good games, bad theory?

Bought a mini-arcade console with Pac-Man and some other Namco classics (from Jakks TV Games) yesterday for our Lab. It is definitely fun and also educational visiting those early 1980s games with a joystick and button that at least tries to emulate the original arcade experience. And these actually also can be classified into “casual games” under current standards. Particularly Bosconian (which I had never before played) had some genuine holding power.

There has been lately discussions in the DiGRA’s free mailing list (Gamesnetwork@uta.fi) on the value of “theory” for game studies. If you are interested in those lines of thinking, you might consider subscribing (link). But here just a snippet: this is part of what I mailed there today:

IGDA uses great motto, “Make Better Games”, and I have sometimes suggested that in DiGRA we could adopt something a bit similar, “Make Better Game Research”. There are numerous questions that our researchers, for example, are currently working on: Who are actually playing games? What games they play? Why they play those games? Are there some fundamental cognitive and emotional elements, or modes of visual aesthetic, “grammar and syntax” of interaction, or something from narratology, media studies, cultural studies etc. that we can identify, analyse and describe in games and game playing? And when we have some fundamentals like that in our hands, then we need some meta-level constructs, theories that help us to discuss how all these things relate to each other. In the long run, all this will advance science and our understanding of this odd thing, “games”, and what kind of beings we are as we enjoy and invent them.
[…]
And, I suppose, we need not only games-informed games designers, but also researchers, teachers, critics, and even school-children who are given tools that help them to put into words and analyse why certain games might carry value and significance, why some others are problematic, and precisely in which terms. I am not sure if the only thing we’ll say in academia to those teachers is “design, design, design”, that we’ll do the job we should.

evening news: toys, tech and games entering the academia

Some kind Anonymous reminded me that there is the Gizmodo blog on tech toys — thanks, I should have remembered that, of course. My world would be much more dull without its always stimulating series of posts where the latest Apple Powerbook meets Sega’s “Near Me”, the robotic cat (link).

There was a note on Grand Text Auto that pointed me to a GameSpot article on academics and computer games (link). If you are interested in learning particularly about work and thought of Janet Murray (Georgia Tech) or Gonzalo Frasca (IT University Copenhagen) then you do well by checking this piece.

Ok, I have to write some words of introduction to our game studies Masters’ Course students now. See you again later!

attack of gizmo sites

Yesterday, I posted a note into a fun site “We Make Money Not Art” into a thread which contained interesting list of location-based mobile games about our Mogame research project. Browsing its gadget-and-geek filled pages, I started to wonder how many interesting and enthusiastic art-sci-tech sites there are, after all? Taken from the top of my geeky favorites, there are: Slashdot, Wired Gizmo News, Tom’s Hardware Guide, Google Sci/Tech News, just to mention very few. — What are your favorites?

syndicated nights, simulated lights

This night, I have been learning about syndication of this medium (Atom and RSS converted XML feeds the result) and ruining my eyes by doing it in front of a TV screen. The resolution, sharpness and refresh rate of a CRT-based television set is just not yet up to the point where you could actually work in front of it. Video streams and digital photographs look nice, but everything else makes my head hurt. When I closed the browser finally, after several hours, to turn away from the shiny world of bits and simulation, and clicked the remote, the first thing to catch my eye was a documentary about original Matrix movie (in SubTV). Talking about serendipity…

infra kicks

After spending best part of the weekend finishing couple of games articles and the course materials I have been working on, I decided to reward myself somehow. In this weird nerdie way, it definitely had to be something media-tech related (but not too expensive, since most of my money is already going to all this stuff). So I bought a Logitech wireless keyboard & mouse combo (the MX version), and then amused myself by configuring the output of my media server to the big-screen television for the rest of the evening. Since this thing does not have proper inputs (and it is not the LCD/plasma one I will get next) the outcome is only half satisfying. But: I can now have web information services, a game, a TV channel and a Winamp running simultaneously on the same big screen. Ok, when I started Word to write this note, I had to close a couple of windows, but yet. It is curious to study oneself and see what are the sources of pleasure. I had a Star Wars Galaxies: An Empire Divided free 14-days download & account deal waiting there, too, but instead I ended up doing this. Perhaps this feels more like an “own” thing to do? Or then, perhaps I just get my kicks from working at the infrastructure level, rather than with the content. Hard to say.

version wars

Oh boy. Every time I nowadays start the MS Word, I am greeted by one explosion of a non-compatibility warnings, kindly suggesting I should immediately renounce any idea of working. Office 2003 and Adobe Acrobat 5 seem not to talk each other any more, and as our university will no longer provide us with Abobe licenses (I am told), I am put against the wall. Either Microsoft or Adobe: choose which camp you belong to.

I seem to have been overworking again. I should be able to read it from my calendar, of course, but sadly it needs to be my physics telling me that all meters have been on red for too long. Ok, I will try and stay in bed tomorrow as long as I can. There is just too much exciting stuff going on that I feel to be responsible, so it is hard to take any real breaks.

I hope we could play more Beyond Good and Evil. It seems to have the right balance and combination of different game elements (taking animal photographs is a nice touch), and the right, relatively smooth learning curve. But days are long, evenings needed for taking care of the emails piling up from the association, projects, students and other contacts (while working days are packed with meetings) and nights are too short. Ok, I will stop whining (at the front of computer!) and get into bed. See ya!

end of holidays?

For a peaceful summer, there has been quite a lot to do lately. Part relates to the asynchrony in this globalized world: when Finns should be having their holidays they cannot do so as everything has to be got ready before the holidays of August in many other countries. And now in August everything is starting up in the Finnish systems. I sometimes wonder where this will lead into, as international collaboration becomes more and more popular in various forms. The final outcome can be that there is no “holiday” as that kind of category (time and space outside of work) we used to know before. Or, will there be a backlash, eventually (everyone quits trying to get anything done during whole summer)? Oh yes, and there could be “standard holidays” set up for whole world. In the name of effectivity and multinational workforce.

I finally succeeded in getting firewalls, servers and client software into that kind of position I can remotely access and administer my web domain and other services from anywhere there is a net connection. Handy. It is also really great to be able to get all the digital images into easily browsable folders. You can take a look at some of the old stuff from my university home album page, here.