Category Archives: First Readers

Do Our Personality Types Really Dictate The Games That We Play?

I found the Koster Chapter “Different fun for different folks” to be quite intriguing. While I had considered personality types when thinking about the types of friends people gravitate towards and the jobs people are naturally good at, I had never thought about how they could affect the video games one is drawn towards playing. Koster mentions how different methods of personality sorting, such as the ones from the Myers-Briggs formulas, can say a lot about the types of games one prefers. I have taken the Myers-Briggs test before, so I decided it might be fun to try to relate my personality type that it gave me with the games that I typically play. I have tested ENFJ every time I have taken the test (I have even taken different versions of the test to see if it would come out different), which is the type known as “The Giver.” ENFJ’s are known for their desire to be extremely socially oriented and primarily gain satisfaction in life through their relationships with others and their ability to help other people who they have these relatiships with. When playing video games, there are a few types of games that I typically play: sports games, first person shooters, and adventure games. Out of the sports games that I play (Madden, Mario soccer, and the SSX snowboarding series to name a few) , I usually only play them enough to get to a point where I consider myself “good” at the game (which usually means I can compete with my friends to an extent that I feel that I am comparable or better than them). I sometimes beat these games, but much of the time I do not require myself to do so because I see no ultimate meaning in these games beyond the pure enjoyment of getting good at the game, other than the ability to have a good time playing the game with my friends (so often I only play these sports games with my friends). The same can be said of the FPS’s that I play: I will only take the time to beat the game if the story line is compelling enough for me to feel the need to complete it (meaning I feel like the people in my game really need my help and I therefore must beat the game to help them), otherwise I only play them with friends. The adventure games that I play are the exception to the social aspect that I seem to have with video games (meaning that I really only play the other games so that I can enjoy playing them with friends). However, the adventure games also appear to fit my personality type, just in a different way. When I thought about the specific adventure games that I play, they all include some compelling story line of helping others or saving the world (or both). These games include The Legend of Zelda series and the Pokemon games, both of which require the player to perform numerous tasks that directly help the people in the game, and ultimately lead to saving the world (or Hyrule of course) in some way. I found it very interesting that I appear to fit the stereotype of my personality type so much in the games that I enjoy, and would be very interested to hear if other people in the class found similar results when considering their personality in relation to the types of games that they play.

Effects of gender in storylines

Even in modern times gender is a big deal in many facets of society.  Videogames are one section of our culture where gender and sexuality is still being explored in terms of how it will effect gamers and how they view the game.  Several recent games have experimented with making the main protagonist in the game female.  Most of these games have been role playing games or RPGs, which give the player a choice of making their character male or female and have different interactions between characters in game depending on which gender they choose.  This gives each player the option to tailor their character how they want to and can lead to the female characters looking like how the player chooses to play them.

Take the game Dragon Age for example.  There is a wide range of appearance options for the character makes it possible to have a relatively average looking avatar but most male players pick a more extreme look to their female character.

On the flip side, when male gamers create male avatars they range in appearance from realistic looking characters to the extremes similar to the female avatars.

The use of female characters in videogames also affects the use of romance in the storyline.  Many story driven games incorporate at least one romance  into their storyline but it is usually from a male perspective.  With female characters the interaction with the players has to change as far as romances go and in this area Bioware has lead the way.  The way that their recent games have handled gender and sexuality has been something not seen in mainstream games before.

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).

Improving games, and reality with them

The central question that stuck out for me in these readings is “how can games, as a media form, be improved?” To me, many of the more specific questions that were raised reduce back down to this basic question. What strikes me is that if you try to just answer this question, you immediately run into problems. You’re forced to ask questions like “what would girls and women be drawn to in games?” or “how do we describe the medium in which the game and the story blur together?” just to be able to get started with, much less finishing, the process of answering this question. To me this is then an almost perfect question: it’s very easy to understand what it’s asking and why we should care, but very difficult to actually answer it.

One idea that I had about attacking this question involves an idea from a TED talk I saw recently. The idea essentially inverts this question, in that it asks “how can reality be improved using games?” While this may sound a little silly at first, the speaker makes a good case for why we should make reality more like games. She has a sizable argument, but her central point is that people of this generation are spending a tremendous amount of time playing games, and in the process are getting very good at…something. She makes an effort to pinpoint what that “something” is, and asserts that we should try to find some way of harnessing it to solve real world problems. This can of course be done on both sides: games can be made to be more like real world problem solving and vice versa. I think doing this would be a great way to improve upon games, both because of the potential to achieve more goals in the real world and because games like that might just be more fun, if done correctly. I also think that this mode of thinking matches the ideas of the “girl games” in the Heeter et al. reading nicely, in that the goal of these sorts of things would probably not be to win but to succeed.

Limited View

In this chapter, Galloway discusses camera angles.  He spends a lot of time on the subjective angle, which would be the angle for a first person shooter game. I found that I had some different responses when I actually tried playing Quake. Galloway suggested that seeing from a characters view helps you sympathize with that character. While this may be true, I found I had a different experience.

Firstly, maybe because I am used to the subjective view used in suspenseful movies, but I was constantly worried about what was behind me. The first-person view in Quake gives close to a 180 view if that, and with people shooting at you, you constantly have to be turning completely around to see what is behind you. This is obviously unrealistic as in life, if you are concerned about something behind you, you are able to look over your shoulder, and in which case I think the overhead view of the game may in fact be more realistic. The basic idea here is that, in life we are more aware of our surroundings than in the FPS perspective, and this caused me frustration while playing.

Secondly, because I was new to this game, I spent a lot of time bumbling around trying to figure out how to turn.  The turning angle of the character is on a 360 point so besides the view not seeming as realistic, and the movement not seeming very realistic, I found myself actually more distanced from the character I was playing, and frustrated with it. In that way, the FPS perspective made it very hard to empathize with the character I was controlling.

Despite all of this, I am completely aware that I felt unnatural in the environment because I had not mastered the finesse of the movements of the game, and I definitely see where Galloway is coming from in that in some situations it might be  more stimulating to be the character rather than to see the character.


Galloway spends this entire chapter talking about the importance of the camera angle. He details exactly how powerful the subjective shot can be, because it is capable of conveying so much more than just a visual. He says that these types of shots are perfect for FPS games because of the connection it establishes between the player and the environment. He’s definitely got me convinced, except for one thing– what about those videogames that allow the player to switch between camera angles? There’s typically a far-away angle where the entire character is visible, a behind-the-shoulders angle where the player is thrust up against the character’s shoulder and head, and a first-person angle.

For some games, this first-person angle would only be classified as a POV shot– it merely situates itself in the player’s place, showing things from their height. It has nothing of the intricacies that make it a perspective shot, where it conveys all the nuances of actually seeing. This is usually the case for adventure games, but some seem to enter into perspective shot territory. In some games, the camera shakes around when the character jumps, and becomes fuzzy when the character falls. If the character gets hit, the screen goes red and pulses.

So my question is this– if a perspective shot carries so much thought and meaning, what do they become in games that allow the player to switch between camera angles? The perspective angle is obviously not important to the story in those cases. Personally, I’ve never been fond of the first-person perspective, or even the over-the-shoulder one. I feel like I’m not “getting” everything if I can’t see the character– because the story revolves around this character, not around me. This brings up the question of story-telling in games and its relationship with camera angle, which seems similar to movies– it’s hard to tell a story in first-person POV, and requires a unique aspect of the story to make it work.

“Camcorder subjectivity”

It’s interesting that Galloway mentions The Blair Witch Project in this week’s reading, and I was surprised that he didn’t spend more time on it.  This notion of “camcorder subjectivity,”  albeit “not a subjective shot per se,” provides a number of very personal effects for the films in which is used.  Though I have not seen Blair Witch, two other films (which I thoroughly enjoyed and) which come to mind are Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity.

Camcorder subjectivity” can play multiple roles, all of which are seen between these two films.  It is certainly capable of performing the role of subjective shots, especially when it is clear that the operator is looking through the eyepiece, such as the interviews during the party in Cloverfield or when Mica is annoying his girlfriend in Paranormal Activity (which, interestingly, includes several mirror shots); it can provide more passive shots when put down by the operator; but it maintains a definite distinction from typical cinema cameras, which are not typically supposed to be a part of the film world.  Batman, for example, could not accidentally bump into the camera and disturb its perspective as Mica does in Paranormal Activity (during one of its otherwise terrifying, passive tripod scenes).  The camcorder is clearly on the same plane as the events unfolding in front of it–it is a part of the movie, and is bound by all that this entails.

The story of Cloverfield unfolds almost entirely through a handheld camcorder, held by various characters as they endure the monster’s assault on New York (aside from the camcorder, the opening frames indicate that the footage is being accessed through a government database.  No footage of the world post-camcorder is shown).  Carried by previously-partying twenty-somethings with presumably no background in film-making, the camera’s view is terribly shaky and unreliable.  The danger and urgency of many scenes is greatly accentuated by use of the camera, both because of the disorienting shakiness as well as the limitations it provides.  The camera is often not pointing in the direction of what’s important, whether it be the danger behind them or the way out in front of them.  The audience is alerted to danger via screams and other loud noises, and is left to squirm and sweat, waiting desperately for the operator to turn and reveal what exactly is causing alarm.

Paranormal Activity, on the other hand, creates tension with the opposite approach.  The times at which the camera becomes relatively passive and sits on the tripod are generally the most terrifying.  True, this is partially because the characters are often in more vulnerable states (asleep) during these scenes, but there is more to it.  What makes this movie so terrifying to me is what it doesn’t show, and it doesn’t show us because the camera is not in a position to move.  Events and violence unfold, but the action often moves off screen, leaving the viewer helpless, either waiting for something horrible to appear or watching characters be dragged helplessly out of sight.

A similar effect is seen in the videogame Resident Evil. Zombie games are certainly fun, but I’ve never played one that scared me like that game, and it was because of the perspective.   Though not viewed through a camcorder (or in any way that interacts with the world around it), it is the same fixed view which gives each scene its terror.  As you move from room to room, the camera shifts to some awkward position, such as looking down the hall or from a corner of the ceiling.  The character is controlled from this static view, a) making the controls unintuitive and thus very stressful when quick response is needed and b) allowing things to surprise the character suddenly from off screen, or even disturbingly reveal themselves ahead of time with an approaching shadow from the corner.


The Looks

Throughout the entire first half of this chapter, I found myself thinking of movies I’d seen that had the different “views” in them. It brought up thoughts of the TV show The Office, the movie Cloverfield, and others that Galloway had mentioned throughout the chapter such as the Terminator and the Matrix.

I found the idea of using the “fourth look” as an extremely rare case pretty ironic as it is used quite often in television today. Jim Halpert, of The Office, is famous for looking into the camera when something ridiculous happens or is said and giving his “well what are you gonna do about it” face with his shoulder shrug. Maybe because I’m such a huge fan of The Office, do I even notice this – but after reading Galloway’s article, there really are very few other shows or movies that incorporate a forth look consistently, other than Galloway’s example of the Terminator.

I know there were mixed reviews about Cloverfeild, but I personally thought it was amazing. As soon as Galloway brought up the differences between subjective and POV camera shots, I began to think about my experience with movies done in this style. Cloverfield was one I had trouble with, simply because Galloway didn’t give any insight as to where “documentaries”  or documentary-like films would fall into place within this breakdown of looks. (Paranormal activity would be another movie done in documentary format.) After thinking about it I decided it has to be POV, because it’s not claiming to be through their eyes, just having the same sight lines as the main characters. Also they do film themselves and give themselves face time on the camera which indicates that it isn’t through their eyes as they don’t use mirrors to film themselves.

I just found the breakdown of shot-types to be very interesting as I’ve never taken any film classes before. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen any of the Hitchcock movies referenced or the Lady in the Lake, so I had to draw my own examples from experience, but think that in doing so and critically thinking about placement of pseudo documentary-type films within the “look” spectrum allowed me a better understanding of the Galloway chapter.

The Baron… the movie/visual videogame?

While The Baron is not a FPS, I think it would be interesting to see how the subjective shot and other POV shots could be used if the text-based game were in movie or graphic videogame form. In movie form, I think these various shots could more easily be used to give clues that the supposed protagonist is actually the baron – in theory, at least. Whereas games succeed because players have control, in a movie, the viewer would have no control over the change in POV, making it more effective when all of a sudden “you” see the baron’s reflection in the mirror. In my example, the audience would have to feel as if they are the main character, but, as Galloway described, movies of the past have faced many hurdles in attempting to tell a story in this way. While the general narrative would perhaps be successfully told, the audience would never really experience everything the “protagonist” experiences.

Similarly, I think there would still be hurdles if The Baron were translated into graphic videogame form, as I don’t think player control would aid in conveying the narrative in the same way – though it would help the player feel more like the baron since the player is the one actually doing all the actions. The game would have to deny the player the option of switching POVs, and perhaps instead have the POV automatically change during certain times in the game (for example, when you enter certain rooms or look at certain objects) in order to hint that the “bad guy” is actually you, the player. However, unexpected changes in POV (especially when going from room to room) might be too distracting to the player for it to be effective. But, if it were possible for The Baron to have a visual, “typical” videogame form, it would also be interesting to see if the visual form or the textual form would be more effective…

In all, thinking through this idea of translating The Baron to some kind of visual form brought me to Galloway’s main point in regards to subjective and other POV shots – where film fails, games succeed. Also, it is interesting to note that it seems like the visual videogame form might not tell the story as effectively as the movie form, which brings back the discussion about games and narratives…

The difference between ‘watching’ and ‘doing’ in a subjective viewpoint

Galloway’s chapter on first person shooter games isn’t really about first person shooter games, but rather about subjective first person devices used in visual media, beginning with film, and then later explored further in first person shooters. Innovative filmmakers began pushing past the traditional POV shot into a more subjective first person shot as a way of embedding the viewer deeper into the mind, psyche and emotions of the character.
But no matter how elaborate and realistic the subjective shots in films are, they still only manage to show the viewer something. The viewer is still simply watching the film. He or she may begin to understand how the character feels, or what they are thinking with the shot, but they don’t feel it, and they can’t be certain.
These limitations are inherent in any visual medium, including videogames. The gamer does not feel what the character of an fps feels, but there is one important difference. Since the gamer is not merely watching things unfold, but is in direct control, something does change. The entire mental activity, and decision-making action occurs within the mind of the gamer. As a result, even the emotions of the character can occur in the mind of the gamer. Fear, excitement, and anger all flash constantly through the neurons of the gamer as the diegetic action reflects the activity of the gamers mind, channeled through the controller.
The jump that occurs from filmic subjective first person shots to an fps game, is amazing.  The jump from ‘watching’ to ‘doing’ vastly changes the type of mental activity occurring in the viewer/gamer.


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.


Like some of my other classmates, I found the interactive fiction video games quite intriguing.  This is basically the first game I have played that makes the player visualize the game play.  I found it quite interesting that players all visualize a different game before them.

This kind of game was both fun, entertaining and frustrating for me.  Some of the actions I could take in the games were quite unexpected and difficult to discover. The unexpected violent actions, such as the ability to attack the woman with the Gnocchi, or the sauce cans, were especially eye-opening for me. Like other classmates, I was also somewhat perturbed by the lack of finality to the game.  I usually feel a sense of productivity and accomplishment when I finish a level of a game, win a certain amount of points, unlock hidden game aspects, or win the game entirely.

These senses of accomplishment are almost always the main focus and reason I play games.  The diegetic aspect of games was often the most intriging part of a game for me; the lack of a concrete ‘story’ in these games bothered me, as a multitude of endings were possible.

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….

Textual Adventure Games

When Professor Sample first mentioned “textual adventure games” I immediately thought of the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series that I loved back in middle school. In the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books you are given the perspective of the main character and every page presents you with a decision; based on your choice you flip to another page in the book and follow this progression until your character either dies or completes the story-line. Within each thin novel there are countless ways to arrive at a variety of conclusions.

After playing a couple of computer-based interactive fiction games (“Aisle” and “Lost Pig”), it seems like these are Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books taken to the next level. Instead of being restricted to a couple of options per page, the player is free to look around, ask questions, or interact with objects within the game world. This brings a whole new dimension of interactivity with the narrative of the game.

Both book-based and computer-based textual adventure games force the player to use their imagination to form the game world. From black text on a white background, the player can (with some help from the game designer) explore a cave, stand in a grocery store aisle, or help a troll find a lost pig. It seems plausible that modern graphic-game designers rely too heavily on flashy graphics with weak story-lines and thus remove the player’s ability to form a mental game-world of his or her own creation. I find this very sad as the creation of a mental game-world was always one of my favorite parts of reading the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure series.

Does Drug Wars fit into the category of IF?

So I was thinking back on whether I had played any mostly test based games, because I have not played Adventure or any of the others Montford mentions.  I remembered playing Dope Wars on my older brother’s calculator back in the day.  I am assuming most people have played this game or a re-make of it on Facebook but I was intrigued to see if it could fit into Montfort’s IF definitions.  Montfort says, “text can also be considered semiotically to be any set of signifiers; thus IF works (and perhaps other works as well) that contain graphics, sound, or video can be accommodated in this way.”  In Drug Wars you don’t type in commands but click on what you want via promts that come from situations or ‘narratives’ that are generated from the game.  I am not sure that typing in commands is a requirement to be considered a work in IF, but in Drug Wars you have to click on your responses and navigate throughout the simuated world.  The above quote, leads me to beleive that yes Drug Wars can be included in the IF category.  I could not find any videos from the old calculator version of Drug Wars but I found one played on Wii that can be found here. It does have alot of graphics etc but ink the principle behind it can land this game in the category of IF.  What do you all think?