Saturday, November 30, 2013

Final Project Proposal: Complicate the Narrative/"The Romantic Dead"

1. Working Thesis Statement
My project is twofold: I want to produce a short e-book with several essays connecting videogames and literary traditions and thinking, and I want to submit one of those essays, "The Romantic Dead," for publication somewhere.

For the e-book, the purpose is basically "Videogames are a new medium, but they speak to the artistic traditions of the mediums that preceded them and expand on themes and ideas of the past in new ways native to this new interactive medium, and this book shows several ways in which that is true."

For the essay "The Romantic Dead," the thesis is "TellTale's The Walking Dead and Naughty Dog's The Last of Us are both neo-romantic pieces that update the ideals of romanticism to the post-industrial state."

2. Preliminary exploration
I've done plenty on both these fronts. My personal gaming blog has several posts I've already written that link literature and videogames. I read and reviewed Ian Bogost's book How to Do Things With Videogames. I've also curated a lot of content on the debate over videogames as art here.

3. Relevance
To digital culture: Many lament the rise of digital culture as a kind of death of civilization and great art, but this project seeks to prove otherwise, and instead show how digitally native mediums only enhance art and are just another step forward.

To a specific audience: I'm hoping the e-book will serve as a kind of primer for humanities students and teachers trying to bring this new form of expression into their classrooms and studies. Also, I feel like serious gamers--especially those who have played the game I write about--will be very interested in these essays just as a way to get them deeper into the worlds of the games they play.

4. Format
Like I said before, I'll have two formats here: one will be a more formal research paper (that could easily be a guest blog post as well) and the other will be an e-book that I'll also have available in PDF format (I have to typeset a book for a print publishing class I'm taking, so I might as well just do this, right?).

5. Outlet
There are several outlets I'm looking at for both sides of this project.

I really want to submit one or two of the essays to the BYU English Symposium to get these discussions going in the BYU community, but there are other venues I'm exploring as well.

I've been eyeing the online journal Game Studies for awhile, and think "The Romantic Dead" might be a good fit for it. I also like the website First Person Scholar, and though their call for papers says they focus on graduate students, I still think my work could get accepted there. Finally, the RE: Humanities conference is specifically asking for writing about games, so it could be a venue that is eager to accept my work.

6. Curation
Content for analysis: see the pictures and links in my posts here and here.

Secondary texts:

  • Greg recently showed me the Google+ community World of Video Game where he shared a video from one of my posts that currently has 94 +1's.
  • Subreddits /r/gaming, /r/truegaming, and /r/games are all reddit communities interested in games and game thinking
  • Video Games is another Google+ community that's very active and encourages a lot of discussion
7. Social Proof
I've worked a lot with both +Greg Bayles and +Gideon Burton already discussing these ideas, and both have reacted positively and encouraged me to move forward. I received a lot of positive feedback when I presented my paper from last semester on Shakespeare and videogames at RMMLA, which encouraged me to keep writing about the connection between literature and videogames. In an information session with the faculty of the MIT graduate program in Comparative Media Studies Writing, the director of the MIT Game Lab, Philip Tan said my research works in perfectly with their program and what's going on in game studies right now.

To be honest, I still feel like I haven't found the community that I know is out there talking about games like I do, but I've found a lot of good people and continue to search all over for like-minded people.

8. Next steps
I have lots of content already, so next steps for me are to figure out the best way to collect these essays into an e-book and how best to distribute that, as well as study the specific submission guidelines for each venue and adapt my work for each of them. I'll also continue searching for communities and venues, just to make sure I get the widest interested audience possible.

Journey and the Epic

Here's another re-post from my personal gaming blog that I'll probably work into my final project.

Journey, developed by thatgamecompany as part of a partnership with Sony, is one of my favorite games ever made. Despite being short, simple, minimalist, and offering virtually no challenge, it has had the biggest impact on me of any game I've ever played, and I'm hardly the only person to say things like that. Among the many reasons already given for why Journey is so great, I'd like to add a new one: Journey is actually the simplest, most universal epic poem ever written.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Possible Venues for the Final Paper/Project -- Pinterest and Identity

Finally getting around to posting my list of venues for my final paper on Pinterest and digital identity. I really liked Greg's suggestion for the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association for the Women's Studies conference, but since the deadline has passed, I thought I should see if I could find something with future deadline and similar subject matter.

Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space -- Although this venue's mission statement says it wants to provide opportunities for doctoral and master's students, it doesn't put that stipulation on those who wish to submit their work. I feel like this would be a good choice for me and lots of other people in my Digital Culture class. It offers a very broad range of topics (such as crowdsourcing in journalism and social media in journalism, +Kayla Swan) , but the one that I would be interested in is the topic of social media and new practices of identity. Check it out if your topic has anything to do with social media. Proposals are due March 7 and full papers in May.

CATaC 2014 Conference -- Culture, Technology, and Communication (CATaC) holds a biennial publication and conference for subjects regarding culture, technology, and communication. This year's conference is dealing with Design/Production and Practice of the aforementioned topics. The topic that I'm interested in is in the Practice category: the construction of identity using online social media. I think this is the venue that I'm leaning toward submitting to. Because I am focusing on one specific social media platform (Pinterest), I think this will be the best option for me. Papers are due February 14.

I think that's it for my potential venues. While doing this research, I also found some options for a couple of my classmates. For +Brittany Hansen I found A Hands-on Approach: The Do-It-Yourself Culture and Economy in the 20th century. Brittany, I'm not sure what your approach is for your paper, but if you have a good historical background connection, then this might be a good venue for you. Next is for +Lizy Cole: Internet Memes and Visual Culture: A Special Issue of a Journal of Visual Culture. According to the description, they said they were very interested in creative formats for submissions in addition to the traditional essay.

Good luck on your final papers and projects, guys!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Potential Presentation Venues for Digital Civilizations Research

I've been looking for different outlets for my research on digital civilizations, so I wanted to post some of my preliminary findings.

  • Re: Humanities 2014 is an undergraduate conference focusing on digital studies, so I feel like it will be a perfect setting for my research. The submission deadline is fast approaching, so I'm planning on putting together a proposal over the next few days and submitting it to Dr. Burton for feedback so that I can make the December 1st deadline. This would likely be a good venue for just about any of my classmates as well.
  • Interrogating Colonization and New Politics is a graduate conference held at Bowling Green State University, but I'm going to be contacting the conference coordinators to see if they will consider an undergraduate paper. My topic ties in really well with one of their main topics, which involves "digital frontiers." The deadline isn't until March, so this might give me the chance to really figure out what they are looking for and adapt my work to the requirements in hopes of getting accepted despite my undergraduate status.
  • EDUCAUSE is also accepting submissions for a conference on digital scholarship, and it has the added benefit of being online as well as in-person. That might prove necessary, as the conference is during the regular school year, and assuming I'm in grad school, I may not have the time nor resources to go gallivanting around Florida (despite the obvious temptation).
As I was looking through papers, I found a couple that might be useful for +Aleesha Bass or anyone else involved in women's studies in the digital age. The Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association just recently ended its call for papers for its April 16-April 19 conference, but it may be that they accept late submissions as well. I felt that this would be an especially pertinent area for Aleesha and others. Elsevier journal also has a call for papers going on right now, though it seems to be more about feminism that about media studies. Anyway, it might be worth looking into.

That's all, though, for now. I'll hopefully post some of my progress by Thursday or Friday, and I'll have a draft up soon for anyone who's interested. Thanks for enduring!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Virtual Civilizations: Settling the Digital Wilds

"The British Settlers of 1820 Landing 
in Algoa Bay" (1853), by Thomas Baines
Well, I wanted to do a video to summarize some of the points that I'm going to be hitting in my research project, but time got the best of me, so for now, it'll have to be just an outline. I'll hopefully get to do a video next week sometime (or maybe tomorrow, if the gods smile upon me). So anyway, here we go with the outline. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please leave them in the comments below! Thanks!

     -Historical Perspective
               Inheritance of cultural/infrastructural wealth from larger nation (U.S.)
               Requirements for a civilization: what is a civilization?
     -Working Thesis: The Internet represents the heir apparent to the cultural and social wealth of the                     American 'Empire' and will ultimately serve as a crucible for new, digital civilizations.
Digital Governance
     -Already taking root among digital communities
               Bitcoin nation
               EVE Online representative council
               Confederation of Democratic Simulators
     -True Democracy
     -Opt-in citizenship
Virtual Economies
     -Fiat currency
     -Flow of money out of real economy and into digital economies
     -Bitcoin and other digital currencies
     -Interconnectedness of the two markets: hyperinflation, devaluation of yuan, etc.
Arts in the Digital Age
     -Arts exploration
               Harlem Renaissance
               Scottish Highlands
               St. Andrews
               Roman Ruins
     -Player-authors: crafting our own worlds
Settling the Digital Wilds (Conclusion)
     -Monuments of our Age
     -William McGaughey: primary institution of power is the internet
     -Call for virtual settlers

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Teens and Fandom

I decided to be an altruistic scholar on behalf of Victoria (Sorry, Shelly, didn't mean to step on your toes!)

I became interested in the idea of fandom when I was reading the book Girl Wide Web 2.0 for class. It has an article titled “Me/Her/Draco Malfoy: Fangirl Communitites and Their Fictions” by Jaime Warburton that talks specifically about teen girls and their roles in fan fiction. Although fandom wasn't a prominent point I focused on in my research, I think it will be very helpful for hers. (I have the book if you would like to borrow it, Victoria, since it will not be found anywhere online.)

I also wanted to look at the sources the author used to write this article to see if they might be any use to Victoria, and I think I found a few. (And of course, there are more listed in the book, but these are that I felt would be of the most benefit to Victoria that I could also find online.)

“Is there a fan in the house?: The affective sensibility of fandom” by L. Grossberg in The adoring audience: fan culture and popular media edited by L.A. Lewis. You can find it here or by searching on the library website.
“Fan Fiction Online: Engagement, critical response and affective play through writing” by A. Thomas. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy. You can find it here or on the library website.
“Blurring and breaking through the boundaries of narrative, literacy, and identity in adolescent fan fiction” in M. Knobel &C. Lankshear (editors) A new literacies sampler. You can find it here. I was only able to find this source on Google Books, so it only shows a preview of this particular article, but I still think there will be some useful information for you and I think it is very pertinent to your topic.

I also stumbled across this website which has already curated a list of articles regarding fan culture.

I hope this helps, Victoria!

The Romantic Dead

The following is a post from my personal gaming blog, Complicate the Narrative. I'm putting it here because it might work into my final project.

I wrote a little bit last week about my experience with TellTale's The Walking Dead and the rise of what I've come to call "film-games." In that post, I also talked about The Last of Us, another of my favorite games of all time. The two games share a surprising amount of similarities (while feeling like entirely different games), but one that particularly catches my attention is that both could are works of Neo-Romanticism.

(*Sigh* I guess I'm morally obligated to tell you, I will be "spoiling" these games, to the extent that the enjoyment of art really depends on the revelations of its plot.)

Two Can Play at This Game

After Greg rained info on me like mana from heaven, I've taken it as a personal challenge to respond in kind. Here we go, +Greg Bayles. Have some stuff on digital civilizations/nations and virtual worlds.

Digital Nations:

This article is a chapter from this book that deals more with privacy, but also suggests that Facebook deserves a constitution, especially since David Cameron (Prime Minister of the UK) met with Mark Zuckerberg as if he were a head of state.

This is a reddit user's attempt to make a whole constitution for the "Digital Nation."

Virtual Worlds:

This image is from Gary's Mod which I found from this reddit thread where a lot of users talk about how they've "lived" inside the game. In addition to going to a bar to watch professional gamers play another game from inside the game, people have read the entire Lord of the Rings series, watched whole movies, and more.

This article is about the upcoming EverQuest Next, a game which is actually two games presented in two phases. The first phase is EverQuest Next Landmark, where players will be free to establish towns, settlements, cities, etc. to establish the world, then when that phase is done and enough of the world is built, they'll start the real MMORPG of fighting and stuff, but you can still build things too.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Breaking Down the Video Game: Resources for Reading Video Games

Are video games art? Can we look at them as 'literary' works?
What critical theories aid in understanding and distilling
meaning from video games? How can we 'read' video games?
Hopefully these resources will help to answer some of these
I've been really fascinated by +Paul Bills's research on video games, so I decided to take a few minutes to contribute some resources for his study of video game "literacy." Paul has been working on a book proposal for a work on how to "read" video games from a critical persthe medium of the 21st century, so I'm excited to see people like Paul engaging in formal analysis of games. They will, no doubt, play an integral role in the future of media studies, and realistically, they are on track to become one of the most powerful tools for audience engagement and social change.

I started off by doing a search for "reading video games," and that didn't turn up much of anything useful (mostly just a bunch of pseudo-games that teach reading). I then decided to try searching for "critical analysis of video games," and this turned up some really great material. I've divided into three categories: courses/syllabi, books, and miscellaneous (though still valuable) resources.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Herman Melville: Virtual World Builder

Image Credit: Michael Pate
I've been trying to figure out how I could relate a study of Moby Dick to my current research topic, virtual worlds, and I've had an interesting time thinking about some of the connections. A few days ago, a friend sent me a synopsis of an article that basically talked about how for him, baseball was a "virtual world" to which he escaped as a child, and that got me thinking more about the nature of virtual worlds in a broader sense. Basically, I want to work toward proving that Moby Dick (and for that matter, a vast majority of books) is really just a rudimentary virtual world and that the fundamental principles behind a book are emphasized likewise in online worlds.

The term "virtual world" in our modern context usually implies a number of things: online, multiplayer, interactive, and based in a generated 3D environment. Thinking about it from that perspective, books really don't have much in common with virtual worlds at all. But what if we examine books and virtual worlds from a broader perspective? What is a book? What is a virtual world?

Moby Dick, Democracy, Participatory Culture, and Games

"Call me Ishmael," Moby Dick begins, establishing the identity of our narrator for us and giving us an introduction to his character and particular voice as he will be telling us this story for quite a while and we should be comfortable with him. Moby Dick is a book full of strong characters--Queequeg, Ahab, Flask, Starbuck, Stubb--each of these character seem particularly individual and powerful in their own right, just as we feel we "get to know" Ishmael, we can "get to know" the other characters and understand their desires and quirks. However, the story isn't about any one of them, its about (and exists because of) all of them combined.

Not only does Melville craft each of these characters expertly to allow each of them their own voice and personality, but the very form of Moby Dick is broken up into distinctive "voices" of different literary genres. Interrupting Ishmael's regular narrative come dramatic monologues (ch. 37), encyclopedic articles (ch. 32), affidavits (ch. 45), as well as histories, articles, and more. Indeed, Moby Dick is designed on a formal as well as a textual level to break up any overpowering voice. In fact, freedom of speech and choice may arguably be what Moby Dick most values, as the ultimate tragedy of its ending comes from Ahab drowning out everyone else with his power and desire.

This evidence proves Moby Dick's quality as a distinctly American epic. But it wasn't popular until the early 20th century, and many scholars have classified Moby Dick as a modernist work. This makes sense because modernism, the term given to much of the literature of the early 20th century before World War II, emphasized the same points and values of expression, experimentation, and the power of the individual. It was a time when listening to single voices was more and more dangerous, as well as more and more outdated as the United States, the ensign of democracy to the world, was rising to become its greatest super-power, thus proving to the world that what started as an "experiment" of democracy was paying off, and Americans were certainly not quite in pointing this out to world.

As I've explained elsewhere, the influence of the rise of democracy and American in the late 20th century is easily seen stamped all over the internet. Thus, soon after its inception, the internet evolved from just a repository of information to a tool of individual expression, a shift commonly referred to by scholars as Web 2.0. Democracy is so stamped into the mindset of the world that it is more a social than a political principle in our own time, and we feel it is our right to be able to express ourselves and give our opinion. This simple shift in thought might be the single biggest marker of the modern human being to that of earlier ages: we seem to think we all matter. Thus, authority becomes more and more complicated in the modern world, and this aversion goes deeper than we sometimes think.

When we receive any information today, we expect to be given the opportunity to interact with it and not just receive it. This is viewed as a fundamental right, thus the proliferation of comments sections on nearly every website around. Social media lets us not only express our opinion about anything we care to comment on, but provides tools to make sure other people know that opinion by way of hashtags and hyperlinks. Our world is increasingly built to make sure we are allowed to express ourselves about anything, anytime, anywhere, publicly.

Thus, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the fastest-growing and most innovative medium of expression today is videogames. Neither should anyone be surprised that so many of the current generation want to go to this medium to have cultural experiences and explore a variety of perspectives on life and important moral and philosophical debates. Videogames are increasingly growing in intellectual capital because they are the medium that best represents the values of contemporary communication and expression, where the audience is not only encouraged but by definition expected and needed for the piece to unfold. In a world where talking back is a right, a medium that lets the audience feel like they are doing the talking in the first place is the ultimate concession to that right. Videogames are Artistic Expression 2.0, expression that allows creators to still have strong sense of authorship, but for audiences to feel they are just as important as the creator, and even creating their own experience.

So, really, videogames as a culturally legitimate medium is not only eminent, but inevitable. You can join the conversation, or you can ignore it, and regret it 30 years from now when the majority of the world's most important cultural conversations are happening inside and around videogames, and you find yourself with a lot of catching up to do.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Comparing Moby Dick to Pinterest

Courtesy of Reeding Lessons from
It states in the introduction of Moby Dick, "Melville himself certainly believed that all men are united by the bond of reciprocal dependence, by a community of function and responsibility" (xv). There are the following parts: etymology, extracts, prose, lists, histories, biographies, plays, epics, etc. This is a community working together to present meaning. We've talked about it how it's is one genre, but not really because it's another genre as well. It can't really be identified as ONE genre: It's a compilation of all of its genres and that's where the significance is found.

Pinterest is arguably the same way. If we were only to identify pinners by one pin, one thing that they felt best encompassed who they are, it wouldn't work because it is more complicated than that. They can't be identified by one outfit or one recipe. Instead they are identified by ALL of the pins together.

Moby Dick is a Game

In our Digital Culture class, we've already discussed a lot about the complicated idea of what type of book Moby Dick really is. Looking at the digital mediation post Dr. Burton wrote brought me back to that question as he encouraged us to deliberately disrupt the text to see it in a new light. After reading Ian Bogost's How to Do Things with Videogames and pondering game design a lot lately, I started to mediate Moby Dick through the lens of game design, and I wish to argue here how Moby Dick is a game--not that it could be adapted into a game well, but that the book itself is a kind of game.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chasing Divinity: Search-Based Analysis of the Sacred in Melville's Moby Dick

Ichiyusai, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi
Public Domain
Alright, it's Moby Dick time again. A while ago, I wrote a couple posts about Ahab as a representation of Milton's Satan and of the white whale as a symbol of divinity. In that I've been learning about "big data" and digital modes of textual analysis, I figured it might be interesting to look at divinity and holiness from a new perspective. Based on my findings, it turns out that "holiness" as a concept becomes less as less frequent throughout the work and in some sense becomes inaccessible or 'unthinkable' (a la Marx) for Ishmael and the other characters. While certain associated words like "blessed" and "divinity" feature throughout the work, others like "sacred" either become increasingly sparse (or absent) toward the end of the book or they adopt negative forms (i.e. "unholy" vs. "holy") that lend to an overall descent into madness and despondency.

I used an html version of Moby Dick (thank goodness for public domain) to do some simple searches in-browser, and it turned up some pretty interesting results. My first few searches were the most revealing, so I'll save those for the end, but I input forms of "bless" and "divinity," and those showed fairly uniform frequency throughout the novel as a whole. "Bless" and its derivative forms showed up twenty one times without any apparent pattern of usage or non-usage, and "divine" appeared a total of fifteen times. Interestingly, of those fifteen instances, five are in reference to whales or to the White Whale himself, this being the most common referent, coming in well above "God" and "Providence" in terms of usage.

Preliminary Book Outline for "How to Read a Videogame"

I've been working with Dr. Burton to flesh out an official book proposal for a publisher as my final project for the class. Below is my preliminary outline. The ideal audience I'm going for is people who already think critically about other mediums and want to learn how to apply those techniques to videogames. I'd love any feedback!

Introduction: Reading Games

  • Changing state of games
  • Games are getting more relevant, complex, and ubiquitous
  • Games are the art for us--our time and our world

You don't read games, you play them, but reading means more than gathering information from words, it means gleaning meaning and information through a critical eye. How to Read a Videogame will be an overview of how to "read" games in the latter sense, going beyond playing to pondering and understanding.
Section One: Learning from Literature, Film, and other mediums

  • Acting
  • Lighting
  • Framing
  • Dialogue
  • Symbolism and Metaphor
  • Themes
  • Social Commentary

Section Two: Reading Genre

  • Intro to game genres
  • FPS, RTS, MOBA (ARTS), Action/Adventure, Open-world, Story-driven, Puzzle, etc.
  • How genre determines mechanics
  • How mechanics make meaning

Section Three: Reading outside genre: "Points of intersection"
Games are about interaction, and meaning comes from when and how different parts of the game interact. Starting from the point of the player, I'll go step by step down the rabbit hole into the game, looking at each layer of interaction and how those interactions create meaning.

  • Player to Game System (rules, goals, etc.)
  • Player to Player Character(s)
  • Effect of Controls
  • Player Character to environment
  • NPC to Player Character(s)
  • Non-player Character (NPC) to NPC
  • NPC to environment

Conclusion: Looking Forward to "the Ludic century"

  • Games literacy will only be more essential in the future

The cultural contributions the 21st century will be remembered for won't be films or books (those are the last two centuries' mediums), this century will be remembered for its games.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Some of My Favorite Poems On Video

Dr. Burton's post we read for class on video poems inspired me to make a quick collection of a few of my favorite video poems. Here they are!

Taylor Mali is an English teacher and an amazing slam poet. This particular poem is just awesome. There's also a kinetic typography version of the same poem here.

This one caused a lot of buzz on the internet recently, and is interesting both as a poem and a study of the problems (and performance) of OCD.

This one is interesting to me because it's a poem reacting to cartoons turned back into a cartoon.

I love Billy Collins, and this animated version of his poem "The Country" is especially good.

I've actually also made a Facebook group for discussing poetry in contemporary society. You can check it out (and even join if you want!) here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Girl Wide Web 2.0 Video Review

Here is my video review of Girl Wide Web 2.0. First let me preface this by saying that I don't consider myself a very good speaker, so sorry for all of the "umm"s and the stumbles. Also, I'm sorry for the annoying watermark on the video. The software that I downloaded to make the video was a trial, and it didn't tell me until I was done making the video that it was going to add a watermark to it. Yay for hidden stipulations.

Read my Goodreads review here.

Video Book Review: Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken

This is just a quick look at Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken. It likely won't come as a surprise to anyone, but I got carried away trying to do something really cool to do for my video book review and ended up just splicing a few clips together for lack of time. One day, I'll figure out Windows Movie Maker and be able to import .MOV files successfully without spending an hour and a half. Anyway, without further ado, here's the review.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

How to Do Things With Videogames Video Review

So, my brother graduated from BYU with a film degree and I was hoping he would help me on this project, but it just so happens that he's out of town this week. I thought I had more skills than I really do with video, so for better or worse here's my video review.

Rather than going with a set script, I set a basic outline and tried to talk about some ideas I had. I wanted it to seem more like a conversation and my honest impressions. Because of that, a lot of the ideas are the same as my written review, but they're said pretty differently.

Also, YouTube has been doing some weird things with the sizing of the video in the player that I can't figure out how to fix, so I hope it looks okay for you.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Girl Wide Web 2.0 edited by Sharon R. Mazzarella

Image from here
Girl Wide Web 2.0 (check it out on Goodreads or Amazon) is about how girls and women are renegotiating their identities through means of the Internet. The book is written in a series of essays; each author has taken a specific subject of the Internet which girls and women that are participating in and has analyzed how their culture has redefined how they represent themselves online. In the foreword, Dafna Lemish writes, “Through the variety of possibilities of engaging others online, girls … explore new opportunities to express their voices, and so the Internet is involved in self-growth. Some practices involve the construction of very private and individual identities and a creative process of expression. Others experiment with social relationships and create communities of ‘sisterhood.’”

I liked this book and appreciated the perspectives that it had on the evolution of identity online. While there was a lot of valuable information in the book as a whole, there were two particular chapters that I found useful as far as expressing online identities from different cultures: “Degrees of Caution: Arab Girls Unveil on Facebook” and “East Meets West: Is There a Difference Between Tai and American Girls’ Use of the Internet and Negotiation of Identity?”

How to Do Things With Videogames by Ian Bogost

See my review on Goodreads here.

How to Do Things With Videogames might not be the book you're expecting it to be. It's not a game design book that discusses technical solutions, neither is it a book of videogame criticism focused on the effectiveness of individual titles. Rather, it's an eye-opener book meant to show anyone and everyone what has been done with videogames so far in their relatively short history. Indeed, a better title for this book might be How Things Have Been Done With Videogames. As such, it reads more like a highlight reel of Bogost's blog posts on videogames than a single argument that unfolds from chapter to chapter.

Once you understand that purpose of this book, it's easy to see how well that purpose is fulfilled. The examples Bogost provides are varied and plentiful, allowing any curious reader to use the chapter on their topic(s) of choice as a starting point for a deeper study in a specific use of videogames. Rather than settling into the common and heated debate of "videogames as art," Bogost addresses that as simply one use for the medium in this book's first chapter, then moves on to much more varied and surprising uses for videogames, from empathy and kitsch to reverence and exercise.

While the individual chapters do not linearly unfold a single argument, Bogost frames the collection as evidence for one major point he wishes to make. He states this point explicitly in the introduction and conclusion: "We can understand the relevance of a medium by looking at the variety of things it does." The collection of essays that follows this introduction proves this point, which in turn is used to argue his final point in the conclusion: "Soon gamers will be the anomaly. If we're very fortunate, they'll disappear altogether. Instead we'll just find people of all sorts. And sometimes those people will play videogames. And it won't be a big deal, at all."

It may seem contradictory to write a book about videogames just to suggest that the gamer community will die out, but really what Bogost is trying to do is show how games will only continue to increase in use and relevance in our society such that we will no longer consider those who play videogames as some kind of specialized hobbyists. It's an interesting blend of hope and submission that Bogost presents the reader; videogames will indeed continue to grow in scope and legitimacy in society, but at the same time they will lose their edgy appeal and excitement until they become just another medium we interact with.

As Bogost says himself, this is certainly not headline material. It is, however, the most realistic and all-encompassing view of the future of videogames out there. The excitement of videogames as a medium is bound to die down in the coming years as current generations will grow up with them as a fact of daily life. When that happens, the excitement will come from individuals exploring and exploiting videogames' seemingly infinite uses in innovative and provocative ways. Bogost himself has done that elsewhere, but that's not what this book is about. This book is about showing the world videogames are here to stay and inviting us all to accept this new medium like we would any other, then inviting us to get past that and start using videogames as well and as interestingly as we do any other medium of expression.

See this review on my personal gaming blog here.

Book Review for Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken

Image by Library Girl
If you are expecting Reality is Broken to instill within you an empowering cynicism toward real life and humanity, I would recommend reading a different book, because you will be sorely disappointed. McGonigal instead presents the case for video games as a meaningful way of influencing the real world and realizing our most grand human objectives. While she acknowledges that millions of people are "opting out of reality" in favor of digital worlds, she notes that that is only the case because we have failed to implement the lessons that video game designers have learned: that people want interaction and meaning and relevance, that humans like a good challenge, and that society as a whole can be transformed for good as we harness the untapped potential of millions of gamers throughout the United States and the world as a whole. Video games and other virtual realms are in fact fulfilling real human needs, and those who are able to see past the stigmas attached to video games currently will be armed with the tools necessary to effect powerful positive change in the world around them.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Curating with Pinterest

First thing is first. Sorry about the late post. I got some exciting news on Thursday and was a little distracted!

For my curation tool, I have been using Pinterest. Pinterest, as you may well know, is a very interesting medium. My purposes in using this as my creation tool are to study identity according to what is posted on individual users accounts. Think of it as "you are what you pin," if you will. I think the main point of Pinterest is used as an expression of individuality, although the interesting thing is people don't really pin their own content; they repin other people's content. I also think this is relevant with the book that I chose: Girl Wide Web 2.0, and I'm excited to see how each contribute to the idea of girls' and women's identity.

Courtesy of jackie vanover on