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The Pong-Furby Connection: Games and Culture

By Teneo in News
Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 11:17:43 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

An excellent article in the 13 April issue of the Washington Post. Normally I try to avoid reading this tired old liberal rag, but this piece is all about games.


The article focuses on the new generation of video games and what effect it will have on our culture and society. I am not a video gamer myself, or even much of a PC gamer (with the exception ov CivII) but am an avid boardgamer. The article is still worth reading, even for nongamers, because it talks about the impact of games-as-entertainment.

In particular, I found in interesting--but not surprising--that the "latest" in innovative entertainment has been attacked as a danger to thinking man. Here's a bit of trivia I am going to use the first chance I get: Sameul Taylor Coleridge opined that novel reading was "anti-intellectual" and may engender the "entire destruction of the powers of the mind." Hang that albatross 'round the neck of the next antitechnology snob who tells you to read a book!

Another interesting point discussed in the article with Robert Nideffer who is--get this--an assistant professor at the University of California, Irvine, in charge of the new gaming studies program. Gaming studies?!? The opportunties students have nowadays! I had to study all my games outside of class, for the love of Mike! I was doing double duty and got no college credits for my hours of dedicated gaming!

In any case, Professor Nideffer talks about the assumption that interactions in a digitized environment are seen as "less real." Horse hockey, I say! And I would assume that most, if not all, K5 readers would agree on that score. Looking forward to commentary on the "reality" of digitized relationships.

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The Pong-Furby Connection: Games and Culture | 16 comments (16 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Although I agree that games like Qu... (none / 0) (#7)
by fluffy grue on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:07:24 PM EST

fluffy grue voted 1 on this story.

Although I agree that games like Quake 3 and other FPSes tend to really be a step backwards in terms of social interaction, other forms of social entertainment are, well, social. MUCKing, for example. My mom can't understand how someone can have a real meaningful friendship on a MUCK; she seems to think that it's "just bits," as though there isn't a person on the other end. Of course, online friendships and relationships have led me to no end of trouble (which I won't get into), and everything must be in moderation.

The piece is a bit fluffy to relatively "oldskool" gamers such as myself (obviously, I still have a thing for Zork :) but it's still an interesting foothold for discussion.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

Re: Although I agree that games like Qu... (none / 0) (#10)
by Teneo on Fri Apr 14, 2000 at 04:10:36 PM EST

It would seem like this sort aren't exactly "social" games--computer games are really designed to be. But, this is from a guy who has never played Quake in his life. At the same, time, though, I know some of these first-person shooter games spawn entire online communities. A friend of mine operates one.

I agree with you, though--on-line interactions and the relationships they spawn are every bit as "real" as person-to-person interaction. They may not be as varied, there is greater chance for deception--but I would argue no less than "pen pals" of prior generations.

As for the no end of trouble from online friends, I get into just as much the yahoos I see everyday...

--Teneo

[ Parent ]
The Gaming Studies thing came up a ... (none / 0) (#6)
by evro on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:15:52 PM EST

evro voted 1 on this story.

The Gaming Studies thing came up a few months ago, I think they study how to write games (which I would assume is amazingly difficult) and not how to play them.
---
"Asking me who to follow -- don't ask me, I don't know!"

This should engender some interesti... (none / 0) (#8)
by eann on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:27:47 PM EST

eann voted 1 on this story.

This should engender some interesting discussion. I do consider "digitized" relationships somehow less than fully "real". Email, IRC, MU*, etc. are not "rich" media--they do not convey the same layers of communication that being in the same room with a person can.

Now, that's not to say you can't use computers to supplement communication, or that you can't become aware of people by using the net, and then develop an offline (or, more likely, mixed offline and online) romance/friendship/whatever because of that. And, for that matter, it's easy for people to become emotionally attached to their perception of the person on the other end of the line. But, as most eventually discover, even if the perception is accurate, it's never complete. The differences between that perception and reality can be joyous one time and heartbreaking the next.

I think this professor's analysis is correct. It works because it doesn't have to be real. Escapism is the core of anything that happens with games. And these days, there are lot of people who need an occasional escape.

P.S. to Teneo: Mike has retired. The new phrase is "For the love of Leonard Nimoy!"

Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. —MLK

$email =~ s/0/o/; # The K5 cabal is out to get you.


Re: This should engender some interesti... (none / 0) (#11)
by Teneo on Fri Apr 14, 2000 at 04:28:02 PM EST

But why would you consider them less than fully real? What makes someone you have met in the flesh any more or less real if you're only interaction has been through written conversation, mail or e-mail. Or even over a phone line?

Hell, I know people in both mediums and there some people who are about as exciting to talk to as a wall. On the other hand, there are some vibrant whackos whom I've never met, but whose conversation I enjoy to no end--and they live thousands of miles away.

What is at issue, here, IMO, is not the medium in which the interaction takes place, but the level of honesty and depth of communication which does take place. I agree that there are limitations which the medium imposes, but they are no restrictive as to rob them entirely of "reality."

Consider: many of us probably keep up relationships from old friends and/or family via e-mail. Are the chats I have with my parents online not "real"? What about over the phone? Of course they are!

Now, these interactions need not be real, of course. You could be playing a role--in a game or just making up your own behind a screen name. In doing so, you are engaging in deception--so of course that's not real. But it's no more real than telling the cute redhead chick at the bar with law school sweatshirt that your an attorney and you'd like her the check your briefs when in actually you're computer engineer who can't tell the difference between an amicus and some ameboas.

Deception and dishonesty are obstacles to interaction in any medium. But it doesn't mean they are not going to be employed with any less frequency or calculation.

--Teneo
P.S. to eann: Mike retired?!? Damn his eyes! Still, "For the love of Leonard" does have a certain ring to it.

[ Parent ]
TEchnology is noramlly neutral. Th... (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by Nyarlathotep on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:37:07 PM EST

Nyarlathotep voted 1 on this story.

TEchnology is noramlly neutral. The novel was a great boon to the intelectual community because the intelectual community took control, but TV was a great detractor because the people who controlled the TV made the crap rise to the top. Games will face the same problem: artistic inovative and importent vs. crap. OTOH, rereleasing the same game with an improved user interface can be very good forthe intelectual community. Also, many forms of cheating (writing a bot for a mud or an aim-bot for doom) are VERY good for the intelectual community, i.e. an aim bot is an improved user interface whch lets you concentrate on stratagy more. Bots are especially good for games like StarCraft where there is cool stratagy, but the skill requirements prevent some people from learning to think about the stratagy.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!

Includes the phrase "horse hockey."... (none / 0) (#1)
by rusty on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 12:46:00 PM EST

rusty voted 1 on this story.

Includes the phrase "horse hockey." How can you go wrong with that?!

I'm pretty sure that technology == bad hysteria has been around since Og first opined: "Wheel Bad." And it will be with us forevermore, amen. As for the gaming-studies program, I'm pretty sure that's "How to make games" not how to play them. There's been a bunch of articles on that general theme around the 'logs lately.

____
Not the real rusty

Re: Includes the phrase "horse hockey."... (none / 0) (#14)
by driph on Fri Apr 14, 2000 at 08:56:54 PM EST

I know that the idea of Game Design Schools has gone mainstream because the latest article I read about it was in Spirit (or whatever its called), the magazine that one of the airlines pops in the lil pocket of the chair in front of you for your inflight reading pleasure.

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
[ Parent ]
Anything that has potential for dis... (none / 0) (#9)
by psicE on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 05:37:00 PM EST

psicE voted 1 on this story.

Anything that has potential for discussion, goes. Anything that has potential to be news, doesn't.

My University has a subject called ... (none / 0) (#5)
by kraant on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 07:13:30 PM EST

kraant voted 1 on this story.

My University has a subject called CS549 Real Time Rendering and 3D Games Programming.

Should be interesting to see how it goes... I plan to enroll
--
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...

Too opinionated. I can decide for ... (4.50 / 2) (#4)
by mattm on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 07:31:21 PM EST

mattm voted -1 on this story.

Too opinionated. I can decide for myself what I think is a "tired old liberal rag" and who I consider an "antitechnology snob", thank you very much.



Re: Too opinionated. I can decide for ... (none / 0) (#12)
by Teneo on Fri Apr 14, 2000 at 04:48:53 PM EST

Sure you can. But then you'd have to take the time to read the Washington Post--probably for a few weeks--before you could tell it was ceratinly a tired old liberal rag. You'd probably even have to know a little about their publishing history and circulation patterns. I was merely trying to save you time.

--Teneo

[ Parent ]
Re: Too opinionated. I can decide for ... (none / 0) (#13)
by teach1 on Fri Apr 14, 2000 at 06:47:56 PM EST

Not to mention the fact that anyone who writes an article for k5 SHOULD have an opinion about something! The opinion articles are a refreshing change from all the linux, etc.. articles. Instead of voting down the article why don't you simply say that you disagree and tell us why?

[ Parent ]
Re: Too opinionated. I can decide for ... (none / 0) (#15)
by WattsMartin on Sat Apr 15, 2000 at 12:04:49 AM EST

While I don't think the article should have been voted against based on the phrasing, I admit I twitched a bit at the editorializing about its source as well. The Washington Post is still considered one of the best papers in America. If that's not saying much, it's not a comment on the political leanings of some of the editorial page writers as much as a comment on the state of American journalism. That state isn't very good and it's declining, and it's the fault of big corporate media conglomerates who sacrifice editorial independence (not to mention writing and newsgathering staff) if it means improving the bottom line.

And, more to the point, none of this editorializing or the original little bit has much to do with the article. The original comes across as another gratuitous "let's use liberal as an insult" line. Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine; I don't agree with much of the conservative agenda (and bluntly, I think anyone concerned with free speech and privacy rights should be wary of it), but I don't consider "oh, he's a conservative" to be a valid dismissal of someone's arguments. I'd like to think I could expect the same in return.

[ Parent ]

Re: Too opinionated. I can decide for ... (none / 0) (#16)
by Teneo on Mon Apr 17, 2000 at 12:33:58 PM EST

"Twitched a bit?" "Editorializing?" I guess, perhaps, I was unaware just how senstive some folks can be to adjectives, which I personally find very, very descriptive.

The Washington Post is, in fact, one of the best U.S. newspapers. So is the New York Times. Whether this in spite of or because of their palpable liberal bias depends on who you ask.

However, the fact remains that the paper is tired--that is, it's circulation has declined and it no longer demonstrates the vitality it once had as a new gatherer or a shaper of public opinion. Blame this on the state of print media in general if you will--your point about the conglomerates and their bottom line is not only well-taken, but one with which I would heartily agree.

Similarly, the paper has a liberal bias. An unashamed one, I might add. Some might take umbrage at such a description, perhaps feeling that to be described as "liberal" is insulting or, at the very least, a word one ought not to use in polite company. Be that as it may, the truth ought not to page homage to bottom lines or over-sensitive readers.

That being said, I don't think it was a "gratutious" use of liberal "as an insult." Though, let the record note I find it damn amusing that liberals are insulted a by a word that describes their world view accurately. Is there a word that means "liberal" but which does not give offense to liberals?

I will also note that insulting liberals, while it's never gone out of style, is a LOT less popular than bashing conservatives. Conservative-bashing is Hollywood fashionable, Washington Post and New York Times approved!

Now, as for your well-meaning (ever notice how liberals are "well meaning" but conservatives are just "mean"--I never figured out why that is) warning that the conservative agenda is hostile to privacy "rights" and free speech: To be blunt--I think you must misunderstand the meaning of either the agenda itself, privacy rights or free speech. The liberty of the individual is at the heart of the conservative agenda--unlike that of the liberal agenda.

But that's a subject for another thread...

--Teneo

[ Parent ]
I hate people who blame the effects... (none / 0) (#3)
by Inoshiro on Thu Apr 13, 2000 at 08:07:50 PM EST

Inoshiro voted 1 on this story.

I hate people who blame the effects of society for society. That's like saying the ripples from the stone cause stones to be thrown into water. :-)

--
[ イノシロ ]

The Pong-Furby Connection: Games and Culture | 16 comments (16 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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