Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Love Affair With Halo

The first time I played Halo was at an Electronic Boutique in November of 2001, the year that Xbox had come out. This is significant for me because I can not remember anytime in my lifes history of when I was so astounded by a video game that I have a perfect memory of the first time playing it. The level that the game was set on for the demo was the one immediately after the escape from the Pillar of Autumn so my first taste of the game was the visually stunning even by todays standards environment of Halo. I remember staring at the screen at how crisp the graphics look and squealing with excitement when I figured out that if I held down the trigger with the plasma pistol equipped it would charge up and release a greater blast. I knew I had to have one, so I begged my parents for one for Christmas. After some snooping I found that they had gotten me one but I was caught in the process so I wasn’t allowed to play it for a week after unwrapping it. Of course that didn’t stop me from sneaking it into my room and hooking it up to a little tv I had when my parents weren’t home to get a few sweet hours of gameplay in. Finally the week was up and I could be out and open about my love for the Game. Over the years the game stayed relevant both in its appeal as a game and because it became a source of social interactions between my friends and I. This was before online play had become an option and I remember spending hours playing team battles in my basement and the basement of friends, and the feeling of frustration or elation when a score would come down to one kill. Throughout high school my interests strayed elsewhere and I wasn’t so invested in video games but Halo always waited for me like an old friend for the occasional time I would pick it up for a play. When I got to college I found a reawakened love affair as I moved into a house with friends that loved playing the original over the newer editions to the series and many nights were spent playing rocket launchers only on the hang em high level. Those days are gone and Halo has taken a backseat again but I have comfort in knowing that some day it will poke its head back into my life and things will be like they never changed.

The Tommy Wi-Show

I found this a short lived youtube series that stars everyones favorite questionably insane movie director/producer/writer/actor Tommy Wiseau playing video games. The show is called the Tommy Wi-Show and the premise is space aliens have recruited Tommy to test new video games as he is the greatest video game warrior that planet Earth has to offer. The beginning is kind of lame because its’ scripted but once Tommy starts playing the game and he is given freedom to express himself it gets pretty funny. The joke is obviously that Wiseau is terrible at playing Mortal Combat but I thought it was worth the 6 minutes.

Why I Like Left 4 Dead

In the past few years zombies have exploded both literally and metaphorically on the screens of gamers through a large number of title releases. Zombies have always had a significant presence in video games but now more than ever I feel as if developers are abusing their popularity in contemporary culture to crank out more and more zombie based games. I think that the appeal in zombies for developers is that they allow for a wide variety of story lines that center around the conception of these menaces despite how trite they seem. Also in games that emphasize a mass number of antagonists, zombies fit the bill perfectly as not much is needed in developing dead bodies coming at you. This is why I respect Left 4 Dead as a zombie game as it doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is. A balls out zombie shooter with minimal plot line that emphasizes gameplay over all else. The levels are fairly detailed with the settings being typically city streets are farmstead and the ammo is plentiful with the typical tropes of zombie weaponry, shotgun, assault rifle etc. To add some extra sauce to the mix the game has a variety of zombie types which mix up the strategy of the players and keeps the gameplay fresh. This game is very much a ludist’s game as it takes place in a closed world linear environment and the rules and goals are clear: you shoot zombies you get to the extraction point. Hours of fun with friends and no big commitments to plot or storyline.

Unitology and Dead Space 2

The premise of Dead Space 2 takes place on the Sprawl, a massive civilian space station built into the largest remains of Saturn’s moon Titan, which had been broken into pieces during a planet-cracking operation. We follow the continued story of Isaac Clarke who has spent the past three years in an asylum after the events of the original Dead Space. Analysis of the story and setting of the game can be focused on multiple instances of cultural and sociological themes that are relevant in contemporary culture. One of the biggest components of the storyline and consequently the most subject to scrutiny is the presence of the Church of Unitology, a cult-like religion that assumes the role as one of the main antagonists for Isaac. Basically Unitologists believe human life on Earth was created through an intellectual design by some higher form of life. Ironically despite their belief that the advent of man was a science experiment they tend to put blind faith over scientific fact. They believe that after death the bodies of the dead will be resurrected again and the key to this rebirth are these artifacts called Markers. Although the Markers do indeed reanitmate life, it does so by creating abominations called Necromorphs, which disembowel the people of the Sprawl and create havoc. Throughout the game we find out that the church has been using Isaac, who has the blueprints to construct these Markers imprinted in his mind, to build a black Marker on the Sprawl. The Church is arguably a pun on Scientologists, although the game creators have denied this time and again. I believe that the presence of such a sinister organization has a much deeper symbolic and cultural meaning. The church emphasizes the importance of social harmony and unity although its own ranks are determined by a hierarchy and higher positions are bought with money. Also in conflict with this is the church is known to take practice in harmful rituals such as indoctrination procedures and even cases of groups commiting mass suicides. There are members of the church with strong political and economic ties and it is made clear that there is a lot of manipulation and cohersion done in the background. At one point in the game you come across files that have documented potential people within the spawl for conversion. If it wasn’t creepy enough that they have files on everyone each one is complete with a psychological profile with less intelligent and weak-minded individuals marked as great potential for recruitment. The symbolism behind the religion is fascinating and extensive and I could potentially spend a whole essay going in to detail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Online Gamer!

There is a channel on YouTube called "Online Gamer".  It is their most successful and popular video series.  This is the latest video in the series.  If you have the time, I suggest watching all the episodes of this series if you can.  It is very entertaining and speaks volumes of CoD (Call of Duty) players and FPS gamers in general. A very interesting dynamic of the series is the relation between Aaron (the main protagonist of the series) and Rebecca (his girlfriend and fellow CoD gamer).  Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Video Games and Sports

Post #16
Do video games help you play sports better, or do other activities better? I was wondering if sports games help you learn strategy and other skills that can be applied to real life. I know there are many sports related games on the Wii, which incorporate actual hand movements with the controller. Do these games help you learn the rules of certain sports or activities better? Do you learn recipes better from video games about cooking on the Wii? What do you guys think?

Video Game Streams and "eSports"...

I am not sure how familiar most of you guys are with, but I realized that for the past couple of years, I have used that site (and a few others similar to it such as Ustream) to watch gaming ranging from video game tournaments to friends of mine gaming.  I even have streams (yeah, sometimes I watch more than one stream of people playing in the same game together, or against each other) running in the background much the same way other people do with television.  It got me wondering - is watching people play video games a viable avenue of pursuit?  Personally, I would say no since I only watch people when I am not actively gaming due to other activities or responsibilities (such as college school work).  There is a large section of gamers that argue that video games will one day not only considered an actual sport (some have started call their "version" of gaming "eSports"...I REALLY hate that name and everything it stands for) but also have tournaments and such shown on channels like ESPN and Fox Sports.  What are you guys's thoughts?

Disney, Star Wars, and future games.

Post #20
The fate of Star Wars now rests in the white gloves of Disney. Obviously they have big plans to reboot the film franchise, but what about the gaming market? For years, Lucasfilms has cranked out all kinds of Star Wars games to satisfy their never dwindling fan base, but with Disney now at the helm, will they ease back or move forward. This article hints that they may look into the mobile, social market and potentially away from console games, but is this realistically the case? Regardless, there does seem to be a window of possibility here, and I'd be surprised if Disney didn't capitalize on all phases of this monopoly. So the question is, what would you want from another Star Wars video game? Would Disney be able to deliver? Or would they let LucasFilms handle it like they always have?

Drinking Video Games?

Mario Kart Wii

Post #19
As most all of us know, college kids have a knack for turning anything into a drinking game. It's only natural then that they would alter the rules of classic video games to encourage competitive drinking. My main experience with this is with Mario Kart 64, which we dubbed Beerio Kart for obvious reasons. Objective: Must chug an entire beer before the race is over, whoever finishes in first with an empty can wins. Pretty simple, only rule is you can drink while driving, in fact you cant even be touching your controller while you drink. This adds a fun element to the game as most people inevitably end up drinking while their kart recovers from whatever deadly element thrown their way. Now my experience has always been nothing but fun, but you have to imagine some people have taken games like this too far. The competition in video games is already fierce, add alcohol to the mix and you got a game nobody wants to lose. Good or bad for video games?

Match made in Heaven

Post #18
Now this just seemed inevitable. How do we feed our fans and give them energy to keep playing our game without actually having them set down the controller? BING BING BING. Doritos and Mountain Dew. This is a brilliant marketing strategy that couldn't target a more specific demographic. Kids are all over this! All I have to do is drink Mountain Dew and eat Doritos and I can receive special privileges in Halo 4! Sold!

Not too many products out there suit their audience better than these do, except perhaps late night male enhancement commercials on SportsCenter, they could pump the brakes a bit.

What's with games adapted from movies?


Post #17
This article is interesting because it addresses something I feel is an ongoing travesty to video games. How can a game be so bad when it's based on such an awesome movie? Especially one with as much potential for action as The Dark Knight Rises  has? Okay, maybe ET was a bad idea to begin with, but Christopher Nolan's Batman? It sounds like a no brainer!  The easy answer to why this is not a great game is the limited amount of cash they chose to invest in it, and the platform which they designed it for. Of course maybe they simply knew this game couldn't compete with the likes of Batman Arkam City, and would automatically be written off as a ill designed game considering the reputation movie adapted video games have gained over the years. But I think that might be giving them the benefit of the doubt.

In reality, I doubt the producers cared a great deal how the game play turned out. They were banking on the franchises popularity to cast a wide enough net to reel in die-hard fans, and looks like they were right. Timing of the game's release was more important than getting it right, as they had to serve it while its hot.

Its a bit of shame that movies seldom take their product seriously in the gaming market. They are routinely rushed, flawed, and made just to satisfy the fans. My question is, do you think this will ever change?

A Game That "Kills With Kindness"

So as I am reading Jane McGonigal's book, my opinions of her research are slowly changing. At first, I hated her argument that playing games more can actually help individuals become better people and thus solve the world's problems. While she has good points, I am still extremely skeptical about this. She mentions a game she created with notorious gamer/writer Ian Bogost called "Cruel 2 B Kind". The idea of the game is based on Assassins, where instead of an item or action, the assassin uses a kind phrase or random act of kindness to kill their unsuspecting opponent. The weapons consist of the following:

A hearty welcome
A thank-you
Compliment, smile, wink

The idea is to find something nice to say to the other person and kill them with kindness. I think this is a cool idea but I think I fall into her category of skeptics who don't see much possibility in the continued practice of positive gaming. This sort of game would become old in my mind but that assumes that everyone is coming from the general feeling of cynicism that is so prevalent in our society. I goes I won't know until I experience it but so far I'm impressed at the research and impact she's making with her games. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

My Halo 3 Montage, and why I'll never make another

So I'm going to set up a comparison; I attached my Halo 3 Montage and the one that a lot of big-name players contributed to (I even managed to find one with the same song).  That montage kicks the living shit out of mine.  Now, if you were appalled by the time invested in Machinima, the amount of investment in Halo Montages is far more, at least in terms of density.  It is fueled by an entire community of people on youtube, and these editors will spend months on this stuff.  I'm sure a lot of the SAC majors know  how difficult that is, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  The montage that is not mine, Carnage & Chaos, actually had funding.  Real funding.  All for a measly 21,000 views on the most popular Halo youtube channel.  And there are thousands of these montages.  The account that uploaded theirs puts up new montages on a daily basis, and mine barely made the cut for his secondary youtube account; I dropped a good 24 hours into making me and my house-mates montage.

I wish I would have gotten a chance to write an essay about this kind of stuff.  There are so many subcultures even within an individual video game.  I've had friends who were members of clans in the original Call of Duty up until just recently, as well as one that still participates in a NASCAR 2002 online community.  The internet allows so many lasting connections even when a game is outdated, and I love that.  The love of a video game is something that people can bond over.

Side note: If you don't understand Halo, just watch the first minute or so of each video and look at the difference in editing.  I lose by a lot.

18+ Content Get a Scheduled Buy Time in Europe

As recent as last week it was announced in Europe that gamers in European countries wanting to buy 18+ rated games for their Wii U’s will be restricted to doing so after a certain hour in the night. The factors pertaining to this is that even though the various countries across Europe have different age restrictions to the purchasing of video games, because the homebase for Nintendo Europe is in Germany the eShop is complying with the German standard of regulations of youth protection. German law prohibits the sale of 18+ rated games before 10:00pm and after 4:00am.

Alan Wake Game Review

Alan Wake is a third person shooter advertised as a psychological action thriller that was released to consoles in 2010. The game was developed by Remedy games out of Finland and penned by Sam Lake, the man behind one of my favorite video games of all time Max Payne. The story follows a bestselling thriller novelist as he attempts to unravel the mystery of his wife’s disappearance in the small town of Bright Falls, Washington. The story is episodic much like playing a television series, with each episode standing out as distinctly its own yet still contributing to the bigger story. Throughout the game Wake finds pieces of a novel he has no memory of writing the plot of which intertwines with the story that he himself is following. The town and surrounding woods are inhabited by a dark entity that corrupts humans and animals, turning them into servants of darkness. I honestly enjoyed this game immensely. I find myself being in the rare camp of people that genuinely enjoy cut scenes if done right and the episodic nature of the game meant that there were plenty of stunning cinematics that engaged me further in the story. The art direction was gorgeous as remedy built its own engine from the ground up, an endeavor that took around four years, to create a breathtaking in-game landscape that idealizes the natural beauty of the pacific northwestern state of Washington. The environment feels very natural and organic with mammoth ancient forests that feel heavy to walk through and scenic vistas overlooking mountainsides into fir and evergreen lined gorges. The gameplay was pretty fluid for the most part. The lighting was astonishing and the sound editing added to the discourses of the story seamlessly. The idea of using light to fight darkness comes into play throughout the game as Wake must use flashlights and other various light sources to burn off the darkness from attackers before disposing them with firearms. The game uses this idea of light as a weapon stylishly by implementing different light sources for different effects, hand flares create a sort of bubble of protection and flare guns completely obliterate any enemy in its path of travel. What I also like was that the game uses its medium as an homage to famous and cult works of film and television. Some of these influences include Twin Peaks, Hitchcock, Stephen King novels, and the Twilight Zone. The icing on the cake for me was the in game soundtrack with songs playing in between episodes and occasionally during gameplay through radios placed throughout the town. These songs range from the psychedelic rock of The Black Angels, the bluesy creepy crooning of Nick Cave’s “Up Jumped the Devil”, to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity, and the rockabilly delights of Roy Orbison. I would definitely save this game for a replay in the future and highly recommend it to the gamer that loves story driven games.

A Story About Video Games... Kind of

So here is a story that not only has to do with video games but also Maxim Hair Color for Men. So when I was 13 my friends and I were hanging around a tailgate on the U of M golf course for the Michigan vs. Washington game. Back in those days it was easier for companies to set up tents and occupy locations on the U of M premise to advertise their products. This was generally something along the lines of throw a football through the rings and win a can of Monster Energy Drink, go head to head with another Wolverine fan in football trivia and win a free merkin etc. So here we are wandering around these promotional tents when all of a sudden we come across a particularly inviting tent that drew us forward and in that moment it dawned on us collectively that this will be the reckoning of our coolness, The Maxim Hair Dye For Men tent. Apart from the posters of suave dudes with amazing hair placed in improbably sexy situations with attractive sophisticated women the tent also had a cross promotion with wait for it….. the official The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring video game. Imagine our faces as our throats tighten with anticipation taking that first step into that canvased room. The “hair dye specialists” were attractive women in their early twenties eager to give any man the best damn hair day in his life, standing like hand maidens next to the thrones of dying. On the side of the tent adjacent to the sinks were two Xbox consoles just waiting for us to pick up their controllers and start playing. My two friends, both having brown hair, decided to go with the color lightening and bleaching whereas I took the more sensible route and opted for red. As it turns out most men attending a football game do not want to have their hair dyed and so for the better part of that afternoon we were the only patrons in the tent. This was fine with us because to make sure that our hair looked really good we hung around that tent all afternoon. We alternated turns in the dying chairs and playing the game. All I can really remember about the game itself was that you started off playing as Frodo and you threw apples at spiders or something like that. I remember thinking why waste perfectly good apples when there are rock everyone, but I digress. By the end of the day my friend Matt’s hair looked like a giant white chocolate monster had rubbed its butt all over it, Frank just looked straight up dirty, and I looked like a either a strawberry shortcake doll or a husky David Bowie impersonator. The point of the story is that just because something is associated in one way or another to Lord of the Rings doesn’t make it a good idea.

dealing with the demons

Papo and Yo is and independent is a fantasy adventure game that tells a metaphorical story about the relationship between the games creator and writer, Vander Cabellero, and his alcoholic father as he was growing up. The game is not meant to be an autobiography but rather the interactions that happen between the Cabellero and his father as he remembers them. The young protagonist in the game named Quico, is the video game counterpart of Cabellero’s childhood self. As Quico roams the maze of streets in a Brazillian favela, he comes across a giant rhino horned beast named only Monster, that accompanies him on his adventure, the video game counterpart of the father. Although the monster is brutish and powerful he is not represented as villainous but rather pitiful at times. Cabellero speaking on behalf of the game says that he wanted this to not be a sob story but rather one about love that showed multiple aspects of the relationship for better or for worse. Monster is for the most part friendly and occasionally fatherly but when he ingests frogs, a habit he cannot control, he gets angry and is prone to hurt Quico. Quico knowing that it is not entirely the monsters fault that he is this way sets out to find a cure for Monster in hopes that he can help him stop eating frogs and stop getting out of control. The gameplay is all about restructuring the world via gears drawn on walls and the story is driven by pushing events into motion and seeing how they will play out between the pair. It is highly innovative and arguably a valid sentiment to consider when advocating that video games can be considered as mediums of higher art as devices that can be used to express the world through a symbolic interactive story.

Interactive Cut Scenes

I’ve found that in the gaming world there is often a disparity between those who love cut scenes and those who are appalled by them. Those gamers that have an inherent hate for cut scenes often make a mad scramble for the skip button the moment a cinematic sequence begins. With a few exceptions cut scenes are an integral part of story immersion, thus in a franchised game developers seem to favor the use of cut scenes throughout the gameplay experience.
Some games have attempted to make a compromise to the gamer by incorporating cut scenes that require participation on the player’s behalf. This compromise often fails to satisfy either gamer that takes one stance or another in regards to cut scenes. The interactive cut scene does little to contribute to the narrative aspect of the story and as for its gameplay aspect it is generally reduced to the timing of pushing a couple button. I generally appreciate cut scenes and rarely skip them as I find myself usually invested with the story and not just the gameplay itself. One exception I have found to this and the purpose of this discussion derives from a recent replaying of Resident Evil 5. Here is the scenario: the cut scene begins in an open dirt courtyard and suddenly a trio of dirt bike driving Uroboros infected humans start riding in circles around me, I have to pull the triggers on my controller to dodge, push A once for some inane action, couple of Paul W.S. Anderson action shots later and the cut scene is over and I’m feeling incredibly empty.

Southpark: The Stick of Truth

One of the most anticipated games for me for next year is the new South Park: The Stick of Truth RPG. Developed by Obsidian Entertainment, the team behind Fallout: New Vegas, The Stick of Truth will be released next May on Xbox 360, PS3, and Computer. What psyches me out most about the game is that Obsidian is working in close conjuncture with Southpark Studios to ensure that the gameplay lives up to the standards of confessed gamers Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The story, written by Stone and Parker, places you in the role of the new kid in town that becomes embroiled in a city wide live action role playing game on a quest to “become cool”. What I find appealing is the direction in which they choose to portray the kids interacting within their game universe by showing the manifestation of an imaginary world while still keeping the kids grounded in reality. In the game weapons are anything a child might use in pretend fighting, wooden swords, plungers, big kitchen utensils, plastic bow and arrow sets, and homemade costumes. They take these elements and apply the tropes of a big RPGs like weapon enhancements and class specific gameplay while simultaneously meshing with the styling of the Southpark universe. In the game itself you fight against different factions based on Southpark characters like the ginger kids, and the goths all of whom have their own class attributes and powers. As the trailer below shows this wouldn’t be a Southpark game without some dirty humor and swearing.

Are Video Games Good for Children?

Is it beneficial for children to play video games? My answer would be yes but that;s only because I spent most of my time playing on some console or on the computer. But research is showing that games are not a waste of time but have positive results. I think this is cool, though with such a wide spectrum of games, there have been positive and negative results from all kinds of games. I think it's careless to lump all games together and say that they're beneficial. there's a reason games have ratings. This is an article that says , "...serious games and virtual environments may be the future of education. Not only do students find gaming more approachable and engaging than lectures and PowerPoint presentations, they insist on them. Simulations also provide a more inviting and lifelike context in which to make choices, see results, and apply learning in real-time. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) states that kids actually need more, not less, video game play as a result. Citing games’ ability to prepare workers for the increasingly competitive global job market, the organization says that games promote strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, plan formulation, and ability to respond to change." 

What sort of simulations? And even if someone is a great gamer, how will you tear them away from being the king of a virtual world to Joe Schmo in the real world? Isn't that why games get so addicting, because we know it's a controlled world?

It seems like this argument could go in circles for days and no one could get anywhere because there's just too many games to use as arguments for both sides. This is actually what I'm struggling with for the topic of my paper. Anyone have thoughts? 

Get your face in Halo 5!

343 industries (the makers of Halo 4) announced today that if you win their competition you could have your face in a future Halo game.  I'm not gonna lie, that's pretty awesome, and I feel like when you have as much market power as they do, things like this are cheap to do and promote the game a whole lot.  Not only that, but you can only win by PLAYING MORE THAN EVERYONE ELSE.  So, even if you're terrible, just spending an outrageous amount of time with their product gets you in the next Halo game.  Like I said, kinda cool, but it pays more for 343 than it costs, and I'm not a huge fan of games doing things for profit and attention.

Blog #15: "Valve Wants to Directly Compete with Consoles"

Possibly great news for any fans of Valve: they are planing on developing some kind of living room PC that will compete with consoles and conventional PCs. From what I can gather, it sounds like some kind of limited PC/console hybrid. It should come as no surprise that Valve also plans to integrate Steam directly into the console. This strikes me as the gaming equivalent of Apple's strategy. Apple creates both its own hardware and software, which has become a main selling point for the company. Similarly, Valve wants to attempt this strategy.

LAST POST: What I learned in SAC 368

The great thing about this class is that all of us have already vast experience and background in the video game culture. We were born and raised at a time where video games have become so embedded  within our culture - granted, some more than others, but even those that don't game can see the culture of video gaming leak onto other areas of society (ex. The marching band doing a tribute to gaming). Video game characters are recognizable and known. People know Mario and his Mexican-accented voice. So we all have knowledge about games, since we were the generation that grew up in its culture.
Taking this class has allowed me to look at an aspect of my life and the culture I see around me more intently and made me realize the significance of video games. Many times during this course when a concept or idea is introduced, I go "Oh yea! That is true!" , or "That really applies to ____", or "This really reminds me of ____". I am an example of a kid that grew up with computer and video games, fell in love with it, but then drifted apart as I grew older. But I recognize that it was still a large portion of my life and has influenced me in many ways. This class has widened my perspective on video game's impact on culture and social life, and I believe it will likely become ever more so important in society.
Lastly, would just like to thank Sheila for putting up with all of us and for teaching. Cheers, its been fun.

Do you ever see a crowded Arcade anymore?

Well do you? With technology of home gaming consoles and hand devices advancing so quickly, are people not bothered to go to the arcade to play a couple of rounds of Time Crises or Daytona anymore? Not to mention you have to pay a hefty amount just for one round. Maybe going to an arcade offers a different experience such as the atmosphere, the type of games offered and the prizes that you can win, but I don't really see the arcades existing in the future, or there would be a lot less.
I think the choice of whether go to the arcade or going over to their friends place to play PS3, most would say going to their friends place. But it's kind of sad though that this trend is happening, when you go to an arcade lit with lights and sounds but soulless. All the classic games in its primal inventions no longer exist. I may be too young to ever appreciate when the arcade was popular, but I imagine a time when it was a cool place to go and you see crowds of people challenging to beat the high score of a game. The times of Billy Mitchell and Steve Weibe is diminishing (even in the documentary there weren't that many people in the arcade).

Learning Games

I think most of us grew up having "played" Mavis Beacon, the ever-so-loved game that teaches you to be proficient in typing. I wanted to bring up the notion of gaming as a tool for learning and how effective these can be. Learning games are not aimed at creating an interactivity that is leisurely and fun, but by using these qualities of gaming as a motivation to stimulate learning. I remember in one of my elementary classes, we all went to a computer lab to play Mavis Beacon, and my friends and I would compete with one another to see who is the "fastest typer of them all". It's silly at hindsight, but it definitely was an effective way to better my typing skills.
There are so many other forms of learning games out there, or even trivia questions where you just explore the game's universe. For example, there is a trivia game online on the Nickelodeon website showing the expansive world of its TV show The Legend Of Korra (love the show), all the games purpose to only to just click on things and read the descriptions. Once you explore enough of certain location, you unlock the next location and do that same. I think it just goes to show what a wide range of uses for gaming can be, and is not just limited to what we think of when we hear the word 'gaming'.

Video Game Fandom

Post #7

We've talked a little bit about video game fandom in class and on the blog. For example, we looked at video game character Halloween costumes, and fan art. There have also been examples of video game fan websites, videos, and even video game food on the blog. Fans of video games have expos and special events. Fans may dress up, and wait in line for premiers. My question is, do you think video game fandom, or video game fans in general act in similar ways within society as fans of television, music and movies? Are video game fans thought of in the same way as other media fans, or are they looked down upon more than fans of television, for example? If so, why are they treated differently? What do you think?

Fighting is Magic: My Little Pony Just Got More Epic

For all the potential bronies in the class...there must be some. If you already didn't know some indie game developers are creating a My Little Pony game called Fighting is Magic. The graphics and game play are pretty good and resemble the show's animation spot on. Basically it's like Tekken where two ponies fight to the death. I don't know what platform the game will be on though (most likely it is going to be a Mod).

It's also interesting that there is even video game "theme music" for each pony.

It won't come out for a little while. It's not an official game, so there might be some copyright stuff with Hasbro. In addition there have been arguments that the game takes away from the "message" of the show which is to be friends with each other. Not necessarily beat them up...However, kid show or not we all grew up on super smash so I think those game developers are doing kids everywhere a favor by creating this game.

*Special thanks to my friend Yuxing Xia for showing me these videos in the first place.

Peter Griffin in Marioland

For all of you who like Family Guy and Mario here is a fun fan made video I came across. It's interesting how two forms of media like television and gaming can come together in another media like the internet. Synergy...what can I say.

Virtual Reality Exposure

I think we talked about this in class but would virtual reality simulations be qualified as a game? They after all have rules constructed by their coders so maybe it could fit into a subcategory of game. We also have been talking about how games can cause "gamer addiction." However, through "virtual reality exposure," games can actually help people with psychological disorders.

In my psychology class we have been discussing psychotherapy methods to treat psychological disorders like phobias, post traumatic stress disorder, etc. One method is called flooding where a person is exposed all at once to their greatest fear without any negative consequences (if afraid of heights they might go to the top of a building but be perfectly safe). This idea of flooding can be taken further by exposing a person (for one to several hours) to a virtual reality simulation with their greatest fears like battle zones (PTSD), flying, spiders, etc. This helps people not avoid their fears (for psychologists avoidance leads to negative reinforcement which continues undesirable patterns of behavior) and eventually learn to face them.

The benefit of having a simulation is that exposure can be done multiple times without the cost or danger of doing it in real life. For example, flying would get expensive and time consuming. Also when treating PTSD, it  is safer to simulate a battlezone rather than to go to an actual one.

I know by summarizing I probably left out some details, but please weigh in on what you think. Do simulations count as games if they help people in this way?

$25,000 for every SNES game ever

Some guy on ebay is selling all 751 SNES games for 25 grand.  I don't know how I could even get around to playing let alone beating all of the games.

Video Game Inspired Food

Many people have posted images of video game inspired cakes, cupcakes, etc. Another common place to find video game inspired food  is Bento Boxes. Check out some of these examples I found on google. Pretty impresive!

Blog #9: Review of "Limbo"

Continuing my series of indie game reviews, here is my review for Limbo. Limbo is a game that was featured peripherally in Indie Game: The Movie, and it is actually fantastic. While the overall tone and gameplay mechanics of the game are quite different from Braid, the two games do share a few key elements. Mainly, they are both platforming games which feature a (probably) male protagonist tasked with navigating through a landscape alone who end up discovering a princess at the end of their journey. However, whereas Braid features enemies for the protagonist to kill, in Limbo, your journey is almost entirely done in solitude. When you do encounter other people, they are dead, attempt to kill you, or simply run away. This game has some of the best art direction I've ever seen. The black-and-white color palette, minimalist use of environmental fauna (giant trees, grass, water, etc), and horrifyingly depressing set dressings (rope bridges, fatal traps, industrial settings) all work together to create a mesmerizing experience that both demands to be played but makes you scared of what you'll see next. Despite what I've just written, Limbo isn't really a horror game. There are certainly horrifying moments, but the overall tone is that of despair, loneliness, and mystery. Everything in this game can kill (and will) kill you. Such killing elements include bear traps, water, other people, long falls, industrial band saws, or a recurring giant daddy long legs spider that attempts to stab you with its legs. In addition to the challenge of avoiding death, the other, and more common obstacle is rather challenging spatial puzzles involving the manipulation of gravity and a test of reflexes. This narrative of running from death continues until the very end, in which you encounter a young girl. Your final respite from the world around you is when she climbs up a ladder leading to a tree house and she beckons you to come with her. The game ends with the young boy standing before the ladder, wondering what to do. Overall, the game is a great example of consistent and sustained mood and use of art direction as a narrative element itself.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Talk About Mindless Violence!

I love playing L4D2 when it gets late at night (like right now). It is the epitome of mindless violence because the entire goal of the game is to blast and/or slice your way through hordes of flesh-eating zombies. It's challenging, suspenseful, and you can defend yourself with a katana. There's also some strategy in there. I don't know how I'll defend liking this game but if anyone has any insight into why it's appealing, help me out. I'm just running out of things to post and I'm tired. If you haven't tried this before, next time you play, turn off the background music, keep the sound effects on, and put on your favorite Beatles album. It's awesome.

Gaming and online humor

As a testament to the growing mainstream popularity of video games, you see a lot of youtube videos and entire channels devoted to stuff like this.  There's quite a bit of overlap between the gaming community and certain parts of the internet (occasionally WEIRD parts of the internet) that allows for stuff like this to be so prevalent in online comedy.  Some of it's modern, but a lot of it is also throwback games.  Personally, the Remi Gaillard one makes me laugh every time.  I wish I could throw banana peels at people while driving :(

Are Gaming Consoles becoming Obsolete?

With people playing games on their smart phones and iPads, do you think that consoles like the Wii and Playstation 3 will be obsolete in the next decade? I don't know how to predict that but for me it would make sense since your iPad and your cell phone are compact and mobile. Even talk of the new Xbox integrating screens into their controllers sounds like they're worried they'll become irrelevant if they don't include an on-the-go option with their consoles. Either that or I've read that these platforms will become more like entertainment systems that include surfing the web and watching movies, which already happens now with Netflix on the Xbox. I don't know about PS3 since I don't have one. I'm sure those who are more in tune to the evolving technology and gaming market have a better idea of where things are going so I'm curious to hear what you have to say about this topic.

YouTube Gamer Channels

There are tons of YouTube gamer channels.  I actually ignore most of them, but I am a regular viewer of "dukethakilla".  While he plays all games, he focuses on sports games mainly (with Madden getting most of his attention).  I point him out because he is quiet interesting.  He is a different person while gaming than when he is not.  While not gaming, he acts (and speaks) in a mature, intelligent, well spoken manner.  When gaming, he seems to hit a switch and act (and speak) completely opposite.  What I wonder is if this is something that is the "norm" for gamers.  I know that when gaming I am more relaxed and accepting of "juvenile" behaviour.  Then again, I am like that whenever I hang out with my pals.  Is this "switch" something to be expected?  Also, what are sports fans or gamer's opinion on the video?  Are there other gamer YouTube channels that follow a similar approach or are they the antithesis of this?

Bridging Cinematography and Videogame Aesthetics

Last night, I watched a talk with Cinematographer Shane Hurlbut who was the Director of Photography for the movie "Act of Valor." This feature was shot almost exclusively on the Canon 5D mkii when it first came out. In fact, in his talk he mentioned times when bringing out their film camera attracted way more attention than they needed from passersby. With such a compact camera, Shane accomplished getting shots that he described as more "immersive" than anything we've ever seen before, which is what made the movie so unique. The camera team literally strapped 14 pound helmets on these Navy Seals with the 5D attached and ended up with really intimate and energetic shots. Some of them even reminded me of the first person shooter POV you see in Call of Duty and Halo. This was just an observation that connected in my mind. It was interesting to gauge my reaction when watching the same angle in a feature within a different context that is also used interactively within video games. I felt an even more heightened sense of excitement because I was literally in the middle of this group of Seals. I also experiences heightened tension and suspense from these POV shots as well because I was not the one in control of what the Navy Seals were doing whereas I would be pretending I was Rambo in Call of Duty. I think it's cool how similar visual language in two different mediums can achieve the same "immersiveness"and yet create two very different experiences.

Here's a link to some photos from set and you can see how they rigged this camera to get some crazy shots.

How well do you know video games?

Its the end of the semester - which naturally means finding any way possible to distract yourself from studying for finals. is generally my distraction of choice - so I decided to play some of the video games related quizzes. Below are a few of the good ones - try them out to see how well you really know video games!

Video Games by Game Over Screen:

Video Games Released in the 1990s:

Video Games by Start Up Sound:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Blog #8: Review of "Braid"

Last night, I just finished playing through Braid a second time. I held off on reviewing it after my first play through because it is an unusually thematically and structurally complex game. As we know from Indie Game: The Movie, Braid is one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. However, does the game truly live up to the hype? In a word, yes. Despite, or perhaps because of the simplicity of the platforming game mechanics and how these are tied into the game's narrative, the experience is moving, shocking, and all-together difficult to summarize (that's a good thing in this case). Essentially, you (the protagonist) are a preppy looking boy/man who is searching for his princess. You move through six different worlds, trying to get puzzle pieces that, when pieced together, form images from your memories. Much of this involves jumping on killing little monsters by jumping on them. The game is, in many ways, a critique of these traditional video game conventions. The mechanic that made Braid famous is the ability of the player to reverse time at any point. In this way, the challenge of the game is not to avoid death (that's reversible as well), but to intuit your way through the rather difficult puzzles in each world by manipulating the flow of time. When you finally assemble all six puzzles, you progress into the Epilogue, which is perhaps the most brilliant combination of narrative and gameplay I've ever seen. Upon a first playthrough, you are helping to save the princess from the clutches of an evil knight. You help each other get past obstacles until you finally meet up and then... You watch the level in reverse in which you discover that she is actually running away from you and the knight is her savior. You become the monster you sought to defeat.

Creative Expression in Social Gaming

The other day I heard a talk by an Executive Game Designer for Zynga. One of the points he talked about that I found the most interesting was the importance of "creative expression in social gaming". He said that having elements of the game where the user/player can express themselves is a key aspect in creating a successful social game.

The example he gave came from the game Farmville with the idea of creating art from hay bales. Players would save up coins to buy hay bales, to create massive complex mosaics on their farms. This task alone provides no further achievements in the game, however users would spend massive amounts of time in the game performing these actions.

Here are some examples I found using Google:

An Engineer's Perspective #5

This semester I am in a class called Computer Game Design. For the last 5-6 weeks we have been split into groups to work on our final project - creating a video game of our choice. Next Friday (12/14), from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. all of our games will be presented and available to play at an exhibition in 1670 BBB (on North Campus). This event is open to anyone to attend. Come check out some games made by students and cast your vote for your favorite! (whichever group in our class gets the most votes automatically gets an A)

The game my group has created is called "Into the Darkness". Here is a little more about our game:

An evil monster has just stole your eyesight! He has hidden it away in the depths of his enchanted castle. Each room of the castle is protected by puzzles the monster has created in order to protect against intruders. On your quest to get back your eyesight, you must make your way through the castle by solving the puzzles and avoiding the numerous traps and obstacles. You have limited time before the monster realizes you have broken in and begins to chase you. If you get caught by the monster before you can complete your task, you must start over or be left without your eyesight forever.

Since the object of the game, is to retrieve your eyesight (stolen by the evil monster), the player must rely on other methods to “see” the world around them. The player will be able to perform actions, such as jumping and throwing pebbles, that will cause vibrations. These vibrations will spread, outlining the shape of any objects in their path.

Video Games at U of M

I've put together a list of any classes that I know of that are specifically related to video games, in case you are interested in taking more courses on this topic. Here it is:

School of Education:
EDUC 222: Video Games and Learning

College of Engineering:
ENG 100: Gaming for the Greater Good
EECS 494: Computer Game Design

SAC 368: Video Games as Culture/Form
AMCULT 205: Race, American Culture, & Video Games

Art & Design:
ARTDES 372 Video Games

* I'm sure I've missed some so feel free to add on in the comments.

Also, we have our own Video Game Development Club called Wolverine Soft. More info can be found on their website:

An Engineer's Perspective #4

Creating Video Games for Other Purposes

Last semester, I took a class that was focused on creating video games to provide therapeutic value to children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We started the semester researching ASD and talking to professionals in the field to gain knowledge and inspiration for ideas for our games. By the end of the semester our class had prototypes of many different games, each targeted at improving different areas. Here is a video that summarizes the class:

Through using the technology of the Microsoft Kinect, my group came up with a game based on the playground activity of jumping rope. Our game "Jump Rope" was made for up to 2 players, with four different game modes for possible play. The object of the game was to properly time a jump corresponding to the jump rope moving on screen. In addition, power-ups would appear on screen and could be grabbed with your hands or feet by extending them in the air accordingly. The power-ups had different actions including additional lives and changing the speed of the rope.

One symptom that troubles children with ASD is sensory overload. This means they may get irritated easily by loud noise, flashing lights, etc. Our game worked to provide desensitization to these types of stimuli. The way we incorporated this into game play was by having a thunderstorm appear every once and a while with flashing lightning on screen and loud noises from rain and thunder. The idea was that we would eventually be able to track whether the player was missing a higher priority of jumps during the thunderstorm (extra stimuli) then during normal play, and track over time there progress.

Another symptom that is common among kids with ASD is having a hard time communicating and working with others. To help provide therapeutic value, we added collaboration and cooperation modes to our 2 player modes of the game to encourage and enforce kids to work together to gain a higher score.

Here are some screen shots of my groups game:

Hardware and Competitive Gaming

I did my essay on T.L. Taylor's book about competitive gaming, and she dedicated a good 20 pages or so just to controllers, keyboards, monitors, headphones, and everything else gamers have to bring to competitive events.  I've never really had any issues with my controllers or whatnot in terms of hurting my gameplay, but I came across this when I went to MLG's website, and I though it was interesting that players at this level can notice such small differences in hardware.  I've had a lot of friends complain about slow computers or laggy monitors, but this is the first time I've seen anything to do with controllers.  I guess anything to help you win is a plus though.

Capcom 25th Anniversary Tournament stream

If you are a fighting game fan, or just interested in what the FGC (fighting game community) is, check out this stream.  It is a great contrast to the whole "eSports" movement of some other games (I really hate that term and everything about what it means).

How gaming can determine your future (for the better)

Do you hear your parents or the media nag about how addictive and useless gaming is, and you should make better use of your time by reading a book or something? Well, here's a wonderful counter argument: gaming can actually get you a job! Vugar Huseynzade was appointed manager of Azerbaijan Premier League club FC Baku on the sole credit of playing Football Manager, which is a simulation game (I'm talking about soccer, for you American students out there). He has no real-life managerial experience whatsoever, and he's only 21!
You guys have to understand that being a manager at a soccer club is extremely demanding, stressful and highly selective. To be given an actual job just because you play a computer game that simulates managing a soccer club is unheard of.
My first reaction was of course, WTF, but a part of me really hopes he succeeds to be a top manager.
Here's the article about it:

New form of gaming console: Gameklip

Has anyone else seen this? As an avid fan of the Galaxy S3 and Android phones in general, I think this is awesome! Take that Apple.
This is like playing PS3 on the go:

Would you guys buy this? I definitely would.

The Rich & The Obsolete!

The Rich & The Obsolete!

I found this article to be rather interesting, because I always wondered if a publisher gets double pay for used games. Sadly, that answer is no. That answer is no, because once a business sells a product it is sold and it is the ownership of the buyer (who purchased the game). Nonetheless, Publishers and game makers are in uproar with buyers GameStop, Wal-Mart, Target and other game chains because these units sell use games and profit from them. In return, the original publishers and makers have come up with creative techniques to getting buyers to purchase the new game opposed to the old one.  They have downloadable codes (cheats) as an incentive when a gamer buys a new video game. These codes have limited expiration; therefore, one has no choice but to buy the new game or they will be missing out on something major within the narrative of a specific game. Honestly, I think it is greed on the Original publisher’s part, because they sold the product, made a profit, therefore, why cry over it. It is like a girl selling her hair extensions once she has already purchased it. She paid for her hair extensions, and if she no longer wants her hair extensions, so why not sell them? Horrible example, but it is true.  I do understand the counter arguments of most used games being sold at the same price as the original – However in my opinion get over it. Nonetheless, with the rate at which technology is progressing, rumors have been swirling that games discs and cartridges will be of no longer value and that everything will become digital. As a result, there will be no need for Used Game Stores or game chains such as Target, Wal-Mart, and GameStop etc. Unfortunately, we would have to worry about the high rise of theft and pirating!!!! So no one really wins, ha, ha, ha! 

infographics, yay!

I found this infographic when i was surfing around the internet today, and I thought some of the things it brought up were really interesting. (here's the link to the website). like some of the comments say, there are some statistics that probably would be beneficial to include that didn't make the cut. are there any statistics y'all think in particular would be useful?

Friday, December 7, 2012

What makes a gamer?

As a non-gamer, I was pondering the question of what makes a "gamer?" I guess it's not really a ground breaking question, but what distinguishes a person who plays games from a "gamer?" Is a gamer simply someone who plays video games, or is it something more meaningful than that? Is it an identity that video game players seek to have, or merely a meaningless word that non-gamers use to describe people who play video games? Do people label themselves as "gamers?" At what point does one go from being a mere person who plays games to a full on "gamer?" Is it an identity that is appreciated in video game culture? These questions are up for discussion. Thoughts?

Day Z Anyone?

Some of my friends told me about a Mod called Day Z (it's a server game). It's about surviving a world full of zombies. However, the shtick of the game is "this just got real." The game is a modification (I heard) from military simulations, so it gives a realistic environment in which other players can hunt you down as zombies. According to my friends it is really scary because zombies can even hear the sounds of your footsteps. The sounds of gunfire is also realistic in its distance and proximity from you. In addition, you only have one life to live, or you have to restart the entire game. On top of avoiding/killing zombies you have to find food and water in order to survive. This adds to the intensity of the game.

Weigh in on what you think. Does more interactivity mean a better game? This debate has been raging on in class and Mr. Miyamoto from Nintendo might think less realistic games are the way to go.

Here is the website.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Cool filler blog (maybe nsfw)

Note for the weak of heart & easily offended: there are drawings of guys in lingerie in here, showing off their butts and video game characters in their underwear. You've been warned.

The Hawkeye Initiative is a tumblr where people take images of sexy superheroines and draw Hawkeye from the Avengers doing those same poses in the same skimpy stuff. If you know about Rocky Horror Picture Show, you'll get the idea very quickly. If you don't know, keep looking (and don't say I didn't warn you at the beginning)...

Not the best art, but "empowerment!"

Hawkeye's eyewear is very close to what the Monarch's henchmen wear.


As we've heard about time and time again, lady characters in video games (and comics) have that cool quality where the more they're armored up, the more their clothes fall off, as if their armor is actually some sort of slippery clear-coat (see above). Dudes, on the other hand, get more covered up as they acquire armor. (Also, the sky is blue and water is wet.) But how many dudes in games are allowed (by the developers) to pull a Rocky Horror and bust out the high-heels? Maybe not that many.

A cursory google search for "crossdressing video game characters" showed me this article from Destructoid. This article, entitled Crossdressing and Cross Gamers is about how three different games deal with the issue of crossdressing, and each game is coded to allow it, but only to allow it in the world of the game to varying degrees.

In the first, a game called Space Quest IV, male-bodied characters CAN buy ladies' clothing, but an NPC will call them a "sicko," and then the way the player/character chooses to react to it affects their choices later in the game. Sounds a bit like life. Some have apparently argued that it is true, that crossdressers are sickos, and unnatural, and [fill-in-the-blank]. The author, Jim Sterling, counters this with, "clothing is by its nature a very unnatural thing," and that crossdressers are no more unnatural than normal people - if Eddie Izzard can do it, the author could do it. (That said, Sterling then sort of shoots himself in the foot by saying that he won't crossdress because "nobody wants to see John Candy in a dress." Dude, it's a big Internet out there, I'm sure someone out there would dig that.)

In the second game, Final Fantasy VII, Cloud has to run around a town gathering makeup and girly clothes to infiltrate a brothel bathhouse to save his friend. Cloud is at first stunned when Aerith suggests it, but goes along with it, with Aerith essentially being his wingman to get all the things he needs to look like a "real girl," which include a silk dress, blonde wig, sexy cologne, and diamond tiara (apparently it's cool to go barefoot in this town?) The townspeople are totally cool with all of this, by the way - they make the dress and give him the supplies as rewards. Cloud gets all that he needs and goes into the brothel where he meets a crew of burly men and gets his drag show on the road to save Tifa. (In this second video is all that, and a little blurb from the poster about how women who wear makeup are unattractive, which seems irrelevant.) It's like the village that all of this is taking place in within the world of the game is part of an ideal world, where you can present however you want and nobody will act like that NPC from Space Quest IV. 

In the third game mentioned, Saints Row, people have the power to create the characters they want - so if I play it, my dream of playing a game as Dr. Girlfriend may come true! Sterling says (wall of text):
This game has actually received praise from more feminist-minded gamers due to portraying female custom characters exactly the same as males ones. While this does impose latent lesbian tendencies on the character whether the player intends it or not, it's still a fantastic example of a game with an open mind, because as well as men and women, players can make both crossdressers and transgendered characters by playing with the in-game settings. Want to slap a dress on your thugged out gangster? Feel free! Want to create a female character with a male voice? Go wild! You can approximate almost any lifestyle that reflects yours, and Saints Row II won't judge you for it. That such a crass and tasteless game could be so culturally open is pretty encouraging, I think. 
The customization process is in-depth - what game lets you control your character's forehead depth? (Rhetorical question, as some of you could spew lists of games that do.) I guess this is one of those games that relies on people bonding with the game so much that they make characters in their own likeness or the way they'd like to see themselves (or other people). This must make it more exciting when you go badassing around in the game. But how many people actually make crossdressing characters?

The female character creation videos I found are more oriented towards creating "the perfect woman," while the male character creation videos seem to be more about goofing around with the controls to see what happens.

Male to order.

I wish changing my hair color was that easy...

I think it's cool that some games are being progressive, even if they don't actually *mean* to. People can crossdress in Saints Row 2 because the developers gave players more control over their appearance - it's not like they're making players create characters in drag or look a certain way. What do you guys think?

gamer tag

Hey everybody who has an xbox my gamer tag is Vesiot.  I am usually the one online playing Halo if anybody else wants to play.  Post your gamer tags here.

puzzle games

We were talking today about puzzle games, specifically Limbo ( These are games where there are generally no rules other than how to play, and you as a character are basically on your own when it comes to getting to the next level. This reminds me of the game(s) that I am playing for my book review paper, namely the games in the Oddworld series. For anyone who has never heard of these games, the first in the series was Abe's Oddysee (1997) which followed Abe, a humble Mudokon who worked at a Rupture Farms, the biggest slaughterhouse on Oddworld.
(sexy, no?) The innocent floor-waxer Abe accidentally overheard the evil Glukkons plotting to use Mudokons as their next treat (oh yeah, Rupture Farms is akin to a candy/snack factory)! Basically the premise of the first game is Abe getting out of Rupture Farms. The interesting thing about it is that there are few directions and you have infinite lives. (I'm not sure if this is a thing in other puzzle games, but narratively it seemed like an interesting choice. or rather, it was a choice that went outside the narrative) I love puzzle games, and I feel like I'm better at them than fighting games, but I was wondering what people thought about classifying such a game. It is a puzzle game with a heavy narrative and very much time spent on aesthetics--so like art-puzzle-casual maybe? Is it casual? It's on a serious console, (XBox, PS2, etc), and it takes a certain amount of skill to move through the world, or else you just get stuck on trying to get a damn door open for hours and hours. here's a little gameplay teaser, let me know your thoughts!


Is beauty enough to captivate you and keep you entertained while playing video games? This is a screenshot from a free PS3 game called "Flower". It is visually stunning and has a loose narrative but it is very simple. You are a floating leaf and you collect flower petals and later on battle against the growing city that's taking over the colorful, expansive world of nature.

With the debate over the artistic merit of video games, where do you think this game fits in and why is it/is it not art? Here's a screen shot to give you an idea.

Games That Change the World

In one of my last posts, I mentioned Jane McGonigal and her theory on how games can change the world. Here are some of her games that she made to illustrate her point. - World Without Oil

Here you help solve the world's oil crisis - Super Better is meant to help you achieve health goals and power through other of life's challenges.

Play it at

I just played some of Superbetter and so far the challenges are "snap your fingers 50 times" and "count from 100 to 1 by 7." After each challenge, you're given a little snippet on why doing these challenges are beneficial. My question is, is it a turn off that this game engages with reality in this way? I'm arguing from the point of view that people play games to escape reality. Those Wii and Xbox dance games force you to physically move thus getting you in shape. I remember my cousins would go to the arcade just to play DDR for an hour or two. However, there are still elements of escape in those games: the flashing lights on the DDR machine, the blaring music, and the dancing avatars that you must mirror. It gives you the impression that you're a star. How different would the game be if you watched yourself on the screen mimic the moves instead of the avatars? Would it be just as fun?

I don't think I'd call up a friend and say "Hey! Come on over and play Super Better!" I also don't argue against the value of McGonigal's games because as I'm playing Super Better (as I type) I see the positive side to her challenges. I'm just skeptical that people would prefer to play these kinds of games as opposed to anything else.

Interestng YouTube video series on gaming and gender

I was speaking on video games and gender with a couple of friends this weekend.  The topic came up after I was telling them about this class and some of the topics we covered.  They (all male except for one who was dating of the guys present) felt that gaming now is pushing toward a female oriented space and wonder why this considering that while women make up almost 47% of gamers now, the vast majority of them are what are called "casual" gamers (the vast majority of casual gamers are female).  One mentioned Halo 4 as an example. 
As some of you may know, Halo 4 will monitor communications for the game and ban people for sexist speech.  Sounds good right?  The problem with this is that this action has not be implementeed for ther "offensive" communcations in gaming.  There are two things everyone who has played online (or gone to any online communication with random people I suppose) have been called.  In second place we have the "fag" or some form of it.  In first, we have "nigger" or some form of it.  This is rather true of Halo and has been for years.  Why are they NOW implementing bans for offensive speech...and focusing on sexist speech?  The vast majority of Halo players are male (and this has been true from the very beginning).  Their argument was not that sexist comments are fine, but that terms that offend race and sexual orientation have been a problem much longer in gaming, and effect more of the game's user base. 
Other see gaming as space where guys could be guys, so to say.  Gaming was what it was.  It is werid to them that some women (not all, there have been women there from the beginning that were into gaming just as much as men and loved the culture and hobby for what it was without trying to change it) claim to love gaming, yet want to change it for their personal needs.  They veiw it as female hypoagency - something that we have seen in many fields and continue to do so for some reason, yet there is no male hypoagency into female dominated areana (why is that I wonder...).
We ended up chatting for about 2 hours about stuff like this (I wish I could have recorded it, it was pretty interesting).  After the chat, my friend Sam linked me to the two videos above that his girlfriend (she games and was in the chat with us) found.  I wanted to hear the classes thoughts on these videos.  Personally, I agree with them.  He touches on quite a few topics and brings up solid points, though some may not agree.  What about you guys?  Why?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mr. Plow, That's my name, that name again is Mr. Plow

Sorry for the title, its just one of my favorite jingles from The Simpsons.

Just saw an article in the Washington Post about snow plow drivers in Dallas using a simulation game to practice how to plow a road. (Article Here)

First I think it is pretty funny that there is so little snow that they have to have  a sim just in case it happens. But it is nice to know that technology can help us in weather removal. But what type of civil service simulation games will be next to hit the market?

fixing potholes sim?
Remove a fallen tree branch sim?
notarize a legal document sim?
Renew an old drivers license sim?

Who knows, but the possibilities excite me!

Mass Effect 2 Renegade Compilation

This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with what we've been discussing in class, but it IS video game related, so it is still legit.

I don't know what it is, but the concept of being a jerk with badass one-liners is just so appealing to me. Self-insert wish fulfillment escapist fantasy involving building your own narrative (and some badass feminism to boot)? Now we're talking. 

The Next-Gen Xbox

Sorry Playstation lovers. I've got nothing against the PS4, but the Xbox is my platform of choice.  Also, the next Xbox (often called the Xbox 720 but codenamed "Durango" by Microsoft) honestly just has so much more leaked information out there right now. Though mostly rumor and speculation, the details are extremely enticing.  The most exciting bit?  The release date is heavily rumored to be set for HOLIDAY SEASON 2013! 

Also, there’s some good news for both your wallet and your room space.  Its speculated that the Xbox 720 will be both smaller and cheaper than the Xbox 360, though its questionable whether connect functionality will be built in or still come as a peripheral. It’s of course assumed that, since Sony won the next-gen DVD format war, the next Xbox will also sport a Blu-Ray player.  

Now for some crazier stuff.  In February 2012, Xbox World Magazine reported that the Xbox 720 controller will have an HD touchscreen on it surrounded by the traditional controls, much like the Wii U.  The magazine also reported that the controller itself might serve as a portable gaming device, possibly allowing players to start a game on the console and then continue that same game on the go.

What about Kinect?  Well, patents have been discovered for a device that will work with Kinect to project a 360 degree 3D environment that the user will be able to interact with.  According to the patent, the fact that players still see the room around them in their peripheral vision interferes with their immersion in the experience.  This projector will allow the game's space to extend into the player's room.  Intriguing stuff, but remember that this is just speculation based on some patents.
A Design Drawing From The Patent Application
Now here’s a downer.  Though this hasn't been confirmed some sources have claimed that the Xbox 720 will prevent the use of used games.  Personally, I think its complete BS if they choose to do this.  People sell products that they've used and grown tired of all the time, why should video games receive different treatment?  The used market has given me opportunities to play great games I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.  In addition, what will this do to Gamestop's business?

Microsoft is also continuing its commitment to transforming the Xbox into a multimedia device, apparently planning to include separate CPUs for gaming and other media.  This could allow the user to pause a game, switch over to an app running some TV program, and then switch back to the paused game instantly.
SmartGlass In Action

Certain leaked documents also mention streaming of videos, music, and photos between multiple devices.  This sounds like an extension of Microsoft's recently launched SmartGlass.  SmartGlass is an app that allows users to connect their smartphone or touchpad to their Xbox 360. 

Finally, a report has claimed that sources within Microsoft's own headquarters say that the next Xbox device, or should I say devices, will come in two versions.  One will be the typical hardcore, AAA title-playing Xbox with all the perks.  The second will be a smaller, cheaper device aimed at a more casual audience.  It won't be able to play those AAA titles, but it will be able to download casual titles from the Xbox Live Arcade and play all of the other media apps.  

So what do you think?  Excited for next-gen yet?  And of course, what are the implications for the topics we've been discussing in class?  Imagine what such a melding of TV and games could do for narrative!  How could this new 3D projector or the introduction of connected touchscreens alter the gameplay space and gameplay itself?  How might the end of used games affect gamer culture? What does the creation of a separate, more casual device say about current gamer culture?