Blog Portfolio for Video Game Culture and Theory (EL250) #3

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This is the end.  I have enjoyed the class not only in learning about video game culture and theory but also in learning about my classmates through their blogs and papers.  The class has been challenging at times, especially the work load; however, I have become a better and more informed gamer and will always remember to have fun while gaming.

 

Coverage

The third week of class was less intensive due to our research papers and presentations.  Each student was given a chance to lead a discussion on a gaming article from The Players' Realm by Williams and Smith.  The articles varied in topic.  Jessie and Matt led a discussion on console and computer cultures (Platform Dependent).  I delved into children's online gaming (Online Gaming Contracts for Children (Grimes)).  Keith sparked dialogue on the types of players that we are (Eladhari's Journey), and Cody asked our opinion regarding the indie gaming industry (Indie Game Design (Wilson)).  In addition we each created unique presentations to supplement our research papers (Superb Student Presentations).

 

Here is a list of those other entries that I haven't mentioned.

Theory of Games and Learning · Gaming Pedagogy · Scratch is Not Just for Kids · Creative Ways to Tell Stories · Student Presentation: The Devolution of Resident Evil · Viral Gaming

 

Depth

Many of my blogs were an in-depth look at the course materials and often analyzed academic articles chosen by my peers.  Platform Dependent [Posted on both Jessie's (Taylor Discussion Intro) and Matt's (The Great Debate) blogs.] · Eladhari's Journey · Creative Ways to Tell Stories · Viral Gaming

 

Interaction

Indie Game Design (Wilson) My blog on the indie game industry sparked a great interaction with Cody.

Student Presentation: The Devolution of Resident Evil My presentation blog generated great comments from my peers and offered an intense look at what draws or repeals a player to a particular game or genre.

 

Discussions

This week, I led the discussion on the article Terms of Service and Terms of Play in Children's Online Gaming by Sara M. Grimes.  I posed five questions to my classmates and received great responses.

Online Gaming Contracts for Children (Grimes)

Beth Anne's response If you want to play, you have to agree to my terms.

Jeremy's response Grimes with (Susan)

Jessie's response Children's Online Gaming--Anything but Childish

Keith's response Grimes with Susan

Matt's response Rules of the Game

In addition to my classmates' responses, I provided follow-up responses to each of their posts. 

 

Timeliness

Many of my blogs this week were again written the day before they were due; however, they sparked early conversations on the subject at hand.  Some even kept the conversations going after they were due.

Scratch is Not Just for Kids

Creative Ways to Tell Stories

Student Presentation: The Devolution of Resident Evil

 

Xenoblogging

I interacted in-depth with my classmates on their own blogs.

Jeremy's EL 250 Eladhari with (Keith)

Jeremy's EL 250 Motion Capturing

Keith's The game of scratch

Keith's Wilson

Jessie's Gaming Reflects Who You Are

Jessie's Violent Video Games Presentation

Cody's Straying from the norm...

Beth Anne's Technology and Game Design

Beth Anne's Historical video games are more than just fun.

Matt's Mods

Matt's Silent Horror - An Interactive Fiction

 

Wildcard

Viral Gaming

Superb Student Presentations

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From what I have reviewed so far, my classmates all provided excellent albeit different approaches to their presentations.  Beth Anne's presentation was an in-depth look at the educational value of historical-based video games and supplemented her text well with videos.  Matt created a great interactive fiction game that silent protagonists are a good way of immersing the player into the game.  Jessie produced an informative video focusing on better enforcement of the ESRB ratings system.  As more presentations become available, I look forward to viewing them.  In addition I have enjoyed our EL250 Video Game Culture and Theory class immensely.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL250/2010/01/student_presentations_1/

Viral Gaming

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I have personally never played Farmville on Facebook, and usually go to great lengths to avoid requests from friends to join such games because of a busy schedule.  However, I think that the idea of gaming integrating with social networks is good.  First of all these games are free to play and can reach a wider audience, since they are played in a browser.  They also have reduced development time, often launching in beta form.  Indie developers can also use social networks to their advantage by testing out games to a large and diverse audience.  In the case of Farmville, it has successfully addressed the rise in popularity of family-friendly games.  Mark Pincus, the game developer's (Zynga) Chief Executive stated, "By combing the best elements of social gaming, with people's instinct to nurture, we've created an incredibly fun, wholesome, and rewarding experience."  It also addressed Koster's viewpoint that games teach us survival traits.  With threats of nuclear warfare and global warming, we all just might need to know how to farm again.  Hmm... maybe I will give it a try after all.

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL250/2010/01/indie_viral_games/

Student Presentation: The Devolution of Resident Evil

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While the Silent Hill series has devolved in its progression from the "survival horror" game genre, the Resident Evil series has abandoned the genre all together in favor of "action horror." 

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This presentation will only address Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4 in the Resident Evil series and Silent Hill 2 and Silent Hill 3 in the Silent Hill series.


STORYLINE


Resident Evil Games.jpg

The classic Resident Evil story begins in Raccoon City, a location overrun by zombies.  Members of the S.T.A.R.S. Alpha team enter to help find members of their disappeared Bravo team and to continue the investigation.  Their exploration of a seemingly abandoned mansion turns into a fight for survival against the Umbrella Corporation's experiments. 

 

Six years after the original zombie infestation in Raccoon City, the U.S. government officially shut down the Umbrella Corporation and recruits Leon S. Kennedy, a former Raccoon City cop, to rescue the President's kidnapped daughter, Ashley Graham, from a remote village in Spain.  In Resident Evil 4 Leon does battle against the Los Illuminados cult and their parasite-infected villagers. 


Silent Hill Games.jpg

Silent Hill 2, the hallmark game of the series, documents James Sunderland's journey through Silent Hill to find out the truth about his wife Mary's death.  The town and its inhabitants are manifestations of James' mind, and in the end James faces the truth. 

 

Silent Hill 3 takes place 17 years after Harry Mason's nightmare in the original Silent Hill game, and his adopted daughter Heather meets Claudia Wolf in the mall.  After fighting her way back home, Heather finds her father dead and heads to Silent Hill to kill Claudia.  Heather faces Claudia in a church and ingests a capsule of red liquid.  She then vomits the bloody fetus of a god worshiped by the town's cult.  Claudia thwarts Heather's attempt to kill the god and ingests the fetus herself, giving birth.  Heather kills the resurrected god and survives.


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Resident Evil 4 abandons the previous games' focus on zombies in favor of parasitic attackers.  An action fight against a global spread of deadly viruses replaces the immediate and personal struggle for survival.  The Silent Hill series might not encompass many of the same characters and stories or offer a continuous timeline, but each game is a psychological fight for one's survival against dark secrets.


GAMEPLAY

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The survival horror perspective is third-person, intensifying the sensations of vulnerability, isolation, and shock (McRoy).  Resident Evil 4 was the first in the series to have an over-the-shoulder view of the fully three-dimensional world instead of the typical third-person perspective.


Merchant.jpg

Survivor horror throws players into scenarios that induce fear; limited ammunition and health exacerbates these situations.  Items in Resident Evil 4 are more plentiful, and the game introduces "the merchant," allowing the player to carry more items at once, thus ditching the survival aspect.  Limited supplies encouraged the player to run from enemies and conserve supplies.  This aspect weakened in the Resident Evil series but not in the Silent Hill series.


CHARACTERS

RE Characters.jpg

In Resident Evil, surviving the zombie infestation requires endurance and cunning from the characters; however, physical ability dominates in Resident Evil 4.


SH Characters.jpg

Silent Hill games have always focused on the characters' ordinariness.  Heather Mason from Silent Hill 3 offers an androgynous appearance and narrative centrality (as does James), successfully combining the imperiled and masculine femininity of the survival horror genre (Kirkland).


RE Enemies.jpg

Zombies are frightening.  They will eat you if given the chance, but they move slowly enough to either avoid or destroy with relative ease dependent on their numbers and cramped spaces.  In Resident Evil 4, smart and agile opponents are the norm.


SH Enemies.jpg

In contrast, the enemies in Silent Hill 2 are manifestations of the James Sunderland's real fears, for surviving your own nightmares is real survival horror.


SOUND

The Resident Evil series no longer incorporates creepy music to such a high degree.  In contrast, the Silent Hill games continue to offer sinister soundtracks for an expressionistic audio experience (Kirkland).

 

ENVIRONMENT


Sound & Environment.jpg

Low-key lighting not only plays up shadows, but it perpetuates a progressively disturbing tone of gloom (McRoy).  While the Silent Hill series remains a dimly lit town, Resident Evil 4 lights up the scenery with the wide open spaces and rural town environments. (Picture: RE-left/SH-right)


SCARE TACTICS

Japanese survival horror relies heavily on ghost, rituals, and the unseen.  Western survival horror is more visceral and action-oriented.  As the Western design becomes the dominant paradigm, action and gore will continue to supersede psychological dread (Alexander).




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Gamers want the sense of being truly alone in the dark with just their thoughts and fear.  Hopefully, the Resident Evil series will reach that point again and return to the roots that defined the genre.

 

RESIDENT EVIL 4 PARODY

A comical video on Resident Evil 4 for your enjoyment




Works Cited

 

Alexander, Leigh. "Does Survival Horror Really Still Exist?" Kotaku. n.p. n.d.  Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

 

Capcom Production Studio 4. "Resident Evil 4." PlayStation 2. Capcom. 25 Oct. 2005. Video Game.

 

Capcom Production Studio 4. "Resident Evil." PlayStation. Capcom. 30 Mar. 1996. Video Game.

 

Kirkland, Ewan. "Restless Dreams in Silent Hill: Approaches to Videogame Analysis." Journal of Media Practice 6:3 (2005): 167-178. EBSCOhost  Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

 

Konami and Team Silent. "Silent Hill 2." PlayStation 2. Konami. 24 Sept. 2001. Video Game.

 

Konami and Team Silent. "Silent Hill 3." PlayStation 2. Konami. 6 Aug. 2003. Video Game.

 

McRoy, Jay. "'The Horror is Alive': Immersion, Spectatorship, and the Cinematics of Fear in the Survival Horror Genre." Reconstruction. n.p. 6:1 (2006): n. pag. Web. 14 Jan. 2010.

 

"Resident Evil 4 Cutscene 2-2." YouTube. 1 Nov. 2008. Web. 19 Jan. 2010.

 

"Resident Evil 4 Parody." YouTube. 22 Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Jan. 2010.

 

"Silent Hill 3 Cutscenes 08, Hellish Elevator Decent." YouTube. 11 Sept. 2006. Web. 19 Jan. 2010.

 

"Ten Years of Resident Evil: The Official Soundtrack." Sunthing Else. 27 Mar. 2007. Audio. 19 Jan. 2010.


Yamaoka, Akira. "Silent Hill, Vol. 3." Sony/Columbia. 28 July 2003. Audio. 19 Jan. 2010.


Here is the above information in a PowerPoint presentation, complete with sound.Class Presentation Show.ppsx

Creative Ways to Tell Stories

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Dr. Jerz's overview of modding, machinima, and motion caption provided great examples of how ordinary people are creating extraordinary things with games.  My personal favorite is machinima.  I have seen many examples of machinima before, but I did not know the correct terminology for it.  Machinima series are very popular on YouTube, and I think that I may use one or two for my creative presentation.  Motion capture was brought into the limelight with Gollum from LOTR.  Gollum was very impressive to me according to the Uncanny Valley theory because it looked human-like.  On the other hand, the characters in The Polar Express were never impressive to me, and as a result I hate watching that movie, despite its feel-good story.  It might also have to do with the fact that I can tell every character that Tom Hanks voices; therefore, I lose the magic of them being different.  I chuckled when Dr. Jerz wrote about clowns because I absolutely despise clowns.  Although I blame it on Stephen King's It.  As technology continues to advance and more tools become available to the general public, I hope to see more great avenues for fan storytelling.

Indie Game Design (Wilson)

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I cannot recall if I have ever played an indie game; however, I checked out IndieGames to familiarize myself with some popular game titles.  Their site provided great resources for indie game developers to connect with and support one other.  I have also never developed my own game and have no knowledge of coding.  (I will definitely be playing around with Scratch in the future.)  I believe that the video game industry is at a disadvantage if cutting-edge technology is not made available to everyone.  I can understand the big companies developing games across all platforms to maximize their profits, but sometimes the pure magic of gaming gets lost in translation.  Indie games break the norms in gaming and offer the player a whole new and fresh experience.  Wilson states that indie developers are "a crucial driver of innovation and expansion in game design."  These developers are free to push the boundaries regarding new media art and hot topic issues.  If more attention can be brought to these games, positive or negative, then maybe players and the industry will experience a change for the better, and both "big gaming" and "indie gaming" can co-exist on a level playing field.
http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL250/2010/01/reading_5_tba/#comment-19769

Eladhari's Journey

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Keith Campbell's blog discusses Mirjam Eladhari's article The Player's Journey.  Keith asks us to reflect upon the following quote, "In relation to us as humans it is not uncommon to ask ourselves what we would do in a critical situation."  Although I have not played many online multiplayer games, I have played some multiplayer and team oriented console games with my family.  In the event of a fight, I always stand side-by-side with my team to defeat the enemy at hand.  I think that this is a good reflection of me as a person because I believe in always doing the right thing, even if it will be difficult.  Thankfully I have not encountered many critical situations in my life, so the above answer may not hold true even if I believe that it will.  According to Eladhari's diagram of three different groups of players, I am a player who plays me.  Although I may change my appearance, gender, race, etc. I still make the same choices that I would in real-life.  It might be fun to role-play differently, but it is always more comfortable to be yourself.
http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL250/2010/01/reading_4_tba/

Online Gaming Contracts for Children (Grimes)

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Sara M. Grime's article offers an in-depth look at existing Terms of Service (TOS) contracts for several children online gaming sites and compares them to existing laws and policies relating to children.  Grimes found that families with children remain among the fastest growing demographics of internet users.  These children are online cultural producers and often the direct target of marketing research through brand-specific gaming sites, most of which require players to read and agree to a TOS contract.  The majority of TOS contracts contained advanced legalese.  Some advised children to read the TOS, which varied in length from 3-12 pages, with a parent, and even fewer offered a children-friendly version.  Furthermore, Grimes questions whether it is reasonable to expect children to have the knowledge required to understand the implications of TOS contracts and whether current laws even allow children to enter into such agreements.


1. Grimes states that only a few adults actually pay attention to contents of TOS contracts.  Do you always read and fully understand TOS contracts for adult online gaming sites, and what is your reasoning for either way?

2. Do you think that a child would understand the following example from MyUville?

3. What is your position in the ownership of players' virtual property debate? (E.g. do you think that players should have partial or co-ownership over player-generated creations, or is the industry entitled to sole ownership based on the fact that they own the game code?)  Does your view change or stay the same regarding children?

4. Do you think that if challenged TOS contracts hold up in court?

5. What are some of the ethical implications of conducting marketing research without first establishing informed consent, particularly when the participants are children?


The following news article by Chris Soghoian looks at some popular sites' (Google, Facebook, and MySpace) TOS age requirements.  Most require users to be of a certain age, but the sites do not enforce or even verify their users' ages.  Furthermore, some of the sites offer children-friendly promotions.  The article is not academic research; however, it does demonstrate the confusion and conflict surrounding the issue.

Platform Dependent

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Both Jessie Krehlik and Matt Takacs offer great discussions on Laurie N. Taylor's article, "Platform Dependent: Console and Computer Cultures," and I invite classmates to check out their blogs and my responses on each.

Scratch is Not Just for Kids

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The Scratch program developed by students at MIT is a great program for not only children to learn about computer programming but for adults as well.  It encourages creative play through trial and error.  I especially like the fact that the coding blocks show how they fit together properly, so that everything works logically.  A lot of thought went into this program in order to make the tools understandable and complete.  Even the simple paint application can create some great effects on the sprites.  The introduction video offered a wonderful look at the creations possible from music to video, and they were all done by children!  I definitely want to explore this program more, but I will wait until our class is over because I envision myself taking up too much time playing with it!
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