Posts tagged video games

Not Dead Yet, But That B*tch Sure Is!

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I am not dead yet, I promise :-) As we are exiting the busy part of fall semester (job search time for our graduate students) I am finally finding time to write something other than letters of recommendation and that includes finally coming back to the blog. I love the blog…I am often unfaithful with Facebook or Twitter, but I keep coming back to the blog. It doesn’t suck my in like Facebook and give me videos on demand, chat, and Flash based build your own farm/restaurant/zoo/fill-in-the-blank games, but it is comforting like homemade mac n’ cheese or wool handknits. I am all in favor of the creature comforts and after 10+ years of blogging it has become one of those creature comforts.

That being said I can tell you about something I’ve been playing….Red Dead Redemption. I was good, I was patient, I was frugal…I didn’t buy this game at launch like I wanted to. I put it in my game rental queue and hoped for the best. I didn’t even rush out and buy it when the kids in my virtual worlds seminar were raving about it. I resisted. And then, it came. I sent back Super Mario Wii and RDR came. I stayed up past my bedtime after everyone was asleep and I popped it in. I resisted the urge to splurge and buy the zombie DLC and just played original. Let me just say that while I was disturbed by the opening cinematic I powered on…the look on John Marston’s face at least let me know that I wasn’t the only one disgusted by the Kill the Indian, Save the Man religious rhetoric.

I found the game mechanics interesting. It was very GTA-esque. For the same reasons that I suck at driving cars in GTA I suck at riding a horse and driving a stage coach in RDR. But you know what? That’s okay, I accepted it a long time ago. There were subsequent problematic moments in the game, but the moment that made me stop playing all together came about an hour or so in when I was walking around town picking up missions. Now understand there is a lot of talking in this game…too much talking at times. There are inane conversations going on all around you all of the time…even when you are riding on horseback and there is nothing that you can do except listen. And (ever the good student) I always feel the need to pay attention lest I miss something important. But I digress. So as I am walking through town listening to the ambient noise I hear “*smack, smack, scream* Shut up b*tch before I cut you a new hole” Ok, you got my attention. I run around like a made woman (or man since I can only play John Marston) until I see a man raping/stabbing/otherwise violating a woman in the street. He runs off before I gather my senses and make it there. His business is done and lying in the street is a dead, bloodied prostitute. I guess she didn’t shut up quickly enough. I am nauseated. I shut the whole console off and went to bed.

When I went back to class on Monday I had to ask folks about the prostitute. Now I know that this was another GTA-like game and that there would be lots of violence and profanity so I was prepared for what I thought was coming. But clearly I wasn’t. While I have to admit that I have enjoyed my share of beating up and robbing prostitutes in GTA, but this was different. There was a kind of violence that was in your face and misogynistic. This we worse than the GTA hookers. What was even more surprising was that I was the only in class (of those who had played the game) who was as pissed off and sickened as I was. Then I began to question if I have actually reached the point when I am too old to play games?? Are the younger folks who have grown up in the age of GTA, in some cases these games have been around for literally half of their lives and in all cases for the entirety of their adult lives. I don’t have any answers for this. I’m not even at a place that I can theorize about this yet, but I can vent about it, right? Oh well, for now the game is still sitting on top of my console waiting for me to just give up and send it back since I really can’t bring myself to play it again. Luckily I did play through enough of the game to make it useful for my book project.

Extra Life: Gaming for a Cause

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My beautiful Princess Peanut was born with a duplicate thumb on her right hand. When she was 8 months old she had it removed at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indy. The good Dr. Havlik did her surgery and she still sees him regularly to have her progress evaluated. We have received good care from some of the nicest folks at Riley and I can only imagine how much more comforting that would be if Pea’s condition had been life threatening.

This year I am happy to be able to participate in the Extra Life Charity Marathon to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network and Riley.You can find my Extra Life Donation page HERE.

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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.

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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!

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