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Gaming Academia Gets More Mainstream Press

simoniker posted more than 10 years ago | from the they're-so-populaire dept.

Games 86

jimharris writes "Eventually every area of human activity comes under the scrutiny of scholars. After thirty years, it's time for video games to go to college. The New York Times has an article (free registration required) called 'The Ivy-Covered Console', that talks about several lucky professors who play games for a living. The challenge, they say, is to develop a language of criticism to analyze video games." One particularly unfortunate quote: "Dr. [Barry] Atkins admitted that he didn't finish Half-Life before writing about it in his 2003 book, 'More Than a Game: The Computer Game as Fictional Form,' (Manchester University Press), and only later realized he was two minutes from the shocking plot reversal at the end when he stopped. 'I am very nervous that I got it wrong,' he said."

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plot twist at the end and game as fiction.. (4, Insightful)

gl4ss (559668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400316)

that's what happens to lot of players.

they see only half of the story, since the game is too boring, too easy or too hard to finish. this is something that they should have take into consideration when writing up the critique.

I remember fondly some games from my childhood that I never got around to finish :)

Unfinished Games (4, Insightful)

Jodiamonds (226053) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400609)

Yes, many players end up not seeing the whole story of a game because they don't finish the game. But that's just a sign of a bad game.

I shouldn't be *forced* to keep playing because the game might get better *later*. The player should be having fun the whole time, right? Obviously, some parts will be better than others, but ten minutes of boredom can kill a gaming experience. Especially if there's ANOTHER game that will be fun RIGHT NOW. =)

Re:Unfinished Games (4, Insightful)

Alkaiser (114022) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400934)

Exactly.

How many games have you played where the gameplay is just horrid 95% of the way through, and then all of a sudden gameplay mechanics change for the last 5% of the game, and it totally rocks?

None?

Yeah, me too. Even so...why would you make your game crap half the time? That IS the mark of a bad game. When I play good games...I don't wait for them to get better...they're just good, there's not these huge peaks and valleys in enjoyment. Repetition kicks in at some point...but that's totally different.

Re:Unfinished Games (2, Informative)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402548)

How many games have you played where the gameplay is just horrid 95% of the way through, and then all of a sudden gameplay mechanics change for the last 5% of the game, and it totally rocks?
None?
Yeah, me too.


Quite. On the other hand, the opposite is often true - take Final Fantasy VII as the classic example of a game that starts out excellent and ceases to be worth playing a couple of hours into the second disk. Or Xenogears, come to that - the story improves rapidly towards the end, but the gameplay is long gone by then. Or Deus Ex, which many people consider falls into a rut about two thirds of the way through (personally I'm rather fond of the Ocean Lab and Missile Base missions, but I know a lot of people consider them annoying distractions).

People who fail to finish games often have quite some justification, in other words...

Re:Unfinished Games (1)

Alkaiser (114022) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402740)

Yeah, you're right. My response was to the first guy who was saying reviewers miss out key stuff by writing the review too quick. The case with nearly every game I've ever played is that at the halfway point, I pretty much know what I feel about the game. In both situations, mine with the game sucking, and yours with it tapering off, you know the inevitable conclusion at the midway point.

You don't want the reviewer giving away the end of the game anyway, so why NOT have the reviewer crank out a review before he's completed the game? I can really think of no REAL reasons except for "reviewer's pride" and since that doesn't crop up when they're plunking a score on it, I don't put too much faith in THAT either.

Re:Unfinished Games (1)

Tofino (628530) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402812)

Coincidentally, this is just like Halflife, which sucked the second you entered Super Mario World, but was great (fantastic, even) up until that point.

if you want the opposite play Solar Jetman (1)

darkmayo (251580) | more than 10 years ago | (#8408196)

Instead of the game being crap for 95% of the way through and having an amazing gameplay change at the end they reversed it. Solar Jetman during 95% of the game is an amazing game with great levels and fun gameplay... then right at the end when you have all the Golden Warship pieces the game turns into a shitty sidescroller that you cannot possibly finish because it is both incredibly difficult and bugged as well.

Re:Unfinished Games (4, Interesting)

Rallion (711805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401040)

It's not always a sign of a bad game. I've never finished some of the games I LOVE, because, well, I stop for a while. That happens. Then I forget about it, play other games, and then I just don't want to finish the old game because I'm not into it anymore.

My favorite type of game is RPG -- console-style, D&D-style, any kind is good for me. The only three I've ever beaten are Fallout, Chrono Trigger and KotOR, and both because I almost just played straight through from beginning to end and had no distractions. I helped my girlfriend with the final battle in one of the Avernum games, but that doesn't count. I've never even finished a Final Fantasy, though I came very close in FF7. I stopped in the middle of Planescape: Torment and never came back. Same for both Icewind Dales, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and Morrowind. That's all I can remember at the moment, but there are certainly many more. These, though, are not bad games. In fact, I think most of them are fantastic games.

Maybe it's as much a sign of a horrible gamer as of a bad game.

Re:Unfinished Games (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8402787)

I'm a game player that came to video games in my early twenties on computers, as opposed to my husband whose parents had an Intellivision when he was young.

I think there is approximately 3 games that we have at home that I have actually finished. Most console games I get to a point about 3/4 of the way through where I cannot make progress any further.

The worst one for me was actually Super Mario Sunshine, where I got stuck about 10% of the way in. It's not that I don't know what to do, it's just that I have been unable to do whatever difficult task that has been set, and you cannot progress until you have done it.

Baldur's Gate in one of the three I have finished, and what enabled me to finish was the ability, once I had tried and failed several times to get past a particular boss/situation was to turn on God mode, get past that obstacle, and turn it off again.

I paid the same amount of money for the game as someone who could beat the boss by themselves - why shouldn't I get to see what is around the next corner?

Perhaps that would be the trick to getting more women into gaming - we often don't have the time to play the same level for 5 hours (as I've seen my husband do this week in Time Splitters 2 while trying to get a Platinum medal), let us try, and if we chose to, move on. Being able to go back and try again later would mean we still get the chance to beat it ourselves later if we wish, but let us see the rest of the game.

cheers
Sara
a Macgrrl in an NT world

Re:Unfinished Games (2, Interesting)

TrickFred (231420) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404424)

Hah.

Perhaps that would be the trick to getting more women into gaming

My girlfriend just called you a cheater. She's not hardcore [she does play The Sims, Buffy on PS2, and we play Starcraft and Warcraft together, and she tries stuff I recommend], but I pointed this post out to her, and she feels that regardless of gender, cheating's cheating. What's the point in playing the game if you're going to play 'around' the game?

Re:Unfinished Games (1)

Rallion (711805) | more than 10 years ago | (#8405749)

Well, what's to like about a game if you just can't do a part of it?What's the point if you never get past the first level? I don't cheat often at all, and I probably do it more to get around bugs than for any other reason. But if a game would be fun, except for one stupid part that I can't get through, I will cheat my way through it and get the most I can from the game.

In fact, the reason I never beat Torment was because I got totally stuck at one spot. Nothing I could do. Hell, that game even gives you an infinite number of lives, and I was still stuck. Bah.

Also, for the parent if she sees this, those Platinums are frigging ridiculous. The frustration involved defies expression.

Re:Unfinished Games (1)

TrickFred (231420) | more than 10 years ago | (#8410610)

Maybe it's just me, but I play games for the challenge, and don't feel like I've actually beaten it if I have to cheat. Oh, I'll look up FAQs for missed secrets, and skip levels I don't like AFTER I've finished it at least once on my own, but the first time, I'd just feel like I didn't actually beat it myself, and would ruin any satisfaction gained from it.

Tomb Raider? Beat it first time through, loved it [still one of my favourites], went back with a FAQ to find the secrets the second time through. Tomb Raider II? I've never finished it. Got stuck partway through, cheated by reading a FAQ, then quit after 1-2 more levels, because I just felt bad that I had cheated. Every time I see it gathering dust in the old gamepile, I just can't bring myself to play it. Maybe in a few more years when I'm sure I've completely forgotten the level I cheated in.

Am I the only one that feels this way, or am I just a bit too anal?

Re:plot twist at the end and game as fiction.. (3, Insightful)

kabocox (199019) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401131)

Did pitfall actually have an end? I played that game forever, and I never felt the sense that I was finishing anything. I guess the same could be said for Pacman, asteriods, and breakout.

Re:plot twist at the end and game as fiction.. (3, Informative)

ksiddique (749168) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402073)

Yep. I never saw it though. You can check a walkthrough on GameFAQs [gamefaqs.com] .

is this a (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8400350)

frist post?

Looks like he forgot to .. (-1, Offtopic)

mwheeler01 (625017) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400389)

RTFA...oh wait, maybe I should do that too...

Quandry (5, Interesting)

mwheeler01 (625017) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400429)

As a game enthusiast I find it fascinating. As an academic, I find this is symptomatic of the walmartization of education. I'm sure this may be a nice small subsection of sociology or psychology but to me gaming doesn't seem to warrant a whole new field.

Re:Quandry (2, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401423)

I don't think it should be a new field - I think that media studies people, who tend to either have their own department or to be in the English department - can handle this just fine.

But even still, there are going to be a few places that are going to just have such a concentration of people who do this that it makes sense to make a department. I'd be distressed if every university had a gaming department, but I'm glad a few do - especially while the field is small enough that distributing them over a lot of places would really inhibit its development by preventing the production of well-trained graduate students.

Re:Quandry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8404540)

Flamebait?

Oh give me a break.

It'd be a subsection of English, actually (2, Interesting)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402125)

At least that's what I suspect. In fact a prof I know back at UBC has already written a paper on a collection of games. Then again English is known for studying movies, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, WWE, Chatelaine Magazine, and soup can labels, so this is really nothing new.

Re:It'd be a subsection of English, actually (3, Interesting)

Alkaiser (114022) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402581)

Exactly.

When they were trying to get the Video Game Studies minor approved at UC Irvine, the mucky-mucks there balked, and someone pointed out that they had a Film Studies major there, and that people back in the 70s had made the same claims against that major.

How can you NOT realize that critiquing video games and the procedures for creating them are at LEAST as complex as the ones needed for movies? To allow for one and scoff at the other is stupidity with Flavor Crystals(TM).

Re:Quandry (1)

superultra (670002) | more than 10 years ago | (#8403773)

I'm interested: what discipline (and level of education) do you find yourself in? The above posts are right; ludology (study of gaming) would fall quite squarely under an English department, but more specifically under the burgeoning cultural studies. I'm a historian, and what you call the "walmartization" of education, we call "social" or "cultural" history. We reviewed several canidates for positions in our department just recently, and most of them identified themselves as social historians. One, whom would, no doubt, classify in your "walmartization," spent his dissertation studying the drinking habits of the British during the 19th century. Is anyone in our discipline studying video games? Not yet, but rest assured we will be.

Re:Quandry (1)

bigbigbison (104532) | more than 10 years ago | (#8404563)

I study videogames, and I couldn't see myself in a sociology department and certianly not a psychology department. I found this article to be very distorted view, or at least a very narrow view of what at least I consider to be videogame studies.

Most of the stuff they talked about in this article I find very depressing and quite frankly pretty lame. While some of the people mentioned are doing good stuff, the projects they described jsut seem to be reproducing traditional dichodomies and seem fairly pointless.

I see myself much more at home in a Cultural Studies department. I study the people who play games, not so much the games themselves. The reason I feel that videogames are their own field are pretty complex and I probably can't explain fully in a slashdot post. To be as brief as possible, I find the relationship of videogame players to be just as unique as readers are from film watchers and if both literature and film get their own department, then so can videogames.

I'm curious as to what field you work in.

Reg free link (4, Informative)

FesterDaFelcher (651853) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400430)

Reg Free [nytimes.com]

I'll be an A+ student (1)

superpulpsicle (533373) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400469)

Video games for academics... that sounds too good to be true.

If it's hardcore programming it should be categorized with computer science. If it's everything else not code related, it should fit into this new curriculum.

Researchers vs. Developers (4, Interesting)

Torgo's Pizza (547926) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400623)

Being a former developer, half the article pissed me off watching academics talking out of their ass about something they know nothing about. The first intelligent thing I read was this:

"So far, the academic and the industry worlds, they're very far away," said Mr. Frasca, who intends to play a role of a bridge. "Developers do not read academic articles, and that's not going to happen any time soon." Academics generated animosity early on by judging games as violent. "They were also not gamers," he said, "which made it weird to listen to their analyses."

Which is why I'm taking whatever an academic currently says with a grain of salt. For the past thirty years, academics have totally discounted our industry and getting it just plain wrong. In my book, they are currently 30 years behind the curve.

There are plenty of journalists and historians like Leonard Hermann and Johnny Wilson that are getting it. Next week these "ivy-league" academics are holding a conference consisting of "a lawyer, a journalist, a composer, two professors, two lecturers and six graduate students will present papers with titles like 'Musical Byproducts of Atari 2600 Games' and 'But Our Princess Is in Another Castle: Towards a 'Close-Playing' of Super Mario Brothers.'" Too bad that they seemed to have forgotten to invite a few developers. Perhaps the academics would be better served by going to the Game Developers Conference two weeks later and learn a thing or to.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (3, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401368)

Why would we invite developers here?

It's not as though we invite authors to talk about books, or filmmakers to talk about film.

Academics are not interested in documenting the process of production. We figure that the developers are plenty good at explaining their own process.

What we're interested in doing is trying to give an accounting of the medium as it functions - in this case, to create a vocabulary of terms for video games, much like the vocabulary Aristotle created for narrative. We're interested in what narrative means in interactive fiction, in what the aesthetic effects of it can be, in the function of the medium in practice (i.e. how does a video game elicit response, and what is the nature of that response).

These are, frankly, not questions developers think about. They certainly don't think about them in the language of academia. i.e. they may think practically about "What will a player do when this happens," but they will not think about whether or not the intermediation of the controller makes it so that the avatar is never "ready-to-hand" and is thus perpetually a thing in the Heideggarian sense.

This is not a bad thing. Heidegger probably isn't relevent to the production of games. But the production of games isn't really relevent to what we do either.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (3, Insightful)

*weasel (174362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401650)

To discount the way game developers feel about academics the way you do is naive, and flat-out wrong.

Developers (designers in particular) are trying to do largely the same things as academics. Perhaps only because academics have so long ignored our field, someone had to step up and do it - so we could better understand the field.

Year after year the big round-table discussions at conferences revolve around creating a vocabulary, response analysis and intentionally evoking responses, implications of camera angle, avatar choice, etc.

The technical production of games may not be relevant to what interests academics - but the design of games and gameplay certainly is, and vice-versa.

Game Designers want to understand the feelings they evoke with function the same way a good cinematographer understands the feelings they evoke with color, composition, and angle - all while not caring particularly much about the technical details of how the camera works, or how the computers work that let him composite digitally.

Sure, there is animosity between the academics that discount(ed) gaming and game designers/developers. And your entire post neatly sums up the very attitude of academia that causes the problem.

Despite the attitude of academia - game designers and developers are very carefully studying the academic analyses of other arts: painting, music, film, and fiction to better understand the artform.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (5, Interesting)

OminousOrange (690041) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401856)

Why does there need to be such a hard-and-fast division between developers and academics?

I'm a member of a rare breed: I'm writing my thesis on games, so I'm familiar with all the academic literature on them. but I also code my own games. Without my coding background, I would never be able to analyze games in the same depth.

Most of the literature out there would be vastly improved if these researchers had even a cursory knowledge of programming. Instead, most of the academics are still clinging to what they're familiar with, like literary and film theory, instead of apporaching games on their own grounds. Procedural logic, artificial intelligence issues, and emergent behavior are all ingored by most academics in favor of more comfortable facets like narrative or visuals. Honestly, how many academic articles do we need on Lara Croft's breasts?

The Georgia Tech program [gatech.edu] mentioned in the article has exactly the right idea. For most of the classes, assignments are split between theory *and* production.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 10 years ago | (#8406381)

Though technical aspects are an important part of games they remain an indication of just how much games are popular culture.

Critics entering the world of gaming will start to add value to the concept of games as art rather than simply games as entertainment.

Though games claim to have stories they are often so completely banal and stupid that even an action movie would be hard pressed to justify their plotlines.

I don't think academics should get involved yet because Gaming simply isn't at the same level as film making or writing, putting together a piece of crap is the standard.

Critics can either try and help games create better "game play" thus stressing their role as entertainment (and relegating them to a childs diversion with no intellectual or emotional stimulation involved (How many games tell both sides of a story or offer character development or insight? Now compare them to a short story) or they can concentrate on the plot aspects, if they do this hopefully they can prevent video games from joining movies, comics, and parcheeze in the trash heap of intellectual pastimes.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8410142)

The tension between the two approaches - academic distance from the object of study vs. academic involvement with it - is very healthy, I think. "A blessing on both your houses."

But I think (Ga Tech MA program grad) Chaim Gingold's essay on academia and gaming [igda.org] for an overview of the benefits that would accrue to the gaming industry for a vigorous, independent and serious academic interest in gaming. The framing of a media - whether it's perceived as "mere" entertainment, as a speech form, as an art form, as advertisement, or as a sport/activity - is going to affect how the markets relate to it, how it gets regulated, how it gets covered (the more we talk about Heidegger, Althusser and Civ III, the harder it is to talk about "the menace to our children" unproblematically.)

Nonetheless, I think that at least cursory familiarity with not just programming, but even more importantly the game development process, would be good for any videogame researcher to have. When analyzing film, the Frankfurt school practitioners made themselves familiar with the structure of the culture industry; the production of videogames is a special case, ultimately, of software engineering and production; any institutionally-aware analysis of games should be informed by how those processes work in the real world.

GDC vs. SIGGRAPH (1)

andr0meda (167375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8461814)


I've had the opportunity to visit both conferences in 2002. There's no denying that the papers and sessions at SIG are less practical than those on the GDC, but the level is usually just as high. Game tech IS academic by nature, because it pushes limits and tries out new things. Maybe games were scorned in the past because they were the product of some lonely freaks hammering away in dorm room chambers, but these days are over. Even the academic world will have a tough hand at trying to keep up with the Industry. I think the reverse is more likely to happen, i.e. people from the industry going back to the academic world to rightiously 'claim their fame'.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (2, Interesting)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402774)

You're still not grasping the fundamental difference between the two.

We have no interest in designing better video games, by and large. Academic study took a turn away from those kinds of concerns in the 60s, and hasn't ever really gone back.

Put another way, there are two kinds of English Masters degrees - the MA and the MFA. The MFA is concerned with the productive aspects - with how to create a good poem, play, story, whatever.

The MA has no concern whatsoever with that. The MA does not want to write a poem - it wants to understand what a poem demonstrates about the changing conception of science in 19th century England.

To do this, it needs to have some vocabulary of the construction of the poem, but the vocabulary it develops for that end is going to be a completely different vocabulary from the one used to understand how to write the poem.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

OminousOrange (690041) | more than 10 years ago | (#8403299)

That outlook is pretty dismal, and far too ivory-tower-escapist for my tastes.

We need to take into account that video games are still a genre in infancy, unlike poetry which has been around and studied since Aristotle. Think more about Sergie Eisenstein at the birth of cinema. He made stirring films that showed knowledge of theory, and he wrote highly influential theory that he couldn't possibly have arrived at if he hadn't been trying to make films.

We have no interest in designing better video games, by and large. Academic study took a turn away from those kinds of concerns in the 60s, and hasn't ever really gone back.

Whether that was a right turn or not is still very much in debate. And I would argue that this early in the game, there is no need to retreat to irrelevancy just yet. Though they may not be making games, the ideas that academics create are going significantly shape video games (at least I hope so).

To return to your analogy, shouldn't an MA have knowledge of such things as stanzas and rhyme schemes? Won't the MFA write better poems if informed by ideas of symbolism or archetypes? I'm not saying they aren't two different fields, but they most definitely need to communicate.

Anyway, aren't you just the least bit excited about influencing a whole field in its nascence. Just a little bit?

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8403379)

Nah, not really. If I were, I'd have gone and learned to code.

I mean, I'm not saying I'm not glad there are people who are figuring out how to make fun games. I like playing them.

Just that, you know, I'm not interested in making them.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

buffer-overflowed (588867) | more than 10 years ago | (#8405529)

Then how, pray tell, are you any more qualified to comment then any Joe off the street?

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8406931)

Do you ask that of people who are studying novels or poetry?

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

buffer-overflowed (588867) | more than 10 years ago | (#8408576)

If for some reason they were incapable of writing I would.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (3, Insightful)

Torgo's Pizza (547926) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402021)

You're right. While the researcher conference is presenting the topics "Musical Byproducts of Atari 2600 Games" and "But Our Princess Is in Another Castle: Towards a 'Close-Playing' of Super Mario Brothers", the GDC is going a different route.

Topics like "Multiplayer Play: Designing Social Interaction in Games", "How to Write an Unforgettable Story", and "10 Tricks from Psychology for Making Better Characters" wouldn't interest the academics. "Creating the Right Mix of Static Versus Dynamic Content in a Massively Multiplayer Game" and "Entering the World: Cognitive Dissonance and Immersion in Electronic Games" is off-track. "The Philosophical Roots of Computer Game Design" is just speaking a totally different language from what universities are teaching.

Oh wait, my sarcasm is overtaking me. You see, these are questions that developers think about. We're selling a product and we damn sure know how things things work. To say that developers don't think about how a game can evoke emotional responses or how the social aspects of a game design can impact a game like Everquest is just ignorant. You think that these things just randomly happen during development? Developers don't just throw things in a compiler and see what sells. For that matter, Richard Evans used Heidegger as a major influence in creating the social AI routines for Black&White.

If this isn't proof of continuing ignorance then I don't know what is. Do me a favor and attend Toru Iwatani's "The Secret of Pac-Man's Success: Making Fun First" seminar. Perhaps you can learn a thing or two about what we already knew 25 years ago.

Consider yourself 0wn3d.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402842)

You were right the first time. We don't care about how to write, design, or create a game.

Why? Because we're not trying to make a game.

We don't want to determine how a game evokes an emotional response, or the sociology of EverQuest. We certainly don't want to employ Heidegger to create social AI routines.

We are not developers. We are theorists. Our major interest is in dealing with the relationship between games and humanity at large - as a whole (as opposed to an individual human with a particular controller in his hands, or even as opposed to the sum of a bunch of humans with a bunch of controllers).

the Queen of England is posting? (1)

OminousOrange (690041) | more than 10 years ago | (#8403583)

Can I assume that's the royal "we"? Careful with those pronouns there, Sparky. Speak for yourself, not all academia.

Wait.. Oh my...declarative sentences claiming to speak to a whole community...devisive statements...an Academic Troll? What an oxymoron!

Listen: no one is saying you have to write a game yourself. But then writing a paper about video games and then claiming you never want it read in the soiled hands of developers is pretty self-defeating, isn't it?

Re:the Queen of England is posting? (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8403630)

I'm pretty much willing to talk about the attitudes of the humanities with authority.

As for developers... it's not that they shouldn't read it. It's that they're not the intended audience, so if it's of no interest to them, it's not really a big deal.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8406630)

Fair enough. As a 'theorist' what do you add to the world and what value do you add to anyones life beyond your own need to comment on things? Not that I'm saying pure theorists are pointless or anything, honest.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8407280)

Do you have similar opinions on pure mathematicians?

Largely, pure theory carries on the classical problems of philosophy - particularly political and social philosophy.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

domsalvia (757054) | more than 10 years ago | (#8407330)

I'd say that any discoveries by pure theorists would be found by those actually DO something in their respective fields if they had any true value. The rest is just chin stroking.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8407507)

You'd be wrong. Because what pure theorists do isn't the productive goal of any other field. Often (Have a look at any television criticism for this), in fact, what pure theorists do is directly contrary to the goals of the field they're trying to study.

I mean, there's just not a field outside of the critical theory-based fields that are interested in selfhood...

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

domsalvia (757054) | more than 10 years ago | (#8409172)

What pure theorists do isn't the productive goal of any other field because that would require producing something of value. A TV show has more value to it than any critique for the simple reason that someone somewhere will get some kind of pleasure from it and there is something to show for it at the end (Trust me, even awful TV - you should see some of the stuff I'll watch...)

All a critique of a show does is make a comment about the show and nothing more. Anybody working in TV will be able to pick up on any good or bad points the show offers and will use those observations in their own work to enhance it. A critic isn't the only one who can analyse a given work but is the only one to not go on to use that analysis to create future works.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8417727)

You're still not understanding the point of academic critique - it's not criticism in the sense of an art review. We do not fill journals with reviews of TV shows. That would be silly, you're right.

We talk about shows in a very different way - we deal with their constructions of race, of gender, of class - with their politics, with many other things - not to tell if they're good or bad, but to determine what they do - how they function.

What we do is more similar to sociology, in a lot of ways, but with some very important methodological and philosophic differances. (Ultimately, sociology is interested in the aggregate of the behaviors and attitudes of a lot of indivudal people, whereas the humanities are interested in the behavior of the more general and totalized "humanity," "society," "culture" etc.)

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

domsalvia (757054) | more than 10 years ago | (#8421605)

This is what I originally thought you were talking about but you seemed to move away from it in your posts and I followed (Maybe I misinterpreted what you had written).
But once again we seem to have reached a point where I fall back to my previous argument. People actually making TV shows WILL consider these kinds of things when creating their product. People making TV shows will look at others work for inspiration and ideas as to how to improve their own work when watching other peoples work.
At the end of the day all you are saying is a critic examines the work on methodological and philosophic differences. All film makers should be doing this everyday of their lives in a professional capacity and as consumers we too should be doing this with whatever we watch lest we become drooling fools being lead by the nose by a cleverly constructed piece of film work. I just think that critics are not truly producing anything truly valid. I don't need any to think for me and I don't think film makers do either.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8427361)

People making TV shows et al. consider those factors only glancingly - after all the immediate concerns of the market and the interests of the producers and the most pressing aesthetic and technical concerns. And they make those considerations from a very interested, unobjective perspective: often seeping with defensiveness about the value of their work.

A good critical stance is informed by a lot of relevant historical, anthropological, sociological and other disciplines that even most producers don't have.

And if you think that game developers don't care about this, you're wrong. Oh, the rank and file graphics-and-behaviours grunt coders don't care, but Will Wright, Peter Molyneaux and others of their ilk certainly do: it's why they speak at universities themselves and invite people like Janet Murry to speak at Maxis.

(It is a quirk of the game industry that the trenches are often more defensive about their position than their counterparts in the film industry: someone doing character art feels more entitled to priviledged, sweeping claims about the industry than a gaffer or assistant cameraman does about film.)

And in film, film-makers like Godard and Truffaut credited Cahiers du Cinema and Andres Bazin with making their type of cinema possible.

It's not a matter of having them "think for you:" that's a very simplistic "thumbs up/thumbs down" approach to their object of study. Have you actually read papers or books by the people mentioned in the article above, or are you working from an internal caricature?

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

domsalvia (757054) | more than 10 years ago | (#8430402)

In my view, having read some (but not having made an extreme habit of reading) critical papers, the writers of these papers are not producing anything of true value (my original point).

Also, they do not do what professionals in the field could do if they so chose to and I would say that any true professional worth their job should be doing what you say critics are responsible for.

As for bias and defensiveness, I think you will find that many critics works take thier lead from the writers personal standpoint regardless of the attempts at objectivity. This is simply human nature.

Finally, you again bring in the "thumbs up/thumbs down" arguement. I don't think in such simplistics terms but I do think that everyone has the responsibilty to act as a critic in regards to everything of importance (professional or otherwise) that they partake in.

My final view point that I will end with is that critics should get on with producing something other than writing works that cover issues that should be considered by people working in that domain. People who do work in that domain should stop being halfarsed about their work and do a proper job of it.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8405317)

The GDC is somewhat of a misconception as well. Having been to quite a few full GDC experiences, I have yet to see what part of the GDC is effecting industry thought. Especially since there are regularly little to no Japanese developers at this conference.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8407563)

Consider yourself an ass.

I frankly think both are wrong (2, Interesting)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402230)

As someone who has worked briefly with an academic studying Video Games I thought his choice of games didn't allow for much interpretation of art (DOOM was one game he looked at, for instance, analyzing the main character) and it doesn't look like these scholars are doing much better. On the other hand, you will have a tough time convincing me that, oh, say Tony Hawk 4 or Bond Shooting game 17 is artistic either. Developers are focused more on what sells, or at least that's the impression I get from the internet (having developed an edutainment game, but never been to a conference).

Wouldn't it make more sense for the Academics to grab a more plot-intensive game? (I'm thinking RPGs in particular; Xenogears, Koudelka, et. al.) After all, character and plot are something that we (academics) certainly know how to analyze academically, while gameplay is something new (and likely more interdiciplinary requiring knowledge from CPSC, Physics, Math, as well as social sciences so that you can actually analyze it using postmodernist theories after you understand it).

Re:I frankly think both are wrong (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8410335)

Academics from narrative-heavy disciplines need to resist the temptation to gravitate towards games which resemble what they already know, I think, in order to avoid HNS (Hammer/Nail Syndrome). For a while, this was misread as a "battle" between narratology and ludology, but in fact ludology has been developed to be able to address the game-specific elements which other types of interpretation aren't able to do, and then complement those other types of analysis (narratological, film, etc.)

The entire point of describing a discipline called "ludology" is to define a whole set of features of games which aren't like film or literature: those involving game play and interaction and feedback and game-learning (you certainly don't watch a movie over and over to improve your ability to watch it). So, to really get closer to the "gameness" of games, it's probably more helpful to look at games with minimal plots and a lot of game play. Super Monkey Ball was a popular game for study for this reason.

There's a generational difference, I think, too: older academics that "stumbled upon" games in mid-career chose those that looked most familiar to them. That's why there was a lot of work about Myst at one time - the people studying them weren't really gamers at all. Most of the current and upcoming crop of game-academics are real-life dye-in-the-wool gamers.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (0, Redundant)

Tofino (628530) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402892)

Inviting a developer to speak at one of these academic conferences would be like inviting a printsetter to speak at a science fiction convention.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

Dennis G. Jerz (473507) | more than 10 years ago | (#8405447)

"Too bad that they seemed to have forgotten to invite a few developers."

While I don't know anything about the papers that weren't accepted, I'm sure that if developers had submitted paper proposals that fit the goals of the conference organizers, those developers would have been invited to present their papers at the conference.

"Perhaps the academics would be better served by going to the Game Developers Conference two weeks later and learn a thing or to."

1) If a scientist who studies the mating habits has never actually mated with a rhinoceros, does that discount all of his or her research?
2) I agree that there is much to learn at a game developer's conference, but such conferences tend to look forward, at what might be; some scholarship has to look backwards, at what actually happened, and what did not.
3) I think the world is big enough for game developers to develop new games (and methods and terminology and communities) and for game studiers to study those games and their effect on culture at large (using their own methods and terminology and commiunities).

Academics are certainly behind in examining computer gaming, but surely you agree that it's better to light one candle than curse the darkness.... or be eaten by grues.

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (2, Insightful)

PlayfulAcademic (757051) | more than 10 years ago | (#8406484)

"Perhaps the academics would be better served by going to the Game Developers Conference two weeks later and learn a thing or to." [And I agree with the points made by Dennis above -- I am busy lighting candles at this very moment.] Ah, but the bitter truth is that I doubt that I can convince my department to send me to GDC or E3, but (as the fact that this got into the NYTimes shows) an academic conference at Princeton is the kind of thing other academics understand. These are early days and interesting times, at least for me, and I think it might be better for academic critics to be just a little humble and not try to imply that we know everything and are somehow setting ourselves in a position from which we will dispense wisdom. Critics are critics. Academics are academics. Developers are developers. Sometimes, as with Eric Zimmerman or Gonzalo Frasca, individuals can wear more than one hat, but it is still fairly rare. We can learn from each other, but I'm all for haphazard intersections rather than a fixed game plan to demand utility from my work rather than the application of curiosity with extra disciplinary knowledge. Barry

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (2, Funny)

domsalvia (757054) | more than 10 years ago | (#8406644)

1) If a scientist who studies the mating habits has never actually mated with a rhinoceros, does that discount all of his or her research?
No, but the one who has at least has an interesting story to tell...

Re:Researchers vs. Developers (1)

JJesper (757053) | more than 10 years ago | (#8406470)

>Perhaps the academics would be better served by going to the Game Developers Conference two weeks later and learn a thing or to. Perhaps some of us game academics do go GDC and follow what is going on in the game development community?

Half-Life (3, Funny)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400692)

Yeah, well, he was right to give up as soon as he got to that Zen planet or whatever. Man, I hated that shit.

The very ending was cute, though.

Re:Half-Life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8401982)

The article doesn't say what he missed exactly. My best guess is that he didn't get to the part where the Lambda scientists explain that they started the whole thing by building teleporters and sending teams in to gather specimens. But even if that is the point in the game the article refers to, which revelation did the researcher lament missing? Was it the revelation that humans started the whole thing by invading Xen first, or the change from just trying to survive a really bad day at work to hunting down and murdering the aliens' leader?

Re:Half-Life (3, Insightful)

johannesg (664142) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402358)

The biggest revelation in the game that I can think of is fairly close to the beginning, when you see the scientist get slaughtered by some commando's. Now _there_ is a revelation - these people are NOT your friend!

Of course if he meant that, he has only seen a rather small portion of the game. But think about it: how would he know if it was two minutes from the end, if he has never played that far?

Subjective Criticism (4, Insightful)

leadfoot2004 (751188) | more than 10 years ago | (#8400960)

As with any kind of evaluation, it is very difficult to come up with a 'formula' in analyzing video games. There is some element of subjectivism when critiquing video games -- just look at thousands of game reviews sites. I think scholars have given up trying to analyze movies and press a long time ago. It would be interesting to see how long would the novelty of video games in academics stay before it wears off.

Re:Subjective Criticism (4, Insightful)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401453)

I can assure you, scholars have not given up trying to analyze movies and press.

We have largely given up the notion of "review," I'll admit - but popular culture studies remains big.

And, believe me, we're well aware of subjectivism - it's there for most things.

I doubt this is a novelty thing - we'll be around to study video games as long as they remain popular. And if they die off, some people will focus on them in 150 years when they do 20th and 21st century studies.

Re:Subjective Criticism (2, Interesting)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402274)

And, believe me, we're well aware of subjectivism - it's there for most things.

In fact, my understanding is that subjectivity is rather central to postmodernism. As far as I'm concerned the idea in social sciences is to be subjective, just to be subjective from as many angles of subjectivity as possible (thus completeness increases over multiple academics).

Re:Subjective Criticism (1)

Snowspinner (627098) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402858)

That is basically the social sciences approach, yeah.

In the humanities, it's even more extreme - we stopped thinking that completeness and objectivity were even goals to strive for.

Perhaps not objectivity, but completeness... (2, Interesting)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8405260)

One interesting way I've heard postmodernism described is through Godel's Incompleteness Theorem. For those that don't know, any system of theories cannot be complete (have a true/false for any statement) or if it is then it will be inconsistent (have statements that are both true and false). Math (and science by extension) strives for consistency, and will add axioms whenever they find a hole in completeness.

Postmodernism, on the other hand, tosses consistency out the window in an attempt to be complete.

Well...it's as good a definition of postmodernism as any I guess. Certainly more tangible to me than "the curvy buildings in architecture from the 60s"; I mean how am I supposed to apply -that- to literature?

Wow, Ikaruga and Virtua Fighter 4 in the NY Times! (2, Interesting)

AtaruMoroboshi (522293) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401695)

Two of my all time favorite games mentioned in a positive light in the "paper of record". Wow!

Also, I'm a Library and Information Sciences graduate student and I'm working on a few projects related to video games. It's really exciting and challenging to present information and analysis of gaming in an academic context. I'm hoping to attend the conference at Princeton mentioned in this NY Times article.

.

Narrow selection of games (5, Insightful)

MMaestro (585010) | more than 10 years ago | (#8401877)

Why do I say this? Simple.

Researchers shouldn't use cheat codes, she said.

Yeah, lets see you get all 150/250/whatever they're up to now Pokemon without cheating while maintaining your job as a professor. I spent over 50 hours in the original Pokemon and didn't even get 100 of them. Good luck trying to get double that number while writing an analyze of it up. Admittedly not exactly a fair statement considering the game, but how about RPGs? On average they now tend to average about 30-70 hours. Each.

Others say that games need a Shakespeare, someone who can catapult the digital medium forward.

You mean someone like John Carmack who is already considered to be the founder of the FPS genre, one of the best programmers in the industry, and the creator of some of the most recognizable video game serieses in history (Doom and Quake)? What about the people at Valve? They got Half-Life right, something great must be there. What about Hideo Kojima? He makes storylines so dense even hardcore gamers get pissed at him.

Re:Narrow selection of games (5, Funny)

OminousOrange (690041) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402145)

Yes, Doom and Quake are *just* like Shakespeare's works.

Prince Hamlet enters, torn by guilt, grief, jealousy, and vengeance, and soliloquizes with stirring poetry about his problems. Then he proceeds to launch heavy artillery at Queen Gertrude and Claudius. "O that this too too solid flesh would melt 'Neath the heat of a Plasma rifle blast." Wow, even better than the original!

Re:Narrow selection of games (4, Funny)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402644)

Yes, Doom and Quake are *just* like Shakespeare's works.
Prince Hamlet enters, torn by guilt, grief, jealousy, and vengeance, and soliloquizes with stirring poetry about his problems. Then he proceeds to launch heavy artillery at Queen Gertrude and Claudius.


But just imagine the duel with Laertes!

Trumpets the while

HAMLET. Come on sir.
LAERTES. Come my lord.

They play

HAM. One.
LAE. No.
HAM. Judgement.
OSRIC. A hit, a very palpable hit.
LAE. Nay, thou'rt lame; thou campest; I'll not play with thee.

Re:Narrow selection of games (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8405087)

(ENTER HAMLET)
HAMLET:
T0 BE, OR N0T TO BE: TJAT IS TEHQUESTION:
WHETEHR TIUZ NOBLER IN tHE IND OT SUFFE
TREH SLNIGS AND RROWS OF OUTRAGEEOUZ FROTNE,
RO TPO TAK EARMS AG4INST A SEA OF TROUBELS,
AND BY OPPODSING 3ND TEHM I will haX)r tro Dei: to sl3ep;
no mr0e; and bya Slleep to say wE end
te hhearrt-ache and teh thousad naturalshoX0rs
that flehs is hier t0, tis a cnosummation
devout7y to be wiShd!!11~ yto dei,, to lseep;
t0 sleep: peRchanC3 tod ream: ty, tehrs teh rub;

Re:Narrow selection of games (1)

welshwaterloo (740554) | more than 10 years ago | (#8406789)

Exactly!
And I think there's direct comparisons between Romeo & Juliet and Lula The Sexy Empire..

Re:Narrow selection of games (1)

metroid composite (710698) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402340)

Yeah, lets see you get all 150/250/whatever they're up to now Pokemon without cheating while maintaining your job as a professor. I spent over 50 hours in the original Pokemon and didn't even get 100 of them. Good luck trying to get double that number while writing an analyze of it up.

I got as many as possible without trading (129? Something like that). I also recorded about 20 sheets of data trying to reverse engingeer the level up process (only to find that it had been done on the net a year or so earlier). And...I did write a 10 page paper or so (on various topics of the cultural phenomenon that was Pokemon; it got quite a good mark too). Though, granted, that was third year, so the quality of the paper was considerably lower than academic, and I only had 6 Honours courses to keep up with (admitably lower than the load of a professor). On the flip side, this was all done in a much shorter timeframe than your average academic paper.

In short, easily doable, and that's if you even think catching 150 yourself is somehow required to write a paper on Pokemon (*coughAzureHeights [miami.edu] cough*).

Re:Narrow selection of games (1)

scot4875 (542869) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402957)

How are you supposed to learn anything meaningful about a game if you defeat entire point of the game by using a cheat device?

Researcher's findings:
After sampling 25 games (using a GameShark for infinite ammo and health and all weapons), it has become apparent that games offer absolutely no challenge, mental or otherwise, whatsoever. The game merely boils down to holding an 'attack' button and running through the levels.

In-game puzzles are rediculously easy to solve. In all cases, their solution could be found by visiting www.gamefaqs.com or reading the Prima Strategy Guide.


Also, I certainly wouldn't classify John Carmack as a game maker. He makes amazing engines, but engine != game. If you want a gaming 'Shakespeare,' think Warren Spector, Shigeru Miyamoto, and/or Sid Mier.

--Jeremy

Pokemon... (4, Funny)

herrvinny (698679) | more than 10 years ago | (#8403472)

I got all 151 in the original Pokemon Yellow, (yes, including Mew, without cheating, got it at a Nintendo event), all 251 in Pokemon Silver (Yes, Celebi too), and I'm working on Ruby. Just need to trade a few more pokemon, and grab Jirachi from the upcoming Pokemon Colosseum, I don't have any idea how to get Deoxy without cheating, Nintendo is still holding the cards on that one ;-). I'm holding off buying a GameCube until Colosseum comes out.

Yes, I am a pokemon fanatic. How did you guess? I would have filled up my Ruby's Pokedex months ago, except for the fact that I have to do actual work up here in the University of Wisc @ Madison...

In case you're wondering, I do have hundreds, if not thousands, of hours logged on my Pokemon games.. Have Yellow (first one), Blue, Red, Silver, Gold (2), Crystal, Sapphire, Ruby, Pokemon Stadiums 1 & 2, and the special release of Pokemon Yellow Gameboy. It does take dedication, and hard work, but you can catch em all.

Re:Narrow selection of games (1)

miaC (757581) | more than 10 years ago | (#8422544)

Actually my statement was taken out of context- I said at some times, cheating can ruin the experience of the game, which can include the time invested in gameplay. Actually I'm also interested in how and why players cheat, and have done so myself on different occasions. I also think that game researchers and game developers can learn from each other- I know quite a few researchers going to GDC in a few weeks (including myself, where I also spoke last year on a panel), and many more that would LOVE to go if it wasn't so darn expensive. I'd agree that early game researchers gave games a bad name with the focus on violence, and lack of actual play experience, but I think the tide is turning for the better.

intellectual....? (0, Troll)

theMerovingian (722983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402013)


Mr. Bellin and Dr. Palmer's premise is shared by others who study computer games: games are credible objects of intellectual inquiry

I supposed the learned doctors have never played counterstrike with a ratpack of 13 year olds. 'Intellectual' is NOT the operative word to describe the experience.

We've come a long way (5, Interesting)

Teppy (105859) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402168)

When I was an undergrad at Carnegie Mellon in 1989, I decided it would be fun to make a game (actually a system for making platform games) as my senior project. I was really psyched about this, and figured that any professor would be honored to be my advisor on such an innovative project.

I set out looking for an advisor. I picked one of CMU's best known professors. I called his secretary, made an appointment, and described my idea. His response? "Do you know who I am? There is *no way in hell* that I am attaching my name to a video game."

Bah, his loss. I set out to find another professor to serve as advisor. I wandered around the halls until I found a professor that I had for a class once. This guy wasn't a big shot. He didn't have a secretary, and didn't have such a big office, but that was ok. I jazzed up my presentation a bit, threw in a few buzzwords of the day: "It's an 'object oriented' system for 'rapid application development' of a class of interactive entertainment, blah blah blah.

He was intrigued! "Hmm, object oriented, rapid applica... Er, wait a minute - this is a video game? No, I'm not putting my name on that."

Ok, so no cigar just yet, but I was picking up on a trend. I wandered around some more. I went deep into the lower levels of Wean Hall. I walked down a corridor carved out of solid rock - the offices here were the size of closets, and they didn't even have windows. I found someone who appeared to have just been hired, and gave my pitch, filled with as many ridiculous buzzwords as I could think up. He mulled it over "object oriented, um, rapid stuff, um, 'Oh, you mean a video game! Yeah, cool, I'll be your advisor for that!'"

So I found my advisor. He didn't get fired for putting his name of a Senior Project video game, and it came out pretty good in the end, and nobody else got embarrassed.

BUT

Looks like I was ahead of all of them! Carnegie Mellon now touts it's Entertainment Technology Center [cmu.edu] , and proudly proclaims how they're considered the Harvard of Game Development Programs [cmu.edu] , and they've even had me back to speak on a few occasions about my latest game [ataleinthedesert.com] . They've come a long way ;)

thanks for the spoiler (1)

Sarin (112173) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402307)

"One particularly unfortunate quote: "Dr. [Barry] Atkins admitted that he didn't finish Half-Life before writing about it in his 2003 book, 'More Than a Game: The Computer Game as Fictional Form,' (Manchester University Press), and only later realized he was two minutes from the shocking plot reversal at the end when he stopped. 'I am very nervous that I got it wrong,' he said."

Thanks for the partial spoiler doctor-dude!
I was seriously going to play Half-Life this weekend to destress.
Be nervous indeed, I might need to frag something else instead now..

Re:thanks for the spoiler (1)

PlayfulAcademic (757051) | more than 10 years ago | (#8406378)

If that isn't ironic, then I really do apologise.The original article that the journalist read back to me didn't have 'unfortunate plot twist' in it, just the declaration of my incompetence. And that was after weeks and weeks and weeks and weeks of going through Half-Life again and again. One nice thing about studying games is the way that any kind of overwhelming grasp of everything about them always seems to slip out of reach. It was after he was done and I was explaining why it might matter in the case of Half-Life that the possible spoiler crept in (although...) It is only when I give papers on games that I have to check that there aren't any spoilers. A strange thing, given that there is a declaration among many in whatever qualifies as games studies that 'games are not stories' that spoiling story (and not just gameplay elements) justly irritates players. My paper at the conference is titled 'Can I please reload from last save game?': Getting it wrong (and right) in a nascent discipline. Perhaps I should remove the 'and right'? Can this be regarded as an apology? Regards, Barry

Distances and Realities (4, Interesting)

stuffduff (681819) | more than 10 years ago | (#8402356)

Part of the problem is that the Gamers have an intutive knowledge gained by experience which the academics have yet to even begin to quantify. A gamer can tell by a 6th sense when they are in the groove and a good designer can actually tell if the groove is being created properly by the game. Science currently has absolutly no mechanism by which to explain this phenomon. Gamers should be studied so that scientists can actually see not only that gamers can use their brain differently than ordinary people; but they can work to distinguish exactly what those differences are. Fighter pilots experience a situational awareness in an environment that only a very few individuals ever see; which is also relatively unexplored. However I feel certain that experiments will one day show that what an immersed gamer experiences is not that different from the experience of the fighter pilot. Some day when the dust settles and the sicence is there, the academics will, no doubt, have a newfound respect for the gamer and the game developer alike.

Re:Distances and Realities (1)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 10 years ago | (#8412979)

I need to respond to a couple elements here:

1. Most of the current crop of academics working on videogames are gamers. This wasn't true, maybe, 6 years ago, but it's pretty true now.

2. "Flow." It's known. It's talked about. It's theorized about. Academics are aware of it.

3. There's always one difference between game-flow and real-life-activity flow: in the former, the consequences are negotiable. In the latter, not so much. Which is why people can game recklessly or casually: there's freedom to engage in the groove as much or as little as one wants. Even in skiing, this isn't so, much less for flying a jet. And there are existing domains in which a sense of flow is also part of the tradition: dance being the first that comes to mind.

Re:Distances and Realities (1)

stuffduff (681819) | more than 10 years ago | (#8413971)

Glad to hear it. Most of those I deal with are specialists in medical education; where we're still trying to figure out the difference between the printed page and a web page. ;^)

Hate to beg, but can I get a few references of the work you are reffering to so that I can bootstrap my way back to something more current? As for the pilot data, pilots don't seem to like be insturmented in actual combat; so the research available is simulator based.

As someone who's putting together a portfolio (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8406082)

For a junior design job, in one way I'm glad that gaming is being taken seriously. OTOH, I've yet to see an academic who understands them as well as, say, Chris Crawford.
For example, on BBC Radio the other day there was a discussion about games, and the point put forward by all the academics was that come the PS3, hardware will have become so advanced that games will have reached an "Omega Point" of mechanics, and will be distinguishable only by plot.
IMO, the problem is that this is a new field, yet it's being caught up in academic politics as people try to grab it as a subset of what they teach- the literature types see games as a mechanism for narrative, the sociologists only want to focus on MMOs, and the CS types only want to know about graphics and code
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