narratology vs. ludology

Once again the narratology has returned. Both those links have some interesting points. However, this whole debate, imho, like the violence debate, is misguided.

Why does it matter if videogames have narrative or not? What is the end goal of that? It seems to me that the end goal is to study the relationship between the player and the game and how that relationship comes about. If that is the end goal, then why does it matter if it is narrative or not? If taken in the larger context of ultimately finding out how we interact with these games, then it doesn’t really matter all that much what theories we use to get there, does it? As long as we get there, the road doesn’t matter all that much — within reason of course. I’m not saying the ends justify the means here, just that in academia we sometimes get so worked up about who people put on their works cited list that we froget to actually read the paper, so to speak.

I always say that I don’t study videogames, I study the players and their relationship to the games. I suppose there are those that do study just the game, but even then, we do all this bluster about “interactive” and “ergodic” and whatnot, so is it even possible to theorize about videogames without talking about the role of the player at all??

I am probably a ludologist but, in the end, it doesn’t really matter. What I’m calling for is a refocusing on what we are really studying. If we study videogames, we have to study the people playing them, don’t we? So then, if I think, Narratology is for losers (that is an April Fool’s joke in case you haven’t seen it), and you don’t, it doesn’t really matter because my opinion doesn’t stop you from doing your work.

I’m studying people. How about you?

They know I know!

I was just looking at my web site visitor log and look who’s been visiting:
Referrer URLs
www.worldwide.ea.com/industry/view.aspx
www.eac.ea.com/QA/news.asp
knowledge.ea.com/industry/view.aspx
passport.worldwide.ea.com/
www.worldwide.ea.com/
www.worldwide.ea.com/industry/

Hmmmm… It looks like someone at EA has found my blog. I tried some of the links, but I couldn’t get any of them to work. I’m assuming that perhaps they are some sort of internal company links or something. I wonder in what context my site is being linked to. It seems that nothing escapes their attention for long.

I, for one, welcome our new EA overlords…

Seriously, I have nothing against EA, I’m just interested in what is going on here. So, hello EA! Leave a comment or two!

Artisans and craftsmen (and craftswomen)

There’s an article going around about on of the founders of Bungie starting his own studio. In the article (ok, its more of a press release, really) he says that he is going to outsourse a lot of the development. THe article ends with an interesting quote:

“It’s kind of broken,” Seropian told Reuters, speaking about the current model of development used by the bulk of publishers. “It’s kind of antiquated – it’s how they were making films in the ’30s.”

Well, I don’t think that is really the “problem” (if there is one). The difficulty isn’t that videogames are made like 1930’s films. It is like they are made like 1730’s items — that is, by hand and not mechanical reproduction. I left this message about it over on Slashdot:

I don’t think this will be as cost effective as one might think. Basically the videogame industry is still in the pre-industrial artisanal (sp?) era. Everything is still made by hand. If you want to make a chair, you still need to build the chair piece by piece. There is no equivalent to a factory-made chair. So rather than the unskilled labor we now have in most factories, we have skilled craftsmen and artists.

Until technology exists for the equivalent of unskilled labor to design the chairs, wheels, and furniture of a gaming world, the costs of developing games will still be high.

I forsee a day soon when a start up will open that specializes in creating the props of vidoegame worlds so that game designers will have a situation similar to that of the players of the Sims where they have a wide variety of chairs (or whatever) to pick from and they just plop it into the game pre-fab without having to employ someone to exclusively make such props.

Now certainly there is something to say for props that are build explicitly for the game. They provide a sense of stylistic unity. But I really do see a day when pre-fab props will come to be used.

Is it just me?

I’ve started leaving G4TV on in the background while I study or grade. Is it just me, or is the way the show Filter is set up vaguely offensive or at the very least creepy? For those that don’t know, the show is basically a Top Ten List show where they count down the Ten Best/Worst/Most games. Sometimes it will be the ten best fighting games, or the ten best boss battles, or whatever. Anyway, I recently noticed that every episode they have the host, Diane Mizota dressed up in a costume appropriate to the theme of the list.

If you think of the implications of that, its kind of creepy. So here she is, a person with no identity except that which the game gives her. It seems so weird. She is this empty vessel, which the producers fill with whatever the theme of the day is. Now certainly, that isn’t much different than ET on MTV or any of a million other shows, but do we really need to see a woman dressed up like Mario? As presented, she is little more than a doll that they play dress up with and young boys are supposed to drool at. She has no agency. No will of her own. To make matters worse, she is of Asian decent, so to the vast majority of viewers, she is probably already represents the Other. Let’s not even get into the fetishization of Asian women that so many male gamers seem to exhibit. So to the demographic that G4 seems to be strongly targeting, teen age middle american boys, she is doubly othered, woman and Asian and then they proceed to make her play dress-up in these goofy outfits.

Maybe I’m being a bit paranoid, it could be a lot worse. I mean I haven’t seen them do a tribute to DOA Beach volleyball yet or anything, but I can’t help but want to change the channel every time her show comes on because I can’t bear to see what outfit she is in every episode.

EA Continues to sink its claws into university life…

So not only is EA paying some guy to cover the campus in stickers, but now they are coming here officially. Their “Games Live Tour” is coming to IU (pdf file).
They will be here tomorrow. I plan on going. Hopefully, I will get to talk to one of the people running this show and get some info on just how much money is wrapped up in this. It amazes me the amount of money that EA seems to be wrapping up in just this campus. One would think that videogames had turned into a business if one didn’t know better…

What I’m up to

The PCA was a good time. I felt that all the videogame panels were top notch. I suggest heading over to the PCA web site and doing ctrl+f search for game and see the titles of some of the papers that were presented.
In my mind there is still a need for more videogame only conferences, but that is just me.

Currently, I’m writing a paper about masculinity, whiteness, and nationhood in vidoegames. Of course with a topic like that, it is enormous. I am going to have to cut something out.

There is still a big hole in videogame studies where race fits in, so I if anyone knows of anything dealing with the race of videogames and specifically videogame players, drop me a line in the comments.

Not sure if this counts as a game or not…

Recently, a friend directed me to subservientchicken.com. It is a guy in a chicken suit standing in front of a web cam. You type a command into a text box and the guy does what you type. Apparently, it is some sort of weird viral marketing for Burger King.
It is pretty entertaining. It appears to be several pre-recorded segments, but it is interesting to see how many differnt clips they had to film.
Mmmmm chickennnnnnn….

PCA…

I’m sitting here in a Starbucks (gag!) in San Antonio. The videogame panels down here at the PCA have all been uniformly excellent. Each of them have also featured a great sharing of ideas and chatting afterwards. It is great to see so much energy and excitement in the field.

Of course, the glamourous life of an academic requires that I stop reveling in the glory of my presentation and start grading my student’s work….