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!!
Ok, so most of you already know but I’m posting on my own blog just in case. Our new blog and podcast Not Your Mama’s Gamer went live this week. This is a project that I am working on with Alex Layne (PhD student at Purdue) and Sarah White (MFA Purdue and instructor at Purdue- North Central). The podcast grew out of my own desire for a feminist gamers podcast and Alex’s persistence in getting me to agree to it. We then dragged Sarah in because she’s one smart and funny gamer. We have good energy flowing in this group and it seems like it is definitely going to be a labor of love.
So if you haven’t checked it out yet hop on over there take a look around and download the podcast (or stream it live if it so pleases you). Let us know what you think. We are new to this and all feedback is welcome!
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!!
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!
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 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!
So the first week I finally over. Things were blissfully quiet at baby school to make up for the continued week of craziness at work. By Friday I was fighting a monster migraine and missed my Service Learning meeting because I couldn’t drive on the meeds
Saturday we went to the Farmer’s Market as usual yeah, that was a but more eventful than I would have liked. I did get some okra to make the yummy curried grilled okra that we had at Mike and Tammy’s last week. My iPhone took a Vitamin Water bath and is now chillaxing in a bag office and hopefully drying out enough to work until I was planning on replacing it at Christmas. Oh yeah, then a fire broke out behind the Coney Island downtown (which was right where we were parked yesterday) and while I got Pea in the car quickly so that she didn’t have to breathe in the noxious smoke I did get to breathe in just enough while I was loading the day’s haul and the stroller to….you guessed it…trigger another migraine. The worst migraines of my life have been associate with the inhalation of charcoal smoke from a grill and this one was right up there! This, of course, ruined the day that I was supposed to have with visiting friends but I did get some sleep while Pea ran them crazy in the backyard! That kid is a wonder, but I may be a bit biased.
Today I have to find the time to prep for class tomorrow on top of the regular Sunday stuff. I am hoping that I can talk folks. Into coffee and crepes at Greyhouse after church (and hoping that they are finally serving. Food again) because I am jonesing for a crepe fix!!!
Ok, now back to some classic play theory in prep for Virtual Worlds tomorrow. Maybe some gaming tonight….got to do my homework, right?
So I’ve been playing a lot of tutorials and first levels of games lately…definitely difficult to stop on some of the better games, but if I ever hope to make any progress in the research I am going to have to show a little restraint…right? With today being the last work day before Hell Week (aka New GTA Orientation) starts and I am fighting a cold and I already had one hell of a week I decided to stay home and do some games research today. No really, the research part and not just playing CoD or Alan Wake for 8 hours. Well I ended up working from Barnes & Noble instead so I was limited to handheld games today.
It was a slow start because I had to find new notebooks to replace the one that was “lost” with my iPad case, DSi, and favorite pens. I did manage to also replace the DSi, pens, and migraine meds this week as well. So now I am almost feeling like I can move past it. Having that bag taken was definitely a violation. Now I am definitely more careful. I don’t leave my bag anywhere unattended for any amount of time (not even to get a coffee refill or to run to the bathroom (definitely an inconvenience). Oh well….
After all of the time I spent getting my notes transferred into the proper notebooks I only got around to playing one game this afternoon and that game was Dragon Quest IX: Sentinels of the Starry Skies. Now here we have a game that is steeped in Judeo-Christian belief system and not just any JC belief system, but the good old fashioned, pre-Martin Luther indulgence selling, purgatory dwelling, earn your way to heaven with good works (even if done so begrudgingly) Christianity. I won’t tell you too much about it because I don’t want to spoil the game for you I have to say that so far the game play is pretty darn good. More than the simple and repetitive turn based fighting of the previous DQ games that I have played this one feels a bit more adventure game-like. Here is another game that seems to be throwing the old genres out of the window to build something new and more engaging.
Well that’s about it for now. I can’t decide if I’m gonna try to squeeze in a little more DQ for fun before bedtime or if I am going to get back to work and play the tutorial and first level of the copy of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story that came with my new DSi.
Ok, I just couldn’t think of a better title. It’s been a hectic 3 weeks. I have been teaching everyday, have done God knows how many defenses in 2 different departments, been trying to get contracted work done, and plan for my summer class. All while working only own research and writing and trying to keep my family life…livable??
Princess Peanut started baby school this week and I think that this was traumatic for one and all, but things seem to be settling down now. There was some whining and at least 2 attempts to make a run for it today, but no tears while I was in the room. The other kids in her class have also come to realize that I am Pea’s mom and now talk to me in the morning. This baby school thing may work and give me some dedicated writing time!!
My gaming t.v. Is down (again) so much of my gaming has taken place in short spurts late at night after everyone else goes to bed (and until I fall asleep) and on the handheld, which is not helping much in my prep for Fall so we’re going to have to get something worked out on that front soon. But since I mentioned gaming on the handheld I have to say that I finally got sound to playing Zelda: Spirit Tracks after having it out from Game Fly long enough to pay for it twice and I was sooooo disappointed! Was. It just me or was that game just far too easy and “Sweet Joystick” that friggin’ train was just plain old irritating! So I finally sent it on it’s merry way and bought Lego Harry Potter while I wait to see what comes next from Game Fly. I am hoping by some miracle it’s Red Dead Redemption before I lose my willpower and go out and buy it. Have I mentioned that I keep joining Game Fly do that I can by fewer bad games? The method too the madness is that renting them will give me a chance to figure out if I like them before I buy them (demos, in my opinion are too deceptive…some good demos mask bad games and vice versa!). Lego HP is a bit of a guilty pleasure the game play is ridiculously easy at this point, but there is something oddly compelling and addictive about it. maybe it’s the way you move through the narrative or the fact that you get to learn and use new spells (rather than the overly simplistic sword play in Zelda). There is some spatial puzzle gaming going on and since it had been a while since I had played much more than shooters and Heavy Rain it too me a few minutes to shake the puzzle cobwebs off. clearly I need to be keeping my mental faculties sharper!
Coming up on the long weekend my goal is to catch up on my grading, get my contracted work done, and maybe do a bit of gaming.
While I was driving home from Indy today I was actually brainstorming my Fall seminar: Writing in Virtual Worlds. The current course description reads:
680V is a graduate seminar that traces the use of virtual worlds as productive writing spaces from building “MOOsays”, conferencing, and holding discussions in the text based MOO/MUD through networking and ethos building in Linden Labs’ Second Life and writing possibilities in Massively Multiplayer Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft (WoW) and Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). Not only have these spaces proven to engage writing students, but they have proven to be generative writing spaces for students interested in both professional writing and ethos building and analysis, research, and ethnographic writing.
This graduate seminar will take a historical look at the theories that have been used in the teaching of virtual worlds based course. Readings will include texts such as High Wired: On the Design, Use, and Theory of Educational MOOs by Cynthia Ann Haynes and Jan Rune Holmevik, New Worlds, New Words: Exploring Pathways for Writing About and in Electronic Environments ed. by John F. Barber and Dene Grigar, Play Between Worlds: Exploring Online Game Culture by T. L. Taylor, The State of Play: Law, Games, and Virtual Worlds by Jack Balkin and Beth Noveck, Synthetic Worlds: The Business and Culture of Online Games by Edward Castronova, and The Warcraft Civilization Social Science in a Virtual World byWilliam Sims Bainbridge.
I have decided to break the course into three parts:
I. Writing in Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at the writing/composing that makes up the virtual space. Here is might be the narrative of the game, the code of the MOO, the composition of the world itself, or anything else that comes to mind.
II. Writing with Virtual Worlds: Here we will look at how virtual worlds can be used in the writing classroom. As with the preceding section we’ll start historically and move forward. We’ll read about how virtual worlds have been used in the writing/composition classroom and then move forward to how they are being used now and where we can go from here.
III: Writing about Virtual Worlds: Here be the research component. We’ll look at the research that is done on virtual worlds per se. We can talk about the difference between narratology and ludology and everything in between. Here we can look at rhetoric, process, programming, procedure, etc. and the value that these things have on their own or as a smaller component of something else.
Required games to play (Choose one from each category)
MOOs/MUDs: Lambda, MediaMOO, narrative based MUD (like the Lord of the Rings one)
MMORPGs: WoW, LoTHRO, City of Heroes/City of Villians, Everquest
RPGs/RPG elements: Oblivion, Fallout 3, Heavy Rain (PS3), BioShock, Alan Wake, Mass Effect, (Super)Paper Mario, Hotel Dusk (DS), Again (DS), Dragon Age: Origins, Torchlight (PC or Mac), Final Fantasy (all on all platforms), Animal Crossing (DS or Wii)
Others: Scribblenauts (DS), Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box (DS), Professor Layton and the Curious Village (DS), Lego Batman, Lego Indiana Jones, Lego Star Wars, Fat Princess, Braid, The Mis-Adventures of P.B. Winterbottom, New Super Mario Brothers Wii