Why this class is worth it

I have done my fair share of complaining about having to play and write about videogames. I will admit it freely. Perhaps this was not the class the class I should have picked. However, when people scoff at the fact that I am taking a videogames class, I get very defensive.

It’s not easy. We didn’t just sit there and goof off. It was not a waste of my time. It was actually really challenging for me.

This class has taught me that videogames are worth studying as much as music, art (paintings, sculptures et cetera), literature and movies are. Videogames are legitimate forms of expression and are to be considered artistic mediums too. Somebody had to be the first to study Mozart, Di Vinci, Shakespeare and Alfred Hitchcock. We are simply among the first generation to take a real hard look at videogames.

It is perfectly normal to pick out literary techniques such as symbolism, imagery, and themes found inside novels. It is not unusual for a class to analyze the use of color and other artistic techniques in an art class. One of these days, it won’t be odd for everyone to take a class examining videogames in various critical contexts.

Thanks for an interesting class Professor Sample!

3 comments May 9th, 2008 asteven5

Not your average videogames and violence post…

Videogames creating violent youth?

Give me a break.

Just look at the kids playing videogames. By and large they are wealthy/middle class, white, suburban kids playing games they bought with their parent’s money. They enjoy being able to go around and kill people in games because it is something they could never do in real life. No consequences.

Now look at the risk factors for violent youth:

  • History of violent victimization or involvement
  • Attention deficits, hyperactivity, or learning disorders
  • History of early aggressive behavior
  • Involvement with drugs, alcohol, or tobacco
  • Low IQ
  • Poor behavioral control
  • Deficits in social cognitive or information-processing abilities
  • High emotional distress
  • History of treatment for emotional problems
  • Antisocial beliefs and attitudes
  • Exposure to violence and conflict in the family

Family Risk Factors

  • Authoritarian childrearing attitudes
  • Harsh, lax, or inconsistent disciplinary practices
  • Low parental involvement
  • Low emotional attachment to parents or caregivers
  • Low parental education and income
  • Parental substance abuse or criminality
  • Poor family functioning
  • Poor monitoring and supervision of children

Peer/School Risk Factors

  • Association with delinquent peers
  • Involvement in gangs
  • Social rejection by peers
  • Lack of involvement in conventional activities
  • Poor academic performance
  • Low commitment to school and school failure

Community Risk Factors

  • Diminished economic opportunities
  • High concentrations of poor residents
  • High level of transiency
  • High level of family disruption
  • Low levels of community participation
  • Socially disorganized neighborhoods

I have a feeling the kids playing Xbox in suburbia don’t encounter too many of these risk factors. It has nothing to do with videogames and everything to do with a person’s environment and mental wellbeing.

This summer I will be spending 2 months in Palestine working with Palestinians and trying to teach conflict resolution skills. There is plenty of violence there by disgruntled youth. They aren’t that way because someone let them play Grand Theft Auto. They become violent because they see their situation as hopeless and violence seems like a solution. Hell, I bet if we gave every Palestinian family a TV, Xbox and GTA, violence would go down. They would have something to do at least!

(note: that is not my solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict)

Sure there are cases where American youth see something on a videogame and decide to go out and copy it and things become violent and deadly. But it is not a phenomenon. Isolated cases cannot be called a trend, even if the media wants to tout them as such.

As I mentioned before, violence is created by environment and a person’s mental health. Both of these need to be improved and monitored in America (and around the world) if we truly want to do anything to curb it.

1 comment May 3rd, 2008 asteven5

Videogame Museum?

So, I had this crazy (or not) thought the other night.  Let me set the scene.  You and I are walking right down the middle of the National Mall, having just left Natural History Museum and the Mars Colony Monument (I made this up, of course, to help establish the setting).  We stroll toward some of the fantastic art galleries when we run smack-dab into the Museum of Videogames and Virtual Entertainment.  Like an art museum, there are rows and walls with videogames from throughout the generations.  But unlike the National Gallery, they ENCOURAGE us to touch the exhibits.  We hop from game to game, engrossing ourselves in the digital goodness.

So, moral of the story, when will videogames take their place in the annals of art history?  Film faced a struggle similar to this one while it was being established.  Film today stands as an art form as legitimate and beautiful as a work of literature or art.  Videogames are still relatively young.  I see at least a segment of the videogame indutry being accepted as a true art form within the next two generations.  I say a segment, because there will always be pieces that will be viewed as well outside the realm of art.  I really don’t think we are going to find anyone who sees Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle as an equivalent  to The Godfather.

Museums are constantly trying to find ways to make their exhibits more interactive in an attempt to keep the attention of the modern human being (thanks a lot TV).  What would be better than every exhibit being a videogame?   Does anyone that has gone through this class not feel this is inevitable?

1 comment May 3rd, 2008 eolson3

ryan’s threefer

Well, it has come down to this. Hopefully, my last and final post for honors 353. Unfortunately, within the last week I have written five of my last nine posts. Therefore, I really only have my first four posts to look at to compare to my last five. Yet, even these four measly posts show how my blogging has grown as the semester went on. My first post was on pac man and narrative. As I reread my words, I realize, my post was mostly a summary of what had either been discussed in class or had already been said on the blog. Having said that however, professor sample please don’t judge my first post too harshly. I’d still enjoy receiving a good grade on that blog.

Yet, I feel my blogs, which are my thoughts on video-games, have become more in-depth. I feel I look more closely at the games, and see the messages behind them, rather then just repeating what has been said, or looking at just the surface of the game. In the beginning, I did not know much about video games. I’d rather go outside and play soccer or read. Video-games never sparked my interest, and I even signed up for the class not knowing it was about video-games. Yet, as I sit here now, I’m glad I took the course. I learned more then just how to play video-games, I learned to analyze them, see them for what they truly were, whether that was a tribute, entertainment, or perhaps a message hidden within the text of a game. I learned new genres such as first person shooter games and narratives. My world was opened up to the gaming world. My blogs reflect what I learned. As time went on, my blogs became more intricate and analytical. I went from simple terms to explaining a game, to knowing about flow, and immersive and progressive game-play.

Even though five of my posts have been within the week, with two of them completed tonight, I still feel they progress forward. They explain my ideas in greater depth then before. I am glad my one post made it to a slide-show that I did not see in class for the fact I was sick, however, that must say I was hitting something on the head. I had to at least be asking a “so what” question.

I have told people that I am taking a class about video-games and everyone says, “oh man that’s awesome!” It is awesome. I enjoyed the games I have played and the new ones I learned about. But I’ve taken away more then just knowing how to play super Mario brothers 3 online for free. I now know how to critically examine a video-game. I’m sure I won’t always look at a video-game and think, what context or genre is this game, but at least now I have more understanding to what I am playing and my blogs show that. They went from mere overviews to in-depth analysis of game-play and impacts on society. I feel I have grown more as a person, even if it is in the video game society.

May 2nd, 2008 Ryan Gilson

grand theft auto

I rarely watch the news.  I always feel it focuses on the negative.  A missing child, the stock market drops, we’re on the verge of recession, drug trafficking, drunk driver runs car into building killing five, Britney Spears does it again.  It’s just not worth it.  It’s the same headlines for the same crimes.  The names change but the stories stay the same. 

            I went over my aunt’s house the today and sure enough there it was: violence, murder, prostitution, drunk driving, drug trade, etc.  There was even one scene where a guy supposedly took a baseball bat to a prostitute after she asked him for a tip.  It’s nauseating.  It’s also a video game.  The television screen tells tales often seen on the news but this time it was brought to you by the newly released Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest craze in gaming. 

            I was astonished when I learned that this overly realistic and downright gruesome scene was actually a video game being played by my 12 year old cousin.  Sitting on his couch he actually grew angry when the prostitute wouldn’t die fast enough as he swung the bat at her head splattering blood on the walls.  What’s wrong with this picture?  What happened to Super Mario Brothers?  What happened to Duck Hunt? What happened to Sonic the Hedgehog?  How did we get here? 

            Exposing our youth to such video games at such a young age may seem preposterous, yet parents permit such activities.  Are parents aware of the brutal nature of the game?  Are they indifferent on the issue?  Or do they merely want a baby sitter to occupy their child and their naivety is a priority.  Regardless of the reason, children are getting their hands on Grand Theft Auto IV and they are playing it constantly.  Prostitution, drugs, drunk driving, murdering, strip clubs; all tabooed topics pried from the world and delivered to the doorsteps of children across America.  Capitalist companies market and supply the high demand.  The companies get their money.  The children get their entertainment.  The parents get their babysitter.  It’s a win win win. 

            Is it so hard to believe that children could be entertained and enamored by such a horrific violent game?  As a nation we have been desensitized to a sense, which also reigns true for children.  They can sit in front of a television all day and play a game which promotes and preaches violence with little or no sympathetic reaction.  Is the game merely entertainment like its less violent predecessors or does it have further reaching moral implications?  It’s a hypothetical question certainly without a definitive answer; at least not at the moment.  Perhaps years down the road when we view our society we will see what this violent exposure has wrought or hasn’t. 

2 comments May 2nd, 2008 Ryan Gilson

teaching or reinforcing?

            Moral games make us think. They bring to light ideas and events that we would much rather not think about. For instance the baron brings to light an event that much of us would rather ignore then actually believe could ever be true. No one wants to ever hear about a poor girl or boy being raped, especially by a parent. The baron is an interactive game where the player thinks they are the protagonist going to save their daughter, when in realitiy it is a father who is struggling within himself about the fact that he sneaks into his daughters room at night to rape her. The game brings the light the fact that the whole village knows about it but tends to ignore it; just as the wife ignores it when her husband gets up out of bed. The player knows the village is ignoring the problem because when the man goes outside to go and fight “the baron” for his daughter back and he comments that not one villager is there to help him in the fight. After the game is completed and the player knows the true story of the game, they realize that the villagers are choosing to ignore the problem.

 

            So, what does this say about our society? Many of us have been known to be followers. Only a handful of people ever emerge as leaders, even though everyday I feel there are signs and people saying anyone can be a leader. Anyone can show leadership skills, all they have to do is take a stand and make themselves known. We are all getting pushed by our parents, our teachers, and our employers to be leaders and to make a stand; yet, how many of us actually have the guts to be the controller, to be the person in charge. We are all told to make a difference in the world and stand up for what we believe in. Yet, sometimes standing up for what we believe in causes us to be the outcast and can bring much anxiety to that person. Thus, imagine if something such as the instance in the baron were happening in your town. How many of us could actually make a stand and tell the man what he was doing was wrong? How many of us could turn him in? And what if we did, and it turned out he was innocent?

 

            I’d like to think that any one of us would have the guts to at least turn the man into the police if we could not say something to him ourselves. We want to believe we are that strong and would do the right thing, but what if we had no proof. What if we just had rumors? So what is the game designer saying about that village? I find it hard to believe not one person would be able to say something, so for him to decide that not one person would have come outside seems preposterous. We are better then that, we have morals and we want to upkeep them. But maybe that was the designers plan all along. Maybe he is not trying to say that no one would help, but maybe he is trying to make it so that someone always comes outside. I know how strongly I feel after playing the game that I’d be that one villager outside. Yet, I feel I would have been out there anyway, even if I had not played the game. Thus, he is reinstalling a feeling I already held dear to my heart, he just wanted to remind me of it. So, moral games may not be there to question our morals, but there to help reinforce them into our brains. They help to just make us not forget what we actually felt was important all along.

May 1st, 2008 Ryan Gilson

Yay for Threefer

           When I began to write this “three-fer,” I honestly didn’t think that I would notice any significant changes in my blog entries at all, partially because I haven’t done many, but mainly because I had such a difficult time writing each one of the posts. At the beginning of this class, I just could not grasp the concept that we were analyzing videogames, like they were books or documents, and I definitely had a very difficult time separating the actions of actually playing the videogame from analyzing a videogame. I think this is because initially, I just didn’t want to assign superficial meaning to something that I thought was definitely designed for pure entertainment. However, as the class progressed, this resistance I had to looking at videogames as something more than just a way to “spend” time actually began to change.             When I look at some of my initial blogs, I was always referring to a reading we did for class and relating it to a game. This is a time when I was playing videogames for the first time; I haven’t even played “Pac-man” before this class. I feel like this unfamiliarity is reflected strongly in my blogs, because I was taking what was familiar to me, analyzing reading and textual articles, and supplementing those with things I noticed about the games. An idea that I mentioned in my first post that I thought was really interesting and might be worth revisiting is Janet Murray’s concept of “cyberdrama.” Murray defined a “cyberdrama” as neither a game nor a story but having characteristics of both. I think that videogames are evolving towards a modern version of this concept. Most of the examples we have watched on youtube of all these new games are designed to appear as a movie, with realistic graphics, topics, and bodily fluids, all wrapped up to be explored and taken apart by the game core actions. I just thought that it was interesting how I noticed this with passage, my example of a cyberdrama; I had no idea about all these technologically advanced games drenched with bodily fluids.             I also noticed that I was very interested in exploring the larger purpose of videogames. I came into this class thinking that videogames were a waste of time, yet most of my posts are discussing the possible cultural and social aspects of videogames. I think that this transition in trying to relate examples of games to reading we had, to contemplating on the purpose of games and how it impacts modern culture exemplifies my growth in understanding and respecting videogames as an artistic medium that is complex and powerful. In these posts, the mood is more reflective and contemplative; this is when I was actually able to use the blog to expand on these random little thoughts I would have about how interconnected the modern society and the artificial reality (created through the internet and videogame culture) actually is.             What I liked most about the blog is being able to read and learn from the opinions and experiences of the other people in our class. There were so many times when I was able to understand a reading better, or see a game in a different perspective that made my own ideas and understand so much clearer. I actually really enjoyed writing this blog, because it was helpful to go back and reread my own thoughts. I know it sounds strange, but I could almost see how I’ve arrived at the topic for my final paper, because I’m addressing these topics of videogames and realism that I’ve at least mentioned in each of my blogs.

May 1st, 2008 Eshani_W

Threefer

One aspect I seem to keep going back to is the aesthetics of videogames and their contribution to gameplay, tone, and the message of the game. I like studying how a videogame’s music, sound effects, and overall look of the game contribute to its mood and effect how the game is received. For example, thinking all the way back to the game The Crossing and how the soft music and detailed forest background played into the environmentalist message.

I have also found that I like looking at videogames as works of art, not so much as toys or training tools. The games that were made to make a statement, like September 12th and AntiWarGame, and all of Jason Nelson’s strange countergames we looked at were the most interesting to me. I think this is because these games are meant to be explored not necessarily played in the traditional sense, as in playing to win or playing for a high score. I’m not an avid videogame player and I was more than a little skeptical of the idea of videogames having deeper meanings and all that. I have to admit that I didn’t think very highly of videogames at the start, but it is interesting to see them used as a medium for art or for conveying certain social or political viewpoints, etc. It sort of elevates them in my opinion, maybe because these videogames are often better at communicating issues and reach a broader audience than say an ad in a magazine or on TV. And even though Nelson’s games are very strange to say the least, I think they’re examples of interactive modern art. I liked exploring them and also hearing Nelson’s own explanation of the Bomar Gene.

May 1st, 2008 Laramitt

Threefer

In revisiting my blogging history I noticed that what seemed to concern me most were the social/cultural implications of videogames.  I think this is probably true for most other people who came to this class without a high level of familiarity with the subject.  It was easier for me to analyze these aspects than to look at any of the technical or design issues.  This is probably why I didn’t make very many comments during the first part of the semester (procrastination also played no small part, of course).  I still don’t completely grasp a lot of what we discussed at the beginning of the class, and also the Atari games failed to capture my interest.  The comments that I did make towards the beginning of the semester were somewhat perfunctory, but by the end you can see that I was genuinely interested in the things I was blogging about. 

After reviewing what I’d blogged I was surprised that some of what I had written actually included some valid points.  Going over it reminded me of all of the issues that had interested me during the course of this class and helped guide me towards a topic for my final paper.  Other people’s blogs were helpful in this matter as well.  Even though I had to force myself to actually complete any bloggin assignments, the exercise was relatively worthwhile.  As with most things, you don’t really know what you’re capable of coming up with until you actually sit down and start writing about it.  When I was writing the blogging posts I managed to ask myself a lot of questions that I otherwise probably would have never asked, and the assignment forced me to think more critically about the issues we were studying.  It was also helpful to interact with and play off the ideas of other students.  I probably came to my greatest understanding of videogames as cultural texts through this exercise.

May 1st, 2008 Beth

Blogging threefer

Looking back over my not so numerous post to the class blog I noticed that what i really tended to write about really had no correlation to each other but rather just ideas that were discussed in class and then I happened to be able to relate to something I knew about. Way back at the beginning I started by posting something about flow and its relation to the Star Wars game that I was then playing and only really brushed on what we were speaking about in class with the atari games. By the end I was still talking mostly about out of class topics though the post I made on counter games was well on topic with what we talked about in class. For me the way that I present my arguments hasn’t really seemed to change i am still rather assertive with my opinions and tend to not think before i post but rather what I am thinking at the moment gets typed into the white box on the screen and then posted to the blog for everyone to see.

Really if i was to go back and take second looks at any of my posts it would probably have to be that post, now i don’t know if it was because it was the end of the year or not but it got quite a few comments. This just showed me that I had hit upon a topic that had some contention in the group and that there was a wide variety of opinions regarding the issue of counter games. The way i used the game was like a place that when an idea struck me I could go and post to get other people’s feed back on what i was thinking and then it hopefully related to the class, or i hit upon topics that would hopefully strike as controversial and get discussed more on the blog or in class.

May 1st, 2008 Kluczak

Distraction Vs. Concentration

In class today we discussed the concepts of distraction and concentration when it comes to film  and video games. In the reading there was a quote that asserted that individuals who study and contemplate art are somehow on a higher level than those who allow themselves to be entertained by film. This struck a chord with me, because this same quote was in a reading that I had to do for Comm302, a mass media class. In that reading, the author went a bit further by suggesting that the MTV generation is on a lower intellectual plane, because instead of interpreting music they allow themselves to be told the message through a music video.

I think that in these cases arguments can be made either way. Listening to music and watching a music video, or looking at art and then watching a movie, are both cases where there is a great deal of contrast. With video games, I think that the line is a little bit more fuzzy. In more abstract games, like Tetris, there is very little that you have to do and they are ‘distracting’ in nature. They still require a certain amount of attention and concentration on the part of the player in order to be considered ‘games’ however. RPGs present a whole new realm of gaming that allows players to assume a different persona, and make decisions that allow gamers to influence the outcome of the game.

When playing a video game you have to make decisions and you often assume a role. You are not passively watching a movie or a music video. You have to interact with the media. Many of the activities that can be performed during the games are not possible to perform in real life. They allow you to assume a new role.

In the case of video games, I have to say that a great deal concentration must be applied to enjoy the distraction.

1 comment May 1st, 2008 Mhiggin6

Three for 1!

After looking through my post over the last semester, I can say that I have learned a lot about my own opinions and experience. When I started this class I didn’t know much about games. I didn’t know what ‘RPG’ or ‘GTA’ stood for. My earlier blogs definitely reflect my ignorance on the subject. But isn’t that what you take classes for? To learn something? Reflecting upon my blogs, I would say that I achieved that.

My very first post was about the game “Flow”. I tried to compare it with “Tetris”, because 1, that was one of the only other games I knew, and 2 someone else had done it and it made sense to me. A lot of my postings ended up being comments on other people’s blogs. I think that this helped me, because it was easier for me to draw inspiration on other people’s ideas in order to open my mind.

I wrote a lot about my own experience in playing the games, because I felt that that was what I could speak about the best. My own impressions and observations were what made my posts unique to me, since a lot of them were comments. I feel like my opinions made my blogs different from anyone else’s and that was important to me.

As I got a little better with the blogs and learned more about games I feel like my postings became more relaxed and more insightful. I was able to draw a bit more inspiration from myself and less from other people, even though I still made a lot of comments because was what I was used to.

My last few posts reflected much more strong opinions about different aspects of the games. While writing one post about women in game I decided to use the ideas I thought of to insprire my paper about The Sims 2. I knew that was going to be the topic of my paper, but it wasn’t until writing that post that I decided to take angle.

I think that doing the blogs helped me to understand the games we played in this class and video games in general.

May 1st, 2008 Mhiggin6

The Threefer

            In all of my blogs, I seem to really ignore the design of the games. I never focus on the technical aspects of what goes into designing a game. This may be due to the fact that I had never had any experience with video games before this class so I do not understand all of the intricate inner workings of the gaming industry. The only design elements I have commented on are the game world and how it is designed as well as how the “narrative” or character development reflect the design within the game, mostly in relation to other games we played or studied.

            The aspect of games that I focused most of my attention on was the social message or lesson that is revealed through the game, when one existed. For example, the Baron and McDonald’s game both had lessons to learn, one moral and one about the corporate world and its functions. FreeCiv also had underlying lessons about government, it shows how difficult it is to design a civilization and keep it going.

            Another major theme in my blogs is how the games relate to real life in different ways. FreeCiv because of the fact that it is supposed to mimic real life decision making and the McDonald’s game because it reflects decisions in corporate America. Passage was also a game relating to real life because it reflects that no matter what you do, you will eventually die, nothing can change that. It gives some perspective to the fact that some of us work really hard to succeed and others just skate by in doing the minimum to survive; in the end we all die.

            One thing I did talk about a couple of times is flow, especially when discussing that particular game. It is a concept that everyone is familiar with but I had never thought of it having a name or being studied. There are some games that definitely try to create a flow within the game and others, especially the counter games that seem to try to do anything but create flow.

            Over all, I learned more than I ever wanted to know about video games but also a lot of interesting things about other aspects of life, like culture and the evolution of technology in general. I think because I did not have a background with video games I was able to really relate what I played to the world outside of games, converting it into something I understood.

May 1st, 2008 kbyorick

Threefer

Looking over the past blog entries I have written I have noticed that most of my posts relate a specific videogame I have played for class to concepts from the readings. Something that I mention often in my posts is the concept of flow, starting with my first post on the videogame Flow. A reason I mention it a lot is that it seems like it is one of the main things that makes a videogame a videogame. A good videogame captures player’s attention causing the player to get lost in the game world, so it seems like an important thing to consider when interpreting any videogame. Also I noticed in many of my posts I have attempted to find the reason the games were made and what the intentions of the creator were. So in a way I seem to look at the games as a type of art since I attempt to find out what the artist/creator’s intentions were when developing the videogame.

One way my blogging has changed is at first I seemed to be more focused on interpreting the details of the videogame rather than the larger topics that were related to the game. However as time went by I believe I was better able to use major concepts and ideas from the readings and from class discussions to make more in depth comments. However I do not know if that is because the way I was blogging had changed or whether it was the type of videogames that we were playing. From simple games without many messages like Pac-Man or Flow to games like September 12th and McDonald’s videogame where there clearly is a message and a lot to write about. Also at first I was only trying to relate videogames to narratives or stories (such as with Passage, and Façade), but during my later posts I tried to interpret the videogames as art, especially in my last post about countergaming where I argued that countergames are basically interactive art.

An idea that I see worth revisiting is how game play and political messages fit together in videogames. For example I wrote that the game September 12 had a clear political message but was not big on game play. On the other hand, instead of focusing on a single political message, McDonald’s Videogame tries to send too many messages at once in order to create a more complex game with more interesting game play

I value the game journal because it has given me an opportunity to understand topics that I have been confused about. Many times I would begin a post with a certain view on a subject, but after writing for a while I would see something I had not seen before which would completely change my view on the subject. After writing out my ideas and reading other people’s ideas, I had a better understanding of the subject.

May 1st, 2008 Billy

Threefer……

Throughout my blogs I have noticed a common theme: The negatives effects of Money. They weren’t focused on the business of videogames but the messages the game available for free play make about money.  For “AntiWarGame” I wrote about how the choices made for spending affect popularity.  For “Stop Disasters” the topic was mainly about how monetary goals overpower the importance of loss life. A final example of money is the “McDonald’s Game.” I spoke about how executives focusing on the bottom line make choices that affect their consumers. I believe this theme appears in a lot of my blogs because I personally hate money. It drives people to do things that they would morally despise otherwise. Money causes unnecessary conflict and issues. It can tear apart friends and family. For me it was no surprise to see this reoccurring theme.

            Through my posts there is also a trend about the political and social messages the games are implying, and whether or not the message is clearly conveyed. My post about the “McDonald’s Game” addresses how the game portrays the business as disgusting and its practices unethical.  I wrote about how “Disaffected!” showed that FedEx Kinkos is a sterile environment, but that the game would make me more likely not play the game again rather than not give business to FedEx Kinkos. My “AntiWarGame” post also falls into this category. The game was pushing the idea that business is driving the war and Presidential popularity is not based on the right merits, but the game was so disrespectful to the soldiers that this factor drew my attention rather than the point it was intended to make.  I believe examining whether or not the game gets their point across is important. People are easily influenced by friends, media, and entertainment. If a videogame has the chance to make a political or social statement but fails to do so by poor design or other factors an opportunity is lost.

           

 Through the class I have learned that videogames to have the potential to affect people. Even if they offend people, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Occurrences in society are offensive, so if a game draws attention to them maybe people will start thinking further into the issues themselves.

May 1st, 2008 jsullen1

A Blogging Threefer

My very first post on the blog was in regards to the game FlOw. In my first discussion I focused primarily on what we had talked about in class, looking at the topic of flow and where it comes from. My second blog post also focused primarily on what we had talked about in class, concentration and distraction. I try to incorporate the readings into my post as if I am trying to connect the dots. In my next post discussing Columbine Massacre RPG, I began to stem away from incorporating what we had talked about in class and began to give my own ideas regarding the game. I focused on politics and video games in my next post and realized that I really branched out as far as my topic range and began to write about videogames in regards to what I was seeing in real life.

Throughout the whole blogging process there was a definite change in how I wrote. As my video game vocabulary and knowledge grew, I began to form my own opinions and ideas. I became capable of discussing abstract topics and enjoyed being able to ask questions. In each of my blog posts, I always tried to ask questions. I would try to discuss what I was thinking and then give the questions that it made me answer. It was excellent to read feedback from other posters who would comment on my original post.

My post discussing addiction is one that I consider revisiting simply because it got so much feedback. It was an interesting topic that sparked a lot of debate and I think that says something about the topic. Throughout the whole blogging process I realized how important the discussion between bloggers was. Reading comments allowed different theories and arguments to be displayed to the original poster, advancing the concepts and level of discussion. The aspect of the game journal that I value most would definitely be the communication between bloggers. I would always read comments made on my posts and for the most part they offered good insight that shed a lot of light on the topic at hand. Blogging allowed the class to express different views that they may not have been able to do in class and I think the outside discussion of the class is invaluable.

May 1st, 2008 jmorgan

Three posts? In my blog entry? It’s more likely than you think.

I do realize that it is slightly disingenuous to be doing this blogging threefer when:

a) I’m not done with all of my other posts.

and

b) Most of my posts have been made within the past three hours.

But an opportunity is an opportunity, and I do feel that I can reflect on what I’ve written so far on this game journal.

First off, I’ve noticed that most, if not all, of my posts’ analyses make reference to other games.  Personally, I find that this helps me greatly when I’m trying to explain where a particular opinion comes from, or when I’m trying to justify an argument.  I’ve been a gamer for over three-quarters of my life, so this comes naturally.  I do realize, though, that this may not be the best approach, especially with the number of people here who aren’t as–let’s go with “fanatical” about gaming as I am.  So I’m really not sure how many people actually got the references I’ve been making, or how much of it just went over everyone’s heads.  But I’m not especially worried about that, because there’s always Wikipedia (which has amazingly accurate game information, which I guess is unsurprising, since it is the Internets).

I think the idea that I’ve been trying my hardest to espouse is that video games are a powerful art form.  A certain amount of this is merely fanboyish sticking up for my hobby, but truly, I believe that video games are a medium that can accomplish what no other can.  The interactivity brings a sense of immersion that no other art form can.  It also acts as sort of a democratization of art, allowing anybody to, in a manner of speaking, become the author or director.  And ideally, games are an incredible confluence of the visual, the aural, the literary, and the cerebral–the product of painters, musicians, poets, and mathemeticians.  It’s difficult for me to convey exactly how exciting that is.

So I have a tendency to get pretty enthusiastic and passionate in my responses to discussions within these journals.  Since I have such deep respect for gaming as an art form, I really want to push people to go deep into their criticism, and really explore the heart and soul of gaming.  Oftentimes, I do end up disagreeing with people’s statements–I think my defense of morality within Doom was probably the most extreme in that regard.  But really, I just want everbody to approach games as a literature or film critic would approach their respective art forms.  I think my favorite example of that sort of thinking would be my entry about The Baron.

And I think that, judging by the deep intellectual discourse taking place within the journals, people truly are taking games seriously as an art form.   I couldn’t be happier about this.  I think–well, hope, I guess–that if a larger audience had the same kind of opportunity to examine games as closely as we have in this class, there wouldn’t even be a question as to whether or not games are art; to suggest that they aren’t would be as daft as trashing The Great Gatsby, or Casablanca.

May 1st, 2008 sgrimes

Should Video Games be as Realistic as Possible?

Lots of people have brought up the topic of reality in gaming and I asked myself why there is such a desire to make games as real as possible? It is safe to say that as video game graphics have advanced and along with that technology have become more realistic images. Do these better graphics allow for more immersion or do they have a negative side effect on the player?

I believe that real life graphics can have a negative impact on specific types of games.  There are some games designed specifically for a quick distraction. I feel like the simple side scrolling video games like Mario will always have a place in the minds of gamers because of its simplicity. It is a game less complicated and more available to gamers of all ages. Games with real life graphics generally seem designed for an older audience and require more technical skills to be fully enjoyed. Video games are a form of entertainment but I feel as though as graphics become better and better, people begin to lose sight of the real world by more fully immersing themselves into a virtual reality. Games are meant to be played as a distraction, not as an enveloping world that the player gets lost in. More advanced technologies, not just graphics, have allowed players to lose their identity in a game. I think that as graphics become better, that possibility of losing oneself becomes more possible. Something that I think would be more interesting to include in games is the type of spontaneous drama that occurs in reality tv shows. People watch those shows because they never know whats going to happen next. What if video games were designed around this concept of spontaneous drama? Could games become just as addictive as television shows? I think the video game market would increase dramatically because these games would incorporate elements that would attract female players. If games had random interactive cat fights video games could take over the free time of men and women everywhere.

2 comments May 1st, 2008 jmorgan

Not that Racist

Americans are often accused of being ethnically inconsiderate, but with a quick glance at the video game industry I think we can dispel this myth. It struck me the other day while playing Fight Night Round 3 how refreshing it was to see the create-a-character feature provide an option for a Hispanic skin. I hadn’t noticed until them, but people of Spanish descent are very rarely represented in games that come to us from Japan. There are a few exceptions such as Dr. Peace in No More Heroes, unidentified outlaws and gunmen in Samurai Western, and the infected villagers in Resident Evil 4, but these are all examples of adversaries (and quite evil ones at that) in the games. Of course I can’t attest for every game because I haven’t played every game, but I’ve played quite a few and after racking my brain for the last eight straight minutes I can’t come up with any other characters from originally Japanese games that are Hispanic. Any games that provide players with a south of the border experience are from American developers. With American developed games though, Spanish-speakers are much more frequent, occurring in a wide variety of games like Tomb Raider Legend, GTA, Chili Con Carnage, Gun, and SSX. The most common occurrence of Hispanic people in translated games is in games that take place in the American Wild West, and they are mixed in with stereotypical cowboys.
While this is probably mostly due to close proximity and intermingling of Mexico and the US, and the vast distances between Japan and any Spanish-speaking countries, I still found it surprising. Also, this can be expanded past just the Hispanic ethnicity. Few Japanese games feature people from the Middle East, and while black people do occur more often than Hispanics and Middle Easterners they are usually in the games only as token characters rather than as an established race, and are usually away from their homes and out of place. Compared to the heavy mixing of peoples in America, I guess I just find this lack of integration sort of jarring when looking at Japanese games. Also, while we use Asian as an ethnicity, it should be noted that the Japanese games may lump Southeast Asian countries together, but China is a different ethnicity for them. China is to Japan like Russia or Germany are to us, as typically evil mastermind kind of bad guys.
I suppose the biggest factor really is just proximity of the countries and cultures.

2 comments May 1st, 2008 trobert9

Different Values

While once more reviewing my import games from Japan, I noticed one thing I found quite interesting. The rating system in Japan is of course a little different from the ESRB we have here, but what surprised me was what the games were being rated on. The different rating of the ESRB are eC (early childhood, 3+), E (everyone, 6+), E10+ (everyone, 10+), T (teen, 13+), M (mature, 17+), and AO (adults only, 18+). The ratings for Japan are A (everyone), B (12+), C (15+), D (17+), and Z (18+). One thing is immediately striking here, that Japan does not separate the younger ages here like North America does.
With closer inspection though, of the different qualifiers for ratings and games with those qualifiers, one can see that the ESRB and CERO (Computer Entertainment Rating Organization) and therefore North America and Japan have different views on moral values. While in North America sex is the biggest factor that can immediately skyrocket a game’s rating, in Japan the most restrictive is violence. Explicit sex will still move a Japanese game to the Z rating, but sexuality and partial nudity are not as important to them, still appearing in even a few A rate games. Violence is by far the most regulated overseas, with more game games being bumped up to the D rating for gory content that here is mostly overlooked and can land in a T rated game. I had heard that Japanese broadcast television is the same way, with sexual content on everyday programs (including nudity), while explicitly violent shows are the ones not shown until late at night or on pay channels, and these ratings are the proof.
This also really adds context to the international jabs at Americans for being violent people. I remember back in the nineties there were a lot of people saying that Generation X was being desensitized to violence by TV, movies, and games like Doom, and I guess they’re right. Violence seems almost mandatory in games to me, while sexual content is a bit more of a rarity.

1 comment May 1st, 2008 trobert9

Wrong Disaster

“Stop Disasters” was a very unique gaming experience.  I believe simulations often provoke emotions more than just playing a regular game. Being in a technical major, a lot of the work I do relies on simulation and the results and making a fairly accurate simulation can have large implications. Making a simulation of disasters a game is a serious statement. Often times when Mother Nature takes over and wreaks havoc on society that is considered the disaster.  With this in mind, it would initially seem as though the goal was to stop the natural disaster. Through playing the game it is clear that the disaster that the player is attempting to stop is the effects of the natural event on the area and the people within it. The disaster is more directly the loss of life and cost incurred from the natural event. Even though loss of life is accounted for, cost appears to be the primary concern.  It is even stated that the player should saves as many lives as they can afford to do. This is a clear political statement. Money is the priority.  If there isn’t enough money available, no attempt is made to prevent losing more lives. I also find it ironic that while saving all of the people is a goal, the player can win the game with an acceptable level of loss of life.  To start the game, the player is chooses a disaster scenario and difficulty level.  The player is given an overall goal.  The goal is defined by the amount of money you are able to spend, the amount of people that need to be housed, an acceptable number of deaths, and the amount of monetary damages incurred. Because of monetary constraints, preventing loss of life does not take priority.  It is clearly shown that money drives motivation.

May 1st, 2008 jsullen1

AntiWar

I personally found “AntiWarGame” to be disturbing and offensive. It does have some valid points, but the manner in which the game plays out is slightly crude taking away from the message. The way in which the troops are portrayed is disgraceful.  Yes, often times the troops are not accomplishing anything while they are deployed, but that is not their fault. They signed up to serve their country and their country fights a war that it should not be fighting, leaving them there to wait to get blown up. I have not recently kept up with the War on Terror like I had in the past because I now have a personal stake in it. Someone very close to me is an officer in the Marines and he has recently deployed to Afghanistan so seeing officers killed because they try to motivate their soldiers is disgusting in my opinion.  I am very sensitive when it comes to hearing about the war but I am not naïve or unaware of the situation. As in many political situations, business and monetary goals are the driving force behind the war. President Bush has led this country into an out of control situation in a quest for oil, while the American consumer pays. The game portrays this fact well. Military and business are linked together in one spending category and the player’s popularity increases as more money is pumped into this portion. Popularity also increases as more troops are sent abroad. I supposed the game is making a statement about the popularity being based on the opinion of big business, but I believe helping at home would be a much more productive option and I don’t think it was necessary to disrespect the troops.

May 1st, 2008 jsullen1

A New Look

Discussion in class recently turned to the “uncanny valley” of how eerie modern computer graphics can be when trying to model real people. After playing many games based off of movies, it usually isn’t too bad, maybe because movie characters are larger-than-life figures, and a little distortion is okay. However, I recently tried out two games based off of television series and the story is quite different. Both popular shows CSI and Lost have released games, CSI: Hard Evidence and Lost: Via Domus respectively. In these games, the character models are very, for lack of a better term, creepy. They do resemble the characters viewers have come to know and love, but are oddly lifeless and glossy. It’s like watching clay-mation.
The real thing that bugs me though, is why is it creepier when playing a TV based game than playing a movie based game? I think it is because while movie characters are larger-than-life, TV characters capitalize on how real they are. People are more likely to identify with a character in a TV show about average people than an over-the-top movie about big time heroes. So when these average people look slightly off, it bothers us more than the movie character that was different from us anyway. Also, movies in general can take place in wild and impossible situations, while these two TV shows are grounded in the real world, so seeing a fake version of it is unsettling to us. I guess in a TV show-game it seems more like an eerie representation of the person, which is weird, while in a movie-game it is a representation of the character, which is acceptable.
Of course, the reason could be different, maybe it’s just the artists of those games, or the fact that the other characters in both those games address the player directly, while movie-games usually happen from an omnipotent point of view. However, I personally find it much more unsettling to watch either of these games than any other game I own, movie-based or not, and I think it has something to do with the TV show origins.
I guess I don’t have a definite answer to my question of why its creepier, I just wanted to bring up these two fitting examples of what we talked about in class.

May 1st, 2008 trobert9

“anti-advergame” gone bad

“Disaffected!” was the perfect name for this game.  Playing this game did not provide me with anything other than the feeling that I just wasted my time. At first it appears as though the game may have some promise.  It comes off as something simple but having the potential to be amusing. Very early in the game it becomes clear that this is not going to be the case.  It is monotone and boring, which I suppose is the point but I am under the impression that to make a statement the goal should be to excite the audience and provoke their emotions rather than to lose the audience’s interest. I completely understand how FedEx Kinkos is a sterile environment. It is not welcoming, nor does it appear to be convenient for the customer, which I am well aware of due to personal experience.  The game definitely encapsulated this experience, but at the cost of discouraging the player to play again.  I understand that as stated on the games website “Disaffected!” is meant to be an “anti-advergame.” Its purpose is to discourage people from being patrons of FedEx Kinkos, but the lackluster gaming experience does not get that message across to me. After playing the game I do not feel any more compelled to avoid FedEx Kinkos. The name “Dissaffected!” is quite ironic from this point of view. I think it is funny that the point of the game was to shun customers from the store but it really just shunned me away from playing the game. I believe the creators of this game missed their mark. The game surely showed the mundane environment of FedEx Kinkos and why the employees would be compelled to be miserable and unfriendly, but by making the game its self so disinteresting the point is lost along the way. 

May 1st, 2008 jsullen1

Micky D’s

Playing the McDonald’s game was very frustrating.  While the graphics are amusing and the sounds are funny, the game itself held very little entertainment value in my opinion. I tried playing it several times, but failed to run a successful corporation any time, even if I varied the way I played the game. The frustration that consumed me propelled me to play longer than I probably should have or wanted to, but even after trying to succeed for a significant amount of time the game left me bored and frustrated. While playing, it makes it seem impossible to win the game by playing straight forward and running an honest business by growing soy and raising healthy cows.  Playing the game dirty by adding chemicals and hormones to the cow feed also has consequences. Unless I am missing something, it appears to be nearly impossible to play the game successfully.  I believe this game may be a fairly honest representation of how the business is run.  I doubt there is anybody who would think that eating at McDonalds is a wise decision. Yes it is a cheap meal and it may even taste good, occasionally, but the food is by no means healthy and the service is often lacking. It is well known that growth hormones are added to cow feed, which in turn is fed to the consumer. Employees come and go without dedication and corporate executives have their eye on the bottom line, encouraging them to make immoral decisions about the way the company is run. The game definitely makes political and social statements about the way this dominant corporation is run, making a large profit corrupting society without consequence.   

May 1st, 2008 jsullen1

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