So, i’ve played a lot of games this year. If anything, 2011 was the year of the indie. We saw the indie label being applied to just about everything and as a result, it is starting to lose some of its power. There are just so many indie games, I doubt it is possible for anyone to really know all of them. That said, there are some great games out there that may have been missed by people going about their normal daily lives.
I wanted to make a list of games that came to me in strange ways – fever dreams, at work, through MMO playing, through random nostalgia. If you have any questions about these, please let me know. Most of these games are mods, fan translations, or similarly grey legal areas gaming.
I will list them in chronological order or, the way they revealed themselves to me:
Edits are tough. My (now) wife writes grant proposals for a non-profit and I cannot count the number of times she has come home from work feeling sad because she was edited so hard. I try and tell her that it’s easier to edit than it is to put everything together, and that is certainly true, but when it gets down to it – being edited is an emotional event.
Still, it is a necessary one. I got my first edits back on my thesis draft from people who are not my chair. It has been amazing to see how this thing has changed, how I have changed. One edit I was asked to do was:
Do you have a theoretical perspective? I see a brief reference to LaTour, but would prefer to see a better description of your theoretical framework (see attached articles for examples in terms of format) and see it integrated throughout the findings and addressed in the conclusion.
When i have written a paper in the past, I always avoided this section. I dislike the idea of needing to discuss this as it tends to distract from the what by bogging it down in the how. Still, as an assignment and a reflection of the things i’ve learned in this program, I need to address this. I embedded the theoretical perspective throughout the paper but I should probably dissect it and make it more of a conscious thing. It is difficult though. By internalizing theory, it gets difficult to really describe it using things I have read.
With that in mind, I wanted to explore it here:
Context for this Review
For money, I work as a liaison between Information Technology and not-so-stereotypically luddite college faculty. It is my job to translate how and what IT folks say about college services and technical issues into language anyone can understand. As a Sociologist-in-training, I have found this work valuable but amazingly frustrating at times. How can you explain, in 30 seconds or less, to someone who doesn’t want to know, why a digital movie file’s compression corresponds with whether or not a computer can display that file.
“What is a codec? Why would it matter? Just make the file work!”
We all have portions of our lives we know very little about. I don’t know how a car works or the equations behind factor analysis. I don’t know how a computer processes data and I don’t understand how cooking really works.
Most people, given their technical inability paired with their technical illiteracy and lack of intrinsic desire to understand computing, really don’t care about video games. This apathetic stance on technology also goes the other way. People who care about technology more than likely do not care about those who do not care about technology. Metaphorically, these two groups are standing in the same room together spreading negative rumors about each other.
I’ve been working furiously on my Master’s Thesis, finally. Lots more work to do but it is working it’s way into something coherent. This has been posted a couple different times but I have changed it so much I feel like it’s worth posting. I enjoy chronicling how an idea changed.
This is just my introduction. At first it was the introduction for my proposal but i’ve been working it so much that it has become the introduction.
“The comparative study of games is one that promises an important contribution to the history of culture. The questions involved in their diffusion over the earth are among the vital ones that confound the ethnologist. Their origins are lost in the unwritten history of the childhood of man.”
~ Stewart Culin (1894)
This thesis presents an examination of action-based video games made by American and Japanese video game developers between the years 1996 and 2006. The goal is to display how culture influences video games through the premise that play and culture are mutually influenced. Every aspect of a video game needs to be consciously constructed and edited by a multitude of people. As such, video games are a means through which sociologists can glimpse social construction at work as it changes. Through cross-cultural comparison of significant cultural changes that occurred in America as a result of the World Trade Center attack of 2001, we can trace changes in game design and sales trends while also displaying the link between play and culture.
Unconference unwriteup from a game undesigner
I am on my way back from the Boston Game Loop conference brought together for the Boston game developers crowd by Scott Macmillan and Darius Kazemi. I was excited to get out of Texas for a while. Was also excited to go and see the universities in Boston and Cambridge.
Some of the comments here are obvious statements to those who are involved in game design. I am not one of those.
I intended to learn more about the game design process as I move through figuring out how social science should understand video gaming. The process of processes I would call making a video gaming makes sense, in theory, but I haven’t really been able to pin down a specific set of examples. Once I do, I would like to move on to finding a series of instruments other groups have used to analyze trends, beliefs, and attitudinal differences within the population and apply them to game designers. I think it would be an excellent time.
In essence, all I really wanted to do was observe and look for trends. I also was super excited to meet a bunch of folks I’ve been talking to via twitter for a while now.
I thought i’d throw this up here. I’ve been thinking about the mindset needed to connect all of the social dots involved in the construction of a video game. Because my thesis has ended up concentrating on AAA, action-based console video games, I am sure that it primarily reflects that. I need to do some more work on the game studies portion of this section because i’m not sure if I really agree with what I ended up putting there. I feel that Game Studies, which has done a tremendous job in getting us to think about video games in different ways, has somewhat ignored social aspects involved in the creation of gaming and instead has focused on the way in which other games are made. I feel like that model ignores the buying power of consumers and almost totally ignores people who do not play video games (though you could say that those people do when they participate in things like mafia wars or farmville).
In fact, i’d offer that the people who do not play or who will never play video games are more valuable to video games as they are seen in society than the players are. These are the older generations that grew up watching games take shape, who were around during the extreme moments in our culture when everything from Japan was awful and the people who lived there were even worse. These are the people who buy everything Psychology tells them about games and who have the social capital needed to hinder the publication of a video game. What they think and what they’ve passed on to their kids, is supremely important to understand.
I just don’t know how to get to that knowledge and I believe I am doing the very thing I would be critical of game studies for doing.
Anyway, this is my methodology section of my proposal. It will change and I think I know where it will change but this is what it is looking like at the moment. It might seem odd to have a methodology and method section but this is somewhat common.
This conversation is an old one, what is a girl gamer? But you can’t get to this idea without digging through a huge variety of propaganda and ideology that is created by the old gatekeepers of an industry created by and meant for “men.” In that regard, Let’s Talk About Video Game Statistics.
There will be some appropriate generalizations in that we’re talking about very general trends here but I do not believe that they will be distracting.
During college, at least I hope during college, you learn to question things. Statistics, data, and a variety of official sources can be manipulated to serve the needs of funders. Further, a lazy reliance on these numbers offer a means through which ideas are perpetuated and disseminated through a populace that are then referred to as ignorant and stupid. Let’s talk about the statistics used to explain the development of a diverse game industry.
Let’s go through an over-repeated example and one that is completely ignored.
During E3, you heard a lot of data being thrown around about the changing nature of the gamer. More people playing video games is a great thing, right? For example, each keynote mentions this number in some way, shape, or form:
40% of all video game players are women.
ESSENTIAL FACTSABOUT THE COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY
The other day I was watching the movie TRON. This movie captured a few ideas about computing and the arcade revolution that had started a few years before the movie’s release in 1982. There is an exchange at the beginning of the movie when they are establishing the atmosphere of Tron and the ideology they had decided on for it:
ALAN: Ever since he got that Master Control Program set up, system’s got more bugs than a bait store.
GIBBS: Well, you have to expect some static. Computers are just machines after all, they can’t think…
ALAN: They’ll start to soon enough.
GIBBS: (wryly): Yes, won’t that be grand — the computers will start thinking, and people will stop. Laura, I’m going to stay and run some data through. See you tomorrow.
This script was capturing an aspect of society that would continue for quite some time, “Computers are helping us in ways we weren’t used to.” Computers had only just begun to influence society.
I think a lot about this scene as I continue going through academic work for my Master’s Thesis. This project has been much harder than I had anticipated but then, this is the realization an empirically strict program like mine has to provoke. To start, I have to write a review of the literature about my topic of study. I must display: the general history of an idea through scholarly literature. I have to also justify that something is Sociologically significant, identify an issue in how that significance (through the literature) has holes, and offer a means through which to fill that hole or mend that gap. I have to do research that has significance. This is a problem in social science but it is one that we all contend with.
A few years ago, someone who introduced me to a lot of games, my friend Damon, was playing through KOTOR. He played through it twice in one weekend. We sat there in silence as he played, it was nice to just zone out and watch a Star Wars story unfold in a much better way than had been done in a while. I loved that damn game. Even after watching him play through it, I played through it later. It was nice to see the d20 system that I had advocated for all those years ago make its way into a video game. It was meant more for that then pen and paper gaming. That is a different post though. This post is about Mass Effect.
I should state some things here. I loved Star Wars as a younger person. I read all the books, owned all the movies, owned bootlegs of the Christmas special, scripts, I was a closet Star Wars nerd. And here’s another thing, I liked the episode I, II, and III. I liked the concepts, I liked the hidden powers of the Dark Side, I liked how it developed. I hated how it was told. I am a Sociology student and I’ve been at this for almost 7 years now. Sociology looks for the stuff under what we see in our reality. We look at consequences that weren’t intended, meaning things that weren’t intended, we look at ambiance.