Author Archives: laurendubya

To be completely honest…

I have no idea which game I should study for my final project.  I’m probably going to end up doing an N64 game, since the N64 is really the only console I’ve extensively played games on.  I was thinking Harvest Moon might be an interesting game to look at, but it’s tedious to play and I’m worried I won’t have enough time to look at it in depth.  There were also games like Mario Kart and Mario Tennis which are easier to play, but I don’t know if they’re advanced enough to make a whole project out of.  Either way, I could definitely use comments, help, and suggestions.

Maybe it’s just me, but…

I know my blog post is a couple days late, but I still thought I’d go ahead and give my take on Nelson’s anti-games.  In class on Tuesday, Professor Sample mentioned that Nelson’s background and education was in poetry, and I was able to call it from a mile away – I found the games to be very interesting from a gaming perspective, but moreso from the perspective of poetry.  In my inquiry assignment I talked about how through his anti-games, Nelson has created a new way to “win” a game.  Unlike traditional, mainstream video games (or any type of game for that matter), winning in these anti-games isn’t based on scoring points, defeating an opponent, or accomplishing a set goal as instructed by the game itself.  I think that Nelson’s games are designed to be an experience – more specifically, an exploration of poetry (this is at least true of the game I focused on, I Made This. You Play This. We Are Enemies.) Instead of publishing his poems in the traditional form of, say, a book, Nelson has tried a more experimental medium.  After playing the game I felt like I had just finished reading a book of poetry, not that I had just won a game.

When I played this game, it took me FOREVER because I decided to slow down and read all the little snippits of poetry Nelson had patched on to each level.  I was actually excited to advance to the next level and see what he was going to include next. The joy of this game definitely came more from the aesthetic elements than the gameplay itself.  In fact, I think the whole point of the game is to focus on the aesthetic elements – the poetry, the videos, the screenshots, etc.  And if you’re the kind of person who enjoys that type of stuff, you’ll probably come out enjoying the game, and you probably accomplished exactly what Nelson wanted you to.  If you’re not, you’ll probably be frustrated and say you “didn’t get it”…and you lost the game.

This game reminded me a lot of my previous gaming experiences outside of this class.  It’s kind of pathetic to think about how many hours I spent as a kid playing Grand Theft Auto 3, but not actually “playing” it as the game intended, but driving around the streets of Liberty City listening to the radio stations.  I did the same thing with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3, just skating endlessly around the parks and button mashing because I didn’t really care about the points, I just wanted to listen to the sick soundtrack.  With Nelson’s games, I got a similar experience.  I didn’t have to worry about any complicated gameplay, I just had to focus on the aesthetics. Unfortunately for me, there aren’t more games like this, so I have to make do with my own modifications of mainstream games such as Tony Hawk and GTA.

Lara Croft vs. Barbie…whatever her last name is.

In class on Tuesday, we briefly touched on the topic of female role models in games.  While many of the females in the class have refuted the notion that protagonist Lara Croft provides a positive female role models for women and young girls, it’s interesting to look at the alternative for female role models in the video game world.  There’s Detective Barbie who is actually quite similar to the Lara Croft model, although toned down a bit in terms of action and violence. She’s running around island waterfalls trying to find a missing painting, all the while sporting a toned physique…not too different from her Tomb Raider counterpart, right?

I know that Barbie can still be considered a positive role model for young girls, although not because of her body, but because she represented an independent woman. I feel like from these commercials the manufacturers of the games want to get the same message across — that their female protagonist is tough, in charge, kicking ass, and looking good all the while.  And honestly, what kind of woman doesn’t want to do that?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a link to a commercial for my favorite female video game character, Carmen Sandiego, who is equally bad-ass and represents similar values.


For me, the most fascinating aspect of the Interactive Fiction games that we played for this class was the extreme diversity in what the games could accomplish simply through the use of text.  Lost Pig and Aisle are two dramatically different games.  The former is more typical of what we consider a ‘video game’ – it has a clear objective, a scoring system, and set dimensions and directions.  You direct a character (the simple-minded Grunk) on a quest to retrieve his lost pig.   Unlike in a visual video game where you could take the perspective of the character through literally seeing his/her viewpoint, in Interactive Fiction you receive a narration of the character’s thoughts. I really enjoyed this approach to the game, and I think it offered an opportunity for a unique sense of humor, especially in Lost Pig where we get to laugh at Grunk’s innocent and underdeveloped thought processes (he even refers to himself in the third person – “Grunk fall down deep hole!” and “Grunk see Pig”). However, even after this first impression of Interactive Fiction games, I was even more delighted with the game Aisle. I thought that Aisle really demonstrated how IF games push our definition of video games to the limit.  While there is no concrete objective or direction in the game (no way to ‘win’ or ‘lose’), you still get to control a character and determine the course of action.  The action that happens in Aisle works beautifully as an Interactive Fiction game, but I doubt whether it would work as a Playstation or Xbox game, or in any visual representation.  I thought this was the most important aspect of IF games in general — how the genre expands our notion of what video games are, and presents new opportunities for what video games can do.

I’m no Jake Shapiro, but…

…I also found the Galloway reading to be fairly digestible.  I actually preferred it over most of the other readings we’ve done for this class (particularly the Koster book) because Galloway doesn’t BS around.  He backs up his logic with specific references to other games, and I liked how he applied theories for analyzing more familiar mediums, such as film and computer software.  It really put into perspective what video games are — while they are obviously similar to narratives, visual art forms and information systems, they also exist as their own separate medium which should be analyzed independently.  My biggest confusions came from the more technical terms about game machines, and other vocabulary that Galloway used which was sometimes over my head.  The occasional references to games I am unfamiliar with made me skim over certain passages, but they didn’t particularly confuse me, and I found that if I skipped over what I didn’t know, I could usually read on and Galloway would eventually clarify his point in a way that made more sense.  Overall I think I got the gist of what he was trying to say, and actually came out with a better understanding about how to approach video game studies than I did after reading some of the other articles for this class.

Video Games as Art

At the beginning of the “Racing the Beam” article, the authors ask how the art of video game design compares to more established art forms such as poetry and photography.  The article went on to examine how video game design developed as its own art form through the Atari VCS and other early consoles. I was intrigued by the explanation of the different components of video games and how they work together to produce the entire experience of playing a game.  Is it reasonable to say that when a game designer is “writing software in a high-level programming language” he is going through a similar creative process as a poet stringing together rhymes?  Though the actual game that players engage in is a crucial element to the gaming experience, without the technical aspects such as the microprocessor and video card you’d be left with useless strings of code with no interpretable meaning.  Video game designers, as artists, are responsible for constructing the various mechanical pieces of the work.  This is similar to a photographer’s rigorous process of chemical induction and film developing to produce the final, comprehensible piece of art.  Without the technical process, photographs would just be undeveloped film and novels would be un-conceptualized ideas in the minds of writers.  Most people only consider the aesthetic elements of the game to be artistic features (such as the graphic design, plot and sound effects/soundtrack) but fail to understand the immense amount of technological achievement and advancements that have been made to produce even simple games like Combat, PacMan, and Pong.

Drinking Games

As college students, most of us are probably familiar with a variety of drinking games, whether we’ve played them ourselves or seen them at parties.  Raph Koster presented some academic definitions of games that described them as ‘make-believe,’ ‘outside ordinary life,’ and in class we mentioned that games aren’t supposed to have a tangible outcome.  Drinking games fall outside of these definitions, since a few games of beer pong or flip cup with some buddies can effectively determine the course of an entire evening, impair judgment, and lead to some unfortunate real-world outcomes.

Because of this, beer pong typically has a bad reputation, at least among professionals and parents.  It’s looked down upon as a silly game played mostly by college students trying to get drunk off of cheap beer they bought with their parents’ money.   However, adults have created their own variations of drinking games, which don’t have mature goals, exist solely to get the players intoxicated, and don’t even have a clear winner.  Although adults condone their own twist on drinking games, they still condemn the way college students choose to play.