Video Gaming (EL 250)

9 January 2006

Ex 2c: Beyond the Revision (Final) 20pts

Publish on your blog by 9am Monday.

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Laurel, Utopian Entrepreneur

Read the whole book. It's less than 120 pages.

The last time I taught this book, my student Johanna Dreyfuss wrote:

I have to applaud Brenda Laurel for her insights into why young girls donít usually play video games, but I think she sells boys a little short. I asked my boyfriend what his ideal video game would incorporate and said that he would rather have a fantastic story than spectacular graphics. It would have in depth character development Ė almost as though he were playing a novel.

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J-Web: Laurel

Comprehension questions for Utopian Entrepreneur

Update: I accidentally set this to lock you out at 12:05 am, rather than 12:05 pm, so I've extended the deadline until tomorrow morning.

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Ex 3: Close Playing 1 (40pts)

Two parts, each worth 20. For each part, write an essay (200 words) based on a "close playing" of the game.

For more help with the assignment, see this brief paragraph, from an article by Janet Murray, that efficiently analyzes another game by the same author, Kabul Kaboom.
Frasca's game focuses on the situation of an Afghani child, presented as a figure from Picasso's Guernica , a painting that is emblematic of the horrors of civilian bombardment. The child is positioned in a game screen similar to Space Invaders , in which bombs and hamburgers, rather than space ships, fall from the skies. The game is a political cartoon on the irony of a "humanitarian" war, in which the U.S. is dropping both food and bombs on an already war-ravaged and famine-threatened country. The irony of the game is that you cannot move the figure so that the screamingly opened mouth can receive the food instead of the bombs. Like a child caught in the horrors of war, you are helpless to determine which is your fate. And like a civilian under a bombardment campaign, you cannot shoot back - or even choose when to end the game, since it begins again as soon as it is over. "Kabul Kaboom" works because it subverts our expectations of a game. It immobilizes us where we expect to have power, forcing us to experience the dramatic situation that is the focus of the expression.

See also pages 123-130 in Half Real.

Continue reading...

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Laurel; Close Playing; Etc.

A reading-heavy day. The pace will slow down tomorrow, so we can focus on reading Juul's book, and so you can start thinking about your final paper. Today would be a great day to try out initial ideas for the term paper.

Discussion Prompt:

In high school English, being able to summarize the plot an describe your emotional reaction to the situation faced by the protagonist was enough to get you an A+. In a similar way, being able to describe how a game works and describe whether it is enjoyable was enough to make a successful game review.

Laurel presents herself as a story-teller. She doesn't spend much time describing the interface or the scoring system of her Purple Moon games. We actually get a much better idea of how the website works than we understand any individual game.

Laurel pretty much skips over the act of summarizing her games, and spends far more time discussing what she was trying to accomplish.

Now that you have written your first "close playing," consider your chosen game as the work of a utopian entrepreneur. That is, consider the values system inherent in that game, and speculate on how the world might change if the values system inherent in the game became more prevalent in the real world.

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Today's Update

I've posted the prompt for today's discussion on Laurel and close-playing.

I have also posted the first set of J-Web questions for Juul's Half Real.

By this time next week, your thesis statement and a works cited list for your final research paper are due. Exercise 4 (due tomorrow) asks you to find 5 good sources and a preliminary thesis topic.

The discussion prompt for tomorrow will ask you each to reflect on your experiences researching games studies.

I'd also like to draw your attention ahead to Exercise 5a, which asks you two write a "close playing" of one of the games on the list provided. (I'm open to suggestions for additional games to include on that list.)

If you haven't contributed a comment to each of the discussion topics I've mentioned in the past few days, this would be a good time to catch up.

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New Study Linking Video Games and Aggression

I think this class is a good forum to raise this issue. I enjoy kicking ass in video games, too, but it's important not to dismiss a scientific report simply because its conclusion is troubling.

BBC NEWS | Health | Violent games 'affect behaviour'

When shown images of real-life violence, people who played violent video games were found to have a diminished response.

However, when the same group were shown other disturbing images such as dead animals or ill children they had a much more natural response.

When the game players were given the opportunity to punish a pretend opponent those with the greatest reduction in P300 meted out the severest punishments.

Psychologist Bruce Bartholow, the lead researcher of the study which will be published in full in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology later this year, said: "As far as I'm aware, this is the first study to show that exposure to violent games has effects on the brain that predict aggressive behaviour.

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