Entry #20

 How intense is too intense when it comes to video games? The articles that we read this week brought me into a world that I have only observed from the outside (other than the one time I tried World of Warcraft once). MMORPGS have legitimately taken over peoples lives, from horror stories I heard (that someone killed his wife because she deleted his WoW account or a teenager that killed himself after someone hacked his Runescape account and released all of the weapons he had obtained) to seeing people playing at ungodly hours in the morning, barely getting sleep. I find that MMORPGS take too-serious gaming to another level because of how immersive they become (Yee’s article gave a nice intro to how MMORPGS work as a “second job”), but too many times have I seen someone take a loss in a video game too hard and gets angry when they lose say, a basketball video game. To me, I play video games for entertainment, but when I see others get so into playing a game, it does not surprise me at all how people are able to benefit and prosper from playing such MMORPGS all of the time.

            I don’t know how much of a good thing it is though that playing video games full time is a profession. Some people do well for themselves, but the major issue that we have been discussing in class is how new media is able to both bring people together but at the same time isolate people from each other. For example, I can video chat with someone in California instantaneously, which is really cool. However, I could also get really involved in watching Youtube videos and not leave my room for days on end. This is similar to professional MMORPG players because while they are interacting with other players in the game, they aren’t interacting with actual people in the real world, rather the made up world by Blizzard. I’m not saying that MMORPGS shouldn’t be played, but I’ve seen firsthand what playing constantly can do to someone. It’s really not a pretty sight. Because there is money involved, there is more of an impetus to play all of the time, but it still leaves you alone with your computer for hours on end without interacting with another actual human being.

Entry #19: Fifa Vs. Grand Theft Auto

 The two video games that I am going to talk about in this blog entry are Fifa 2010 (released in 2009 by EA Sports) and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (released in 2004 by Rockstar North). These two games are very different from one another in regards to content and type of game (Fifa is a simulation soccer game, while San Andreas is a more free roaming, action/adventure game), but using the jargon that we’ve learned about video games, the two have more in common than one would think.

            Fifa is a game that has a direct purpose: to provide a realistic soccer experience. The only option for you in this game is to play soccer (there are hundreds upon hundreds of teams). There really aren’t any characters in the game, only the players on the teams. Gameplay is very realistic and one can differentiate between the different stadiums that can be played in. There is no real storyline, however on Xbox there is a 1-player mode called “virtual pro” where you can exclusively play as a made up character and try to move up the ranks of a soccer team of your choosing. The diegesis of the game play in Fifa is supposed to simulate a television program. There are announcers who announce the game, and the default camera angle is that of a televised soccer match. That being said, this allows the operator to have better field vision to make plays. The focus is definitely on the gameplay as opposed to a storyline. Like all other simulation sports games, an operator playing alone can only have control over one player of the 11 on the field, so the machine acts as all of the other players on the field, making them move around the field, making the operator make good decisions about who to pass to/where to move. In 2-on-2, with two people on the team, two players are able to be controlled, meaning that one person bringing the ball up the field can have the other player running a desired route for the best option available in the game. Obviously the goal is to score, and having two people controlled allows for cooperation and savvy. As stated earlier, the stadiums and teams are all different, and the machine renders the grass to different heights, and more popular teams have rowdier fans. While the idea of the game is simple (to play soccer), the amount of options one has when they play Fifa 2010 is almost limitless.

               Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is, in one word, huge. Everything about the game is as expansive, from its storyline to the size of the cities, to the amount of extra tasks that must be completed to 100% the game. The main storyline has the operator playing as CJ, the main character, who returns home to San Andreas. He had been a thug before, and all of the cops knows that because he’s back, CJ might continue his illegal ways. The storyline is really long and expansive, and spans over 100 missions across three legitimately huge cities (San Andreas, San Fierro, and Las Venturas). This main storyline in itself is really long and takes weeks to complete, but that’s just where the game begins. There are countless side missions, and mini tasks, including gang wars, tagging gang symbols, finding oysters in the water, and taking picturesque snapshots that lead you all over the humongous map that is the game. You can go anywhere you want, and you can choose to change the appearance of CJ, from his hair to the clothes he wears. You can also go and work out, get fast food, and go on dates with girls as well. It’s not like Second Life in that you are living just to interact with others, but you have free reign over pretty much everything in Grand Theft Auto. You can choose to do the main storyline, but you can do just about anything you want, from walking around to just walking around and killing people (if that’s what you want to do). There are a wide array of weapons and vehicles that are spawned by the machine, and while you are playing exclusively as CJ, the machine creates an entire world. Days turn to nights, back roads connect the cities, and everything is generated by the machine. The diegesis of the game is you can do whatever you want (as I said before), but the amount that the machine creates rivals that of Fifa. Playing a game like Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas really shows how amazing game encoding is because of how much stuff the game contains. You literally have hundreds of hours of gameplay in order to just beat the main storyline, and countless hours more to do all of the side tasks. It is like entering a whole world with few rules. Obviously is you do something bad in the site of a cop, you get “stars”, which as you do more severe crimes more police follow you and try and stop you. There are 6 stars that you can get, and once you get more than 3, the FBI comes with tanks and it’s just ridiculous. The game is just thoroughly entertaining, and everyone should play it at some point just to see how it works because there really is something for everything (even though there is a lot of objectionable material).

Entry #18: Video Games

 I consider myself a legitimate fan of video games. When I say fan, I don’t mean that I’m obsessed or necessarily pretty good at them, but I’ve just done I like to play them in any setting. I used to not study for tests and try out a bunch of games on addictinggames.com and then on weekends have my friends come over and play them in Fifa or NBA Live for hours on end. I’ve I never thought of video games in such a specific way that the articles from this week described them. I never really thought about the video game as an action, but more as a game. Although I completely understand where this sentiment is coming from, I guess my view of video games was much more rudimentary than what they are thought of from an intellectual standpoint.

            I agree with points made by both Murray and Loyall about video games being a game-story. I’ve played a number of games that absolutely are based on a storyline (Enter The Matrix), played games that have a storyline but the user doesn’t have to play it (Grand Theft Auto), and those games that don’t really have a storyline at all (Tetris, Asteroids). Are the games that have a more noticeable story-line necessarily better than games that don’t have this? I don’t think so. In fact, I’ve found that older video games aren’t really story based. However, one of my favorite video games ever managed to strike a balance between having a story-line and not having one.

            This game is Super Monkey Ball. The brilliance of this game is in it’s simplicity. It may seem like the most random idea of all time (you are a monkey in a ball and you must roll yourself to a goal avoiding obstacles), and it has a “story” mode (something about an evil professor monkey trying to steal bananas I think), but the game is driven by the simple gameplay, which to me is more of a homage to classic simpler games such as Pacman and Super Mario. Although this game is not well known, it entertains for hours, as much as a more expansive, overwhelming game such as Grand Theft Auto or Halo. A game like this shows that when it comes to video games, plot isn’t everything, and that even an easy idea can be just as fun as a complex one.

Entry #17

 I find that the way that the Internet is governed is somewhat of a paradox. Because there are no current regulations, then it gives full power to the users of the Internet to do whatever they want. In class on Thursday the site 4chan was mentioned, and I have browsed this site for a couple of weeks because one of my best friends was legitimately addicted to looking at the forum night in and night out. I must say, while perversely amusing, this website was one of the most depraved and inappropriate sites that I had ever seen. There’s non stop racist and sexist comments as well as images posted that were masochistic as well as just straight up disgusting. Before one enters the forum, there is an agreement saying that nothing you’ll post will be offensive and/or inappropriate, but obviously that isn’t the case.

            On the other side of the spectrum, if there was a proposed censorship of the Internet, there would be uproar. People everywhere would complain about how their privacy was being invaded and how freedom of speech would also be infringed. This is coming from people being offended by all of the activity that had been happening on sites such as 4chan. Is there a way to strike a balance between the objectionable content on the Internet and not butting in on society’s basic rights? I don’t think so, and additionally I don’t think that the objectionable content outweighs the great things that the Internet has to offer and what it is utilized by a majority of people. It’s not fair for people who use the Internet for beneficial purposes to have their rights revoked because of a few people who are trying to be funny (in an offensive manner).

            The fact that the Internet allows you to be whoever you want to be is a scary thing in my opinion. The best example of Internet abuse is Youtube comments. I can safely say that people who comment on really popular videos on Youtube are either in 6th grade, really bad at spelling/grammar, or actually stupid. They argue about everything, and also use profanity and racial slurs by the minute. This happens most frequently on music videos, where people (unfortunately) share their opinions openly about the musical artists, which infuriates other people on Youtube who retaliate with further stupidity. It’s a vicious cycle that shouldn’t be perpetuated, but as with everything else that allows a fair amount of freedom, power will be abused.

            I feel that people should just ignore the blatant grasps for attention on the Internet because ultimately, it doesn’t matter. You can say something completely out of line/racist/sexist, and you’ll get a rise out of someone, but that’s it, life goes on. It really isn’t worth trying to govern the Internet also because people will figure out ways to continue and be annoying online.  

Entry #16: Cyber Bullying

 I feel that cyber bullying gets made fun of too much, but it really is a vague term. Obviously, the articles that we read this week are really extreme examples of how horrible things can happen in cyber space, but I can tell you for a fact that I have been subject to cyber-bullying by one of my best friends. Actually it was not only me, but lots of other people from my grade as well. She was able to obtain a fair amount of personal information from a number of boys in the grade by posing as an older, attractive woman on Myspace named Elektra. 

What my friend did was, with a friend, got pictures of an old camp counselor and made this fake profile. They made her be a complete nymphomaniac and friended a majority of boys in the grade that had Myspaces (we were in 7th grade, so most people had one). It was really weird that this 20-something woman was becoming friends with almost only 7th graders, but we were stupid and naive and still talked to her. I only spoke to Elektra twice on the internet before I found it really weird, but when my friend told me (4 years later) that it was her, I was stunned. I didn't think that she was capable of pulling off such an elaborate prank.

She also told me that one kid in my grade went so far to write an acoustic song about her and wanted to pursue a relationship and another one kept talking to her all of the time, confiding her all of his secrets and wanting to meet her in person. It was really messed up for my friend to do what she did, but at the same time, it was even more bizarre for these guys to follow up and be completely taken advantage of by a fictitious person. This constitutes cyber-bullying, and even though what my friend did was funny (in retrospect), it was also really mean and invasive of her to go about other peoples business. Additionally, she also was able to rope in this mid 20-year old from Vermont who also tried to meet her face to face and begin a relationship, so it shows that bad things that happen in cyberspace are not only limited to children, although I feel that kids would be more likely to be targeted because their judgment isn't as good. It's bad though because cyber bullying is definitely a relevant topic and could be happening to anyone anywhere even if they don't know it.   

 

Entry #15: Second Life

Before I get to the crux of this post, I must get one thing out: I am atrocious at Second Life. Perhaps to some that might not make any sense, but I truly was really, really bad. Just look at the two photos I took. I literally could not change my character to what I wanted it to be (changing the hair was impossible) and buying clothes was painstaking. I was not a huge fan of Second Life but I can totally see how stereotypes are perpetuated with the game. Additionally, my thoughts might not be completely correct because I did not play Second Life enough at this point to maybe be fully knowledgeable, but these are just some observations and inferences I have made from playing for a little.

Before

 

 

After “Modifications”

Initially when I made my account for the game, ther e were only 8 or ten generic characters that you can begin with. None of these prototypes suited what I consider myself to look like so I decided to pick the dreamy, alternative guy with crazy red hair. I’m sure that the way that the Second Life creators figured out what generic characters to use would be able to cater to a lot of users, and I couldn’t associate myself with any of them. All of the girls were all good looking, with one more “normal” looking one, as well as the “alternative” girl option. For men, there was one African-American character, and two clean cut Caucasians (good alliteration right?). Besides them, there was a really crazy looking dude and the person that I selected. To me it’s weird how the creators think that most people would just filter into these 10 relatively random designs to the entirety of the prospective Second Life users (which is the entire public).

 

Obviously when you get into the game you have full control of how to customize your character, but even then, it is difficult to make you just right. Even though I had limited time to modify my appearance, it was difficult to make the person still look realistic. Even after modifications, my character did not resemble me at all (except for the blue eyes) and I felt like there wouldn’t be a way for my avatar to resemble me at all. I bet that if I took a LOT of time customizing my character I could make the guy look exactly like me, but it more seems like people go to extremes. I would’ve been happier making a completely ridiculous looking person with either exaggerated features or a crazy body type of something of that sort. The game to me really advocates the idea of being unique, but by being able to fly and look absolutely ridiculous, not by being yourself. I can see how it could be an escape for some, but I don’t think it’s very necessary

 

The clothing to me was the most “stereotypical” part of the game. When I went “shopping” I saw all of the different ads for different clothes that were modeled by the stereotypical person that WOULD wear those types of clothes in real life. For example, the suits were modeled by distinguished gentlemen, the sweatpants and baggy clothes were worn by “gangsters”, all of the girls were perfectly proportioned and wore clothes, some more revealing than others, the person in the camouflage looked like an army guy, and the list goes on and on. It perpetuates all of these preconceived stereotypes, something I find hypocritical because the game really wants people to be individualistic, yet pigeonholes different groups/genders. It’s completely contradicting what they are trying to make so unique. 

Entry #14: Race And Gender in Media

I was expecting to have a lot of issues with the readings that we were supposed to read for this class because when it comes to race and gender roles within video games, I have certain opinions about why video game makers make video games with the racial and sexist stereotypes that people constantly berate the video game producers about. Surprisingly, I found that two of the three articles were actually really good in presenting all sides of the spectrum (the Lara Croft piece and the cybertyping article as well), but I did have something to say about the article that said that sports games were a form of minstrelsy.

To me it’s pretty obvious why the makers of Tomb Raider make Lara Croft so voluptuous and good looking. It’s the same reason why all makers of video games make all of their female characters (ie Mortal Kombat or any game that involves Wonder Woman) voluptuous and good looking: sex sales. There is no argument that a majority of video game players are male, and men like to look at good looking girls. Do I find it morally right that the makers make all female characters so that they are the most exaggerated, proportionally insane females ever? Absolutely not, but at the same time, the idea for these video game makers is to sell games, and eyes would gloss over a game packaging if the female protagonist is not as over-the-top as such characters as Lara Croft.

One summer I went to a basketball camp, and the thing that this one counselor at the camp kept saying was that “there are two types of basketball: the Naismith Game and the street game” There is a huge discrepancy between the NBA simulation style basketball that people watch on TV and the crazy, borderline out of control (yet really cool) style of play that streetball represents. These differences are shown in the simulation style game play of Madden and NBA Live and the more arcade style of NFL Street and NBA Street. Saying that the “exaggerated muscles” and tattoos of the players in these arcade-style games to me is preposterous for many reasons. For one thing, all pro athletes, no matter what race they are, are really strong, fast, and in better shape than most everyone else. They are so big, meaning that the muscles are well deserved. Also, most pro athletes have tattoos. This is not surprising. I’ve also played the game Street Hoops, where you play as professional street ball players (from the And 1 Street Tour). These games are accurate with the depth and visuals of the players. There was also something in the article that say that these games’ playing fields simulate the ghetto. Actually, at least for NBA Street, the courts that are playable are real “street ball” courts. For example, I’ve been to the West 4th Street court, better known as “The Cage,” and the depiction of the court is uncanny. There is no attempt made to make the environment more “ghetto” than it actually is. To me the claims made in this article are ridiculous and just untrue. There are many black athletes in professional sports (this is fact), and they aren’t exaggerated at all in the games to make them more “superhuman” which is what the article claims. Players are just skilled because they are good at what they do. There truly is no minstrelsy involved.

I have seen both racism and sexism in new media many times (mostly YouTube comments), but making claims like these about mainstream video games to me is a little superfluous.

Entry #13: Gotta Catch Them All

 There is not one cultural fad that I was more involved with than Pokemon. These trading cards took over my life when I was in the third grade. Little did I know that the makers of Pokemon (otherwise known as pocket monsters to the American community) ingeniously made one of the biggest transmedia products of all time.

I became infatuated with the first 150 Pokemon series at a young age, and I was legitimately hooked to three of the different medias that Pokemon catered to. I played the video game on the Gameboy religiously (personally I was a Blue version fan) and every morning at 7:00 AM I would go downstairs, pour myself a huge bowl of cereal, and eat in front of the Pokemon television show on WB11. And then the cards. Oh my goodness, the cards. My parents and I spent so much money on the cards (always the Japanese ones, I was very particular), and I would spend hours upon hours to trading with friends, admiring their cards and the meticulous artwork of each card. My parents always told me that it was just a fad and was not important, but I didn’t listen, I just loved eating, sleeping, and breathing Pokemon.

Even when I was at such a young age, Pokemon seemed to surround me, but even after I lost interest in the game, the franchise continued to expand to proportions that I never believed would be possible. There have been between 4 and 6 movies made, and around 10 other versions of the game made. Cards are still produced, but the total number of Pokemon is now somewhere upwards of 500 as opposed to the original 150 that I was so dearly in love with. Different action figures, dvds also began to surface. There was no time as popular for Pokemon than in the late 90s when it first came out, but even when I thought there was no more interest in Pokemon, it still grew, which obviously means there were still fans and support.

Pokemon is unlike any other transmedia franchise that I’ve seen. Compared to say, The Matrix, where every media must be experienced to get the full story, you don’t absolutely need to play the game, watch the tv show and the movie, and play the card game to get the major storyline. It was also such a creative idea that you could still imagine what the pokemon did without necessarily following the story even though that never hurt. I invested so much time in Pokemon and honestly, I have a 9 year old brother who plays the new version of the video game, and I still like watching it, seeing how it’s evolved (no pun intended) over the past decade. It’s become a small world unto itself that a user can legitimately become immersed in. It’s World of Warcraft for preteens, and I know that it continue to expand and expand. It’s so immersive, in fact, that the television show South Park completely trashed the entire franchise saying that it brainwashed kids with its stupidity. However, Pokemon is a brilliant idea, and it perfectly epitomizes a franchise that actively finds new ways for them to utilize new forms of media to enhance the experience they try and give their users.

Entry #12: TV

After doing my presentation last week about how film is really trying to move forward to incorporate more medias than just film, it was interesting to read this week about how Television is trying to do the same thing. We live in an interesting time now, when not owning a TV does not mean you can't watch your favorite shows with ease and at your convenience. I do not own a TV in college, and have been keeping up to speed with all of the shows I watch because of the computer. Television has had a cultural impact on us all, and the Dawson's Creek article epitomizes how something as simple as a show can affect many people in what they choose to do/wear. This was not the first time i've read about the interactivity of Dawson's Creek; in last weeks reading, it was also talked about as kind of a "side article" to the Matrix article. Interactivity allows for people to become immersed, and what the producers of Dawson's Creek did was brilliant. I recall in elementary/middle school when girls were OBSESSED with the show. They lived for it, and I'm sure they used the website also to learn more about the characters. Whenever I watch something online now, there usually is something else that wasn't shown on the show after the streamed video ends in order to give the loyal fan base something else to watch. As a transmedia experiment, television has been more successful, and I am curious as to whether or not it will continue to be so interactive in the years to come.

Entry #11: What's a Cassette?

 At this point in my life, I’ve seen the death of the CD to mp3s, the death of VHS to DVD and the current hemorrhaging of DVD to Blu-Ray, the death of Sega video game consoles, and, to a certain extent, the death of film photography to digital photography. This has all been in the past 18 years. Will it ever stop? I don’t believe so. In fact, I’m going to be as bold to say that it will continue at a quicker rate than it has for the past couple of decades. I do agree with Bolter/Grusin’s claim on page 5 of their article that “Our culture…wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them.” I don’t think this is necessarily a good thing. Personally, I’d rather read a paperback then a Kindle. The idea of remediation, along with hypermediacy and immediacy are certainly a prevalent issue in this day and age where media is improving exponentially, but I cannot believe that people aren’t salvaging old media for their good qualities.

            The idea of “transparency” that is talked about in the article makes me raise an important question: how long is it going to be until the “realness” of all the new media becomes a little creepy? The article opens up with speaking about “the wire”, and talks about all of the late innovations that have made virtual reality close to a real thing. While it is still not perfect, the article claims on page 22 that “for the enthusiasts of virtual reality…today’s technological limitations simply point to its great potential…” If one could not distinguish virtual reality from real life, there would be no point for virtual reality because it has become a reality. This should be a major concern for media in the future as innovations have been making large breakthroughs possible. Similarly, when playing a new sports video game, it’s not uncommon for someone to walk in the room and think that there is a game being played on TV, or while watching a movie on Blu-Ray, the crisp picture looks so realistic, it’s like being with the characters. Certainly this is aesthetically pleasing, but I’m not sure how far it can go in the future. Before we know it, all media is going to be intertwined because of hypermediacy, and it will be indistinguishable from real life, which could lead to horrible consequences. I’m in no way saying that innovations in technology to make things clearer and more efficient is bad, but there is a certain suspicion about how we as people can possibly affect the outcome of our future because of our own innovations. Just think about painting/photography, and how we’ve made it from being oil on canvas to instant digital photography. The evolution is astounding, and people do not plan on stopping where we’re at right now.

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