readings: January 2008 Archives
A habit you may have learned in high school is to write a full draft of a paper that supports the point that you want to make, and then "finding quotes" from scholarly sources that agree with your position. But that defeats the purpose of writing a research paper... you're supposed to learn as you research... maybe you'll even change your mind, based on the information and argument you encounter. So, before I ask you to come up with a thesis for your research paper, I'm going to ask you to show me that you know how to find and read academic articles.
- Find a peer-reviewed academic article on a topic of video game studies that closely interests you. Some online journals include Game Studies, Kairos, and Games and Culture, but you will also find articles about games in many other journals. (I found 278 hits for peer-reviewed, full-text articles containing the words "video game" in the EBSCOhost database at Reeves Library... there are far fewer when I search for specific games, but as you'll see, it's OK if you can't find any articles written about the game you want to study. Supply a full MLA-style reference for the article.
- Quote the author's main thesis. (That is, what is the single main claim that this author makes?)
- What evidence does the author use in order to support the main idea? Please don't go through my list and answer "yes" or "no" for each pf the following suggestions... my goal is to get you to think about what evidence the authors are offering.
- Has the author conducted a scientific experiment, putting 50 kids in a room with video games and 50 kids in a room with TV, and then counted how many fights broke out?
- Did the author merely ask the parents of the kids to answer a survey about the level of aggression the kids showed?
- Did the author show 20 girls games about war and 20 boys games about make-up, and then interview the kids afterwards to see what they thought?
- Did the author spend 6 months playing the game as a guild with other researchers, in oder to gain first-hand evidence?
- Is the author quoting from scholarly works, published reviews, interviews with gamers, Congressional testimony, or dialogue contained in the games?
The pleasures of videogames are frequently enjoyed by those that commonsense might encourage us to consider as non-players - "onlookers" that exert no direct control via the game controls. In this article, I want to suggest that videogame players need not actually touch a joypad, mouse or keyboard and that our definition needs to accommodate these non-controlling roles. The pleasure of videogame play does not simply flow through the lead of a joystick.
In either case, there is a gap between vision and the world, between the code as we assumed it was and the code as we discover it must be. (140)Consider the above comment along with my comment (from the second lecture) that all art is constrained. Looking at the way a text game forces you think a certain way can remind us that all games that seem "natural" to us only seem that way because we already think the way that the game encourages us to think. All games persuade us to jump through hoops, by offering rewards. Not everyone feels the rewards offered by interactive fiction are worth the work required, but the same can be said of every game genre, and beyond games, the same can be said of novels, opera, camping, weight-lifting, and pretty much any human activity that someone, somewhere on the planet, enjoys.
This link will take you to a page about Andrew Plotkin's interactive fiction game "Shade."
Try clicking on "Play Now" in the upper right corner (you may need to click "Show me How" as well) and following the directions.
If that doesn't work, try this online version.
- Read about the first third of "Somewhere Nearby is Colossal Cave," up to the paragraph marked 21.
- If you love computer programming, you might enjoy looking through the analysis of the computer code. If coding doesn't thrill you, you can skip ahead to the photo tour that starts at paragraph 59.
- Either way, read the final paragraphs, from section 75-87.
Galatea (Emily Short, 2000
- All art is constrained.
- Realism is a choice.
- Art presupposes a critical tradition.
To understand what Adams was talking about, you'll have to look more closely at the genre of interactive fiction.
Read Game. There are about 7 or 8 pages to this article. An excellent introduction to the genre.
Read this introduction to interactive fiction.
Play along with the annotation, and try to get across the crystal bridge. (Gameplay tips: http://brasslantern.org/beginners/beginnersguide-b.html) You'll need to get past the snake, first! Playing IF absolutely requires you to create a map. (Here be hints and tips for Adventure.)
Once you've crossed the crystal bridge, keep playing for as long as the game holds your interest. (I've learned that some people get addicted to this kind of game, while others simply can't stand it.)
Listen to my introduction and the opening remarks from Scott Adams. Don't miss the audio of the joke about the bear -- the audience reaction is really worth hearing. You can scan the transcripts of the Q & A session.
Storytelling in Video Games
(Remember the associated response assignment.)
Also, as is the case with any assigned reading, incorporate your response into a "response/position statement" e-mail for that day.
Checking to see if there is a J-Web workbook due and writing the response paper are routine things that are part of any reading assignment.In the future, I won't always add a note like this one, reminding you of these routine details.
Requires Flash, a multimedia plugin that should already be on almost any computer purchased within the past several years.
Our assignment is to watch a short cartoon that introduces (through humor and exaggeration) several important details in the development of video games.
If you aren't familiar with Homestarrunner.com, you might first watch Strong Bad answer a letter from someone asking for help writing an English paper. Then you can go on to watch Strong Bad offer his opinions on Video Games.
Stick around after the animation ends -- there will be four more things to do. (Click the boxes.)
Read Amer Ajami's GameSpot review of Jedi Outcast (three parts), and compare it to Ian "Always Black" Shanahan's "Bow, N*gger." This article, State of Play, will help you pin down the differences. For the purposes of this class, I am far more interested in having you emulate the subtle, thoughtful, engaging Shanahan's piece than the precise, technical analysis presented by Ajami. Ajami's review is perfectly good for what it is -- an assessment of a commercial product, useful for those who are considering buying it. On the other hand, Shanahan's piece opens up a huge array of emotional and intellectual possibilities.
For your response paper, focus mainly on Shanahan's article. Quote passages from the two very different analyses of Jedi Outcast, and use those quotations to support your own explanation of how and why new games journalism differs from traditional reviews.
At the moment, the Power Point file, without recorded narration but with the notes that I was reading from, is available in the Handouts section of J-Web.
After you've watched/listened to/read the lecture, post a response here -- a request for clarification, an objection, a link to some other related material, or anything else that demonstrates your willingness to engage intellectually with the material.
A Windows movie file (slides and audio) (AVI, 67 Meg) Opening Lecture.avi
MP3 Audio (37 Meg): Opening Lecture.mp3
- Video Game