Archive for the ‘Games’ Category


At “Play the Past”: Roger on an interesting Disney game

April 19, 2012

Anyone reading me here might be interested in my “rules of the text” series at Play the Past. I added a little to it today with a post about a rather remarkable ARG/LARP/CCG hybrid that’s recently debuted in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Sample:

In this practomime, a huge range of transmedia discourses (films, above all, but also books, games, and the Magic Kingdom itself) are made part of a ruleset that the designers (whom Disney, never more appropriately, of course calls “imagineers”) have literally mapped onto the theme park and coded onto cards that fragment the Disney narratives and let players recompose them in delightful juxtapositions–for example assaulting Yzma of The Emperor’s New Groove with Maurice’s (of Beauty and the Beast) woodchopper.


Time out for (a) Journey

March 14, 2012

I don’t feel adequate in the slightest to the task of talking about Journey after only playing an hour of it. But I want to register here that I’ve started this new practomime, and it makes me think that a relationship between ethics and aesthetics, arising out of inherited mechanics but transcending them, is gathering steam.

Everything you hear about the “multiplayer” (scare-quotes because it’s not multiplayer according to most previous understandings of the term) is true, but only scratches the surface. There is much work to do here, both in elaborating the practomime (that is, playing the game) and in reading its effects.

Anke, this is the game to start with–if only you didn’t have to have a PS3!


Thoughts after Hayles

February 23, 2012

Katherine Hayles‘ talk here at UConn, “The Technogenetic Spiral” was wonderful. I asked my usual Phaedrus question–that is, “How can you say that we’re undergoing some new change to the dynamics of our consciousness when Plato has Socrates identify the very same change in a dialogue written two millennia ago?” I thought she answered it as well as anyone coming from where she’s coming from ever has. She said, more or less, that she thinks it’s accelerating, but it’s been with us a long time.

What I adore about her approach is the way she handles intervention, and above all the way she sees the power of games to effect such intervention. Speculation is the ARG she and her colleagues are making, to intervene in the technogenetic spiral and, above all, to make us more conscious, at every congitive level, of what’s going on.


Teaching the Pedagogues

February 22, 2012

So if I want to get into games – let’s just assume that the idea of the stuffy academic whose work is wedded to an analog universe is over – what games would I get into? And I don’t mean Tetris or Pac-man… Where to start? How to get fired up? How to enter that other universe your students know inside and out? And – preferably – how to avoid buying a whole lot of equipment your students have accumulated over years (thanks to generous parents and all)? Perhaps it’s not an issue of computer illiteracy that many academics (in the humanities?) are not the ludic bunch. Perhaps it’s generational (some of those I ask DO play Tetris), perhaps it’s lack of time (what? MORE time on the computer???), perhaps it’s sheer ignorance of the cornucopia of games out there that are actually FUN! And relaxing! And intellectually challenging! And FUN! So, suggestions anyone? What do you play when you KNOW you have more IMPORTANT things to do?


An index to my ludic lunacy

February 10, 2012

You might find such an index in my post at Play the Past yesterday, entitled “A modest proposal for viewing literary texts as rulesets, and for making game studies beneficial to the publick.”

Pull quote:

It would in short mean that we could on the one hand read rulesets as literature and on the other critique the design of discursive artifacts like texts. It would mean that we could find new ways to appreciate and to critique the playfulness of novels like Ulysses and epics like the Iliad, and new ways to appreciate and to critique the lapidary literary qualities of games like Skyrim.


Analog analysis to foster digital humanities: attention

February 7, 2012

As some of us at UConn conspire (not to say “connive”) towards a digital future, more and more cultural epiphenomena like Cathy Davidson’s book Now You See It are catching my, well, attention. This is the book that grabbed a news-cycle or two over the summer when we heard that multi-tasking is a myth. What we didn’t hear about, because of course it didn’t fit headlines, is that Davidson takes the long view of the cognitive science of attention, and brings the perceived problem of attention in digital culture (which Nicholas Carr addresses to my mind so shallowly) back to the ancient world.

Or, to put it another way, if you want to understand how the internet is transforming culture, read the Phaedrus.


The digital culture of analog games

February 2, 2012

One of the things I’m most interested in talking about here is the question of how media studies can interrogate digital culture. In particular, I’d like to try to answer that question in the context of my own subfield of digital culture: game studies. Games are not by their nature essentially digital; indeed, if I’m correct that stories and games are really two kinds of the same thing–something I call “practomime“–then thinking of game studies purely in terms of digital games (including of course the categories “video games” and “computer games”) is almost certainly bound to create semantic problems at the very least. Nevertheless, the field of game studies, such as it is, has come into being as a direct result of the proliferation of digital platforms on which to mount instances of practomime–play, to put it broadly–of various kinds.

One might view this as a matter of convenience: digital games have made a new kind of impact on culture, and provoked the formation of a nascent discipline. I wonder though if putting it down to convenience obscures an opportunity for a kind of digital humanities scholarship that studies the analogue roots of digital culture. Our colleague Jennifer Terni is working on a fascinating project that seems to find the beginnings of social media long before ENIAC; similarly, I think Plato’s cave-culture game may be a direct antecedent of BioShock.

It’s in that light that a post today on Play the Past catches my notice: Jeremy Antley uses the idea of the platform to critique boardgames as a means, and as an object, of humanistic inquiry. For example:

Many board games that explore historical subjects do so, often, on foundations of informed and researched perspectives culled from a variety of primary and secondary sources.  The board game, as a historical artifact, should always be seen as a secondary source, especially when it is at rest.  Looking at the rules, designer notes, game materials, etc… provides the astute observer with several points of inquiry for historical analysis.  Using the example of Twilight Struggle, one could use cards in the event deck alone as ‘highlights’ of the Cold War to explore in primary and secondary accounts, without even touching on how the game board depicts nations with stability numbers and connective lines of influence.