Archive for the ‘Computer Games’ Category

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.

Nintendo still unable to solve smartphone puzzle

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

The Nikkei Asian Review has a good article on how Nintendo still unable to solve smartphone puzzle. At the recent Replaying Japan 2014 conference I had a talk with some of the folks at Ritsumeikan who have insight into Nintendo. We talked about how Pokemon is controlled by Nintendo so the announcement of a Pokemon Trading Card Game for iOS is significant. It shows Nintendo is experimenting with tablets in a way that still protects the heartland (consoles and core franchises.) If the experiment works they might try some of the other franchises. If it doesn’t they can pretend Nintendo never bowed to app pressure.

The clock is ticking for an aging Asia

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

George Magnus has written two insightful articles in the Nikkei Asian Review on the impact of an aging population on Asian countries. The first, The clock is ticking for an aging Asia goes beyond the usual stories on Japan to look at other countries including India. The second, Strategies for winning the demographic battle looks at what is being done and what could be done.

What does this mean for the games industry in Japan and, more generally Asia? First of all, we need to remember that the Asian games industry is growing dramatically as the large countries like India and China get wired and videogame-capable systems (smartphones and tablets) become accessible. It will be interesting to see what happens as this audience ages. Second, we in the West are not necessarily the obvious export audience for Japanese games – Japanese companies may turn to focus more on South Korea and China than North America and Europe. There are cultural continuities that make certain types of Japanese games more likely to appeal in Asia than in the west. For example, warring state games – ie. games that have as a background the shared mythology of medieval warring states (whether the period of civil war in Japan or that of China.) Third, we could see Japanese companies developing games for the west in the Philippines as they move development offshore the way they have moved ship building.

To be honest, I am just guessing. I feel we need to understand the Asian game market to understand Japan (rather than thinking of Japan as our other), but I’m not sure where things are going. Magnus’ articles are the best news I’ve read on the issue of aging populations for some time.

Kim Kardashian Hollywood App

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Someone mentioned the Kim Kardashian Hollywood app and how successful it was so I thought I should try it. The app is free and as addictive as this article documents, Oh God, I Spent $494.04 Playing the Kim Kardashian Hollywood App. You probably think you are above all the Kardashian stuff, but you aren’t!

Neither talent nor intelligence are needed to succeed in Kim’s app universe. There are no puzzles or hidden object searches or anything like that. There isn’t even any strategizing. You mindlessly tap on the screen to earn and spend money.

Anyway, the philosophy of the app can be found in the hints given while loading:

Dating famous people will get you more fans too.

Dating costs money, but it’s a quick way to level up!

Changing your look and buying nice clothes can get you noticed by the media.

You can get friends or game contacts to help you with projects by hiring them as co-stars.

Replaying Japan 2014

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Last week we organized Replaying Japan 2014 here in Edmoton. This was the second international conference on Japanese game studies and the third event we co-organized with the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies (in Japanese with English pamphlet).

The opening keynote was by Tomohiro Nishikado, the designer of Space Invaders – the 1978 game that launched specialty arcades in Japan. He talked about the design process and showed his notebooks which he had brought. Here you can see the page on his notebook with the sketches of the aliens and then the bitmap versions. I kept my conference notes on his talk and others here.

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The conference was a huge success with over 100 attendees from 6 countries and over 20 universities. We had people from industry, academia and government too. We had a significant number of Japanese speakers despite English being the language of the conference. After the conference we met to plan for next year’s conference in Kyoto. See you there!

This conference was supported by the Japan Foundation, the GRAND Network of Centres of Excellence, the Prince Takamado Centre, the Ritsumeikan Center for Game Studies, CIRCA, and the University of Alberta.

YOU: A Novel

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

I recently finished the science fiction novel YOU: A Novel by Austin Grossman. The novel is about Russell’s returning to get a job with Black Arts a game development studio. Russell distanced himself from his high-school friends with whom he got into designing a role-playing computer game. After dropping out of the liberal arts to law trajectory he had been on, he goes back and gets a job with the company  his friends had created in the meantime. Grossman has worked in game design, so the book has an authentic feel. It is also good on how franchises are maintained as the story turns around the creation of yet another sequel to a tired franchise with flashbacks to when they created the other versions. There are a number of interesting ideas and enigmas to YOU including:

  • YOU is about the dream of the ultimate game. The book starts and ends with the question of the ultimate game and how the imagining of that game is so important to gaming,

    Finally, there is the secret of the ultimate game, inscribed on a series of crumbling scrolls in a language that is no longer well understood. But partial translations suggest that the secret of the ultimate game is that you’re already in the ultimate game, all the time, forever. That the secret of the ultimate game is that the ultimate game is a paradox, because there’s no way to play a game without knowing you’re playing it. That games are already awesome, or else why are we making such a fuss? (p. 365)

  • Part of the issue of the ultimate game is the drive to greater realism as if graphical realism were the only metric. The novel forces us to ask what is realism and whether better graphics are necessarily more immersive (compared with better stories or more open worlds.)
  • Simon, the genius behind the game engine of Black Arts dies before the beginning of the novelistic present in an elevator. It isn’t clear how he died, but it seems relevant at the beginning of the novel. Grossman answered questions about the novel here including an answer about how Simon’s death is a “bait-and-switch.”
  • Finally, there is a really interesting reference to the story of love told in Plato’s Symposium that men and women are separated and want to join up again,

    To forestall any future threat, the gods decreed we should each be separated into halves, and each half hurled into a separate dimension. There was the human half, weak but endowed with thought and feeling, and the video game half, with glowing and immortal bodies that were mere empty shells lacking wills of their own. We became a fallen race and forgot our origins, but something in us longed to be whole again. And so we invented the video game, the apparatus that bridged the realms and joined us with tour other selves again, through the sacred medium of the video game controller. The first devinces were primititive, but every year the technology improved, and we say and heard and sensed the other world more clearly. Soon enough we’d be able to feel and smell and taste and live entirely in our own bodies again. And on that day, he finished portentously, we’d challenge the gods once more.

    “First of all,” I said, “you ripped that whole thing off from that story in Plato. …” (p. 301)

Games with Purpose: Untrusted

Monday, May 12th, 2014

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From Alex I discovered the serious game Untrusted by Alex Nisnevich. This puzzle game asks you to edit Javascript in order to solve puzzles as a way of learning to think like a programmer. You can read about the game at Games with Purpose – a site that is gathering serious games.