New Game

Last week the peer gaming showcase continued in our class and Rikke talked about ‘Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice’, her presentation was enough to convince me to buy the game online to my PS4 during class. That and the fact that the game was surprisingly cheap to be such a fascinating and good-looking game. I haven’t played the game yet, Rikke mentioned that the game should be played with headphones, so I´m waiting until the Easter break so that I can play it undisturbed at home. I did however watch a bunch of videos online about the game and some gameplay, and I´m a little bit exited to play it, but also petrified. First of all they use 3D voicing so that the voices appears all over, at one point you hear a woman whispering from the right and all of a sudden someone is yelling from the right.

I played BloodBourne a few years back, and I thought that game was ‘creepy’ enough for me. The graphics are astonishing and it’s a joy to play a game that looks so good, but not as much when the characters in the game look like a nightmare. I did get used to it after a few breaks and after turning on enough light in the room. After doing me research about Hellblade I think the game will have impressive graphics and the characters seems really well done, especially Senua.  The makers of the game describe the game as a independent AAA game even though they didn’t have a huge budget, but after seeing pictures and videos from the game it seems expensive and thorough. I find it really fascinating that the people behind the game talked to people who suffers from delusion and psychosis to get a greater understanding and to develop it more real-like in the game. I think this is going to be a game that I play through the first day, or I´m going to get extremely frustrated because I´m constantly dying or failing.

 

“….Are video games bad for you?  That is what they said about rock-n-roll?” -Shigeru Miyamoto

The quote over is from out lecture and I felt like I had to mention it here. The first question is something I´ve heard from my parents and other adults for years. Me and my older brother borrowed Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas from a friend of his and played it in secret so that my mom wouldn’t bust us. Maybe the games I´ve played throughout the years has affected me, but not in a negative way. Gaming brought me and my friends closer together, we met up to play games and talk about them, and some of my friends still do. None of us has gone out hitting people just because we did the same in a game. I believe that some games can influence people in a bad way, but if this happens most likely the people around would notice, and most people grow up and stop acting out the way they might did as a teen.  For me video games helped me and my brothers to connect, we stopped arguing and sat in front of a TV and played games instead. When a parent feels like their child spends too much time on video games, they will often say that you can’t play it anymore because its “bad” for you. That’s often just a bad excuse they believe that you should be outside, playing and building three houses. But isn’t it better that teens stay inside playing games rather than running around outside wrecking mailboxes and partying.

Today I´m well aware of my own mental state, and if a game messes me up mentally, no matter how good it is, I would put it away. I haven’t played a game like Hellblade before, so I’m terrified that the voices will haunt me in my sleep, but I won’t know until I try it out. Therefore I´m looking forward to test it out, and I hope it´s as good as I’ve been told.

 

Long Gone – Phum Viphurit

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Why is it Important to Study Video Games?

In class on Tuesday we had an exercise, we tried to come up with a couple main reasons to study video games, and shared them in plenum. I contributed with: ‘impact on society’. I was thinking in a broad sense, and thought it fitting as a main reason because to me it is something which includes how we act, think, speak and spend our time. And ultimately it has changed how many of us interact, hanging out on a voice chat platform (Ex: Discord, Skype etc.), and playing video games instead of meeting up. In addition it includes the whole business aspect around it, and game development is a big branch in the entertainment industry, and provides jobs which are not easily delegated to machines and AI. A game needs to be fueled by creativity, as it is something that doesn’t have a clear recipe, and has an endless array of variations. i.e Creating games is an art, an art comprised of many other art forms.

“Technology has expanded the canvas upon which artists are able to paint and tell their stories. As an art form that has only existed in the digital space, video games are truly a collision of art and science. They include many forms of traditional artistic expression—sculpture in the form of 3D modeling, illustration, narrative arcs, and dynamic music—that combine to create something that transcends any one type.”

-Chris Melissinos, Sept. 22, 2015

Article: “Video Games Are One of the Most Important Art Forms in History” -TIME.COM

In the quote Melissinos explain why video games must be considered art, I especially appreciate the term “A collision of art and science” to describe what video games are. The term kind of throws me back and reinforces my main idea in my previous blog post “The Artist and The Scientist“.

In a snack-bite sized article, Melissinos also capture the essence of why games are an unique, and maybe the most important form of art to date. He further explains in the article, that there is a relationship between the creator, the game and the player. Together they create an experience, where they each have their own role to play, and it makes every experience something personal, because of the player aspect. I would like to reinforce this idea, and say video games often have an immersive quality, an experience which can potentially consume a person into another world. The players can also learn a wide range of skills included, but not limited to: language, problem-solving, cooperation, strategic thinking and even being creative. In a cleverly designed video game a lot of the knowledge you obtain can be facts about the real world we share. A game which comes to mind is the Civilization series, a series of TBS(Turn Based Strategy) games, where there’s a lot of facts hidden in plain sight regarding history, wonders, art and historic figures, to mention a few.

On that note I would also like to say that I am excited to see that video games are also becoming more widespread in the educational arena. I personally know how much one can gain from video games and how important it is for information to be presented in an interesting manner, learning should be something fun, and I believe that the things I had fun learning about, are more easily remembered and understood. For instance, I believe that most of my skills in language stem from gaming and watching TV. As a bi product of watching TV and playing video games I learned a lot of the English language through exposure, just by doing things I liked to do.

In Norway we are exposed to English subjects in school from an early age, although this has been helpful, especially with grammars and the English written language; Most of my vocabulary came from entertainment, and I am certain that I could attribute most of my language skills to such sources as video games and TV shows/movies. Ultimately I would say that both the school, and my exposure to English languaged forms of entertainment,  supplemented each other in a way which made me learn faster, better and with less struggle than it could have been.

For this reason alone video games should be researched, in my opinion. We should find out how we can use video games as an important resource in relation to learning new information and skills, and find out how to do this in a good efficient way. I really do believe video games are a resource. A resource we have not fully grasped the power of yet.

Video Games and Negative Impacts

It would be naive to imply that video games comes with no risk, and no negative impacts. As media often likes to remind us: video games are unhealthy, and funny enough media also claims it to be healthy just as often. This fact might leave a lot of us dizzy and confused, about whether it is healthy to play video games or not. Discussions around the topic often seems to be circular, where everyone involved refers to studies supporting their initial stance, leaving us none the wiser.

It is a very real fact that video games can become an addiction(Gaming Disorder), cause people to not get enough physical activity, social interaction, sleep or even sunlight, increasing the risk of mental- as well as physical diseases.

Video games comes in many shapes and forms, and are so various that different games might have different pros and cons. The key seems to be moderation, the boring answer to a lot of controversial subjects. I still believe it is necessary to study video games to an extent where there is no longer this confusion whether it is unhealthy or healthy. People who play video games should have access to unbiased information of how it is harmful, as well as benefits related to gaming. As video games have most likely come to stay, and to become a larger part of our life, and our children’s lives, and most important of all: we should know how to use this resource as healthy and beneficial as possible.

If you would like to learn more about how gaming affects your brain, I can recommend this TED talk: Your Brain on Video Games by Daphne Bavelier, a professor at the University of Geneva, and PhD in Brain and Cognitive Science from MIT.

Progress in NetNarr

As we entered the game phase part of the course, we also started having one or more gaming showcases by NetNarr students. Where students voluntarily present a game they are passionate about, or interested in. I must say I really do admire the students going up there, as it is something I would have fretted. And every showcase I’ve seen this far, has been really enjoyable, and a great addition to the lectures.

The lectures themselves are very entertaining, and educational, with a good mixture of YouTube videos and gaming showcasing, in addition to standard lecturing. This makes the lectures themselves feel very dynamic, and the time just fly by, and overall I find my self really looking forward to the lectures.

It is really a shame that I missed out on our first gaming showcase, where my friend Patrick talked about game development. As game development is a very intriguing subject to me, and is something I would love to know more about. I reckon many of us in this day and age have ideas for video games, it would be fun to learn how one would go forward and try to develop something. Although there are a lot of resources also available online, from blogs to YouTube channels and tutorials dedicated to provide such information.

Until next time!

-John-o-Tron

 

 

Reflection VI: «Meta»

This is my sixth post in the reflection series, as you probably figured out if your familiar with Roman numerals. However, I’ll try not to digress too much this time. The reflection pathway can be amazing, but also the opposite. So I’m trying a new approach this time – compartmentalization.


Game Genres

Genres is not a new concept. We’re often striving to divide content into categories, but it’s not so easy after the seed of a medium has started to grow. I believe that the thirst for organizing will not be quenched with an argument, but can we rethink how we’re defining content? My simple solution is breaking it up as metadata, keywords. We have established some sort of a vocabulary when talking about aspects of games, but it’s often impossible to define a single game with a single word. We often talk about similar types of games and say it’s a mix of this and that.

For a long time, ever since streaming music on the Internet was something we could do, like with services like Pandora and Last.fm, we’ve had the ability to customize a feed based upon keywords like artist or genres. I do not have any statistics on this, but my guess is that most of game purchases today is done online. It’s therefor much easier to arrange games with metadata and let people use filters and algorithms to find new games that they may fancy.

Ethics and Games

My previous post covered some thoughts about releasing tension, but I believe that it’s a big enough topic to continue expanding on it. People are different, that’s something most of us can agree on. We cater to different types of entertainment and while some can feel relaxed after a session of gaming action games, others may prefer simple puzzles and adventure. Just like the terms “paidia” and “ludus” are used to place a game on the spectrum of playfulness and strict rules, we can place aggression on a spectrum – from non-aggressive (Sims) games to aggressive (GTA). I feel like I must state that non-aggressive games can make you angry, due to bugs or bad mechanics, even though the gameplay is not based on violence, and that is frankly the essence of my opinion – most people become angry, or just infuriated, because of interactions with other people or technical issues.

So how can we talk about ethics with regards to video games? Anyone with some knowledge about ethics know that there is no simple answer or theory that covers everything. Some may argue that illegal actions done in real life shouldn’t be replicated in a virtual environment, and other may respond with an argument on how it’s better to explore the darker sides of human nature in a confined space.

I think it would be healthier for the conversation if we look at violence in games as a tool for gameplay, and not something added to spread aggression and fulfill ‘sick desires’ – like in most movies and television series.

The character FPS-Doug from the web series Pure Pwnage (2004) is kind of the personification of an angry hardcore gamer.

 

I remember how the news media drew the video game card after the terrorist attack in Norway 22-07-2011, like this front page in Dagbladet: “10 games gave Breivik terror training”.

2011-11-02 16.39.35

The recent school massacre in Florida also spawned a similar response from the media – which leads to political speech against video games with violence. It seems like politicians and people with little to no experience with a medium and specific content are the ones against it. I also remember the blame put on Marilyn Manson after the Columbine shooting because of his lyrics and performance on stage.

This reel is what was shown to President Trump after the last shooting and gun debate.
Just a compilation of violent scenes. How would a similar video with violence from popular movies, or just the news, be any different? Or quotes from books.

 

Let’s end this with an older meme I made from Call of Duty. I got the final kill with a ‘bouncing betty’ – anti-personnel mines that launched up in the air before detonating.
Took the screenshot just before explosion.

fucked-betty

 

 

 

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“All in the game…”

Hello everyone and welcome back to another (not so) weekly blogpost!

This week in DIKULT we’ve touched base with the gaming part of the course, and talked about games fitting into different genres, or how genres fail to represent what type of game it is, and we’ve had Peer Game Showcases, or in layman’s term, a presentation from the students about a specific game. There were a lot of great presentations on games I knew to games I’ve never heard about. I was one of those students, and I got to talk about World of Warcraft (WoW).

Going into my presentation I already knew from the start that there was no way i would be able to cover a game that spands over twelve years into a 10-15 minute presentation, but I gave it my best shot. One regret I have is I should’ve told Mia to interrupt me when I was out of time, as I my plan was to talk about what I wanted to cover, and just go as long as I could with the presentation. I’m pleased with how much I got to cover, as I got to talk about the game as a whole on a surface level, which allows me to delve deeper into it here in this blogpost.

I talked about the basic mechanics of the game, and how the game’s content is split into two: PvE (players versus environment) which involves everything from killing  the big scary dragons to doing group-content and going into dungeons to kill more baddies. And the part I barely got to talk about is the PvP side (Player Versus Player). The PvP part is what both interests me and what I enjoy the most out of the game. Due to how old this game is, both aspects of the game has undergone some tremendous changes, and the PvP part has changed so much, especially considering there was no plans for PvP to be a big part of the game upon launch. So I will spend the remainder of this post talking about the history of WoW PvP and how it went from being a silly sidepart of the game into the now blooming competitive scene it has today.

During the original version of WoW (Vanilla/Classic WoW) there was no rated PvP as such. You could kill players of the enemy faction you encountered in the world, or in instanced PvP zones called Battlegrounds, which gave you honor. Honor then gave you access to a rank (rank 1-14) and each rank gave you a access to certain types of armor and of course a title which showed off how high up the honor ladder you were. This is a very simplified version of how honor works, as the system was incredibly convoluted and based off player participation and some weird leaderboard system. I will leave you a link to a much better and fleshed out explanation of how this system worked here should you be interested in reading about it.

During the beta version of original wow, honor was not implemented. There were no battlegrounds, and no reward system for participating in any type of PvP. PvP was treated merely as an afterthought. The honor system wasn’t added until patch 1.4 on May 5th 2005. This is roughly six months after the game’s release.

Back to the story, one of the prominent figures in PvP during classic wow was Drakedog, who is a korean player that just really enjoyed killing people in the world. He started doing this already in the beta, and would take screenshots of everyone he killed. Not only was this frowned upon by the community, but it lead to his website where he would upload these screenshots to be hacked and deleted. This lead him to create movies instead that he would upload on Warcraftmovies.com. This video along with other prominent PvP figures in both the European and American regions sparked a lot of interest in the PvP scene. And you can’t talk about classic wow PvP without mentioning Vurtne, who is to this day still praised for being so far ahead of his time in terms of skill. Vurtne played his class at such a high skill level, that first in  Wrath of the Lich King could you start seeing the best mages in the world play better than him. These two became such prominent rolemodels within the wow community, and even today a lot of the top PvP players talk about early PvP’ers such as Vurtne and Drakedog as a reason why they started to take interest in PvP.

The honor system in Classic WoW was competitive in it’s own nature, but the introduction of the Arena in The Burning Crusade is where WoW as an eSport laid its roots. Blizzard held their first Arena World Championsships back in 2007, which used the 5v5 arena format as its arena of choice. These tournaments known as Blizzcon were off to a shaky start, as no one really knew what they were doing. An example of this was a rule that was put in place solely for the hunter class, which forced them to use a specific pet. For those who don’t know, hunters have access to a lot of pets in the game that provide unique benefits, and these pets were a big part of the hunter gameplay in PvP. Most hunters would use a scorpion as they could disarm opponents. The rule implemented at Blizzcon 2007 considered any other pet than a bear as cheating. The bear gave absolutely no benefit what so ever (the term “useless” was the general way of describing it back then) which lead to no hunters making it anywhere close to the top that year.

Despite the rough start, WoW eventually got picked up by MLG during Wrath of the Lich King and the scene took on a more serious approach. Professional casters (usually former/current professional wow players) were hired to commentate the games, and the format switched from 5v5 to 3v3, which is still the standard today.  The atmosphere became in short a lot more professional and competitive, with prizepools increasing each year. However, looking back at it, it has an amateur feel to it. To illustrate, here’s a picture of the casters from a tournament held in 2010:

Bilde1

Compare it to a photo taken of the casters from one of the latest WoW tournaments:

Bilde2

Not to talk down on the effort these guys put into the game during Wrath. MLG being an official sponsor and provider for players to compete was HUGE for the game. There were a lot of tournaments held each year where players could compete and prove themselves, as well as make a decent income from this hobby. These were truly the golden days of PvP.

Sadly this didn’t last. Somewhere during 2010-2011, MLG dropped WoW as one of their games, resulting in only one tournament (Blizzcon) being held each year. this had a huge impact on the PvP community, as there was no longer any real incentive to really push to become a top-tier player in PvP. The only honest paycheck one would get is if you’d win Blizzcon, which is not easy at all as the competition was (and still is) incredibly fierce. To put this into perspective, the team that won blizzcon during 2014 earned about the average income of a McDonalds employee in the US. And that’s if you won it all. That’s a lot of effort for not a lot of gains. What happened was a lot of players took up streaming as a second job, but there was also an increase in boosting (playing another persons account to gain them high rating in PvP for real life currency) or coaching (playing with other people for money). Both boosting and coaching violated the terms of service for WoW, which can result in a permanent ban from the game and a ban from competing in any upcoming official tournaments held by Blizzard. The professional and competitive scene of WoW eSports stayed like this up until the release of Legion in 2016.

With the launch of Legion, Blizzard put a lot of resources into revitalizing the eSport side of the game. Huge changes were made to the game to emphasize PvP, making it easier to change the game to only affect PvP, and not let damage or other changes made for PvE to affect the PvP scene (an example of this gone horribly wrong is in Mists of Pandaria, with the elemental shaman laying waste to any other class due to changes intended for PvE with horrific consequences for PvP). Professional casters were once again hired at a much hire rate to commentate the tournaments, and a lot of attention was brought to this. Tournaments are now held around once a month or at less frequent rates, which all lead up to Blizzcon. Going into the announced expansion, WoW Pvp is looking even healhier than it did in Wrath. Perhaps we’re going into a new golden age of Wow eSports?

I truly love (and hate) this game due to its unique PvP gameplay that no other game has ever come close to recreating. The game offers complexity like no other, and the more time you put into the game, the better you get. Even the very best players in the game constantly improve their gameplay, showing there is no true skilllcap for this game. I could probably write about 4000 more words on this (I’m well beyond the 1500 word count so far), but to save you all from the headache I’ll stop myself here.

 

Thank you for reading another one of my posts, although this one could probably classify more as a rant than anything else. If anyone is interested I can provide sources for (most) of the things I just talked about, but I deliberately exploit the concept of a blogpost to the fullest, being lazy where I can be. Tune in next week for more!

Ironically, here are some links to some things I referenced in this post:

Vurtne’s first PvP video (plenty of more to watch, would definitely recommend if this interests you.)

Drakedog’s first PvP video (also a lot more to watch there.)

The Honor system Pre Patch 2.0

This week’s blogpost title comes from The Wire’s episode Sentencing, Season 1 Episode 13

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