Sunday, September 30, 2012

Video Game Commercials: For Who?

Hello Class,

My name is Julia Lange and I'm a PhD candidate in the Department of Communication Studies.  I'm going to be visiting your class this upcoming Tuesday, and am posting to your class blog in order to get your feedback on my research.  "Casual" video games, and particularly mimetic interface games (games that require the player to mimic the action that occurs in the game), are consistently advertised using real people in their commercials.  In contrast, current "hardcore" games tend to advertise solely using in game content (thus eliminating the player).

I've provided a number of commercials for you to view and give feedback.  Two of the commercials are for the Nintendo Wii: Just Dance 2 (2010) and the original Wii commercial (2006).  Both commercials depict people playing these games.  You'll also find a link to Borderlands 2 commercial, in contrast to the Wii commercials.  Last, there is a link to the spoof YouTube commercial advertising Assassin's Creed for Kinect.

My questions for you to consider:  Who do you think the perceived audience of these games is, and how has the company represented the audience in each commercial?  Why do you think these games are marketed in this way?  Do you think the representations of the perceived gaming audience reflects who actually plays and the spaces they play?  Last, what do you make of the Assassin's Creed for Kinect video?  What kind of commentary is this?

Looking forward to meeting you Tuesday!

Original Wii commercial:
Just Dance 2:

Borderlands 2:
Assassin's Creed for Kinect:

*Update* I'm adding two more videos for us to discuss in your class tomorrow.  One is a commercial for the Nintendo PowerPad, and the second is a compilation of 17 old Nintendo commercials.  These old commercials depict people playing the game, though this seems quite different than the Wii, Kinect, and Playstation Move game ads we see today.


17 Old Nintendo Commercials:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

What Makes A Game Addictive?

That's a very hard question, however, a game that I can relate to makes me want to play a game more. A game that gives rewards also makes me want more of it. A game that is both challenging, yet easy is also a factor for me. The incorporation of music, well good music, is also a factor. Lastly, the realism factor. If I can't relate to a character or make a character in a game relate to my liking, then the game is not for me. In closing, these are the x-factors a game needs to get me addicted. Now, does your game have the X-Addict-Factor?

Byron Reeves: What Makes a Game Addictive?

Thankfully we have Wii Fit...

Through an initiative called Designed to Move, Nike amongst a whole slew of organizations around the world have teamed up to shed light on a rather somber statistic relevant to young people of today. For the first time in history in the developed world, the current generation of children is expected a life 5 years shorter than that of their parents. Take a minute to check out the article, watch the video, and look at the web site.

I think you can undoubtedly link this to the gaming culture that has gained momentum through our adolescence. While gaming may heighten problem solving abilities, multitasking, and other cognitive functions as discussed in class, there's no denying that gaming and the constant need for youth to be "entertained" promotes a culture where personal discovery is forged through a screen, and having no software to guide (and reward us) in our playtime is beginning to seem primitive. Obesity rates continue to be on the rise and now we are beginning to face the effects.

I don't care how educational the games may claim to be - I'll be damned if my kids are playing on an iPad/iTV or iWhatever at age 3.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gaming Nostalgia

I think it's interesting to note how nostalgia plays into the games people like.  Take, for example, the Legend of Zelda series.  Even though the newer ones have more advanced graphics and gameplay, I always prefer the Ocarina of Time.  I recently bought Skyward Sword for the Wii, and while it was an entertaining game in general I didn't get quite the same enjoyment as I do when I play on the N64.  The only reason I can think of for this is that my nostalgia trumps any desire to play through a new story or experience better graphics or controls.

I think a lot of current gaming culture is based on this idea, especially since there's a lot of gamers who only play older games.  What are some examples of this that you have seen?  Or some counter examples if you disagree?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

TIME Magazine - 50 Best Websites of 2012

TIME Magazine names Atari Arcade one of the 50 best websites of 2012.



So that happened

I love the Internet because the dance videos you make in your friends basement of a Spice Girls make it to an audience of everyone on the face of the planet. I found two music videos in less than 24 hours about video games. They're ridiculous and awkward yet creative. Those who think Eliza Dushku is hot, you're welcome. The Starcraft one is just funny because any N*SYNC spoof is gold. Enjoy!

P.S. If you haven't noticed yet, I spend pretty much all my time on YouTube when I'm not playing games. So I guarantee cool videos in almost all my posts. There are some smart people out there with opinions about level design or who make epic LittleBigPlanet and Minecraft levels that can be seen in all they're glory in a video.

Zombies and the zombies who zombie them

Three facts about zombies:

They will help you run faster (or just help you run.)

Zombies, Run! is an Android/iPhone/Windows Phone app that turns running into a big-ass chase scene, with your music. It's a bit pricey ($7.99 on the App Store) but the reviews are all, "I HATE RUNNING BUT OH MY GOD I CAN'T STOP TO WRITE A DETAILED REVIEW OR THEY WILL EAT MY BRAIN - GOTTA GO!" I'm pretty sure that means it's working.

They will help you become a better gardener (or just make you want to plant things that can eat other things and people.)

Plants vs Zombies is a game that's been around for a while, but I enjoy it immensely. The goal is to keep bands of zombies out of your house by using your yard as a battleground and your plants as weapons and barricades. The zombies get harder and harder to beat with each level - each breed has its own quirks, props and weaknesses, like the pigs on Angry Birds - but the plants you gain get more and more badass as well.

They will lead you to cool things (or just get in your way when you already know about them). 

I said something about this on Friday, but in case you weren't there or forgot: The Three Corpse Circus is an international short film fest, and it's happening at the Michigan Theater this Saturday. My roommate, Brian (or, as I like to call him: B-Dubs, Dollars, Oral-B...) and his friends have been planning this all year (every year, since 2009) to make it super cool.

At $7 per block or $10 for the night, it's cheaper than most things you'd be doing if you went out into the world. So follow the Zombie Walk there from Pinball Pete's or just stumble upon it on your way to the liquor store Starbucks, either way it'll be a good time. Click here for the lineup. (Also, they've had exclusive trailers to games like Silent Hill in the past, so they might have something else up their sleeve for this year!)

See, even the undead and brain-eating can be helpful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Atari Kid

Using our discussion of old gaming systems, particularly the Atari 2600, as a springboard, I present this lovely little short: 'The Atari Kid.'

Hone those gaming skills, kiddies. They'll help you score chicks!

Pay TV Games?

This article from the Hollywood Reporter seemed timely after discussing how the inception of video games were presented around the television set. Specifically, Time Warner and Comcast are considering offering a cloud-based service that would allow gamers to not have to buy an external machine to play their games on.

This seems to be going back to the original idea of console games.

The article also states "the services will go beyond social games from Zynga and casual games to include action games from big-name game makers such as Electronic Arts," and that these two companies would like to implement their gaming cloud service in the next year.

My thoughts: I'm not holding my breath. I am also curious if there would be any lag for these games, and how much storage they would take up if these companies decided to go with a cloud server to select games, but a downloading model to get to play them on your television.

Will we be seeing Pay TV companies offering gaming packages soon?

Journal Entry #2: What kind of Hero are you?

Your eyes open. You stand on the edge of a large circular chamber surrounded by men in robes. In the center of the circle, a man in rags kneels facing a woman on a throne. The woman is flanked by armored men on both sides.

"To the dungeon." She declares.

The man in the center is lifted under his arms and dragged through a door, down a staircase, into the dark.

"I tire of this. Bring me the next two. We shall have some sport."

You are dragged by an armored guard and thrown to the ground where the ragged man was kneeling. You notice you are in rags as well. Another man is tossed next to you. His hair is grey and he has a long beard; he doesn't struggle. His eyes don't open.

"You," the woman barks, "what is your name?"

(What is your characters name? For the purposes of the story our Hero will be named Hero, but yours can be anything!)

"Clearly not from around here. From where do you hail, Hero?"

(What is your race?)

"Figures. Very well. The man next to you needs no introduction. Do you, outskirter?"

The old man opens his eyes but keeps his gaze on the floor. "No, your majesty."

"I am no Queen! You will address me as High Senator and nothing else!" She snaps. "You, Hero. Slay this man and I will grant you your freedom."

One of the guards throws a blunt sword in front of you. You pick it up. The old man raises his gaze and meets your eye.

"Kill him, Hero, or you both die!"

Do you…

A) Kill the old man
B) Drop the sword and accept your punishment
C) Attempt to hack your way out of the room with your newfound weapon

It's your choice.

On the twelve of Leaffall,

The Scribe

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

In lieu of WoW

Today, the expansion for World of Warcraft entitled Mists of Pandaria was released. I had the pleasure of living with someone who was willing to stay up until midnight server time, which is 3 a.m. in Michigan, to be there when the world opened up to the public. In lieu of this, I thought I'd like to show you a satyrical video of a day in the life of a gamer wife.

I can't say I can complain too much about him though. I have my fair share of obsessions, and I'm sure I'm not the most quiet thing when the annual Call of Duty drops or when I can't find a Dragon Priest in Skyrim. If you have the time, you should Google some screenshots of the expansion. Although WoW has a cartoony aesthetic, the new expansion has a whole new look. I don't play WoW a bunch, but I like reading about the universe and seeing what players do to enhance the WoW community. For those of you who are avid players, good luck to getting to level 90! Make sure to stand up every once and a while and drink water so that we don't find you dead in a couple days.

Video Games as Art

Random video my friend sent me after talking about Video Games as art
10 Video Games in a Different Light:

Blowing into Cartridges: Does it work?

This is an interesting article and unscientific study into the effectiveness of blowing into the cartridge. It shows whether or not our "this will fix it" trick actually did anything. I won't spoil the answer:

I remember using this trick all of the time for my first and love-of-my-life system, my N64.  I think we might be the last generation of gamers to know this trick as all the new game systems are digital or disk.   It's kind of sad knowing a whole generation of gamers won't know the joys of the classic games and/or game consoles.

And in case anyone is wondering, my roommate Zach still blows.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Blog #1: A Review of "Deus Ex: Human Revolution"

A couple weeks ago, I finally finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution, per the recommendation by a friend. It was developed by Eidos Montreal and Square Enix and is a prequel to the original Deus Ex game that came out in 2002.

I was skeptical going in because I had heard very little about the this game upon its release in 2011. IGN gave it a 9.0, but IGN also gave a game called Orcs Must Die a 9.0. I trust you can guess the content of the game from its title. However, after just a couple minutes of play, I realized that this was one of the best games to come out in quite a while. It's so good that I have to wonder why it isn't more known in gaming circles. It is the best attempt to mix action and stealth that I have played. Unlike Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots or the Splinter Cell series (not including Splinter Cell: Conviction), the game actually moves smoothly between shooting and sneaking around. Even more impressive is that all of this is done from a first-person perspective.

The problem with most stealth-action games is that they usually force the player into either stealth or action-style gameplay for most of the gameplay, with an occasional dip into the other style of gameplay to mix it up. Metal Gear Solid 4 is a painful example of this. Every time I wanted to shoot someone, I had to press three buttons to get my gun out, aim, and fire, all of which took place at a snail's pace that you would expect from someone of Snake's advanced age. All of this, while under fire. Stealth, I quickly realized, was the only way to go. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Splinter Cell: Double Agent offers the user a choice of two different equipment setups (stealth or action) at the beginning of each level. However, the advantages of going quietly made choosing the stun gun over the shotgun no contest.  Deus Ex, on the other hand, streamlines the process and truly allows the player to alternate between play style at will. There are often times three or four different ways of tackling a given obstacle, each requiring a slightly different combination of shooting and going ninja.

The game also has what amounts to a decent story. While it's not a revelation, within the relative cesspool of video game narratives, Deus Ex comes out on top. It's a smart political thriller that's all about how cybernetic technology affects our notions of what is human.

A couple of final notes: it's set in a futuristic Detroit, so kudos for city pride, and the protagonist, Adam Jensen, sounds like a depressed version of Christian Bale playing Batman. That is to say, Keanu Reeves.

If anyone reading this enjoys first-person shooters, stealth games, or just killing gangsters in Detroit, this is the game for you.

Video Games Awesome!

Hey! Looking for a fun way to procrastinate on doing your homework? Love watching Let's Plays, but want to see something a little different, maybe a bit more interactive? Like cool costumes? Well, have I got the internet show for you!

A site with videos of a group of friends sitting around playing video games, complete with riffing, snarky commentary, and plenty of innuendoes. They play with a green screen in the background, so you can see both the gameplay and their reactions at the same time. They also have a 'chat' who gives them helpful (and not so helpful) hints for when they get stuck/confused (which is often).

They play tons of games, and have a new show up pretty much everyday, so if they play a game you like, check it out!

Also, they're Canadian. Multicultural, eh?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Being Good at Mario "Power" Tennis is Nothing to Brag About Zach

This is an open letter to  my ass of a roommate, Zach Rollins:

Dearest Zach,

Being good at Mario Power Tennis is nothing to brag about Zach. It is a silly and simple game, and being good at it makes you the loser. Not me. You!... loser.

First off, you own it, which means you payed 50 bucks for a bubbly piece of infantile garbage game. Its not even a classic like the original Mario Tennis, its just a more polygonal version of its predecessor.  (that means its got more shapes, ya dodo.) Second off, its your Gamecube game that we played on your Wii. Which means you own both a Gamecube and a Wii. How old are we? 7? You're twenty-one now Zach, its time to put the toys away and upgrade to actual human interaction, let alone an Xbox360. Third, the game only uses two buttons for christ's sake. Two! I could play this game with my toes, thats how simple the controls are. I know, I know, back in the day game-consoles only had two buttons, and those games were pretty difficult, but this is a two button game on an 8 button controller meaning its a quarter of the difficulty of regular games. So being good at it and practicing at it just so you can beat your casual gaming roommate is not even an achievement. Why not devote your energy to mastering a more difficult and rewarding game like, I don't know... actual tennis?

Sure I may be a "bitter person" that has to "dismiss a videogame" as "simplistic and childish" just to make himself "feel better" about the fact that he "can't win" at Mario Power Tennis. And so what if I'm so "self-conscious" that I have to "publicly ridicule" your existence on a "class blog" in order to sustain a "false sense of self-worth" and minimize my "personal inadequacies." But does that make me a loser?  No, it makes you the loser because you are the one who brags about your non-skill of being good at an E for Everyone, Babies 'R' Us Nintendo video game. So shut-up about it already!

Royally yours,

Nick Drew

P.S. I will destroy you at Mario Golf  Toadstool Tour

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I'M GOING TO NEED $5,300 TO $6,500

Okay, I don't (though my student loans are pretty up there...) but anybody who sees the Arcane Arcade Game Table and has to pick their jaw up from the floor might.

Behold! A table with video games inside of it! (And: An entire computer, running Windows 7 home, with joysticks, trackballs, buttons, USB & HDMI inputs and preloaded with MAME and a whole slew of other games...)

Who needs a TV or a monitor now, suckas?

Wait -- Isn't this what Nolan Bushnell's failed restaurant enterprise attempt was all about? Having a place with tables that had screens and games in them? I think we talked about it on Tuesday.

Anyway, if money were no big deal and you could get all the stuff you wanted, would anything like this be in your future? OR: If you were to sell one of your vital organs for this table, which one would you sell for it?* (And would you also buy coasters?)

From: The Awesomer &

*I don't condone the selling of your vital organs for video game-infused coffee tables. You kind of need them where they're at.

My Childhood

When I think of games... I generally think of my childhood. I think of Crash Bandicoot, Gran Turismo, Kirby, Sims, etc. But there is one game that sticks out. One multi-player game that brought a family together and contradicting myself, hatred. The Gauntlet, is the very game I'm talking about. This RPG puts four characters or one player depending on who's playing in the mindset of what hell on earth would be. Players fight zombies, you get rewards, one has the option of choosing from several characters and there are cheat codes. The motive to the game is to collect 13 runestones and several shards to restore heaven on earth. Nonetheless, this game isn't easy, it can get really intense and help is always valued. Furthermore, this game doesn't have the best graphics but of my archive of games The Gauntlet is labeled my favorite

Honest Trailers

In class on Thursday, 9/20 we were talking about trailers that give away the movie compared to trailers that give away a game.

The first thing that popped into my head were these guys: Honest Trailers.

These group of video makers take trailers and honestly (more or less) explain what the movie is about, and they are HILARIOUS.

Here are a couple of my favorites:




Friday, September 21, 2012

For those interested in ESports (Particularly MOBA and SC)

Big names in the ESports community:
DreamHack (Counter-Strike, StarCraft, DotA, Street Fighter, Battlefield, and others played professionally.
Major League Gaming (MLG) (StarCraft, Halo, League of Legends, Soul Calibur, and Mortal Kombat being played professionally)
The IGN Pro League (League of Legends, StarCraft)

For those who don't know about StarCraft:
HD Starcraft
Tasteless and Artosis (Tastosis)

DotA and the MOBA Genre - Multiplayer Online Battle Arena:
Originally developed as a modification of the competitive Warcraft 3 game, Defense of the Ancients (DotA) emerged as a high-octane variation of "Real Time Strategy" (RTS) games, with DotA itself having been inspired by a custom game mode for the original StarCraft, Aeon of Strife (AoS). MOBA games focus on online, massively multiplayer, high-action Player versus Player combat. Since Aeon of Strife, a deluge of similar games have been released:

Demigod - Standalone game that enjoyed moderate success. Available via Steam.
League of Legends  (official site) -  An enormously popular though widely regarded as "less technical" recreation of DotA created, in part, by some of the same team who developed DotA. Now, the game is played professionally worldwide and offers over 100 characters (champions) to choose from. Offers 3v3 and 5v5 game modes. Free to play. Has itss own client, available through the official site.
Heroes of Newerth (official site) - A true-to-its-roots, nearly carbon-copy of the original DotA offering intense 5v5 combat. Considerably more technical than LoL, HoN is also played competitively worldwide. Free to Play. Has its own client, available through official site.
Bloodline Champions (official site ) - The consistently fastest-paced game of the bunch, Bloodline Champions pits up to ten players against each other in (up to) 5v5 combat. Free to Play.
DotA 2 (official site) - Coming up sometime this year, DotA 2 is the stand-alone successor to the original Defense of the Ancients being developed by the video-game powerhouse Valve. It will be as similar to the original as possible - Defense of the Ancients original designer IceFrog is on boad. Will be available via Steam and possibly free-to-

Journal Entry 1: Map and Lore

The Territories of the Holy Arborian Empire

The Holy Arborian Empire was established in the year 165 A.G.T., in the Arborian calendar, when the territories were conquered by Great William and united under the banner of the Great Tree.

William built his palace in the center of four existing paths, Norfyu, Sowthyu, Yeestyu, and The State roadway in the west. The block enclosed by these roads became what is known today as "Di-ag," and he built his palace, "The-em" in the center.

William's reign was peaceful, but when his son George took the throne he ushered in an era of religious persecution through the territories. In the northwest many indigenous to the land worshipped a deity named "Kerry," and George slaughtered them to near non-existence. Slaves were brought in from the colonies to work on the farms. George, obsessed with the purity of his kingdom, did not allow them within his walls and forced them to live on the outskirts in the west. It was in this time he built "the walls," separating his kingdom from much of the surrounding area. 

The combination of religious persecution and treatment of slaves left the region begging for rebellion, which began in the year 210 A.G.T. with the assassination of King George by a member of "The Cult of Makers," today known as simply, "The Makers," a group of excommunicated nobility obsessed with mechanical invention. 

The slaves on the outskirts banded together and trampled the forces still loyal to King George in a matter of days. After taking the castle they established a republican government and renamed the kingdom "The Camp of United Slaves" or "Camp U.S." for short. In addition to taking the kingdom, they granted sovereignty to the other territories.

Freeing outlying territories created the map we know today. The former Holy Arborian Empire was broken into Camp U.S., The Kerry Highlands in the northwest, The Northern Territory in the far north, The Land of The Lost Letters in the east and the Colosseum Annex in the south.

The walls of King George's kingdom still exist, and the former nobles who were not killed during the rebellion populate the western outskirts of Camp U.S., though they have no government of their own.

On the Five of Leaffall, 

The Scribe

p.s. In the next entry our hero's journey begins...

Fun video game robot chicken videos

Hey everybody, here are the links to 3 video game related Robot Chicken skits.  Enjoy.
(Donkey Kong gets more than he bargained for)
(the contra guys think they are invincible)
(space invaders plan an attack)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Friends, Affliates and Folks To know

Unicorn-Soup: Online gamer comic

Penny Arcade

Fat, Ugly, or Slutty

The Computer and Video Game Archive

The Donald Hall Collection

Al Yang (twitter)

USC Interactive Media Division

The Serious Games Initiative

Nerds in Babeland

Welcome to the Gamer Atlas!

I got this idea for the blog name after our class discussion of Ann Arbor gaming-friendly environments. If one were to construct a Gamer Atlas, what would it map? Would it include Pinball Pete's? Get Your Game On? The CVGA/Archive? Or would it be of Azeroth? Liberty City? Rapture?
I think it would be a mix of fictional spaces, territories and lived zones, a mashup of where we play and where we play.
Hence, our Gamer Atlas. Let it be the Guide we craft for the study of video games--our cryptonomicon, our golden compass, our lost ark, our hallows, our treasure map of what one needs to know and should know about video games as form, culture, art, industry.