Updates from April, 2012 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Thais 8:25 pm on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ending, interactivity, Mass Effect 3, ownership   

    Player Empowerment over the Game 

    There are eight million blogs about Mass Effect’s ending, but is not one of them. Well, not entirely.

    Last month, most of us watched, without dissimulating the awe, the rise of the discontent horde profoundly enraged. “What could possibly infurieted some many good people?” your mom might have asked, “Hunger? Social inequality? The public health system? Politics?” to which you probably would have answer “They didn’t liked a videogame ending”. This is a suitable answer, but we both know that it does not translate exactly into what happened, does it? What I do recall was angered petitions, money gathering [which, fortunately, end up going to charity] and enraged forums posts. Oh, my Thor, how many posts. It has even became its own meme. Despite all possible pesky atmosphere all these claims had, it’s clear that ME3 fans organized themselves in order to make their point.

    Jane McGonigal links this organization abilities encouraged by games as a dormant potential to change the word. She believes that all those fans, highly capable and organized, are only waiting a chance to use their powers to change the world. Unfortunately, future does not seems so bright at least to me. People not always like the same stuff and specially, people not always like the same kinds of cultural productions. The different spectrum of options is also a part of what makes us humans, after all. And respecting there differences is also a great deal of living in society. However, when a large group of people start believing that their point of view is more important or, even more dangerous, more truthful and do whatever is in their power to prove to every single soul in the world that they are right, then we have what we call radicals or extremists. And that’s pretty similar to what happen to Mass Effect 3.

    Erik Kain make some good points on how changing ME3 ending is not a bad choice. He points out, for instance, that corporate decisions already deeply influence artistic direction or that videogames are interactive medium and, as so, players are also creative involved on the game. This last claim, however, is quite a tricky one. Sure, no one that has ever played a game doubts that playing the result of the game itself with player’s choices and inputs, and, as so, most events on any game rely on player’s own abilities and judgement. However, players only can play or  interact within option already given to them by developers. Games are a cooperative experience constructed both by players and developers as an experience, but bottom-line, players can only experience what was chosen to be presented to them. Even though there is such a clear distinction, do players in some way own part of the creative content on a game since they have interacted to it?

    • CmdrEdem 9:16 pm on April 15, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      I don`t think players own the right to demand something from developers. They have the right to suggest changes and developers may hear the complains or not. If developers do not hear and address the complaints there may be retaliation business side (ex.: next game from that developer will sell less, a flood of used copies on the marked since people want to get rid of that piece of junk).

      • Thais 7:18 am on April 16, 2012 Permalink | Reply

        I personally agree with you, however complain in one thing while demanding is another, completely different. ME3 fans were demanding a different ending, as if they possessed the rightful call about it since they “had been there” during the events of ME and ME2 as though they, too, own part of the unfolding of the events. Really an weird situation.

  • Thais 7:04 pm on October 26, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Collective Consciousness, Raganök, ,   

    Videogames and Cultural Hybridization 

    This is text is result of a conversation between me and my good friend Omar Ruvalcaba concerning some points in videogame culture and how it can hybridizate traditional/etnical cultures or be product of that hybridization. I must warn you first that we reached no ultimate conclusions at all and also that this text is only a compressed version of our conversation! Hope you enjoy it!

    Cultural products of a culture are the expression of its culture values and thoughts. Period. Of course, there is also the author personal touch and “universal” values, which generally are in a deeper layer. For example, Shakespeare work, each one of his writing, are highly tied with Elizabethan era, its values and its ways. Even in writings placed in other countries our other times written by Shakespeare have that British XV~XVI accent. Even though, all those works also talk about deeper human values, universal ones, that can make sense in any culture, no matter where or when in a Shakespearean way.

    Videogames are also a cultural product, but the society in which they happened to be created, our contemporary society, is not as well defined nor most of those cultural products use such complex narrative elements as Shakespeare’s. Also, most videogames are produced in 4 or 5 countries while are readily consumed by all the rest of the world. So, it’s not hard to come up with questions as how conscious game designers are of the culture of the people that will be playing their games in the development process or when designing the human computer interaction aspect (such as the controls) do designers of this equipment consider how people in various communities outside of Western Europe and the USA participate in activities, two of the three main videogames producers?

    Well, you don’t have to think much to answer that: probably not, or all evidence indicates that they don’t. But, honestly, can you blame them? We are as we are because of our cultural environment; our model Shakespeare was, dressed, though and ate what its environment allowed him to. Of course, we do have our personality and freewill to decide what we want, but we can’t decide for a option that was not given to us. Therefore, Shakespeare couldn’t write [or, at least, would have a lot of trouble not only to come up with such ideas but also to make himself understood back them], for example, about zombies or aliens, kinds of characters that weren’t part of Elizabethan common thought, its collective consciousness. But fairies and elfs were, that’s why.

    Also, that brings me to mind that I also said our society was not as “well defined” as Shakespeare’s, a argument which can be said about many aspects of today society, but that I meant in a cultural spectrum. In Elizabethan era, the fantastic creatures in the social imaginary were basically some old Norse [their Britannic imagine being, itself, a prove of hybridization] or some creatures, not that well known, from classical mythology. Today, we can add up European  [werewolves, vampires, warriors, knights], African [zombies], American [chupacabra, bigfoot, indians] and Asian [ samurais, gueishas] folk myths/characters and also myths created by modern society [as aliens]. And they can all [or almost] appear in only one place/game, as World of Warcraft or Ragnärok.

    That, by itself, is show us how multi-cultural can a videogame that, at first glance, seemed a total American or Japanese creation. Of course, those appropriations generally aren’t accurate, but generally natural-historic appropriations aren’t since the appropriators have to “fit” the traditional idea to its own traditions or beliefs. That’s a natural evolutionary movement of human cultures, an enriching one. Even Shakespeare did it based on the collective consciousness of his time; try comparing his Pluck to a traditional Norse elf. Also, complete accurate references could also be considered boring to most people. In the original zombie myth, the malady is not contagious nor instigate brain eating, but the popular culture zombie malady does. And it’s awesome.

    So, even that most people are still not really interested in a pure original immersion in other cultures throw games, that “semi” immersion provided by the hybridization of a pop culture movement/figure with the native cultures can be a great way to begin the culture exchange. I like to think about this with great Japanese games from the 80’s and 90’s in which the hybridization of the american/japanese culture seemed almost perfect, like Ninja Gaiden and Kabuki.

    I believe that though this multi-culturalism is present in all games they are more obvious in indie games. Even indie pop based games, that seems to have no relation to the developer’s native culture, can be used to understand some kind of outlook provided by his reality. For example, in India there is some kind of great glamorization of the western super-heroes. Even though, they understand these super-heroes in their own ways. Therefore, even if they try to approach the theme in a “American” way, it will actually translate the American super-hero to their own culture. This example is blatant in Indian movies.

  • Thais 10:36 am on October 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , hostility, , violent games   

    Violence in Games may Reduce Hostility 

    The belief that violent videogames increased aggressiveness between players is still quite common, though it isn’t as omnipresent as was in the 90’s, when many studies claiming to proof this link came out. Most of those studies had some methodological issues, and the most common one was to assume that videogame players were mostly kids or teens.

    But now a Texas A&M research conducted by Dr. Ferguson may discredit this belief, since the study suggest that playing violent games actually “reduce depression and hostile feelings in players through mood management”. The experiment was quite simple; 103 young adults were assigned a frustrating task to perform. Afterwards, they were randomly selected to or play no game at all or a non-violent game or a violent game, either as a hero or as a villain.

    Dr. Ferguson added that “It probably won’t come to a surprise to gamers that playing games may reduce stress, although others have been skeptical of this idea. This is the first study that explores this idea, however. It does seem that playing violent games may help reduce stress and make people less depressed and hostile.”

  • Thais 10:15 am on October 9, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Derek Benson, Kirby, , Lunch Bag, Lunch bag art, Okami, Rails, Red, Sephiroth, Sharpies, Sonic   

    Crafturday – Lunch Bag Art 

    Reader Omar suggested those beautiful lunch bag arts, which are made by super-artsy dad Derek Benson in his lunch break. Derek’s kids liked, in his words, “crazy drawings on their lunch bags” to go to school, so he started making and photographing them for fun. After about 400 lunch bags, he says he sees a difference in his artistic skills. I don’t know about that, but all of them look pretty much awesome to me. Derek uses mostly Sharpies and, some times, oil pastels to do his artworks.

    I selected some of his game-related material, but there is tons more in his Tumblr!

  • Thais 4:37 pm on October 5, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Fable, , , Milo, Project Milo, reality, virtual reality,   

    More real than reality 

    Last week, Lionheand and Microsoft announced that Project Milo was officially canceled [or, at least, posponed] and Lionhead affirmed that Milo’s research and technology would be used on their upcoming Fable III. For those not familiar with this research, Milo was a software that simulated a kid [Milo] which responded to the inter-actor speech and facial expression. This video is a nice briefing into it.

    That remind me about all the complexes AIs in new videogames, such as Mass Effect, The Witcher and Heavy Rain, in which the player not only “plays” that game but also talk, interact and relates to virtual characters interpreted by the machine. Fable also had this complex structure, which now may get even more complex since now the player have to pay attention to her/his popularity among followers. Followers are AIs that want to obey you but will only do so if they profit something in doing it, like you perform them a promise or something like it. If you accept one follower promise and don’t keep it or if you don’t take it at all, that person will be less likely to follow you.

    It’s quite interesting that those AIs, which are waaaaaaaaay simpler than a mouse mind and therefore a human mind, can create a complex system of interaction which resembles human social dynamics into a really non-simple way. I wonder that Milo tech will add up even more interesting things to this system.

  • Thais 10:12 am on September 20, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Video games in 6th grade 

    photo by NYTimes

    The NY has published this week a interesting article about Quest to Learn, a New Yorker school which the pedagogical curriculum was reinterpreted by game designers to be more user-friendly for kids nowadays. We have already talked about how commercial games can be used as learning tool as they are and how game features can be applied into reality, creating a more engaging activity, and Quest to Learn use both strategies and the same time.

    First, a team of game designers reinterpret the formal curriculum, adapting it in a more hybrid and interesting way for kids. For example,the have a discipline named Codeworlds  [a hybrid between math and English]  and another called Sports for the Mind. Those disciplines blend skills from different subject areas and, some times, also use fantastic elements to help engaging like a fictional community of strange creatures who need student’s help.

    Also, classes are programed to explore all kinds of new media while teaching formal knowledge. Therefore, students are asked to assign from games, designed throw a simplified software  editor, to podcasts and films as homework. They are as well encouraged to play all sorts of video games and to use different softwares in order to learn different tools for different projects.

    The great thing about Quest to Learn, in my opinion, is that it engages students in learning activities, from which they really learn without acknowledging it. James Paul Gee also always says that is have been proven that learning is more effective when binded with emotions. In traditional methods, generally this emotion is fear [fear of failing, fear of punishments, etc.], games can teach while spawning other emotions, positive ones, that might work just as well. Also, in basing learning in positive stimuli and new media, Quest to Learn may also be suggesting a solution for the high drop-out indices in amercian schools.

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