We tend to use the terms 'games' in the colloquial. Generally speaking, we know what this means, but it's still pretty dependant on context. Like, you'll hear people draw distinctions between games and sports, for example. Or, we kind of intuit the difference between a game that children make up to entertain themselves in the moment and, say, a board game. We're oddly less specific about how we name video games, though. What I didn't really know, actually, was how finicky academics have tried to get with game definitions and catagories - here, the problem seems to be one of nomenclature. Basically, we use the word "game" as a catchall for a certain type of behavior within organized parameters, but not all games function the same way.

I drew most of my direct knowledge from the academic treatment of games from the broad strokes laid down in Nielsen, Smith, Tosca's Understanding Video Games. The book itself was helpful, but I'm not impressed with scholarship's treatment of videogames in general, yet.

For me, it seems more foolish to treat all videogames as part of a single, unified category than it would be to treat all movies or televised media in the same way. You can, insofar as it's broadly the same kind of media format, but aside from the broadest strokes, it doesn't make too much sense to try to discuss something like the JRPG game genre in the same way as you'd attempt to address football-based sports games. Discussion like this seems to be designed as something of a time-saving device, anyhow.

Additionally, there are quite frequently games that aren't actually games - or games that are only games depending on why you play them. I think of Minecraft, here. Initially, there was some discussion as to if Minecraft was really a game at all - you could certainly 'play' it or, more appropriately, you could play in it, but it didn't have any specific goal or any organized opposition. It was more like an environment or a simulation. (Though, referring to it as a simulation gets troublesome - a simulation of what, exactly?) Today, Minecraft does, actually, have an end-game, a boss, a way of completing the session, even though executing it only drops you back into the same core session. I don't play Minecraft with any real intention of ever reaching the end boss and defeating it, though I do want to investigate and build in every realm of the game. By most definitions, that would make me bad at the game, or at least playing it incorrectly, but I don't feel that's the case. There's an issue of intent, I think, then.

That also raises a question of games like Dungeons & Dragons, or World of Darkness products, or many other tabletop role-playing games, or games in which there is a story mode, but no real particular emphesis on that kind of organized, linear play like, maybe, the famous Grand Theft Auto series.

To my mind, then, "game" is increasingly an ineffective term of analysis, as there's too much play in the term. Or, maybe what would be better would be for we academics to accept a certain amount of ambiguity that's inherant in the act of play - not that rigor is bad, but all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
atolnon: (Default)
( Aug. 29th, 2010 09:37 pm)
The weekend is pretty much over all ready, making it feel ridiculously short. I spent most of my Sunday playing Persona 4 after a late Saturday. Frank's bistro had a trial opening, where they decided to open the doors at 5 PM to the public, but with no fanfare except having told friends and family. The result of the opening was a nearly immediately packed joint - the bar filled up with friends, but the restaurant end pretty much had someone in every table until the end of the night. My assumption is that's good.

On an unrelated note, I really like this : 
I don't have any verification that's legit, but that's the kind of list I'd imagine Michael Cera would write up. Also, maybe it's just me, but I really like him. I see that he gets a lot of hate from people, or maybe they're just burned out on his characters, but I've never had a problem.

Before I went out to the opening yesterday, I stopped by Gamestop to see what they had in the way of PS2 games and walked out with the last PS2 Guilty Gear game and Shadow of the Colossus. There are a few things going on in that last sentence, though, that interest me.

It may be that you recall a debacle based on Roger Ebert and his opinions of video games and their status as art. (His opinion : They arn't.) After a certain amount of brou-ha-ha in that blog circle and online in general, he eventually replied with this : 
I don't really believe in 'high art' except as a social construct, and the definition that I do apply is actually pretty encompassing. (Anything intentionally created in order to provoke a response.) Colossus is one of those landmark games I've heard about but never played. Ever since I heard how great it was, I had regretted not buying it when I saw it sitting in the bargain bin at Best Buy for 8 bucks.

There are many measures of quality in art, and I'm looking forward to observing them in Shadow of the Colossus.

More recently, Jerry Holkins, aka 'Tycho' of Penny Arcade fame posted the following :
www.penny-arcade.com/2010/8/25/ - Words and Their Meanings, relating to customer status and the used game market. Gamestop is far and away one of the most easily recognized names in used gaming, and in this area, the Slackers chain is kind of similar. I use Gamestop in a similar way that I use Amazon; basically in the pursuit of games that are no longer in production. Most of my game purchases fall along those lines, actually. I don't know the last game I bought that was recent at the time of purchase. Probably Nights 2, for the Wii, and like all my Wii purchases, it was a gift for someone else. Even my PS3 purchases are me playing catch-up.

In many ways, this makes me exempt from the whole discussion, but it still made me think. The stance that Jerry and Mike took wasn't that used game purchases should be illegal, but that when you're buying used, you're not buying new. And if you're not buying new, then your dollars are going to someone that's not the developers. I think that requesting full serviceability from games that one purchases used is something you can do, but not something you can demand. I think that his stance on gaming purchase is reasonable, given who he is, what he does, and who he's around. He ends his post with, " You meet one person who creates games for a living, just one, and it becomes very difficult to maintain this virtuous fiction."

For most people, I'd write that off, but Holkins is someone with a very precise grasp on the written word. I feel that, given the nature of the blog here, one could easily substitute the word 'books' for 'games', though, and we reach a point where many people could feel strongly about the argument. Which is true, for what it's worth. The closer you are to the people that produce these things that we consume, the more involved your perspective becomes. He revists the issue in the next post (here @ http://www.penny-arcade.com/2010/8/27/ ) and I think he does himself a disservice by setting aside the issue as a whole in exchange for this one point. However, he does ask the correct questions when he says " Yes, I'm giving somebody money when I buy used. Is that sufficient? What is the end result, and what systems am I sustaining by doing so?"

These are actually questions that can be answered, in that systems are sustained and there is a certain quantity of money that a company will require in order to be sustainable. There isn't really an ethics question to be answered here, simply a matter of what agenda you're perusing and what cause you'd like to support or, in many cases, a matter of complete indifference to the system as a whole. The agenda in this case is the pocket book and convenience.

While the question can be answered if one's in a mind to do so, I feel that it's eventually moot. Clients like Steam allow games to be downloaded directly to desktop, which is a very, very efficient thing. As a connection to the internet is almost ubiquitous at this point, and as it circumvents the issue in general, while allowing the price on games to come down (which might increase the number of purchases, actually, which would be the whole point), we might be able to sidestep the issue entirely.  At this point, buying new from stores is giving the bulk of our money to those institutions - in fact, all of it, when it's the stores that pay the development companies. I don't believe we're giving money to the developers at all by buying new, but we do influence their paycheck.
atolnon: (Default)
( May. 21st, 2010 03:08 pm)
My mind is on Exalted at a point when I have better things to do. I spent, like, a shitload of time writing up Exalted information in the last two posts. Posts that had mysteriously vanished or, perhaps, had never been posted at all. These are all things that bubbled up from the muck half-formed, hecatonchires to be put down. Nobody wants those hanging around at parties. 

exalted )

That's a lot of Exalted, but I can promise you that it wasn't the full measure of the beast. You don't know what you've avoided.

vidya games )
atolnon: (Default)
( May. 17th, 2010 11:08 pm)
I'm going to cop to being kind of tired. My hours switched and I'm working even earlier, which isn't a tragedy, or anything. Still have 10 hour Mondays where the primary woe is just that my day seems so short after I get back from work. It's a total of maybe 12 hours when you get right down to it, maybe as much as 12.5. I know others work a lot harder then me. Maybe I'm just lazy. I like to think of it as having different priorities.

Busy weekend. Productive. I got hit on, which is nice. I mean, that's good for the ego. It doesn't seem to be an unrelated incident, which continues to make me feel good about myself.

Changeling happened. It was a trip to the rumor monger in the Goblin Market and then the Hedge. I'm a mechanically lazy ST, but I went out of my way to detail the floor plan of the posh home of a side antagonist, when I should have worked on the main one. Still, I was told my portrayal of the atmosphere was creepy and, at one point 'kind of terrifying'. That really made me feel pretty good. It turns out that all of the players and some of the NPCs have 'assault suits'', where they actually change outfits. The players were backed up by two NPCs, and headed into the lair of the Arachnid, which seriously sounds like a D&D module.

There's been some stuff that I seriously haven't expected these last few days, and I guess I'll go meditate under a waterfall about them. Until then, I want to continue my song-related character naming conventions with my Sidereal's prospective name, Age of Innocence. Previous characters include my Abyssal Son of a Silent Age and my Solar, Killroy. Other group characters include the Solar Eight Line Poem, the potential Abyssal, The Man Who Sold the World, the Abyssal Blood From Heaven (from Pennies from Heaven), and the Abyssal Frozen King of Pain (from King of Pain).
I kind of expected a busy weekend and I didn't get one, to my relief. Unlike last Sunday, this one wasn't a terrible explosion of juniper-flavored booze, which makes sitting through work so much easier. The whole weekend was good. Soul Caliber 4 on Saturday, Changeling on Sunday. Friday night, we were playing Rock Band and got busted by the cops. Again. Seems the drumming is too much for our rowdy downstairs neighbors, so instead of just coming up here and asking up to keep it down, we get the 5-0 instead.

So we watch Venture Bros. instead. I turn to my chums and say "I think we should have Soul Caliber 4 here." Like say, to makeup for no longer being able to play Rock Band at the late hour of 10 PM on a Friday night. The next day, I nipped out to buy a copy, and came back with that and Little Big Planet, both for 20 bucks a pop.

The last time I played  Soul Caliber, I lived in Seattle with a roommate who regularly schooled me. I didn't care. I fucking love Soul Caliber so much. When I am done playing, the other game is fucking Sword Barbie, which I play with total and concentrated abandon.  I care about the tint of yellow on the armor and the brightness of the lacquer because I am a giant nerd. I can also play as Darth Vader, which makes me yearn for a variant of the game, ala Masters of Teras Kasai*.

Sunday didn't bring anything really weird to the table. It was the game with the first real, pitched fight where the PCs, despite not being 'combat characters' didn't have a whit of trouble dispatching four NPCs that were just re-skinned Gangbangers from the core book. I learned that complaints about 'gun nibble' are ridiculous and fist fights take a very long  time to wrap up. The PCs drove on down to Carbondale to deal with a second radio tower, this time protected by goons with guns and were able to bring it down pretty adroitly. Interesting side effect which you may like to hear - Sam, the PI and part-time Thunderbird shot an ensorceralled guard with his pump-action shotgun for 5 damage, which I ruled caused him to drop his gun and clutch his side. It's a pretty serious wound for someone who's not a hardened killer.

Killing someone on Changeling business is a Clairity issue, and while the rest of the group were all for Sam dealing with the thugs from the get-go, Sam was nervous after they accidently caught people in the blast of the last radio tower. Caught with someone who might very well bleed out due to shotgun blast, after suduing the guards (no deaths), they marched them away from the explosion and dropped them off near to the hospital. That's 4 witnesses. I'm not sure if that'll bite them later, but I was able to work in all the hooks for next game.

I've developed a habit of pacing the thing like a TV show, down to phrasing descriptions of scenes as if people were watching. I blame Brent for starting that. We're even joking about 'next season'.

* Which I own, actually.
atolnon: (Default)
( Apr. 22nd, 2010 12:20 pm)
If you read Penny Arcade(1), and you might, then you've probably seen Tycho and Gabe's response to Ebert's response(2) to Kellee Santiago's TED(3) (and Kellee responded to Ebert first(4), so it's possible you've seen that as well.). I am trying to give an impression of layers, here, but it's more akin to everyone trying to talk at once. We're in a crowded room, and Ebert yelled the nerd-equivalent of 'fire', and this is the kind of discussion that results.

Before I go any further, Tycho and Gabe and Kellee are correct. Kellee says that games are art, and they are. Tycho and Gabe are correct in that it's something of a non-conversation. Ebert is usually eloquent and sharp, but his remarks regarding games are cloudy and imprecise. The definition of art has always been murky; it relies entirely on dividing endeavors between what is and what isn't itself.

We love these divisions, but they're little more then conceptual guidelines that allow us to communicate. Video games check many of the boxes that we mentally conflate with art, just in a different way then we're taught to consider them. What is and what isn't art is a useless conversation, because practically speaking, almost every creative endeavor is art of a type. We make things and expect them to have an impact on those that engage with them. That's art.

I guess I'm more interested in those divisions then going further with the debate up top. There's the art-not art, then the high art-low art, then the literature-not literature, canon-non canon... you know, these are mostly useless divisions we use to make us feel better about the things we engage in. They exist to give a meaning to activities that are mostly hobbies. Important, maybe critical hobbies. Hobbies that do have inter-discipline differences. But instead of describing them by what they do, we title them based on how we want to feel about ourselves when we engage in them.

I watch films, and films are art. I watch films that are art, and the films that you watch are not. My hobby is important and I am made more meaningful based on its pursuit. You play games, and games are not art. My consumption makes me more meaningful then your consumption makes you.

That's it. It's just marketing.

(1) http://www.penny-arcade.com/  This actually has a direct link to most of the articles.
(2) http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html
(3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9y6MYDSAww - I think this is right.
(4) http://kotaku.com/5520437/my-response-to-roger-ebert-video-game-skeptic


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