The Final Post

             It’s a sad, sad day seeing as this will be all of our last posts.  I’m kicking off my all nighter in the library with this post so I’m going to try to make it good.  I really enjoyed today’s class; I felt that the slideshow and the activity on the computers really helped us engage in meaningful discussion.  As we neared the end of class we kind of strayed away from using games like World of Warcraft as our examples and started talking about things that could apply to anyone.

            Yee’s article brought up some interesting points that I had never really thought of about blurring the line between work and play.  At first I was on the side of the argument that MMORPG’s were the only types of game that could have this effect of people, but after today’s class my view has changed.  While video games like WoW may have more of an effect, I believe that almost any video game has aspects that can be applied in the work world.  Take Tetris for example, one of the simplest games that many people see as just a time killer.  There is not much of a storyline, no characters or complex environment but it does teach something.  As the blocks start falling faster and faster, the game forces you to plan ahead more and more.  You not only have to focus on the blocks that are already set but you have to look at the lineup ahead to figure out a good place for each one to go.  Although it may not be the best teacher, this game can teach patience, strategy and planning.  I’m not saying that all games are created to be educational or develop the mind, but I am saying almost any games has qualities that can applied to the working world, once again blurring that line.

            With that said, there are definitely things created that purposely blur the line between work and play, Google Image Labeler being a perfect example.  Luis von Ahn, who I think is a genius, came up with a way for people to escape the world of work while still being productive.  People may play this game without thinking about it much, and they don’t even realize that while they are having their fun they are actually working for someone else.  This amazing idea, which we discussed earlier in the year, is changing the world of databases and the way information is gathered.  It allows the everyday person to contribute to a database, and the amazing thing is that they choose to do it AND they choose to do it for free!  This is the perfect example of Yee’s argument.  People are no longer looking at something as strictly for work or strictly for play, the two are fusing more frequently to create a more efficient and productive workforce.

            As I’ve talked about it so far it seems as though this is a flawless plan but the truth is that nothing is perfect.  I noticed on Google Image Labeler that there were top scorers who achieved an almost unimaginable amount of points.  These people are obviously no longer doing it as an escape from work; it has become an obsession for some of these people.  The articles mention people who play MMORPG’s who get burned out and feel like they are coming home for work only to have to do another job.  The image labeler was designed to be productive fun, but it is trapping people just like games like World of Warcraft do.  People are cheating and playing constantly to try and be the best and get the highest score.  I can’t imagine this is too fun for these people; they just keep doing it because it is an obsession.

            While I think the fusion of work and play will continue to affect our society more, it is a somewhat dangerous thing.  Many people would love for our population to always be productive but the truth is people need some way to escape.  If we start thinking about everything as work people will get burned out doing almost anything.  People need to keep in mind that there is nothing wrong with sitting down on the couch after a long day at work, grabbing a beer, get nothing done and feel great about it.

            

The World of Virtual Economies

             After reading both of these intriguing and interesting articles there is one obvious point that you can get out of them.  The video gaming world is slowly working its way into our society, economy and every day lives.  The Julian Dibbell article was pretty amazing and kind of astonishing.  After reading the first couple paragraphs I was shocked that people would be playing video games and selling this virtual money for real money.  It was a foreign idea to me that people would be work a 9-5 job playing video games.  After reading a little further and thinking about these concepts and jobs more, it started to make sense.  Every day people sit in factories and produce things like toys and balls and bats to provide entertainment for people of all ages.  The only difference between the “Chinese gold farmers” and other factory workers is that the workers are producing something tangible while the gamers are producing something virtual.  If both are making a good that is sold for real money that provide entertainment, what’s the difference?

            The second article written by Nick Yee brought up a completely different set of points.  It talks about how these multiplayer role-playing games are slowly becoming a second job for people rather than a game.  These games are advertising themselves as ways to escape but the article brings up several examples of how they are just a trap and may be the thing that needs to be escaped.  People get more and more addicted to these games and forget that while they may provide entertainment there are still real world tasks that need to get done.  Is it possible that in the future the line between real world economies and virtual economies will no longer be blurred but the virtual economies will take over?

Need for Speed vs. Grand Theft Auto

Obviously this week’s class was fun for everyone.  I feel that we had a very good discussion on Tuesday regarding the articles and not only was Thursday’s class very fun it was also a great way to learn about play and video games in a different format.  Actually playing the video games and being able to talk about them as we played gave me a much better understanding of some of the concepts that I was having difficulty grasping on Monday and Tuesday.

The first game we looked at in class, which I actually played, was Need for Speed Hot Pursuit 2.  This game was made in 2002 and EA Games made it.  We played the game on Playstation 2.  I won’t talk too much about the result of my race because I’m still a little bitter about the result, but after only playing for a couple of minutes the class came up with some great information about the game.  The game structure of this game is an arcade simulator racing game.  The introduction of the game has a short cut video and brings you to a main menu.  From here there are several different modes to choose from, then cars are chosen, then tracks, and finally after that the racing begins.  All of this setup is non-diegetic operator acts.  Once inside the game there are several things going on like other cars driving, weather storms, etc. but the only thing that is a diegetic operator act is driving the car.  Everything going on around your car is a diegetic machine act.  Like most games there is a pause menu, which is a non-diegetic operator act of course.  As racing games go there is never much storyline or characters and this one is no different.  There are a couple of modes like the cop pursuit mode, two player racing and challenge mode but there is not a narrative plot.  As far as characters go there isn’t much.  You can choose from a variety of cars and of course there are people driving the cars but the user is never introduced to a conventional human character that talks and has a story.  We didn’t play this game for too long but I think we got a decent understanding of it in the time we played it.

The second game I’m going to discuss is Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.  Rockstar Games made this game in 2004.  The infamous series of GTA third person shooter games have a completely different setup than Need for Speed.  The diegetic operator acts are controlling your main character.  I am not sure if he has a name but he is the focus of the game.  There is a story that revolves around him and missions that progress the game.  There are cut scenes and plot progressions just like a movie, which is almost the opposite of a game like Need for Speed.  Grand Theft Auto has similar non-diegetic operator acts to other games, containing a pause menu, a map, setup options, etc.  The difference between this game and many other games is the diegetic machine acts.  GTA is very intricate, containing a huge landscape and many things going on around your character.  There are cars moving, people talking and weather changing just like a city would in real life.  This is what gives the game such a realistic aspect.

I only briefly overviewed each of the games but it can be seen how there are huge differences in video games.  Some are more like arcade games, like Need for Speed, while some are more like movies or adventures, like Grand Theft Auto.  The difference in game types then results in differences in diegesis, game structure, game/story relationship and machine and operator acts.  The emerging study of video games is very intriguing and I am interested to see if it follows the same track as cinema studies and becomes a big area of research and study.

Video Games and Storylines

             Since I’ve come to school I’ve become more and more of an avid gamer, which connects me a little more to both of the articles this week.  Janet Murray’s article “From Game-Story to Cyberdrama” brought up several interesting points about the connections between the gamer and the storyline of a game.  She brought up points that I thought were very valid such as the more intriguing the story the more the operator gets into the game.  I do question her arguments about games like Tetris having actual storylines but most of her points were very valid to me.  She really dissects the interaction between gamer and storyline but I think part of the magic of video games is that the line between story and reality is blurred while you play which really immerses you in the action.  The question that I was still asking myself at the end of the article was still, is each video game created with a “storyline” in mind or are they made to entertain the gamer?

            The second article, “Gamic Actions, Four Movements”, gets into even more technical terms and examinations about video games.  I have never really thought of video games in the way Galloway examines them and he brought up things I would have never thought of.  I never looked at video games as the next level of media.  He argues that they go beyond photographs and film and combine them to create the next level with a different form of user participation.  This argument is a very valid point and look forward to discussing it in class.  The article also talks in detail about things like ambient states, but I think this is looking beyond the beauty of video games.  Like I said in the last paragraph, the blending of all these details is what makes the actual experience of video games what they are.

FaceSpace

             The discussion during this week’s class periods were, I think, some of the best discussions we’ve had all year and I think this week’s blogs will reflect that.  The topic of social networking is so applicable to our lives and society today that it is kind of hard to have at least some type of opinion on this subject.  Although Myspace is a dominant social networking site, as the survey shows, my post will focus primarily on Facebook because that is the site I am most familiar with and the one I can talk about the most.

            Thompson’s article talks a lot about the effect of social networks and their expansion on the intimacy of relationships.  There are strong arguments that either support or oppose the idea that sites like Facebook and Twitter enhance the closeness of some relationships.  One example that is used is that if you follow one of your friend’s Twitter you will know what they are doing and thinking a significant amount of the time.  Then the next time you see this person you will have an idea how they feel and what they have been doing and just skip the small talk.  Facebook has a similar feeling with status updates. With other technology advancing alongside these sites, minutely updates are possible if that is actually what someone wants to do.  Thompson’s argument of “ambient awareness” may apply to some degree in this situation, but I think overall these new applications take away from a true relationship.

            I personally try to avoid things like status updates and I don’t even own a Twitter.  I’m not going to lie, reading status updates can be entertaining but I avoid it for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I find it kind of annoying and trivial to let people know what I’m doing each hour of the day.  Who cares if I’m playing Call of Duty while I blog?  The person reading my update probably isn’t even a real friend of mine.  The second reason I avoid updates like this is because I feel they take away greatly from the closeness of a relationship.  I talk to my friends not only cause I like to hang out and talk with them, but I like to hear what’s going on in their life from them.  If I just read what they are doing on their Facebook or Twitter I may get an idea of what they’re doing but it won’t be the same.  I am a people person and I couldn’t go throughout my daily life without those interactions.

            The second part of my post is going to deal more with the surveys of the adults and teens.  As we discussed in class today there are many factors that affect the use of social networking sites.  Socio-economic class, race, geography, gender, and age are just some of the things that have an affect on the use of social networking sites and the extent that they are being used to by each individual.  I am not going to go through all the specifics about each of those categories because we have already discussed in class all the differences between each.  One of the reasons social networking sites have not completely started to dominate society is because they are not equally accessible.  The “old-fashioned” face-to-face relationship still exists because not everyone has the same access as his or her friends.  If technology keeps advancing and becoming cheaper, the use of social networking sites could expand to the majority.  When or if this happens, only time will tell what will happen to social lives within society.  Wide range social networking could be great for friends or I think it could be terrible, and the line between the two could be a dangerous line to play with.

YourSpace

             I really enjoyed the readings this week because I think they are very applicable to not only new media today but they are also applicable to most of our every day lives and conversations.

            Many of the results in these surveys did not surprise me very much.  I’m pretty sure I could have guessed myself that teens use Facebook and Myspace more than adults.  I probably could have guessed that girls use it slightly more than guys but some of the numbers were quite intriguing.  I am also very interested about what the results would be like if these surveys were taken today.  I believe that almost every single percentage would have increased from 2006 to present day because social networking sites and sites like Twitter are becoming more and more a part of our everyday life.

            Thompson’s article brought up some very thought provoking points too.  The beginning of the article encompassed my thoughts almost perfectly.  I am definitely on the side of Twitter being stupid and not caring about who breaks up with whom on Facebook.  As I read the first seven or so pages of the article my opinions were strengthened until I read the last two pages.  Thompson brought up some great arguments about the benefits of the involvement of social networking within each of our lives.

            There was one last idea that was kind of slipped into the article that really caught my attention.  Thompson brought up the point that the 20th century is the only time throughout history where someone could kind of float through life a mysterious immigrant.  In times before the 20th century people lived in smaller villages where more people knew each other.  Now with these new cyber applications, it is much easier to keep tabs on people’s lives.  Is the advancement of technology actually reverting society and community back to a more primitive state?

Rape in Cyberspace

             Good thing I glanced at someone else’s blog before I wrote this because I was about to write it on race and gender after that heated discussion in class on Thursday.  Going back to Tuesday’s class and those readings I think the problem of trolls and griefers is a very controversial issue that has extremely valid points to either side of the argument at the moment.

            On one hand, there is an easy argument against them.  What is the point of going online just to wreak having and cause damage to people psychologically, emotionally, and sometimes physically?  These people argue that it is to make the Internet a stronger place by pointing out its weaknesses.  What the trolls and griefers need to realize is that while they are having their fun and laughs behind the safety of their computer screen people are being hurt thousands of miles away.  But even if people wanted to get rid of these trolls and griefers there is an enormous problem, how?  Most people who heckle others online keep themselves anonymous.  There is often no way of getting any information about anyone unless they offer to give it to you.  So while the argument against griefers and trolls is valid, drastic measures would have to be taken to monitor them but is that what we really want?  The Internet is there for freedom and one of the things that makes it so unique is there are barely any rules and it is almost limitless.

            This leads me to my next argument that supports the trolls and griefers.  Although some people consider cyberspace a different realm, the same laws as real life still apply up to this point.  One of the first laws of our country is freedom of speech and that is exactly what these people are doing.  They technically do have the right to go online and say whatever they want to whomever they want, even if it is offensive.  Even in the example of the John Edwards campaign booth in Second Life, although the trolls are defacing things, they are not defacing physically things.  Until “cyber laws” are put into place, it will be hard to ever stop people from doing things like this.  Even though trolling and griefing can be seen as terrible things, if people choose to do it, they can do it.

            What I think this issue really comes down to is morals.  Cyber trolling and griefing has an equivalent in real life.  Protests, vandalism and freedom of speech are somewhat of a demonstration of this.  The thing is behind the safety of a computer screen; people feel like they can whatever they want.  Although this is a kind of weird point, some trolls feel comfortable making fun of memorials or funerals online, but I doubt anyone would go to a real funeral or memorial and say the same things?  It comes down to if one really feels comfortable and good about themselves saying and doing these things.  People in real life have most of the same freedoms to do what these trolls do online, but they have the social incentive not to do it.  As the virtual world becomes more realistic to actual society, I think there is a possibility that these same moral incentives could weed out the problems of trolling and griefing online. 

Cyber Criminals, Trolls and Bad-Techno Subjects

             As soon as I looked at the title of the first reading, “A Rape in Cyberspace”, I knew I was in for a unique group of readings.  Each reading had a different effect on me and to be honest I was a little disturbed by the information and stories that each of the readings shared.

            The first reading, “A Rape in Cyberspace” shared the story of a virtual man named Mr. Bungle who existed in the world LambdaMOO.  It goes into detail about how this user virtually raped other users through a series of hacking and messages that he sent to the other users.  It talks about how other users were deeply offended by these messages, which is how many people would probably react.  The point the article brought up is how although people are getting hurt both emotionally, and occasionally physically, there is no real life repercussions.  My question is when will the line between real life law and virtual law become one and people start being prosecuted for virtual crimes like this?

            The second article I read, “Malwebolence”, discusses the interaction of “trolls” within the virtual world.  Trolls are people who use the Internet to terrorize discussion boards, picking fights virtually for “lulz”.  This is a concept that I find cowardly, hurtful and stupid.  These trolls make fun of things like teenage suicide and even go as far as to cause suicide and harmful things in real life.  The way I see it is that if you could not bring yourself say what you want to in real life than you have no place to say it online.  This article also relates to the first question, when will things happening in real life related to online events be brought together for some course of action?  Should certain sites be monitored more closely to prevent some of these events?

            The last article, “Bad-Techno Subjects”, discusses many of the many points and even sites Malwebolence.  They bring up the example of the group Patriotic Nigras (PN), a group in Second Life, as an example of e-terrorists.  It talks about their vandalism and attacks of real life figures like John Edwards within Second Life.  After reading this article, in combination with the other two, it brought me to the idea that as the Internet more closely mimics real life, more aspects of real life will be brought into it.  Even unwanted aspects like rapes, vandalism, crimes etc. will be incorporated.  In class I look forward to discussing this idea in relation to the articles.

Second Life

             After my first interaction, I was overwhelmed, but also extremely intrigued by all of the things that this program had to over.  I had no idea what to expect coming into Thursday’s class but after our brief workshop, I feel I have enough of an idea to make a couple assertions about this “world”.  Second Life offers many of the same features and interactions that everyday people would think of doing in real life.  It allows you to purchase clothes, cars, houses; it allows you to go to malls, travel to different places.  I’m sure there is so much more to explore but these are the types of things I found in the first twenty minutes of interaction.

            Along with features like this, it also allows the realistic feature of being able to change your avatar’s appearance.  This is in some ways the last piece of the puzzle that allows for stereotyping, or “cybertpying”, even in a virtual world.  The first thing you do when entering second life is pick your characters name and appearance.  The program allows you to pick your initial appearance from about 8 predesigned avatars.  I looked at the 8 options and there were stark differences.  It let you pick from a male or female and four extremely different races.  This was the first of many potential examples of cybertyping.

            Like I said, one key feature of Second Life is designing the appearance of your avatar.  It gives you the ability to adjust almost anything about your avatar, including the option of shopping for clothes at a countless amount of malls.  These malls are just like real life malls.  They have billboards of beautiful women wearing half as much clothing that most people would find appropriate.  They have posters of handsome men either wearing high class suits or of men with perfect bodies modeling clothing like bathing suits.  This produces the cybertypes of how women and men should appear.  Women should have the perfect body and being willing to show it off for everyone to admire while men should be dressed in a classy suit exuding confidence and wealth.

            This is an example of typical cybertyping and sexism within Second Life.  But unlike real life, Second Life allows you too change the sex, race and overall appearance of your avatar, which opens up the world of stereotyping completely.  Other users will be cybertyping other people like usual but the thing is, that person may not look anything like their avatar.  People will be make judgments and opinions about the way someone looks while they may be nothing like that.

            The reason a program like Second Life opens up things like cybertyping is because of its realism.  Second Life mimics the real world so closely that real world thought, like stereotyping will be introduced too.  I believe that the more realistic something gets the more room there is for real world things to be integrated into them, whether these real world things are good or bad.  I think something like stereotyping will be engrained into the human mind for a long, long time, so in something as real as Second Life it is only natural for this same thought process to be applicable.

            Just saw snow for the second time in two days, so its time to bundle up and get ready for my Friday night.  Everyone have a good one.

Racism and Sexism in Video Games

             After reading the first article, “High Tech Blackface-Race, Sports, Video Games and Becoming The Other” I realized my opinion of the article changed a lot from beginning to end.  I do agree that this article brought up some very interesting points but I also think it degenerated into more of a reverse racist rant than relating back to the initial argument.  Leonard’s points about NFL Street and NBA Street are valid but he gave me the impression that these video games companies are creating this image on their own and they are the ones to blame.  My question is are video games merely creating what their consumers want?  Are the consumers and society more influencing the companies to make what they want and is what they want coming from generations of predetermined stereotypes?

            The second article “Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo?” also brought up some very good issues that have been relevant in society for generations.  I do agree that some of these video games are just furthering some of these issues but it again raises the argument of what is a more determining factor, profit or morals?  This brings me to my questions about this article, are the creators of the games like Tomb Raider just making games so they can market them to a wider audience or are they actually concerned about issues such as gender and sexuality when it comes to video games?

            Lisa Nakamura’s article brought up some similar points to Leonard’s article in regard to race.  This brought me to the all-important question, will video games ever be able to change their racism and sexism before society changes their stereotypes first?

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