Is it Work or Play Time?

This is the FINAL blog post I will have to write.  Unbelievable.  How does time pass so fast?  I can’t believe this semester is just about over.  All that’s left is finals, and then we’re home for Christmas!  I hope everyone has a good break and good luck on your finals!

This last post is about the readings I mentioned earlier this week.  Basically, I’m going to talk more about this idea of work and play being intertwined.  Professor Anable showed us some interesting examples of this.  Some companies are developing video games that double as work training.  One example was Cold Stone Creamery’s ice cream serving game.  It is designed to teach employees about portions and math skills needed to work in their stores.  Other companies have done this as well.  Another example she showed us that combines work and play is the Google office in Zurich.  Its design is very different from a traditional office.  One part of the office is designed with ski chalet type cubicles and fake snow on the ground.  In another area there is a slide to go down to another floor. 

It seems like all this fun would distract employees when they should be doing work.  The point Professor Anable made is that this is actually designed to keep them at work.  Sure, they may get distracted for a few minutes during the day, but they will be more willing to stay longer at work if they think of it as fun.  In other words, Google is making sure their employees don’t get too disgruntled.

This is an interesting concept, incorporating play into work.  I think somebody else in class mentioned how this is not necessarily a new idea.  I agree.  Many games that we play as kids are based on real life, so from a young age we use games as a sort of training for real life.  Therefore, it is not much of a stretch to use video games when we’re older to teach us how to work better.  If companies use video games as training, workers are probably going to be more excited about work, which means they are probably also going to be more productive.  They are probably also more likely to absorb the information if it is in a familiar and enjoyable format like video games.

Perhaps we could use this idea to make schoolwork more enjoyable as well, such as for learning languages.  I found a website for a company that has developed a video game-like program called Tactical Language.  It teaches languages and cultural etiquette, gestures, etc. through a 3D video game.  It is used especially by the military, and only has a few languages available, such as Arabic and French.  However, this could be employed in the classroom or at least as a supplement to classroom learning in order to make learning more interesting and interactive.   

As far as work goes, I like the idea of using video games because I like to play video games just like everyone else.  Especially based on how popular games are with current generation, it seems like a smart idea for companies to integrate play into work.  I guess we’ll see how far the idea goes.

Goodbye all!

Work and Play

This week’s readings about work and play were “The Labor of Fun” by Nick Yee and “The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer” by Julian Dibbell.  The readings provided an interesting look at games and how they may actually be more related to work than most people think.  What is most interesting to look at is the relationship between the two articles.

In “The Labor of Fun,” Yee talks about how games can begin to seem like work for players.  In “The Life of the Chinese Gold Farmer,” Dibbell talks about how playing games are work for many Chinese people working in workshops known as “gold farms.”  People will pay for these workers to get gold for them.  However, most people don’t see the work behind their gold.  They simply get their gold and keep playing. 

What implications does this have for video games?  Does this mean that people feel that video games are so much like work that they have to pay for other people to play for them?  Does this mean that they are no longer considered fun?  If this is the case, what is the point of video games?  Perhaps the fun is feeling the achievement of gaining power or prestige in the game, even if it comes through “cheating” by paying real money to gain that power.  Whatever the reason, it seems video games could use a bit of a change.

Comparing FIFA 10 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

For this week’s blog post my assignment is to compare two of the video games we played in class on Thursday.  I decided that I am going to write about FIFA 10 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  I’ll be comparing and contrasting the information I gathered about the two games while we were playing them.

First, a little general background information about FIFA 10.  It was released in 2009 by EA Sports.  It simulates a television broadcast of a soccer game.  It can be a single or multiplayer game, meaning that the operator can play against a computer or they can compete against friends.  The operator has the ability to control one player at a time, but they can switch between all of the players on their chosen team.  The characters represent real players from over 500 different teams from around the world. 

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was released in 2004 by Rock Star Games.  It is an action game that contains aspects of driving games and third-person shooters.  The player can freely explore the entire world of San Andreas, which is a state containing three cities modeled after Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas, with rural areas in between.  The character controlled by the player is Carl “CJ” Johnson, a gang member.  The game starts out with a cut-scene of Carl’s return to Los Santos from Liberty City.  Cops immediately pick him up and when he is released the game begins.  The player is then in control.

The games have many similarities in their diegetic machine acts, but otherwise they are quite different.  The machine acts for FIFA 10 include things like in-game commentary and camera control in the style of a TV broadcast, crowd cheers, and the movement of players while they are out of the operator’s control.  In Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas there is sound controlled by the machine such as music, dialogue, sounds of the city and vehicles, etc.  However, the operator can control the music by changing the radio station when they are in a vehicle.  The machine also controls the actions of all the characters aside from the protagonist, including the police and other citizens of San Andreas.  Some of the similarities are especially apparent in the fact that the games react to the operator’s controls in similar ways.  Breaking the rules of soccer in FIFA 10 leads to a penalty called by the ref, and breaking the law in GTA: SA results in pursuit by the police.  The control in each game of all the secondary characters is similar as well, as evidenced above.

The diegetic operator acts in both games are similar in that the operator controls movements and actions such as walking and running.  However, the types of acts also vary a lot because of the differences between the two genres.  In FIFA 10, the operator controls a soccer player on a field kicking, shooting, and passing a ball; whereas in GTA: SA the operator is controlling a weapon-wielding gangbanger wandering an open world. 

There is some set-up prior to playing FIFA 10 because the operator must choose the team and the controls for the game.  In GTA: SA there is no set-up prior to playing the game.  Like most games, both games have cheats that can be used to change game play in some way.  

The operator has a lot more control in GTA: SA.  There is a lot more freedom just in how he or she can play the game.  FIFA 10 has a strict structure.  The operator controls a soccer team playing a game against an opponent that lasts for a specific amount of time and it is essentially as if the player was watching a game on TV only they control the actions of their team.  In GTA: SA, the operator has the power to wander the world while beating people up, stealing cars, changing their appearance, modifying cars, completing missions or tasks, or any combination in between.  The game allows limitless freedom for the operator to make what they will of the game.  Essentially, they can act as though they are actually in the world, and therefore can do many different things.

Another difference between the two games is the game/story relationship.  FIFA 10 is mostly play oriented while GTA: SA is somewhat of a mixture between a game and story.  In FIFA 10, one simply plays a match or maybe a series of matches in a sort of league-style play.  However, there is no larger narrative for a specific character.  GTA: SA, on the other hand has a detailed narrative, including a back-story leading up to the beginning of the game, and a narrative that can continue throughout the game if the operator chooses to follow it.  The operator has the ability to simply run around the world freely and not follow any kind of narrative, but they can also complete missions and tasks that follow the story of Carl “CJ” Johnson.  The plot is even laid out in the Wikipedia article about the game (link below).

Overall, the games are significantly different.  They are completely different genres, with differing in-game controls.  One has a narrative planned out; the other is intended more for just play.

Sources:

Wikipedia Article-Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 

Wikipedia Article-FIFA 10

Gamic Action and Game-Story

The readings for this week are “Gamic Action, Four Moments” by Alexander Galloway and “From Game-Story to Cyberdrama” by Janet Murray.  The Galloway reading was interesting because he describes video games as “actions” and then classifies gamic actions into types.  There are operator actions, and then there are machine actions.  Gamic actions can also be classified as diegetic or nondiegetic.  All actions are either operator or machine actions, and are also diegetic or nondiegetic.  I believe most (if not all) games include all four types of action.  However, I would be curious to know whether there are any games that don’t include them all.  I’m not sure if that is possible.

The Murray reading discusses the connection between game and stories.   Games and stories are clearly connected, but why do some people believe they are completely separate from each other?  I think it is easy to see that many games are story-based, although sometimes the story is simple.  Are there any games that don’t have a story?  I suppose Guitar Hero is a game, which, at first, does not really appear to have a story.  However, the player participates in a story in which they are part of a rock band that plays gigs, trying to pass all the songs until the entire tour is completed successfully.  Therefore, it tells the story of a band on tour, and that tour can be a success or failure depending on how well the band plays.  So, to say that stories and games are not connected seems silly to me.

Coming To You Live From The Sky

I am posting this blog post above 10,000 feet (?!) from the airplane, thanks to the miracle of technology.  I'm on my way home for Thanksgiving Break (YAY!).  And yes, I realize I should have done it last night instead of leaving it for now, but you all know how that goes.  Plus, I was secretly hoping one of my planes would have Wi-Fi, just so I could say I posted from an airplane.  Pretty cool, huh?  I hope everyone else has a good break, by the way.  I know I am really excited to get home after THREE MONTHS.  That’s a long time.  Anyways, I should probably get to the actual point of this blog.

As I mentioned in my first blog post of the week, this week’s readings were about social networking and peer-production and sharing.   I’m going to focus more on the social networking side of things because, frankly, I find it more interesting.  (No offense).  I talked quite a bit about the Pew studies in my last post, so I think I will focus more on the Clive Thompson article, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy.”

The basic premise of Thompson’s article is that social networking sites have allowed a sort of “ambient awareness” of what is going on in our friends’ lives.  This is an interesting idea.  This idea mostly came about with the creation of the “News Feed” on Facebook.  Any changes made by your friends on their profiles are instantly made available to you in one convenient place, allowing you to be conscious of your friends’ activities on Facebook.

As Thompson mentions, many people found this to be too public, even though the same information had already available before.  I don’t think I was on Facebook before the addition of the News Feed, or if I was I don’t remember.  However, I could see why people would freak out at first.  I’ve done the same thing every time Facebook has made a change to the site. 

Just recently, Facebook modified the main page.  Now there is a News Feed and “Live Feed.”  I didn’t exactly “freak out,” but I was definitely confused because I didn’t understand what the difference was between the two.  In fact, I had to Google the new changes to find out what they really were.  The new News Feed only shows the most popular updates to your friends’ profiles, mainly, if people have “liked,” or commented on them.  The only problem I saw with this was that because the updates were organized by popularity, they weren’t really in chronological order.  This was the main source of confusion at first.  Now that I have gotten used to it, it really isn’t so bad.  With the original News Feed, you could miss an update from a friend if you hadn’t been on Facebook for a while.  Now, if it was something important, it is likely that it would end up in the News Feed.  The Live Feed includes every single update in chronological order, so if you want to, you can still view every update.  I think this new update to Facebook is a good one, even if it was a bit confusing at first.

There is also the new FacebookLite, which I switched to for about a minute, but I didn’t understand the point of it so I switched back to the normal Facebook.  I haven’t taken the time to understand it because I am perfectly happy with the current Facebook.

Well, after going off on that tangent, I will bring this back around to “ambient awareness.”  Many people wonder why anyone would care what anyone else is doing every moment of the day.  To them, every little Tweet or status update seems dull, and pointless.  And that’s because they mostly are.  However, that is where this idea of ambient awareness comes in.  The combination of all the posts forms a bigger picture of what’s going on in your friends’ lives.  As one Tweeter quoted in the article says, “’It’s like I can distantly read everyone’s mind. I love that. I feel like I’m getting something raw about my friends. It’s like I’ve got this heads-up display for them.”  It is also like having an ongoing conversation.  It never really ends.  You might Tweet or write on Facebook about something you were discussing with your friends in person, and then the conversation can continue online, and switch back to real life if need be.

I personally find it great for keeping up with friends as well.  It gives me a sense of being with my friends, even though I can’t be with them in person.  I can feel the flow of how college is going for them.  I can still keep up with what’s going on in their lives, whether they have a new boyfriend or just broke up.  Plus, there is Facebook chat, which is sometimes better than trying to call them on the phone because you can see that they’re online.  College life can be so busy, that trying to figure out when the other person might be available to talk can be difficult.  However, if they’re online, you know they’re (probably) not in class, or they can talk even if they’re in the library. 

Many people, especially older adults (like my parents), probably don’t understand the appeal of Facebook.  I really think Thompson’s article could change their views because his idea of ambient awareness really does make sense.  Twitter and Facebook offer you a different awareness of your friends.  Maybe this isn’t always a good thing, but a lot of the time it is.

If you made it this far, congratulations!  I don’t have a prize for you, but I do offer my apologies for making you read so much.  I guess I find Facebook really interesting (which I should, since I spend so much time on it).

Silly adults! Facebook is for kids! Or is it?

Facebook in Newsweek

This week’s readings were “Peer Production and Sharing” by Yochai Benkler, “Brave New World of Digital Intimacy” by Clive Thompson, “Social Networking Sites and Teens” and “Adults and Social Network Websites,” which are studies that were conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  These last three readings were very interesting because they pertained to something that many of us, including myself, are very familiar with: social networking sites.  I am a Facebook user, and I think I still have a MySpace account, although I haven’t used it in several years. 

The two studies gave many figures on teen and adult participation in social networking sites.  However, the teen study was conducted over two years ago, and therefore the current data would probably be slightly different.  It does still give an interesting perspective on how prevalent the use of these sites is.  I wonder just how different the teen results would be for the present.  Would they be the same, slightly different, or even drastically different?

The adult survey was conducted in December of 2008, so its results are a little more current.  The number of adults on social networking sites who are older than 34 is quite surprising.  The fact that there are people older than 45 on social networking sites is especially surprising as I tend to think of them as not being as tech savvy.  The most surprising number of all, however, was the 7% of people 65 and older on these sites.  I could never imagine my grandma or grandpa on these sites, but of course they don’t even own a computer.  I guess this has skewed my view of society.  My parents are also not on these websites, so it is hard for me to imagine people of their age on the sites, although one of my aunts is my friend on Facebook and I think my other aunt may have a profile too.  My step mom is also on Facebook. 

It is strange to think of older adults being on Facebook because I only view it in the context of a tool for college and high school students to keep up with friends.  Really, though, it almost makes just as much sense for older adults, doesn’t it?  Older adults are probably just as likely to have friends who live far away, especially if they are friends from high school or college.  Who says older adults can’t be as tech savvy as their kids or grandkids.  Sure, they might not have grown up on the Internet, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to use it. 

BTW: The Facebook verb “unfriend” is the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2009, according to this article.  The woman who wrote this article, Helen A.S. Popkin, writes many Facebook- related features and you can even become her friend on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. 

Another Facebook-related MSN feature that I found amusing was the “Facebook Survival Guide for Awkward Adults.” 

Just one last interesting note (I read a lot of MSN articles about Facebook this past week): If anyone ever pokes fun at you for spending too much time on Facebook just direct him or her to this article. Tell them you're trying to stay out of jail. ;)

EDIT:  I swear, this is the last link.  I found this article as I was surfing the Internet.  An interesting little look back to 1995.

Trolls-Continued

 So, it’s Friday the 13th. I hope no bad luck befalls this blog...or me. Better safe than sorry I always say, which is why I am starting this earlier than usual. Anyways, the actual point of today’s post is to continue my discussion of the articles mentioned in Monday’s post about griefers and trolls. I think I’ve already pretty well stated my opinion of them in the previous post, but I may elaborate a bit more on that in addition to explaining griefers and trolls a bit more. I particularly want to discuss what might be done about them, or if anything can be done about them at all.

As I stated before I think griefers and trolls are insensitive people. Sure, they give the excuse that they are just trying to strengthen Internet users by showing them their weaknesses, but isn’t there a much better way to do that? Seriously, they could probably go about this in a less harmful way. Maybe they should consider getting a life or a job. In fact, if they are so good at what they do, they should just work at a company that hires people to find weaknesses within the company. Then they can get paid for their skills and they would be doing something helpful rather than harmful. Of course, maybe they just enjoy terrorizing other Internet users, in which case they won’t change their ways.

Is there a way to get rid of trolls and griefers? Unfortunately, the answer at the moment seems to be no. The reason they are so effective is because they operate under anonymity. The Internet makes it easy to be anonymous, especially in cases like Second Life, or in online forums where you create your own identity rather than using your own like on Facebook. Also, in most cases, the trolls aren’t doing anything illegal, and therefore no one would go through the trouble of trying to track them down. Even if someone were to attempt to trace them, the trolls probably would know how to avoid detection. Sometimes, though, they can cause emotional or psychological harm, and eventually the victims of their attacks might inflict physical harm on themselves. The trolls and griefers would say that those people are taking the Internet too seriously, and therefore it is not the trolls’ fault. I think they just don’t want to feel responsible for any harm that comes to people due to their actions.

I think the biggest problem is determining when trolls have gone too far and whether there should be repercussions. Should there be laws governing actions on the Internet? There are obviously laws that govern some things, but the argument in favor of griefers and trolls is that they are simply using their right to free speech and they can say or do what they want on the Internet. In class, we talked about some speech that isn’t free, like yelling fire in a movie theater. Can we make parallels in the Internet world or is all Internet speech protected? Obviously, in the case of the incident involving the epilepsy website mentioned in the “Malwebolence” article, there has to be consequences. By putting flashing lights on the website, the trolls could cause real, physical harm to their targeted audience. Seizures are no laughing matter, and purposely trying to cause seizures is completely insensitive and wrong.

There is also the case of the vandalism of John Edwards campaign booth in Second Life. Perhaps you could say that he was taking the Internet too seriously by expecting his campaigning to work the same in the virtual world as it does in the real world. However, if he had a real campaign booth and it was attacked in this way it would be considered vandalism would it not? According to Merriam-Webster's definintion, "willful or malicious destruction or defacement of public or private property," it would definitely be vandalism. It seems the only reason trolls can get away with what they do is because all of it occurs in the realm of code and words, rather than the physical world. They aren’t causing physical damage to anything or anyone and therefore it is simply free speech. This is a difficult conundrum for authorities, and it is made all the more difficult by the fact that the Internet is still relatively new. There is no precedent for any of these situations, so they are looking at each situation for the first time. Hopefully the problem of the trolls will be able to be dealt with in time, but for now I guess we just have to live with them and try our best to avoid them.

Internet Vandalism

Real Vandalism

 

 

 

Trolls

No, not that kind of trolls. Image

I guess I am fortunate because I didn’t even know what an online troll was until I read the articles for this week, “Malwebolence” by Mattathias Schwartz, “A Rape in Cyberspace” by Julian Dibbel, and “Bad Techno-Subjects: Griefing is Serious Business” by our very own Professor Aubrey Anable.  It was eye opening to read these articles because griefing and online trolls were a previously unknown topic to me.  After reading the articles, though, I’m glad I didn’t have to learn from experience what these terms meant.  The acts committed by these people are despicable.  Why would anyone do something like this?  A common answer, according to Professor Anable’s article, is that they do it “for the lulz.”   

Don’t these people have anything better to do than to terrorize others?  These are effectively acts of terrorism.  Although generally they don’t cause physical harm, they can cause emotional or psychological harm.  Often this psychological harm can lead to physical harm, although I suppose the terrorists can only be held responsible for that harm indirectly.  In the case of Megan Meiers, the troll in question caused enough psychological and emotional harm to lead to the girl’s suicide, or at least that is the assumption.  Obviously this is a serious issue, but how can it be remedied or is there even a way to remedy it?  The anonymity of the Internet makes it difficult to track down the culprits, which is why griefing has been able to continue.  Hopefully in the future a solution can be found, but for now we have to simply be careful online, and I suppose try not to fall into trolls’ traps.

Gender and Second Life

My Second Life Avatar

Today in class we created Second Life accounts and began playing in order to explore how race and gender are portrayed in the game and on the Internet in general.  When you join Second Life you choose an avatar.  This avatar is your virtual identity.   Once you get into the game you can then customize the avatar to look however you like.  You can visit virtual shops or malls and buy clothes, hairstyles, skins, jewelry, etc.  There are limitless possibilities.  Even with all these possibilities, there seem to be many similarities among the avatars and images in the game.

This week’s topic is about “cybertyping.”  This term comes from our reading by Lisa Nakamura called “Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction.”  I thought it was a lot of fun to create an avatar in Second Life and explore a little bit.  During my exploration within the world of Second Life I noticed that the images of women tended to be highly sexualized.  In my opinion, you would be hard put to find an avatar or image of a woman on Second Life that was not intended to be sexually attractive.  Many of the outfits available for purchase are very revealing and form fitting.  Another interesting thing I noticed in one shop in particular which sold skins is that the women appeared somewhat exotic and were definitely meant to be sexually attractive.  These images propagate the stereotype of exotic being “sexy.”

Avatars also mostly seem to be designed to be sexually attractive.  People generally don’t make an average-looking avatar because the whole idea of Second Life is that it is a fantasy world.  People don’t fantasize themselves as they actually are, but rather as more beautiful, more handsome, etc.  The truth is, many men and women want to be considered handsome, beautiful, mysterious, sexy, etc.  Second Life is a way for people to create a new identity, a better version of themselves.  People’s ideas of attractiveness most likely vary, and these ideas are represented by how a person designs their avatar.  However, there were many similarities in how women are represented.  The pictures that display outfits all tend to show women with similar body styles and in similar poses that are meant to be “sexy.”  It appears that to be a woman in Second Life, it is generally thought that you must be attractive.  The reason that the body styles are all the same is that people in general have one idea of what is attractive, and Second Life only spreads this idea through people using it. 

When you customize your avatar, you are almost forced to make an attractive avatar because any of the other options just seem to make it look deformed somehow.  The body of the avatar can be modified in many ways.  Some of these include things such as adding love handles or saddlebags.  Yet, you don’t usually see these on avatars or images in Second Life.  Why would someone in real life want to portray an average person when they can be “extraordinary?”  If you create an avatar that looks like you, then your virtual life just becomes an extension of your real life, which is not the desired result.  This very idea forces you to create an avatar that is completely different from you in order to maintain the element of anonymity that is often desired in the virtual world.  What better way than to become someone of a different gender, race, or even just someone more attractive?  This brings opinions of what is attractive into the mix, which often brings race in as well.  The example I mentioned earlier about the exotic images in the Second Life store shows people’s ideas about race and attractiveness.  It is interesting that people of other races are often considered attractive because they are “exotic.”  Like we discussed in class, Asian women are often portrayed as “sexy.”  This is no different in Second Life where images of exotic-looking women are common.  People want to be noticed in the sea of Second Life residents, so they have to be sexier, or more exotic than their counterparts.  The interesting thing about this is that they would stick out more by being average.  However, that would likely garner negative attention, which is probably considered worse than no attention at all. 

Second Life appears to be a sea of tall, long-legged women with perfectly sculpted bodies.  There are obviously men too, although I didn’t see many as I was generally in more female-targeted areas, such as female clothing shops.  In Second Life, it is cool to be “sexy” and being anything less seems to be almost stigmatized.  All the real life people playing in Second Life are generally anonymous, so there is always the chance that they could be discriminatory towards anyone different.  Therefore, there is an underlying need to “fit in” by being attractive.

 

Race and Gender in New Media

This week’s readings are “Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction” by Lisa Nakamura, “Lara Croft: Feminist Icon or Cyberbimbo” by Helen W. Kennedy, and “High Tech Blackface—Race, Sports Video Games and Becoming the Other” by David J. Leonard.  These readings were interesting in their perspective of new media and the portrayal of people within new media, whether the focus be on gender or race. 

Image source

In the “Lara Croft” article, we see a debate about Lara Croft and whether she is a figure to be looked up to and admired by women or simply eye candy for male gamers.  Personally, I would say she is mostly just eye candy, considering the majority of gamers are probably male.  I’ve never played Lara Croft, but just based on a screenshot, I know that she represents an idealized female form.  Much like Barbie, she has an unattainable figure, with the added benefit of being able to perform impressive physical feats.  I would probably be more put off by it, but of course the whole idea of video games is that it gives the player the ability to leave real life and enter a world that is nothing like reality.   Video games are an escape, a fantasy.  I don’t really see Lara Croft as a female icon to be admired.  She represents a male view of the ideal female, not necessarily what women want to be.  Why is it that even when video game creators are trying to appeal to women, all they do is the opposite?  My guess is that the majority of them are men, so they are blinded by their own views of what the character should be like.

The article about race in sports video games was also very interesting.  It brings up many good points, such as the idea of the urban setting in many “street” games being seen as “cool” rather than a real place where people struggle to survive.  The article also discusses white America’s obsession with black, urban America.  One question we can ask is why there is such a fascination with black America in video games or sports, but not in any other way?  There is a lot that can be discussed as far as the idea of race in video games and in culture in general.  

 

 

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