Game Culture Assignment #4: Response to “Complete Freedom of Movement” pt 2

The second half of “Complete Freedom of Movement” by Henry Jenkins focused more on “girl play”, it’s difference to “boy play”, and that for video games we should combine the two together. Personally I feel this has already happened, which I will go into later, despite the fact that I think defining girl and boy space in and of itself is the issue.

Girl play according to Henry Jenkins is “a space of secrets and romance, a space of one’s own in a world that offers you far too little room to explore.” He claims that most literature that feature girl space focused on heroines that learned to “temper her impulsiveness and to accept family and domestic obligations”. There were two different places that “Girl play” tended to take place in “Secret Gardens” and “Town Play”.Although both are completely different spheres, they have many similarities, that of the hidden and secrets. The “Secret Garden” of course is in and of itself hidden and secret, while “Town play” is more of knowing peoples secrets/making people have secrets and keeping them hidden or hiding in order to get them much like “Harriet the Spy”. The use in video games then becomes one of discovery, discovery of the hidden, of secrets that have been buried and one of emotional discovery in contrast to “boy play” which is all about adventure in the wild. Both of these forms of play do share a common link though, exploration of the unknown, it’s just girl play seems to do it in more intimate settings whereas boy play tends to do so without caution in the wild.

This brings me to my point of is any of it really necessary. Both boys and girls share such similar play styles that they not only can be merged they can be do away with individual styles altogether. I would think the original reason to have different styles of play was always this silly notion that somehow women were weaker, that they needed to be at home and protected from the wild things out there, while the men were the strong ones and would have to go out and protect their women, as if these women didn’t even have enough status to be considered humans, but mere property. Women and men are equal. We may think in different ways, but in truth everyone thinks in different ways. It’s not about what sex you are, it’s purely about individuality. Sadly some people still don’t see it. In answer to the question “So, why do you write these strong female characters?” Joss Whedon simply states “Because you’re still asking me that question.” I find it odd that the writer of “Complete Freedom of Movement” insist that we need to open up more space for girls to play in, when in fact we just need to stop putting restrictions on our children based off their gender.

Since the time that this piece has been written I feel that games have gotten to be a lot more open to both male and female players. Take, for example, the Tomb Raider reboot. It offers a lot of little discovery in exploring the local environments and finding the history of the area you are in while at the same time adding action and adventure. This feels like it completely marries the two play spaces while also telling a decent narrative as well. Many other games have huge open worlds with which to interact with and within these open worlds theres many small quests and big quests that you can accomplish, not all of which ends up with a used weapon. So for the most part I feel we have opened up the spaces for play, but there are still issues with the play that needs to be fixed before calling it perfectly equal, as previously mentioned using women as properties or as prizes for the end of the game. Eventually though video games will be equal play spaces for anyone to play in.

Game Culture Assignment #3: Response to “Complete Freedom of Movement”

When I was young I used to live in South Carolina. I had friends that I played with at school mostly and had lots of land to explore and interact with, but when I was about 9 my mom got remarried to a man who moved us to Cincinnati. I didn’t have nearly as many friends and the landscape, still explorable, shrank considerably. During all this time was when video game systems were just becoming common place. While in SC we had an Atari 2600, and since I didn’t have many friends close by, I would love to play and explore in these worlds that were created for me. When we moved my mom and step-father got us the NES and we found even more worlds to explore. I’ve always loved video games for that need of exploration and play that couldn’t easily be found in the real world. In Henry Jenkins “Complete Freedom of Movement: Video Games as Gendered Play Space” he explores this idea that we as a people and as children need places to play and, when they have been taken away by cities, and overprotective parents, are given to us through video games.

I completely agree with Mr. Jenkins thoughts on play space, although have different views on some aspects of it. One implication of Mr. Jenkins’ treatment of video games as a play space is that video games are just for kids. Along the same lines I feel that adults need this play space as well, which is in fact why the vast majority of video game players now are adults. Although Mr. Jenkins does not say so directly, he apparently assumes that adults don’t need the same release as children do, that adulthood means that you have given up on all the childishness and have become a “Man” or “Woman”. From personal experience there is no defining point in life that tells you you are an adult, and in fact the act of heading toward adulthood leads even more need for you to have a place to vent your frustrations and seek creative outlets.

In discussions of the play spaces and childhood, one controversial issue has been death of adulthood. On the one hand, A.O. Scott argues “Mad men” and “Breaking Bad” shows this death as the death of the main character. On the other hand, Andrew O’Hehir contends that capitalism is the cause of adulthood. Others even maintain Seth Rogan is more serious than Woody Allen because of this supposed death. My own view is it is not the death of adulthood that’s the problem but the death of childhood that is the issue. We treat children like little adults, they have school that the must attend, they have play dates, they have teams sports that their parents usually force them to do, all so the can be responsible. Gone is the freedom of childhood and it’s play. When you never have a childhood well you have to express it in someway. This is where young adult novels are being read by adults, video games are being played by adults, media is more driven by what we as children loved. In fact I feel that the “Death of adulthood” is purely a response to the death of childhood and the loss of play spaces. In conclusion, then, as I suggested earlier, defenders of the theory that adulthood is dead can’t have it both ways. Their assertion that adulthood is dead is contradicted by their claim that we actually had an adulthood in the first place.

Now in my claim that childhood is dead is more fitting with Mr. Jenkins original idea that we have replaced play spaces from outside to within likewise the play spaces of typical childhood being replaced by games, and structured play. We seem to have very little unstructured play anymore. It always seems to have rules and boundaries in the same waysports and play dates tend to have. Video games have loosened those boundaries just a bit but there’s still the boundaries of the game itself, for example, not being able to climb certain mountains, or go past certain barriers. It rarely seems to be about the fun anymore but the task of it. Sports have goals, have cooperation, have rules, similarly video games have all these features. It’s when they go beyond those rules, like “Second Life”, Minecraft”, or even “Legos” that we really begin to use our imagination and get transported to our own world.


A Little More About Me

So I was thinking since this is my blog I would add something not quite video game related.

My name is Robert Durden and am currently a student at Columbia College for Video Game Design. I have a English degree with a minor in Philosophy from Northern Kentucky University.
Ever since I was a child growing up on Atari and especially Nintendo I have had a love for video games. I used to love going to to the store with my mom and wait in the lobby to play Pacman or Donkey Kong while she was checking out. I especially loved playing those games on our Atari 2600 at home. I have two older brothers, so had to share but even then loved watching them play too. In fact my oldest brother got a patch for being one of the highest scorers for Galaga. He actually wanted to be a game maker too but it never panned out for him. Now I actually have the chance to be a game designer myself.

Originally went to school the first time because I want to be a writer. I have written a few things some of which are posted in my Stories section to the left. I got two stories published when I was in college on a website that no longer exists (more details on my Stories Page) and recently published something for a Second Life Steampunk city The City of New Babbage of which I also admin the website just linked. I feel I should have written more but life seemed to have gotten in the way. In fact it’s one of the many reasons I went back to school to recapture that creativity I feel has been bottled up for too long. I always love writing and creating new things and this blog will highlight some of those things, not only with video games but literature and other things I create.

Video Games In Media

You may wonder why I just linked this video but as you can see it’s loaded with video game references that are almost instantly recognizable, or at least were when the video came out in 2011.
It’s funny though, before video games became media they were considered toys. Some critics still don’t even consider it art, which I completely don’t agree with.
How did video games become media though? What led to the rise of video games as a media? Well first you should really ask when did media see the importance of video games?
Let’s take it from the beginning shall we. Video games started as early as 1951 and continued under the radar until 1971. The first video game to ever be seen in a movie was “Computer Space” which was seen in the 1973 movie “Soylent Green” But video games never became very popular on it’s own until “Pong” by Atari came out in 1972.
Being inspired by Pong, Steven Lisberger developed the movie “Tron” which was the first movie to feature video games as it’s primary focus. In the movie, Kevin Flynn engineer behind a few games which were stolen from him is an avid gamer and he gets sucked into his own game world. This movie and games based off of the movie spun a whole generation of films inspired by games, and games of movies. After this media would be filled with references to gaming, like “The Last Starfighter” in which a arcade game is played to determine the next starfighter hero for an alien defense force.

The next biggest one, I feel, would be the movie “The Wizard” released in December 15th 1987 which was basically a giant advertisement for Nintendo. In fact they used this movie to show screens of their unreleased Super Mario Bros. 3, which released in the US shortly after the movie aired in February of 1990.

There are many references to games after this and even movies based off of video games like Super Mario Bros, Tomb Raider series, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, and Resident Evil just to name a few.

In part though these games either had references or were based off of games but really never treated them as pop culture which I feel really never happened until Scott Pilgram vs The World. Based off the manga series of the same name (the rest of the series has Scott Pilgram in the title), it’s a story about a boy who is pretty much a loser and falls in love with a girl who has 7 evil exes that he must battle in pure video game style. The movie has huge video game references, like in one scene playing the zelda fairy theme, to once defeating the evil exes they turn into change for Scott to pick up. There are so many more references that I could just talk the whole time about this movie so I won’t, even though it is one of my top ten favorites.
Which brings me back to the video I linked in the beginning. Video games have become such a pop culture phenomenon that it is everywhere now, in fact I’m sure many people are wearing video game tees right now. Video games have so be ingrained into the culture at this point that people don’t think twice about references, it’s like common nature, just like music, movies and TV used to be which for me is a great thing since I love video games.


Postmodernism in Gaming and the Question of Choice

Joint Assignment for Interactive Culture and Game Culture.

First before I really start let me say Why I feel this is a joint assignment. For my Game Culture class we were told to write a paper on the game “Always Sometimes Monsters” and my Interactive Culture class to discuss a few videos and explain a piece of work that is Postmodern. After playing “Always Sometimes Monsters” I’ve determined that is a perfect example, so far, of Postmodern Literature. Below is my look into this.

When I was a child, I used to think that Literature was the best art. Before even playing video games I was reading starting with The Hobbit and The Narnia stories, as a result I’ve always been more focused on story and character development in games than just play control, and game mechanics. One of my favorite literary genres, I discovered when I went to college the first time for my English Degree, is Postmodern. One book in particular completely inspired me “Mao II” by Don DeLillo. To note Postmodern books are typically not like Postmodern art. I’ve always believed that Postmodern art seemingly focused on the fantastic and surreal, Postmodern literature focused on the mundane and ordinary. There maybe exciting things going on around you but it solely focused on you. In short this is why I believe “Sometimes Always Monsters” is a Postmodern game through literary endeavors.
For those who might not know the only way to describe Postmodernism is to describe Modernism.

“Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped Modernism was the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by the horror of World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.” Wikipedia

Modernism basically was a turning away from realism, consequently Postmodernism was a turning away from Modernism and the stages before it. In reality Postmodernism is so hard to describe that no two people really have the same answer for it except that it’s not Modernism.

So why is “Always Sometimes Monsters” a Postmodern work?

Well because it fits the typical feel of the genre. Postmodern Literature tends to provide their characters with choices but in the end the things that were going to happen happened anyway. So far with the game I have been given choices but even though I am making moral choices I don’t feel that I am really changing the outcome one way or the other. I do feel so far (since I did purchase the game rather than get the demo) that I have helped and made some characters feel better, but really I think that these choices, one way or another, wouldn’t matter all that much in then end. At the same time that I believe that choices don’t matter, I also believe that they completely do matter. One of the first major choices in the game is to either help your friend set up his stage and talk him out/or into taking drugs, or to help the next door neighbor clean her apartment. I’m sure if you went to the apartment first you probably would have missed the interaction with your friend and he probably would have ODed if you weren’t there to help him. These little everyday choices we make could be life or death to someone, then again they could be nothing at all.

Although I should know better by now, I cannot help thinking that if my choices would have lead me down a different path. If I took some internships the first time in college would I have ever made it to Chicago or be going to school a second time around. I think that’s where Postmodernism really gets you though. It makes you question yourself, and your experience. If I had done something different would I have made changes, made a difference, or would everything be the same. The upshot of all of this is that you will never really know and to be happy with the choices that you have made. At least with “Always Sometimes Monsters” you can give life a second, third or forth chance to see if anything does or will ever change, and if it will be for the better or for the worst.

Game Culture Assignment #1: Games, Explained Response

It is often said that media is addictive so it follows, then that video games would also be addictive. According to Frank Lantz in his blog Game Design Advance his entry posted on Sunday, January 26, 2014 entitled “Games, Explained” gives a brief description of how video games can become addictive. In fact his finally statement in the blog entry say “In other words, games are like art, sex, and cigarettes. Simple.” although is there really anything simple about this? You would think that video games are nothing like art, sex and cigarettes but on the other hand they can be very much like all three, so why don’t we take a look at all three and compare and contrast them.

Many people assume that video games are not art, in fact one of the great movie critics constantly said that even though he considered movies art. I admit that there are a lot of video games that are not art or not very artistic, but the same can be said for movies. I would never call something like Spy Kids art, nor would I call Madden 15 art, but video games have come a long way from being entertainment to being artistic pieces to enjoy. If you take a look at Journey or Ico you can tell that there’s something more than just entertainment, something that strives to be better than just a toy, as a result becoming art.

Common sense seems to dictate arguing that games are like sex seems almost opposite of what I really should argue, I mean, yes there is an enjoyment factor to it, but sex is about much more than enjoyment, therefore I really don’t think video games are like sex. If you want to put them both in their simplest forms then yes sex and video games have a goal, have enjoyment factors, and could have end results, but this is a very base version of it. Games are not sex, at least not now, and really couldn’t or shouldn’t compare the two.

Now to the last point, cigarettes. Video games could be very addictive like cigarettes but in the end wouldn’t have the same long lasting health results. In fact most studies show that people who play video games actually have better hand eye coordination and can tend to solve puzzles much easier than people who don’t. The only thing I would say that video games does bad is suck up time and keeps you at a computer or TV screen while playing taking valuable time for you to possibly be exercising. Also being addictive it will make you come back for more and spend loads of money on the next best thing thus being very similar to cigarettes in that regard. But in the end video games are not specifically made to be addictive and cigarettes completely are.
Mr Lantz does say much more about symbolism and how it can be regarded with video games but in truth I never really bought that either. I’ve never really considered gaming as symbolic in any sense more than just like a TV as mostly entertainment that can be artistic at times but mostly for fun. In the end what’s wrong with a little bit of pleasure every now and again.