Thursday, 1 March 2007


Newman, J. (2004). Videogames. Oxon: Routledge.

Greenfield, P. (1984). Mind and Media: The effects of telivision, computers and video games.
USA: Harvard University Press.

Poole, S. (2000). Trigger Happy. New York: Arcade Publishing.

Kinder, M. (1991). Playing with Power in Movies, Telivision and Video Games.
California: University of California Press.

Johnson, S. (2005). Everything Bad is Good for You. London: Penguin Group.

Wittgenstein, L. (1968). Philosophical Investigations, 3rd edn., Oxford: Blackwell

Monday, 26 February 2007

Entry 3: games and play

Whether playing golfing videogames, or golf in real life, Huizinga believed we entered into a concept termed "magic circle". Salen and Zimmerman define the magic circle of a game as a "delineation in time and space of the game's existence. While this model of a game does describe many experiences of play, there are many examples of games that purposefully blur the border between the world of the game and "real life."(

When playing Golden Sun, you enter into a safe area where if you make a mistake and the character dies you can start again from the same point, whereas in real life when we make mistakes you're often unable to rectify the consequences. When looking at the lusory attitude of the magic circle, it's useful to think about two thought provoking questions.

Do games stem from play? Does play stem from games? Although there's no definite answer, something we can be sure of is there's many factors involved with 'why' and 'how' we play games. According to Huizinga's notion of play, there's four key characteristics which are adhered to if a person is involved in play: play is voluntary, outside of ordinary life, has fixed boundaries and promotes social groups. However, after spending time playing Tiger Woods 2005 (on two player) and golden sun (a one player only game), I started thinking if Huizinga's notion of play is still relevant to today's phenomenon of videogames. In conclusion, it's mostly accurate because you usually play digital games for the enjoyment factor, brought about largely through them being relaxing and very absorbing.

For example, if one had a childhood dream about being a professional golfer, Tiger Woods allows one to create your own personal profile of your name and the way the golfer looks, which in turn can create a 'dream like ' state in the magic circle, where for a moment, you think you've become a professional golfer (my own blurred experience).

There's fixed boundaries in the magic circle of playing Tiger woods because there's a limited spacial element where you can hit the ball, and you're restricted to watching the screen. It's great playing against friends to socialize. However, playing Golden Sun, the contrary happened because its time consuming element caused one to become reclusive to progress. Moreover, the addictive element of Golden Sun left me trying to kill a boss many times with no luck, which turned the enjoyment factor into frustration. Was my frustrating attempts to kill the boss a duty, because of the time already invested in the game, or was it to experience the subsequent joy of finally killing the boss--both reasons. Therefore, Huizinga's four characteristics of play aren't completely applicable to playing videogames.

Entry 1: Defining the concept of 'game'

'Game' is a fuzzy concept. What constitutes a game? Further, do videogames fit into the same category as real life games, such as tennis? One could argue that if something doesn't follow a set of rules then it cannot be defined as a game, such as aimlessly kicking a ball in the air. However, if a friend challenged to see who could kick it the highest, then it could be classed as a game? Wittgenstien argues that game traits often overlap and are interconnected, like the way families' physical traits often resemble each other.

Just as siblings may look alike but have blue/brown eyes, with Tertris, like many games, there is an element of both luck and skill because the shapes that come down are random and skill is involved to make the given blocks fit into a line, keeping the wall low as possible However, some games are puley skill based and some just luck. Newman (2004, p.10) argues that no group of theorists can claim to accurately describe exactly what a videogame is. Howland (1998) attempts to best describe what a videogames are by breaking them down into five distinct interconnected elements: graphics, sound, interface, gameplay and story. Tetris, however, does not adhere to story because it's void of a storyline, and there doesn't need to be sound to play Tetris as effectively.

Therefore, defining the concept of 'game' is problematic. Perhaps the best answer lies with the thought provoking words of Ludwig Wittgenstien: "How should we explain to someone what a game is? I imagine that we should describe games to him, and we might add: “This and similar things are called ‘games.’” And do we know any more about it ourselves? Is it only other people whom we cannot tell exactly what a game is? But this is not ignorance. We do not know the boundaries because none have been drawn." (Philosophical Investigations, aph. 69)

Monday, 19 February 2007

Entry 4: Rewards of gaming

Although many videogames are often seen as bad for us, there are some rewarding elements, whether it be accomplishment, fitting in with our peers, or mental/senses (aesthetic) stimulation. By playing Command and Conquer Red Alert during the last week one can relate to these rewards. We all have favorite types of genres of videogames , whether it be action, sports or racing ect, we usually feel compelled to play games we prefer. In my case it's strategy. As a keen chess player, one has often wondered where one's love of chess has stemmed from. It appears to be from the countless hours of playing the original Command and Conquer during childhood. Unlike chess, one doesn't usually know the rules of a videogame before playing, which leaves us having to probe the depths of the game's logic to make sense of it . As well as being aesthetically rewarding, playing complex video games, just like chess, can aid our cognitive development, which is a useful reward outside of gaming.

Johnson (2005,p.112 ) argues that learning the intricacies of a new interface can be genuine pleasure. I can definitely relate to this statement whilst playing C.&C.r.a. because when you discover a new feature such as a nuclear bomb to use, which was at my disposal without noticing for some time, it's like a moment of epiphany in the gaming world.

Similar to TV, which can have a rewarding effect, such as watching a documentary on videogames to help me with this journal, which in turn should help obtain a better mark, some videogames can, therefore, impinge on players in a positive way. Ultimately though, most videogames serve a core purpose, as Poole (2000 p.229) states: "I think the duty of videogames, therefore, is an imaginative one--an aesthetic one".

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Entry 2: rhetoric applied to 'so called' evil games

All games contain rhetorical elements, which is the values and beliefs of the authors of games, brought about through persuasive discourse. When playing videogames we rarely look deeper into the way they're depicted to us, and the ideologies contained in the games we play. There's evidently many values/beliefs exemplified in Splinter Cell and Hitman Contracts. Firstly, killing is rife, and an imperative objective to reach the endings. A key question is whether games which condone violence in their plots can detrimentally impinge on the players. Newman (2004 p.62) argues that there is much effort to class videogames as damaging. Furthermore, considerable research has been done to link playing violent video games to 'real life' acts of shootings and societal decay. There is however insufficient evidence to make the claims true (for now).

Secondly, although there's times in both games where killing is essential to reaching the next stage, there's a slight pacifist element evident in each game because the player doesn't always have to adhere to killing less important villains, instead you can sneak around them (sometimes encouraged to). Moreover, the important kills you do make are seen as for the good of society by ridding the world of its menaces. Neither game encourages killing Innocent civilians, but there's times, particularly in Hitman Contracts, when it's difficult to avoid. This rhetoric is evident in 'real life' situations, such as war, whereby destroying the enemy is Paramount--even if Innocent civilians are in danger.

Finally, a feature used is various ways the player can attack the villains, whether it be by an array of guns, or through strangulation. Alamingly, this demonstrates that our hands can be used as lethal weapons, which evidentely in society they're sometimes used to harm others. On TV we often see such acts commited. However, the audience is passive whilst watching films such as the Terminator or Goodfellas, whereas with these games the player is actively involved in the killings, which is a requirement in order to progress through the game--an incentive itself. Patricia Marks Greenfield (1984) was interested to see if watching TV is worse than playing digital games and, therefore, conducted interviews on four children between the ages of 8-14. The children were unanimous: digital games. Moreover, they were unanimous about reason--active control. the meaning of control was both concrete and very conscious. However, this is still not sufficient to link playing violent games to actual violence.

Interestingly, that research was done in the mid 80s, twenty years on there's still no concrete evidence to support claims that playing violent games make people violent. Could the last week playing these games consequently cause one to think about quitting university to become a hitman or anti-terrorist agent--extremely unlikely. Could playing these games cause one, who by nature sometimes manifests an angry disposition, be influenced by images and control of dangerous characters--perhaps.

Because many videogames are developed in the USA, there's a strong rhetorical element of the USA being the protector against evil, such as in Splinter Cell. However, we need be careful when absorbing such cultural rhetoric in plots because they're often biased and misleading. Furthermore, some games contain such elements which can encourage prejudice and racism to anti-USA countries.