Category: rants

The rant that will not die!!!

My rant is continuing to generate discussion. In fact, the whole conference seems to be stirring up debate. Is gamesstudies headed for its first rift? I hope not.

For my part, let me backpedal some more. I already posted about how I regret some of my language, but let me make clear, I implied that Dr. Palmer was an elitist bastard.

A couple of people have questioned if I understand what was really intended to go on at that confernece. I fully feel that I do. I’m not sure that ranting was the best way of making people understand my problem with the article. I don’t really have any problem with the conference. It is the way that it was presented in the article and some of the assumptions that still seem elitist and reproducing the bad of older disciplines that disturbs me.

That being said, bring on the comments. It is only through engagement that we will be able to prevent gamestudies from factionalizing. So let’s keep the talk coming.

…Even if you are all wrong! (that was a joke, seriously!)

Ranting Results???

Now, I do not seriously think that little old me had any influence on this at all, but in the comments below, Walter Kim (of noticed that the article in question is no longer called “The Ivy-Covered Console” but is now called “Deconstructing the Videogame.” I haven’t had a chance to read the article again to see if anything else has changed, but it is interesting that at least a tiny little bit of the elitist connotations of the article have been removed.

Ranting regrets…

Of course the rant hasn’t been up a day yet and I feel like I should clarify it.

I like the work of all the bloggers mentioned. Even with the person who has the quote that I strongly disagree with is entitled to his opinion and I really don’t mean anything personal by it.

I read Mia Consalvo’s blog that she noted that violence isn’t mentioned at all, and I have to agree that this is a great step.

However, I sitll think that the article is dangerous in that it presents a very elitist vision of what videogame studies could end up being. Elitism sucks. Beware of it! (and of course I am aware of my own biases of reverse-elitism, or automatically tending to privledge the popular)

And of course there are typographical errors. I cannot spell. I may have a BA (or is it a BS? I really don’t remember) in English, but that doesn’t mean I can spell. I would go back and fix it, becasue it is embarasing, but I it is published and so be it.

*RANT* Uppity Research Makes the Baby Mario Cry! *RANT*

So this is going to be a rant inspired by the article Ivy-Covered Console. I am glad that our work is getting some press, but it seems that this article is built on some frustrating biases.

First, let me say it. We all know that the only reason that this conference that the article is about is not the first videogame conference, nor is it the biggest. Yet it gets coverage in the New York Times which spends a lot of money with commercials trying to convince me to have it delivered to me even though I live in Indiana. Sure lots of people think the New York Times is hot shit, so in some ways it is great that this article exists. Of course the only reason why it exists is that this conference is taking place at an Ivy-League School. So at the heart of this article is elitism. Something I have little patience for. What do you expect from someone that has a Master’s degree in Popular Culture?

Again, I suppose I should be thankful that this isn’t yet another article that talks about how evil videogames are and features lots of unchallenged quotes from my favorite lawyer, Jack Thompson. However, much of what is written in this article just makes me sad if this is what the future of videogame studies holds.

I originally wrote a blow by blow account of why I dislike this article, however, I figured that came of as bitter for even me.

The article is basically an exercise in elitism written for an elitist paper. That is my problem with the article. In my opinion, videogames and videogame studies should not try to emulate elitist, exclusionary practices of the ivory tower. One sample passage reads, “Video-game studies is still a nascent field, too young to have a standard list of must-play games…” No, no, no. Lists are for suckers. Literature departments have spent decades realizing that their cannons were too narrow. Let us not have a cannon. A cannon by its very nature is exclusionary. So what if we all thing that Half-Life is the best thing ever and Codename: Nina is crap, but does that mean that we shouldn’t at least look at it and figure out how such crap came to be? Obviously there are only a certain number of games that one person can play, but the minute we, as academics, start making up a cannon of videogames, then we are putting up walls and limits. There is tons an tons of crap out there, but crap is worth looking at. If we have to start using a cannon to tell ourselves which games are “worthy” of out time, then we might as well go back to more traditional fields.

Then the article goes on to talk about Aristotle and Shakespeare. Now I know the writer of the article is not only trying to write an article about why videogames are worthy of study but is also trying to justify to his readers why videogame studies is worthy of having an article in the oh so prestigious New York Times. However, call me narrow minded, but there is a reason why I left my career in the English Department behind and part of that reason is so that I don’t need to talk about white guys who died before the light bulb was invented. Drawing on those names is an obvious attempt to justify our work, not only to ourselves, but the readers of the New York Times. I’ve made my opinion on this clear already. I’m taking a class right now with some wonderful people who are writing about 18th century literature. They are great intelligent people. However, you tell me, whose work is more relevant? Call me crazy, but if anyone has to justify their work, it ain’t me. As a field, I think that the attempt to legitimize our field is totally a waste of time. People who get it, already get it. People who don’t, never will. We don’t need videogames to be art. I’ve already written about that in the past. Art is exclusionary and elitist. Why would we want people like that to like us? Why would we want to be those people? Now I enjoy art, but I do not put definitions on what art is, and find definitional argumetns tiresome.

Finally, the article ends with, “But I don’t want to draw the comparison between Arc the Lad and ‘Ulysses,’ ” Dr. Palmer said, “because that would be very, very wrong.” You know what else is wrong? Being an elitist bastard. It is wrong to compare a game and work of literature? Fuck that. Now, his comment is a bit ambiguous. Why is it wrong? I would like to think that it is wrong simply because they are very different. I’ve never played Arc the Lad and have never read Ulysses (I never got around to that one when I was getting my Bachelor’s in English), so I don’t know. However, the most obvious interpretation is that Arc is not in the same ballpark as Ulysses. The only thing I can say to that to think that a videogame is a worthy comparison to a book is sad. Videogame studies is a new field and if we have such an inferiority complex that we cannot make some bold assertions with confidence, then maybe there isn’t any hope for us. I’m sure Dr. Palmer is a fine person, but that line needs some explanation.

This article is nice in that it gets the general public aware, but it represents a lot of what I hate about academia and what I am actively trying to work against. If videogame studies is going to be about consciously replicating the biases and elitism of old disciplines, it will be at the cost of the work by people on the fringes who have made it possible to study videogames in the first place. We need to stop legitimizing our work and simply start doing our work. If we do that, then the quality of the work will legitimize itself without having to buy into the elitist establishments of the academy or newspapers.

Videogame Studies Gets All High Falutin’

An article appeared in the New York Times today titled “The Ivy-Covered Console”. It is an interesting read.

There are several things about it that irritate me, however. I will try to get to some of them later, however, let me mention something included in it that I had never thought of before. In the article, they mention that some videogame researchers are doing what they call, “close gameplay,” “in which a researcher plays critical scenes of a game repeatedly, analyzing the details, perhaps searching for an anomaly the programmers have buried in the code or simply arriving at some resolution.”

This is the first I’ve heard of this. Does anyone actually do this? And if so, what do you get out of it? It seems to be a very odd thing to me. If anyone out there practices “close gameplay” let me hear about it.

MTV does videogames

Over at Gamegirladvance, there is an article about MTV using game footage in videos. Actually, it seems that all the examples that people have are EA games. So rather than MTV getting into gaming, is EA getting into videos becasue I’m sure they don’t care if it is MTV or MuchMusic or Fuse that airs their promotional material, just as long as it gets aired. Of course it is also probably the case of big corporation EA getting into bed with (presumably) even bigger corporation Viacom.

I saw one of the MTV/EA segments and left this post over at gamegirladvance:

Recently MTV has been jumping on the videogame bandwagon. They
had a videogame countdown show and more recently a “Video Mods” show
which took videogame footage and set it to music. I found a link that
talked about it here.

The one video I saw was a remix of N.E.R.D. song, which is of course
fronted by Pharrell of the Neptunes and is of African decent. Number of
non-whites in the “video mod”? zero.

I study things that people actually do

Over at Thinking With My Fingers, there is a post about academics having to justify their research. I must be pretty lucky. I really don’t recall ever having to justify studying videogames and people who play them. Maybe it is a matter of being in the right academic climates. I really do not see how I should have to justify my research when I run into people studying 17th century left handed poets.

People are playing videogames at this very moment. Can people who are resistant to videogame research say the same thing about their work? Are people spending hours a day engaging with it?

As I always seem to do in questions like this, rather than attempt to justify something which seems infinitely more relevant than 75% of the things I see going on at most universities, I have to ask why people care what other people think of their research. Basically, if you don’t like what I’m doing based soley on the principle that it is not a valid subject, then there is a pretty damn good chance that I think you are an elitist ass and your opinion doesn’t matter to me anyway. While I love being in school, there are certainly enough elitist snobs here, they can go hang out with each other, they don’t need to bother me.

Now, if you don’t like my work because you think it is inferior or flawed or just plain bad work, but the subject material is valid, that is another matter. I make no claims to my work being good, just valid and relevant.

My favorite lawyer…

Well, we all knew it wouldn’t be long before I had to bring up my favorite lawyer, Jack Thompson, could it?
I was surfing around for new videogame blogs and ran across According to a post on the site, Jack Thompson took part in a debate. A student emailed him about his stance on issues of regulation and such. Not surprizingly, according to the post, Jack is in favor of lawsuits. What? A lawyer in favor of lawsuits? So am I correct in saying that Jack Thompson who seems so concerned about children and videogame violence would rather wait untill something bad happens so that he can sue rather than pass laws and prevent something bad from happening? You mean that it is possible that his motives aren’t the most altruistic in the world? Who knew?

reposted from my old blog Friday, October 31, 2003

So I’m getting ready to go to a LAN party this weekend to do some ethnography as well as kick some ass. I figure that’s as good an excuse as any to catch up on some of the games I haven’t gotten around to buying yet. However installing these games reminds me of one of my greatest frustrations with installing games that come on multiple cd’s. I have more than one cd drive. Why won’t many (not all) games let me put install disk in one drive and disk two in the other? What is wrong with these people?

Dear Game Developers,
Stop pissing me off. Let me use both of my cd drives when I install your games.
Thank You.

Some games do this and I applaud them. However those that don’t piss me off. So stop it.

Also of note is that many many articles are publicizing the new lawsuit against the makers of grand theft auto due to the shooting without noting that Jack Thompson is a man with an anti-videogame agenda whose lawsuits have all done nothing but line his pockets thus far. That’s good journalism there boys.

Is it Art?

I’m reposting this from my old site as a test of the archives:

Since games and art is being discussed quite a bit lately I thought I might post an article I wrote a couple months ago, but never got around to posting.

But is it Art?

In recent years many advances have come to the world of videogames. The visuals have become ever more photorealistic and the gameplay has become more refined to name just two. However, there has been at least one area where videogames have not advanced, and that area is, as one may guess from the title is, “Are videogames art?”

The answer to this question really depends upon whom you ask. This,of course,is part of the problem in coming up with a definative answer to this question. Ask ten people to define art and you will get ten different answers. As one saying goes, “I can’t define art, but I know it when I see it.” Art is subjective and so each person has their own definition of what art is, and depending upon that definition, they will draw their own conclusion as to whether videogames are art. By looking at both sides of this question, it may be seen that it is not videogames that are flawed, but rather the question itself. Instead of asking, “Is it art?” perhaps we should ask ourselves, “Why do we care?” and “Why do they need to be?”

On one side of the “Is it art?” issue, there are those who would say, “No.” A person who claims that videogames are not art most likely has a narrow definition of art. A narrow definition of art typically includes only the most “high culture” and refined styles. Mona Lisa and Motzart are likely to be their standards of art. They are not interested in “art”,but “Art” with a capital “A,” the kind that has velvet ropes in front of it, and people with snooty accents.

Obviously, what such a narrow and stuffy definition of art does, however, is to clasify things. What is decreed as being Art is good and distinguished, what is not Art is trash, lower class and common. However, this attitude serves a broader purpose of classifying the classifier. If a person passes judgemnet on a work by decreeing that it is or is not art, what is really happening is not a passing of judgement on the work, but the classifyer is really attempting to prove that they have a more refined taste than others, that they are better than other people. So to say that something is not art really says more about the person who is making the distinction than the actual distinction itself. So to say that something is not art is an elitist move that only serves to reinforce the closed culture of old money and snobbery. Besides, do you think that the majority of people who regularly partake of high Art would ever acqnowledge the artistry of Quake?

To say that videogames are in fact art is to take a wider, more pragmatic view of the term art. It is to say that art is a term that is subjective. A wider definition of art implies that nearly anything can be art and that art is any creative human act. However, this definition still classifies beteen art and not art, even if only in broader manner. To call something art is still to pass judgement on it.

This is why it seems that the question, “Are videogames art?” should be thrown out. There are other questions that are more pertanant. Why does it matter if it is art? What does it get the gaming community? Who benefits from calling it art and why? All of these are questions that need to be asked when one tries to argue the “Is it Art?” question. It does not seem that much if anything is gained by videogames being classified as art. A bit of respect perhaps, but there are those that will never accept the form as art, because they are too narrow minded, and too entranched in the old ways of defining art.

If one feels strongly that videogames need to be considered art in order to gain respect, perhaps what is really going on is that someone feels a bit ashamed of their hobby and is in need of something to help raise their self esteeme. If that is the case, then there are more serious questions than whether or not videogames are art. And if it is true that one of the reasons that the gaming community wants to be considered art is for respect or a self esteme boost, then I sincerely doubt that being considered art will solve those problems. A question that needs to be asked then, is not “Is it Art?” but “Why do we care?”