Is it art or is it commerce?

I’m in the midst of unpacking, so this might not make much sense. Be warned!

I’ve been thinking about the state of videogame theory. I was over at the fairly newly launched GameBlogs.org and realized that it seems that all those who study games really aren’t studying the same thing. It seems there is a large amount of crossover between people who make games and academics. There are a lot of game makers who theorize and a lot of theorists who make games. I’m not quite sure how I feel about that.

In one sense, the interaction between the two is a good thing. It lets each side see things from the other side. I’m all for tearing down boundaries, and mixing things up.

However, on the other side, I would like to see a bit more separation between the two camps. I’m not sure I really all that interested in how to sell games or making better games or even using games for purposes other than to entertain. I don’t see that those have all that much to do with what I am interested in.

On some level, it is more of a personal problem. I don’t don’t want there to be a solid division between any approaches or goals to gaming. I’m just not sure that I want to read about some of those things. If I step back though, I think that the growing number of gaming blogs that have popped up in the two plus years since I started this site is a sign of the growth of the field. The fact that there are lots of sites that I don’t necessarily feel like they apply to me, and that I don’t feel the need to read regularly is a good thing, I guess.

Crystal Waters can relate

No posting latly since my lease on my old apartment ran out last Friday and my new apartment isn’t available untill noon this Friday. So I’m homeless, I’m homeless.

However, just a quick tip. I don’t know if I’m just dence, or what, but I’ve been going to Shacknews pretty frequently for a while now. However, it is only recently that I’ve started taking notice of their “Latest Interesting Comments” feature at teh top of the main page. It turns out that is where the REAL late breaking news often occurs. People will find out about it, post a message and often it will be news that won’t show up untill the next day, or it will be a link to some interesting pic or freeware.

While not entirely game related, it is a good way to keep track of the pulse of the gaming world. Also a study of it would be facinating in that it would show the spread of news and information that the internet allows.

German Doonsbury and Jack Thompson

Been terribly busy with the German class. I’m in the middle of doing hurried translations of some German-language videogame articles so I can write up an annotated bibliography and then go back to being a monolingual American!

This morning I saw that the comic strip Doonsbury had recently ran a week long series of strips about videogames. I hadn’t seen anyone mention it, so it is worth a read through if you haven’t seen it already.

Of course one of the stories that is getting the most buzz is the murder in the UK that is supposesd to involve the game Manhunt. Of course you know our good friend Jack Thompson had to get his nose involved. Some sources are even alledging the family of the murdered boy have hired him to sue Sony. Who knew that Jack was able to practice law outside of America? Of course now that the police have said that they don’t see any connection to the game, but that doesn’t seem to have caused Jack to say that he might have been wrong.

Young Lust

With the imminent release of DooM 3, I, like a lot of people, am thinking of upgrading my computer. I’ve currently got an Athlon 1900+ based home-built system. I am totally lusting after these newer systems. I always had overheating issues with this computer, so I do not think I will be building my own this time and so those small form-factor LAN party cases are SO tempting! However, I am going to try to wait a month or so.

In investigating from whom I am going to buy from, I am amazed at all the fancy cases and lighted cases and other flashy stuff that is on the market today. There are some obvious crossovers between the case-mod community and the muscle car guys (even down to using many of the same concepts and techniques). However, there is also a lot of model building involved with people making cases out of ammo boxes, and putting coffeemakers into cases.

The common thread in these similarities is that gaming, cars, and model building are all hobbies dominated by men. It is interesting to see how videogame players keep finding ways to perform their masculinity despite the stereotype of gamers as nerdy and rather unmasculine. So even we dorks can find activities that women are traditionally not active in! So this performing of masculinity is somewhat doubly bound, although case modding mimics car customizing, I don’t really think that having a tricked out computer has the same cultural capital in the larger non-gaming society as having a tricked out car.

I guess I’m a bit more old school though. I don’t want my case to have a window or to glow. I want my computer to look bland an unimportant but have a kickin’ motor under the hood.

Followup on German sources

A little while back I asked for some German-language references for a paper I have to write for my German class. Thanks to some helpfull posters as well as the kind people on the DIGRA mainling list, combined with my own research skills, I was able to find some articles that seem fairly interesting. I thought I would share them if any readers of German are curious:

Bruns, Karin. “Game Over? Narration und Spannung im Computerspiel.” Kulturrevolution. 45-46 (2003): 85-89.

Fritz, Juergen. “Action, Lebenswelten und Transfer.” medien+erziehung (merz), 47:1 (2003): 7-21.

Fritz, Jürgen and Wolfgang Fehr. “Identität durch Spiel: Computerspiele als Lernanreize für die Persönlichkeitsentwicklung.” Medien Praktisch. 4 (1999):30-32.

Gunzenhäuser, Randi. “Darf ich mitspielen? Literaturwissenschaften und Computerspiele.” September 22, 2003. July 20, 2004 .

— “Raum, Zeit und Körper in Actionspielen Max Payne.” dichtung-digital. March 31, 2002. July 20, 2004 .

Mathez, Judith. “Von Mensch zu Mensch. Ein Essay über virtuelle Körper realer Personen im Netz.” dichtung-digital. November 7, 2002. July 20 2004 .

Müller, Jörg. “Virtuelle Körper. Aspekte sozialer Körperlichkeit im Cyberspace.” 1996. July 20, 2004 .

Schindler, Friedemann. “Von Super Mario und Super Marion.” January 29, 1999. July 20, 2004 .

Suter, Beat. “Computerspiel und Narration.” netzliteratur.net. April, 10 2003. July 20, 2004 .

Wenz, Karin. “Computerspiele: Hybride Formen zwischen Spiel und Erzählung.” netzliteratur.net. March 5, 2003. July 20, 2004 .

— “Computerspiele und Kulturwissenschaften.” netzliteratur.net. April 3, 2003. July 20, 2004 .

I guess this means I have to work on translating them now…!

Long time no see

It has been a bit longer between updates than typical, but I’ve been busy. TV won’t watch itself!

And there is some interesting stuff on TV occasionally. On the otherwise dreadful G4TechTV one generally great and always interesting show is Icons, which features short half hour documentaries about videogame related topics. Friday they had a pretty good show on about DooM. Like all things on cable it will be on again soon. Bluesnews posted links to various videos of the episode.

One thing that I gathered from the episode was that Steven Kent, author of The Ultimate History of Video Games, among other things, is writing The Making of Doom III, which should be an interesting companion to David Kushner’s Masters of Doom.

OK, time to watch some more TV. I think this might be the one where Gilligan messes up their chance to get off the island!

Am I supposed to call it 3.0?

Here it is! I hope everyone likes it. Below is lots of non-game related web design lamenting, so if you aren’t into that, the game content will return in the next post (unless I’ve broken things so much I have to apologize!)

Well, after a month or so trying to figure out CSS, I think I got enough of it under control so that I have something I am happy with. I hope everyone enjoys the new site. For those LONG time readers, you may remember that when I first started a blog, it was a 3 column layout, and now it is again. The more things change the more they stay the same.
The layout started out as a template I got from Firdamatic but it was fixed width and I wanted a liquid layout. That broken layout can be seen here. I eventually found A List Apart which had a great article about “Creating Liquid Layouts with Negative Margins.” Now I have to admit, I still don’t entirely understand why the margin has to be negative, but it works. Of course it didn’t work right away, because these things never does. I had to just basically cut and paste the article’s CSS the results of which can be seen here. I discovered an invaluable took for people messing around with web design, editcss, an extension for Firefox which places an item in the right click context menu that pops up the css of any site and allows you to edit it on the fly. With the help of that I was able to get things looking the way I wanted them. But of course, that was only when I was looking at it in Firefox and Mozilla. The calendar was all screwed up in IE and Opera. Now not being a web design wizard, I did what anyone would do, I turned to Google. Eventually I found someone that had encountered the same problem and was able to fix it. So with the help of editcss, I was able to figure out what Palestars did to fix it. Finally came the little fiddling with the borders and the colors. The banner picture is a picture I took here on IU’s campus. I originally was going to have more pictures of places in town where I have seen videogame related things in public, but decided it would be too busy. I made the title with the font silkscreen which I first ran into on the web comic Diesel Sweeties and I tried to keep the actual title fairly small so that it shows up in a wide variety of screen resolutions.

So that is it. I haven’t changed the archive templates (and I should mention that I figured out how to display category archives from Learning Movable Type) and I’m not sure if I will. I’ve tried out the site on Mozilla, Firefox, Opera, IE6 on Windows and Safari, Mozilla, and IE on the mac (it looks a little odd on IE for the mac, but I have no idea how to fix it and according to the server logs it doesn’t look like very many people are using it) but if someone finds something looking weird, let me know. I probably won’t know how to fix it, but I’ve gotten really good at cut and paste!

change is in the air..

Four short posts about change:

So, not to like get anyone’s hopes up, but I think I’m just about done messing about with the css for the new layout. Look for a new improved design early next week!

On game related news, it seems that Doom 3 is going to come out fairly soon. I guess that is even more motivation to buy a new computer.
However, I have to say that if it is like the preview that they showed at E3 a couple years ago that had the constant mini-cutscenes, I will be very dissapointed. All I ask is no cutscenes! Don’t show me doing something, let me do it!

Speaking of E3, from the debut of the PSP and the Nintendo DS at the last E3, it looks like the landscape of gaming could be changing with the good old gameboy having some serious competition. I’ve never been much of a mobile gamer, I’ve never owned a gameboy — although I did have a handheld Space Invaders game back in the day. I turned over the score counter on it. See mom and dad, I wasn’t wasting my time, I was doing research for my future career! You got to have that cultural capital man!

But nexy year’s E3 seems to be the one where everyone will be showing off their new consoles. I don’t know. I feel like it is time to replace the PS2. Some may disagree, but I think it’s limitations are holding back some cross platform games. But I don’t really feel like my x-box has reached the end of its life yet. I think it has a couple more years left in it. And of course with Microsoft radically changing the architecture of the NeXtbox (whatever it ends up being called) there won’t be any backwards compatability. However, I think the idea of modding one of the current boxes and archiving a bunch of games on it does look compelling.

Well, wasn’t that just disjointed and rambling?

Lazy days of summer…

It is indeed the lazy days of summer. I just want to lay in bed all day. But my adoring crowd of fives of fives of dedicated readers insist that I update my blog. Oh the responsibility of blogging!

Random game related things:

I’m playing through Half-Life again. I know that it has been talked about to death by many people, including myself, but it still has something going for it. Lots of people mention the great story, but even having played through the game more than once, I really don’t see where this plot is. Sure, there is a storyline, but I don’t really care about it at all. What makes it so interesting for me is just that it is put together oh well. Never are there places where you have to really guess what you are supposed to do which makes playing it such an intuitive experiences.

However, it is not all wine and roses. For a games that is this old, and is still being patched from time to time, I’m surprised that it has as many bugs as it does. Every time I ride an elevator, I have to jump at the end of the ride or else I get stuck and can’t move. It is incredibly irritating and serves to remind me of how fragile the reality of a game is.

On another topic, I don’t think I ever mentioned it but Dungeons and Dreamers is a facinating read. It is strongest when it concentrates on Richard Garriot of Ultima fame and somewhat weaker when it strays to other subjects such as the id people (which is probably weakened all the more by coming out after Masters of Doom). *Irony Alert* I think that by focusing so much on people, however, the book actually missed out on addressing a much more interesting phenomenon. I know, I know, I’m the guy who is always saying, “Videogames are about people!” and”Ethnography is da bomb!” but while the story of how Richard Garriot amassed a fortune, and helped to create an industry and then got forced out from the company he founded in his parent’s house is facinating, I think that it really serves as an illustration of a larger phenomenon of the corporatization of the gaming industry. Garriot’s story nicely illustrates how the computer software industry moved from something that people literally did in their garages, bedrooms and attics by themselves and hiring friends and family and marketing games themselves to a multibillion dollar industry which is driven by profit rather than artistic vision and now takes years and large groups of people to complete. It also signals the death of the autuer, which is in and of itself an interesting phenomenon in that to the vast majority of people who buy games they are an authorless medium. Had Dungeons and Dreams explored this aspect with a little more detail, it would have made for an incredibly facinating analysis. Oh well, I guess that’s my job!