so much to do and so little time…

As we get to the middle of the school semester, the stresses of life as a graduate student are piling up. Students are giving me assignments, like it’s my JOB to teach them or something! And I have my own assignments due. I’m only writing one paper about videogames this semester, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not submitting to conferences. The PCA deadline is November 1st and the DiGRA is soon after, so if you want to submit to either, you better get a move on. Oh, and write me a proposal too while you are at it!

Since I do have my new computer, I am making time to continue to play videogames. Painkiller is taking up most of my time, but I’m also still getting killed by people online in CounterStrike. It is interesting how I manage to make time to play games, but not going to the recycling center… I guess I have my priorities in order! The big news is of course the new GTA game coming out soon. Just wait until our good friend Jack Thompson rears up his head to condemn it. I know he is busy suing people in England, but I’m sure he’ll find time to talk to some lazy journalist who doesn’t know anything about his credibility (or lack thereof in my eyes…)

Oh well, time to go grade some more student papers…

online gaming without nubes? Is it possible???

I broke down and did the old Steam pre-order of Half-Life 2. I know I’m such a sucker.
So even though I’m hip deep in Painkiller (I hate that swamp monster so much!!!) I couldn’t resist trying out the Source Engine version of Counter-Strike.

Guess what? I’ve put in 2-3 hours and haven’t seen any trash talking or people just acting like asses yet. Wow! Now I’m sure they are out there, but it is certainly refreshing to be alb e to play CS without jerks.

That most jerks don’t seem to be on the new version yet is an interesting phenomenon. Basically, the group of people playing CS:S right now are the hardest of the hard core and who have the money to spend to buy the pre-order. Which raises the question of who lamers really are. Are they really 13 year olds? Are they people who don’t have the computer to run the new version? Are they casual gamers? It will be interesting to see how the new CS community develops and what will happen when Half-Life 2 finally hits the shelves.

On a related note, CS:Condition Zero came with the Steam package I bought and while I was waiting for the Source version to download, I started playing it. It is fun to play with the bots, but boring as heck when you die. What I found interesting though was the fact that CS has one version of the maps, CS:CZ has another version and CS:S has a third. So we have a constant process of remaking the same maps (not to mention the older versions of some maps that have evolved through the betas of CS). It is an interesting process which has some similarities to Lucas’ constant tweaking of Star Wars. What is interesting, however, is that I haven’t found anyone lamenting about how the old versions of the maps are better, unlike the constant lamenting of the original versions of Star Wars.

Whether this is, again, a case of only the hardest of the hardcore playing the game at the moment, with criticisms yet to come, or somehow revisions of levels seem to function in a different way for players than revisions of films do for watchers is yet to be seen.

Despite the fact that CS:CZ comes with “Deleted Scenes” I wonder if some day there will be a “Special Edition” of Counter-Strike that features tons of various versions of the Dust and Office. If they reinstate the jailbreak and VIP modes and include Jeepathon2k you can count me in!

KISS the Painkiller

OK, I’ve been rather busy with school. However, since I built a new computer a month ago, I certainly have found some time to give it a workout.

I’ve finished Doom 3. It was enjoyable. I jumped quite a bit. Perhaps I am all id (ha! I made a joke!) but I found it satisfying. At least one review I read lamented that the horror was only jumping out of the closet at you style and not psychological in nature. Too bad. I like things jumping out at me. Maybe I’m jaded from killing so many sprites and polygons, but psychological horror doesn’t creep me out that much. I like gore.

Unfortunately, I hate cut scenes. Why? Why? Why? I don’t want some damn cut scene to show me the monster. I want to see the monster myself.

I have moved on to Painkiller. I enjoy it. The pure mayhem is fun. The gameplay is a bit simplistic and arcade-y, which is a nice change of pace. There ain’t no reading of memos or combinations to remember, just monsters to chop up. Sorry story people, there is something to be said for just running around killing bad guys. I don’t know what the bad guys in Painkiller are supposed to be, and I don’t really care. I mean there are skeletons in suits of armor. What is their motivation? What is their backstory? I don’t care. They are tying to kill me, ergo I will shoot and chop them into little bits.

While some have compared Painkiller to Blood or Serious Sam, it reminds me most of KISS: Psycho Circus: The Nightmare Child. The KISS game was actually really fun — even if, like me, you don’t wish to rock and roll every night and/or party every day. The mayhem and weird weapons and shooting are all good mindless fun. I give them both nine thumbs up. Now, don’t ask me what the story of the KISS game is, because I have no idea.

g4m3rs 4 gØd???

I was going to go teach Monday and I saw something interesting on a bulletin board. There was a flyer for a Halo tournament. That is far from unusual, but was unusual was that it was hosted by the campus Christian Student Fellowship house. I guess they are trying to use videogames to convert people?
g4m3rs 4 gØd???
Of course to show how much gaming is naturalized in my mind, the fact that Halo was chosen by a group of Christians was probably not accidental did not even occur to me until a friend pointed it out to me!

Illiterate Fools!!!

I’ve been having weird dreams lately. The other night I woke up from a dream about either a dissertation defence or a question and answer session after giving a colloquium. After I had finished waking up screaming and making sure there weren’t any professors hiding under my bed, I started thinking that so far in my graduate school career I’ve had to explain myself to people who had no experience with videogames. That is pretty crazy. When I get to the point of having to put together a dissertation committee I am going to force them to sit down and play some Counter-Strike.

But more than that, I have to think of how many pages I have had to fill with basic background information about videogames. As I lay there in be trying to fall back asleep, I realized that nothing is more of a testament to the fact that there really is a literacy to videogames than the fact that every time I go to write a paper for a class, I have to spend a few pages explaining what the hell it is that I’m talking about. So it is sort of a meta-commentary on the project that I am trying to make in and of itself. I’m trying to explain that there is a set of skills that one needs to develop to play most videogames and there I am having to give an education to my professors every time I write about it!

Associated with this act of explaining videogames to someone who doesn’t play them is the moral dilemma: do I have to write this crap again, or should I just cut and paste it from another paper? I like to think I have a pretty strict moral code, so I usually end up re-inventing the wheel every time, but hopefully there will come a time when I won’t have to do that.

Finally, since I mentioned a few posts ago that the videogames documentaries are creating a canon for the history of videogames, I am aware of the ways in which my constant rewriting of an explanation of videogames, I am engaging in my own canonization process in that I am canonizing what is a videogames and what people do in relationship to videogames. This, of course, has the risk of creating a narrow definition of videogames, gamers and the like, as well as putting blinders on to other forms of gaming. The moral of the story is that i’m sure I’m not the only one that goes through these dilemmas, and we all need to try to be aware of when we think of or write about videogames, we don’t do so in too rote or narrow a fashion.

I am l33t!!!!

I’m posting this on my l33t new system amd 64 3500+, ATI radion x800 pro. I’ve only got 512 ram currently since the other stick of 512 i have prevents teh machine from booting. So I need to order some of that “mached pair” stuff.

But my system is l33t enough to play Doom3! So yes, contrary to a prior post, I bought Doom 3 (unfortunatly, the Ban Doom site doesn’t seem to be up any longer).

The first thing I noticed about Doom 3 was how little I noticed the graphics. They because instantly naturalized for me. Of course I had seen lots of screenshots before playing it, but I was surprized that I wasn’t really wowed by the graphics. They are, of course, awesome, but the game comes on and that’s what it looks like, and I just sort of acccept that. It is only when I consciously compare it to other games, that I notice the graphics.

The second thing I noticed was the damn cut scenes! AARRGGGHHH!!!! Why? Why? Why? That was the first thing I was afraid of those years ago when we first saw some E3 footage. As of yet, aside from teh introductory cut scene, I really haven’t seen any reason why they have to go to these stupid cut scenes to either advance the plot or show the monster crawling out of the wall. If I care about teh plot, I will look at the people talking. There are planty of monsters jumping out that scare me. Perhpas the monster slowly coming out at me is supposed to be some sort of slow reveal/paralyzed by fear type of thing. Unfortunatly, the only thing it does for me is piss me off when I can see the damn (see, damn, demons. It isn’t cussing if they really are damned!) monster coming at me and I can’t shoot at it or back away from it and I have to act the isntant they give me back control. But I don’t know when they will deem to allow me to control the character again, so I’m constantly impatient and worrying it will take half a second for me to react to being a player and not a watcher and the stupid cut scene will cost me some health. CU7 5C3N35 R teh 5UCK!!!!

Happy Birthday to ME!

It is my birthday! I’m 31. Weeeeeeeeee!!!

Haven’t been playing many games lately. Been busy with the school starting again. Watched Video Game Revolution on PBS last night. Nothing that other documentaries haven’t gone over a million times before, but entertaining at least. Of course, we saw all the usual suspects interviewed: Steven Kent, Nolan Bushnell, Henry Jenkins and the like. So I guess since this is at least the 3rd Videogame history that has appeared in the past 5 years, we can see the canonization of videogame history being built. Atari, but they stole it from Baer, then they sold it to Warner brothers, then Nintendo came along, then there was Doom and some kids killed people and Grand Theft Auto is a great game but morally questionable (note: that is the ideology of these programs, not me. I have a hard time taking seriously claims from people who haven’t played the game, because every time i try to go on a killing spree in GTA3 the cops are on me in a heartbeat). While they did talk about violence a bit, at least our good friends Dave Grossman and Jack Thompson weren’t mentioned (and thankfully, neither was Robert Thompson) nor was there any talk of rape in Grand Theft Auto. However, there was a lot of minor errors, or deceits. Showing Vice City while talking about GTA3 and showing Super Nintendo games while still talking about the NES.

The most interesting thing about these docs though, is that they make it seem like the US is the main contributor to gaming. Even when they mention Japan, they don’t really mention the impact of Japanease games. And Europe and other parts of the world? Unless you are talking about Tetris, forget about it. I’m interested in getting some more of an international perspective. Besides the interesting Game Over is there anything about the history of videogames that isn’t explicitly about America?

Something I saw somewhere else…

Well, I’m trying to ease off of the instant buyer’s remorse of buying a new computer. I just put my orders in for the parts and although my current desktop is old (Athlon 1900+) the thought of spending the money shocks me. Oh well, I ordered some l33t components. Athlon 3500+ (with the fancy new socket) Radeon x800, gig of ram. Watch out all you lamers, i’m coming after you!

But I was surfing around over at water cooler games and saw the link to the interesting Gamespot article, Redefining Games: How Academia is Reshaping Games of the Future, which is the longest article I can remember ever seeing on Gamespot. Despite not having a printer friendly link that I can see, author Lauren Gonzalez does a good job of covering the bases. It links to several game blogs, but of course not mine! (But then again there are tons of gaming blogs that don’t link to me even though they link to any other fly by night blogs… but I’m not bitter or anything…;-)

The article ends on the interesting note of asking people what person unrelated to the field of games–famous or not, dead or alive–they would chose to be a game developer. The answers are pretty interesting and revealing of a persons theoretical standing. Of course, that begs the question of who I would choose. Honestly, I don’t have a solid answer to such a question because I spend so little time theorizing games (and most of my time theorizing players and the appeals of playing, which is of course related, but as my high school principal once said, “It’s the same, but different.”). Musically, I think I might pick Led Zeppelin from the height of their careers, or the Flaming Lips. I think it might be interesting to have the guy who makes up the New York Times Crossword puzzle make a game. If I were cruel, I would suggest that it would be great if the makers of Final Fantasy made a game, but I’m not cruel enough to say that… 😉 From art, I would second Salvador Dali or Escher. But it would also be a very tranquil experience to have Bob Ross rise from the grave and design a game. From the realm of literature? I seem to be drawing a blank on that one… Man, I am just grumpy today.

On that note, I will wrap this up. In the past couple days I’ve ran into a couple of people that say they read my blog. I just want to give a shout out to my peeps. Thanks for reading!