Category Archives: Links

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.


Although I’m not in the Links group this week (and I think even first readers are supposed to wait until Wednesday/Thursday to post) I thought I would share this game called Tetris Hell that a friend of mine showed me when I told him about countergames (and how bizarre the Nelson games are).  I’m pretty sure it qualifies.  I found it quite funny, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some people in the class have seen it already..

Offed with Your Head

Relavant to reading and class discussion:  I likes the different Super Mario brother examples of modding in video games.  I thought it might be interesting to see what other sort of forms pacman, the bread and butter of this video game class, could take through modding.

This is a mix of pacman and the first person shooter game Unreal Tournament 3. For more information:

I don’t really have anything insightful to add to this, except that it is a very visually entertaining example of a mod for pacman. What I really like about this example is that it is mixing two games, which opens up for a lot of other variations of mixing favorite characters in different games.

Not directly relavant to current reading or class discussion: To quote Jamie quoting a wiki, “every [official] playtester chose to shoot into the crowd of civilians having received no instruction to do so, calling it “human nature.“‘

I suppose this is just a recurring theme in our class, actions in video games being comparable to actions in life, but calling choosing to shoot into a crowd having receive no instruction to do so, was a bit suprising to me.  IF this is the case, whether it be human nature in life, or just human nature in video games, I’m interested to know what happens when we blend the lines even more between the two worlds.

“The Human Nature article on Slate‘s cover today is about a military drone-piloting system that looks like a video game but kills real people. You control it with joysticks and buttons. The company that developed it, Raytheon, sees it as a logical progression for recruits who come into the military knowing how to play games like Doom and Halo.

The question is: Will the transition be too smooth? Will these young pilots, reclining comfortably in their “virtual cockpits” in Nevada as their drones fly over Iraq, feel as though they’re playing a game?”

I don’t want to make any judgments because I think this could be a very touchy subject with many perspectives, but it is EXTREMELY thought provoking when we consider that it is our nature to shoot into a crowd of civilians.  Sorry this was so long!

Ah, controversy.

In class on Tuesday, I remember there being a ton of discussion about whether the dead-in-iraq film was really a memorial to the soldiers, or if it was disrespectful. Well, when I was searching for links relevant to class, I discovered an even bigger version of our class argument– the game Six Days in Fallujah. The battle of Fallujah was an important and intense battle in Iraq, and the video game company Atomic was working with a group of soliders before they left for Fallujah. When the soldiers came back, they asked Atomic to make a game to portray their experiences in the battle. Atomic agreed, and for a while, so did their publisher, Konami. However, when the game was announced, a ton of controversy and criticism popped up. Parents of soldiers who died in that battle were outraged, saying that it was belittling their children’s deaths by making them into a game.

So the discussion begins again– what is a memorial? Can a game be a memorial, or should the two categories never be mixed? This article explains some of the controversy of the game, and there’s also a an animation that touches on the Six Days in Fallujah game.

It seems as if people are very adamant about what kinds of things games can and can’t do. It’s so difficult for a game to break out of the standard mold and be something different, whether it be a memorial or a way to tell a story.

I may be a n00b, but clouds… really?

Prior to this class I played my fair share of video games, you definitely have to being the only girl in a family of three. I might have played video games, but that doesn’t mean I understood how they worked. Sure I could blow on the cartridge to get the N64 games to work and I can make sure the yellow cable is matched up to the yellow cable and the red to the red, but I was still your stereotypical n00b, and still am. I know absolutely nothing about game design or modding.

That’s not to say I don’t find it interesting, but all I knew about “patches” and “mods” were that super smart genius gamer people could do it if they could hack things. Apparently, it turns out most of that is true, but fans can be the hackers which I found surprising. I thought it was very interesting in the Galloway chapter that mods could range from creating a whole new game out of a game mod or i could just mean playing around with the visual aesthetics and making new levels. I know that I have absolutely no right to judge anyone on a gamic level, because I am a n00b, but I do feel it’s necessary.

I don’t get why anyone would want to take Super Mario and strip everything out of it until there is nothing but clouds left. I get creating a whole new game out of something, and maybe creating clouds just something that beginners to when mod-ing, but I’m of the opinion go big or go home. At least create a new map with new interactions for the characters to complete. Maybe even just new skins for the characters so you can make a satire with your friends a put it on youtube, but stripping everything down so there are only clouds just seems stupid.

If you click on the cloud link you can see exactly what Cory Arcangel created for his mod. Personally when I read about it I had super high expectations for an amazing new version of super mario, but I guess the reason I chose to post this is so that everyone else can see how pointless it is.

Not exactly Cory Arcangel’s Super Mario Clouds, but…

While reading Galloway’s chapter on countergaming, I very much focused on the idea of modding. I thought it was very interesting that Peter Wollen’s seven theses on countercinema could be used to create a similar list for countergaming. In searching for media to share, I found two videos on YouTube that, like Arcangel, also modify Super Mario – except in a different way. While these examples probably don’t fall under the category of “artist video game mods” (since Galloway states that most are completely noninteractive), these examples do illustrate interactivity vs. noncorrespondence and gamic action vs. radical action. Both mods stress the contrast between what the player expects will happen during game play, and what actually, unexpectedly happens as the modified levels are played. In this example, the levels are made extremely hard not only by the seemingly long, impossible jumps, but also by the presence of invisible blocks that can cause Mario to fall and die. Natural physics vs. invented physics is also subtly used in that sometimes you can travel right through walls or tubes, and other times, you can’t. (While there are other videos of someone providing humorous, profanity-filled voice over while these difficult levels are actually played, I chose to share this edited video instead so that the entirety of all the levels could be seen without the numerous deaths that inevitably occurred.) On the other hand, this example plays against the assumption that coins are good in order to make it appear that the level is very easy. The description for this video also includes a link where you can edit or create your own levels.

Killology in the News

You’ve no doubt heard about the horrific video of American soldiers firing on unarmed civilians in Iraq in 2007. In an article today in the New York Times, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is interviewed about the incident. Grossman, you may remember, is the “killology” expert quoted in the Simon Penny article on simulation and enaction. The NYT article is definitely worth reading.

Simon Penny Applied: The MW2 Controversy

Below is a link to a very contemporary, very relevant, and very controversial piece of “interactive entertainment” which may or may not support Penny’s argument.  If you are familiar with Modern Warfare 2 you might know it as the “No Russian” level.  Unfortunately, I cannot provide the level itself, so here is a clip:

For those of you who don’t know, here’s the 2-second rundown: in the level “No Russian” you play as a terrorist leisurely strolling through an airport as your cohorts slaughter people left and right with huge machine guns.  Your participation is optional, but no instruction is given either way.  You cannot save the innocents or kill terrorists.

As you may imagine, the level was highly controversial and was removed from many countries’ versions of the game before release.  Even in the US version, likely the biggest  of all cesspools of decadence and gore warns the player beforehand that it may be disturbing and gives the option to skip the level entirely.  Naturally, different players have different reactions to such content.  Many were too disgusted to watch; others could care less; I for one laughed maniacally as soon as I realized what was happening and immediately took part in the slaughter.  To quote the controversy’s Wiki, “every [official] playtester chose to shoot into the crowd of civilians having received no instruction to do so, calling it “human nature”. Several players on IGN and Kotaku had stated doing the complete opposite when addressed with the level while having no prior knowledge of its existence.*”

Common objections to the level were that there was no recourse for the violence and no in-game expression of remorse or condemnation of the violence.  These complaints possibly imply that people need to be told that something isn’t okay and can’t rely on their own moral compasses, but they raise interesting questions nonetheless.  Having read Penny’s article, it’s unclear to me whether or not satisfying these complaints would solve the problem.  Penny makes it clear that these “training” devices instill reflexive responses that can be “different, even diametrically opposed” to the moral beliefs of the trainee.  Would including a condemnation in the game script eliminate (or at least reduce) the ability of such devices to train their operators?  Ponder away; your guess is as good as mine.


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.

Fake Bewbz and Guns

After discussing the graphically ‘gifted’ female character Lara Croft in class, I began to think more about how people percieved her effects on gamers and designers.  While some students believed she could be a “positive role model” in society, others thought that she created unrealistic expectations or ideals.  Although I believe Ms. Croft is an acceptable character, cranium-sized breasts included, would some people go as far as advising the censorship or regulation of game characters and graphics in order to mitigate the “objectification of women” and/or “better society?”

After posing this question, I recalled a banned x-box live commercial (which classmate Calvin Poe showed me) that portrays people around a train or metroesque station shooting one another with, well, their hands.  Pointing the index and middle finger toward a person with your thumb extended and shouting “Bang!” implies the firing of a handgun.  Holding, in an air-guitar fashion, a larger gun and miming rifle-like jolts is seen as well; one character even simulates grenade attacks.  Although people fly backward with the impact of these bullets and shells and dramatically clutch their chests with each blow, there is nothing of what you would commonly call violence.  More blood and gore is seen on the nightly news, but this commercial was censored.

Upon further examination of the commercial, I realized it related to this weeks topic of gender in games in a different way.  We classically think that the most common demographic of videogamers is 10-22 year old males, more specifically males that are still in some form of schooling.  This commercial somewhat challenges that notion, as the station is filled with an unexpected variety of people;  kids are left out, but businessmen, a few older gentlemen, and many women participate in the mayhem.

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

Mightier and Auditorium

In honor of my last Seeker posting, I have found not one, but two interesting links:

(1) Mightier – a game where you are allowed to completely customize both the gameworld and your character by drawing on the screen (or by drawing on a piece of paper and scanning it in using a web camera). After our discussion on Tuesday about strongly sexualized player-characters like Lara Croft, it is interesting to wonder what player-characters male and female gamers will create if given complete creative control?

(2) Auditorium – a fun, abstract music/puzzle game. This game incorporates music directly into the game (rather than music being a static soundtrack like in many other video games), and also allows for many possible solutions to each puzzle.

If Nintendo Made Halo 3

While browsing, I stumbled across this video which takes a commonly know FPS game, Halo, and emphasizes the RPG aspect of it. The video shows how very popular vintage Nintendo games can be played within Halo 3 (Pokemon Snap, Starfox, Pac Man, Pokemon, and Mario) . I primarily found it interesting that the FPS aspect of a video game could be entirely stripped, and that older games could be played within Halo, so long as you knew what you were doing.

A merger of different perspectives

I thought this chapter of Galloway, while not directly discussing videogames, was still incredibly interesting. The use of POV vs. subjective view point in different mediums really raises the question of what each view point is used for and what is most affective.

Going off one of the examples in the book and something we talked about in class, I wanted to talk about the movie Fight Club further. Throughout the entire movie, the notion of perspective is constantly changed or challenged. One scene in particular seen here, \”Not Your Effing Khakis\” , displays this constant challenge of perspective. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie – beware, I’m about to spoil it. If you have seen the movie, you know that the narrator (Edward Norton) and Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) are really the same person. However, what is interesting about this scene, is going back the second time you realize that you are viewing your conscience. So it’s like the subjective of the subjective. Then, the movie throws another wrench when it starts to mess with the screen, having it appear as though Tyler Durden is controlling the film reel. It reminds the audience that they are not part of the same world as Tyler Durden even though you are in the subjective point of view.

A similar thing occurs when you watch the movie a couple of times and notice that Tyler Durden randomly appears on the screen, very faintly for a few seconds every now and then. You can’t really tell what is reality and what you are really seeing – which makes you question whether or not you are in POV, subjective, third person or fourth person.

First Person Shooter in Real Life

This game that I found reminds me of the movie we say on Tuesday in class. The name of the movie has slipped by mind; but what hasn’t is the fact that this movie was considered one of the first failed first-person shooter games.

(to remind you of the movie we saw, I’ll briefly add some distinguishing notes about it. First, the movie was in black and white. This movie was about a girl discovered what the guy had done. To cut to the chase, the movie moves from third person (the audience’s look) to the camera’s look and takes on the point of view of the guy. The point of view shot was pretty phony looking.)

To draw a comparision between the movie we saw and the game I’ve posted a link to below, I must say that this game is a little bit of a fail for the same reasons the movie failed.

But first, what I liked about the game:

What I liked about this game is that unlike other games, the actual image is of real life people and things. Before playing the game, my thoughts were that this game would be interesting because it would probably merge some aspects of real life images and the notion of game play in videogames together.

However, the interaction between the gameplay and the real life images fail because of the game’s inability to correctly use a POV shot. This game reminds me of the movie we saw because like the movie, the hands of the player just don’t match what we’d really see and so, this game then becomes a cheesy game (kind of like the movie we saw in class). So in the end, the interaction between the player and the other components of the game become really superficial and not worth playing.

But don’t take my word for it, try the game  yourself.