Tag Archives: videogames

Reflection VII: «Pathos»

I’m on overtime again. Been postponing due to lack of creativity. Trying to mine the information gathered last week. We talked about morality in games, and we attended the installation Textransformations by our professor Mia Zamora. Which I did enjoy, but my views on installations are often binary – I either like it or not. I often find myself trapped in the realm of traditional art.


The installation opened for collaboration with the viewers. A container of words and glue gave us all we needed to compile poems. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘lyrical word-smith’, but I found some words that gave meaning to me – happiness, shining, for, camera. Which is ironic, since I prefer taking melancholic portraits. I do however feel happiness when I capture something beautiful, and hopefully the recipients feel the same.

MPE-9325


Feelings are in a way the keyword for last week. When talking about games, and art in general, is it possible to produce an empathic reaction? I do think so, but it’s not always an easy task to accomplish, because human emotions are tricky.

We played some micro games based on morality in class. I chose the game Bad News, a text-based game with some graphical elements, were the goal is to make you an expert in spreading fake information. The game emphasizing how people exploit human emotion to polarize society, to push us towards tribalism. Anger, and the related feelings, are easy to manipulate, and I often quote one of my favorite characters from the Star Wars saga, Yoda: “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Morality is no easy subject. Philosophers have tried for centuries to find a decent theory to explain it, and the area of ontology and epistemology is rough. I’m glad that Norway still require students to go through Examen philosophicum and Examen facultatum, even though lots of students find the course to be tedious. I believe that a basic understanding of philosophy is necessary in our society – and that it will be more than ever useful in the future. One thing that I learned last semester is that there is no perfect theory within the humanities, but by learning about the existing ones, we can use them for understanding, if applicable to the situation.

Bringing this back to video games; I do believe that one can construct artwork that can make other people feel something – either empathy, sympathy or compassion. I’m not going to wander into the steep canyon of morality as an objective phenomenon, but I guess that there are people out there able to produce art as in video games with an empathic core without deep theoretical knowledge. I do however think that combining theory and some understanding of human perception will benefit a developer. More on this topic in the next post.


In other news; I want to mention some games, people and content from a classic. Beginning with the new game A Way Out, which is an action-adventure game, developed to be played with another person in a split-screen configuration. I’ve not played it myself, but I’ve watched a full walkthrough by one of my favorite gamers, jackfrags, and a friend of his – almost 5 hours. Story aside, I was really intrigued by the game mechanics and how the developers use several aspects of game theory to experience – even jumping over to a 2D perspective with horizontal scrolling. The game also includes a homage to the earlier types of games – like Four Across and early arcade fully playable in-game. You can also pick up a banjo and play some tunes with the same mechanic as Guitar Hero.

 


Earlier in this course, we talked about digital art and the difficulties in preserving it for the future. Technology required to view certain pieces become obsolete and emulators are not always a perfect solution. I stumbled upon an interview from VICE with a man dedicated to preserving gaming history.
He decided to as much of the history as possible – from the games themselves to packaging to literature and other aspects of relevant culture. “What I’ve come to understand, is that the game itself is only part of the story, you can play Super Mario Brothers, if you play it now, it’s a good game. That game if you examine within its context was a revolutionary game.” (Frank Cifaldi)

 


Lastly, a gem from the content box. The GTA franchise has been praised and loathed since its inception 1997, but one aspect of it is amazing – the radio channels. I’ve spent so many hours just driving around the cities just listening to the radio – music, commercials and talk shows, tailored to the game. My favorite is from GTA III and is a purely talk show channel called Chatterbox FM. Filled with satire and humor.

 

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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Reflection V: «Good luck, have fun»

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It’s often difficult to start a text, any text. Whether it’s just another blog post, text to someone you adore, that paper you should’ve started on days ago, or answering back in the in-game chat.

So, I brought up a chunk of trivial examples to end with the topic of the blog this week – gaming. It’s usually easy to break in with some ‘fillers’ to soften your fingers across the keyboard; even though it often results in rewriting the text. I’m going to stop the warm-up here, I hope.

This week has been focused on video games; some history, some vocabulary, and some insight from the business by a developer in the class. I’ve made some notes and churned my thoughts around some feelings I have regarding games, because I am sort of a gamer.
It’s been a loaded term, “gamer”. If you tell people ‘outside the community’ that you’re a gamer, then you’d often be regarded as a loner, nerd, someone without social skills or ambitions. It may look like the stigma is slowly breaking apart, and that’s maybe because of mobile games. So many ‘non-gamers’ spend hours on their phone playing simple games. Wait, did you write that non-gamers game? Yes, because the stigma goes the other way as well. The Internet community of ‘hardcore gamers’ shun the idea of mobile gamers, because they don’t know what true games are.

What are true games then? There are lots of definitions available and most of them are valid in my opinion. Just like with any other form of entertainment, there are genres for most every taste. Some love story driven fantasy games played on a computer monitor for proximity, some love a fun car game to relax with in the sofa, and others like to exercise their reflexes on a mobile phone.

We should embrace play and creativity. I believe it’s important in our hectic society. How games affect us has been discussed for many years and the debate is often renewed every time a youth is caught doing violent acts towards others; it had to be because of violent video games!

game-violent-lag Aristotle used the term ‘catharsis’ for the act of purging emotions and relieving emotional tensions, and it’s believed that playing video games can help people in just that. However, like any theory, there are arguments against it. So I can only speak from my own experiences at the moment.

I do believe that most people can achieve some steam to be released in playing games – either violent or non-violent. Just like playing violent games can help some to release aggression, it’s been said that aggressive music can also give the same affect – as I’ve experienced myself.

Art in general can create a framework where we can pour our emotions into.

This framework can have many benefits. I recently saw a TED talk about how the game Minecraft can help kids with autism to communicate and learn in a safe space. That’s one of the bad things about the online community, lots of players bring toxic behavior to the forums, comments on videos, and in-game chat. I guess the steam must go somewhere, but the pipe has been going the wrong places for far too long. I learn today that Ubisoft is developing an automated system for detecting hate speech in chat and banning players. Maybe we’ll see a universal system for keeping the community clean without falling into too harsh censorship.

I’ve got so much to say, but I always stray and start to run down another path – which can be a side-effect of reflection. I guess that I’ll have to keep some content for the next post also.

I do want in my final words to sum up some of my thoughts on escaping to the realm of video games. Like I wrote in the beginning, about the way gamers was and sometimes still is portrayed, there are a lot of people that do escape to a virtual world as therapy; either offline or online, or just watching other people play on Twitch or YouTube. One of my favorite players and streamers goes by the alias JackFrags. He sums up some of my thoughts in a recent video he made.

 

“Good luck, have fun” or just “glhf” is often said before an online match starts, and “gg/good game” when it ends. Toss on a “wp/well played” if the match was fun.