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….

It may not be the GDC, but…

I hop on a plane Tuesday to head down to San Antonio for the Popular Culture Association national conference. The PCA is not the most prestigious conference, but it is turning out to have quite a few videogame panels. When I went to the PCA two years ago in Toronto, I was on the only videogame panel, now there are five. So while none of the big names will be there (besides myself of course!) hopefully it will turn out to be a good time.
So look forward to some pictures from the PCA!

EA University!

Something odd has happened here at Indiana University. IU has been taken over by EA Sports. Yesterday while going to the library, I ran across the following:
a flier on a ploe
Then later, while going to class I saw tons more stickers. So today, I brought my camera and in the four blocks between my office and the library I found:


There were more stickers elsewhere on campus (including a staircase that had a sticker on nearly every step) which I had planned on photographing but it started to rain. Regardless, someone has been busy with their “viral marketing.”

After some research, I found a couple articles about EA’s presence here on campus. It turns out that there is a student here on campus who is getting paid to put on the events that the fliers are advertizing. Of course in neither article is the fact that either directly or indirectly due to this guys efforts the campus is being covered with stickers.

Sloppy journalism and environmental issues aside, it is is pretty interesting that EA sees college universities such a big market that they would have campus reps that were charged with organizing glorified product demos for them. It is important to note that not only is the campus covered with these stickers and fliers, but that these gaming events are taking place inside university buildings. I wonder if I wanted to have a Tupperware party in a dorm if I would be allowed. The way I see it, there are two possibilities, that the university knows that these EA sponsored events are occurring and don’t care, in which case we have yet another case of advertising invading the university setting, or the university just doesn’t know. I’m not sure which is worse.

Of course, this isn’t to imply that I want to shut the guy down. I find it incredibly facinating. I wish I could get paid to put on some LAN parties or something. This whole thing is just another sign of how big videogames really are. And more importantly, how big EA is.

Is this kind of thing going on at other schools as blatantly as it is here?