Archives

Most Insulting Paper Title Ever?

I’m currently writing about LAN parties as third places and in doing some research I came across this article: Appeal of violent video games to lower educated aggressive adolescent boys.

Wow, could the researchers have a lower opinion of videogame players? So the only reason someone would like violent games is if they were uneducated and violent? Crazy.

I haven’t read the article so it could easily something more reasonable but as a title it sure is ponderous.

Dissertation writing

The summer is here and that means one thing: lots of writing.
I’m starting to write the dissertation and I’m 15 pages in on my first chapter. I’m starting to get burned out from writing so much but I’m going to go see the new Terminator tomorrow. I know it isn’t getting very good reviews but big deal, right?
I’m writing about the community of LAN parties and coming up a bunch of question without answers. Is it a community? if so, in what way? Is it a thrid place? Oldenburg explicitly says that a room full of people playing videogames isn’t a third place but he was writing that back before multiplayer games were common. However, he also makes a big deal about talking as being very important but there isn’t much talking going on at the LAN parties….
So many questions!
And the new Team Fortress 2 update is out!

CMCL Position open for Fall–please forward to interested parties

The Department of Communication and Culture at Indiana University-Bloomington has been authorized to hire a Visiting Assistant Professor for the2009-2010 academic year (August 2009-May 2010) to teach courses in digital media and television studies. We invite candidates from a wide range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary backgrounds and encourage applicants whose teaching and research interests are grounded in critical humanities scholarship concerning the cultural, political, and communicative aspects of digital game studies. Ph.D. and teaching experience required. Applications will be reviewed starting May 21, 2009. Indiana University is an equal opportunity employer.

Send inquiries, CV, and names of three references to:

Gregory A. Waller

Chair, Department of Communication and Culture

gwaller at indiana.edu

What I’ve been up to

The semester here at Kokomo is finished. Another good semester of teaching ethnographic-based interpersonal communication.

I’ll be back in Bloomington in the fall. I’m only scheduled to teach one class in the fall at the moment so I need some money. If it weren’t against Google’s terms of service I’d encourage people to click my ads but since that is against the terms I won’t…

Now I’m trying to write my dissertation. My advisers want me to get 2 chapters done this summer so I have a lot to do. I’ve got 2 pages done so far. That’s about half way done, right?

Resident Evil 5 Racism From Someone Who Hasn’t Played It

“I didn’t see any racist imagery in it”
“No one says anything about the Spanish people in RE4”
“Why does it matter what color zombies are?”
“Why do people have to read so much into things?”
“Games are escapism”
“They didn’t mean to be racist”
“This is made by the Japanese so why would they know about racism?”
“Someone who thinks this is racist is racist”

These are all comments that I’ve seen on places like gamepolitics, Kotaku, and Joystiq. I’ve been putting off writing about this because I really don’t know if it will do any good and I don’t want to get into some flame war. I imagine that the people who have made up their mind probably won’t change them very easily. However, with N’Gai Croal leaving Newsweek, it came up again and it seems like it will keep coming up. That coupled with a website story about an “expert” talking about the game has made me decide not to hold my tongue any longer.

For anyone who doesn’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about Resident Evil 5. More accurately though I’m talking about people’s reactions to Resident Evil 5 (more accurately than that I’m writing about people’s reactions to people’s reactions to the Resident Evil 5 trailer). I haven’t played RE5. I don’t have any current gen consoles so I probably won’t be playing it any time soon. But that’s ok because most of the online discussion has been about the trailer.
Now, at this late date it is kind of hard to understand what people are talking about because there have been several trailers for RE5. The one that people first picked up on was an early first teaser trailer which didn’t really show much.

Even a later trailer which showed more included the questionable lines, “there’s no reason here… no humanity.”

There is a lot more known about the game now than there was back when this first started. There have been countless articles and blogs written about the issue. N’Gai Croal got caught up in it when MTV’s gaming blog asked him about it and he gave his opinion about the trailer. Despite the fact that he didn’t bring it up and didn’t write about it himself, when people commented on him leaving his position at Newsweek, RE5 was inevitably brought up

I’m not going to say the game is or isn’t racist because, as I said, I haven’t played it. I’m not going to say the trailer was racist either. I do think that the early trailer did contain some imagery that was troubling in terms of its depiction of race when presented in isolation the way in which it was. The trailer has imagery that perpetuates stereotypes that everyone in Africa is poor and all of Africa is a desert.

Reading through the numerous comments on some of the stories some common themes seemed to come out. Most of the comments were pretty kneejerk and reactionary. It seems as if any criticism of videogames calls out the internet fanboys and the mere suggestion that a trailer for a game might be a bit racist is a horrible thing and requires vehement defense. One of the oddest and yet more common comments was something along the lines of “Anyone who thinks this is racist is racist themselves!” Ummm, what? So thinking something might not be the best way of depicting race makes you racist? That’s just bizarre.

Another common comment was “it is just a trailer.” Well that is true but that trailer just didn’t happen. They picked those scenes specifically because they wanted them to represent their game. When that trailer came out, no one knew what the game was like. All we had togo on was that trailer.

“They didn’t mean to be racist” No. I’m pretty sure they didn’t. So does that make it ok? I didn’t mean to break the law so I won’t get arrested? More importantly, people often use the excuse of “they didn’t mean it” as a way of forgiving something or dismissing criticisms. However, can we ever really know someone’s intention? We don’t have telepathy so all we ever have is perception. Even if someone says they don’t mean it, how can we know that they aren’t lying? No, intention isn’t ever possible to discern with total certainty and so all we have is perception.

“This is made by the Japanese so why would they know about racism?” Sadly, the USA doesn’t have a monopoly on racism. No they probably don’t know much about the history of racism in the USA. But Japan has a history of racism all its own, just ask Korea. Also they are pretty ignorant of other races. Japan is really homogeneous in its people. So they don’t have much experience with people of other races so they aren’t aware of it. Heck, blackface is still acceptable in Japan. And people of African descent aren’t the only ones stereotyped. In 2005 the UN called racism in Japan “deep and profound.”

More recently, a videogame site asked an anthropologist to look at Resident Evil 5 and lead their article with the pull quote: “‘It’s silly to call it racist’, says leading anthropologist.” I’m sure that Glenn Bowman, the anthropologist in question, is an excellent scholar but the fact is he is not an expert on videogames or even media in general and I think that really undercuts the authority of his opinion. The reason for this is that he, like myself, did not actually play the game so neither of us knows what it is like to play it. Perhaps more importantly, he doesn’t say anything about the camera angles used and I really think that this is what people are latching onto when they have a negative reaction to the trailers.

Because I’m talking about the trailers, perhaps the most appropriate way of looking at them is through the lens of films studies — yes, I of all people, am advocating applying film theory to something from the videogame world! Let’s be honest, these are little movies. Based on the comments and articles I’ve read and podcasts I’ve heard (and Rebel FM’s episode where they Discuss RE5 is pretty good), people are responding to these films as if the camera didn’t exist and looking only at the world presented within the game and not the camera angles, lighting or editing. Ignoring the fact that these are computer generated and not actually filmed (which perhaps make the filmic elements more important since all of them were purposely chosen and nothing within it “just happened” or was “already there.”), all camera work is subjective. Camera angles do not just “happen.” They are chosen and they are created. They picked camera angles to make the Africans look threatening. They used shadows to make the distinction between human and zombie blurry. They edited it in such a way that nothing was fully shown. We cannot just ignore the kino eye in these situations.

When attempting to look at these trailers critically it is a mistake to allow ourselves to be sutured into the game. The Resident Evil games have always taken cues from cinema and replicated dramatic camera angles and so especially when it comes to this game series we must not allow ourselves to pretend that we are there and that this is not a constructed work.

This is especially important when countering the claims of those who argued, “No one says anything about the Spanish people in RE4.” Look at the trailers for Resident Evil 4. None of them use camera angles, lighting, or editing in anything like the same way that the early trailers for RE5 do.

In the end, like I said in the beginning, I’m not saying that the game or the trailers are racist. I am saying that a lot of the things people have written aren’t taking the manufactured and, dare I say it, “cinematic” nature of the trailers into account.

Review of Mia Consalvo’s Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames

I’ve been a fan of Mia Consalvo’s work for a while so I was really looking forward to her book, Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames. If you haven’t heard anything about it you can find a pdf of the introduction (and the index too, but that seems to be less valuable) on the MIT Press site.

Despite the book being from MIT Press, I found it a bit less academic than I would have hoped. This isn’t to say that it is a bad book but it isn’t the hardcore theory-filled analysis that I was hoping for. As it stands, the book seems to sit somewhere between Masters of Doom and the stuff in the DiGRA Digital Library. I found the book to be entertaining if a bit too mainstream. There is some very interesting analysis of cheating, game guides, and faqs to be found in it though.

Am I out of Touch?

I’m starting to wonder if I’m out of touch with the gaming community. I don’t have any of the current generation consoles. I have never played WoW. Because of this a lot of the stuff I read or listen to about new games doesn’t really apply to me.

I really got to thinking about this when listening to the latest episode of the Rebel FM Podcast that features ex-staffers of Electronic Gaming Monthly. In it they had a discussion of the feel of shooters. Throughout it all they were talking about console shooters. It was then that I found myself becoming a computer-gaming-fanboy.

I kept saying, “You are talking about console-First-Person-Shooters and therefore your opinion is irrelevant!” In my opinion playing a First-Person Shooter on a console is like playing basketball with a flat ball. Sure you can do it but I can’t imagine why anyone would actually do it if they had the ability to do it the right way. Halo may have had some nice play mechanics like the regenerating shield but it is the Candy Land of shooters — it is fun for little kids but any normal adult should tire of it quickly.

So am I just out of touch? Is it possible that Halo isn’t lame (I find that hard to accept)? Or is everyone else just crazy? (The truth is probably somewhere in between…)

[ad]

Evolution of strategy in Left 4 Dead

I don’t think I’ve ever been in on the ground floor of a new multiplayer game before so it is interesting to see how Left 4 Dead‘s Versus mode has changed and evolved since its release.

One of the most noticeable areas has been in regards to the witch. When the game first came out we all generally took Eminem’s Not Safe For Work advice and don’t “mess” with the witch. Now people just go right up to her and shooter he with the automatic shotgun and killer without getting hurt at all.

Similarly, people used to just run from the tank and hope to survive. Then people figured out that molotovs would take the tank out. Now the cool think seems to be for everyone to hit it with the automatic shotgun and sniper rifle (maybe the automatic shotgun needs some tweaking?)

The latest tactic I’ve seen is that someone realized that in some cases the hunters do more damage by swiping at the survivors rather than pouncing. The logic behind this is that if you pounce you don’t always do damage and might get knocked off before you start doing damage. If you swipe someone you are much quieter, can almost always get one hit in, and can perhaps get in more without having to wait to recharge the pounce.

Right now there’s a lot of debate over exploits within the game. One that pretty much everyone agrees is an exploit is the minigun jump

I’ve only seen people use this in Versus mode once and it is pretty much a jerk thing to do.

Another exploit that is definitely wrong and a real jerk thing is the spectator glitch in which you can spawn tons of hunters.

I’ve seen a couple people do this and one named Ghost something who I’ve ran into a couple times (of course he spells Ghost all l33t and stuff to show how much he roxors).

The final exploit is more controversial in my opinion. It involves breaking down the door and avoiding the crescendo event on the 3rd (I think it is the 3rd) level.

There are more exploits like hitting things into exits so survivors can’t go past but that has been fixed and only works on the Xbox360 so that doesn’t really count. There’s also hiding under the ramp in the finale which I’ve seen some people do but doesn’t happen all that often and there’s jumping off the side of the building in the beginning but that causes a lot of damage so I haven’t seen anyone do it.

Anyway, I’m not trying to document all the exploits and glitches in the game. It is just interesting to note which tactics stick, which don’t, and how they spread.

Little Big Planet 9?

So I saw a trailer for a movie called 9 that is coming out on my birthday. It kind of reminded me of Oddworld stuff but the main character really reminded me of Little Big Planet. Then I find out that it was originally a short movie made back in 2005. It has this little guy made from what looks like burlap and he has a big zipper down the front. In his world he uses junk to make stuff. Sound familiar? Coincidence or something more?

[ad]