Tag Archives: culture

Winning Isn’t Everything

Excellent piece by Ian Bogost:

Myopia is the worst side effect of a hypothetical century ruled by games — or by any medium, for that matter. Whether or not the 20th century was the century of film, its proponents were never so brazen about dreams of its dominion. You don’t see filmmakers and filmgoers deriding other media for their lack of indexicality or visual sensuousness, penning manifesti for the forthcoming reign of the cinematic century, or inundating Twitter with hatred for anyone who squints at the idea that the medium of film might also bear some flaws. To dream of an age ruled by a singular medium is to dream a dream of isolation, for the comfort and sufficiency of the familiar. Myopia starts as affinity, but it ends as fascism.

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Social Justice Warriors?

An all-star roster of games journalists joined Adam Rosser on BBC Radio 5 live’s Game On for a discussion on the “social justice warrior.” Some of my favorite moments below:

Pat Garratt, VG247:

I’ve seen many squabbles on the Internet and they do sort of go the way of the dodo. I think what we are actually seeing is this section of the gaming community is about to be pushed out. I think that’s why their so angry. It’s literally like taking a toy away from a child. If you actually take a toy away from a child, they just completely freak out. This is exactly what is happening, I think.

Dan Person, GamesIndustry.biz:

There’s an awful lot of psychology and studies into this idea of the online personality; This idea of the power of anonymity, and the keyboard warrior and what that kind of does to people when you take away the consequences of actions in that way. That’s still a relatively new area of study. The Internet is certainly, in human terms, a very recent invention.

I think when you get unfettered and unregulated communities of young, let’s face it, mostly men who are operating in this way without any kind of adult or intelligent supervision, they can become very quickly violent and vile and unpleasant. That echo chamber can accentuate that effect. And then when somebody comes into the playroom and says, “hey guys. You know you should stop doing that and perhaps behave like adults,” there is often that phase of tantrum, basically. And if those children happen to be handling a large blunt object, then that can become dangerous.

Keza McDonald, Kotaku UK:

The Internet gamifies people. It turns you into someone who’s not a real person. You’re some imaginary thing on the end of a Twitter handle. It makes it easier for people to behave inhumanly towards you. Anyone who basically decides to do cultural criticism of games that goes beyond just the assessment of software will probably come up against people who ask them, “why can’t you just talk about the game?” Again, for these people, games are systems that are self-contained and for them the community and the world of gaming is also a system that is self-contained. So as soon as you start trying to place it in a real world context or you start talking about it in a way that they’re not used to, I think that it really confuses people and upsets them.

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The New Face of Gamers

Matthew DiPietro, VP of Marketing & Communications at Twitch:

Since the Twitch community has been in an ever-increasing spotlight for the last few years, more and more people have been trying to wrap their heads around the Twitch phenomenon. They ask: “Why in the world would anyone want to watch other people play video games?” That’s still a very common question, believe it or not.

Miranda Sanchez at IGN sums the data:

According to the study, gamers are more social than non-gamers and have better connections with their families. The report said that 72% of gamers play games with their friends, and found that “spending time with their families (82% vs. 68%) and parents (67% vs. 44%) are top priories.”

Additionally, the study said gamers are more likely to have a college degree (43% vs. 36%), are more optimistic about their career goals (67% vs. 42%), and are more likely to have a career they want to be in (45% vs. 37%).

The study also addressed the demographics of gamers; 52% of gamers are male, 48% are female, and as much as 73% of Millennials, 62% of Generation X, and 41% of Baby Boomers are playing video games.

Fun with numbers. Also loved Gruber’s take on Twitch.

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People of a certain age

Excerpt from “Three Strikes, You Shout” by Philip Michaels:

The people who read Moneyball as teenagers and had enough talent to play baseball are just coming into their own as Major Leaguers. The ones who became sportswriters are working their way up the chain in journalism, where they’ll eventually supplant the columnists who see advanced stats as something to be derided instead of understood. And the rest, the vast majority who simply remain fans of the game, will wonder why anyone ever argued about something so obvious.

‘The world is run by people of a certain age,’ [Rany] Jazayerli said in his podcast. ‘And once people who grew up with these principles reach a point in their life where they are naturally in positions of influence, that’s when you’ll start to see changes made.’

My thoughts on the importance of video games and the influence on those that play to a tee.

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Braving Blizzard and inclusion in games

Todd Harper writing for Polygon:

Meanwhile, the mere presence of prominent and respectfully portrayed women characters, characters of color, and queer characters is viewed as inherently political and thus anti-fun. It’s another subtle, vicious knife in the side of us marginalized people who play games that says: you’re second class. You’re less valuable. If you show up, somehow you’re removing the fun for everyone else.

This construction where it’s impossible to have “fun” and “inclusion” side-by-side by reflecting diversity in your games is a total illusion, a mirage thrown up to distract us from the simple fact that they just don’t want to make that effort.

Harper quoting Rob Pardo of Blizzard Entertainment earlier in the opinion piece:

“We’re not trying to bring in serious stuff, or socially relevant stuff, or actively trying to preach for diversity or do things like that,” he said. His example of a place where Blizzard struggles is portrayal of women.

Pardo notes that “because most of our developers are guys who grew up reading comics books,” Blizzard games often present women characters as a sexualized comic book ideal that “is offensive to, I think, some women.”

I find Pardo’s comments about Blizzard’s portrayal of women interesting when looking at the Hearthstone tutorial, granted the HS team may be far removed from Pardo’s view.

A very brave piece. Well done.

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Polygon Human Angle: Queer Games

Mattie Brice, developer of Mainichi:

If I was to watch [Mainichi] be played anywhere it would be upsetting. Maybe upsetting is a good thing. I think we should be upset by games. I think that’s a valid emotion to happen. It’s not meant for me to feel good. It does make other people feel good because in a sense, this game has been validating. Many people are like, “Oh! I’ve had that experience too. I’m not alone.”

Human Angle is such a beautiful series.

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59% of Americans play video games

Owen S. Good of Polygon on the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) 2014 Survey:

Other questions asked of the survey is whether parents view video games to be a positive part of their child’s life; a majority — 56 percent — said yes, though some could view the figure as low given the nature of the question.

I’d say the 56% is positive and more than likely an upward trend seeing that the average gamer age is now 31. Most of today’s parents of 0~10 year-olds grew up with games. I believe they would likely state that games were a positive influence on their lives.

Erin Hoffman, Lead Game Designer at GlassLab Games on how commercial games can engage players in social causes:

Computers and video games have a history of teaching technology skills just by being the way they are, so to be able to get them into classrooms is a very powerful thing. I think you can make the argument that the new SimCity is the most sophisticated toy that’s ever been developed, and it’s just mesmerizing to look at and it’s very real and empowering.

I’d like to think this sentiment is shared by adults who grew up with video games.

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1985: Burst and Bloom

1985. Burst of the video game. Bloom of the Millennial. My earliest memory: playing Mega Man 2. More specifically, Mega Man 2’s “Bubbleman” stage. This event sparked a fire of imagination, set technological gears in motion, and built a bridge to the future. There was a majesty in that game that could only be delivered through the limitations of technology and connectedness of interactive control. At the early age of three, I experienced embodiment through an on screen character while simultaneously assuming god-like control over his actions. I could control the protagonist and create my own story.

I was in awe of this technology and aware enough to understand its infancy. The more I used it, the more wonder it cultivated. How are games created? How do they make those noises? What would this look like in five, ten, twenty years? Would I be able to live in these worlds? This wonder drew me to the technology industry.

Enamored, I sought video games as a necessity; something as substantial as food and water. This craving was not isolated to me; it shaped an entire generation.

The sounds, visuals, and interactivity provided a pool of imagination. The limitations of early consoles could not provide orchestral arrangements. Instead, repetitious patterns were drilled into our heads. They not only encapsulated the game we were playing, but they opened the world outside to a new soundtrack, creating a wealth of memories that could be tapped into from a few simple chirps. Hearing these primitive arrangements evolve felt like experiencing the birth of music. As hardware progressed, so did the complexity if the music. Repetitive pieces turned into grand and iconic themes, each game re-shaping the idea and importance of video game music.

While on-screen visuals provided a surreal sense of interplay between man and machine, screenshots were paintings. They opened minds to new possibilities. Images of upcoming games fueled the imaginations of would-be players. Gameplay mechanics had to be imagined. Reviews had to be accepted without video proof. Buying power was dictated by sprite design and blocky imagery.

The sprites we commanded (and spent tens-of-hundreds of hours with) became as familiar and important as The Lone Ranger, Bugs Bunny, and Lawrence Welk to the generations prior. From the introduction of idle animations to voice-over and motion-capture, we watched these on-screen characters evolve from blocky 16 x 16 figures to fully realized personalities. 20+ years later, we remain curious about their whereabouts, relevance, and impact on future generations. Life in a machine.

They were more than games in the traditional sense. Point-systems and completion-percentages were only a sliver of the grander experience. The more we practiced and started over from stage 1-1, the more we understood the core of these systems. Gaming taught us to recognize patterns; to harbor patience and solve puzzles. Some individuals would challenge boundaries in an attempt to break games. We could control the sprites better than our parents could. Finally, control over a domain we could call our own. We knew something foreign to most adults. Some even taught their parents how to play. The student was now the master.

Easter eggs, cheat codes, hidden characters, and secret areas were at the forefront of every schoolyard conversation. They sparked rumors and large threads of conversation; the viral video of the time. The possibility that you may discover something first kept your drive peaked. Discovering in-game mysteries without prior knowledge meant profound, earth-shattering news for friends. Phone calls, bike rides across town, and late night gatherings were the beginnings of web-rings and blogs.

Our deep grasp on game mechanics shaped our understanding for real world systems and industries. We were harnessing a rich understanding for technology exponentially faster than the generations prior. We watched the gaming industry push the boundaries not only of hardware and software performance, but social connectedness. New cultures were birthed. An age where those previously suppressed could now open up and find harmony, respect, and support in like communities. The social structure of these communities flourished with ideas, stories, and education. Technological advancement and waves of new and easy ways for the world to connect sprouted from the minds of “geeks” and “nerds,” eventually reaching a critical mass that welcomed everyone to confess and rally around their obsessions. Sudden realization that those who traced stats of organized professional sports were not so different from those that examined code; those that wore body-paint and jerseys to sporting events were not so different from those who constructed elaborate costumes or donned gaming memorabilia for conventions.

From console gaming’s genesis, my generation has been in the unique position of watching an entire industry shape culture around the world. At an early age, we were empowered with animated characters and settings that we could control. Our imaginations were able to shape stories larger than “looking for a princess in another castle,” filling in holes left by console limitations. Like many media types before it, those born into gaming now simply cannot fathom the excitement experienced while watching consoles and games evolve. We have gone along for a ride, curious about what is next, how to be a part of it, and how we can use it to change the world. The addiction to technological and societal evolution stemming from gaming has spawned a fervor for advancement, simplification, accessibility, and enabling.

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This post was inspired by Robert Ashley’s A Life Well Wasted: Episode 3 – Why Game?

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Originally published on TheStarrList.com

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Study attempts to identify risks for ‘problematic’ video game usage

Study attempts to identify risks for ‘problematic’ video game usage
Polygon

A new measure of individual habits and preferences in video game use is developed in order to better study the risk factors of pathological game use (i.e., excessively frequent or prolonged use, sometimes called “game addiction”). This measure was distributed to internet message boards for game enthusiasts and to college undergraduates. An exploratory factor analysis identified 9 factors: Story, Violent Catharsis, Violent Reward, Social Interaction, Escapism, Loss-Sensitivity, Customization, Grinding, and Autonomy. These factors demonstrated excellent fit in a subsequent confirmatory factor analysis, and, importantly, were found to reliably discriminate between inter-individual game preferences (e.g., Super Mario Brothers as compared to Call of Duty). Moreover, three factors were significantly related to pathological game use: the use of games to escape daily life, the use of games as a social outlet, and positive attitudes toward the steady accumulation of in-game rewards. The current research identifies individual preferences and motives relevant to understanding video game players’ evaluations of different games and risk factors for pathological video game use.

Frontiers in Developmental Psychology

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