Category Archives: Respondents

The Subjective Viewpoint in Video Games

After considering what we discussed in class as the “subjective view” of specific characters in film, I quickly was able to think of movies I had seen that used this view to great effect (Fight Club especially as I mentioned in class). However, I struggled to think of instances where this came into play in any video games that I had played. Upon further (and deeper) thinking though, I found that I was simply missing the way that the elements fit together in the games I have played. For example, The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess uses the subjective view in that there are certain parts of the game that can only be seen when the player transforms Link into a wolf and triggers his “wolf vision.” This really made me think of the advantages that there are to using the subjective view in a video game. A developer can make an entire game, and then with a simple upgrade or a change to some other kind of point of view, the game can be completely changed. In a sense, any kind of game that has places that cannot be reached until the player gets certain upgrades or have completed tasks use the subjective view, as they player is forced to go about the video game inhibited by the limited abilities of the character(s) they control. Having never studied the subjective view before this class, I must say that it is something that is incredibly important to the art of story telling in both film and games (as well as literature), and have realized that it is an integral part of each of these genres that while having seen it used, I had never before grasped its importance.

First person point of view

This post is written in response to Tuesday’s discussion about a first person point of view.   The first person point of view can have an incredible effect on how a person interprets and feels about a particular event either in a game or in a movie.  Usually in movies the effect that a first person view has is a feeling of suspense and anticipation.  These feelings are brought on by the fact that that people cannot control the actions that they are viewing.  This effect has been demonstrated in many films.  One film that we did not discuss in class was Doom.  In one portion after the main character wakes up in a different state of mind after being unconscious and the movie switches to a first person point of view.  When watching the events in the movie unfold the viewer starts to will the main character to do certain actions or even to survive more so than when they were watching in the third person point of view.

When the first person point of view is applied to videogames it takes on a completely different role however.  People tend to become one with the character they are playing especially when game play is very intense.  This is demonstrated very well in he game Chronicles of Riddick: assault on dark athena where you are in a first person point of view for most of the game.  What sets this game apart from the rest is the concentration on stealth and melee combat.  This makes the gamer more likely to try and interact with items in the game world in real life ie turning your body when hugging a corner or squinting to see in the dark when the lights are out.

“Oooo, That’s Pretty.”

The topic of flow has brought a few things to my attention.  After reading Kristine’s blog post and looking into the psychological definitions of flow, I realized how applicable the visually appealing graph she noted was to my experiences. 

We discussed the ‘flow’ one finds in some sporting activities, including bobsledding and gymnastic snowboarding, but I realized that some sporting flows may actually be more accurately positioned in the ‘Relaxation’ section.  In personal experience, swimming has often been a relaxing activity.  During more challenging practices, I could no longer classify the activity as relaxing exactly, and I was most likely experiencing flow.  When I lacked the skills necessary in some extremely difficult sets, my flow and relaxation were broken and anxiety set in.

This graph also seems quite relevant to the way we learn and complete educational assignments.   Assignments and readings that are quite easy may cause students to react with apathy, boredom, and maybe even relaxation.  More challenging assignments can put students into a flow, if that student possesses the correct skills.  If that student lacks the skills necessary, or at least doesn’t believe he possesses the proper skills, homework can create a great amount of anxiety.

Unfortunately, I don’t usually experience flow when I play videogames.  I now understand that it may be a result of a shortage of skills.

Gamer or the Game

Music and sound effect in video games have evolved tremendously over the last few decades. This essay did an unbelievable job in explaining the importance of music in video games. I liked his idea of dissecting music to its chords to explain the effect. Music tends to act as a force of moving forward. It provides the aural sensation that adds to the intensity of the game. Imagine playing a basketball video game where there was no sound effect for the crowd or more importantly the “swish” noise. How lame would the game be? Music sets specific mood that allows the gamers to be in a flow where “self-consciousness disappears, perception of time is distorted and concentration becomes intense.” That is absolutely true. When different sections of a player’s brain is being stimulated simultaneously, in terms of motor skills with the fingers, activity of the auditory cortex, and visual cortex of the brain, the player will more than likely feel that they are in flow. In cartoons, and in video games, music and sound identify and distinguish one action from another. This way, gamers are more aware of what’s happening in the game as opposed to trying to figure out when a monster will appear around the corner. Music creates that suspenseful, serious, humorous or tranquil setting that keeps the game more engaging and provide an environment which requires the intense focus and the loss of the sense of real time. So this brings up my question about flow? What is flow? Is it the ability of game to stimulate the senses of a player to absorb them into the game or is the player’s ability and need to focus intensely and lose track of time to survive in the game. Basically, who is in charge of “flow?” The player or the game.

Background Music

I agree with many of my classmates that this article was one of the most informative and entertaining assignments we’ve had so far. I loved how Whalen incorporated the sound clips into his article- it really took the content one step further. I even found myself so interested in the material that I was jumping back and forth from youtube and Whalen’s piece, watching all the mickey mouse cartoons he talked about. In class a lot of students expressed how important they felt music was to the play of the game, and I would have to say I agree. I think that it contributes greatly to flow as well, which is something Whalen talked about. I just imagined myself playing a game with no music, just the sound of the player walking or performing actions, and realized how that would certainly discourage flow. Music is what ties it all together. Even some of the games that do not have a soundtrack playing at all times all some kind of background noise during gameplay- whether it be wind blowing or the sound of rain falling. The only type of game I can think of that does not have some kind of background noise would be a ‘horror’ game, and in that case, situations with no noise serve to tell the player that something scary/big/violent is going to happen soon. Whalen even talked about this in his article, about how certain sounds or the lack of sound can aid in a player feeling apprehension or nervousness about what is yet to come. In this case, the player pulls out of flow- because if you know something is up ahead, most of the time you take a step back in order to prepare for the upcoming encounter. You have to turn off cruise control and make more conscious decisions about your next move. And this all comes from the lack of background music- fascinating.

Exactly how much do videogames effect us.

This is in response to Jamie’s post.  Videogame violence was once one of the most pressing issues for parents and how they raised their children.  The stigma that videogames would cause your children to become violent offenders did effect what games parents bought their kids if they decided to at all.  Recent studies have disproven this theory but not befoere parents had made their decision to keep their kids away from videogames.  What people how believe this kind of theory don’t realize how much violence videogames have had in them since their beginning.  Violence has been a primary factor in many types of videogames and will continue to be for the length of their existence.  The reason for this is because our society and many others are based around violence and have been for centuries and that has simply translated into videogames.  Violence had been incorporated into movies and music long before videogames had been invented and there had been no significant attempt to discredit them.  The movement started very suddenly and ended just as abruptly.  They did not complain when space invaders came out and it seems that the movement really gained momentum when grand theft auto started to take off.  I know that my parents refused to buy me videogames because they thought that I should play outside more instead of wasting my time on videogames.

Make or Miss

As 2 feet of snow piled up outside, I had nothing to do (well not really) but to play NBA Live 2009 on my PC. This game, which has no story and any new patterns for me to discover, still keeps me entertained day after day. As I ran a fastbreak, I pulled up to shoot a 3-pointer with Kobe. Swish!! After a while, same situation, same play, yet not the same result. This is nothing unusual about sports game, but having discussed game codes, game consoles and such, I paused to wonder what kind of complicated game codes must be behind this. All of a sudden I can see how game developers used geometry, advanced algebra and complicated probabilities to make this game such life-like. The codes for Pacman was about 1/4 of a page, and imagine how much coding required just to have a player running down the court while his shorts swayed from side to side. It also made me realize that the shots that I am attempting are all based on the player’s “artificial skills.” Realizing that kind of made the game boring and less exciting to play (not for long since I soon stopped thinking and continued playing). . The different aspects of the game are significantly realistic, however, no one can ever deny that its a game. Crazy dunks, weired fouls, and strange moves keeps the game a game. If the game became too realistic, then i dont think it would be as fun anymore. I am not talking about the graphics, which could always improve. I am talking about the way players act, the limitations of moves and probability that someone random making shots. If they become too realistic, then people would never substitute their key players and never really play the “simulation” they want to play.

As we discuss more and more about different genres of games, the games that I play on a daily basis are becoming more and more artificial and academic. Taking about games provides great knowledge behind the scenes of games but affects how I play and enjoy games 🙁

Probabilities of Probabilities

After reviewing the source code from Micropolis in class, one of the things that struck me the most was just how few lines of code made up the entirety of the original Sim City.  Now yes, the original Sim City was never known to be the most graphically intensive games, and playing it now the game seems quaint in relation to modern video games, but it still is impressive to see an entire game’s workings broken down into mere lines of code.  Even without knowledge of the C++ programming language, it is clear what certain code does and how specific actions taken during the game can change the outcome of later events.

The other thing that most impressed me, which we went over in class, was the specificity involved in the events which occur in-game.  When playing a video game, one doesn’t stop to think, “Well there must be a 23.5% probability for this enemy to die once he is shot in the chest,” one just shoots.  But when it comes down to it, every single in game action is governed by such probabilities, and thus games can really be looked at as giant math equations (something which gives me a headache).  Thankfully, these game programmer decisions are never revealed to the user, as not only would they be confusing and disorienting, but they would remove a level of fun and excitement from the game if everything were simply spelled out.

Stories and Games

I was also very interested by the Koster reading and its relation to games and their inability to have stories. After reading through the first readers posts, I definitely have to agree that sometimes stories are an essential part of a game and can be the most appealing element to people. If a character is set in a story that allows the player’s imagination to take off then the player will be more likely to “get into the zone” that Koster discusses. He discusses how the zone is flow and means that the player is completely focused on doing something. Granted a player can definitely be into something without having some sort of story to follow, but in my opinion a story definitely helps. There are countless adventure games that catch people’s attention every year that would be nothing without the story. I think it’s also important to bring up movies that are made into games. A person will see the movie, and if they buy the game they know the story already and want the outcome to be the same. For example, when the Lord of the Rings games came out, my brother bought them and played them endlessly until he defeated them. He knew he liked the story already and wanted to play through the story himself.

I definitely think that Koster had it wrong in saying that games and stories can’t be mixed. Every game has a story, no matter how minuscule it is and most games would be lacking in more ways than one without one.

Symphony No. 2600 in Atari Minor

In class it was mentioned that music wasn’t always something that was a part of video games. Only in the late stages of the Atari 2600 (or VCS) did music first appear in video games.  I found this very interesting because I had taken music as such a quintessential aspect of any video game.

Previously when we had watched the video on the creation of video games while in class, one of the guys who created either tennis for two or pong had mentioned that he made the game and was completely satisfied with being able to fit all the information he had onto the small sized chip. His boss then had to ask him to include cheering sounds. I thought it funny that there would be a video game that had no sound period. Not until it was mentioned in class yesterday did I understand that no sound meant no music and really understood the idea of a silent video game. It would be awkward at best.

The music that has evolved to become such an integral part of any video game does so much more than fill a silent void. It enhances game play. Music has always been known to evoke strong emotional responses for all situations. To add music to a video game is to only further perpetuate the players emotional tie to the game. A close friend of mine is a Zelda fanatic and uses the songs from Zelda to express her feelings, as ringtones, and loves to play them on her ocarina. She is constantly talking about the “Saria’s Song,” “Lost Woods,” “Windmill,” and most often “Gerudo Valley.”

Without the music incorporated into present day games , I doubt that games such as Zelda and many other games (especially RPG games) would evoke as deep an emotional response as they do. Music, as it has done time and time again, only compliments other art forms and aids game designers in their attempts to draw the game players further into the video games.

Experience > Simulation

In my opinion Koster’s credibility as an author comes into question when he asks things like, “Would fire drills be more effective if they were fun activities?” (Koster 50).  He leads up to this question asking “Do we avoid the notion of fun because we view the content of the fire drill as being of greater import?”  (Koster 50).  I personally would stop to think for a little if after the fire drill they handed out candy or some prize for who gets out first, while the sucker who lost is dying of smoke inhalation.  Does this fit into Ludus Agon you think?  Ok, sorry enough jokes.  Now I’m going to bring up a few things I have problems with in Chapter four.

Koster lays out a variety of things that can be learned via games, and since he cites various video games I am going to use games interchangeably with videogames.   Koster sums up the advantages of videogames by stating that “we have fun mostly to improve our life skills” (Koster 60).  I have a problem with this which stems mostly from my aversion to videogames and affinity for Ludus Agon.  Caillois and Koster both say videogames teach by simulating reality.  Whats wrong with kids learning from “good ‘ol fashion’ playing outside.  In an outdoor setting children have to use more imagination to entertain themselves, utilize teamwork to reach the highest branches and above all asses risks.  An interesting study would be comparing the childhoods of our grandparents and parents as opposed to our own and seeing the pros and cons of videogames.  Thus far we have discussed the pro’s of game play, but would we be able to come together and fight a world war like our grandparents, would we be able to suffer the physical hardships reminiscent of the Great Depression and would we really be able to survive a caveman existence if the only way we learned was via simulation?  I believe experience is one of the strongest teachers and it is something our generation lacks now that we learn in games with checkpoints, autosaves and memory cards.  Our ancestors either did something right or wrong.  Climbed on a branch too thin and fell, then they got back up and knew not to climb on that weak branch.  Are my views antiquated or does anyone else share these sentiments?

What makes a classic?

As we have come to see through our discussion and reading, play and game are really a matter of an individual’s perspective. This can easily be seen through the wide range of views across the first reader responses. Games and play are everything from serious competition to a learning tool to a way to stretch the imagination. In my mind, it all boils down to diction and the context in which you wish to frame your situation.

However, an underlying theme that has not been fully explored is what exactly makes a good game? I feel like we began to examine this as a class through the Thousand Blank Card game. What most would consider to be an absolutely pointless game suddenly becomes increasingly more interesting once you reach level five and a whole new rule set can be introduced. This novelty can quickly become irritating when there is game anarchy though and every rule can be overturned at a whim. So what are the necessary components to a classic?

In my mind, a really good game is something that has a multitude of layers. There are challenges built within challenges and that only the masters can really achieve. For instance, when playing an RPG like Zelda you can play as a beginner feeding into the base plot line. As you increase your skill level you can start to hunt for Skulltulas and find the secret holes with bombs. Even beyond that, you learn all of the glitches and secrets to a game, or the small details that a game developer has included that really make you fall in love with the game. Nonetheless, a good game isn’t just building on challenge. As Koster stated, it really is a balance between simplicity and complexity, where you can build your way through a game, chunk a portion and continue on. Then, once that chunk gets a little fuzzy, go back and play it again… this time beating it faster.

New From Fisher-Price!

The development of children’s cognitive and reasoning powers are largely dependent upon the usage of games, as described in the Jay Carty’s post. From the earliest years, children are given basic games, such as the one shown below, to help them learn how to reason through simple tasks, such as which blocks can fit into which holes. Although as adults these games seem simplistic in their nature, if it were possible to think as a toddler would, we would find this game as difficult as trying to carry on a conversation with a native speaker of Klingon (if one can find such a person). Without some form of device that could attract and keep the attention of the infant, trying to learn these skills would be next to impossible.

As Koster describes about this development “We see the statistics on…how many basic aspects of life they master—aspects that are frankly so subtle that we have even forgotten learning them—and we usually fail to appreciate what an amazing feat this is.” This reinforces the fact that without some communication-less form of reinforcement of these basic life skills that we develop at a young age, such as whether or not we can fit into a certain size of pants or whether or not we could really fit through a mouse hole, we would be forced to delay development until communication could be established with children, even though without some method of doing this, this development may never occur.

It’s only fun because you’ve learned the pattern?

I feel as though a lot has been said about what games are and what fun is. We come to an agreement over the fact that games are fluid in definition and fun is an extension of the verb ‘to learn.’ The word fun is applied to games when we can ‘chunk’ some information about a game and learn a particular pattern to conquer a game and succeed.

We’ve seen these ideas come to life when we played the game “A thousand Blank Cards.” We created a game, chunked some of the rules and strategies that we could apply to the game, and played.

For some, the game was fun; for others, the game was of no pleasurable value. Thus, I wonder: what makes up a gamer? What makes the game for some and not for others? Is it simply the fact that a gamer has chunked more information about a game than another?\

I think not. Growing up I always had access to a video game console. I knew which controller buttons would make my character in a video game jump and which buttons would make my character breathe fire. I even knew of some codes in some of my brother’s (and my) video games to move onto the next level. Nevertheless, I never took a keen interest in video games. I think I chunked enough information about games, but the end result of chunking and playing was not groking. It was not fun.

So what really makes games fun if learning the patterns to win a game don’t leave you feeling satisfied about playing it?

I guess what I’m trying to ultimately get at is that I don’t think that games are fun because they make you learn the patterns to win a game. I think that there may be more to it.

The Ethos of Winning

An ideal seldom alluded to, yet an underlying motif of previous posts, is the derivate of the need and of the want to play games– competition. Why do we “play” games? What is “fun” about games? The answer is simple: an individual enters a game to master, conquer, and win. It is through unarguable achievement and positive recognition that “fun” is derived from a game.

Yes, as a collective group we can arrive at the consensus that clear, undisputable definitions of “play” and “fun” may never be achieved. However, all individuals can agree that winning is better than losing. Continually winning offers an incentive to continually play.

The “fun” of games is derived in ultimate mastery of the game. Why does chess appeal to 80-year-old “masters” of the game? Is it a coincidence that an individual’s favorite game is usually the one that they have a high scoring record? It is the high possibility of a win that creates the desire to play a game and it is winning that allows the fun in a game to occur.

Play teaches us to master the game and beat the competition thus individuals are motivated to play the game until mastery is achieved. Competition is the core of fun, play, and the game itself.

Global, societal, and individual competition allows progress to be made. While the need and want to play is an intrinsic characteristic that fosters the principle of competition; games solidify and establish necessary traits associated with survival and success.