Category Archives: First Readers

Do we really have nothing better to do with our time?

I found that I agreed with almost everything that was talked about in the Casual Revolution article.  As the stereotypical casual game player, most of what was talked about hit home.  I thought the discussion about the Wii was really interesting. When it first came out, the people I was around at the time told me that the graphics weren’t great, but that’s because they were focused on the game play and new technology, and the graphics would come in time. Now I realize that the “ok” graphics were done purposely, and it completely makes sense. This game is meant for everyone, and I think the article get it completely right when it says that fancy graphics can be intimidating. My aunts and uncles love the Wii, and I think it is mostly because it is so casual, and not intimidating in any way or time consuming.

On the note of time consuming, I thought it was bizarre when the article talked about how much time people actually spent playing casual games. It sounds like casual game players spend as much time chunking away at their casual games as “hardcore gamers” spend playing their more involved games. So why don’t the casual gamers just play the more involved games since they are going to put that time committment into it anyways? I realized this is similar to watching tv and watching a movie. Often, I’ll get online, and want to watch something light and easy thats not going to force me to commit more than 20-4o min. So I decided to watch Frasier, and before I know it, I’ve watched two hours of tv, so in theory I could have watched a movie with the same time committment and involvement. But I feel like this sort of relationship completely captures the difference between casual gaming and hardcore gaming. TV and Casual games are like the lite version of Hardcore games and Movies.

Finally, I disagreed with one thing.

“The stereotype of the casual player implies that casual game design
should always be easy. This has, in fact, been described as a good rule for
casual game design: “No casual game has ever failed for being too easy.”

This does not seem fair at all to the casual gamer. What fun is a game if there is no challenge? But thinking about it, and then the picture of Bejewled made me realize that this statement is more or less true. There is almost no challenge in clicking boxes that are the same colors. That seems like games that are usually reserved for pre-schoolers, but here is a huge time waster for school-age kids to adults. So I guess I was left with the question, why do people play casual games, what is the purpose? Do we really have nothing better to do with our time?

Casual gaming

I, along with Brandi, felt rather uncomfortable dividing games into solely hardcore games and casual games, and dividing players into categories that could otherwise be labeled “elitist gamer versus noob.” While playing through Upgrade Complete! for the second time, I realized that there could be varying levels of casual games. Upgrade Complete!, for example, is much more complex than, say, Flow, The Crossing, or even Bejeweled. Even with my inexperience in “hardcore gaming” (or at least, the sterotypical idea of hardcore gaming), I felt like Upgrade Complete! could be the shorter, casual game version of a hardcore game where you could continue upgrading your ship, weapons, enemies and other aspects of the game. For that reason, I found it difficult to completely agree with the rather black and white idea of hardcore and casual gamers. Juul’s article left me with the impression that hardcore gamers enjoy only hardcore games, and casual gamers enjoy only casual games, but I don’t think that is true. I think hardcore and casual gamers alike can enjoy a game such as Upgrade Complete!.

You silly elitist.

In the second chapter of Casual Revolution, the characteristics of a causal versus a hardcore game are discussed. Eric Zimmerman offers this explanation of the difference: “As a producer of culture, I like to think that my audience can have a deep and dedicated and meaningful relationship with the works that I produce. And the notion of a casual game implies a light and less meaningful relationship to the work.” I think this is a perfect way to describe causal versus hardcore games. Hardcore games require more investment (in time and emotional involvement), so players develop a deeper relationship with the game. Casual games are not as demanding of the player, so the relationship is not nearly as developed.

Later in the chapter, however, hardcore games are defined as being difficult, time-consuming, and emotionally negative. Casual games are defined as positive and easy. Wait, what? Now there’s not just a division between games, it’s turned into.. elitist gamer versus noob. Noobs play happy, easy, casual games– and elitist play the good games. I have a hard time accepting Zimmerman’s way of dividing games. I can see what he describes as hardcore games being a category, and causal games being another category, but amongst other categories. Not just hardcore and casual.

Games that aren’t dark and heavy aren’t always easy. What about rhythm games? What about puzzle games? What about RPGs? What about adventure games? Yes, these categories tend to be easy– but it’s unfair to say that just because they’re not shoot-em-up games, they’re easy. Overall, I see Zimmerman as dividing games this way: what he personally finds to be a “good” game, and then everything else. This chapter is elitist. He needs to expand his horizons and keep an open mind to different types of games.

“It’s a legitimate strategy!” ~Rocket Camper (Red vs. Blue)

“Exploiting loopholes” and “cheating” in games have come up more than once in our class discussions, and merit revisiting.   Koster separates the two by whether or not the action is contained within the game’s “magic circle.”  Unlike cheating, which I shall define as rigging a game in a way that disturbs a level (or otherwise agreed upon) playing field, exploiting a loophole can be understood as abusing mistakes left by the developer, and thus playing in a way which the designers did not intend.  Whiny cries are often heard from both courts, but I believe that it in picking sides we are falling prey to an irrelevant dichotomy.

We all agree that cheating is bad.  It is bad because it destroys the competitive nature of any game.  But exploiting loopholes is not so simply characterized.   One may claim that it is bad because the designer did not intend for you to be able to glitch your way onto a particular ledge or rooftop, but at risk of oversimplifying the matter, the answer is “so what?”  What the designer intended is irrelevant from the standpoint of whether or not a competitive game is well-constructed.  What is truly important is contained in two questions:

(1) Does the loophole hurt a game’s competitiveness in anyway?  Does it tilt the playing field?  Does it remove skill?  Does it make it boring?

(2) Is the loophole accessible by everyone?

If the answer to (1) is no, then the loophole is irrelevant.  If the glitch allows you to carry an otherwise non-interactive flowerpot on your head in Call of Duty, for example, then no one should worry.  If the answer is yes, then (2) becomes important.  If the answer to (2) is no, then it is a problem.  But loopholes are almost always accessible by everyone by the nature of game code.  If only player can do it, it is likely because they cheated, which is clearly a problem.  (It should also be noted that cheating does not necessarily require “hacking” or changing a game’s fundamentals.  Players can easily subvert a game’s fun/competiveness entirely within the game.)

There have been plenty of “unintended” aspects of games which have vastly improved gameplay rather than ruined it, surely to the delight of the developers.  Starcraft, for example, is full of these.  Many of the staple techniques used by competent players, such as peon-stacking, muta-stacking, spell-splitting, etc., arose from the game’s physics in ways completely unforeseen by Blizzard.  They have not only added flavor to the game and expanded the role of dexterity, but have actually allowed the game to be balanced and therefore competitive.

(Oops!  In going back to add more thoughts, I allowed midnight to slip right by…)

The iPhone, Casual Game Heaven?

Jesper Juul discusses “casual games” in his article “A Casual Revolution” and he lays out the basic elements of what makes a game casual:

I. Fiction

2. Usability

3. Interruptibility

4. Difficulty and punishment

5. Juiciness

As I was reading the article I was immediately struck by the thought that the iPhone has, in some ways, become the ultimate casual gaming platform. Because of its inherent structure and limits, like battery life, touch interface and so on, it is set up to play these types of games perfectly. The control interface of the touch screen makes the usability very simple and intuitive, and excludes the possibility of any complex “hard-core game” type of controls. Also, since the phone is very limited in battery life, the games must be easily interrupted.

These factors, among others, seem have led the iPhone to be the platform of choice for many casual game developers. Some of the games Juul mentioned in his article such as Bejeweled and Peggle have made their way from their original downloadable forms to iPhone application format, and there has been an explosion of new games created just for the iPhone. I think it will be interesting to see how the market for casual games continues to grow as the iPhone and other similar devices continue to put these games in the spotlight of the mainstream. I wonder if some developers are also interested in subverting the simple characterstics of casual games to convey more interesting ideas, and if we will see “casual counter games for the iPhone” in the near future.

Great in Theory, Could be Better in Practice…

So I after playing the socially conscious games, I was intrigued but a bit confused still. I found the Darfur game to be the most confusing. I don’t know if it was just me, but I ran, and ran, and ran, and ran, and ran, and ran. But there was no where to run to? Maybe it was because after four minutes of running in one direction with no change of scenery/landscape other than outpacing the janjaweed’s car I decided to change direction and ended up being caught. But who’s to say. I felt like there was no way to get to the water. No one told me where the water was or showed me how to collect it. And when I did try to hide, the Janjaweed found me hiding behind my barrel that I was supposed to put water in. I understand that this may be very close to the situation in Darfur. You are a sitting duck if caught by the Janjaweed while away from your family out collecting water, but there was no sort of explanation to go with it so I wasn’t sure if I was even playing it right or if I was just terrible at the game. A game with a social impact needs to have a message attached. I didn’t play until the end of the game, I’m not even certain there is any one particular ending, but I found it interesting none-the-less. The second game, Stop Disasters,  had more of a sim city feel to it. I found I was frustrated with this game because I have no knowledge of floods and don’t know how to protect against them. I put up enough housing for all the people in my town, yet 4 of them died anyway. I think if maybe there was a little information prior to the game play, people would learn something about their own preparation for themselves and their communities. That could be a valuable asset to any community.

I think the socially conscious games have a good idea, but need to be better implemented or executed. If there is more of an explaination it would go a lot farther for the cause. I understand it’s still a game. But Carmen Sandiago NEEDS the information in order to be as successful as it is. Make it a learning game like Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago and you’re set.

“This is a song about FOUR pencils and TWO scissors…”

If you made it the end of EoEE, you will recognize the poetic line above from the song in the ending video.  In fact, the song, although (in my opinion) lacking relevance and preparation, was quite catchy and has stuck in my head for awhile.

Rather than focusing on one game in my blog post, I thought I would discuss some of the characteristics all the games share.  With Transparency vs. Foregrounding, Nelson’s games didn’t exactly “reveal the code” like some of Galloway’s examples.  They did “break the fourth wall” in the film-sense of the term, with Nelson making it quite obvious you were playing a game.  Aestheticism certainly overshadowed Gameplay in the four games, as the player sometimes didn’t have to utilize much skill to reach another level; in This Is How You Will Die, the player only clicks in a slot-machine manner.  Nelson certainly focused on the visual aspects of the game in order to convey his artistic message/social commentary.  Accordingly, I found that the games leaned heavily towards the Diegetic Machine quadrant of Galloway’s gamic actions.

As for his Diegetic focus, read ‘artistic message/social commentary’, was (to put it quite frankly) over my head.  I didn’t really understand what he was trying to convey most of the time.  I found that a lot of his ‘poetry’ (or what I am guessing was his poetry) was grammatically confusing and/or surprisingly uncalculated.  Many of the videos were unrehearsed and the home videos seemed disjoint from the game’s message as well.  Unless one of the artistic messages of the game was to satirize the way we consistently try to find messages in things that aren’t really there, Nelson has failed to convey his message to me.

Evidence of Everything Exploding

At the risk of giving away the content of my inquiry #3…

I was pleasantly surprised while playing Jason Nelson’s Evidence of Everything Exploding (EoEE) – in fact, I was even having fun(!) Since the game-play followed generally accepted 2-D videogame rules (for example, the goal is to reach the end of the level) and physics (pressing the up arrow causes the player-character to travel up on the screen), there was no exploitation of pixelation or glitches in the game engine, and player actions follow what is promised by the instructions on the game’s homepage, I found EoEE more similar to conventional games than Galloway’s “countergames.” The only countergamic aspects I found in EoEE were a foregrounding of the artist’s picture in level nine, his voice and hands in the matchbook videos and final level video, directly asking the players to email the artist in the “anti-intermission,” and Nelson’s attempt to make an artistic statement through his “art creature/digital poem” (what I see as a sign of Galloway’s “radical action”).

I enjoyed how the levels increased in difficulty and that each level had a unique background image, enemies, “harmless” enemies, and music. I though the matchbook videos at the completion of each level had an interesting similarity to traditional “cutscenes,” although the matchbook videos had no impact whatsoever on the narrative structure of the game. My only big complaint is that, as an artistic message, I felt Nelson missed the mark. He may have been trying to convey a statement on our culture’s obsession with conspiracy and tendency to force connections between disparate ideas or documents, but if he wants his message to be effective he needs to make it more accessible to the average person. The juxtaposition of images, video, and text without a clear, coherent thread or meaning may make for an interesting game-experience but does not leave the player with a satisfied feeling/learned moral upon completion of the 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.

Games v. Real Life

I, like many other bloggers tonight, found the readings for tomorrow’s class to be thought provoking.  I agree with most of our class, as Catey referenced, that most people can distinguish between games and reality. However, I think that Simon Penny raised some interesting points in his article.  To start with, I really enjoyed his explanation of the common quality to sports training, martial arts, and military training to be “anti-illectuality.”  I think all of us (whether in school or sports) have been told that we were just over thinking and that once we stopped we would be successful.

Penny used this point to illustrate that training is only effective when it becomes automatic.  This occurs through lots and lots of practice.  He then went on to explain how the military uses videogames to begin this practice.  They have started to use games to simulate real life occurrences.  This is seen in games such as Marine Doom. The purpose of this game is to help desensitize soldiers from shooting humans. David Grossman (a retired Lieutenant Colonel) claims that other shooting videogames (in general) have the same effect on players-they start to think that shooting people is no big deal.

Although I agree with Penny that these simulation games serve as an effective medium for soldiers to practice, I don’t think that one can simply state that games impact reality for soldiers and therefore do the same for civilians.  Instead, I think the effect of games on reality all depends on context.  Yes, soldiers shoot targets shaped like people in order to train to ACTUALLY shoot people, but people do not play violent games, such as Call of Duty, for these same reasons.  I think there is a difference in how these two groups of players approach the game which therefore affects the connections with reality.  Soldiers play these games knowing that they are doing so in order to practice real life situations.  In contrast, I think it’s safe to assume that most players of COD do not see their playing as practice for real life.  Consequently, I think that it is true that games can, in fact, have real life consequences, but it is dependent upon how the player views the game.  If the player does not view violent games for practice in real life, it wont be.  Instead, it will be (as Dani explained), simply a way to improve hand-eye coordination and reaction time.


Reality Play by Joost Raessens introduced some interesting ideas about the use of videogames to reenact history so that one may experience an event. These so-called “docu-games” enable players to “transform play into a meaningful, interactive experience” in which the player can experience feeling, reflexivity, and action in a historical experience brought back for educational gameplay. He discusses numerous games but highlights four games in particular in his discussion of “docu-games.”  His four games of focus are: JFK  Reloaded, 9-11 Survivor, Waco Resurrection, and Escape from Woomera.

His discussion of 9-11 Survivor caught my interest the most and spurred me to look online for the game. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate it but I did find these screen shots of the game to help me visualize what the game would look like.

screen shots found here

While reading about this game, I thought to myself: How anyone play something like this? Yes, you may be able to experience the traumatic moments in fuller detail and grasp a better understanding for happened but at what cost? Wouldn’t it be very traumatic to play a game like this and put yourself in a situation where you the outcome is so painful? Does making a game about what happened really shed light on what happened that day?

And I guess if I were to play this game I would answer yes to all of the questions above. Yes, playing the game probably would give me more perspective on what went on that day and yes, it would hurt a great deal to play a game like this.

But games like these will always have a hard time reaching the public with their messages. Videogames just don’t have the same respect documentaries do. With many videogames promoting violence and mindless game play like Grand theft auto and Call of Duty, I feel like it would be very hard for docu-games to ever become popular.

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.

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.

Lara Croft naked? What is this world coming to?

Out of the readings for this week, I found the Anne-Marie Schleiner article to be the most intriguing. In particular, I found her analysis of the Nude Raider patch to be quite fascinating. It is obvious that many consider Lara Croft to be a modern sex symbol, even though she is a fictional digital character, so it does not come as a surprise to me whatsoever that individuals would go through the pains of modifying the game to produce Lara Croft in the nude.

Her analysis of the nude patch as creating a fetish object of the male gaze is particularly revealing, as it is clear that such mods enhance the gameplay in no way, but merely serve to strip the already skimpy clothing from Croft’s person. The fact that a single search engine logged over one million hits for the patch serves to illustrate the popular desire by fans of the game to witness Lara Croft without her clothes.

In addition, the fact that the official Tomb Raider homepage at one point contained a direct link to the Nude Raider patch only serves to reinforce the idea that the choice to create such an attractive female character was deliberate. Without a doubt, many copies of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider were sold solely based on the fact that the main character was a scantily clad and well endowed female. The developers of the game clearly used this identifying factor to their advantage, and their indirect endorsement of a patch meant to remove Lara Croft’s clothing only serves to further their commitment to using their character as a sex symbol.

Extreme Justifications

I found the Schleiner article very interesting because of the extensive justifications that people came up with for playing with a female character. I realize that characters are pre-dominantly male, but still, nobody ever asked why a woman might want to play a male character. While I do think that there are cases of people playing Lara Croft for specific reasons, I also think that some people might have played it because it was a popular game or because the premise sounded interesting. I have heard that many boys would find the cheats to see Lara naked, but is that why they chose the game in the first place?  I may sound negative, but I think that the author is reading way too far into this. For the boys who chose to play this, they probably wanted to watch a drastically dis-proportioned woman run around and shoot bad things. When we had the guest professor he joked at the presence of a deeper meaning of why he plays as a woman, but ultimately confessed to it being because he wanted to watch a woman rather than a man all day. I confess that I do think the rest of her justifications are a bit farfetched. I find this  topic of gender in videogames very interesting because of what people think it says about our culture.