Archive for the ‘Humanities Gaming Institute’ Category

Today we have two additional articles from The Chronicle of Higher Education – “A Lament for the Humanities” by Michael Ruse and “The Souls of the Machine” by Jeffrey R. Young. Both are relevant to the current topic of humanities in science and technology and were also published over the weekend. However, neither seems to communicate anything of real substance (unlike the Balsamo papers) and are more akin to general ideas being floated around in the arts and humanities community. Light reading for academics I suppose, but not really very substantial.



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“Sustainable Play: Towards a New Games Movement for the Digital Age”

Celia Pearce, Tracy Fullerton, Janine Fron, Jacki Morie

This is a REALLY cool article. It opens whole new ideas for research and design, particularly how it relates to my own studies of the antiwar game. The type of cooperation that is inherent to the New Games Movement is just like another kind of game I was thinking of making – games about cooperation and omoiyari rather than on winning and competition (Buckminster Fuller’s The World Game comes to mind). Essentially, games in which through the play act, you make others feel better.

A little background: The New Games Movement arose in the 1970s as a response to the Vietnam War and socio-political struggles. The environment was similar to what it is today – a divisiveness, unpopular wars, and racial inequality. The movement was begun by Stewart Brand (of The Whole Earth Catalogue and Spacewar Rolling Stones article fame) with games using giant earthballs and parachutes (among other things) that encouraged cooperation and play. They did not score players but rather the players judged the game by how much fun it was to play. The article discusses games designed in the movement and how there has been a resurgence in New Games today in physical as well as digital space. The authors are actively involved in creating new New Games.

The New Games Movement also goes back to the player-centric view of design (something that Fullerton supports, and was forwarding even before the 2004 New Games Revival). It also presents new ideas for how we might play and how we might encourage players to interact in a fun and safe environment – something that is essential to learning games.

This model is also in conflict with the commercial model of the boxed game with unmodifiable rules. A computer enforcing the rule system is an important difference because it means the rules are always adopted (the game will perform how it is told to perform) but it also has the negative that we have to adapt the rules the designers give us. We are basically jumping through algorithmic hoops rather than playing outside the bounds. This I feel is important because if players can modify game rules on the fly, it can create for more interesting experiences.

Also – after reading about some of the game, the first thing I want to do is actually go out and PLAY them!! How cool would it be to push a giant earthball around for a half hour? That’s just FUN. Additionally, the Rock-Paper-Scissors Tag is a good idea because it requires no equipment and has these fun elements associated with it. I wonder how it works with slow and tired people though – maybe they should have a new role to play.

This going out and PLAYING THINGS is something we tend to ignore in the theory space, but it’s very important that as people studying games we should play with them and learn new games and think about our experiences rather than just reading papers. The papers should inform the play and the play should inform the papers. It’s not a one-way signal.

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One area of game studies that interests me is how we read and analyze games, which is related to how we analyze literature. In literary studies, we have multiple approaches to analyzing a story, from psychological readings and author analysis to symbol and metaphor. It is this vocabulary in particular that I feel has strong relevance with games and with designing games that can present meaningful content to their audiences using the ‘unique and universal language of games’.

One idea that sprang to my mind was the analysis of broad structures commonly found in games – that is, mechanics, verbs, and formal elements (or in addition, might there be a message behind each medium?). One such analysis was defined by Janet Murray in Hamlet on the Holodeck. Her discussion on metaphor in games under “Games as Symbolic Dramas” provides some context here (Murray: 1997, 142-145). Murray defines certain metaphors inherent to game fundamentals such as winning and losing, puzzles and goals:

  • I encounter a confusing world and figure it out. (more…)

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One of the pre-reading sets is Tracy Fullerton’s Game Design Workshop. The course website has scans of the First Edition, and so I find myself frequently moving back and forth to check altered content with the Second Edition. I had even considered using this book for an intro game design class, and so thankfully most of the important stuff has been underlined already!

What strikes me most about this reading is it provides a set of frames by which HGI wishes us to think about games. There are many different lenses to use when analyzing games, but the frame of how we define games determines the approach – do you examine games from an analytical or design perspective? (or perhaps even economics) It all depends on what particular elements you wish to emphasize to your students.

So what “The Structure of Games” does is present a particular definition of games geared towards new designers. (more…)

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This summer, for three weeks in June, I will be attending the Humanities Gaming Institute in the University of Columbia, South Carolina to work on socially conscious games. My goal is to produce games that further my explorations into antiwar game design and to learn new tools to expand my expressive vocabulary. The program is quite intense, with a half-dozen readings and discussions each week (as well as some pre-readings) and there will be guest lecturers (Tracy Fullerton, Ian Bogost, and Anne Balsamo). While I haven’t heard of any of my fellow attendees, I have met Tracy and Ian before, and I am very excited to learn from them.

So to put this prime real-estate of CriticalGameStudies.wordpress.com to work (gamestudies.wordpress.org was taken long ago and fell into immediate neglect), I am going to attempt to put my project notes here to chronicle the next three weeks and any relevant issues beyond that. Hopefully this site will be rejuvenated afterward for more class-related materials.

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