11 Jan 2010 [ Prev | Next ]

Games and Academic Research

Respond to the assigned material on the form and purpose of academic research. Note that Ex 4 (due on the 12th) asks you to respond to an academic article; you may wish to start reading it now.

What have we learned so far from our exposure to classic games?

Susan, Jessie, Beth Anne, Shellie, and Matt have all sounded pretty excited about some aspect or other about text games. 

Jeremy and Cody have shared opinions that are less than enthusiastic. Keith, I can't quite place you into either camp, as you have written about the frustration that comes from the unfamiliar game play, but your posts have focused on history lessons and observations, suggesting you are finding it useful to study something unfamiliar.

As humans, we can't help but interpret the world through the experiences we've had.  But remember the theory lecture -- rather than simply looking through the lenses we've got, I'm hoping that this experience is training us to examine the qualities of the lenses we didn't even know we were wearing. 

Koster's chapter 6 has a lot to say about different kinds of fun for people with different kinds of intelligence. On page 108, "if people are to achieve their maximum potential, they need to do the hard work of playing the games they *don't* get, the games that *don't* appeal to their natures. Taking these on may serve as the nurture part of the equation, counterbalancing the brains that they were born with."

I'm less interested in converting anybody to IF, than I am in asking students to explore and understand a world in which the hard-core gamers chose to play Zork because they wanted the challenge.  These games were "fun" to millions of gamers in the 80s, who didn't think of them as merely quaint and diverting; these gamers got excited and addicted and spent their money on them.  It took a certain type of person to use a computer in the 80s, and Koster notes that the early games that used reflexes and targeting were easier to develop with the available technology than games that simulated emotions, or ecosystems. 

Those early computers did not serve the visual thinkers very well. Yes, they were restrictive, and they forced you think in such a way that would make the game work; they didn't appeal to the visual-thinking people that made Apple so visionary.  That's the psychological selling point behind this famous 1984 advertisement for Apple Computers.

Once computers started shipping with CD-ROM drives, you could store a lot more music and graphics, which is what paved the way for more visually rich advengture games. By the mid 90s, home computers could generate 3D graphics on the fly.

But it's important to note that a game that uses rich graphics is restricted in other ways -- it requires an expensive computer, it takes scores of artists years to develop, it requires a server with other players connected to it or else it appears lifeless.  The more cinematic the game, the less game-like it becomes, and the more it resembles a movie -- especially when movies come with their own (usually horrible) game tie-in. 

Modern commercial games require so much money and so much labor that they're run by committees, and they start to resemble each other because only the most daring and innovative companies are willing to put serious resources into innovating when it's a much safer bet just to give the gamers more of what they already like.



Like I said in my blog. I do not want to be negative about IF, but the little experience I have had with it did not impress me. Maybe an IF class for a semester may get more people into IF and learn its background, the theory behind the games. I would have taken a course like it so I would know more about it.

No problem, Jeremy. Whenever we encounter something that's a little out of our comfort zone or tastes, it's an opportunity to do some critical thinking about our responses, and to practice putting ourselves into the shoes of someone whose opinion differs from our own. Sure, I'd love to teach a regular semester-long course on IF, but we'd need more than a handful of students to make it possible.

I'd be interested in that course if it ever happens.

I would probably need to pitch it as "Reading Electronic Texts" and include some hypertext fiction as well, but if enough students express interest, I'd love to do it.

I think you could pull it off, Dr. Jerz. I'm sure more students would've been interested in this course if it wasn't an online-only course. Although this does have it's advantages, I can't help but wonder what this class would be like in a regular classroom setting, because we'd still be having the same online discussions we're having right now.

I'd definitely be interested in taking a class on IF and Hypertext games.

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