…consequences of Technological Symbiosis

This is a follow-on post from my last one on the reading this week Ten Dreams of Technology where one aspiration is that of symbiosis with technology that it might enhance our normal capacities as humans. I mentioned a game in that last post too, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, a game I’m revisiting recently with newfound perspectives in technology and it’s place within society and culture.  Continue reading

Gaming & Internet Culture; A Multi-sensory Experience

A friend put it perfectly in a tweet just the other day:

I feel like this encapsulates my feelings towards both of those things. As you’ve probably seen in my past blogs I really like the culture of the internet, even the dark bits of it. It makes for a psychology that’s so chaotic yet colourful and beautiful at the same time. Hence why I enjoy YouTube Poops so much; they offer a succinct, humorous, and accessible way of defining the environment of the internet.

I feel the same toward gaming for similar reasons, yet quite different reasons. Modern video games are a truly magnificent amalgamation of past mediums. Elegantly weaved together they don’t only tell stories of characters, but of entire worlds, and galaxies. They offer a space to explore, not simply a narrative to obediently follow along. Video games create a space for a player to have their own take on the world, or completely submit to it’s rules in an act of roleplaying.

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Narratology vs. Ludology

During my continued adventures in learning about video game study I came across this ongoing debate. I was immediately curious because I love – seriously, LOVE – diffusing conflict using the power of raw logic. I won’t be able to ‘solve’ it per se considering how ill knowledged I am when it comes to the field, so it’s something I’m very interested in following. For now I’d like to map out my understanding of it.

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Lev Manovich: Database as Symbolic Form

I had a read of this extract but I must say it was a bit confusing. I’m not entirely sure what Manovich was getting at apart from his suggestion that Narratives and Databases are at odds with one another. I gather Manovich is discussing these things in terms of storytelling and narrative, and how “New Media” prefers a more non-linear approach to it via databases and user input. Even then it doesn’t seem to coalesce into any particularly strong ideas.

I did like the bit about video games though, and the fact Will Wright was quoted, and a thought that came from that section was how competitive video game players learn the game’s algorithms to try and beat their opponents. Quake in particular is a great example, being a legacy competitive game, where the game’s core mechanics were so familiar to the players they could manipulate them in ways that seemed superhuman to more casual players. Similarly Brood War was infamous for some of it’s poor design aspects – such as maximum selection limits, and micromanagement – that when perfected, were a sign of true mastery.

…but yeah, still confused about that reading there.

What is it to “Play”?

I feel like this is something I need to address for myself since I play video games, well, a lot of the time, but with so many conflicting ideas of what a video game is  and what defines it, I’m a tad bewildered.

I recently read Brendan Keogh’s article in Issue #5 of five out of ten and he describes “play” not only as the physical input into a controller or keyboard but simply being “engaged”, “I am still playing Grand Theft Auto IV, even if I am not pressing any buttons”. For most simple approaches to what video games are as a medium, this is very new; as Keogh also notes the idea that ‘playing’ is simply the user inputting commands via buttons, keys, or analog sticks is an assumption that sticks with us.

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Ian Bogost on Serious Games

Ian Bogost opens up his presentation here with a fantastic anecdote about his son playing Animal Crossing. The part that stuck with me was when he says his son asks for more money because he has too many items to fit in his small virtual house. It can be argued that Animal Crossing does promote materialistic ideas. I thought this was a great way to open his presentation because with that I realised that video games aren’t simply novels to be read, but can shape or reflect ourselves as players. Another example he uses is a game that was designed to help teach employees at an ice cream store how to properly serve customers and what effects their work has on the business.

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Video Games; ‘Winning’

I can say with certainty that games exist to be won is not true any more. Prani finishes her short response by saying, “…to be a game, a game doesn’t have to have a narrative.” which holds true. Games like the classic arcade cabinet ones – Pac Man, Tetris, Street Fighter etc. – are simply fun and do not use a narrative to engage with their audiences.

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English Country Tune: ‘Just There’

There’s something special about the way English Country Tune presents itself. You open the game with nothing more than synthesised chords fading in and a menu screen with a handful of options. From the genesis of your experience the game whispers sweet simplicities into your ear.

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