Games Research #7

I thought starting off with McGonigal’s book, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, was a great way to start off this class especially for people like me who didn’t think beyond the enjoyment of video games. I was very surprised to hear about all the research that had been done on video games. After reading her book, I was convinced that McGonigal was on to something when she said, “games that are designed to improve real lives and solve real problems” (McGonigal).

The article entitled, “Want to Be Smarter? Play Video Games” by Erika Anderson analyzes the main points of McGonigal’s book in reference to video games making us better people.  The main point in this article that I would like to focus on is where Anderson writes about collaboration skills. She writes, “In order to be successful in multiplayer games, players need to form alliances, work together toward common ends…”. This is the very thing I am trying to prove.  Children can learn these valuable skills from playing sports video games.

Games Research #6

There has been a stigma attached to children watching television and playing video games. Some people say that it promotes violence and obesity. Why are children wasting their time playing video games instead of being more productive? The article entitled “Virtual competition: video games, children and sport” by Anthony Sibillin supports the idea of using video games as a means to promote healthy physical and social lives for children. The article states, “…a 2002 cross-national study involving British and American children found that highly active boys were also heavy users of technology based entertainment …”. The article also says that sports based video games can be used to promote better performance in sports; “the golfing skill of putting is one of the few sporting skills to be shown to successfully transfer from screen to green. Significantly, a 2001 French study showed the transfer was greatest when the video game was played with the intention of improving the actual skill rather than for simple enjoyment…”.

The article helps me prove my point that there should be a fight for children’s time. The problem is not eliminating video games, they are here to stay. What we need to be focusing on is how to capture the attention of children with educational based video games which will serve as a supplement to what they learn in school and in a social setting.

Games Research #5

The article “The Impact of Participation in Sports on Educational Attainment: New Evidence from Germany” by Thomas Corneliben and Christian Pfeifer is about how sports can encourage education and lead to better lifestyles. The author of this article writes about the physical education system in Germany and how the children there cannot graduate secondary school unless they finish “Gymnasium”. Clearly they view sports as being more than physical education. They understand that is is necessary in order to have a well rounded child. The article states, “First, the better health status of athletes could increase productivity and lead to more investments in human capital, because healthier people will probably have a longer life span and, hence, a longer amortization period. Second, sport does not only train functional skills like dexterity and balance but it also teaches soft skills like taking orders, leadership, teamwork, performing in a regulated system, and socialization…form the character of young people because it teaches behavioral habits like motivation, discipline, tenacity, competitive spirit, responsibility, perseverance, confidence, and self-esteem, which cannot always be acquired in classroom” (4).

This article states exactly what I’m trying to prove in my article. However they claim that watching t.v. are considered are habits. I am hoping that I will be able to either prove that children can learn all these things from video games or that video games promote these skills and habits.

Research Post 8: The problem with narrative progression as reward.

Research Post #8

The common criticism of video games in relation to story, is that the medium lacks narrative depth. In previous posts I’ve considered that this may be because gameplay is king with respect to video games, and the narrative component works only as a function for gameplay. But this hypothesis doesn’t seem to hold with respect to all video games. The “Grand Theft Auto” series in particular seems to shape its play around an exciting narrative plots. For instance, a part of the enjoyment a player experiences when eluding the police in a GTA game, is a knowledge of the crime that you are committing that this evasion necessary, be it a bank robbery, or an assassination.

But I think there might be another deeper problem for narrative depth within video games; a lack of emotional diversity. Narrative forms have the opportunity for ambiguous, complex endings, which viewers can be ambivalent towards. For instance, is the ending of “The God Father: Part 1” happy or sad? Neither. The film’s complexity is such that its finale cannot be categorized so simplistically. But the narratives at play in video games are intrinsically limited to finales which carry the connotation of victory, since the only way to reach the end of the narrative is to beat the game. A player wins or they loses; even if the story of the game has a clearly unhappy ending, it is still a victory for the player to have reached that end.

This calls back to the theme of narrative progression as a reward system in a video game; to win is to advance the narrative. I think it is precisely this sort of system which seems to make the narratives attached to video games shallow in nature, for with every other narrative medium, the narrative progression is not enjoyable because it is part of the reward system; narrative progression is rather the vehicle of enjoyment itself. You are not rewarded with narrative progression in books or movies, rather narrative progression is simply given to you, with the expectation that the quality of the narrative will cause the subjects to enjoy the progression. In other words, in video games getting through a story is almost a trophy; but in regular narrative mediums, getting progression through a story is done simply for the enjoyment of the story itself. The question is, do video games produce such stories, where even if the reward system was not in play, the player would still be interested in knowing how the narrative progressed? I am unsure.

Below is an article by Roger Ebert where he makes similar arguments against the video games ability to be an artform.

Research post #8

The above referenced article is from 2011, abc news conducted a story about the benefits of video media in educational. The story was actually conducted by a culmination of government agencies as well as independent researchers. They concluded that injecting some type of video media in the classroom improves literary skills when monitored by parents and teachers. Adults are also benefiting from this type of education, through more advanced skills in team working and communication.

With all the information contained in the article the one thing that stood out to me is the fact that there had to be an intense involvement from parents and teachers and I think this is the key to any child’s success.

Research Post #7

Educating the masses with video games, as we know is not full proof, but we can hold hope that the video gaming industry and possibly government officials can come together to create a type of curriculum within the school system to accomplish a harmony of the two.

The second part of my research I though should focus on not addiction so much as a negative but the connection that people have with gaming and using that to educate and motivate those that are entranced by gaming. So, really to better the overall gaming experience both for the avid gamer and the fanatic.

videogames, the humanities and judgment

As we move toward the end of course, it is time for some summative thoughts. I suppose one of my real dislikes about English and the humanities in general is our tendency to make summary judgments about issues. It is an odd contradiction of sorts. On the one hand, we are more than willingly, perhaps even obligated by our discipline, to recognize the uncertainty of interpretation; we will say that a poem or novel or film or painting could mean different things to different people (within reason of course). In part, this keeps us in business. Otherwise the meaning of artistic works could be settled once and for all! On the other hand, we are equally willing to pass judgments that we hold to be as certain as we deem our interpretations to be uncertain. We are quick to say this or that is good or bad, art or not art, racist or sexist, or something.

It is safe to say that videogames produce aesthetic experiences in humans (setting aside any judgment on the quality of those experiences) and that they circulate sociopolitical/cultural/ideological values (setting aside any judgment on those values).We may say the same of any artistic work, indeed any object that humans participated in making. These are the objects we tend to study across the humanities. In this respect they are as worthy of study as object.

However, there’s another glitch. Our traditional methods don’t allow us to study everything. Conventionally we have decided to study those things that we think are the “best” (another judgment): Shakespeare, for example. 40 years ago, we decided that what we had thought of as best was culturally biased (i.e. dead white guys), so we diversified our selection. But we didn’t get rid of the idea that we should study what was best; we just tried to shift our notion of what “best” meant. Alongside this move, we also started to pay more attention to pop culture (i.e. what wasn’t “best”) and the historical contexts of our objects (which also meant studying material that wasn’t “best” but could inform our understanding of the best objects).

I suppose that studying videogames could fit alongside pop cultural studies of popular movies, television, genre fiction, and so on. But I don’t see that as the context in a class on new media. Instead, our more general purpose is to investigate the cultural operation of emerging communications technologies: videogames just happens to be the example. Clearly we make judgments about videogames from video game reviews to studies on their psychological effects. But as a scholar I’m not interested in making those judgments myself; I am interested in understanding how those judgments are made. That is, I am interested in the mechanisms.

How do videogames produce aesthetic experiences? When we look at McGonigal or Galloway we get some answers to that question. We can consider human psychology or we might look at game mechanics, at gamic action as Galloway terms it. How do videogames circulate social values? Bogost offers us a plethora of different ways this happens. Nardi goes in depth into a single game to explore its social function.

So I ask you: what can we learn from studying videogames as humanists? How might emerging media shift our understanding of the purposes and methods of the humanities (purposes and methods invented and designed to operate in a print culture)?