Everyday Rhetoric

Phoenix from the Ashes

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Things have been pretty crazy here IRL. Months have gone by and there have been various and assorted illnesses brought home from baby school (or just brought on by too much work, too little time), more traveling than I care to think about, good times, bad times, etc. But one of the most active parts of my professional (online) life has been Not Your Mama’s Gamer. Last night we recorded and posted our 6th bi-weekly episode and I have to say that it was one of the best yet. NYMG is time consuming, but I have to say that it is one of biggest joys in my professional life right now. It gives me a chance to talk with folks about the things that I am thinking and writing about in a less stifling and academicky context. That means, of course, that this blog suffers. But there is so much that I need to share here that I can’t bring myself to do away with it completely after 11+ years of blogging.

In terms of an update, I have gotten much better at limiting my WPA duties so that I can get more scholarly stuff done. This is something that I have known for a long time that I was going to have to do…especially if I ever expect to be promoted. I take the WPA hat off ever afternoon and even if I stay in my office I have gotten very good at telling people that “I will work on that tomorrow”, really I have. I mean it. I know most of y’all don’t believe it, but you do have to see it in action…it is a thing of beauty. Of course there are lapses…for instance today is a non-WPA day and I came in “just for a minute” so that I could handle a couple of pressing WPA issues. They were quick (and elevated my blood pressure significantly) but they are done and I have moved on to blogging and printing some stuff for the book chapter that I am writing with one of our graduate students on female gamer podcasters and counterpublics. It is fun and fascinating stuff to say the least! I can’t wait to see how it all works out in the end. There is empirical data and all!!

So now, I am going to print one last article and chill out for a bit before I run away with the circus! L8r!!

Not Really.

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This is not really a post, but I am trying to update a couple of times a week. So…I did a wordle. The odd thing is that This wordle has helped me to see how boring my blog actually looks when it is reduced to keywords :-) Maybe I need to kick it up a notch. We shall see. Click the image to see it full sized.

Wordle: blog

© 2009 Jonathan Feinberg

What the H*ll Were They Thinking??

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Have you ever seen something so INSANE that it was impossible to believe that you were seeing what you were actually seeing? I think that this was the reaction that most sane people (aka people who agree with me) had when they looked at the Purdue student paper, The Exponent, this morning. In, what one can only hope was, an attempt at humor, The Exponent ran a bit in the paper today called “Sex Position of the Week: The Prestige”. Now before I actually show you the bit I have to say that this bit made me sick to my stomach. As a woman, mother.human being I had a visceral reaction to this piece that included a desire to see the idiot who let this run punished academically, legally, and physically.

You all already know how I react to violence against women in games, but for a student (run) newspaper to run what is essentially a rape guide is not only ethically, but criminally negligent. I understand the thought behind having a student run paper, but when the paper demonstrates time after time that they are not responsible enough to make good decisions like not running sh*t like this (or fact checking, or spell checking for that fact) then it is time to hire a faculty/professional editor who has final approval lest it ceases to be a learning experience. Maturity and good decision making skills are things that come with age and experience, but this experience is something that shouldn’t come at the expense of any one group of marginalized people. For the love of God folks let’s get this under control. Image below the fold so as not to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities and give you a chance to avoid it. Click the image to see it in it’s entirety.

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Mama, Gamer, Soldier, Spy

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I have been thinking about how being a parent has change me as a gamer for some time (2 years and 2 months to be exact) and every time I turn around I find another way that parenthood has changed my gamerhood. Now I finally find the chance to put some of these thoughts into words so that they can perhaps be reflected on more extensively at some point. So here goes!

1. This is the most obvious. Parenthood really cuts down on the amount of time that you have to play games. As Peanut gets older I find that I have a little more time since she sleeps through the night and can occasionally be distracted enough to let me do a little bit of gaming while she is awake. Now when she was younger and have acid reflux there was almost no gaming going on sans the little bit of handheld gaming that I could sneak in when I was supposed to be sleeping when she slept. I was too afraid to actually play games at enough volume to awaken a sleeping baby back in those days. I am a gamer, but I am not under any circumstances crazy.

2. While the old elementary school teacher in me (I used to teach elementary school, I’m not channeling an elderly teacher) often cringes when folks tell me what their young kids are playing. Don’t get me wrong I am not a prude and I know that some kids are more mature than others, but there are some games that are disturbing enough to me as an adults who supposedly understands the medium and the situations reflected in the games that I can’t see how a child could even remotely begin to fully process them. Hey, but don’t get me wrong…maybe your kid is a genius (mine is).

3. Situations with children in them in games are pretty difficult for me. 3 of the most notable cases for me have been Bioshock, Bioshock 2, and Heavy Rain. When I played through Bioshock there was no way that I could bring myself to harvest little sisters (yep, it’s as bad as it sounds) even if it could make my gaming life a little bit easier. I just sucked it up and played through as a mama of a little girl. When the trailer came out for Bioshock 2 came out it freaked me out enough to make me never want to play the game! The molestation undertones were just too much for me! Check out the video

[Spoiler Alert: There is a description of two chapters of Heavy Rain in the next 2 paragraphs. If you don’t want to see it, skip them :-) ]

And because I had a chance to see the trailer before I bought the game I was able to avoid a lot of emotional stress. And lest I think that there might not have been any real emotional stress and/or physical effect one me I have to think about Heavy Rain. The first night that I played Heavy Rain I actually had to stop playing after one chapter and go to bed because the game gave me a damned headache. After a particularly violent “boss fight” involving several men in my apartment (as I was dressed in my underwear) and a metaphorical rape scene my head was pounding and I had to go to bed.

Surprisingly, this was after the early child death scene. You know, while I enjoy a good “Jason!!” joke (and parody song) as well as the next gamer I really didn’t appreciate having my son Jason killed off at the beginning of the game (or having my younger son snatched by a serial killer a few chapters later). Good lord, this game made me the worst parent on the face of the planet. And besides feeling extreme guilt for the clear neglect of my virtual children it made me question/reflect upon what I would feel if this happened to Pea.That kind of thing makes me physically sick to my stomach.

Has parenthood turned me into such a wimp that I am going to be tossing my cookies every time some kid is collateral damage in a military shooter (I had no problem wiping out an airport full of innocent folks in another FPS…in fact I rather enjoyed it), gets lost in an action/adventure game, or gets snatched to advance a narrative? Are games getting too good at immersion? Am I getting too old to play? What the heck is going on?

4. Why is parenthood so hot in games right now? And why is it generally fathers? Big Daddies in Bioshock, Nier, the father saving the ailing daughter in Nier, Ethan, the father (albeit an ineffectual one), in Heavy Rain, Fable III where the main character is the child of your Fable II character who has become a ruler who has been wronged by his/her other kid.

Ok, that’s all I have for now. I have to go and make sure that I have all of the games and consoles that I need for my Writing and Virtual Worlds class tomorrow morning and a little bit of sleep would be nice after 3 days of a sleepless baby cutting 2 year molars. Why doesn’t someone make a game about that? They could call it Sleep Deprivation and it would reflect the levels of madness that one descends into when babies take over your house. I think that everyone should be forced to play (and complete) that game before becoming parents!!

Religion and Video Games

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For whatever reason I have been thinking a lot about religion and video games lately. From my earlier post about Dragon Quest IV to the humanity of the companion cube in Portal and now this week the Extra Credit episode is about choice, free will, and reliogion is Mass Effect 2. Incidentally I haven’t play ME2 because I never did finish ME. Now I am thinking that I may have to bite the bullet and just play the second damn game without finishing the first one. Without further ado…here’s the EC video and for the heathens among you you can find an online searchable version of the bible here. Enjoy!

It’s Infectious!

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Folks say laughing is infectious, but right about now it’s clear that gaming is infectious. It seems that educators and administrators are finally starting to see the educational viability of video games! There are some interesting things going on all over.

Portal Logo

Portal is now required reading in the “Enduring Questions” course at Wabash College here in Indiana (play the free Flash based version here). The course is a 1 credit course that is required for graduation so this is especially important that Portal is the required text. Theater professor Michael Abbott (who blogs and podcasts as The Brainy Gamer) is piloting the course that looks at enduring questions in texts (and also includes texts by Aristotle and Shakespeare). The enduring questions of the course are questions of humanity and “confront what it means to be human and how we understand ourselves, our relationships, and our world.”. How cool would it be to teach that course? I suppose it’s easier to be innovative on an institution wide level when you don’t have all of the large scale institutional rigamarole to deal with. The administration seems to really be behind the course and want to challenge the students in this course. I wonder if there are any large niversities out there that are making the same moves in their general education requirements? (via Technolog)

On that note, my Writing in Virtual Worlds seminar is ROCKING right about now. I am loving being able to engage graduate students on theories of play, fun, and games. Actually taking a whole week’s reading to just think about a definition of play (and next fun) is awesome! We have some real time to kick around meanings and nuances before we jump into talking about games specifically. And having an excuse to play games as homework and in class is pretty damn sweet! This week we played what some folks might call the penultimate RPG, Final Fantasy VII. Unfortunately, we won’t be meeting this week because of Labor Day. Next week we are going to be looking at classic adventure games and their remakes/reinterpretations/??? (if I can swing the technology). I won’t tell you what the games are until next week so as not to spoil the surprise.

One of the biggest issues (I won’t say problems yet) that I can foresee in a class like Writing in Virtual Worlds is resources. There are so many games and types of games that are relevant to the conversations that we will be having and we are really going to need to experience them first hand. I know that other folks have talked about game ROMs and whether they should fall under educational fair use for game design or theory courses. So far we (the participants in my course) are lucky because I have 3 different systems at the office and 30 (yes thirty) systems, going back to the Atari, at home. This gives us access to a lot of the old games with just a trip to my game room or a quick purchase from Ebay. That being said, I can see lugging systems, accessories, and games back and forth to campus (with a two year old who thinks that they are all hers) getting old really quick. I really don’t want to run the risk of losing my stuff. I am wondering about the ethics of using ROMs in class vs. the personal cost of supplying all of these materials for class. Would be nice if the university had games in the library for use like they do at some other places. When someone comes u with a solution (other than holding class at my house) please let me know!

Happy Blogiversary to Me

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Has it really been 9 years since I started blogging? Well no I guess it’s been longer. I first started blogging when folks were still calling them weblogs and before there was blogging software so it had to be done in HTML. I used blogs and webcams to help try to stave of the dissertation writing crazies and feel like there was some connection between me and the rest of world.

Lord knows why I do it know. I can’t remember to update regularly because I spend so much time on Facebook and Twitter. At some point the blog may just fade away, but for now I am still here and it’s my “blogging anniversary”!

Teddy Bear as Urban Stereotype?

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So I find myself watching a lot more kids’ tv lately since I want to see if stuffs appropriate before Pea watches it. Most of the stuff n that we watch is on PBS (Dinosaur Train, Barney, and Sesame Street). A while ago I found the 21st century version of Barney…Hip Hop Harry. I watched it because Shane Sparks from SYTYCD was on…later that week he was arrested as a child molester. It was on tv today as we were looking for Barney On Demand. Pea was drawn in by the music so I let her watch it, child molester and all. What struck me most today was the exaggerated “hip hop” movements. What the hell is that?? Is Pea’s innocent bear just another stereotype pimping around in saggy blue jean shorts with a Kangol and a Flava Flav chain?

C&W 2010

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This one is almost in the books! It’s been a long 4 days, but I am officially sitting in the last session of the conference…freezing and unable to keep my eyes open because I am not moving. We have dinner and drinks at the Conard-Salvo house for the people who are still hanging around.

Gonna sleep and veg out for a couple of days before I get back to work and hopefully the business of blogging.

New Day, New Blog

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After a few problems with my old Drupal blog that was hosted over on digitalparlor.org I decided to go ahead and move my blog over to my domain. I had been dragging my feet, but there’s no better time than the present, right? Once we get the Drupal update situation cleared up I’ll bring all of the old posts, the old Dr. B’s blog, and my old course sites over as static sites. Wish me luck!

So I had to make a huge decision about the blog, so I chose WordPress instead of Drupal because I just wasn’t taking advantage of the functionality for my personal site. I am still using Drupal for courses though. Maybe now I can get some of those posts that have been floating around in my head out there on the interwebs!

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