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computer games fdm 20c introduction to digital media lecture 25.05.2007. warren sack / film & digital media department / university of california, santa cruz. outline. computer games: how do they work?

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computer games

fdm 20c introduction to digital media

lecture 25.05.2007

warren sack / film & digital media department / university of california, santa cruz

  • computer games: how do they work?
    • how do they work “behind the screen”? i.e., how do they work from the perspective of an engineer?
      • a simple example of pong in javascript
    • how do they work “in front of the screen”? i.e., how do they work for the audience or participant?
      • sherry turkle on computer games and processes of identification
      • henry jenkins on computer games, gender and space
what s in a game engine
what’s in a game engine?
  • graphics
  • physics
  • ai
  • ...and a lot more
game mods
game “mods”
  • example development environment: epic’s unreal engine:
movies with game engines
movies with game engines
  • example: tum raider:
  • utilities for learning how to do machinima:
programming an example
programming: an example
  • pong in javascript
    • physics: what makes the ball bounce?
    • ai: can an opponent be programmed to play against a human player?
games research and development
games research and development
  • example groups and events:
    • the game developers’ conference:
    • game studies: academic journal:
    • research groups:
      • academic: e.g., Center for Computer Games Research, IT University of Copenhagen
      • industry: and, of course, the folks at Microsoft, Electronic Arts, etc.
    • art:
      • e.g., the show Bang the Machine: Computer Gaming Art and Artifacts (Jan 17–Apr 4, 2004 @ Yueba Buena Arts Center, SF)
      • e.g., alternative games competition, at the New Museum, New York City, March 2004
ludology versus narratology
ludology versus narratology
  • "One of the reasons I think Myst was successful was that people are used to being entertained with stories. There're lots of ways to entertain, but the two primary ones are story—which is television and movies and books and all that—and the other is gameplay—blackjack and football and Parcheesi. There’re other ones, but those are two we are very familiar with. I think the mass market audience is more familiar with story. The first campfire the guys on the hunt come back with a story to tell--that is something anybody can partake in.”
    • Rand Miller, co-creator of Myst and Riven, speaking about his new game Uru
what makes a good game1
what makes a good game?
  • play? or,
  • story? or,
  • realism? or, is it
  • something else?
history of computer games
history of computer games
  • see
  • see SpaceWar! on the CD for the NMR
  • see The Java Arcade Emulator:
  • do games get better and better every year?
    • how? is it
      • play? or,
      • story? or,
      • realism? or, is it
      • something else?
  • or maybe they don’t get better every year? maybe they get worse?
two issues to consider from film theory
two issues to consider from film theory
  • identification:
    • how do people relate to the characters and action on the screen?
      • e.g., what do women do/think when the hero is a man versus when the hero is a woman?
    • what does a designer or filmmaker do to facilitate the audience’s/players’ relations with characters and actions on the screen?
      • e.g., filmmaking techniques: POV, suture, the 180 degree rule, etc.
  • space
two issues to consider from film theory1
two issues to consider from film theory
  • identification:
  • space:
    • what is the space of cinema/games? what can the audience/player see or do there?
    • what can the designer or filmmaker do to increase, decrease, or change the space?
      • e.g., montage and also think about the filming and editing techniques llisted above concerning identification
two issues to consider from film theory2
two issues to consider from film theory
  • identification: sherry turkle on identification
  • space: henry jenkins on space and gender
more than identification
more than identification
  • “When you play a video game you enter into the world of the programmers who made it. You have to do more than identify with a character on the screen. You must act for it. Identification through action has a special kind of hold. Like playing a sport, it puts people into a highly focused, and highly charged state of mind. For many people, what is being pursued in the video game is not just a score, but an altered state.
    • from Sherry Turkle, “Video Games and Computer Holding Power”
video games as
video games as ...
  • video games as “metaphysical machines”
  • “perfect mirrors”
  • “drugs”
  • “contests”
    • from Sherry Turkle, “Video Games and Computer Holding Power”
  • Identification is known to psycho-analysis as the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person. It plays a part in the early history of the Oedipus complex. A little boy will exhibit a special interest in his father; he would like to grow like him and be like him, and take his place everywhere. We may say simply that he takes his father as his ideal.
    • from Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego
        • Cf., Jacques Lacan on “The Mirror Stage,” and writings about identification in film theory by Laura Mulvey, Kaja Silverman, Christian Metz, Stephen Heath, and others
evocative objects
evocative objects
  • What is Sherry Turkle referring to when she writes about “evocative objects”?
        • Melanie Klein, along with Sigmund Freud and W.R.D. Fairbairn, contributed ideas to make up what we now know as object relations. First Freud introduced the idea of object choice, which referred to a child's earliest relationships with his caretakers. Such people were objects of his needs and desires. The relationship with them became internalized mental representations. Subsequently Melanie Klein coined the term partial objects, for example the mother's breast, which played an important role in early development and later in psychic disturbances, such as excessive preoccupation with certain body parts or aspects of a person as opposed to the whole person. Finally, Fairbairn and others developed the so-called object relations theory. According to it, the child who did not receive good enough mothering increasingly retreated into an inner world of fantasy objects with whom he tried to satisfy his need for real objects, that was for relationships.
        • Linda M. Woolf,
video games discussed by turkle
video games discussed by turkle
  • space war
  • pong
  • asteroids
  • pac man
  • joust
  • adventure
    • Some working versions:
    • history of video games: high score: the illustrated history of electronic games by rusel demaria & johnny wilson (mcgraw-hill, 2002)
  • “In the 19th century, children living along the frontier or on America’s farms enjoyed free range over a space which was ten square miles or more. Elliot West (1992) describes boys of 9 or 10 going camping alone for days on end, returning when they were needed to do chores around the house. The early 20th century saw the development of urban playgrounds in the midst of city streets, responding to a growing sense of children’s diminishing access to space and an increased awareness of issues of child welfare (Cavallo, 1991), but autobiographies of the period stress the availability of vacant lots and back allies which children could claim as their own play environments. Sociologists writing about the suburban America of my boyhood found that children enjoyed a play terrain of one to five blocks of spacious backyards and relatively safe subdivision streets (Hart, 1979). Today, at the end of the 20th century, many of our children have access to the one to five rooms inside their apartments. Video game technologies expand the space of their imagination.” -- Henry Jenkins
space what s a boy s space
space: what’s a boy’s space?
  • is it a place where boys can...
    • enjoy lurid images?
    • prove themselves with stunts?
    • gain mastery?
    • (re)produce hierarchies?
    • vent aggressive feelings?
    • engage in scatological humor?
    • competitively role-play?
    • and bond together
      • these criteria are from Henry Jenkins’ article
space what s a girl s space
space: what’s a girl’s space?
  • Brenda Laurel says: “Girl space is a space of secrets and romance, a space of one’s own in a world which offers you far too little room to explore.” (quoted in the Jenkins’ article)
  • Is Laurel correct?
games and gender
games and gender
  • what’s a girl’s game? The Sims?
  • what’s a boy’s game? Counter-Strike?
  • what about Asteroids? Space Invaders? Joust? Tetris?
    • remember the thirteen-year-old girl in a small family café in New York City’s Little Italy who is playering Asteroids at the beginning of Turkle’s article.
hot and cool media
hot and cool media
  • Telephone is a cool medium, or one of low definition, because the ear is given a meager amount of information. And speech is a cool medium of low definition, because so little is given and so much has to be filled in by the listener. On the other hand, hot media do not leave so much to be filled in or completed by the audience. Hot media are, therefore, low in participation, and cool media are high in participation or completion by the audience.  Naturally, therefore, a hot medium ... has very different effects on the user from a cool medium...
  • Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, pp. 22-23
hot or cool
hot or cool?
  • so, are video games hot or cool media?