(White) People Are Strange

I’m currently writing a dissertation chapter on whiteness at LAN parties. That makes it a kind of coincidence that there’s an article over at Kotaku about the fact that the characters in the movie Prince of Persia are mostly being played by white people.

What’s most interesting about that article isn’t the actual content of the article itself but the comments. Any bets on what race most of the people commenting about how race shouldn’t matter are?

video game ethnography video

I was procrastinating today and taking a look at my dismal google analytics and noted that one of the keywords used to get to my site was ‘video game ethnography.’ Curious, I put the phrase in google and looked around and then I decided to put the link into yahoo and this video showed up as the first result (I don’t show up on yahoo. Perhaps it is because I prefer videogame over the term video game?):

Video Games Ethnography at Bridgewater College
It is a pretty interesting video. I hope the person that did it got an A in the class!

Site is mostly back

I managed to get my posts back up. I think the links to the images might be messed up but I’ll have to try to go through and fix those by hand.

What I ended up doing was installing wordpress locally using something I found calledBitnami, then editing the sql backup so I could import it into that virtualized wordpress. Then I used worpress’s export feature to export the entries to an xml file which I uploaded here.

Now I got to get a theme going and my blogroll and I’ll be back in shape. This will be a good excuse to do a bit of a redesign that I’ve been meaning to do so that’s something I guess…

On Art and Violence

Now that the semester is winding down I’ve got a bit of time to blog (and write my last couple dissertation chapters and then revise all of them and write the intro and conclusion chapters…). A couple things have happened (and are in the process of happening) that have the gaming world buzzing: Roger Ebert wrote about videogames again and the Supreme Court is taking up the case of California’s law forbidding the sale of videogames to minors.

Regarding Ebert, he ends by asking, “Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art?” which echoes my own call for all of us to stop caring about “art.” Tons and tons of people have tried to convince him he’s wrong — so many in fact that I don’t even want to bother hunting down links to some of the stories that do it. I’m not interested in arguing with him because I don’t really care if he thinks games are art or not.

However, it is very disconcerting that he seems to think that he can judge games by looking at screenshots. Would he write a review of a film based on the text on the back of the dvd box? That’s pretty ignorant to think that he can judge games in that manner.

Unfortunately, this is just the top of the iceberg because look at the picture at the top of his post. Now I have no idea if he picked that picture or not. I would say that he probably didn’t but he did pick the rest of the pictures in the post so perhaps he did. Regardless, the picture didn’t just appear by itself. Someone chose that picture. What is in that picture? A kid. So someone whether it was Ebert of just some random web guy, wanted to pick a picture of a gamer and they picked a kid — once again perpetuating the stereotype that games are for kids and in this instance also seemingly indicating that games are in and of themselves childish. Wow. That’s pretty sad.

OK, now onto the Supreme Court…

I’m pretty confident that the Supreme Court will say this law is unconstitutional not only because lower courts have consistently ruled that laws regulating videogame sales are unconstitutional but also because of the recent Supreme Court decision declaring a law banning animal cruelty videos unconstitutional.

Today the Diane Rehm Show had a segment on the Supreme Court taking on the Videogame law regulating videogame sales and had Leland Yee, the California politician behind the bill, Craig Anderson, the guy who has never met a form of media that didn’t cause aggression, and a couple other people I don’t remember. Now, I’ve previously criticized Anderson’s vague use of the term “aggression” so I was pleasantly surprised that Diane Rehm’s first question to him was “what is the difference between agression and violence?” Anderson initially tried to avoid answering the question but then Rehm re-asked the question and Anderson admitted that while violence is generally understood as an extreme form of aggression, it is very rare for aggression to actually turn into violence. I think that it really key because in that statement Anderson (who also in this CNN video says that videogame-caused “aggression” isn’t really any worse than film or television-causes “aggression” ) says that videogames don’t really make kids violent.

If the most well known person who thinks videogames cause aggression doesn’t think they make you violent then that makes the case that they are so bad that we need laws against selling them much harder to prove.

Personally, I look forward to the SCOTUS shutting down these kinds of laws once and for all.

…well that and Jack Thompson getting involved and saying some crazy things…

The Site is Borked.

As you can see (if this is the newest post when you are reading this) I’ve messed up the site.

I use 1and1 for hosting and I’ve never had any problems but I decided to update wordpress and it required a newer version of mysql than the one I was using.  My plan with 1and1 doesn’t allow me to have more than one mysql database at a time so I backed up the database, deleted it, and created a newer one. Then I try to import the backup and it fails.

I opened up the sql file in a text editor and all the posts are in there but I don’t really know how to get them out. So I found an old wordpress backup and uploaded it but as you can see it is 3 and a half years old.  After 3-4 hours of trying to figure out stuff I’m calling it a day. So until I figure out how to get the data out or do it all manually some rainy day, the site will have a bit of a gap in it.

Movies can be scary too…

Allow me a non-videogame-related rant here… It is still about moral panics surrounding children and media though so it could easily have been about videogames instead of movies.

I caught a story on the local NPR station last night about someone threatening a lawsuit against Redbox because they sell “R-rated” movies. I searched for something about the story and apparently it got picked up by a few local news outlets including the Indianapolis Fox Affiliate and the Louisville ABC Affiliate. According to stories the whole thing is being stirred up by Vanderburgh Country Prosecutor Stan Levco.

Of course there’s two little details that neither of the two stories linked to above or any of the other stories I saw seemed to mention: First, The MPAA rating system “is a voluntary system” and the ratings are not legally enforced. The only possible grounds for a lawsuit that there would be would be under obscenity or pornography laws. Levco almost certainly knows this. So why is he causing a stir? That leads to the second missing detail: Levco is running for re-election.

So this is just a ploy to get into the headlines so that Levco can say he is “fighting for families” and concerned about “family values” without having to do anything. The minute I heard this story I immediately wondered if the guy was up for re-election because that’s the only time public officials try to start legal proceedings related to media. I guess Levco couldn’t find any easy videogame targets.

Heaven forbid that any of the media outlets that aired this story would take two minutes to wonder why Levco was doing this or anything… That’s some good reportering there…

Where have you gone Jack Thompson

Once upon a time Jack Thompson was the nemesis of gamers. Then he got permanently disbarred but that didn’t stop him as he claimed to be fighting the Florida Bar and probably lots of other crazy things. He also started writing an occasional column for some online conservative site.

Now, however, he seems to have disappeared. Once a search for Jacko on google news showed up all sorts of antics by him but now searching for Jacko on google news just returns the occasional story mentioning him as a foil and stories about other people named Jack Thompson. (I wonder if the actor Jack Thompson ever gets people accusing him of hating videogames?) Jacko hasn’t even posted a column since August of 2009.

I wonder if Jacko has just given up or if he’s planning some new media frenzy. I kind of hope he keeps at it because his insane claims sure were entertaining even if there were some people who believed his lies. [ad#ad-1]

Ethnographic tools

I’ve been interviewing people lately and I’ve been thinking about my equipment. It is a bit dated though and so I’m looking to replace it.

How dated you ask? Well, my main recording device is a Sony Minidisc recorder. It is a Hi-MD model, one of the last ones they made, so it can be uploaded to a computer. Like all minidisc recorders it does a pretty good job but it is six years old.

When I bought the player back in 2004, solid state recorders were pretty expensive but now they are really cheap. I don’t have an ipod or iphone so using one of those to record with isn’t really an option (although I’m thinking about getting an ipod touch since I’m missing out on that gaming experience). Of course the Zoom H4n is really sweet but I think that might be overkill.

The truth of the matter is that I have some affection for my old minidisc recorder. It really is a nice piece of hardware. It is just too bad that Sony waited so long to bring out a model that could upload to computers and that they saddled it with the terrible ATRAC format. Is this technonostalgia?

2010 the year we try to finish writing dissertations?

Last semester I was teaching 5 classes so I didn’t get much writing done. This semester I’m back to teaching only 2 classes so I am going to try to bang out drafts of the rest of this dissertation thing.
Of course that means I would have to look for a job and there aren’t many of those around at the moment…

For the next chapter I really want to get into what I’m calling “mixed-mode” communication. I’m interested in looking at how people will communicate both through computers (including things like phones even though I’m only focusing on gaming) as well as through non-computer mediated ways. How do people sitting near one another chose to talk over ventrillo or something and when do they talk directly to one another. Or when they might talk directly to one another but they are referring to something in the game like telling a teammate to go somewhere and using their in game character to point in the direction or something like that.