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January 2006 Archives

January 1, 2006

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over

The first movie that I watched dealing with gaming culture and Hollywood’s representation of gamers was Spy Kids 3-D Game Over directed by Robert Rodriguez. Let me just note that I watched the 2-D version of this film, without the optional 3-D glasses. One thing that I noticed right away in the film was the game’s title Game Over, which is associated with the end of a game (whether it be due to a win or a loss) or a player’s character death in a game. This was fitting in the context of the movie because the premise was that the game that these children were playing left them mentally powerless in the end and this was also the end of their free will. Game Over in general signifies the end of something and perhaps even signifies the end of fun. When a game is completed the fun is over, or when you die in a game it loses its fun factor (or at least temporarily).

A unique aspect of Game Over is that it is a virtual reality game. This is shown in the actual representation of the game and is foreshadowed in the movie’s opening scenes when Juni is meeting with the President.

“It all depends on your preference, reality or perception?” - President
“I prefer reality.” - Juni

VR games are not very popular when it comes to mainstream gaming today. There is not a system on the American market that is a true VR game. In regard to the representation of VR in the movie, there are some aspects that are too far fetched to be taken seriously. I am assuming that this is more of a “predict the future” representation of VR games, implying that maybe this will be the case someday. It reminds me of that many people my age had when they believed in the year 2000 we would all be in flying cars. It also reminds me a little bit of Back to the Future.

Game Over, also implied that playing involved logging onto the internet. We know this for two reasons. There is mention that the Toymaker is trapped in cyberspace and that is where the game was created. Secondly the scientists describing the game say that children are going to “sign on and play it.” This is similar to game systems like X-box and Dreamcast which have internet capabilities. Even most Windows operating systems now come with a game section that includes internet gaming (ie: checkers, chess, etc.).

When Juni enters the game on level 1 he looks around and says “Low-Res” which I am assuming refers to low resolution. My question is why would such a highly advanced VR game be created with low resolution graphics?

The issue of life was a big one in the movie for me. In the begining of play Juni and the others were given 9 Lives (yes thats right, like a cat) that included no replays and no restarts. The 9 lives I could understand, but the no replays or no restarts was a bit out of the ordinary. In most games you are given a designated number of starter lives, but usually there is a way to gain more life from power ups or health packs of some sort. We saw one health pack in the movie that gave restoration back to 9 lives rather than a specific number added (ie: +2, +5, etc.).

The idea of having no replays or restarts is one that does not fit into most games today. The only way I can see this happening is if there were codes used to get back to where you left off in a game. There are certain saving spots in most games, where you can resume play if something happens. This can’t be the case in Game Over though because codes and cheats were not allowed to be used. The life factor in Game Over is a curious one that is never truly explained or justified. It certainly wasn’t modeled after traditional game life.

Side Note: Juni is taken to the Games & Theory Department when he reaches the OSS.

Enjoyable Quote: “Why is it that every game has lava in it?” - Juni
“Technically thats not true. There’s no lava in Halo!” - Gamer

An interesting aspect of this sequence of scenes during the lava races was that the point of view from which we were watching the scene take place changed. One minute we were looking head on at Juni for a reaction shot and then it shifted to a direct point of view shot. This reminded me of the common option in most racing games that lets you change the point of view of your racing player. It was such a quick jump cut to that shot and back that I felt it was mimicking the way it would happen in a racing game. This was done very accurately.

Game Over did have some standard elements of games such as combat, racing, and the tagging of another player to take your place in a task (generally associated with multi-player games). The tagging was interesting in the sense that it reminded me of tag-team games for wrestling in which you can tag the second player (another human gamers on the outside) or your second choice player that is still under your control. This is similar to switching players which is done in games like Mortal Kombat and Tekken 2. Usually the character has to be unlocked and then by the switch of a button you can switch to them in mid play.

Game Over captured one of the most important aspects of gaming and that is the fact that when you are playing a game you can become a totally different person. This deals with both physical and mental factors. In the game (virtual world) you have abilities that you often don’t possess in the real world. Juni’s grandfather was paralyzed for 30 years, but in the game he had the ability to walk again. This same sensation can be felt and applied to many different people playing games. The gamers Rev, and Arnold were completely different people in regard to their personalities when they came out of the game. Part of the appeal of games is escapism and fantasy, two elements which Game Over represented correctly. These beta testers were all seeking some type of fullfillment from the game.

REALITY - VIRTUAL REALITY - PERCEPTION
I suppose the biggest kicker for me came when out of curiosity I began to watch the special features on the DVD and went to previews. Apparently when this movie was released so was a vide game about it. So let me get this right, a video game about a movie about video games? Wow, just when you think they’ve crossed every possible marketing strategy this comes along.

More Thoughts on Spy Kids 3D

My Trip to Liberty City

The short movie My Trip to Liberty City (GTA3) was a hilarious look at the thoughts of a character in the game Grand Theft Auto 3. I mean it was not what I was expecting at all. The narrator starts out talking about the infamous Liberty City as if it were a tourist location that was the talk of the travel industry this year. The part that makes this movie funny is the way the character is interpreting his surroundings. He is casually accepting everything in this world him including the strip club across the street and the fact that he was hired as a thug to kill a man with a baseball bat. His leisurely attitude towards the entire situation is a far cry from the real GTA3 character attitudes. The order to kill is completely ignored and we see “a softer side” of this game.

The character “Canadian Tourist” presents the outlook of the classic cock-eyed optimist. Though I’d have to say that I enjoyed the “Attack Mime” the best with his extreme miming abilities. The “Street Priest” was another one that I liked quite a bit. I thought it was quite the change in the end when the character is indeed the priest and takes the dead mans money and runs off because he hears the cops coming. This is the type of action that I remember being associated with GTA3. Note: Has anyone else ever realized if you rearrange GTA you can get GAT (as in the gun). I know I am a goober for saying that one.

More Thoughts on Liberty City

January 2, 2006

Wargames

The second movie I watched dealing with gaming culture and Hollywood’s representation of gamers was Wargames (WG) directed by John Badham. This movie was one of my favorites when I was younger, but I don’t think I ever really understood it’s sub-context about the Russians until this time around. WG deals a lot with simulations and it reminded me of other examples of “video games” used in for military training and in the government. When I was a junior in high school the armed forces began their recruiting sessions for students that were going to be graduating the following year (2004). I particularly remember a visit from the air force in which they had a large tractor trailer with a flight simulator in the back of it. They said that they often used these to train pilots and test them before allowing them to go up into the air. How does this all fit into the film?...you may be asking yourself. Well, the government uses video simulations and other forms of video game technology in many different practical capacities.

Could this film be a cautionary tale of what happens when you let machines run your life and then a nuclear holocaust breaks out...maybe. One scene I found very interesting was when Joshua kept calling David on the phone in his room and trying to connect after he has been rejected. This could be interpreted as David’s sudden rejection of the technology that he formally worshiped. Though the next scene in which he is hugging the phone dispels this theory. He holds the phone close to his chest almost in an embrace. Any time we expect him to start rocking back and forth holding it. It’s hard to say what the director meant by this sequence. To say the least its still pretty ironic and humorous.

This movie was pretty different because it dealt with computer games rather than traditional system based video games. I enjoyed the use of programmer and techy language like backdoor and firewall. Very amusing. When you think about a computer that learns how to learn, eventually wouldn’t it become smarter than any human being? It would have infinite knowledge.

More Thoughts on Wargames

A Rape in Cyberspace

Prior to reading this essay I was only mildly familiar with the idea of Muds (as explained during an EL236 informal presentation last year). I must note that when I first began reading I was a little bit disturbed by the actions of Mr. Bungle a.k.a Dr. Jest. I had never specifically heard of LamdaMOO, and frankly it sounded like the name of a fraternity. The funny thing is, it kind of was. It’s a close knit group of online text gamers that meet and have fun together. They all have a common interest and build stories off one another. I found that to be pretty neat, and it reminded me of some of the Buffy Role Play chat rooms I had been in before.

In regard to the act of sexual violence that Mr. Bungle committed I was at first perplexed. From his description alone you could tell he was a rather sick individual; “- he was at the time a fat, oleaginous, Bisquick-faced clown dressed in cum-stained harlequin garb and girdled with a mistletoe-and-hemlock belt whose buckle bore the quaint inscription KISS ME UNDER THIS, BITCH!”

I personally didn’t see why these users were so incredibly offended. Yes, they were defiled and violated, but it was on a game, not in real life. If they didn’t like it, they could change their username or make a move against Mr. Bungle. I am glad they did take action instead of whine about it forever because that would have been the kicker to really make me think less of the situation.

Points that I liked in this essay...

“Netsex, tinysex, virtual sex -- however you name it, in real-life reality it's nothing more than a 900-line encounter stripped of even the vestigial physicality of the voice.”

“And if the virtual setting and the interplayer vibe are right, who knows? The heart may engage as well, stirring up passions as strong as many that bind lovers who observe the formality of trysting in the flesh.”

Agenda Items (2)

“Some asshole blasting violent, graphic language at you? Don't whine to the authorities about it -- hit the @gag command and said asshole's statements will be blocked from your screen (and only yours). It's simple, it's effective, and it censors no one.”

Why can’t these users simply gag or block the one that is bothering them? When you are on AIM and you don’t like what someone is saying you hit the block button and all is well with the world. I think there are a lot more serious issues to be worrying about than a virtual rape. Maybe Bungle really was a psycho or he was just playing one in the game. I also thought that an interesting point to bring up would be the comment of the one user that suggested maybe this was better than this man (Bungle) going out and committing an actual rape. I agree, doesn’t mean he’s any less sick, but I mean which one would you prefer?

"perhaps it's better to release...violent tendencies in a virtual environment rather than in real life,"

January 3, 2006

Interactive Short Movie

The short movie Interactive made by Jim Munroe was actually better than I expected it to be. It was not what I had predicted. Interactive, the title referred to Interactive Fiction (IF), one of my least favorite type of game. One issue that is raised by this short film deals with the trial and error principle that surrounds Interactive Fiction, which is part of what I dislike. One wrong move and then you are dead and have to start over again in the game. The key to correcting your mistake is to realize where it was in the game that you went wrong. In this case when he removed the brain cap from his lover she stabbed him in the eye with a scalpel. Thats no fun for anyone. You notice that when they play the game again he takes a different approach, but still fails. The third time he comes closest to achieving his goal of liberating the girl. Interactive Fiction games deal a lot with the human ability to learn and correct. I thought about what Falken said in war games about a computer that learns to learn from it's mistakes...the only computer that can truly do that is the human brain. This is perfectly exemplified through IF. But note, IF requires a lot of trial and error and isn't for those short of patience (like me).

New Games Journalism

An issue of experience..

Bow, N*gger... the name alone drew questions at first glance. Surprisingly this was a really neat look at a combination of a review based on real game-play experience. It reminded me of the review that I read over for Puff. It dealt with playing, then a dispute between players, but the focus of the article remained clear. It was written to tell you about the experience and the game. I suppose it could be debated that the main point in this article dealt with racism and online ignorance, but the author proved to be above that and on another level. From my understanding this was an older game given a resurgence of life from this review. I liked how in the end we still knew no more about this player than in the begining.

The article State of Play dealt with the differences between a simple review and pieces of work like Bow N*gger. Video game journalism, the term itself is music to my ears. All things I like are involved. I used to be a subscriber of Playstation Magazine (PSM) and I remember how the articles were formatted. They basically either pointed you towards buying the game or told you not to waste your time. Once the game had been out for a while then the cheats began to emerge. There wasn’t enough to get you hooked every time on a game. This article on the State of Play dealt a lot with the reasons why Bow, N*gger wouldn’t fir into the structure of today’s gaming magazine industry.

It’s the same reason that we don’t always get quality journalism in other areas of the news as well. These writers simply don’t have enough information about the game to write an in depth personal account. I’m not saying they don’t have knowledge of gaming. I am saying that they can’t know about every game. Just like a journalist covering the sports beat one day and nuclear fission the next. They can’t be an expert on it all, but they can have “basic knowledge”. For many reasons that is why when gamers read an article by a person with “basic knowledge” they often feel like they know more than the writer. In most scenarios, they do.

Important Applicable Quotes:

“Magazine writers rarely get more than a couple of days with a game.”

“Most video game magazine staff just don ?t have the correct experience or training to pull off this kind of writing. There is a thin line between subjective and self-indulgent and it's one that magazines tend to throw themselves straight over.”

Ex 1C: Game Review (Final)

Nate Adams: Freestyle Motocross (FMX)

In Nate Adams: Freestyle Motocross (FMX) gamers play as motocross legend Nate Adams, the 2004 Summer X Games Champion of Freestyle Motocross. This game, published by I-Play brings the excitement and sheer technique involved in motocross to a mobile device. As Adams, players race against the clock to pull off required trick sequences which unlock a total of 21 tracks featuring a variety of dips, hills and ramps.

When I downloaded this game for my LG mobile phone the first thing I thought of was Excite Bike (Nintendo) and how much I loved playing that over and over. Similarly, FMX has a great potential for replayability. Though the game does not differ if you play it multiple times, it still proves fun. I have beaten the game twice since acquiring it earlier this year and found it to be a challenge each time. The levels become progressively more difficult as you advance in the game.

The time requirements for each level are hard to meet unless you land every trick perfectly and don’t wipe out along the way. In order to avoid wiping out and losing valuable time lean forward and backwards to balance the bike on-track and in mid-air. Another way to overcome the harsh time limits is by pulling off tricks to gain nitro boost to give you much bigger air which enables further flight. Landing combinations of tricks will also gain nitro boost to be used when traveling on the ground.

Screen_Shot_Sequence.jpg

FMX supports play for only one user at a time, but you can race against a computer generated ghost opponent that is modeled after your previously set best times. This is kind of pointless unless you use the race to beat your own record or practice meeting a certain time. The controls for the game are fairly simple. The arrow pad and *, 0, and # keys on your mobile device allow you to do eight of Adams’s signature moves, some of which include the McMentz, Tsunami and the Lazy Boy.

The games graphics are slightly cartoonish, but this doesn’t take away from the overall playing experience being graphically appealing. The game’s sound track and sound effects are a different story. I found them to be rather annoying and I recommend turning off all sound when playing the game to heighten concentration.

If you like extreme sports games that are fun and engaging then I recommend that you try Nate Adams: Freestyle Motocross (FMX) for your mobile device. If you are in search of a more competitive multi player game you are going to have to look elsewhere, because in this game the only person to beat is yourself. Though FMX does bring reminiscence of classic motocross games like Excite Bike, it lacks competitive edge.

January 4, 2006

Koster, A Theory of Fun (Foreword to Chapter 4)

Foreword:
Well someone must be on my side because when I checked my mailbox at 5p.m. it was full goodies. Both Groundhog Day and “A Theory” were there waiting to be opened and used. I was about to tear the U.S. postal service a new one if they didn’t arrive soon. But, without any further delay here is what I thought about Raph Koster’s book. Initial reaction: I love it! I actually thought it was entertaining to read and very personal. The pictures are wonderful and hilarious, and they match everything he is talking about. I enjoyed his very in depth descriptions and found them highly relatable to my own experiences with gaming. In the Foreword we again see the idea presented of video games being more than a form of entertainment, but rather an art form. (JWEB Ex: W2B) When Koster said he was “making games rather than contributing to society,” I knew this was going to later be refuted. One concept in the book the I found to be very valid was: playing and learning through playing.

Chapter 1:
There was a lot about the human brain as well as the ability to learn that I never realized until reading this book. For instance, we become naturally bored by a game that we master or quit it once we feel inept or challenged. This reminded me of my experience with Interactive Fiction. The fun factor just wasn’t happening for me, despite a noble effort. Koster’s book helps find some semblance of a definition for the word fun and also the word game. We know now that fun and games go hand in hand, even though no definition states such a thing. I specifically recall the quoted definition from Sid Meier on pg 14.

Agenda Item:“Fun is a series of meaningful choices.”
I do not at all agree with this definition. I don’t know if at this point in time I can put this much meaning into a game.

In regard to brain patterns, I did find the image of pac-man eating tasty brain patterns rather amusing. Another observation; our brains do a lit of things subconsciously. When Koster talked about memorization being a large part of gaming this struck a deep chord with me. In the eighth grade my class attended a lecture given by Ben Carson. We had just finished reading his book Gifted Hands. He said that if your brain really had to it could in fact remember every person you ever met. This was so hard for me to comprehend and ‘wrap my head around’ at the time, but now it makes more sense. Maybe I am just a little dense, but I have a question to pose. If noise is any pattern we don’t understand, then why do I hate the sound of a vacuum cleaner and consider it noise? I understand it, in the conscious, but not in the subconscious? Thats where it starts to get a little deep.

Chapter 2-3:
Grokking = mastery. When the brain is really into something, we practice it in our sleep and that just makes me wonder about too many non-video game related things. I guess I need to read a book on dreams. Lol. I agree the games often exist in a world all their own, and this is for the best. Sometimes tying to fathom some of these surreal creations in games is too much for someone to perceive as being part of this existence. I enjoyed the quote: “our brains are on drugs all the time.” I found the idea of games as teaching devices interesting. What is the market like for educationally based games? I remember in school we played them in the lower grades to learn reading and math. What about today? Aren’t they mostly PC based rather than for any gaming systems?

Chapter 4:
I was relieved to find out that after years of gaming I was actually learning through out the entire process. I mean it’s really amazing. Tetris taught us spatial reasoning, Poker taught us about odds, and Super Mario Brothers 3 taught us about exploration and memory at the same time. In particular I remember the card matching game the Mario/Luigi had to play where you match a flower = flower, or a 1up = 1up and the cards never moved, it was all memory. Love that part of the game. Playing games is about learning life altering skills and that is awesome.

End Note: If games are childish then I guess I am a child..=)

Space Invader Links

Just something for the kids...1.gif2.gif3.gif
1. Wikipedia Entry - Space Invaders
2. The Ultimate Space Invaders Shrine
3. PSX Extreme - Space Invaders Re-Release
4. Space Invaders History
5. Retro-Gaming, Re-Creating the Magic
6. Classic Arcade Games - Space Invaders
7. Space Invaders Game FAQ
8. Neave Games
9. Taito Legends Game Review
10. The Toronto Star

Groundhog Day

I watched Groundhog Day and can’t really say that I enjoyed it as much now as I did when I was younger. I hadn’t seen the movie in a long time, but I seem to remember it being much funnier and with less emphasis on the romantic comedy. But then again I guess when I was younger I wasn’t necessarily that keen on details. Now, to the meat of the entry, replayability as demonstrated through the movie. The first time that Phil relives the day he ignores his duties as an anchor/weatherman and wanders around the town, he alters what he did the day before. Its interesting to look at this as his rejection of completing the task at hand and comparing it to the similar rejection of game rules in the short film “My Visit to Liberty City.” Phil is making conscious choices through out these days that he is reliving. If I were to categorize his experience of conscious game choice I would pair it with the sandbox, discussed in our class blog on GTA3.

Though it was not as if his “game world” did not have limits. There is obviously a time limit; 24 hours to beat the game. After all he could essentially never leave the town until he achieved the task/goal which remained elusive until trial by error paid off and he figured it out. I found that every time Phil committed suicide it was like he was hitting the restart button on the game that was his life. I thought about comparing this to the feeling that a gamer gets when they are frustrated with the way a game is going, they either turn it off completely or restart it. Phil was trying to do both of these things by taking his own life (but more so he wanted to just die = turn off the game). Phil’s frustration with the “unbeatable game” known as Groundhog Day is evident again as he smashes the clock morning after morning. When you play a game over and over and don’t advance, this type of feeling can take over. Phil’s experiences with replayability mirrored in my opinion (and I hate to admit it) an IF game. Phil tried a variety of solutions until he found one that worked.

I liked the statement Phil made at the end of the cycle when he woke up with Rita and proclaimed, “Anything different is good.” I thought about his entire experience of getting to know the town of “hicks” that he once despised. He came to know, love and accept a different lifestyle. In the end Phil was profoundly changed and his Xenophobia was gone. I was thinking about Koster’s points about games emphasizing outdated messages like xenophobia. Is it possible that what happened to Phil is a better message that modern games should be delivering? It is one centered on initial judgement, experience and then a different opinion in the end. It is one that teaches acceptance, through replayability. I readily related the relief felt by Phil at the end of the movie to the relief felt when a player beats a game after long and tumultuous hours/days/months of gaming.

In the end the solution was so simple and Phil even got what he wanted. He became a celebrity, only it was not on t.v. it was amongst the towns people that had gained respect for him on the last relived day. He solved his problem, but in a different way. This is another reason it reminded me of IF. The “game” was structured in a way that everyone won in the end and achieved their goals. Replayability in games is a luxury that we are allowed depending on the game’s designer. In the case of Groundhog Day we can assume that the “game designer” is some type of higher power teaching Phil a lesson.

More thoughts on Groundhog Day

January 5, 2006

Portfolio #1: EL 250 (Draft)

tmnt_banner.JPG

This is the first installment of my Blog Portfolio for the 2006 J-Term Semester: EL250 MWG: Viedo Gaming. For those of you that did not follow my Blog the prior to now I will give you a brief exposition about me. My name is Leslie Rodriguez and welcome to my weblog sponsored by Movable Type. I am a sophomore at Seton Hill University and as part of my EL 250 class and the New Media Journalism program I write and respond with blog entries on various topics.

These entries are then posted for public view on my blog. This entry acts as an introduction to my blog portfolio which includes selected entries that reflect on our in class discussions, published news articles and various texts that Dr.Jerz has assigned. The following topics will be examined and discussed in my blog portfolio:

The Collection
My best blog entries that demonstrate intellectual growth.
Entries are categorized accordingly.

Coverage for Assigned Readings:
My Trip to Liberty City- An analysis of the short movie we watched. I commented on the class blog as well and posted a link at the bottom of this entry. We don’t see the character going to the far left and then getting stuck walking into a building, etc. (Depth)

A Rape in Cyberspace- On my blog I made arguments that Mr. Bungle's actions were not all that horrible in relation to real life violent crimes. Thoughtful commentary from Puff, Evan & Jerz included. (Interaction)

New Games Journalism I- I relate the State of Play article to my own experiences reading game journalism, which includes reviews. I also go in depth about Bow N*gger. (Depth)

Interactive- This was my interpretation of the IF based movie Interactive. It was a bit abstract, but my entry helped Kayla, who was previously unfamiliar with IF to better understand the genre of game. (Interaction)

Koster Foreword to Ch 4- I think I may be one of the only people to have blogged about this book so far. This is my introductory response and initial reaction. I related my own playing of Super Mario 3 to an important point Koster made about memory functions and gaming. (Depth)

Coverage for Discussions/Comments:
Red v.s Blue- On the class blog I explored the concept of video game characters having other lives than just being part of the game. You don’t normally associate this type of high level thinking with video game characters, but in Red v.s Blue this occurs.

Rhino Feeder- I commented on my experience playing this delightfully simple game that had strange subtext about positive and negative reinforcement.

Secret Collect- I commented on the game and how it was entertaining in its primitive and seemingly pointless objective. My classmates seemed to agree with those statements.

A Rape in Cyberspace/Puff's Blog-I commented on Puff's blog about my feelings involving actual hurt; emotional & mental; that could be caused by this case. In the physical definition of the word he wasn't hurting anyone at all.

Interactive Fiction- An account of my not so nice time playing Adventure. Ps, I used the annotated version up to a point. A look at Interactive Fiction games through my first hand experience.

Movie Responses Each is an in depth analysis of the assigned movie that can be found on my personal blog. SK3D,Wargames,Groundhog Day

Movie Commentary
SK3D Class Entry- These are some additional thoughts that I did not include in my personal blog entry on the movie. The issue of cut throat gaming and competition comes up in discusion.

Wargames Class Entry- These are some additional thoughts that I did not include in my personal blog entry on the movie, but I added to the class blog.

Groundhog Day- These are some additional thoughts that I did not include in my personal blog entry on the movie, but I added to the class blog.

Xenobloging
The Comment Primo- My response to A Rape in Cyberspace on Stephan Puff's blog.
The Comment Grande- An elaborate response to the movie Wargames on the class blog.
The Comment Informative- My response to New Games Journalism II on the class blog. I e-mailed the author of the Rez + Sex article and hope to post any response.

Wildcards
Wildcard- My Wildcard entry is one that I wrote Dec. 30 prior to the start of the class. It shares in detail my personal experiences with video gaming over the years. I thought it was a nice introduction to me as well.

My Game Review- I was really proud of the way this game review of Nate Adams Motocross (FMX) turned out. I wanted it to be professional, but also readable and fun. I put together the screenshot sequence myself.

The Truman Show & The Matrix

This movie makes some good points about simulations in relation to perfection and the ideals associated with a utopian society. It was very coincidental that in both The Truman Show and The Matrix the characters of Truman and Neo both rejected their simulated lives. Truman rejects his world, one he had known all his life at the end of the film and leaves the studio in search of the real world. He uncharacteristically chooses the unknown instead of the familiar. Similarly, Neo, whose idea of the real world is actually a simulation, rejects the Matrix and his “real world.”

Both Neo and Truman choose to live in a much harsher world that is full of devastation, poverty and real issues. They abandon the cradle where they were living and branch out into uncharted territory. It is clear that Truman has no idea what awaits him as he stands at the exit of the studio pondering what to do. The world in which Neo chooses, Zion, is one where uncertainty and unpredictability are two very prominent themes. So the question remains, why would these two men reject perfection and utopia?

Even if they were simulations, neither of them knew it at the time and up until they found out they were living good and acceptable lives. Here is what I think. Man as a species does not like being deceived, they do not like to be misled. To continue, the human race is a stubborn race to say the least. Going back and living like mindless zombies in these simulation worlds would be giving in to the higher power that was controlling them all along. They would much rather endure pain and suffering in a cruel world than to never have felt it at all living in a perfect world.

Kayla's Blog has an interesting thought on simulations and their place in both worlds as well.

More thoughts on The Truman Show & The Matrix

Koster, A Theory of Fun Ch 5-8

Chapter 5:
“Ignore the fiction that wraps around the game,” is what Koster said about the roles of storylines in video games. Fancy graphics are for show and nothing more is the gist of this section of the book. Games are more about teaching mathematical problems/patterns than they are about telling stories. This is where we begin to see a division that tells us what games are really about. I’m not sure I agree so much with Koster when he talks about the quality lacking in the back story of games. I think that sometimes this can be what drives a player to a game. What about games like Prince of Persia? That took an immense amount of creativity to come up with the story.

Sometimes game stories are epic tales that become bigger than the actual game and spin off into fan-fiction etc. I was intrigued to read that games centered on ‘power fantasies’ were considered juvenile. I know 40yr old men that play games because it makes them feel powerful to dominate and opponent. I suppose this isn’t limited to age or even gender for that matter. Though Koster says games are not stories, I disagree. They are interactive stories and they are story driven.

Agenda Item:
“Fun as I define it, is the feedback that brain gives us when we are absorbing patterns for learning purpose.”-Koster

Chapter 6:
Apparently I have an empathizing brain...because I am a woman. Ok, I’ll accept that. I enjoyed the statement Koster made about girls playing ‘boy games’ growing out of traditional or stereotypical gender roles in their later years. This is important to me, having been on of those girls. Playing these types of games helps to make women more well rounded and gives them life experiences that ‘girl games’ simply cannot possess.

Chapter 7:
Cheating and cheat codes are an issue that I have never really had a second thought about before. I don’t have a problem with using these codes and I have in the past in order to beat a part of the game that I found impossible. I figure its better to use a cheat code and be able to keep playing then to not use one and give up on the game because it has suddenly become too hard. I agree with Koster that cheating is a winning strategy that need not be looked down upon by the likes of the so-called morally righteous. I never knew that most games had historically been head to head against another player because in a sense that player is unpredictable.

Koster says this is popular for game designers to work off of because there is a constant stream of puzzles available to keep new and different patterns coming to your hungry brain. This especially holds true in fighting games because the opponent (whether it be computer or human) does different moves each time. Note: Evenly matched opponents are best. I especially liked the cartoon on pg 127, and the way it represented a constant need for society to want a game that combines all the elements of fun games. The dance pad was a nice touch.

Chapter 8:
Even I have skipped the back story a few times to get to the meat of the game. Usually after I have seen it once that is enough for me. I know the goal of the game or particular level and don’t need to be seeing it a million times. I die or for some reason am forced to restart the game, clicking through the annoying story at the begining adds to my frustration with the game. In regard to players playing head to head and then quitting because they were inferior brings me to an example in my own family. My Dad likes to play games that he is sure he will do well in. If he doesn’t understand it then he can find it annoying, as would most people.

When we were younger I never beat him at a football, baseball or tennis game once, for any of our many gaming systems. But, when I got older this changed and the first time I beat him was on Playstation playing Tiger Woods Golf Classic. And I didn’t even like golf at the time. All I can say about playing the same type of character over and over is that I am too at fault for doing this. I’d like to refer to my experience playing Tony Hawk Pro-Skater. I always played the character of Elisa Steamer, because she was the only girl in the game. We gravitate towards what we know, right? Being in the zone “feels good.”

January 6, 2006

El 250 Portfolio #1( Final Reflection)

My experience thus far in EL 250: MWG Video Gaming has been a really extraordinary one. Coming into this course I had many expectations about what we were going to be doing, and each of them has been met (thanks in part to my very enthusiastic classmates). In the first JWEB assignment (Orientation & Reflection) I wrote a personal reflection about why I wanted to take this course and told about my own experiences with video games.

“Early on I was very interested in taking this course mainly because of its unique nature. Video gaming is a large part of our development from a young age, in its many forms. I hope to gain a better understanding of gaming history from this course and the appeal of games.”

I am learning much more about gaming than I ever could have imagined and its turning out to be pretty cool. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the culture surrounding video games and the influence they have had on our society as a whole. I now know through various online discussions and blog entries that video games and gaming culture have had an immense influence on the movie industry. I used many of the skills I learned in AR 185: The Art of Film when doing assignments for this section of the course. I wrote a close analysis for each movie as if it were a text and I was doing a close reading.

I am particularly proud of my conclusions about simulations which involved the movies The Matrix and The Truman Show. I also started a discussion with Kayla on her blog about simulations. I’d have to say that I am also proud of my blog entries on Spy Kids 3D and Wargames which deeply analyzed the highly competitive nature of gaming and the role of technology in our lives. One of the movie entries that I especially liked was on Groundog Day and the use of replayability in that movie. I brought up some interesting points about Buddhism in the sense that each time we replay or restart a game it is a metaphor for reincarnation.

I have been able to capitalize on my experience as both a blogger and a journalist in this course and that is something I am really proud of. I have been able to apply my journalism skills to a game review I wrote on Nate Adams Motocross (FMX) as well as my contributions to class discussions on New Games Journalism. I have also enjoyed watching the short movies in class in order to get a better understanding of Interactive Fiction in regard to replayability and the idea of machinima -- movies made by using environments created for videogames. Machinima was seen in the film a Red v.s Blue and I blogged about the idea that these characters had a higher level of thinking in the film than traditional video game characters. The short movie My Trip to Liberty City was probably my favorite to watch because it was rather satirical and put a funny spin on a serious game (Grand Theft Auto 3). After watching this film I found that my assumptions about viedo games were begining to change a little bit and some were even disproven.

The intimate nature of this course (the fact that it is composed of only six students) has also allowed me to have very signifigant interaction with my classmates. We have not resorted to leaving terse comments on eachothers blogs simply for the sake of xenoblogging, but have actually taken the time to give reflective responses to peer work. I no longer feel like commenting is a last minute thing to do right before the blog portolio is due. Regarding the text A Rape In Cyberspace, I left a comment on Stephan Puff's blog about the nature of Mr. Bungle's attack. Was he really a psycho?We tried to answer this question in various ways. The class discussion on the issue was very insightful as well.

We have only gotten into the first book for the class so far and that is Raph Koster's A Theory for Fun and Game Design. I really love this book. It's changed the way I think about games and the way I interpret things in games such as time limits, and other challenges. I reflected on the assigned readings for: Foreword-Chapter 4 and Chapters 5-8. I am excited to finish this text and then finish Laurel's book which I have already begun.

Game play has proven to be an important element of this course and I have had the opportunity to play several different games and do some research on them. After playing Nate Adams Motocross (FMX) for my game review I played Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for my Beyond The Review assignment. Early on in the course I played some of Strong Bad's video games in order to understand the simple nature of older games (Rhino Feeder, Secret Collect). Most recently I have taken to playing Space Invaders after doing some brief research on the game. I've posted the links to several Space Invaders sites on my blog too.

Overall I am pleased with my progress and contributions to the course. I know that the next week is probably going to go by even faster and I will have done so much by then. I think that there are real benefits to being involved in an online course like this because you can't just get left or lost by the wayside and skid through the cours hoping for a good grade at the end. The type of class that it is forces you (in a nice way) to be active and if you work hard it shows. I have included a link below to the full list of my contributions to the course including comments and other blog entires (this covers the ones I did not include above).

All My Contributions - A detailed list of what I have done in EL250.

Hayward - Video Game Aesthetics

Ever since I can remember the emphasis has been on photo-realism in “life like” kind of games some of which include the sports, fighting and war genres. As Hayward stated there has been a commercial push for photo-realism over the years. I agree that I like my games with incredibly realistic graphics if what I am looking at is supposed to be real. If I am playing a more abstract or non-realistic game I still want the object I am looking at to be exactly the way I would picture it if it was indeed real, but overall I can be more flexible with these types of games.

“The industry and the market are bewitched by the idea of more pixels and polys.”

I liked that he {Hayward} used the idea of putting animation in films as part of his example when talking about games. I had to watch Run Lola Run in my film class and it was really very good. The animation sequence takes place in two particular parts in the film. The introductory sequence is done in animation and one scene where she initially leaves her apartment is as well. The animator used very bright colors and simple cartoons to represent these actions. It was like looking at a bad MTV cartoon from the early 90s/late 80s. It also reminded me of “squiggle vision” which was largely associated with Dr.Katz, Professional Therapist.

“Films such as Run Lola Run and Amelie exhibit warped, surreal colour palettes that would translate easily into current game worlds.”

I was surprised to read that "All 3D games that have so far been a part of the photo-real push are actually cartoons of an oddly lit, particularly angular style." They (game designers) are so close to making games on a photo-realistic level that I predict that in the near future watching the characters on the screen will be like watching a movie. It will be just like watching ourselves in the game. And maybe some day we will be able to load our own images into the game and play as ourselves. Though I wonder if games this real will be a success? Is there such a thing as being too real?

One game that I really like that has non-realistic, but rather cartoonish graphics is Tekken 3. After winning the game with a new player you unlock the player's video that tells a little bit about their back story. They are supposed to look semi-realistic, but the graphics remind me of a Laura Croft realism rather than photo-realism. I find that to be sufficient in this case. In contrast, I have the game Desert Strike and it includes live action video from the characters and it makes the game fun until you play it and your flying a helicopter picking people up that look like mini-dolls and have no likeness to what you just saw. That can be a real dissapointment.

"Game art is a maturing phenomenon; the aesthetic variety shown here is a fraction of what is and will be open for exploration."

Hayward's conclusion about viedo game aesthetics was one that left some hope for the future, but also hinted at a bit of cynicism. Just reading this I can only get the feelings that Hayward feels we have reached our sufficient peak in regard to photo-realistic graphics and that we should stop trying. As I mentioned before there is the chance that graphics that are too real will backfire and people will lose interest in the game. In response to this maybe an abstract/cartoon revolution will happen and they will become popular again.
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January 8, 2006

Ex 2C: Beyond the Review (Final)

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS)

“I can’t believe I was once obsessed with beating this game!” Those were the thoughts I had the other night when I popped Activision’s Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS) into my Playstation hoping that playing it would muster a feeling of nostalgia from my teen years. Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. What blossomed was not exactly nostalgia, but closer to a heaping helping of disappointment topped off with a cherry of utter offensiveness. Two particular questions came to mind. How could I have wasted money on this game series, and why did I ever support such a blatantly sexist game?

For a total of fours years I had squandered my Christmas and Birthday money on buying the latest versions of THPS. I used to play them non-stop, but now after completing only the first three skate parks I felt completely disgusted. I wasn’t mad at the game for being bad or outdated, it was more a self-reflection. I couldn’t believe that I never picked up on it before; this game was totally sexist and I had spent $160.00 supporting the ideals that it represented. I can recognize this now that I am older, but at the time I was naive and can honestly say I had no idea.

Character representation and sexual innuendo in this game are it’s biggest issues regarding sexism. Out of the twelve players available in the game there are only two women, and they are the complete antithesis of one another. They fill the most stereotypical roles that you would associate with woman and are so far from one another on the spectrum that it isn’t even realistic. There is professional skater, Elissa Steamer, a scraggly haired tom-boy dressed in a t-shirt, baggy jeans and skate shoes and then there is Private Carrera, the tight shirt, mini-skirt wearing sex-pot that can be unlocked by beating the game with the character Officer Dick. The character name Office Dick alone is enough for you to realize something isn’t right here.

Besides the representation of the female gender in the game, there are obvious connotations associated with Private Carrera’s character that link her to being a loose or promiscuous woman and also link her to the male member. All of her skateboards that you can choose from have sexual names which include She Got Pop, Skate Hard, Erector Set, Viagra Falls, Manhandler, Feelin’ Blue, New Member, and Solid Wood.

I reflected on the game one more time before I came to my conclusions of why I didn’t like it anymore. Sure, I had grokked the game and mastered the first three versions through and through, but that was the least of my personal concerns. I think that the biggest issue here was the fact that I wasn’t a fourteen year old playing this game anymore, I was twenty year old college sophomore that had different beliefs than I used to have. The things that I thought were fun before aren’t necessarily fun to me now. This game’s age label which reads “ TEEN” clearly defines that this is not a game for anyone out of puberty.

I’ve come to the conclusion that now I crave a different type of game and a different feeling from playing than I used to. In the end, what exactly was I accomplishing by being all I can be in regard to a video game that didn’t even represent me? They are mere tools for relative entertainment, not some holy quest that needs to consume our lives. So every now and then I plan on picking up a game and playing it, but not letting it play me. I want to support something that I believe in rather than what I don’t. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (THPS) is going onto the retirement shelf in my house until further notice.

January 9, 2006

Ex 3A: Close Playing (200 words each)

1. September 12

The simulation September 12, created by Kabul Kaboom, was a direct reference about the war on terror that was started after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on America. The title of the game, Kabul Kaboom, refers to the mass bombing that took place in Kabul, Afghanistan in response to 9-11's events. The simulation is very unique and starts out with the instructions that there is no way to win or loose, you simply choose to shoot or not shoot. In the begining the simulation starts with very few gun wielding terrorist figures amongst civilians in an on screen representation of Kabul. The mouse cursor has become a scope for a weapon and when the mouse is clicked a bomb is dropped. There is quite an explosion and people die depending on where you aim. After a bomb is dropped, the scope turns red, with what I am assuming is blood to represent those you have just killed. It also becomes a timer until the next time you can bomb again. The way the blood moves around the scope is like a clock and likely signifies twenty four hours. Many of the bombings took place at night and went on at particular times each day and this may be a reference to that detail.

The urgency in which we took actions against Afghanistan is also evident in this simulation. It is titled September 12, which implies that we let no time pass before retaliating. The civilians, dressed in blue are often casualties and when they are killed the sound of mournful crying is played in the background. Then suddenly the kneeling mourners turn into terrorists. I felt this was where the most political message was delivered. The game is simply emphasizing that the more we bomb Kabul, the more the threat level is going to rise and they will hate us. Americans killing innocent people is only going to drive them (the innocents) to join the terrorists because now they are fighting on a united front against America. I think another message that this simulation is trying to get across is that there is no winner in a war, because both sides loose lives (even though this simulation only depicted loss on the Afghani side). The idea here is that fighting and using violence to remedy such a problem will only lead to more violence.

2. Madrid

The simulation, Madrid, created by Kabul Kaboom was one that had a subtle political message that was hard to understand at first. There was a group of people of all ages standing next to one another and holding candles. The object of the simulation was to click on the candles with the mouse and make them brighter. The problem with this objective was that it was impossible. There was no way to keep all the candles shining brightly. At first I did not understand why these people were standing holding candles. They didn’t seem unhappy because they were all smiling, but then again I later got the feeling they might all have been dead, but that is just speculation. Since the premise of Kabul Kaboom’s first simulation was about terrorism, I assumed that somehow this simulation must have been linked to it as well. Each of the people on the screen also had on and “I Love (insert location here)” t-shirt. The one that stood out at first was the shirt that said “I Love Oklahoma” which immediately made me think of the Oklahoma City Bombing. I believe the other places on the shirts may have been linked to bombings as well. The message in this simulation might be about the frequent nature of terror attacks, and how we are having so many so it is hard to keep the memory (represented by the candle) of all these people burning bright. I also associated the candles with light of hope or inspiration of some sort after the bombings occurred.

Brenda Laurel - Utopian Entrepreneur

I started reading Utopian Entrepreneur prior to the start of class for two reasons; it was short and it was the first book to arrive that I had ordered. I was immediately drawn to the unique layout of the book which reminded me of a comic in some ways, though it really didn’t contain that many cartoons or pictures. Laurel co-founded the company Purple Moon, which sounded very familiar to me. As I read on about her company and its product I was suddenly hit by a profound bolt of lightening from the sky. I owned one of the Barbie games that Laurel had created. I rummaged back through a pile of CD’s in my attic and there it was Barbie Story maker, an interactive story copy written to Mattel Media (1996). I’m sure it is related to Laurel’s games (8 total, plus a website), though the main character was not Rocketed Moved. My cousin Blair was more into the Rocketed programs and I think she even got on Laurel’s Purple Moon website and did the e-card thing a few times. But, thats enough about my childhood for now, lets talk about Laurel’s mission.

Brenda Laurel, a woman of many accomplishments set out to create interactive media for young girls. She was a large part of the girls game movement (which I don’t really remember) that was launched in 1996. One thing that I was surprised to learn was that no one made any real profits from her game and that the market crowded very fast. I guess once one company puts out a certain type of game another one is right on their heals with a newer better version with the same premise.

Agenda Item: What are your thoughts on this quotation from Branda Laurel?
“Utopian entrepreneurs manifest a different ethic simply through the force of their choices and actions.”

For utopian entrepreneurs the outcome of their businesses are harmonious with public good even when they could do otherwise to profit. Meaning, that in fact Laurel was doing everything for all the right reasons, which in this case were for the girls. She later made clear that even though you are this utopian entrepreneur, you still have to know that business end of the deal. As with any powerful medium (such as games) there is the spawning of great public fears, though it sounds like Laurel wanted to make a difference through gaming and make those fears subside rather than grow. I enjoyed her analogy that things that are popular are often times considered bad for you and vise versa. I see it in the same light as addictions. They are bad for you, but many people have them and the addiction makes them feel good and may be popular (smoking, drinking, video gaming). The work Laurel was doing was humanistic work that was value driven.

I admire the fact that she stuck to her guns for most of the time that she was developing games and didn’t buckle down from the pressure to create popular games that included violence (games that make $$$). I am not sure that her Barbie games reached all girls though and that is where my personal concern would lie. The Rockett series in my opinion only catered to a marginal group of girls that played with Barbie products. I started to think about games for girls that were out there and I was drawn to talking about Mrs. Pac-Man. In my opinion Pac-Man was a very unisex game, but I suppose calling him Pac-MAN was the problem. I have this game for Sega Genesis and the option is available to play the wife. This was done in order to draw more female players to the game (most likely a little sister or someone that the male of the house could play against). The key is to know the consumer in and out (according to Paul Allen).

Through out reading, I did see Laurel as a modern humanist. I found it strange and kind of ironic that she hated Barbie yet she worked for Mattel. I found this to be pretty unbelievable in my opinion. I don’t necessarily agree with the statement she makes about Barbie being the sole cause for girls having a poor self-image later in life. I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, I’m just saying that if you write a book and put that statement in it, I want cold hard facts and figures that show me that evidence. Are you going to tell me that every woman that gets some form of plastic surgery, has a poor self image and it is because of Barbie?

Since Laurel’s games were based on storytelling, I drew some comparisons to weblogs being devices in which one can tell a story on the web. Similar to Koster, she touches on the idea of morals and values being subtly conveyed through video games. In some cases there is indeed an issue with children distinguishing reality from illusion and that is when people get hurt.

Final Thoughts:
Overall I felt like Laurel’s book expressed the viewpoints of a woman who had been a part of many different technological revolutions. I feel like Laurel talks a lot about social repercussions and responsibility associated with games, but fails to reference her gaming experiences all the time. She uses them as introductory material and then rants for the next 10 pages or until its time for a new point. I feel like instead of reveling in the technology that she created, she scoffs at it and claims negative effects on people (society) because of it. I wonder if she had the chance to do it all over and do things differently, would she?

January 10, 2006

Become one with the game...you bet I did...

To begin: An internal monologue:

My name is Lara Croft. I am the desire of every man’s fantasy (ok maybe more than a few lol). I am beautiful, smart, and I can kill you with my bare hands within seconds. I have the ability to leap and do acrobatics in mid air while firing off one of my numerous guns at you. The best part is that I can do it all without getting a wrinkle in my clothes or a hair out of place on my sweet little head. I never worry about breaking a nail either. I am a bad ass bitch ready to take some names and kick some ass.

These were my exact feelings and thoughts when I played Tomb Raider, Tomb Raider II, Tomb Raider III, and Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation tonight when trying to get a feel for the game in order to do my close playing for tomorrow. I love Tomb Raider. I have the games for my Playstation and also have the two Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie (who is amazing, and if you haven’t seen any of her films I must slap you in a somewhat hard manner on the wrist) as the great Lara Croft. What can I say? I simply cannot get enough of Lady Croft. I suppose I should try and narrow down why exactly I like Croft so much and favor her in comparison to other video game vixens.

A. She is not the bubbly blonde bimbo character that often appears in fighting games. Ex: Tekken 3's Nina Williams. Sure she can kick some ass too, but she is still not breaking any kind of special mold in my opinion. She is actually a bit of a slut. Also, Croft is a brunette and in some of the earlier games, *gasp* a redhead! Who would have thunk it? The goofy redhead becoming such an unquestionable hottie for all to admire. Score one for the non-blondes, but score two for the tormented redheaded step child in all of us.

B. Lara Croft in video games (not movies) succumbs to no man’s mercy. Did you ever pick up on the fact that she is the only women in her games and that she is fighting against men? She also very rarely works with other people. She kills men and does not let them dominate her mentally or physically. She is highly respected by all of her male peers (in the movies) and she does not use her sexuality to advance in the game. Ex: We never see Croft acting in a ‘sexual/provocative manner’ in order to distract the armed guards in the game, they will shoot her just like anyone else. Gender does not matter in this game of life and death.

C. Even though I said above that gender does not matter, I mean that in strict regard to the fact that the enemy will kill her no matter what gender she is. In response to the entire game, gender does matter because there is a female lead in the game (highly unusual at the time of the games release in 1999). This game is incredibly empowering rather than degrading like some feminist critics have said.

This entry kind of plays off some ideas that I am going to try and use in my term paper. Why is it so bad to fantasize about being a big breasted, powerful woman that kicks ass in the name of all that is right with the world?

January 11, 2006

Portfolio #2: EL 250 (Draft)

This is the second installment of my Blog Portfolio for the 2006 J-Term Semester: EL250 MWG: Video Gaming. For those of you that did not follow my Blog prior to now I will give you a brief exposition about me. My name is Leslie Rodriguez and welcome to my weblog sponsored by Movable Type. I am a sophomore at Seton Hill University and as part of my EL 250 class and the New Media Journalism program I write and respond with blog entries on various topics.

These entries are then posted for public view on my blog. This entry acts as an introduction to my blog portfolio which includes selected entries that reflect on our in class discussions, published news articles and various texts that Dr.Jerz has assigned. The following topics will be examined and discussed in my blog portfolio:

The Collection
My best blog entries that demonstrate intellectual growth.
Entries are categorized accordingly.

Coverage for Assigned Readings on my blog:
Koster, A Theory of Fun - Final Thoughts & CH 9-End- My final thoughts on Koster's book which I really enjoyed. I posted a quote about the human condition as portrayed in games for my agenda item. “The average cartoon does a better job at portraying the human condition than our games do,” (176).

Hayward, 'Videogame Aesthetics'- This blog covers both the assigned reading for Hayward as well as the daily discussion prompt that involved photo-realism in video games. "Ever since I can remember the emphasis has been on photo-realism in “life like” kind of games some of which include the sports, fighting and war genres."

Laurel, Utopian Entrepreneur- In an entry on my blog I went in depth into what I thought about the cynical views of Laurel and why she seemed to be so bitter. She did shed light on a hint of optimism towards the book's end, but overall she responded negatively to all that technology had once created.

Coverage for Discussions/Comments on the class blog:
Video Games as Art- My in depth thoughts on the class blog in response to Ebert's comments about video games. For a man that reviews tons of movies that are all very different he was quite narrow minded about the possibility of video games as an art form on the same level of books and movies.

Aarseth's Game Studies editorial- My comments on the class blog about this editorial focussed on the motivation behind people that study video games for a living. Aarseth's article made it seem like there wasn't really any motivation until just recently. I proposed that studying games would accomplish more than sitting on the couch playing them all day long.

Wong, ''Life after the Video Game Crash''- On the class blog I talked about my own experiences buying the "new system" every time one was put on the market just because it was described as new and innovative. I can see an inevitable video game peak and plummet if this type of behavior continues in the future. Some day we are going to realize we have reached the limit as far as games go.

Laurel; Close Playing; Etc.- My thoughts on the class blog about the discussion prompt that asked us to examine the simulations closer after having completed our first close playing. Acting in the role of a utopian entrepreneur, Kaboom tried to make us (the auidence & players) understand that for every action there is indeed a consequence.

Analyzing Game Studies- My response and reflection on the process of collection reseach in order to prepare for writing the term paper. I offered insight into the fact that you have to sometimes look at things from a broader perspective in order to make your point with limited sources.

Revenge of the Son- On this blog of a former SHU student there was a discussion about teenagers and a possibly unhealthy obsession with video games. One woman said that letting her son play computer video games was the biggest mistake she ever made. I commented with several reasons why I thought a teenager might isolate themselves and find comfort in a video game.

Movie Responses Each is an in depth analysis of the assigned movie that can be found on my personal blog. The Truman Show & The Matrix

Movie Commentary
The Truman Show- On the class blog I offered a definition to the word simulation and a link to the site where I found it.

Simulations in Movies- My response on Kayla's blog about simulations in movies.

Xenobloging
The Comment Primo- I began a conversation with Kayla on her blog about simulations in the movies The Matrix and The Truman Show. We found that in each movie the characters responded differently to the conversations and noticed a common thread of someone in higher power trying to play God.

The Comment Grande- I commented on Kayla's blog in response to what Puff had mentioned about the possibility of Koster having interpretted this game as having no meaning, simply patterns. I made the point that this is not a game by the traditional definition of the word and we began a discussion that is still going on. I am returning to her blog frequently to continue the conversation.

The Comment Informative- Here on Evan's blog I posted a few questions about the different interpretations that we can get from watching/playing simulations like Madrid and September 12. All the messages seemed to be linked in their thinking about war and terrorism.

The Link Gracious- I linked to Kayla's blog entry about The Truman Show at the end of my entry and reccomended that people visit her entry for an in depth look at our conversation on simulations.

Wildcard Entry
Wildcard- This entry details my experience when I did my independent close playing on Tomb Raider. I bring up points about how the game made me feel and why I enjoyed it. Also, I touch a little on the topic of my term paper.

Other Blogged Assignments
Beyond the Revision (Final)-My final revision for the Beyond the Review assignment on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater.

Close Playing 1- Response to the simulations "September 12" and "Madrid"

EL 250 Portfolio #2 (Final Reflection)

My experiences in EL 250: MWG Video Gaming have been excellent and I really feel like I have been contributing to the class discussions over the past few weeks. This course has helped me build on my analysis skills as a journalist as well as a student. Coming into this course, I had always enjoyed playing video games because I viewed them as being a fun activity. Since I began this course I have reformed my definition of the word fun, and I have also come up with a new found respect for video games as an art form and serious genre. Through the many readings we have done, along with the close playings, and the textbooks we have read I have begun to understand that video games are more than just fun. They are indeed a way of life for many, and a significant part of our culture as a whole.

One particular topic in which I found great interest this week was simulations. There is a not a very distinct line between video games and simulations, but in class we (my classmates and I) decided to try and find that definition. We analyzed certain movies that dealt with simulations and then posted our thoughts on them. In my blog entry on The Truman Show and The Matrix, I brought up points about simulations being representations of a perfect utopian society and how it was very uncharacteristic for both Truman and Neo to reject perfection. The discussion in regard to simulations did not stop on my blog. I wrote a thoughtful response on Kayla Lukacs’s blog that detailed my own feelings about simulations as a game.

Another group of “simulation-games” that we examined in class were created by Kabul Kaboom and were politically charged representations of Kaboom’s thoughts on terrorism and military bombing in Afghanistan. The simulations, entitled “September 12" and “Madrid” stirred a lot of commotion amongst the class. On Kayla Lukcas blog, Stephan Puff and I began a discussion about what separates a game from a simulation and vise versa. I blogged a close playing on the two simulations as well and acknowledged the messages that Kaboom wanted the general public to know about the war on terrorism. On Evan Reynold’s blog I posted a comment about the interpretation of Kaboom’s messages and that there were various possibilities though they were all linked to terrorism. After doing these close playings, I began to see how games had a more profound impact on society than I had once thought. Games and simulations were now becoming tools for people to express their views on a certain subject or make a relative point about things like the war.

Other than having only social and political impacts, games can also have a great impact on the way we think and process information. Just recently a lot of research has been done on aggression and violence in relation to playing video games. I responded to a prompt on the class blog posted by Dr. Jerz that regarded a recent study that linked violent video games with the desensitized nature of people shown horrible images of massacre and death. The truth is that we see these things on the television news each night and that might be part of the reason we are used to them by now. No one is justifying a murder on television that we see, we are simply accepting it better because it is happening more and more frequently.

In regard to the text books that we have read in this section of the course, I must say that I have enjoyed most of them. I found Raph Koster’s book, A Theory of Fun for Game Design to be an interesting look at the function of the brain and how it can process a game’s patterns. In my final reflection on the last Koster reading I addressed the idea that Koster suggested that we use games to teach life lessons and valuable skills. Though I found Brenda Laurel’s book Utopian Entreprenuer to be a bitter and cynical look at the computer game industry, but I suppose I can’t fault her for being honest. Both Laurel and Koster had different ideas of how to use games as teaching tools and what exactly they should be teaching. Jesper Juul’s book Half Real, was the key to tying together everything that Laurel and Koster had been saying all along. Juul breaks down games and to me he is the middle ground between the previous two books that we have read.

Socially, video games have yet to reach their peak, though it was suggested in Wong’s article that some day we will reach the point of no return as far as games are concerned. I commented on the class blog that I was once part of the surge of people that went out and bought the next big game.

One of my favorite blogs that I did was on photo-realism which was discussed in the reading that we did for Hayward. This blog covers both the assigned reading for Hayward as well as the daily discussion prompt that involved photo-realism in video games. "Ever since I can remember the emphasis has been on photo-realism in “life like” kind of games some of which include the sports, fighting and war genres."

Overall I think that I have made some really solid contributions to the course so far. I am proud of my online as well as offline progress on assignments and I have proven that it is possible to do well in these types of classes (online ones).

My Blog Portfolio - A complete list of all my contributions in the second half of the course. Some of these may not be mentioned specifically in the above essay, but can be found here. Some entries not included above that you may want to check out include: Aarseth, Laurel-Close Playing-etc, and Analyzing Game Studies.

January 12, 2006

An interesting photo to start the day...

I was thumbing back through some photos I had saved of Rhona Mitra when she did some work as a Tomb Raider model. This one stuck out mostly because of the caption and the whole gun to mouth look she was going for. I always think its fun to look back at the first Croft models (some of which I think were good) and then look at what they chose in the end, Angelina Jolie.

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Though now that I think about it, this picture is portraying a very uncharacteristic look for Croft, with her hair down. If you examine the games closely, certain aspects of her "look" never change while others vary slightly. I like to think that Croft isn't trying to be sexy in her actions or appearence, and that she just comes across that way. In the end, her mission is to seek and destroy, not please the observer.

Ex 6A: Part II (Online Bibliography)

Tomb Raider Links

1. Tomb Raider Entry on Wikipedia- Until reading this entry I did not realize that there were many spinoffs of the game that even included comic books, original novels, and fan-fiction websites. I never thought about writing fan-fiction based on video games, only movies and television shows, but I suppose it makes just as much sense to do it for games too. This entry includes a very nice look at Lara's evolution from Tomb Raider I to the latest version of the game.

2. Official Tomb Raider Game Website- Though you have to have a password and username (which are free) to look at a lot of the things on this site it is still great. It only takes a second to register and is well worth the interactive menus that you will have access to. There are sections about Lara's history as well as the new game Tomb Raider Legend.

3. Genderplay: Sucesses and Failures in Character Designs for Videogames- In this article that was taken from a lecture given at Stanford University, one question brought up was; How many boys would have played Tomb Raider if they really felt that they were somehow taking on a feminine role? Another interesting point is the as we have the male gaze in many films, it is also present in video games. For that reason Croft can often be objectified.

4. Tomb Raider Creators Split from Core Design- I felt this spilt of the original Tomb Raider creators in order to go off and create their own design company was notable. The creator's responded by saying, 'We've enjoyed working with Lara these past seven years but are looking forward to creating something or someone new.'

5. "And why this patch"- A look into why Loren Petrich created the bob Patch which allowed players to edit and create characters that were "non-bimboish and in the style of the original Bobs." Tomb Raider is mentioned as being a game for which a patch was created to play as Lara Croft nude. It brought up some issues about women in gaming and what we want to see and then what we expect to see.

6. Screenshots & Game Walk Throughs - A website that offers original screen captures as well as level by level walk throughs of each of the Tomb Raider games. I found some hints on this site that helped me figure some things out in my playing of the original Tomb Raider.

7. Nude Raider Crackdown- A site that features an article about the Eidos and Core Design crack down on the Nude Raider Patch and sites that are providing it. This deals largely with the Tomb Raider image and the fact that many of her fans are under 18.

8. Is Any Body Out There? Gender, Subjectivity and Identity in Cyberspace- A lecture from The University of England about "quite ‘real’ simulated virtual worlds to explore and three-dimensional adversaries to shoot at." There is a nicely detailed section mid-way down the page after the Tomb Raider screenshot that talks about feminism in the game, or lack there of depending on who you ask.

9. A Look at the Game as a Motion Picture- An article drawing on the similarities between the male gaze in movies and in video games. Here we look at Croft's depiction in movies and the author examines the fact that in both movies Lara Croft, as portrayed by Angelina Jolie is shown nude or partially nude.

10. Needle Point Article- A neat article about a woman who makes needle point designs based on Tomb Raider and Lara Croft. The artist, Becky Schaefer describes herself as a tinkerer, a borrower, a parent and an artist. Pretty cool pictures as well. I guess this shows Tomb Raider can cross over into anything.

My Trackback to the Assignment

Juul - Introduction & Chapters 1-2

First Thoughts:
Where do I begin talking about Juul? In my opinion it is the most challenging text that we have read this far in the course and I can understand why Jerz chose it to be our last book. Juul’s thinking on a lot of issues really sums up most of what we were already talking about with Koster and Laurel. Sometimes he agrees with them and sometimes he does not. So far it has been harder for me to get into this book because it is what I would call “hard-science” research and talks about a lot of rules and what not. I’m not giving up on it yet though, because I’m sure I will be able to use some of Juul’s more detailed responses in my term paper or close playing.

Chapter 1:
The first thing you notice when reading this section is that Juul has an enormous emphasis on rules in games. Rules present us with challenges in a game. One quote in the first part of this chapter that I especially thought related to Koster and Laurel’s ideas about games as teaching tools was, “Playing a game is an activity of improving skills in order to overcome these challenges, and playing a game is therefore a learning experience,” (5).When Juul was talking about progression and adventure games I immediately thought of Tomb Raider, because it is the type of game that requires you to complete certain set tasks in order to progress further. This chapter also emphasized that games can be used in an array of other fields and that “to play a game is to improve your repertoire of skills,” (5). Juul also mentioned that “the player’s experience in of the game fiction appears not to require much consistency,” which I am going to reference in my close playing of Tomb Raider. In the playing I address several issues of consistency and realism in the game.

I agreed with Juul in his statement that many children’s games are not meaningful. Some of them really have no point and the rules do not even clearly define their purpose or goal. Then again you could argue that the goal to all games is fun. When Juul addressed working together in games I was also quite intrigued and it reminded me of what Koster had said about games having the ability to build teamwork. In the same regard Laurel said that social relationships could be built through games as well. Juul argues that both of these statements are valid, (19). Juul also agreed with Koster that often times the story behind video games does not really matter all that much. On pg 20, we begin to see what Koster was saying about games not being up to date in the content that they are teaching us. Juul concurs with him and suggests that video games “less commonly address the more complex interactions between humans such as friendships (think of Laurel), love, and deceit.”

Nearing the end of this chapter Juul began to talk about video games as an art form and I immediately thought of what Ebert had originally said about games not being able to ever mature to that level. “There is nothing inherent in video games that prevents them from ultimately becoming and being accepted as high art,” (21). Juul also suggested two more points that I found interesting. He said that fun lies within game play and that games are like films in the sense that they can all be interpreted differently. (Ok, so maybe this book isn’t that bad.)

Chapter 2:
This section deals a lot with the game model and Juul also trys to find a definition for the word game (a feat that both Koster and Laurel both attempted in their texts). Juul combines the previous definitions of several other people in order to come up with a 6 step comprehensive check list for what a game is composed of. I enjoyed that Juul brought up a very important point of discussion when he asked if games like Sim City and The Sims were actually games. This is what Kayla, Puff, and I have been trying to figure out ever since watching The Truman Show and playing "September 12."

Juul concluded that simulations were indeed a borderline case when it came to classifying them as a game or not. "Open-ended simulations like SimCity are not classic games since they have no explicit goals- that is, no explicit values are assigned to the possible outcome of the game, but what happens in the game is still attached to the player, and the player invests effort in playing the game," (43). Kayla, you were on the right track with your response. Another issue with The Sims/SimCity is that are games that do not describe one outcome that is better than the next.

January 13, 2006

How far is too far Ms.Croft?

"But the hype surrounding Lara Croft was gross. The hype undercut her image as strong smart archeologist. The hype made her into a sex kitten. Where are her guns now?" (Game Girl Advance). I felt like this picture had a lot to say about Croft and the way that some gamers feel she represents women.

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Exhibits A & B

"This was the cover art of a NextGen issue on how games are growing up. I rather think it demonstrates how immature gaming culture still was then, and is now,"(Game Girl Advance). Hark, listen to that controversy stirring around the world. Now look at the second picture and tell me what you think. Two very different portrayls of the same character.

January 14, 2006

A seemingly appropriate quiz...

You scored as James Bond, Agent 007. James Bond is MI6's best agent, a suave, sophisticated super spy with charm, cunning, and a license's to kill. He doesn't care about rules or regulations and somewhat amoral. He does care about saving humanity though, as well as the beautiful women who fill his world. Bond has expensive tastes, a wide knowledge of many subjects, and his usually armed with a clever gadget and an appropriate one-liner.

James Bond, Agent 007

83%

Maximus

79%

The Terminator

79%

Indiana Jones

79%

Lara Croft

71%

Captain Jack Sparrow

71%

El Zorro

67%

The Amazing Spider-Man

67%

Batman, the Dark Knight

63%

Neo, the "One"

58%

William Wallace

46%

Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with QuizFarm.com

Ex 5A: Close Playing 2 (Final)

Tomb Raider

Eidos’s popular game Tomb Raider is uniquely designed in such a way that it can be enjoyed by both men and women. Released in 1996, Tomb Raider made waves as the first action game to boast a female heroine. After playing the first edition of the game a player might want to take some time to reflect on what they have just done. These possible actions include blowing up a boat, killing more than a few men, and even maiming attack dogs. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is a game about power, and the one controlling Croft is the one with the power at any given moment. As a woman Croft is only empowered by the person on the outside of the game that is controlling her. She does not have the ability to act without the use of an outside force. In reality Croft can only move when the outside player wants her to, but in the fictional world which Croft lives she is acting on her own. Besides the obvious power trip that the player is taken on, there are a few design details that can be examined and de-constructed in order to better understand the issue of reality in Tomb Raider.

One of the first things someone playing the game might notice is the more than untraditional appearance of Lara Croft. From head to toe her wardrobe consists of combat/hiking boots, short shorts/skin tight camouflage pants, and a t-shirt/belly shirt. As a gamer there is the lingering question of how this woman [Croft] could be doing so many tremendous things when she is dressed as if she is going on a trip to the beach. The truth is that none of these incoherent events really matter at all because there is no rule stating that games have to be practical or based in reality.

Literally the biggest and most controversial issue surrounding the realism in Tomb Raider is Lara Croft’s chest size. In reality Croft is supposed to have a 38DD chest, and in that condition there is no doubt that she would not be able to run and jump the way she does on screen. In fact, for both Tomb Raider movies Croft’s larger than life chest was even reduced, to seem more realistic. The reduction of Croft’s chest in the movies is a direct response the differences between video games and film depictions of the same object. In a video game her chest size is accepted, but in film it may be subjected to more scrutiny and criticism for being unrealistic. There are different conventions surrounding reality in film and reality in video games. Though we are continually referring to the idea of games projecting realism, there is no decree stating that games need to have a certain amount of fantasy or reality in order to be accepted by the mainstream.

Raph Koster, author of A Theory of Fun for Game Design, would argue that as an audience, people do not seem to care about Croft’s chest size or her choice of a certain outfit in different game scenarios because we do not pick up on such patterns. “The brain is good at cutting out the irrelevant,” (18). The brain is indeed conditioned to respond to things unknowingly and this could in fact be just another small detail that we don’t look for when we play games. “We rarely look at the real world; instead we recognize something we have chunked, and leave it at that,” (22). The fact that Croft wears shorts with a winter jacket in the freezing arctic weather or has an unreal breast size is a sign that we as an audience are either too deeply involved in the game to notice, or we simply don’t care. Another theory is that rather than not noticing or not caring, we understand that Croft is simply an artist’s design. She is a character, a creation that has abilities and makes choices that we in real life cannot make.

Brenda Laurel, author of Utopian Entrepreneur, might have a rather different approach to the issues of Croft’s breast size and choice of clothing. In her book, Laurel talked about making games that were in fact true to real life and based in reality. When she met feminist criticism regarding the content of her games she argued that she was representing the real issues of young girls, such as popularity. Laurel argues that idealism is the better approach to creating games, then basing them in fantasy (27). When talking about why she created games based in realism Laurel said, “I took a lot of heat from some people...for portraying girl characters who cared about such things as appearance, popularity, belonging, betrayal...,” (3). Laurel goes on to explain that these were indeed real issues that young girls were dealing with and that the emphasis of game designers should be on culture work [which bases itself in reality] rather than fantasy. It is likely that Tomb Raider creators did not take into consideration the idea of culture work because the game falls into the category of an escapist third person shooter that is constructed around an incoherent world.

Jesper Juul, author of Half-Real: Video Games between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds, brings together the ideas of Koster and Laurel into one comprehensive argument regarding the issue of realism in Tomb Raider. Juul’s term incoherent world refers to the idea that “there are many events in the fictional world that we cannot explain without discussing the game rules,” (130). Incoherent worlds are the reasons why gamers can play in a world that has an illogical sense of storytelling, like Tomb Raider. Juul continues by stating that when gamers cannot justify a part of a game, they will refer back to the rules. If this method of thinking is applied to Tomb Raider, the question of how can Laura Croft jump and run with 38DD breasts can be answered by simply saying that she can because it is allowed by the game’s rules. Perhaps these factors are not as incoherent as why Mario has three lives, but it is still off balancer with physical reality, and many fans don’t seem to care about explaining it for a deeper narrative meaning.

The overall mix of fantasy and reality in Tomb Raider is part of what makes it such a great game to play. The reality in Tomb Raider was purposely distorted in order to give the player of the game a sense of power and control, whether they were male or female. Though there are several aspects of the game that do not mesh with our physical reality, this is justified by the argument that the game’s rules allow for such unbelievable elements in the game.

January 15, 2006

Ex 7: Pre-Submission Note

This is a detailed pre-submission note that I am making available for view. I posted a link to this page under the JWEB Pre-Submission Note. I feel this one is a bit more detailed and can address any other questions you may have. The file is available in Word.

Ex 7: Pre-Submission Note

January 18, 2006

Online Presentation

Presentation Banner.JPG

Disclaimer: Some of the links on this site are to images that you may find offensive. Proceed with caution. The only ones that I think anyone would have a real problem with are under the "NudeRaider" link.

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We [the class] have been talking a lot about Lara Croft on my blog the past couple of days and this is due largely in part to the fact that she is the topic of my term paper. I posted two very distinct pictures of Croft on my blog in order to get a general response from my classmates. The first was a promotional photo that someone added a caption [Babe In Toy Land] to and made into fan art (note the use of the word Babe). The photo featured a model dressed as Croft with a gun barrel pointed at her lips, and she was looking rather seductively at the camera [almost as if she was looking at you]. The issue that this photo raised was whether or not Croft was aware of her own sexual presence. In the end we concluded that the game designers control what we think about Croft.

“The game designers want to make her sexy, but for the character to come across as nonchalant and unaware,” said Stephan Puff.

A lot can be said here about control. It is one of the biggest issues that comes up when dealing with a game like Tomb Raider. The designers [males] have a certain amount of control over Lara [the woman]. This observation made by Puff holds true to a point made by cyber-feminist Dona Haraway and reminded me a little bit about what Brenda Laurel was saying about culture work and creative responsibility.

The second set of photos that I posted dealt a little bit more with the actual topic of my term paper which is Lara Croft as viewed by feminists and her perception in by the general public. The one photo featuring Lara bare breasted on the cover of a NexGen magazine cover was considered immature and vile by a blogger at Game Girl Advance. The second photo, that I had planned to use as a milder comparison was of Croft displaying the barrels of her guns and pointing them at the observer. This photo was just as controversial as the other, but for different reasons.

KK a fellow blogger responded to the second picture by saying, “the second picture just puts into the viewer's mind that the breasts are "guns". While I cannot say that I have seen the movies or games based around this character, I can assume that they neutralize guns as okay, as toys, perhaps--and might this picture reverberate the suggestion that the woman's breasts are toys, like the guns? Or if violence "turns on" the user, the breasts-as-guns might have the same effect.”

I had gotten honest responses from my peers and classmates, which was the ultimate goal of the postings. Karissa gave me the greatest fuel for my fire and I began to research my topic. Obviously there was something offensive about Croft and it wasn’t just her appearance, it was her whole package, guns and all. For my paper I am focusing on the feminist critique of Croft and its validity based on feminist idealism.

Looking at Croft, what is your first opinion of her? Do your eyes dart right for her breasts, or are you more interested in the weapons she is carrying? Why do you like her? These are questions that you’ve got to ask yourself. Karissa’s comments also gave me the idea of another comparison to make regarding Croft. “And where do we draw that line? Art? Pornography? An age-old controversy...” (Kilgore).This is also where I began to see a connection between the feminist argument against Croft.

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1. "It's a feminist's worst nightmare," says Ariel Levy, a writer for New York magazine. "She wakes up 30 years later and abortion rights are being threatened while porn stars are the new role models."

1A. Tomb Raider is promoting pornography. Looking at Croft on screen is like looking at a pornographic magazine. Gamers that find her sexually desirable exploit her computerized image with the unauthorized “NudeRaider” patch that can be applied to the computer version of the game to play nude as Lara.

2. “When girls try to act like the boys, she concludes, the results can be more limiting than freeing,” (Levy).

2A. Lara Croft possesses a lot of masculine traits that some women find unappealing for a woman to be representing to the masses.

3. "The girls I talked to have this sense that it's about having big breasts, being as hot as possible, putting on a performance.” (Levy).

3A. Many feminists critique Croft in the same way that the critiqued Barbie. They claim that she adds to the development of a poor self-image for young girls that try to reach her unattainable looks. In both cases the cause of plastic surgery as well as plastic surgery addiction have been linked to these fictional women.

Heading 2.JPG

1. “The action genre is typically masculine so this type of characterization is often celebrated as at least offering some compensation for the ubiquity of oppressive representations of women and the preponderance of masculine hard bodies,” (Kennedy).

1A. Croft breaks stereotypes and shows that women can be strong and beautiful. It is not necessarily a bad thing that she is a sexual icon. She is not exploiting her sexuality, like some other games do to their female character. No harm, no foul.

2. “Lara Croft is a positive role model for women and girls and a possible entry point for women into the male discourse domain of computer games. Similar to the way male science fiction writers like Alfred Bester and Samuel Delaney created tough female heroines in cyberpunk fiction, predating the emergence of female science fiction writers and a female readership, the appearance of female heroines in computer games, albeit male constructions of femininity, can be seen as a first step, an invitation for women to play computer games,” (Schleiner).

2A. She is breaking the stereotypes for women in games and opening opportunities for women in the genre as a whole.

3."These patches suggest that the boundary between game patches and official games is permeable, that game patches not only subvert and diversify gender stereotypes in official games. As such, game patches not only provide an index to what may be the next "Tomb Raider", game hacking offers a possible strategical means for feminists to participate in the formation of new gender configurations," (Schleiner).

3A. An argument that game patches can actually be a positive tool for feminists to use in order to diversify gender in games. Even though there is the NudeRaider patch, other patches have been created that change the look of the avatar in a more positive way (sometimes even removing her over the top features).

Conclusion:
I felt that a good note to end this presentation on would be by showing some selected sentences from my thesis paragraph.

Despite the games immense popularity it has also stirred quite a bit of controversy regarding Lara Croft. Toby Gard and Phil Campbell, the creators of Tomb Raider met criticism from women like Dona Haraway, a self-proclaimed cyber-feminist claiming that Tomb Raider “ promotes objectification of the female body”, and teaches young men to ogle Croft’s larger than life chest (Lane). While there are some feminist critics that applaud Croft’s “non-normative iconography and use of power” others remain suspicious of her perfect body that is often revealed through her skimpy outfits. (Spittle).

Peer Response: Evan Reynolds

I went ahead and pasted my comment from Evan's blog here because I mis-read that I was supposed to post a blog entry about it rather than leave a huge comment [whoops!]. It is available in both places for your viewing pleasure.

Evan that was an incredibly thorough and well planned out presentation. I liked the fact that you incorporated your own work of hypertext fiction, which by the way was quite impressive.

I think that you had us play this game to get a sense of playing hypertext games if we were not familiar with the genre. At first glance the player might think that making good choices in the game is the way to a "happy" or prosperous ending, but that is quickly disproven [having tea with the old woman, helping by throwing the trashcan, just saying F-It all and going to the bar]. Then there is the second theory that the player should stick with the bad choices in hopes that a pattern will lead them to a desired outcome[getting drunk more, having sex with the random "woman", throwing a trashcan].

In the end it is not whether the choices are seen as good or bad, but rahter choosing the the one lucky action that sets you up with an ending that doesn't lead to death. It is not a matter of being happy, rich, wealthy or even drunk [as in this game] but rather being alive, an overall goal. I played "A Nightmare in Paris" 10 times and to find out that all I had to do was goto the bar and drink rum was astonishing. I never would have thought about that.

IF does incorporate some very absurd elements, but I assume that is part of the appeal. You can be face down drunk in the street one minute and then be killef by the French mafia the next. The absurd elements in "ANIP" were all very real though, just the course of events and the way they played out was not. According to this game the major weakness of IF in my opinion is the lack of variability. A player will continually play the process of elimination strategy until they take the right path. Gameplay just depends on the stroke of luck that he/she has when going through the motions of the game and choosing actions. Do you think that the lack of popularity of IF/hypertext compared to Harry Potter had to do with the time when it was released? [1985] The world may not have been as ready as it is today.

I usually don't like IF or hypertext games, but yours was a pleasure to play. It was a mix of dark fiction and real experiences. Good luck with your paper Evan.

January 19, 2006

Peer Responses: Kayla Lukacs, Gina Burgese

Kayla Lukacs-
Kayla, I agree that video games are actually very good means for teaching adolescents as well as adults. Simulataions and games engage the subject, even if they are doing someting as mundane as cleaning the house, which you could argue is being taught [The Sims] (Juul). Games are especially useful for visual learners. Simulation scenarios are often used by the various military brances which includes the air-force and their use of flight simulators. And since we defined simulations as part of games, they are essentially using games to teach/train. Many other countries already use video games in the classroom in order to teach younger children. You may want to look into this, but one time I remember reading or seeing something on television that said children that play video games can become better test takers because they have mastered the skill of focus.

Gina Burgese-
Nice work Gina. Violence in video games is an issue that has been discussed since the emergence of games like Mortal Kombat and the elusive Street Fighter (both which were made into more violent movies). It is one of those issues that can go either way. If the kids aren't already seeing this stuff in movies, they might as well get a taste of it in video games. We are a culture and society that enjoys watching this sort of thing. I mean, you [people in general]can't tell me that when you are watching Resident Evil I (the movie) and that guy gets diced into cubes by the lasers that you didn't watch? The reaction from the audience may have been 'holy cow' or the converse which is 'omg that was cool.'

Something that comes to my mind specifically is violence depending on the genre of the game. There is not an authorized game to my knowledge that is called Serial Killer. I guess the better question is to ask whether killing in a game in order to advance is wrong? Does it depend on how you kill the enemy? It is part of the games rules. In Super Mario III (NES) you have to kill the ninjas and turtles in order to advance, but you are not stabbing them and watching oodles of blood pour out onto the screen, you simply bop them on the heads like little bunny foo-foo. Is this still violence? Can it be argued as animal cruelty?

You have to remember that these are games, and things that happen in the context of games are not always true to real life. If the rules of the game say you've got to kill someone, well I mean then I guess you have to do it in order to win. Which is more important to you as a player, winning or holding a game to the same moral standards as you hold people in real life? Sometimes critics over analyze things like violence in games.

January 20, 2006

Blog Portfolio 3

Well, here we are in the final stretch of one of the longest short classes I have ever taken, meaning that even though it lasted only 15 days in January, it still entailed the work of an entire semester. EL 250: MWG Video gaming, has been an experience that I do not regret taking part in. It is also one that I won’t soon forget because of it’s unique structure and great classmates. This was by far one of the most intimate classes I have been a part of. EL250 was right up my ally because it was all online, and depended a lot on the blogs. Normally blogging is the part of Jerz classes that I like the most [and one of the reasons I keep taking Jerz classes], and this time was no different. I blogged my little heart out from Dec. 30 until Jan 20 and I loved every second of it. This essay is a reflection of what I have learned and experienced over the past few weeks.

My understanding of key course concepts changed from day one of the class until now. Prior to begining the course we were asked about some of these concepts on JWEB and asked to give our own definitions for them. One of our first tasks included defining the words fun and video game. The easy thing to do would have been to look them up on Webster and call it a day, but I attempted to come up with my own thoughts. My original definition for video game was “a piece of technology composed video simulations that requires interaction from an outside source (user/player) in order to yield a result; they are generally used for entertainment.” I thought fun was, “a feeling of satisfaction associated with pleasure from playing a game. People have fun playing games and playing games is fun.”

Since coming up with those first definitions I have learned a lot about both concepts. We need to look at video games, as just games in general in order to define them properly. Jesper Juul, Brenda Laurel and Raph Koster all attempted to define fun and games through out the course and I have taken some of their definitions, changed some of my own and mixed both.

FUN: What did the experts say?
*Koster's definition of fun was: Fun is all about making the brain feel good- the release of endorphins into our system. Fun is as source of enjoyment cause by pleasure.

*Laurel-Didn’t really touch on fun, but we can infer that she views the best games as realist games and that they would be most fun.

*Juul-Fun in games all depends on personal preference. What one person may view as fun [cleaning house in The Sims] another person may not like. Fun is something left up to the player. Simplicity as well as complexity in games can be fun. Gameplay is closely linked with the fun factor of games.

GAME/VIDEO GAME: What did the experts say?
*Koster: Patterns. That is what games are in the end, teachers. Teaching tools for outdated skills.

*Laurel: Games help us learn more about ourselves. They are teaching tools for socialization/social interaction.

*Juul: Games are based in mathematical equations and used to teach us things as well as provide entertainment.

REFLECTION: My thoughts on these concepts/definitions now.
I think my definition of fun has changed slightly and morphed a bit. I don't think I have much to change on it, because it had many similarities that Koster's definition had. I would like to combine some of his words with my own to make a better definition. *New definition: Fun is all about making the brain feel good- the release of endorphins into our system. The brain feels good because of pleasure which can be associated with games. In regard to games, I now see them as much more than a means of entertainment. They are incredibly multi-functional pieces of technology that can be used to teach as well as entertain. Games can be seen as fun whether they are incredibly challenging or as easy as pie. I took a lot away from this course in regard to the way I view gaming/the gaming culture and how I see myself fitting into the whole equation. A special thanks to Jerz & my blogmates for making this an enjoyable J-Term.

A poem by Melissa Whiteman...

Leslie Rodriguez... A poem.
Roddy is never afraid to give it a whirl, And yes, Barbara, she's a funny girl,

On the field and off she makes us laugh,
Her fave animal may be a giraffe(?)

Without her at shu i'd be lost,
I need her back in my life at any cost!

This was incredibly sweet and funny. Thank you Mel. For the original post see my facebook profie.

January 23, 2006

Pornography at Carnegie Mellon University...Interesting

One of the girls on my floor (Beth) sent me this link to a news story last term, and I am just now getting a chance to post it. It seemed fitting because of some of the talks we were having in my EL 250 J-Term class. This story is from KDKA Pittsburgh. It deals with the funding of pornography showings at the university (Carnegie Mellon). I suggest watching the streaming video feed of the story (it loads rather quickly at SHU). How would you feel if the Student Activities department at Seton Hill did something like this? Just a little scenario to think about considering CMU did not condone the actions that were taking place, yet they claimed that they could not control the use of student activities money. Sounds like a possible cop out from a school that doesn't want to face the cheesy porn music that lies ahead.

CMU Showing XXX Movies On Campus

January 30, 2006

I am back in the blogosphere...

I feel like I have been neglecting my blog and it is only the second week of school. I was on somewhat of a blog break after J-Term with EL 250: MWG Video Gaming, but now I am back and ready to get into the swing of things. My plate is very full this term as I am in season once again with Lacrosse, training as Sports Editor for The Setonian, working on campus and trying to maintain a high level GPA. It is good to know that for at least one class this term I am going to be able to blog (EL 200: Media Lab). It might just be enough blogging for me. It is actually the only Jerz class that I am taking this semester for once. The other classes I am taking are WCT II, Digital Imaging, Print Communication and Publication Workshop. I am excited about this term because I finally get to take a lot of major oriented classes and in two of them I am learning Adobe software. Exciting for me at least. So, bring it on because I am here to take it all and make it great.

Blogging Issues...Seeking Help!

If anyone visits my blog and it looks like the body is up on top of the banner please let me know. I fix it by refreshing the page, but it shouldn't be happening at all. I have just picked up on the problem when I access it from my laptop computer. I don't really know how to fix it either. If you have any ideas they would be greatly appreciated. I did make a few layout changes to my blog when I was home during J-Term, but on the computer I was using it came up fine. Grrrr. I am really upset because I just got it the way I wanted it to look and now this is happening. I'm calling out for help Karissa, Amanda, Jerz etc. (hint hint)

About January 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Roamer's Zone in January 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

December 2005 is the previous archive.

February 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.