Category Archives: Cline

Cline

Cline really makes you consider the way games can be more than just entertainment, but they can become something of an escape. This escape helped Wade through his hardships, especially losing both parents and living in tragic conditions. Just as McGonigal mentions, a game is something that is voluntarily played to achieve an unnecessary goal. With Halliday’s billion dollar account up for grabs, this gives people more incentive to play the game and win the money. The vision of the trailers stacked to allow more space is worrisome. This made me question our reality today, and wonder if McGonigal is correct in her theory that videogames have come to our rescue for helping with real life issue in society. To watch Wade become more intone with reality than his life he once made in videogames somewhat shows this different perceptions that McGonigal has. Videogames are similar to a vacation, it is short, bittersweet, but at the end of the day, it is essential to come back to that life we lead. Life continues on, and we as people have to also help be a part of keeping life clean and evolving properly. With real life issues mentioned such as global warming, it is important to see that escaping in videogames won’t really solve our problems, but actually partaking in real life events will.

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)?

Ready Player One

I finished this book and I came away thinking a little bit about Orwell’s “1984”, but a lot about how the book itself could so much be a video game.

In a lot of ways, this book would appeal to people of my parent’s generation because it refers to music and movies of the 80’s creating the nostalgia that so many of the baby boomers seem to have. It would also please any of my friends who are passionate video game geeks. I can’t say it is the best book that I have ever read, but, without putting in any spoilers, it was certainly very interesting.

The fact that Wade’s whole life is involved in OASIS is fascinating. As far as Halliday is concerned, I can see how the author states that “his behavior came off as bizarre, even by game designer standards”, giving the impression that he was “mentally ill”, with many obsessions that he expected “everyone around him to share”.

In Nardi’s book, she talks about how people socialize while playing WOW. Halliday seemed to be very much antisocial to a point where he ” seemed to deteriorate even further” as time went on.

Since one cannot use the term “addiction” medically as per McGonigal found out in her research, we can only be pleased that Wade was able to pull himself away from OASIS.

Is it that bad?

I truly appreciate the different genre that we have encountered for the last book of the semester.  this book seems like a crash course in 80’s pop culture.  I was familiar with some of the references suggest some of the games that were mentioned, but other references went over my head.  in general, I do think that this book is a good read but I believe that a hardcore gamer would appreciate this book much more than I did.

When reading a book that has won many awards I like to read the praise that is given to the author and their work.  Before entering Level One I thought I came across another critique what was actually an excerpt from Anorak’s Almanac.  It states that, “Being human totally sucks most of the time.   Videogames are the only thing that make my life bearable” (Chapter 91, Verses 1-2).  I think that it is safe to say that we have all wished that we can be something else rather than what we are. However I’m taking this class and doing numerous outside readings, there are many people really believe that the statement is true. Is reality really that unbearable that people have to find solace in the world?

Why so against seriousness?

The distinctly religious feel to “Ready Player One” becomes more evident as the book goes on. The story involves a mission given by the creator of the world, a miraculous resurrection, and at the end Wade is God-like powers; he is “immortal and all powerful” within OASIS. He is even given the ability to destroy the world if he deems it fit. The oddity of the book is that Wade’s journey to find the divine, takes place against the backdrop of nerdom, a fringe subculture which is generally marginalized, and certainly not given the level of seriousness of cultural significance as other subcultures like counter culture movement of the 60’s for instance. The book’s charm rests on marrying its highly traditionally religious themes, with the jaded attitude of geeks and gamers, (My favorite part of the book is when Halliday says to Wade “Pretty sweet, huh?” right after giving him what amounts to omnipotence.) which asks the reader to consider geek culture with more significance than they are typically asked to do.

The problem is, I’m not sure if geek culture, and the gaming community in particular is ready to be taken this seriously. In my research I’ve discovered a culture which is so hyper aware of its marginalized place in society that they become dismissive of any attempt at legitimate analysis. For instance, I’ve now read a few different articles which mention how ludonarrative dissonance, the phenomenon of a game’s actions not matching its narrative themes, is a pretentious term (see the article below). But in truth the name arises naturally out of the meaning of the concept. It’s a big phrase, but there’s nothing unnecessarily complex about it, so it seems strange that the words letter count has garnered almost as much attention as its meaning. This is just one small instance of a feature of gaming culture I’ve noticed over the duration of this course: A distaste of analysis. It seems the general attitude of the gaming community is ‘it’s just a game, and if you’re thinking too hard about it, then you’re doing something wrong.’ But the community won’t be taken seriously until it is willing to subject itself to the analytical scrutiny that other technologies and narrative are continuously undergo. Though it might be the case that such intellectual scrutiny would take a good deal of the fun from gaming.

http://snackedup.com/2013/05/21/flogging-a-dead-horse-ludonarrative-dissonance/

Hope for the Future in Ready Player One

I finished the book yesterday and while I know it wasn’t supposed to be a life changing literary treasure, it was still a bit of a struggle to get through. Mostly, as I said before, the 80’s references were too detailed. Every movie and video game, whether relevant or not, was given its own paragraph of description and by the time all of the new stuff happened in the book (such as Wade’s indentured servitude and then on) I didn’t care anymore. But that aside, I did very much enjoy the ending, particularly the final battle with all of the gunters against the IOI. Like Wade, I imagined that most of the gunters were there for themselves, or to simply sit and watch the bloodbath. But to my surprise, everyone did help. Given the overall pessimistic attitude of the book, I was almost certain that nothing ‘heroic’ would happen. Top that off with the ending advice given by Halliday’s character about enjoying the real world, the ending was full of surprises. While the “go out and live life” advice is hardly new, I found it interesting that Cline still thought to include it in this novel about video games. Sure, the world was a terrible place, but did that mean that video games were evil? In the OASIS, people could be who they wanted, meet and interact with anyone in the world, and live a life that wasn’t restricted to real life rules. Too much of anything is always bad, but I felt that the ending seemed a little disjointed to have this entire boy’s life changed for the good by video games, only to remind us to go outside once in a while.

geek culture and politics

Clearly, Ready Player One is a work of popular fiction and not one I offer to you as an object of great literary achievement of the kind you might typically read in a literature course. It does, however, present us with the history of geek culture, and not as a historian might present it, but as it was experienced by someone inside it (Cline). 30 years ago, few people would have imagined that our world would become infused with information technologies. At the dawn of the personal computing era no one would have guessed that the average American would be a daily computer user. No one would have thought that geeky kids sitting in their garages with motherboards would one day end up being among the wealthiest people in the world and wholly transform culture on a global scale. Today, it is commonplace to look upon geek culture as white, male, and elitist (though that certainly overlooks the significant Asian influences that we see in the novel, though on the flipside, it is interesting to trace the American influence on post-WWII Japan, particularly in terms of animé). Of course such complaints rely upon generalizations that we can always uncover as faulty (e.g. not all geeks are white and male, not all white males are geeks). If we were to push through with this image of geek culture presented in the novel (tech-savvy; well-educated: lover of sci-fi, video games, etc.) then we’d end up with a very small percentage of people who really don’t correspond to the general demographic of white male Americans (religious, conservative, no college degree, not readers, and certainly not readers of sci-fi, etc.).

So how might we describe the ideology driving geek culture? Probably the best place to begin would be with something like the Electronic Freedom Foundation. The EFF focuses on issues of privacy, freedom of information and operates as a watchdog against both corporate and government power. Or you might consider someone like Cory Doctorow or Bruce Sterling (in Ready Player One, Doctorow is the president of the OASIS). These political views might be best described as libertarian, though differently libertarian from the guy whose key issues are gun ownership and legal pot. What is commonly shared is a mistrust of government and corporation. We may not share these politics (perhaps we do). I am not interested in critiquing or defending these views here. Instead, I am interested in thinking through how geek politics and culture emerge together on the unlikely path to become central to American life.

For me this crystalizes right now in the form of MinecraftMinecraft has become a very popular game, but to be good at it requires some very geeky knowledge and dedication. There is a kind of geeky workflow associated with the game: working independently creating worlds, making “skins” and so on; spending hours on discussion forums; and developing a deeper than average understanding of computers and networks. In this sense, it’s more than a game. Not surprisingly, the games we play socialize us in certain ways. Geek culture is a certain kind of socialization. 30 years ago being a geek meant being a social pariah. Today it is something different, I think. Perhaps today the rise of the geeks has led us to view the culture differently, though perhaps no less negatively.