Author Archives: ET

We need more gaming…is it so crazy?

In response to Jane McGonigal’s presentation, my first reaction is yes, it is crazy.  But then I changed my mind after listening for a few minutes.  I see where she’s going and I like it.  We’ve discussed what it is gamers are actually learning in class and in the readings (especially Koster), and I think she makes good points about weaving social networks and working towards a common goal and all that.  Her message is that we need to apply the same attitude to real world problems that we do to these not-so-real-world game problems.  And I agree completely.

That being said, I still see a problem.  This doesn’t apply to ARG type things though, I think those have a lot of potential.  No, for computer-based games, as long as they rely on some sort of static visual medium, I’m left wondering who’s going to put all these grandiose changes in the collective human conscience into action?  The people playing the games?  Um… no, they’re still at home playing the games.  So it’s left to the real farmers and real mechanics and real doctors to physically do things.

So, to wrap up, I’m just saying that I don’t think we can take this at face value.  We shouldn’t just “play more games”, or even “play different games”, because that’ll just leave more people at home clicking mice.  Like she says, if we could just learn to go for those epic wins and be urgently hopeful in real life, maybe games could find a new and effective way to actually make real world changes.  Because, let’s be honest, I don’t think Ayiti is going to spur anyone not already spurred.

Final Project – SotC

I’m thinking I’ll use Shadow of the Colossus for my final project.  It’s one of the few games I’ve ever played extensively and really enjoyed that isn’t either casual or some sort of simulator (racing, flying, shooting)–plus I think it has a lot of potential material to discuss on a whole range of topics.  My impression is that it’s a sort of cult classic, so visuals shouldn’t be a problem on my presentation.  And for a more scholarly side in the paper, I’ve also come across a few really good online game journal articles that I think will be useful.

All hypothetical so far… so… no problems or questions yet.

Games for Change

I stumbled across this looking for games similar to those we’re discussing in class.  It’s a big archive of social realist games, specifically those designed for a certain real-world effect…hence the name.

Some of them are playable online, some aren’t, but they all have little summaries that give you an idea the sort of complex social subjects people are modeling.  It’s amazing the huge variety of nuanced subjects people feel capable of simulating; there’s everything from conflict and environmental disaster to poverty and public policy.

Ahh… stereotypes.

It seems gender stereotypes are coming into play, so to speak.

Like ijohnson says just below me here, as a generation of gamers we are getting better at… something.  Perhaps that something has a little to do with what Koster talks about in chapter 6 and what Heeter et al talk about in their study; namely, the various averaged qualities of each gender.  For example, Koster says those of the female persuasion on average seem to have more trouble with certain spatial perceptions, but by playing games and practicing this can be permanently changed.  The important point here is that it will become a learned attribute.  And then Heeter comes along saying that 5th and 8th graders can easily pick out games designed by their own gender and sense something “alien” in those designed by the opposite.

Combining these ideas, maybe part of this “something” we’re getting collectively more comfortable with is being able to identify these stereotypes, analyze them, and then design games to either suit or challenge them.  My limited gaming experience means I can’t cite great example of each for both genders, but I’m sure they’re out there.  Something like Quake or Resident Evil on one end of the spectrum and the Orisinal stuff on the other for males (that was the online flash game where you had to save the bambis from hurling themselves blindly across the ditch with your pong bar, accompanied by soothing music and a waterfall).

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

I brought this game up in class on Tuesday and I thought I’d post some links here as well.  To get to the actual game just scroll way down and type the serial number (851108) into that text box and click Go.

And if you, like I, are easily frustrated with this genre because of the seemingly limitless number of possible actions I’ll also provide you with this:

So that’s the original version Douglas Adams & co. worked up, but here’s a newer version that incorporates a few minimalist graphics.  An interesting addition to the IF genre, in my opinion, that retains all the frustration of the simple text-based version and yet expands upon it by letting me visualize what it is I’m not understanding.

Verbing Weirds Language

It seems to me Galloway has some interesting ideas, but he has an almost dyslexic difficulty trying to express them simply.  As the wise Bill Watterson once said, “verbing weirds language”.

With most of the first chapter, I could read slowly and sort of squint my way through what he was trying to get at through context, but my biggest problem was the cosmic “Why?”.  Diegetic?  Nondiegetic?  Operator?  Machine?  I think I understand the concepts, I think I see the spectrum, but I don’t see where he’s going with it or even a potential practical use for it.  In class we’ve already discussed some, in my opinion, fairly useful ways to categorize and analyze games, but this guy’s gone to a whole new level of abstract inaccessibility.

This hasn’t put me off the book, far from it, in fact.  Now I’m curious to see what he can accomplish with all this verbose babble.

Worm Combat

Reading Montfort’s piece on Combat instantly made me think of a game I’ve loved since I was old enough to curl my fingers around a Playstation d-pad: Worms Armageddon, for PS1.   (screenshot)  The game is just your basic turn-based team strategy deal, but things Montfort discussed made me think of this game for a lot of reasons.  The innocent depiction of violence, the need for multiple players, the startling lack of required narrative and background story, and the effect changing only small aspects of the game (in this case, randomly generated islands to fight on) has on gameplay.

Seeing as this is a seeker post, I should provide online examples of this game.  I tried, but the results were horribly depressing; it seems Worms has spawned an unfortunately populous generation of abominations called “cute shooters”.  So instead I’ll provide a video of genuine gameplay.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets bored.

The characteristics of games and the requirements of fun seem to be a pretty fluid area, but there’s a general consensus on a lot of aspects.  For example, personal or mutual enjoyment is key—or at least mild amusement is necessary.  Another thing, we play purely because we want to and not out of some pressing physiological need like eating or breathing.  And we also seem to agree there is a broad spectrum between pure play, which is a freeform activity, and a game, which is a more structured activity with prescribed or unspoken rules.  Where the road gets sticky is when some nitpick probes deeper and wants to know what it is we enjoy when we’re enjoying something.  Raph Koster suggests, and I agree, that the fun in games stems from the mind’s innate desire and aptitude to conquer patterns.  It instantly explains why tic tac toe is boring about 20 seconds into a match, and why chess is still exciting for those 80 year old masters; there are patterns in both games, but the permutations of those patterns are so limited in tic tac toe that we quickly master them and grow bored.  Chess, however, has a seemingly infinite array of possibilities that begin with moving individual pieces willy-nilly, progress to moving groups of pieces in a premeditated manner, and culminate with a holistic strategy and technique that is continuously honed through a lifetime of repetition and challenge.  Quite simply, games are fun as long as they keep stimulating the pattern-seeking-routine-creating portions of our mind.  -ET