Archive for the ‘Play’ Category

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Aesthetics and Mechanics

January 31, 2013

The more I follow this little spur of the digital humanities railroad called game studies, the more I find myself sympathizing–and even collaborating–with art historians. Chris Solarski helps me understand why.

Video games rely on the very same design principles — perspective, form, value, etc. — which classical artists employed to create the illusion that the television (or canvas) is a window into an imagined world. These design techniques also serve a second purpose equally applicable to game design, which is their aesthetic value, and application in visual narratives.

I’ve a bone to pick with Solarski’s notion that games’ interactivity is unique, but I’m increasingly aware that games do configure their interactivity uniquely–even my beloved parallel to homeric epic relies on an analogy of configuration that applies centrally to the bard and much less to his audience, who could never sing the tales the bard sings. The barrier of entry to game-performances is much, much lower, and Solarski’s piece may help us describe the available performances more thickly.

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Gaming culture’s complicity in a lamentable confusion

January 15, 2013

There’s a trend here that’s making me very unhappy, of gaming culture actively perpetuating the lunatics’ conflation of “shooters” with “video games.” Consciously or un-, gaming culture writers are trying to rope Flower, Journey, and Papo & Yo into a conversation in which they don’t belong.

Still, bit by bit, video games are being demonized. And even though no true connection has been made, the more they are deferred in such a manner, the more it will be difficult to convince parties otherwise that games are not the cause of society’s ills.

I think the conversation about violent games, and the one about violent media in general, is one we’re overdue for. I’ll bring my copy of the Iliad. I’ve argued before, and I continue to think the prosocial effects, for adults, of such media far outweigh any adverse effects. But as I say I think that’s a conversation worth having. The one we’re having now, where one person is thinking of Call of Duty and another is thinking of Barbie Horse Adventure isn’t, as far as I can tell.

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Multi-modal creativity

October 18, 2012

Everyone knows these days it’s tough to keep up with all technical innovation – there’s always a new code, a new program, a new cloud. As someone attending her first THATcamp (yup, newbie), I am humbled and fascinated by all these possibilities (the-kid-in-a-candy-store simile comes to mind). I do try to keep up with digital arts, though (media aesthetics again, Roger), and the Playground Digital Arts festival always presents some intruiguing work. Do check out older works, too, such as probe, a piece that challenges your notion of cinematic experiences, as Boris Debackere explains:

probe is a metaphor of cinema: cinema as a space shuttle, or a probe you enter and you are completely separated from the external world. Suddenly, the huge screen you have in front of you disappears and becomes a sort of window to travel in time and space. And you sit in this vehicle, but the whole trip takes place in your brain: you concentrate with your mind with the screen that becomes invisible and everything that is projected on the screen puts your mind and imagination into action. The setting of the film is in your brain, not on the screen: it is part of the same dynamics of cinema, which stimulate your brain, the mechanism of your perceptive abilities.”

Are we soon going to perform as our own projection screens? Or have we been there all along?

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Video Games and Human Values Initiative (School of Athens) Podcast

September 10, 2012

Every two weeks I do a podcast with some other game-thinkers at the Video Games and Human Values Initiative, which is now pretty much defined entirely by our Thursday night sessions. The first Thursday of the month is always a symposium; the third is always a “playversation“; both of those become podcasts like this one.

This one’s a playversation with Dan and Roger piloting their WW I fighters against one another and trying to decide whether there’s anything essentially digital about digital games, while Dan tries to picture what the heck they’re doing up in the analogically virtual skies.

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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.

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Fleeing through the mind’s window into disobedience

March 3, 2012

More on the art of distraction and attention spans from Hanif Kureishi in a recent NYTimes opinion piece:

“It is said that distractions are too easy to come by now that most writers use computers, though it’s just as convenient to flee through the mind’s window into fantasy. In the end, a person requires a method. He must be able to distinguish between creative and destructive distractions by the sort of taste they leave, whether they feel depleting or fulfilling. And this can work only if he is, as much as possible, in good communication with himself — if he is, as it were, on his own side, caring for himself imaginatively, an artist of his own life.”

Read the whole thing, plus comments. How much are we stuck in constantly juggling “biological determinism” with the “poetic human”? How does one determine “good communication” with oneself when many are faced with a loose mosaic of their various mediated selves?

Kureishi leans towards disobedience:

“We might need to be irresponsible. But to follow a distraction requires independence and disobedience; there will be anxiety in not completing something, in looking away, or in not looking where others prefer you to.”

Comments one reader:

“These flights do … lead to nothing. It is difficult to reach even the smallest achievement when your thoughts are an ever-changing channel and you have no control of the remote.”

Back to technogenesis (and never mind the metaphors): how many pilots does it take…

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Online learning: an issue of design

February 24, 2012

My favorite bits of this manifesto, from online instructors at the University of Edinburgh, are the ones about design.

Every course design is philosophy and belief in action.

Note that that doesn’t say “Every online course design.” For me, it’s a very small step from there to recognizing that instructional design and game design can and should be isomorphic.