Technoscience / Ecomateriality / Literature

Month: October 2014 Page 4 of 5

The Internet Knows All

Brb hiding in a cave



Google app by Luis Herman

His project website:


App page:

Digital Humanities Project Critique By Cathy Li and Norma De Jesus

Digital humanities projects hold different mediums through which they present their information. They aren’t simple 2 dimensional artistic representations of a humanities piece. They are a way through which humanities pieces can be transformed. The infographic “Every Scene in Great Gatsby”, is not technically a digital humanities project, we will focus on comparing it to other projects, why it is not acknowledged as a digital humanities project, and how to make it into an actual one.

First of all, the creator of the infographic has done a good job representing the series of events within the novel graphically. Each major event is represented through a picture. On the top of the picture, a map shows the protagonists’ geographic changes in the The Great Gatsby, particularly focusing on Gatsby’s death. The body of the picture is separated based on the chapters of the novel, and the characters, represented as circles with the initial letter of their names, participate in each chapter in a linear temporal order so as to provide the reader with the information of how the characters interact with one another throughout the novel.

Google the title of the infographic and not many articles regarding its merit appear. In fact, many articles state that the producers of this project are Pop Chart Labs, an infographic poster company who specializes in making popular culture items visual. In a sense, it loses some merit given that it was not created for the sole purpose of advancing scholarship. Nevertheless, many who stumble upon this Great Gatsby infographic find it useful. This project is described as “a stylish, elegant and beautifully designed graphic – another classic” ( Although not necessarily a classic per se, it does provide its audience a mode of understanding the book better. There is some dialogue prevalent to the project. It appears in social media such as Pinterest and Twitter, basically portraying how the general public does find it useful enough to share amongst others. even has an article depicting the breakdown of the project along with comments about how it helps the reader.

In retrospect, it is clear that not enough dialogue about this projects is present throughout the internet, at least not enough to portray biases of the project. Also, although it is a platform that presents media objects, it doesn’t necessarily provide an argument. According to Shannon Mattern, a useful digital project is created on the basis of whether it could be argumentative or responded to. This infographic lacks enough elements to even be labeled as such. There isn’t sufficient links or annotation, but it does do justice to the initial literary work even if it is a simple derivative to The Great Gatsby.

The novel representation and the simplistic drawing does offer the reader a clearer outline of the novel. However, surely one can remake the infographics on a piece of paper so this project can hardly be called a digital humanities project. Nevertheless, one should never give up on a brilliant idea such as this but to turn it into something more modern, useful, technologically advanced.

Shannon Mattern, in her paper “Evaluating Multimodal Work, Revisited “emphasized the importance of “a strong thesis or argument at the core of the work”, which obviously is lacking from this infographics (Mattern, 2014). Transforming a dull poster that merely serves to retell a story into a vivid digital humanities project requires a strong motivation to make a point. In this case, the creator should reevaluate the essential ideas that Fitzgerald tried to convey such as Daisy’s vanity and Gatsby’s unconditional affection. What the revisor, as a reader, thinks of these (are they in vain? valorous? pathetic?) should be incorporated in the project and the details of the novel that embody the point should become the main theme of the project. The revisor’s motivation plays a crucial part of the project because it ensures what technical effort should be made and why it should be made to finish the project; it differentiates a thoughtful project from a directionless “cool-data-set” that cannot be interpreted.

There are many ways to transform this simplistic infographic into something with more digital affordances. Images are mostly the only types of mediums the creator uses to make this project work. But audio, code, and other types of technologies could’ve helped make this infographic livelier. After the creator settles on what his/her point of making the project, the structure and technical details need to be filled.

One must first decide what affordances will be utilized – whether it is going to be a visual computer interface that asks the reader to click on or an immersive environment that activates the reader’s other senses like auditory, olfactory, tactile, etc. The technic availability limits what a project can do; since the design and technique is concept/content driven as aforementioned, the revisor must consider whether switching from one affordance to another will affect the reader’s understanding of the gist and motivation of the project. For example, an easy revision of the project could be designed by creating a programmed interface wherein the main body of the infographics remains the same but extra function buttons are added. The reader could click on different scenarios throughout the novel and then a clip of the movie would be replayed or a segment of the novel would be reread for them. It could also be made interactive as the reader could ask the characters questions about the novel and the character would respond according to the content of the story. Or, the book could have simply been brought to life through the infographic itself. The creator could keep the temporal and spatial elements he incorporated and add more movement through programming and audio.

More types of data could have been extracted from other sources in order to create a more credible project, and more technology and design would have most definitely helped the infographic fit into Dr. Mattern’s criteria that qualifies a multimodal project. By tweaking this infographic with more data and research along with various mediums, a multidimensional project like this would provide an immersive environment for the audience, granting them a more interactive experience. In essence, both scholarship and multimedia should be synthesized to perfection in order for the audience to reap more benefits from the medium. By keeping the audience in mind and providing them with a digital resource that could help them better understand The Great Gatsby, the creator could have invented a whole new, innovative way to make literary media more digital.

Work Cited:

Mattern, Shannon. “Evaluating Multimodal Work, Revisited.” » Journal of Digital Humanities. Journal of Digital Humanities, Fall 2012. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
Wilson, Mark. (2013, July 25). Infographic: “Every Scene in the Great Gatsby”
“The Great Gatsby Chart Infographic.” Infographickcom. N.p., 20 July 2013. Web. 22 Sept.

Gamer Critique- Diego Nogales

Following the definition given by Ian Bogost in How to Do Things with Videogames: a “medium [is] an extension of ourselves for just this reason: it structures and informs our understanding and behavior” (Bogost 2). I want to extend this by arguing that video games act as a medium because they allow people to have an interactive experience that allows the simulation of a real event.

In properly arguing video games to be a medium, a video game must have the trait of becoming extensions of people’s realities. This intrinsic connection between a person and the digital environment within the video game lies within the change of perspective that a video game can provide. By forcing or allowing a person to play a player role within the video game experience, it allows a natural immersion into the scope and rules of the game. Lev Manovich states, “as the player proceeds through the game, she gradually discovers the rules that operate in the universe constructed” by the game (McKenzie 21). People become players within the game and they have to learn the limitations and constraints of their abilities in an algorithmically controlled setting. To win, one must conform to the rules and bound oneself in that immersive environment as quickly as possible. This is interesting because this arguably imposed mentality to become a subject within the realm of the game delivers the trait of the extent of one’s self within the game.

To share a personal experience as a gamer, I used to play a lot of FIFA (a soccer game) during high school. In addition to that, I was very active as an actual soccer player, playing Varsity for my high school and for a travel team as well. When I think about the power of video games as an extension of ourselves, I always refer to the integration of my real soccer player experience and my simulated soccer experience. The power of video games created a gray area and meshed those two aforementioned experiences in terms of my personal abilities. When considering video games to be a set universe with limitations, those limitations many times are greater than those of real life. FIFA allowed me to shoot greater distances, do skill moves, and run without getting tired. This influenced me because after playing FIFA and going to a soccer game or training I would over-estimate my abilities in those areas. This speaks volumes of how video games can temporarily mind alter your own physical capabilities. This creates an extended real-life experience, and does so in an enhanced form.

The second important characteristic to consider is the role video games play in structuring and informing our own understanding and behavior. I think this is really speaking about a medium’s cultural influence and relevance in human society. This characteristic of video games is clearly demonstrated in today’s society. As Neil Postman is quoted saying in How to Do Things with Videogames, “in the year 1500, fifty years after the printing press was invented, we did not have old Europe plus the printing press. We had a different Europe” (Bogost 6). Video games have contributed to changes in the modern culture, especially among the teenagers. Just to give an economic perspective of video gaming prevalence in the United States’ culture, Amazon acquired for $1.1 billion a month ago. Twitch is a site that live-streams video game footage to 45 million viewers a month. Amazon, a company that is always following innovation and generally makes sound acquisitions, is moving into the growing video game industry within entertainment. Video games create cultural movements and big franchise games such as Call of Duty, Halo, and World of Warcraft develop an astounding following. Now, with the creation and growth of Twitch, people do not only have the hobby of playing video games, but also watch players play video games. When it reaches this level of hysteria and enthusiasm among the gaming community, it can only signify that video game industry has permanently embedded itself in society.

Video games meet the two defining traits necessary by Bogost’s definition. However, video games take it a step further as a very versatile medium. Even though they are known for their first person shooter and sport simulation games, video games extend much further than that. Aside from the general main purpose of video games, which is winning, new technologies are pushing video games to become more useful for educational or preparation purposes. One example that was shared with us in the DiVE (Duke Immersive Virtual Environment) lab was that they are trying to create a cave-like simulation that can be used to train U.S. Army soldiers in cave combat and essentially prepare them mentality for the darkness and tight spaces that they are to encounter in real warfare. This is similar to the enhanced experience that FIFA gave me to a greater degree; however, this video game would be exposing a soldier to a cave experience, and in doing so, mentally enhancing his or her readiness of what to expect.

It is important to understand how dynamically video games are expanding in cultural relevance and scope. New developers are branching out and focusing on directions varying from educational games for math courses to perfecting the coding physics for airplane pilots that now have to spend 100 plus hours on airplane simulators before being able to practice in a real plane. These are a few examples of the different directions gaming is moving towards. As this grows, the quality of simulation video games is inherently increasing.

Playing video games means “to play the code of the game. To win means to know the system. And thus to interpret a game means to interpret its algorithm” (Wark 21). As simulations improve and slowly coincide with the limitations or algorithms of real-life, (which is already starting to happen, having experienced the DiVE simulations) winning in the game will essentially mean winning in the actual real-life situation. To this hypothesis of the future perfection of video gaming simulations, Wark’s statement that video games are real-life and real-life is a video game may become true, because the distinctions may blur and become one (it is a scary thought, but it may not be far off).


Bogost, Ian . “Introduction.” How To Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 1-8. Print. Mckenzie

Stone, Brad, and Adam Satariano. “Amazon Bets on Gamer Website Twitch in $970 Million Deal.” Bloomberg, 25 Aug. 2014. Web. 06 Oct. 2014. <>.

Wark, McKenzie. Gamer Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007. Print.

The Game Experience

While scholars may not yet hold games to the same academic and artistic merit as written literature, it is undeniable that games are attracting more and more attention. Games are constantly evolving and reaching new audiences, and these days they serve a wide range of purposes, from education to fitness. The gaming industry has an undeniably massive influence in the realm of modern media culture – a 2014 study found that US consumers spent over $15 billion on games in 2013 (NPD Group, 2014). In the realm of critical theory, games are gaining further attention as a medium to be analyzed. Games can be evaluated as media through the experiences that they provide for their players, and these experiences are never identical.

For many people, games are a medium providing an escape from reality. This respite from routine can take the form of simple, addictive diversions (think Angry Birds (Rovio)) or massive, immersive worlds (think Grand Theft Auto (Rockstar)). In the former type, players can forget about their lives that seem to be slowly dragging along and can instead fixate themselves on temporary rewards and short bursts of action. The latter type provides a fantasy reality, where players can shed their real identity and take on the persona of an intergalactic conqueror or a powerful wizard. However, as much as these games strive to provide an escape from reality, in many senses they reflect and imitate that same reality. For many players, an immersive fantasy experience is much more powerful if it is believable. In his book Gamer Theory, McKenzie Wark dives into this complex relationship between games and reality. Wark describes the real world as a sort of “gamespace” in its own right – a place guided by “some arbitrary blend of chance and competition” that is “losing, bit by bit, any form or substance or spirit or history that is not sucked into and transformed by gamespace” (Wark 19). While many games may serve the purpose of escaping one’s own reality, players may lose sight of the fact that their escape realities often mirror the characteristics of their true realities.

Not all games aim to provide an escape from reality. Many games seek to augment reality in a way that is both productive and engaging. Fitness games are growing more and more popular, and new technologies like Wii Fit and Xbox Kinect are providing new affordances that allow for effective training capabilities. Educators have long recognized the value of games for engaging the interest of children, but games can be used to improve knowledge in skills in all subjects for all different sorts of age groups. While second graders might play a simple farm animal game to learn about basic arithmetic, adults can use professional, interactive games to learn to speak foreign languages (Sykes). Military and government agencies use games to train individuals for difficult missions (Shaban). Even games meant for entertainment can sometimes be used for practical purposes. For example, sports analysts often use sports video games to simulate and predict outcomes (Robinson). In all of these different examples, games act as a medium to augment existing reality, and they provide engaging and powerful affordances that other media cannot deliver.

Games, no longer a niche hobby for enthusiasts, are making themselves more and more evident in mainstream culture. From an economic standpoint, the gaming industry is a fascinating and influential sector of our modern commercial culture. In 2013, Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V reached sales of $1 billion in just three days, making it the fastest-selling entertainment product in history (Goldfarb, IGN). Games have demonstrated a remarkable power to influence and invade other forms of media, with countless video games spawning spin-off adaptations as books, television shows, and movies. In his book How To Do Things with Videogames, Ian Bogost describes how games have entered the shared realm of media, claiming that they are “as interwoven with culture as writing and images” (Bogost 7). He reiterates that video games are not just a niche part of culture “meant for adolescents”, but are instead “woven into everyday life” (Bogost 7).

In a purely technical sense, games can by studied as a medium by examining the evolution of game technology over time. From the simple graphics of Atari and Pong to the facial recognition software of modern Xbox Kinect consoles, games have come a long way – and there is no sign of slowing down. Virtual reality appears to be the next frontier for games. VR is compelling for the mystery that surrounds it, and the vast amount of potential that the technology holds. There are parallels between the development of virtual reality and the development of artificial intelligence – both are incredibly powerful fields that still have much to be explored, and both have their own haunting possibilities depicted in media. Films like The Matrix (Warner Bros.) portray a conceivable dark side of virtual reality for humans, yet this sort of portrayal might create more of a sense of excitement than a sense of fear. This sense of excitement associated with gaming is key to its growth, as developers feel a constant pressure to innovate without letting games and technologies get stale. If mediums cannot adapt, they die out (think of telegrams, record players, and VHS). Games are a dynamic and living medium that elude compartmentalization and continue to evolve at all times.

It is precisely this elusive nature of the game medium that makes it difficult to evaluate them in a critical context, although it certainly can be done. For many forms of media, like books, films, and music, consumers of content are very aware of an individual creator or other important person (fans will know who wrote the book, who directed the film, who performed the music, etc.). However, game players do not commonly associate their gameplay experience with a certain individual. The technical complexity involved in developing big-time commercial games usually requires massive companies and teams, and the independent developers who make simple games are not usually concerned with individual fame (following the principles of hacker culture). In games, the lack of a central creator or performer imparting a message is liberating. The focus is shifted to the player’s experience – games provide a world in which players can craft their own unique experiences. Some games, like Bioshock Infinite (2K Games), give players difficult ethical choices to evoke emotional responses. Puzzle games like Portal (Valve) and The Company of Myself (Piilonen) often enrich their problem-solving mechanisms with background stories that give the player a narrative context for gameplay. These enriching experiences vary greatly from player to player, and this is the true essence of games as a medium. Games should be evaluated critically for their ability to create a meaningful experience for the player and for their use of the affordances provided by the specific game technology.

Works Cited:

Bogost, Ian . “Introduction.” How To Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 1-8. Print.

Infinity Ward. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. 2007. PC

Nintendo. Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. 1998. Nintendo 64

NPD Group. “Research Shows $15.39 Billion Spent On Video Game Content In The US In 2013, A 1 Percent Increase Over 2012.” NPD Group, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. <>.

Piilonen, Eli. The Company of Myself. 2009. PC

Robinson, Jon. “Pittsburgh 24, Green Bay 20” ESPN, 1 Feb. 2011. Web. <>.

Rockstar Games. Grand Theft Auto V. 2013. PC

Rovio. Angry Birds. 2009. iOS

Shaban, Hamza. “Playing War: How the Military Uses Video Games.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 10 Oct. 2013. Web. <>.

Sykes, Julie M. ““Just” Playing Games? A Look at the Use of Digital Games for Language Learning.” The Language Educator 8.5 (2013): 32-35. Web.

The Matrix. Warner Brothers, 1999.

Valve. Portal. 2007. PC

Wark, McKenzie. Gamer Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007. Print.

2K Games. Bioshock Infinite. 2013. PC

Gamer Critique

A game is a mental stimulus engaging the focus of the brain in order to allow the player to reach a main goal. There are a variety of gaming experiences offered by multiple companies within the gaming industry. From games like Luminosity that help develop the brain, to first-person shooters that take the gamer into the main character’s role such as Halo, and MMOs that engage a wide audience like Leagues of Legends; there is everything for everyone. Video games are a form of entertainment, but alongside their main purpose, they also bring upon controversy. Whether or not games can be categorized as a medium depends on people’s personal opinions and how much experience they have with video games.

As someone who has dabbled in the gaming world, I can understand why people would categorize games as a medium. Life itself is a medium, it grants all living organism a unique experience molded and shaped by the perception of each individual. It allows for impressions to be made based on the senses that each individual withholds. Like life, games can be classified as mediums given their nature to engage the player and provide them an experience they can take in and make sense of.

Many videogame researchers argue that it is imperative to understand what a medium is in order to apply the definition to video games. Ian Bogost, a video game designer proposes that, “videogames are a medium that lets us play a role within the constraints of a model world. And unlike playground games or board games, videogames are computational, so the model worlds and sets of rules they produce can be far more complex…” One can see how we each gain a different experience by the different games that we immerse our minds into. When we take on the challenge to play a role within a character, we are allowing our minds to wander into the complexity of the game in order to reach goals and solve the problem the game offers. Because we are engaging the brain to that extent, we are allowing games to be a medium through which we play a role, provide our mental thinking and gain new insight and apply it on order to reach the end-goal of the game.

In order to situate and think about games through a critical context, once must be willing to experience first hand the mechanics of game play, and how it influences our perspective and way of thinking. Gaming – although it provides many wonderful scenes, plots and story lines – is not just a form of art. It is a medium that needs to be understood in order to utilize it in real world experiences. “For serious games proponents, videogame’s ability to create worlds in which players take on roles constrained by rules offers excellent opportunities for new kinds of learning.” In other words, through the different worlds that games offer, there are many things one can learn. The gaming industry caters to all types of people and their interests. The Wii can help keep people fit. Many Nintendo games can be useful to toddlers who are just begging to learn primary concepts. Even research has shown how much it has been useful to people who work in extraneous workplaces. For example, organized groups such as the military utilize gaming as a source of training.

Not surprisingly, a crossover between the medical field and the gaming field has taken place. According to the University of Utah, “A new publication by researchers from the University of Utah, appearing in the Sept 19 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine, indicates video games can be therapeutic and are already beginning to show health-related benefits.” The article titled “Video Games Help Patients and Health Care providers” tells the readers of researchers’ findings of video games and patients. Some researchers from the University of Utah have invented “an activity-promoting game specifically designed to improve resilience, empowerment, and a “fighting spirit” for pediatric oncology patients” (Bulaj, 2012). By allowing patients to be influenced by this type of game play, their recovery can be helped and altered. They engage their minds in order to allow their brains to help them through their physical pain and recovery.

Education has also been positively affected by the revolution of video games. There exists no surprise that humanity has been devising means through which humans can gain more brainpower and capacity. Games such as Luminosity have been proven to help. Although we must take into consideration and not negate the brains limitations, we must not forget the ways such games help us improve our memory and get better at critical thinking. There are many companies that specifically target young brains. ABC Mouse for example is a website that allows kids to learn through games. It makes learning easier and it is a medium through which they learn faster. By incorporating gaming, kids are more willing to learn and their short attention spans are engaged.

Regardless of the many ways that gaming has helped people, there are people who speculate that specific types of games make people more lazy and violent. First person shooters such as Halo and Call of Duty involve violence and arms. MMOs provide many goals for players that they feel the need to continue to play in order to reach them all. But even games that seem to possess no value have something to offer. Apart from providing critical thinking skills, they also offer a diverse set of skills. Many videogame researchers have found that “gamers are faster and more effective at filtering out irrelevant information and spotting targets in a cluttered scene. The size of their field of vision and their ability to track different moving objects in it is greater” (Steffens, 2009). Even the small, simplistic PC game such as “The Company of Myself,” provides useful skills through the way it engages the player to find ways to reach the main goal.

By the multitude of ways video games has helped individuals, it would be helpful if more information were found surrounding the concept of gaming. If we were to study games, perhaps we could advance recovery for patients and advance the rate at which people learn. Yes video games is a type of medium, but it should be used as a medium through which people could get significantly better at developing their mental skills.

Bogost, Ian . “Introduction.” How To Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 1-8. Print.

Bulaj, Grzegorz. “Video Games Help Patients and Health Care Providers.” University of Utah News. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2014.

Steffens, Maryke. “Video Games Are Good for You › Science Features (ABC Science).” Video Games Are Good for You › Science Features (ABC Science). N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Oct. 2014.

Gamer Theory Critique

Mckenzie Wark first presented his Gamer Theory online in form of flashcards, wherein readers commented and contended and Wark replied. Then Harvard University Press turned the Theory into the dead-tree version that incorporates all the marginal comments as footnotes. Arguably the affordance should only change what we are seeing, i.e. a computer screen or pieces of paper. The digital version of the Theory, however, appeals to me more in various aspects than the physical book, or a pdf scanning of the book.

The flashcards online itself makes the reading experience less painful because they segment the book into several chapters and further into 5-flashcard groups within each chapter. Navigation through the flashcards also expedites the reader’s journey in the Gamer Theory. The search function, were it able to function properly, would help the reader to find keywords and main ideas. Of course, readers can also exchange their opinions of the Theory on the margin of the webpage. On the other hand, the printed version of the book (or a scanned pdf) takes away all these features and is just utterly boring to read.

The theory itself, however, does not come along deep or practical, in the first two chapters at least. The Theory draws a close analogy between game space and human lives, which sounds fanatical to begin with and superficial/ill-purpose in actuality. Why would someone think that our life is a game anyway? Wark started the Theory with Plato’s Cave Allegory that challenges the common view on the nature of reality. If cavemen were tied up and forced to see only one side of the cave from the day they were born, their reality would only contain the shadows on the wall and the echoes whose sources are mistakenly thought to be the shadows. The example implies that our reality cannot be some objective world happening outside but precisely our perceptions of it. Wark then moved on to describe Benjamin’s Sims world (a game) that in various ways resembles our world (the gamespace), but of course the fact that Sim is a life simulation game predicates the resemblance and the allegory; other games may not carry the allegory at all.

The reason why the Plato’s allegory of cavemen works is because Plato himself notoriously endorsed the ideal world, the perfect world afterlife, and physical existence of the perfect abstract objects. Plato alleged that our world is a failed version of the perfect world; not surprisingly, what’s in parallel in the author’s argument is that the world is actually an imperfect game play. Admittedly, it is hard to argue against idealism because our senses channel in the information from the outside and our inner ideas evolve to be more capable in the so-called mental world than our physical body in the outside world because our ideas can predict the physicals and we can think that we know it. We think that we know what games are and that we know what constitute reality. We can also think that our life magically resembles a game like Wark does. We make all these silly analogies because we can, not because it is ever for a second true. Nevertheless, we can also remind ourselves that it is life that generates all kinds of games and that it is we human who create all the games that have ever existed. Playing a word game cannot reverse the relation of game and life. I agree that epistemically we cannot question whether there exists a larger entity than the life as we know it; but the argument that says we should live life according to the perfect game rules that are, in fact, produced by, in, and from the imperfect life is simply malarkey.

Living a life as a game leads us to nowhere, if not to fatalist exasperation. Honestly, what game in the world can get as a millionth complicated as the life on earth (not to mention what happen in the outer space capable of destroying everything we know)? Since no such game exists, what game rules and what algorithms are there for us to follow? All the games oversimplify our real lives and that’s partially why people escape from the actual, complex life to the simplified virtual world wherein there are no hard problems and people to deal with. The most complex algorithms written to generate the game almost have nothing to do how the gamers win the game. A game that asks the gamer to modify its own code to win the game does not attract any gamer at all; rather, a game that asks me to earn money and survive in a war to win the game does. Because earning and surviving operate at a level way above the perfect algorithms running in the kernel, nobody would bother to decode the algorithm of this life and then abide by the code. It is like saying we should abide by the principle of quantum mechanics to live a life, which actually sounds much more reliable than the Game Theory. Treating life as a game doesn’t benefit us in any way.

At some point, the author mentioned that some gamers focus more on following the rules and winning but other gamers focus more on the items, or as I call the byproducts/side-effects of the game, such as collecting the furniture in Sims. This more or less jibes with a certain part of our life, but not entirely. For example, I myself value the experience of things, but I also like things themselves. So what would be the winner of my life – the Cathy who has more experience or the Cathy who has more possessions, prizes and good grades? They both die one day for sure. Or actually the Cathy who lives longer? Who is there to tell me the rules of this life? (I am a hundred percent serious but the premises of the Theory now just read like jokes.) There are other problems with the analogy such as the relationship between the gamer and the Sim’s character. Is Cathy both the gamer and the character? If the character cannot know there is a gamer, will the gamer know that the character can know this (have consciousness)? [The introduction of the Bogost’s How to Do Things with Videogames explicates lots of problems with the Gamer Theory]

At last, the comments at the margins are not peer reviews because the author did not revise the content accordingly (not that I know of) but simply inserted them as footnotes. Academic peer reviewers must review the content carefully and give the author constructive suggestions; only after the author revises accordingly or defends herself can the content being reviewed again and so forth until finally published. Comments do not serve these purposes. The book might have undergone some real peer reviews before publishing but the discussion section beside the flashcards cannot be counted as peer reviews.

The Game of Life of Games

My definition of a game, based off of  is any action that involves tasks, has rules that direct how those tasks should be done, and has some sort of end goal to it. This end goal could be anything from gaining a certain number of points, to getting to the next level, to competing a certain task. A medium is, to me, a method of delivering information and supplementing the information that is trying to be shared by the author. It could be as dynamic as the internet, as stagnant as a book, as interactive as, well, a video game. Additionally, it could be appropriate in some scenarios and inappropriate in others, which is why you often see the same information presented in a variety of different mediums. Or, as Ian Bogost says, “we can understand the relevance of a medium by looking at the variety of things it does” (Bogost 3). I would classify games as a medium because games have the ability to supplement information with the affordances of the particular game layout.  Some games do not augment the information, and are simply prized for their entertainment value—for example, Flow doesn’t really seem to offer much as an information platform. On the other hand, a game like Storyteller could be used to deliver information and allow the player to see scenarios differently than if it were to be read on paper, because they could control the players and potentially decide the outcomes of certain stories. I think most forms of information could be turned into a game. In fact, this very phenomenon is played out in elementary schools throughout the country. Kids learn their alphabets, hand washing skills, and multiplication tables all through the help of games. There are even apps that turn day to day activities into games, or use games as motivators. For example, the apps we talked about in class. There was one that would record the area you encircled while you ran, and then mark that area as your “territory.” You would have to keep running the same paths in order to keep your claim on your land. It turned the mundane chore of working out into a game, thus giving it a competitive edge and making it seem like a more appealing task.

I think we should study games, because games have a lot of potential. As technology advances and we get better graphics and an increased ability to incorporate biodata into games, the line between gaming and virtual reality blurs. Because of this I would say to study one is to study the other. Virtual reality is already used as an educational medium—pilots use computer simulations to practice taking off and landing without ever getting into a plane. They have a screen either in front of or around them, and controls that change their viewpoint based on how they move the controls. There are different difficulties of landings, and obstacles that the pilot has to maneuver around. If you put some sort of competitive aspect to it, like points or a goal, is it really any different than a game? No–in fact, adding the competitive aspect to it turns it into a game.


Now, in this argument, I am treating videogames as a subset of games, and use videogames as a term to describe traditional video games, cell phone games and computer games—basically any game that has a primarily digital aspect. Many papers that discuss the topic of games talk about video games. It is true that as technology becomes more integrated into our lives, video games will grow to encompass a bigger sector of games, and it is not unreasonable to say that it will eventually dominate it. Already there are children who don’t know what board games are, since they have only ever played on their tablets and other devices. I do see a future where games will become obsolete and will only be relevant in terms of videogames, but society will definitely lose something at that point. Like Bogost’s example of caterpillars—“If you remove the caterpillar from a given habitat, you are left not with the same environment minus caterpillars: you have a new environment, and you have reconstituted the conditions of survival” (Bogost 6). I think there should be a focus on studying regular games as opposed to video games, simply because the progression of technology is naturally taking us towards video games, and if regular games are pushed to the side, we lose a caterpillar in our environment. Additionally, with technology comes pros and cons, a point that is also mentioned in Bogost’s post. Gaming can be used as teaching and analytical tools, but it can also encourage laziness and distractions. Studying games and gaming can help steer it into a more positive light and find ways to utilize games to facilitate development and societal success, rather than a discouraged practice.

Games are an integral part of life, and life could be thought of as a game. It seems like something someone who is obsessed with video games would say, but it really has more of a philosophical, deeper grounding to it. Depending on where you are or what stage in your life you are at, your definition of “wining” changes. You “level up” as you go—you graduate college, you get a job, you start a family, you live a happy life. There are winners and there are losers, but we are all part of the same game of life—looks like Milton Bradley wasn’t too far off!

Bogost, Ian . “Introduction.” How To Do Things With Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011. 1-8. Print.

Gamer Critique – David Builes

If by “medium”, we mean any substance that is used to convey information in some way, then without a doubt games can act as a medium. Moreover, as with all media, games have a unique set of affordances to them, which are not captured well by any other sort of media. One of these affordances, echoing Katherine Hayles, is that our interactions with games, especially particularly immersive ones, can be remarkably embodied interactions. They can make us physically feel relaxed as in Cloud, or they can make us feel regret as in Regret. Studying games is, therefore, a valuable enterprise for two reasons: it lets us nail down precisely what are the possible affordances of the medium of video games, which can let us utilize the medium to the best of its abilities, and studying games can shed another perspective on the “real” world as well. For example, taking the perspective of McKenzie Wark’s Gamer Theory, by looking at the real world itself as a game, another perspective on reality is opened to us by which we can address some philosophical questions.

Ian Bogost, in the text How To Do Things With Video Games, defends the idea that games are a serious multifaceted medium in the following quote:

Games – like photography, like writing, like any medium – shouldn’t be shoehorned into one of two kinds of uses, serious or superficial, highbrow or lowbrow, useful or useless. Neither entertainment nor seriousness nor the two together should be a satisfactory account for what videogames are capable of. After all, we don’t distinguish between only two kinds of books, or music, or photography, or film. Rather, we know intuitively that writing, sounds, images, and moving pictures can all be put to many different uses. (5)

This is not to say that the value of video games as a medium for entertainment should be downplayed. As a child, I often played the video game series Kingdom Hearts with my sister. Although for sure it provided us with countless hours of entertainment while we explored several different virtual worlds in the quest to save Sora’s best friend Kairi, we also unconsciously internalized several moral lessons about friendship, teamwork, and perseverance. An interesting empirical, psychological question in the vicinity here about video games as a medium is this: how well do they serve, particularly in children, as an educational tool for the teaching of important life lessons? Several of these lessons are already imparted to children through storytelling, but there is no reason to think video games can not participate in this. In fact, new research is now confirming the utility of video games in this area. For example, a study done in the University of Victoria, which took a total of five years and studied gaming in teens aged 13 to 17, found that “playing video games can make children more ethically and morally aware” (Vincent). Studies like this provide a much needed contrast to the popular opinion expressed in the media that video games only promote morally bad behavior, e.g. violence.

We may also ask whether video games can be used as an artistic medium. Although it is true that the question, “Are video games art?” is latent with vagueness, I am absolutely confident in its answer, and I suspect that most people who have played enough of the right games are as well. The first point to make is that many video games explicitly hire artists to aid them in creating their virtual worlds. So if we understand the question of whether video games are art operationally, we get the easy answer “yes”. However, to be completely convinced of this fact, one only needs to look at examples. For example, we may look at some particularly big video games put out by Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft and Diablo III. Each is set in a very elaborate fictional world, and the corresponding games literally created entire virtual worlds for them. These worlds are completely filled with artistic details, from the creativity required to dream up and design templates for countless different species of creatures, to the beautiful game mechanics of lightning, meteors, totems, teleportation, etc. At the opposite end of the artistic spectrum, there are games like Parallax which are much more minimalist, but they still manage to be awe inspiring in their artistic creativity. A final example of a game in the genre of “art games” is Antichamer, a game which lets players explore non-euclidean geometries with extra spatial dimensions!

What can we learn from games when we look at them from a critical context? Can there be a critical theory for video games? These are the sorts of questions that McKenzie Wark explores especially well in Gamer Theory. One interesting theme to explore in the relation between games and reality is the notion of teleology, or purpose. Most games, though not all, have goal structures that are built into them from the outside. One has to beat the bad guys, maximize the number of points one has, get from point A to point B, etc. Is this fact shared by reality? Here we get embroiled in deep philosophical questions. For example, if certain religious traditions like Christianity are true, then the answer seems to be yes. We even have a reward system for whether you accomplished God’s goal or failed, i.e. heaven and hell! However, even in this picture, we can always step outside. Why does God have the purposes he has? Are there some objective purposes that are even placed on him, or are God’s purposes ultimately arbitrary? If the first option, where did those objective purposes come from? Is this not heading off to an infinite regress? If the second option, why should we care about God’s purposes if they are ultimately arbitrary? Reasoning like this, it might be tempting to come up with the conclusion that the notion of an ultimate, objective, external purpose is simply incoherent. If there were any such thing, it would either have a higher objective external purpose and we would have an infinite regress, or it would seem to be arbitrary. If this objective purpose came out of nowhere, why shouldn’t we invent our own purposes in our lives? This is the fundamental thought behind the philosophical school of Existentialism, which we have found can interestingly be arrived at by thinking about the nature of gaming. Not only can games be enjoyed by children for the sake of pure entertainment, games can be studied by serious philosophers to achieve new insights into the nature of reality. This is the remarkable range of affordances that the medium of gaming provides.

Works Cited

Blizzard Entertainment. Diablo III. 2012. PC

Blizzard Entertainment. World of Warcraft. 2004. PC

Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2011. Print.

Hayles, Katherine. How We Think: Digital Media and Contemporary Technogenesis. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2012. Print.

Parallax: Steam Greenlight Trailer. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014.

Square Enix. Kingdom Hearts. 2002. Play Station 2

Vincent, James. “Video games ‘can make children more morally aware'” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, Web. 13 Oct. 2014.

Wark, McKenzie. Gamer Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 2007. Print.

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