Archive for the ‘Computer Games’ Category

A Supreme Court Pioneer, Now Making Her Mark on Video Games

Sunday, March 27th, 2016

The New York Times has a nice story about how Sandra Day O’Connor, A Supreme Court Pioneer, Now Making Her Mark on Video Games. O’Connor is promoting a game called Win the White House from iCivics a education group she started in 2009. She has also involved her Supreme Court colleague Sotomayor. The article mentions how such educational games are getting more respect.

The involvement of the two justices in digital educational games underscores a growing belief among educators that interactive tools may improve students’ engagement in their own learning. In January, Microsoft introduced an educational version of Minecraft, the hit game in which players use blocks to construct elaborate virtual worlds. Last fall, Google unveiled Expeditions, a virtual reality system for classroom use that takes students on simulated field trips around the world.

Deep Minds master the game of Go

Friday, March 18th, 2016

My colleagues over in Computing Science at the University of Alberta are rightly proud of their supervision of the leads at Google who developed the AlphaGo AI that recently won at Go. Martin Mueller and colleagues have been working on AI and games for some time, see Deep Minds master the game of Go. Now another story has come out about Will humans lose out to AI in eSports too? This story highlights work by another team on AI commentating.

Passage: a Gamma256 video game by Jason Rohrer

Monday, March 7th, 2016

passagescreen

I had reason to revisit Passage the game of life and death by Jason Rohrer. Along with the game he provided a Creator’s Statement describes the game.

Passage is meant to be a memento mori game. It presents an entire life, from young adulthood through old age and death, in the span of five minutes. Of course, it’s a game, not a painting or a film, so the choices that you make as the player are crucial. There’s no “right” way to play Passage, just as there’s no right way to interpret it.

What could be more emotional than one’s own death? For more on the game and Rohrer see The Video-Game Programmer Saving Our 21st-Century Souls from Esquire.

Papers, Please

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

Papers, Please: Screen Shot

Just finished playing Papers, Please. Very depressing game that tries to give you a sense of what it is like to be a border guard checking things and being watched. It isn’t “fun” but it uses anxiety well. I found myself stressing out as I tried to process enough people to pay for my family and save some money. With discussions in Europe about bringing border controls back to the Schengen Area this sort of control is back “on the map.”

The screen shot shows the simple 8-bit interface. The game has a retro interface to go with the feeling of an Eastern-block country border.

Shade

Saturday, January 9th, 2016

>look

The tiny figure crawls out from under the sands. It’s dead.

“You win,” it says. “Okay, my turn again.”

>…

Nothing left to do. Time passes.

The sun crawls higher.

*** SHADE ***

I just finished playing the interactive fiction (IF) Shade (2000) by Andrew Plotkin. A poetic work that plays with the genre without playing for the sake of playing. The meditation on life and the end of the game is for real and fiction. You can see other fictions by Plotkin at Zarf’s Interactive Fiction and/or read a nice review Enlightening Interactive Fiction: Andrew Plotkin’s Shade by Jeremy Douglass (electronic book review: 2008). I also recommend the review as a nice introduction to IF in general.

If you need some hints (as I did) see the comments here (and then enjoy his other posts).

Blockbusters: how Rutherford Chang became the second best Tetris player in the world

Friday, January 8th, 2016

The Guardian has a story about Blockbusters: how Rutherford Chang became the second best Tetris player in the world. Chang is an artist who has been playing Tetris over and over and filming it. His hundreds of thousands of games can be viewed on YouTube here.

How is this art? I suspect it is in the way he plays with repetition. Another project, Alphabetized Newspaper, takes all the words in stories on the cover of The New York Times and rearranges them in alphabetical order created a sort of sorted word list. (Click image and explore.)

alphabetized

 

He also did this with video of NBC nightly news, which produces a bizarre effect. Imagine all the very short clips of people saying “and” in a row.

I am struck by how he has humanly recreated what an algorithm could do.

 

Silly Season for Eric Raymond

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Eric Raymond, widely admired for his The Cathedral and the Bazaar, is now peddling social justice paranoia. See Why Hackers Must Eject the SJWs. He starts with the following,

The hacker culture, and STEM in general, are under ideological attack. Recently I blogged a safety warning that according to a source I consider reliable, a “women in tech” pressure group has made multiple efforts to set Linus Torvalds up for a sexual assault accusation. I interpreted this as an attempt to beat the hacker culture into political pliability, and advised anyone in a leadership position to beware of similar attempts.

See his “safety warning” at From kafkatrap to honeytrap. His evidence for this ideological attack seems to be gossip from trusted sources – gossip that confirms his views about “women in tech” and pressure groups and so on. This sort of war rhetoric closes any opportunity for discussion around the issues of women in technology. For Raymond it is now a (culture) war between those on the side of hacker culture and STEM, against “Social Justice Warriors” and what is at stake is the “entire civilization that we serve.”

Why are these important issues being militarized instead of aired respectfully? When did the people we live with and love become the other? Just how confident are we that we objectively know what merit is in the hurly burly of life?  What civilization is this really about?

Other reactions to this story include Linus Torvalds targeted by honeytraps, claims Eric S. Raymond in The Register and Is This the Perfect Insane Anti-Feminist Rumor? from New York Magazine.

Dead or Alive and otaku culture: why sensitivity is not the same as censorship

Sunday, December 6th, 2015

Jeremie alerted me to a strange debate raging about Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, a sexist beach volleyball game that Koei Tecmo decided not to release in the West, apparently because of concerns about a feminist backlash according to an employee’s comments on Facebook:

Do you know many issues happening in video game industry with regard to how to treat female in video game industry? We do not want to talk those things here. But certainly we have gone through in last year or two to come to our decision. Thank you.

The Guardian has a nice article about the issue with background on adult genres common in Japan, Dead or Alive and otaku culture: why sensitivity is not the same as censorship. Ars Technical has an article too with an update, Dead or Alive publisher denies game is too sexist for Western audiences, that mentions how the publisher Koei Techmo has released an official statement that sort of backtracks on the comments that triggered the issue. Gamespot also has an updated story Dead or Alive Xtreme 3 Won’t Ship Worldwide Due to Sexism Backlash Fears.

Needless to say, this has animated the SJW (Social Justice Warrior) discussion around the representation of women in games and censorship of games. (I should note that it isn’t censorship if a publisher decides to not publish something.) Interestingly, this is not the first time we have had this debate about Japanese adult games across cultures. Brian Ashcraft has an article in Kotaku on Why Is CNN Talking About Rapelay? which documented how the Japanese publishers of adult games were adapting to attention from the West by changing titles and not localizing titles. What has changed is how the West is arguing with itself through Japan. The Japanese seem to be trying desperately not to be part of our culture war.

Pachinko: A game studies perspective

Friday, December 4th, 2015

A paper I wrote with Keiji Amano just came out in the online journal Kinephanos, Pachinko: A game studies perspective. The paper looks at pachinko as a game rather than as a form of gambling (as the title suggests.) It is part of a nice collection on Geemu and media mix: Theoretical approaches to Japanese video games.

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Is it Pokemon or Big Data ?

Sunday, November 29th, 2015

Is it Pokemon or Big Data ? is a simple game where you are presented with a name and you have to guess if it is a big data company or a Pokemon creature. My thanks to Jane for this.