Category Archives: reading responses

Ownership & Copyright

An interesting game from MolleIndustria regarding copyright:

As we read in some of our Game Studies readings, the process players go through when they play a video game (the discovery of the algorithm of the game) can be educational and convey something meaningful to the player. In the “Free Culture” game by MolleIndustria, your goal is to keep ideas floating around in the free culture domain (the inner circle) and distribute them among the green people, so that they can absorb the free culture ideas and then generate more ideas. As you’re playing, a copyrighting machine (marked with a ‘c’) attempts to suck up all of the ideas from the inner circle, thereby preventing the green people from absorbing free culture ideas. As time passes, the green people eventually turn gray and become “passive consumers” and leave the inner circle.  What you may learn (or realize) from playing the game is that copyright really slows down the creative process, since ideas in the free culture domain cannot be used to create new ideas when they have all been copyrighted.

A semi-related issue I dealt with regarding copyright on YouTube:
So as you may or may not know, I’m part of a taiko (Japanese drumming) group, and most of the songs we play are “public domain” (in the world of taiko). Others are songs we’ve either created, or in a few cases, songs that our senior members have brought and taught to us from their study abroad experiences in Japan with other taiko groups. One of those groups contacted me through YouTube last semester inquiring which group played a song in a video recording of our performance (at last year’s Hawai’i Club Luau). Long story short, taiko groups in Japan are really intense and protective of their songs– we’re not allowed to perform their songs without their permission… which is a little ridiculous considering people do covers of songs all the time.

Long Lost Post on Authority

In “Audience Atomization Overcome”, Jay Rosen explains how the internet weakens the authority of the press (mainstream media). Using a graph to represent the “Three regions of the ‘Uncensored War‘” (previously dominated by the press), Rosen conveys that because the public is able to connect horizontally (with each other) to discuss the news and what is important to them, we no longer need to look upwards (to the press) to receive all of our information or mainstream opinions. As Clay Shirky explains in “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable”, with the advent of the internet and blogs, getting something published and available to the public “has stopped being a problem”– anyone can easily share anything they want (digitally) with the rest of the world.

In Rosen’s article, Hallin (the author of The Uncensored War who created the graph Rosen borrows for his article) responds to the numerous comments other readers have made on the site:

“Many of those who posted seem to believe that what is on the internet is closer to ‘real public opinion’ than what is in the mainstream media, but I’m not sure we really know this.”

While it’s true that, say, the most popular/frequent search queries made on Google say something about humanity (perhaps our general wants or concerns), we can’t say that everything we find on the internet represents “real public opinion”. If anything, the internet allows niche opinions and news to be published (a.k.a. the “Long Tail” of media).

Is This Man Cheating on His Wife?

After reading the article, I was a little incredulous at what the wife was willing to put up with. It seems fairly clear that he’s cheating on her, given that he actually married another woman. We’ve talked some about the legitimacy of internet relationships, and I think it’s undeniable that in an era of digital communication there’s at least emotional infidelity going on. Even if it’s not specifically cheating (which I would argue it is) he’s at least neglecting his relationship to a dangerous extent (not even realizing that his wife had talked to him). The hours he’s pouring into his other life are clearly detrimental.

Is there such a thing as internet relationship therapy? I wonder if a separate sect of psychology will develop to discuss couple’s therapy with a slant towards the digital. I know there’s psychology aimed towards addiction (to video games, internet lives etc) but I think it would be interesting to see the more relationship-focused therapy, exploring why people feel the need to escape their current partners to something online.

Gamer Theory: comments on content and form

The content:

In Gamer Theory, Mackenzie Wark compares the actual world (gamespace) to the world of video games by analyzing games such as Katamari Damaci, The Sims, Civilization III, and SimEarth. He starts off by describing the game world as a place similar to Plato’s cave (from “Allegory of the Cave”), in which the images (“shadows”) that gamers see are not truly representative of the real world. We know that the “real world” is out there and that it’s different from the world of video games; however, the closer we look the more similarities we see between the real world and video games. Although we may have considered video games to be a tool used merely for entertainment/educational purposes and existing in its own digital realm, I’m starting to believe that video games can have a larger (and perhaps moral) purpose as well as an effect on our perception of the actual world.

Through the lens of the gamer, life (gamespace) is a game made up of algorithms with plenty of unknowns/variables.

“The game is true in that its algorithm is consistent, but this very consistency negates a world that is not.” (card 32 of Gamer Theory, Chapter 2: on the Sims)

Wark conveys that although life may be perceived as a game through these lens, the actual world lacks the consistency of its “algorithms” when compared to video games. While for the most part, life is filled with many goals (and subgoals) that we must achieve in order to succeed (by the average person’s standard of success), simply achieving all of these goals won’t necessarily lead to success. Similarly, bad things happen to good people, even when they perform actions that deserve rewards and supposedly will lead to success.

The form:

After taking a User Interface class, I learned that if an interface wasn’t intuitive on the first try (i.e. you need to read a manual to use the interface), it probably isn’t a good interface. Anyway, while the implementation of comments/reader feedback was brilliant and the cards reminded me of our earlier readings on the beginning of the internet/computers, having the text split into so many cards made the reading seem very segmented, and perhaps less book-like. The search box should have been made more visible, so that readers would notice it and use it to look for cards they had read a while ago and wished to quote based on key words they remembered. It’s a very interesting way to represent the text, but I think the cards could have been longer than a paragraph each or at least separated by topic to have more purpose.

Gamer Theory and Sophie

So my response to this reading has to do with my reaction in correlation to my/our recent experience with Sophie. Gamer Theory is described in the about section as “a new sort of “networked book,” a book that actually contains the conversation it engenders, and which, in turn, engenders it.” and “an invitation to read in a different way.” I think these goals are aligned with the purpose of Sophie. Gamer Theory has a physical counterpart but the about section clearly encourages virtual reading.

Yes, it’s presented as more of a game than the options that Sophie provides, but both present a new way to read. The page visualization that both offer as well as additional figures that are viewable create a different type of book.

I also think that the Gamer Theory presentation is lacking, albeit in different ways than Sophie. I think we’ve… extensively (although arguably not comprehensively) covered Sophie’s issues so I’ll talk a little about Gamer Theory’s presentation. I find the “each page as a paragraph” format frustrating. This creates an unnecessarily large number of pages and moving from chapter to chapter is difficult once you’re in the page view. I could also see Gamer Theory pushing it’s status as a game even further. The “load saved game” is a cool nod to the purpose of the site, but I also think that Gamer Theory could have taken some things from Sophie and pushed itself to be even more interactive.

Does Wark's repeated misuse of the contraction indirectly communicate that his work has aroused greater reader interest than it actually has?

While Gamer Theory’s complex metaphors fascinated and confounded me, many of its other peculiarities made me think, too.  One particularly confused me: its grammatical imperfection.  How isn’t it flawless by now?  This is version 2.0!  Shouldn’t Wark have worked out the kinks?  Not only did Wark have professional editors’ aid (assuming Harvard Press required that a proofreader double-check everything before the book was published in the physical), but that of numerous commenters.  Yet, still, he hasn’t replaced the word ‘loose’ with ‘lose’ on card 212, and I noted at least three instances where he’s withheld the apostrophe in between ‘it’  and ‘s’ that’s needed when ‘it’ and ‘is’ are combined.  It’s plain to see these imperfections in the comment section beside each card—why does he ignore them?

One potential reason Wark doesn’t simply make these changes and take these comments down: he’s keeping count.  He wants as many comments as possible.  Sure, when someone points out a mistake, Wark’s being corrected—in a few instances, it seems his commenters are even chastising him—but he’s also getting feedback.  Feedback conveys interest.  If people weren’t interested, that would be an embarrassment.  Wark and the Institute for the Future of the Book hyped Gamer Theory as being a revolutionary literary work, a networked book that takes advantage of new media technologies allowing readers to interact with it.  Could readers’ lack of interest lead to less funding for such projects in the future?  As I don’t have access to the Institute’s financial information, I can’t say for sure.

Given, it’s true that many authors have to learn to deal with the fact that few people read their books.  But printed books don’t bear marks of their unpopularity within their pages.  With its paucity of commentary, Gamer Theory does.

That Wark allows for criticisms on content to remain attached to his project doesn’t surprise me much.  As we’ve addressed in class, bloggers who directly and publicly address their readers’ concerns are more trusted than those who ignore (or worse, delete) them.  In almost every instance, Wark comments back, defending his work and the decisions he made in its creation.  Impressive.

Gamic Actions and Procedural Rhetoric

In “Gamic Action, Four Movements”, Galloway describes video games as actions which can be categorized into four quadrants: diegetic machine acts, non-diegetic operator acts, diegetic operator acts, and non-diegetic machine acts. While I’m worried that I’ll never be able to play video games the same way again (I’ll always be analyzing the game and its actions), overall I agreed with Galloway’s points.

Together, all of these diegetic and non-diegetic machine and operator acts contribute to the process and algorithms of the video game. As the game/machine runs (and as the operator plays the game), the player takes part in a process which argues something about the way the world works. For example, in The Sims, the more items you purchase, the more you have to work (because you always want to purchase new items). While we might think that buying an item will improve our quality of life, in order to purchase the item, we have to work harder to earn money. By playing The Sims, the operator (player) may realize that buying new items/luxuries won’t actually make your life easier, and instead causes added stress.

Reading Response: Incest in Transformative Works

While incest remains one of the most taboo topics in our culture, when it comes to fandom and transformative works, (as we read in “The epic love story of Sam and Dean”: “Supernatural,” queer readings, and the romance of incestuous fan fiction) it’s actually a more popular topic when it comes to fandom’s. In researching for our discussion, I came across several very popular fandom’s involving incest: the afore-mentioned Supernatural, Heroes (so-called “Petrellicest,” spearheaded by niece/uncle Claire/Peter and brothers Peter/Nathan), and Harry Potter (which has a pairing for everything, including twins Fred and George). For the first two, these incestuous pairings are in many ways more popular than any other of the shows’ pairings. While the article proffered that the first was a lack of female and acceptable outlets, I feel that the strong pro-incest following presented in Heroes provides evidence to the contrary. I think that may be a too simplistic view of incest, our culture, and transformative works’ place.

Classification Confusion

Response to Alexander Galloway’s “Gamic Action, Four Moments”

Over winter break, my little cousin Ben begged me to play Xbox’s Bakugon Battle Brawler with him.  The experience was surprisingly enjoyable.  The game’s menus were slick.  It was simple to start and to stop, to save and to quit. The hardware wasn’t stubborn like the controllers of my youth.  There were no stuck buttons (though sticky buttons there were—at five, Ben’s wont to spill sugary liquids on his toys).   These nondiagetic elements, the parts of the game “still inside the total gamic apparatus yet outside the portion of the apparatus that constitutes a pretend world of character and story”, make my little cousin’s gaming experience far superior to mine at his age.

As Galloway states, since ‘the nondiegetic is so important in video games, it is impossible not to employ the concept.’  I see how this classification could be helpful, but it seems some gamic aspects don’t fit neatly within this system.  When talking about Final Fantasy X, Galloway classifies combat as diagetic and the process of selecting how different aspects of combat will unfold as nondiagetic.  The diagetic aspect is narrative, while the selection is not.  But what happens when most of one’s game play time is made up by choosing, when choosing becomes part of the narrative?  Is the selection process then ‘diagetic’, too?

As I wrote about in a previous post, I was obsessed with The Sims as a kid.   For me, the most fun part of the game was choosing my characters’ personality, appearance, and residential settings.  Technically, thuogh, these are contextual aspects surrounding the game, mere settings determined before ‘play mode’ where the Sims take actions.  It’s pre-narrative, and, therefore, nondiagetic.  Something doesn’t feel right about classifying my Sim selection process as nondiagetic, though.  I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Perhaps it’s that most things determined nondiagetic in this piece are non-gamic.  Non-playful.   Yet The Sims’ choice mode is arguably both gamic and playful.  “A game,” says Galloway, ” is an activity defined by rules in which players try to reach some sort of goal.”  Selection mode has a goal: creation of the perfect Sim (or, at least, the Sim that will perfectly conform to your wishes, be they creating a Sim that looks like your mother or crafting and sabotaging a doppelganger of the stupid kid across the street who always jumps on your backyard trampoline without asking).  Plus, while one might not consider selection a playful act, for me, this was ‘play’ as Callois defined it:  a “voluntary activity…  having its aim in itself and accompanied by a feeling of tension, joy, and the consciousness that it is ‘different’ from ‘ordinary life'”.  However, later in the essay, Galloway indicates the setup act is separate of play: “There are many significant aspects of gaming,” Galloway states, “that happen completely outside play proper (e.g. the setup act)…” I spent hours in the selection mode—if I wasn’t playing, what was I doing all that time?  Planning to play?

Methinks I’ve confused myself.  If I’m misinterpreting Galloway’s definitions in some way, please enlighten me.  Also, for those of you who are avid gamers, what improvements have you noted in the nondiagetic features of gaming?  If you *had* to choose, would you rather improve the nondiagetic aspects of your favorite games, or within-gameplay features?

I'm glad I didn't end up as a furry.

I thought the Cumberland reading was really interesting, mainly because it addressed many of the things I experienced during adolescence. I used to love watching Xena: Warrior Princess and I used to read fanfiction for my favorite video game/manga/anime characters (yes I’m one of those people). At one point during my Neopets days, I used to be a fan of a furry artist who also drew furry Neopets… ‘Nuff said.

Anyway, I agreed with Cumberland’s point that the supportive online community of female fanfiction readers/writers encourages the creation of more slash/fanfiction works. Cumberland poses the question, “in what way does the openness and anonymity of cyberspace allow women to appropriate power over their own imaginations and bodies?” Since fanfiction content is so easily accessible on the internet, and because of the anonymity of viewing/accessing fanfiction websites and forums, more women are able to view and contribute to fanfiction works than would be possible without the internet. We don’t feel judged by entering a questionable website in the same way we would if we stood in the erotica section of Barnes & Noble or entered an adult video store. While everything is public on the internet, to each website visitor, the act of accessing a website is something individual and private (on your own personal computer screen). This sense of anonymity promotes the expression of our (mostly socially-unacceptable) desires in ways which could not happen so easily IRL, where social norms and pressure prevent us from behaving “abnormally”.

On the effect fanfiction has on the original works, I think that when the audience creates derivative fan works, they feel even more invested in the original work (as if they’re contributed something to the series/story). That said, I think creators should be glad when they have fans willing to create derivative works– it only adds to the original work’s popularity and increases the size of the potential audience.

This poor dog is the subject of Star Wars fandom.