watching all the mickey mouse cartoons he talked about. In class a lot of students expressed how important they felt music was to the play of the game, and I would have to say I agree. I think that it contributes greatly to flow as well, which is something Whalen talked about. I just imagined myself playing a game with no music, just the sound of the player walking or performing actions, and realized how that would certainly discourage flow. Music is what ties it all together. Even some of the games that do not have a soundtrack playing at all times all some kind of background noise during gameplay- whether it be wind blowing or the sound of rain falling. The only type of game I can think of that does not have some kind of background noise would be a ‘horror’ game, and in that case, situations with no noise serve to tell the player that something scary/big/violent is going to happen soon. Whalen even talked about this in his article, about how certain sounds or the lack of sound can aid in a player feeling apprehension or nervousness about what is yet to come. In this case, the player pulls out of flow- because if you know something is up ahead, most of the time you take a step back in order to prepare for the upcoming encounter. You have to turn off cruise control and make more conscious decisions about your next move. And this all comes from the lack of background music- fascinating.

Reading Galloway

Galloway, Page 16-17

I couldn’t really identify a key phrase in this section, besides maybe configuration, and I thought that was too vague, so I have included the direct quote:

“Acts of configuration are the rendering of life; the transformation into an information economy in the United States since the birth of videogames as a mass medium in the 1970’s has precipitated mass 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 same quantitative modulations and numerical valuations required by the new information worker and thus observed in a dazzling array of new cultural phenomena, from the cut-up sampling culture of hip-hop to the calculus curves of computer aided architectural design.”

I’m a little confused about what Galloway is trying to say in this section. It seems that he is saying that the new technology, of videogames specifically, basically forced people into learning new configurations- configurations that were confusing and entirely new to them (forcing them into upheaval? really?). Later on in the passage, Galloway says, “To live today is to know how to use menus.” I think I understand his basic concept but am missing the significance of his argument.

As far as the second sentence I’ve included, I can’t even dissect it into something I can remotely understand. How can numerical valuations be observed as cultural phenomena? That seems completely unrelated and irrelevant. I have no idea what Galloway is trying to say here!

How to analyze videogames, Montfort’s take

I found Montfort’s 5 level method of video game analysis to be very appropriate for the study of videogames. I think this method of analysis really gives us our first look into the debate over whether videogames are art or are something entirely different that stand alone and deserve a different kind of analysis. Montfort clearly believes that videogames deserve a separate technique for analysis of videogames since he outlined his personal method at the beginning of the article. I found it interesting, however, that in the reception and operation portion of the article, Montfort examines Combat similarly to how one would examine a piece of literature or a piece of art, identifying the theme of violence throughout the game, and explaining how the social contexts of the era influence this theme and the way in which it is presented. Even the questions Montfort attempts to answer in this section seem like questions an art critic would ask of a painting: “Is Combat narrative or dramatic? What story does Combat tell?”

Montfort does not claim that we should not analyze videogames as art or literature, however. He says that this is only one step in videogame analysis. To stop at this step would severely limit the amount of understanding we can gain from videogames. Further analysis of the interface, gameplay, game-code, etc. is required, as Montfort suggests. After reading this article, it seems Montfort sits somewhere in the middle of the argument over videogame analysis, and I have to say I sitting right next to him.

“Play and its role in the Mental Development of the Child”

I found this article, and I think it sounded relevant to our class discussion and to the reading concerning play. The article is from a journal that focuses on a Marxist approach to psychology, so it definitely talks about play from a different approach than we took in class on Tuesday. I found the most interesting portion of this article to be the section in which the author explains how a child’s greatest display of self-control occurs in play, because the child abides by the rules by his/her own choice, and not because someone else told him/her to. The author talks at length about the definition of play and argues that play is necessary to the fulfillment of children’s needs.

Vygotsky, Lev. “Play and its role in the Mental Development of the Child.” Trans. Catherine Mulholland. Voprosy psikhologii 6 (1966): 1-18.