Archive for the ‘Computer Games’ Category

Press Start: Culture, Industry, and Innovation in Japanese Gaming

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Conference Image

This Friday and Saturday I was at a lovely two day conference, Press Start: Culture, Industry, and Innovation in Japanese Gaming. The conference was put on by the University of British Columbia Centre for Japanese Research. The conference had excellent involvement from Japanese game companies like Bandai Namco, Sega, Capcom, and DeNA. The industry folk talked about the challenges of the expanding mobile market and how their Vancouver studios are positioned in their larger business.

I gave the opening talk on beginnings (as in Press Start) and kept conference notes here.

The computer program billed as unbeatable at poker

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

The Toronto Star has a nice story, The computer program billed as unbeatable at poker, about a poker playing program Cepehus that was developed at the Computer Poker Research here at the University of Alberta. Michael Bowling is quoted to the effect that,

No matter what you do, no matter how strong a player you are, even if you look at our strategy in every detail . . . there is no way you are going to be able of have any realistic edge on us.

On average we are playing perfectly. And that’s kind of the average that really matters.

You can play Cepehus at their web site. You can read their paper “Heads-up limit hold’em poker is solved”, just published in Science here (DOI: 10.1126/science.1259433).

25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Femminist Frequency has another thought provoking video with a difference, it is by men and about how we have to take responsibility for game culture. Check out the 25 Invisible Benefits of Gaming While Male.

Trolling and Anonymous

Saturday, December 13th, 2014

Useful research is finally emerging about trolling in its different forms. The Guardian had a nice overview article by a professor of business psychologies titled Behind the online comments: the psychology of internet trolls. Researchers at the University of Manitoba and UBC have published an article with the title Trolls just want to have fun (PDF preprint) that found evidence that sadists like to troll. They conclude,

The Internet is an anonymous environment where it is easy to seek out and explore one’s niche, however idiosyncratic. Consequently, antisocial individuals have greater opportunities to connect with similar others, and to pursue their personal brand of ‘‘self expression’’ than they did before the advent of the Internet. Online identity construction may be important to examine in research on trolling, especially in terms of antisocial identity and its role in trolling behavior. The troll persona appears to be a malicious case of a virtual avatar, reflecting both actual personality and one’s ideal self . Our research suggests that, for those with sadistic personalities, that ideal self may be a villain of chaos and mayhem – the online Trickster we fear, envy, and love to hate: the cybertroll. (Buckels, E. E., et al. Trolls just want to have fun. Personality and Individual Differences (2014),

By contrast, McGill professor Gabriella Coleman recently published a book about Anonymous, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Coleman also compares the trolling of Anonymous to traditions of the trickster, but is far more sympathetic as she tracks the politicization of Anonymous. About trolling she writes,

Trolls enjoy desecrating anything remotely sacred, as cultural theorist Whitney Phillips conveys in her astute characterization of trolls as “agents of cultural digestion [who] scavenge the landscape, re-purpose the most offensive material, then shove the resulting monstrosities into the faces of an unsuspecting populace.” In short: any information thought to be personal, secure, or sacred is a prime target for sharing or defilement in a multitude of ways. Lulz-oriented actions puncture the consensus around our politics and ethics, our social lives, and our aesthetic sensibilities. Any presumption of our world’s inviolability becomes a weapon; trolls invalidate that world by gesturing toward the possibility for Internet geeks to destroy it—to pull the carpet from under us whenever they feel the urge. (Location 491)

She sees anonymous hacking as one of the ways we can resist the blanket surveillance that Snowden revealed. Anonymous may be the future of resistance even as it emerges from the nasty side of trolling. I can’t say that I’m convinced the ends justify the means, at least when you aren’t willing to take responsibility for the means you employ, but, she is right that it has become a form of resistance for the surveillance age.

Anonymous is emblematic of a particular geography of resistance. Composed of multiple competing groups, short-term power is achievable for brief durations, while long-term dominance by any single group or person is virtually impossible. In such a dynamic landscape, it may be “easy to co-opt, but impossible to keep co-opted,” … (Location 5691)

#GamerGate on

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
hashtags data by is a neat site that tracks hashtags in Twitter. For example, here is what they have on #GameGate. They show the other hashtags that your hashtag connects to (like #NotYourShield) and you can get a trend line.

hashtags data by

The trend makes it look like #GamerGate is going down, but I don’t trust their projection.

All of this is free. They also have a Pro account, but I haven’t tried that.

Thanks to Brett for this.

Why modern music owes a big debt to Japanese video games

Monday, November 24th, 2014

The Red Bull Music Academy has a nice documentary series on Japanese video game music Digging in the Carts. They introduce the composers and they have remixes by people who were influenced by game music.

Thanks to Sandra for the pointer to this.

Is GamerGate About Media Ethics or Harassing Women? Harassment, the Data Shows

Saturday, November 1st, 2014


In all the GamerGate stories, an interesting move by Newsweek as to commission a study of GamerGate tweets. Taylor Wofford reported about the results in an article from October 25th, 2014 that is titled, Is GamerGate About Media Ethics or Harassing Women? Harassment, the Data Shows. The study was run by BrandWatch  and they looked at who was the target of tweets with #gamegate. Low and behold the GamerGate community seemed more concerned with female game designers than journalists which calls into question the claim that GamerGate is really about ethics and games journalism.

We are now gathering tweets too and we will see if we can reproduce the results. At first glance the number of GamerGate tweets seems really low – they seem to be sampling. It will also be interesting to see if there has been a shift in emphasis in the discussion.

Donkey Kong (Arcade) – The Cutting Room Floor

Sunday, October 19th, 2014


From Slashdot I learned about The Cutting Room Floor, a wiki “dedicated to unearthing and researching unused and cut content from video games.” For example, they have information about Donkey Kong (Arcade) that includes unused music, unused graphics, hidden text (see above), and regional difference. Yet another example of how the fan community is doing history of videogames in innovative ways.

The DH Experience

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

John has posted a web page about game we have been developing in the INKE group at U of Alberta, The DH Experience. You can now download the board, tokens/cards, and rules so you can play the game.

The DH Experience game is a collaborative board game that lets players complete DH projects. Try it!

Gamergate: the community is eating itself but there should be room for all

Friday, September 5th, 2014

The Guardian has a good story summarizing the Gamergate controversy. This follows an essay about How to attack a woman who works in video gaming that outlined the attacks on Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency and Zoe Quinn. A hard-core of gamers seem concerned that game journalists are falling for political correctness and that so they are abusing and threatening women designers and critics.

The abuse mirrors the violence against women that Sarkeesian points out in the video essay above. Abuse of women is used as background plot decoration. The abuse provides a “quick emotional punch to the player” making it quickly clear who are the bad guys players can kill so they can save the women (or watch them be abused first). Now that the abuse is happening for real in the gaming community we should ask if some trolls have started to behave in imitation of game worlds they take as normative. Life imitates arts when we take an art too seriously. It is time to study the homosocial environments that have evolved around gaming and in gaming to understand the ideas of masculinity that have become currency.

And the abuse should stop.