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Interaction, hold the communication

So in order to do anything but my work in the past few days, I've been playing a bit of Yahoo Go. Now Go is a great old board game that I am pretty bad at, and it seems to me that much of the fun of Go, or really any other old game that has been made into a computer app, depends on being able to see your opponent, and you know being able to interact with them. This doesn't happen with the online version. Sure there's a chat option, but nobody uses it as far as I can tell. It seems like people prefer their opponents disembodied.

In native computer games, there has been a move for years to increase interaction. In the old days of online gaming, things were pretty much impersonal in a "see opponent, shoot opponent" way, but that gave way to team-based games, in more recent years voice-capability, and intensely social "world" games such as WOW. In other words, there's been an attempt to bring the people behind the avatars into the game.

Digital Learning

Slashdot has an interesting review of a book about game based learning. Although the review is well worth the read for anyone interested in this subject (especially the part on how the prevalence of videogames has rewired our brains), I'd like to focus this entry on one of the comments made by a reader.

In this comment, the reader says:

A good chunk of going to primary school is learning how to behave socially. Learning ramifications for social action/inaction. One can argue this is true all through schooling, even in college, as people mature they need both other students to interact with and teachers to help guide those behaviors. This is, excluding a few "health" type classes, all done along side the normal learning that goes on. If you replace many teachers with machines, and students are in an e-learning environment where they don't interact with other students (or interaction is limited) then I'd guess you're going to lose an important part of what people actually learn as they go through the school system.

Why we Play Games

It never fails to amuse me that the best research about anything seems to always come out of commercial objectives. Game theory seems to be no exception. This study (pdf), commissioned by a game design company, has some very interesting insights as to why we play games.

Hard fun, as described in this paper, is the challenge that people find in games. Easy fun, in contrast, is the same fun we find in watching movies or reading books. A fully immersive experience can be nice every once in a while.

One of the more interesting descriptions in this paper is that of altered states -- the paper claims that a significant percentage of the gaming population plays games in order to achieve an altered state. This state may be one of artificial relaxation or excitement, similar to the states induced by a massage or mind altering drugs.

Something creepy

This blog has (among many other, more important functions) shown me the multitude of different ways in which people procrastinate. For what it's worth, I procrastinate by reading the news compulsively, and I just came across an article on about this game called "Left Behind: Eternal Forces." Maybe some of you have heard about the Left Behind book series, which is a Christian series about, as far as I can tell, the apocalypse. The series is bestselling, and it looks like now they've made a game based off of it. Sounds like a pretty typical formula.

POGs (yes, I'm actually posting about POGs)

The other night, I actually took a break from work to hang out with people -- one of those self-enforced, "if I don't do this I'll go completely insane" sort of breaks, and man was it incredible -- and at some point during the night we wound up looking up POGs on wikipedia (I'm not going to bother explaining why), and that led us to this site, which offers a number of options for playing POGs online.

How I Saved Online Caroline

I didn't like Online Caroline when I met her. The first time that I visited the Online Caroline webpage, I took one look at the faux-webcam -- showing her running around her house acting like a doofus -- and decided that I didn't really want to be "friends" with this person. But it was an assignment, so I registered my email address and waited for my first e-mail.

And the first e-mail was annoying, too.

So, I'll confess: I didn't bother with Online Caroline again.

The following Monday, we discussed Online Caroline -- and the Jill Walker essay that gave away the ending -- at length. Not being at all invested in Online Caroline, I had no reason to worry about her impending death, so I kept on ignoring the e-mails that were imploring me to visit the site. I wondered if maybe I'd get an email from XPT, anyway, to inform me of Caroline's disappearance or whatever, but no... I received nothing of the sort. Then, yesterday, I finally got this:

Wii the people

I know that a lot of us have posted (and spoken about) our disconnect from the video game world. I think part of that is because games have simply gotten too hard and too complicated for those who only want to dabble. When I was younger I played video games, Super Mario and Donkey Kong mostly. But as soon as the systems started giving players more freedom, I stopped. I'm not sure if anyone remembers when N64 came out, but I couldn't handle the 360 degree mobility of Mario in the N64 Mario game. It left me dizzy and bored.

So I was excited to read this article from the New York Times about the new Wii. This new game system wants to rescue "gaming from the clutches of the hard-core young male demographic that has dominated the industry's thinking for years." Evidently the Wii is supposed to be a lot more intuitive and easy to use, which is my style.

Changing the way the brain reads and thinks

So I'm reading GAM3R 7H30RY (and let me tell you, it freaks me out that even though a part of my brain processes that it's not all standard alphabet, most of my brain reads it like perfectly normal text), and was struck by the passage on card 10: "Work becomes a gamespace, but no games are freely chosen any more. Not least for children, who if they are to be the winsome offspring of win-all parents, find themselves drafted into endless evening shifts of team sport...Play becomes everything to which it was once opposed. It is work, it is serious, it is morality, it is necessity."

I grew up in a family that never really encouraged joining sports teams. My father had been on a lot of teams as a kid and enjoyed it, and we were never told we *couldn't* be on teams, but it was never really pushed. My parents felt it was more important to run around the backyard and play amongst ourselves than get caught up in the cut-throat competitiveness of suburban rec leagues.

But we played cards and board games for blood.

MuTT Logic, Half Life

The Foucault-Borges quote (see Oz's comment to my previous entry, Mutatis Mutandi) probably can't tell us the breed of Jackson' MuTT, but I'm thrilled to see it again without trying to do a Vulcan mind-meld on my library. Thank you, Oz. Thank you thank you thank you!

The quote does seem to fold into the subject somehow (if an analogy involving cake batter may be applied liberally -- with my perhaps too-broad spatula). It relates recursively, I mean.

The (prime?) difficulty with Borges' supposed Chinese categories is that they don't follow a single principle of classification (so that, for example, a suckling pig may belong to the emperor, thereby hybridizing categories and making the whole system of classification in some ways unworkable).

Mutatis Mutandi

Jackson's MuTT bit me.

Is this a narrative or a game or a _____ ?

I tried going back and putting in what I thought were valid answers for various people I knew (without their knowledge or consent, of course). The test results came out different, and even had some resonance with my own unauthorized opinions.

I went back and tried to refine my own responses, making different choices that still seemed valid for myself. I did this three times, and the results were always identical. Clearly, I am just too much of a 3-eyed disopropic parapagus to realize it, whatever that means, and Ms. Jackson is working with some kind of system, whatever that may be.