CP470 VGT SU14 Week2M1

Many of you have not thought about the confluence of gaming and culture. Say we fast forward 100 years and you are an archeologist/anthropologist and you come across a cache of video games (pick 2-3 games that you regularly play.) assuming you have the means to view/decode/play these games, what might you discern about the people/culture that created them?

30 thoughts on “CP470 VGT SU14 Week2M1

  1. Parrish Colbert

    With the progression of video games from the past till now, I have noticed a couple of differences from past games. One is that they have become a lot more violent over time and not only that but with the advancement of graphics you can get very specific and detailed in destruction. For example in the past the game Doom was about as violent as it got. Now that I look back on that game I don’t get the same effect from the violence because current games have desensitized my reactions. The games have also become a lot more creative because there have been a lot of things already done. I feel the future gaming society will look back on the development of gaming and say that it has come a long way but could have went further with more innovation. I feel gaming will be much more advanced in the future and they might look back at next generation consoles we have out now as vintage and poorly developed like Pacman. Looking back on us I would make out we are a very war obsessed and materialistic society. Most game premises are based around some kind of or end of the world. Here is an example of what I mean below.

    Mortal Kombat 1992: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPyIK_Vnbl4

    Mortal Kombat 2014:http://www.gamespot.com/videos/mortal-kombat-x-fatality-compilation/2300-6419764/

    1. Pepperz

      Your observation of our era’s fascination with apocalyptic, eschatological, and end-of-days themes extends to other areas of popular culture as well. The Y2K bug, X-Men Apocalypse is slated for 2016, 2012 the film and general concern, the Left Behind series, et cetera, are all recent works of art of social phenomenon that reveal anxieties about human extinction and the death of the individual.

      As far as subject matter is concerned and what the future will discern form it, I believe you’re totally right about violence and apocalypse as being revealing and indicative of the past.

      Also, the question, as I interpret it, seems to suggest a “break” in historical continuity as the only reason an archaeologist would be studying a game from 100 years or so ago would be if it was completely buried and unknown. I think that maybe such a society in the future may even question the idea of video-games since the idea of digital media may have become culturally sedimented and socially integrated to the point where traditional games have become the past time again.

      1. Ryan Freels

        This end of the world scenario often full of violence also feels like a counter-intuitive chain. Violence threatens to hurt are world so we threaten to use violence, and turn the issue of violence into some less abstract villain. Granted there are films and games that may suggest something more abstract at work even while putting down an enemy, such as corporate greed, media representation,hegemonic masculinity, and Freudian father-son relationships in the new Spiderman movies, and some even critique the notion of the “other” like Iron Man 3. Also, perhaps the serial nature of these with different villains address the cycle. However, there is still often that clear enemy we have to hurt to save everything, and the cycle remains.

    2. Aaron Miller

      I agree with the innovation aspect of your post. I think that eventually there will be gaming systems where you are completely immersed in the game you are playing via a headset or virtual reality. Gaming systems of today, although they may seem cutting edge to us now, will have no way to compare with technology of that magnitude. I don’t think that in the future they will think that we were not innovative enough though. I think that we have done a lot with what technology we have at the moment and that once new technology is available it will be utilized. Yes, our games now will look outdated compared to the future of gaming. However, I don’t think people will look back and think “They could have done better.”

    3. Chelsea Spence

      I agree with you that gaming will be much more advanced in the future. Some of the people I follow on Youtube have tried out the Oculus Rift and it is crazy to think that we are coming so far in game development already to the point of being able to feel in the game. It’s so strange to think that when I was only about five or six, we had the Super Nintendo which had ‘amazing graphics’ for a few games, or playing Crash Bandicoot on the Playstation when I was older. Now, if I look back on those graphics, I just shake my head, because it’s such a different experience seeing them now when we have all this new technology and amazing detail, rather than when blocky characters were the norm.
      And while I agree with you about becoming desensitized to violence, I believe it only applies to certain types of games. For example, it’s no big deal nowadays if you’re playing a first person shooter and you pick someone off with a headshot and blood bursts out. Same with playing games like Mortal Kombat and you see someone being ripped apart. Horror games can still make me turn away from the screen wincing or make me have to pause the game if there is torture or random scares followed by blood.

    4. Garretkay Willis Bonner

      I can agree with that concept that violence has basically become a staple for video games and it does now desensitize our reactions to violence and if future societies keep making video games the phrase “next gen” might be worthless because realistically Atari and PlayStation 1 were most likely next gen of their times. Overall there is no next gen just the next step

  2. Aaron Miller

    I think it is always an interesting concept to think about what kind of legacy the work we create and entertainment we consume leaves behind for future generations. Many games glorify violence, whether it be first person shooter games, the Grand Theft Auto series, or any of the countless other violent games, violence is a theme that runs throughout a good majority of video games. Not only are the games violent, but they encourage the player to revel in the violence and to see killing as a fun activity. 100 years in the future they could either think that we are a violent culture, which I do not believe we are to an extreme extent, or they will think that we are a culture that bottles up our aggression and takes it out through our video games. I believe the latter is closer to what is really behind the excessive violence. We are a culture that is constantly taught to keep our unsavory emotions pent up and video games are seen as a positive way to get out “negative” emotions like sadness, anger, or aggression. Men are often the ones that society tells should bottle up their emotions, so to me it is no surprise that men make up the majority when it comes to video game play.

    I also think that future generations will look on our video games and see that women are weak and often victimized (as well as exaggeratedly not proportional) and that people of color are often regulated to villain roles and rarely playable characters. These generations will see us as a patriarchal society that still views races other than Caucasian as “the other”. These aspects are slowly improving with more recent games such as the Walking Dead video game having playable black characters and the Tomb Raider series revamping Lara Croft’s body; but these issues are still large within video games. However women still frequent the damsel in distress role very often, which you see very little of male characters filling that role of needing to be saved.

    I think that the legacy that our video games leave behind is not necessarily a negative one. I think that the graphic and intense violence, while I do not personally enjoy those kinds of games, serves a purpose in our society and makes sense why they exist. However I do not see the sexist and racial tropes that get played over and over again as necessary or a good legacy to leave behind. Unlike the possible reasonings for the glorified violence, I can’t think of any positive way to spin the way women and different races are depicted time and time again in games.

    1. Ryan Freels

      I pretty strongly agree with everything said here. Along with video games being ways to bottle up are aggression, they will see that violence can eventually leak out of are game play sessions and impact our interactions with other outside of gaming, such as when gamers started to physically threaten Anita Sarkeesian over her videos. We value what is violent, and when it is critiqued, violence is how we handle it.

      While my comments reflect harsh criticism of violence, I do not think that all violent games are all bad. I also don’t think everyone who plays them are prone to violence. It is the sheer abundance that reflects a cultural addiction in them that bothers me. The progression of more violence shows the addiction getting stronger. Also, as you pointed out, there is the racism and sexism that blends in with them. The fact that in such violent media we display negative views of race and sex is very intimidating. Even when we are “saving the girl” it is displaying heroism in the most objectifying way possible, and games that try to complicate it follow the same chain and maintain the message. While it admittedly has its flaws, one of the reasons I loved Braid was it acknowledged the possessive nature of the heroes in these.

    2. Natalie Masucci

      I agree with your comment on women especially given that Ubisoft won’t even put a lead playable character in their new Assasin’s Creed game because it ” would take too much time to create”. I honestly feel as it is a bogus excuse from video game companies to be sexist and rule out women from even playing their games.

      1. Ashley Cradeur

        I agree that video games have become very violent and have turned into an outlet to release aggression. The media in almost every form has desensitized us to violence and I feel video games are the main culprit because many use it as a form of release. Video games have become so much more realistic and will continue to do so. With countless violent games on the market, players are able to violently stab and shoot video game character with out any sense of remorse. This carries over to real life when seeing a brutal killing on the news or in the paper and prevents us from feeling strong remorse.

    3. Stefan Grimsley

      II’m really glad you brought up the white protagonist and the non playable female characters. Though we are seeing a slow transition the other way, look at some of the top RPG’s out there( Elder Scrolls, Fallout, WoW, Saints Row) where character design is a big part of the game, be and play who ever you wish. My big stipulation of violent video games is really the market saturation. Violence has always had a presence in any media, its just the first thing that comes to mind when we say video game. I don’t see it as a method of bottling up our aggression but merely a tool to exercise our curiosity of things that we are not allowed to do based on either laws of man or physics.

    4. Parrish Colbert

      I agree with your first paragraph on violence and how it is almost the innovation point now in today’s gaming culture. For the most part sadness is not one of the emotions it was built for you to feel when it comes to killing even if you just kill an innocent civilian. In most games today you get awarded for excessive violence whether you go into some kind of rage mode or onslaught mode it helps advance you faster.

  3. Jennifer Machura

    I guess I’m on a different page than everyone else…

    I have found it interesting how there has been a big resurgence of 80’s and style throughout the past few years. 80’s synthpop influences mainstream music and studios have been churning out movies based on toys, games, and television shows (Transformers, 21 Jump Street) . This has also crossed over into many video games, particularly a gem called Fez. The game itself looks like it’s straight from the original Nintendo catalog. Vivid colors and boxy surroundings dominate the game’s landscape as the titular character bounces around. Everything is obviously pixelated, a tribute games like Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong.

    I think that, by looking at games like Fez or Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which looks like the early 90’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game) and comparing them to the games of the 1980’s, an anthropologist from the future could determine that the people who created the later games borrowed heavily from the past so they could fulfill some sense of nostalgia felt by consumers. Perhaps they did this to satisfy their own yearning for the past, or because they knew that it would appeal to others’ emotions. Maybe it was their intention to pay homage to their roots.

    Whatever the case may be, I think today’s games would show how society resurrects the past, producing bodies of work that borrow from a time gone by. It could have to do with the simple aesthetics of these games, but I think it may go deeper than that. Although I was just a kid in the 80’s, I remember it being a time of prosperity and optimism (for the most part). You didn’t have to take your shoes off in airport security lines and you could still drink water that came out of your tap. People got along and there was an overall feeling of freshness. I think people miss that feeling and sometimes try and recapture that. Making video games that hold onto that decade through graphics and sound may provide some players with an overall sense of comfortable nostalgia.

    If an anthropologist looked back 100 years from now, he may see our society as one which is constantly moving toward the future, but also looking to the past for inspiration and emotional comfort.

  4. Ryan Freels

    I have thought some on video games and culture, but even more so films, television and animation. SO I will be using that to aid me in understand. That being said I am also ready to find variance in the culture.

    I believe that if this were to happen they would be under the belief that we were a pretty barbaric society, and the games that demonstrate other wise would be considered a form of counter culture or merely lesser in its violent content (while mainstream games like the Mario franchise are way different than Fallout 3 but are still violent). Juxtaposed with the history of war, Fox news recordings, violent news in general internet rants, violent films, violent television, violent literature, violent music, etc., they will see a culture that is very aggressive and very afraid of being threatened. They could even speculate the video games are a form or preparation for violence, what with video games being used for preparation in the military. I do not believe they will think video games and explosive phenomena, but the logical next step based on a series of ranging media over time that we celebrate, such old westerns, Tom and Jerry cartoons, super hero comics, slasher films, critically acclaimed films such as The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Pulp Fiction, etc. If one is to point out that some of these films critique it, that could very well be true, but even some of the material with social commentary might relish in something so much one might speculate if they are trying to have their cake and eat it too. Critique it, but also relish in it.

    They will also find varying value systems based on different allegiances to video games. While the “Death Battle” video between Goku and Superman is not a video game as an example it, establishes the same principle. After they judged Superman had won, there were fans that got genuinely furious, posting youtube comments and video displaying verbally violent behavior, despite this being an interpretation of fictional data (I am firm believer in all fiction being head canon outside of implications based on history, culture, politics, etc. It can be debated who would win a fight, but not debated that “Birth of a Nation” was racist based on history, culture, content. every thing about it, etc.).

    1. Ryan Freels

      Three games that I have played regularly that make my point are Fallout 3, Resident Evil 4, and Batman: City. While I have enjoyed all three of these games, and as I have said, I don’t think a violent video games in necessarily bad, they are a part of the chain of violence saturation in media that I find problematic. The foreign villain in RE: 4 also carries on a problematic trope of the foreign evil. Granted, I feel this is done as a B-movie conscious trope, it still does nothing to remedy the problematic chain.

      1. Parrish Colbert

        I agree with Fallout and Resident Evil. Games like Batman are still trying to be someone child-friendly since they were developed from the comic books children still read today. I wonder if or when that will change though

  5. Natalie Masucci

    I have often given thought of what people are actually learning from the games they are playing and what it reflects upon culture. Take minecraft for example. There is a huge debate going on between parents and the school system because it seems as if children are loosing their creativity due to school’s strict guidelines. I also have noticed minecraft is geared at all ages, even youngsters ( just today I was at Kohls and they were selling boys sized minecraft tshirts). To some, this has become their escape to be creative and with that video games can be beneficial to a child’s growth in the modern day world. Anthropologists would be amazed with how we adapted to such a situation.

    At the same time, though , there can be links made to show how people’s mindsets could change due to video games. In recent news, one girl was stabbed by a group of girls who believed the victim was in cahoots with Slenderman ( a horror figure of a video game). If anthropologists would relate gaming to events such as these, they may think that our culture was doomed.

    However, if you consider the progression of our video game culture ( from Pong to Peggle), we have grown and learned a lot . The current top selling newly released video games are Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U, the Destiny preorder, and Grand Theft Auto 5. Personally, I believe Mario Kart is merely for entertainment and anthropologists would think the same way too. When it comes to Destiny or GTA, though, they may think we are thirsting for violence or this is out we take care of stress, by killing in a video game. They may believe that if the games were taken away that we would still be this blood thirsty. I do not agree with that and I think this is merely all based upon imagination and a fun creative way to relieve stress.

    1. Ryan Freels

      Your point about Slenderman is interesting and I hadn’t thought of that as a connection. I had though about more in sense of the belief the devil is talking to you. I would add that Slenderman goes beyond a video game character, and is a creepypasta character. Creepypasta is essentially the haunted folklore in the age of new media, ranging from video games, to television, to websites, and so on. It is also more notable for being spread by internet rather than paper text or word of mouth. However, being a new media fictitious construct effecting real life is still a really good point. Kinda wish I thought of that.

      Also, I agree. Violence in media (especially at the level it is present) is not just a fun creative way to relieve stress. When considered how much is in this media, other media, and real life. While I also believe that people that play these games are not necessarily violent, to say there is no connection with these thing when they all are present in and emerge from the minds of the human race, it seems far-fetched to say there is no connection.

      1. Parrish Colbert

        I feel Slenderman is very innovative because instead of showing you the violence, it almost makes you fill in the gaps of what happens to your character. The unknown is a lot more scary than blunt violence.

  6. Gage Cascio

    I would most likely come to the conclusion that we are all desensitized sociopaths quite addicted to the idea of killing humans, aliens, dead humans, really anything we could get our hands on. I would surmise the racially charged violence shown in games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare influenced a great amount of the population. If videogames have continued to evolve into the future through to the already burgeoning virtual reality, our generation would seem so uncultured or unrefined. Hopefully, the future generation wouldn’t have evolved too far so I could respect the level of technology that we’d managed to reach in our time. I’d also see the dependence some of our society puts on the realm of videogames and its ability to distract from the open culture. Yet finally, I’d see the brilliant and ambitious stories we tried to tell, especially in games released in the last ten years, and would respect our producers’ dedication to creating immense and emotional adventures such as The Last Of Us and The Mass Effect Trilogy. I’d love our generation of games all over again.

  7. Stefan Grimsley

    I feel that if I were to uncover such a find my first reaction would be to ask “why the violence”. But I don’t see games as a tool of teaching (though that does have that potential) I see games as I means of escape. I feel that anthropologists will review us as a culture of escape if you will. While it’s a safe bet that you can find Battlefield or Call of Duty in just about any ones collection of games, other games such as Mine Craft, Candy Crush, and Farmville should not be overlooked. I believe we will be looked at as a culture that is constantly looking for an outlet to drown out our world around us. I feel that our violent video games are not there to teach violence but a means of escape and do the taboo with no consequence. Looking at media from generations (Shakespeare, Poe, Cowboy Western’s, Comics, Action Flicks) before us there has always been a violent under current. So while I do feel they would look at the violence I think it will be more of the study on how technology has allowed us to bridge the gap from protagonists to audience, and the addiction if you will that can take hold of the player in his/her accessibility to escape the normal world and plug into a fictitious character and leave behind the world we wish to escape.

  8. Chelsea Spence

    The first thing that stood out to me when reading the chapter was its mention of linguistics and the comparison between studying gaming as a culture by learning as children learn to speak. This interested me greatly because my minor is in linguistics. I also find a lot of truth to what the text had to say. We learn how to play a game systematically, through trial-and-error. The same goes for how we learn language as children. A child may say “goed to the store” rather than “went” because he or she is learning what is the correct thing to say through testing it out and having people correct him or her. The same thing goes for gamers who pick up a game for the first time and are unsure whether something will help them or kill them until they touch it and find out for sure.

    Another thing I found interesting was the subculture of gaming. I thought of my boyfriend, who gets on Skype with his friends weekly. They play all different kinds of computer games, usually League of Legends, Smite, or Magicka, and they talk trash (“noob”, “scrub”) and have different words for things that would otherwise not be called that in real life (“dargon” for dragon). It made me laugh to think of him and his group of friends as a subculture of gaming, but upon analysis, it is very true that they are.

  9. Clayton Goodman

    Fast-forwarding a hundred years, I don’t think the playing field would be that different. I think that there would be aspects of video games such as violence that would be relatable to the scholars of that time. Games like Grand Theft Auto V break records for a reason. Violence is at the core of human nature, part of the fight or flight response. Many people, even one’s who see themselves as beyond violence enjoy a good football or hockey game. I think that anyone looking on would expect our culture to be less violent because we are allowed to vent these emotions in video games instead of in physical violence. We get the treat of a daily Coliseum match, no warm bodies needed. I give the people of the future more credit than optimistic fantasies. As much as society wants to believe it, change doesn’t come that fast. Our boom in technological advancement will plateau at some point and 100 years is not all that long (remember there are people older than that alive today). Also, I think that much of the materialistic, greed, and womanizing in Grand Theft Auto V is accurate of our culture today and would translate as such because it is presented in a cynical and over-the-top fashion.
    In a game such as Half-Life I think that an archaeologist might see the culture of today as individualists. The whole power-trip of the FPS is the feeling that you can take on an army by yourself. One against the world is a huge aspect in American culture and will ,hopefully, continue to be in the future. The Headcrab zombies could be portrayed as others in life trying to drag you, the individualist, down into the crowd of nameless pawns in a scheme that has nothing to do with anyone, but affects everyone (If you have played Half-Life you know what I mean). This is very reminiscent of our government today. They vote in congress, not for the people, but for their own political and monetary gain. In turn they screw the whole country. G-man could be seen as a lobbyer of sorts, convincing aka forcing Gordon to do his employer’s(s’) bidding. So, in the end, the scholar would find that the individualist is victorious… but not really.

  10. Garretkay Willis Bonner

    Given some of the games that I do play now such as something like either Assassin’s Creed or Batman: Arkham series what can be said about those type of games is that there most certainly had to be a factor of violence also what can be said is that there is a noticeable amount of free play in those games meaning that it is not required to move on from instantly from one mission to the next but the chance to explore the game environment. That can also say a bit about the procrastination that plagues people in life as having a task that is necessary to do, and instead doing something that seems more interesting instead of what needs to be done. Another thing that can be said if for instance either of these franchises are remembered is that is that games revolved around pop culture icons, or how much games are related to movies and were used as merchandising as a large amount of games made today can coincide with movies

  11. Ashley Cradeur

    One of the things I’ve notice about many of the popular games today is that they embody the male power fantasy. The male power fantasy is a trope that is used in many forms of media that plays on the “typical male fantasy” to be a hero, villain, sports superstar etc. These games allow “primarily” males to act out there fantasy desires if you will, that they are unable to do in real life. This is evident in almost all of the top selling games on the market right now. For example, according to The Fiscal Times (http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/esa_ef_2013.pdf ) the bestselling video games of 2013 were Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV), Call of Duty: Ghosts, and FIFA 2014. All three of these games fulfill the male power fantasy. In GTAV the three main characters are male, and the goal of the game is to commit as many criminal acts as possible. As fun as this game is (I’ve just started playing but I can see why it is so popular) it can easily be considered a male power fantasy game because it allows for player to “imagine” actually committing these crimes with out actually doing them in real life. In Call of Duty: Ghosts, the story is mostly told through the eyes of one single character, Logan Walker. When playing in the single player mode, one assumes the role of Logan for most of the game. There are several other playable characters such as astronaut specialist named Baker, and Logan’s father, Elias Walker but again they’re all male. This game allows players to play out there hero fantasy much like the entire Call of Duty series. FIFA 2014 allows males to play out their sports fantasy. This game revolves around the sport soccer but there are also many other top selling sports related video games, such as Madden that also do the same thing.

    I thought this was very interesting because according to Video Gamer Demographics 2013 (http://www.theesa.com/facts/pdfs/esa_ef_2013.pdf) 45% of video game users are female. That’s almost half the users! And this number keeps getting higher. Unfortunately the video game industry follows the same trend as most forms of media in today’s society primarily appealing to the male demographic but it is slowly changing. Women are not the only under represented demographic in video games and the media as a whole but it is interesting to acknowledge these facts and to see them change. I think in the future people will look back at our time and view it as changing period, not only with from a demographic stand point but also a technology stand point and I am excited to see how our culture will evolve in the next few years.

  12. Austin Bennett

    “Wow, gaming really hit a new low with this ‘Angry Birds…'”

    I don’t think my repertoire of gaming reflects the masses, but if I had to pick 3 games that would represent what gaming is in this day and age I’d select Grand Theft Auto V, New Super Mario World, and Angry Birds. It’s a mixed bag of choices, but to me this is a good representation of what the VG market looks like nowadays. Things used to be simple with very core games like Pong, Asteroids, or Brick Breaker. Heck, Super Mario Bros. is very straightforward, as was pacman, donkey kong, and Sonic. Megaman too. But somewhere along the way we longed for complexity and familiarity, and we became a world of sequels. Not just with film, but with VG’s too. Being one who is not as versed in upcoming game releases as I am with theatrical ones, every november I see the latest installment in every franchise who got critical or commercial recognition the year before. It’s nowhere near a bad thing, but the VG and movie market has been overrun by things like this. Last year, 14 of the 15 top grossing movies were sequels or adaptations. Kinda bonkers to think about.

    And so that’s why every pick on my list is the beginning or continuation of a franchise, each starting once as original and fresh (but still enjoyable as hell). GTAV because of our obsession with violence, and just the sheer fact that it is promoted in the form of mowing down cops and civilians, and pulling crazy heists (that’s what I do when I play, and I’ll write about that for my assignment). NSMW because nintendo likes to repackage older games with new graphics and slightly different worlds, and we eat it up! Every now and then we get a fresh slice, say with Pokemon X or Mario Kart 8, which bring all new things to the table with how to play. Maybe minute in most cases, but still new! And Angry Birds to represent the casual side of gaming, which itself is not immune to franchise. THEY’RE GETTING A MOVIE. This also represents gaming on the go, and how these games are copied like crazy (anyone follow flappy bird when it came and went? We got FLAPPY MILEY. i was itching to buy it).

    So with these games I think that it shows that originality exists, but when it doesn’t comes in innovation, and a willingness to eat the same thing over and over and over again, just from a different package. But maybe it’s because familiarity is comforting, and video games are most often viewed as a comforting experience, even with the vitriol it came sometimes fuel us with!

  13. Austin Bennett

    To comment on the reading, I thought it was very interesting that games are essentially a form of communication. Maybe the fact that the exchange is between actions (and sometimes words) means that it doesn’t register as much, that it becomes like any interaction we can have in the real world, expressing comraderie and accomplishing tasks (albeit a little less violent…).

    i’ve asked before, do you analyze everything you do in the real world in an academic and theoretical context?

    The distinction between core and shell in terms of gaming also gave me a new insight to the structure of games, and I definitely think that while developers primarily focus on core gaming, the shell is where they can really show off. Bungie did that with Halo Reach (or was that 343?), and it was incredible beautiful to watch, but at times it just felt like a rail shooter with a little more control…

  14. Jaylin Johnson

    I know that I’m late to this unfortunately.

    So gaming has come a long way since when it first began. Interestingly enough in regards to the question at the top of the page, many people actually do debate what technically was the very first video game ever made. When this question is asked most people usually immediately point their fingers at pong of course but that is debatable actually. There are a few people who are generally aware of the things and technological aspects that came before it or led up to it, but what I find to be the most interesting is people often wonder if these actually count as video games.

    I’ve stated before in one of the previous discussions about what technically counts as a video game, and this definitely is a reflection of that question. The chapter talks heavily about communication in these games and therefore leads me to ask us as a species and then as a society how well do we connect to aspects of our own past? Many people do enjoy history but it seems that the further back we go and the primitive something seems in comparison to now, the harder it is to relate to or understand the original intention of it. This goes especially for things that were for simple entertainment, like to use different types of examples: music, dance, parties, celebrations ect.

    When I look back at video games that came during my time as a small child, I couldn’t share the same excitement for it, that older children did for the video game industry. Why is that? Well I was born in the year 1995, this was the era when 3d video games were beginning to become immensely popular because games had finally made the leap to the third dimension and companies were pushing to be at the height of the competition. This was the era of big games like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. To me this was my introduction to these game series, I mean yes I played the previous entries in these series as a kid but they were just other installments in the franchise. To everyone else it was a big deal it was the time to see their favorite franchises and new ones emerge in a whole new world. Ironically enough, despite the dimension change, many of these were essentially the same games, but from more thrilling perspectives. If this is how games from my earliest years felt like to me, then how could games from before my time feel to me then and now?

    The games will most certainly communicate something to me, but the funny thing is that communication changes so much in such a short amount of time, and in the case of gaming, this is due to how the game industry changes so much. This why some look back on games that were immensely popular at their time and say “Wow this was great for the time, but it doesn’t really hold up well at all”. Standards change and people have more to look up too. For example I recently went back to play some of the older 3d games of my childhood and you know what common problem I found amongst every single one of them? The camera was not very well designed. It often was troublesome to control and could become situated into several odd angles. Of course that was probably much easier to ignore or not notice at the time.

  15. Cr0uch_P0tat0e

    The 2-3 games that I would have come across (going off the 3 games I currently play mores) would have been Battlefield 4, Borderlands 2, and either Halo 3 or 4. If you know video games at all, you will know that all of these are shooters, as that’s what I have been most interested in as of the last few games I played consistently. If I was an archeologist and stumbled upon these, my first assumption would have been that the culture (at the times of the games release) were obsessed with fighting, war, guns/shooting, or aliens. These all also have multiplayer capabilities, so I might assume that most or all games that were released at this time were focused on being able to play by yourself or with friends, expanding the games reach amongst it’s players. They are all also focused on the “good guys” taking on the “bad guys”, so they might assume we were interested in stories of good vs. evil.

  16. Sam Lundberg

    I’m not completely up on actually playing a lot of recent games, due to finances, but to pick three, at semi-random, that happen to be near me – the Mass Effect trilogy, Skyrim, and the Batman: Arkham games – I’ll try to analyze what I find interesting about them.

    One thing that’s fascinating about the Bioware games in general, and that I think reflects more generally the cultural moment we find ourselves in, is the emphasis on moral choice. Of all the ramifications of the shifts of games from interpersonal experiences of skill to interactions with an impersonal machine are these elements of more advanced narrative arcs. Of course, there were role-playing games, but, having played through some of the campaigns sold back then, there were few choices involved except one spell versus another.

    Unlike the Knights of the Old Republic games of a few years ago, when the moral choice was between clear evil and clear good, the Mass Effect games’ moral choices fall more along the lines of the realistically efficient and the more morally excusable, neatly mirroring much of the conversations about the American military’s rhetoric of violence against terrorists. Any sociologists of the future, I believe, would find it remarkable, given the culture-wide repetition of this theme – are morally questionable acts of violence forgivable when they produce information – that those who support the acts of violence managed to shape the conversation to such a degree that it is taken as a given that the morally questionable violence will naturally produce more information, against most real life research on the topic. In the Mass Effect games, the Renegade option, the violent and ethically questionable one, almost always is more efficient than the Paragon one, which encourages discussion over violence.

    Skyrim also encourages choice, but of a different variety: choice of narrative form. While a lot of conversation around it has claimed, to some extent or another, that the game allows you to “write your own story” with its openness, that’s a bit of an exaggeration: Instead of the roller-coaster ride of even other fantasy games, like the first two Witcher titles, you’re free to select from a series of smaller narrative nodes, being quests or dungeons. What I find interesting about this, and what I think future generations would, too, is the degree to which fiction is progressing towards a place where the work that corresponds to a specific title is less often a concise experience with a defined beginning and end, and more towards a progressive narrative which, while containing no shortage of climaxes in between, never finally settles and concludes. One sees this in the move to increasingly serialized television, to the point where even genres that seemed destined to stay episodic forever, like comedies, are expected to have some serialized elements; in films, in the movement to series instead of stand-alone films, and specifically to interlocked series where the climax is eternally deferred to the next film, whether by after-credit tags or open refusal to offer an ending, like the Hobbit films; in literature, in the movement to young adult fiction, which is obsessed with the trilogy form. The key to these structures, and especially Skyrim, is the implication of eternal, but segmented, progression, in Skyrim through the leveling system. Instead of the slow progression of older RPGs, where a new level bumps your stats up a fraction, the perks in Skyrim often seem to radically change the game, in the way that the cliffhangers and twist endings of recent serialized TV seem to radically change the series constantly.

    What is the end result of this? I would say that, in the same way it functions in super-serialized fiction, it constantly offers the feeling that the real game is about to start, that you’re really going to start enjoying this piece of art, now that you have the ability to cast two-handed spells. If Lacan is right, and enjoyment is the expectation of the future thing you think you will enjoy, then Skyrim is the most enjoyable game of all, and that element of it speaks to the way the generation of media experience is changing.

    What I am curious about in the Batman games, which I think speaks to our cultural moment, is its treatment of prisoners. I can’t get into it here, for want of space, but I think that the prisoners in the Batman games fill the role of the Sadean victim in Lacan’s essay on Sade: the body that can take an infinite amount of punishment and never die. To focus the idea for this comment: It comes from a place of fascination about something within the body of the punished. Batman never kills the thugs, no matter how thoroughly he breaks their bones, electrocutes them, or blows them up, far beyond what any real body could take. The Lacanian hypothesis is that this comes from a fascination from an extra element within the victim’s body.

    Applying this more specifically to the Batman games, I think it comes from the comic book, and specifically the Batman, approach to the criminal’s psychology. Most of the major criminals turn to the life of crime due to some life-changing trauma, typically caused by Batman: Bruce Wayne destroys the Penguin’s family’s fortune (at least, in the current version), or dumps the Joker into acid accidentally. Without those traumatic elements, the random prisoners who attack Batman have a mystery about them. No socioeconomic factors can be used as explanations: these criminals are all gibbering violent thugs with nothing on their minds, judging by their off-hand conversations, but slaughter and rape. I believe this fascination with the criminal comes from a real societal place of not allowing ourselves to understand their position, because crime being the logically only available option to survive is meaningless in the mythic America, where everyone can succeed, given enough of a chance, and where no one needs help constructing their self-identity, which, supposedly, needs no help. Given Batman’s refusal to kill, and given that his personal, ethical refusal thus transcendentally makes it impossible for him to kill, this brings the cultural relationship with prisoners to its most extreme point.

    It’s a little hard to express all of my ideas about this in these brief comments, but I hope it makes some sense.

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