Tag Archive for gamer

Movie Round-Up: August 13th, 2010

Eat Pray Love:

A woman’s journey to self-discovery. I’m not going to be first in line to see this, but I haven’t been disappointed by many of Julia Roberts movies so I’ll be sure to catch this on Netflix when it is available.

The Expendables:

I had an opportunity to see a screening of this, but a conflict prevented me. Given the cast of action stars and what I’ve seen in the trailer this is going to be one hell of a ride. If I can find the time, I’ll be seeing this this wekend.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World:

I did see a screening of this, and it was great fun. As a long time gamer myself I loved the references and imagery. Outside that however the movie is a typical boy chases girl type of film. So if the gamer angle doesn’t appeal, you might want to skip it. As for me, I might go see it again.

The Gamer I Am Today

This month’s Gamer Banter is “What was the game that made you a gamer?”

To be honest, I’ve been a gamer since my dad brought home a Pong system in the late 70s.  Then it was the Atari 2600.  The games that cemented me as a gamer were Yar’s Revenge and Pitfall.  I played those games for hours on end, entire days, flipped them and kept on playing.  Sure, we had dozens of games, but those are the ones that stand out.  We had an NES too eventually, and we got a PC.

Over the years there have been many games.  Zelda and Mario on the NES (and Pro Wresting… Starman forever!), while over on the PC it was dominated by Sierra games, from The Black Cauldron to Leisure Suit Larry through the King’s, Police, Space and Hero’s Quests, The Colonel’s Bequest, Gabriel Knight and the Manhunter games.  And Doom.

Doom was a game changer.  By that time I had discovered BBSs and had a group of friends online.  Much like I’d once bought, with my own money, an Adlib Sound Card to play games like Loom that required better sound and a 1200 baud modem so I could get online, I bought a token ring network card and then begged my parents to let me take the PC to a friend’s house.  I’d played Doom through dozens of times on my 386, but with 4 PCs in the same room, network cards and coaxial cable, suddenly we were deathmatching.  We were yelling at each other across the room, taunting each other in text chat.  Gaming stopped being something I did by myself and started being something I did with other people.

Sure, the BBSs had multiplayer door games, but this was different.  It became a regular thing, and soon it became something we could do over the Internet.

Even so, as much as I was a gamer, I still did other things.  Then along came Team Fortress for Quakeworld.  See, deathmatch was fun, but it never felt quite right for me.  But here came a game where not only were we on a team, but roles in that team formed.  I wasn’t the best player, but I was a demon on defense.  Those BBS people, we formed a clan and we played in tournaments.  We played against teams in other states, in other countries.  It was a new kind of social element to gaming.  Deathmatch had its culture too, but it was ultra-competitive, insular, everyone was your enemy.  Team Fortress fostered camaraderie.  When not in a tournament match, hopping on a public server meant you worked with your team whether they were in your clan or not.  It lead to a lot of respect on the battlefield.

Then came EverQuest.  In some ways it was so natural to shift.  From being part of a team in Team Fortress to being part of a group in EverQuest.  I was comfortable with the idea that I couldn’t win on my own.  I didn’t want to play alone.  Groups and raids and guilds, sitting in the East Commons tunnel on Saturdays looking for deals, message boards, all of it.  It was another level of social.  In the Quakeworld world after tools like GameSpy came out it was easier to track down your friends, or people you’d enjoyed playing with, but in EverQuest, anyone you played with you could put on a list and look for them anytime you were on because they were always on the same server as you.  And it was lasting.  I’m still friends with a couple people from the TF days, but I still talk daily with a bunch of people from my EQ server.

Looking back and looking forward, the kind of gamer I am is one that enjoys active social interaction with his game.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that reads my blog as my biggest complaint about most MMOs is when they lack a good social aspect or community.  My Venn diagrams summed it up pretty well I thought.

I was always a gamer, born into a gaming world, but I’d have to say that Team Fortress and EverQuest are the games that made me the gamer I am today, and the gamer I will probably be for the rest of my life.

This post was part of Gamer Banter, a monthly video game discussion coordinated by Terry at Game Couch. If you’re interested in being part, please email him for details.

Other Gamer Banter participants:
carocat.co.uk: A Trip Down Memory Lane
Yuki-Pedia: A Tale of Two Games
gunthera1_gamer: Early Gaming Experience
Extra Guy: Ah yes, I remember it well
The Average Gamer: What Made Me a Gamer
Sivercublogger: Uncovering Lost Treasures
Master Kitty’s World: Gaming Through the Years
Gamer Unit: What was the game that made you a gamer?
Game Couch: Karateka
Next Jen: What Made Me into a Gamer

Games as Art

Oh God, I think I’m going to crash the Internet with all these links.  And that’s just from searching for “Ebert” in my Google Reader.  You should probably read this one too.  All of those are worth clicking on and reading.  The comments also.  I think I even made a comment or two in there somewhere.  On the subject at hand, I’m not certain I’m decided.  Though if pressed, I might have to say that games are not art, or at the very least that the majority of games are not art.

One of the nice things about most forms of traditional art is that they don’t change.  The Mona Lisa is The Mona Lisa still.  Casablanca is Casablanca.  The text of Hamlet remains.  That last example begins to get to my line of thinking.  No one would argue that Hamlet is a work of literary art, but individual productions of Hamlet will be heavily debated.  In fact, in the artistic world, a production of Hamlet would be considered performance art, not simply art.

When you go to a museum and look at a painting on the wall, that painting will be exactly the same every time you go to see it.  What changes from viewing to viewing is YOU.  The same can be said for books and films and most of the traditional art forms.  If I were to load up World of Warcraft or Crysis or even a game like Flower (which many people consider to be art) and just watch it, it might be art but it wouldn’t be a game.  If I go to YouTube and watch videos of people playing games, it might be art, the video, and it might be a game for the person who made it, but for me it wouldn’t be a game.

A game is like Schrödinger’s cat, it is a collection of potentials that are, in actual terms, useless until we open the box and see if the cat is alive or dead.  A game isn’t a game until we play it.  To me, it seems that video games are more like sports than they are like paintings or books or movies.  A baseball player might have a beautiful swing, and there may be many artful things in a game of baseball, but I don’t believe that anyone would call a baseball game “art”.  Unlike most art, not only do you change between visits to a game, but the game changes too.  Sure, some games are so simple that they don’t change much at all, but those aren’t usually the games people claim are art.  Saying a video game is a single piece of art is like saying that all the productions of Hamlet are a single piece of art.  A game is ephemeral.  Unless someone video tapes it, you can’t return to the game exactly as it was before, and if you do it through video the subsequent times you return they are movies, which might be art but aren’t games.

As I said, a game isn’t a game until we play it, so the gamer is part of the game since we can’t have one without the other.  Many people bristle at the idea of video games being a sport.  Face it, many people who play video games do so to get away from sports.  (I kid, I kid!) (Not really.)  So perhaps we should stray back towards plays.  From the audience, a play is performance art, a performance of art.  But what is a play for the performers?  Is the act of acting “art” from the perspective of the actor?  Or is the performer the artist? A painting, completed, is art, but is the act of creating the painting art?  I don’t believe it is.  From that view, game developers aren’t creating art, they are creating paints and brushes and easels, production notes and outlines, tools from which art can be created by the gamer.  A game, completed, might be art, but again if you are experiencing a completed game you are probably watching a movie, not playing a game.

All of this talking around in circles leads me to believe that since I find it so hard to define a game as being art there are only two options.  Either the words and terms and methods to define a game as art don’t yet exist or at least are not known to me, or that games are not art but might just be a medium through which art can be created.  In the end, I’m liking that second option better because if games are art that make me an art consumer (or connoisseur if I’m fluffing my ego), but if games are a medium then I am an artist.

Participation Level Up

I’ve been going to Dragon*Con for years.  I’ve probably been ten times, my first time being probably in 1993 or 1994.  I’ve missed some years, but I’ve attended more than I’ve missed.  If you have never been to Dragon*Con, I recommend it.

As much as I do love the con, I’ll be the first to admit that if you go with any frequency, certain aspects of it will get… repetitive.  If you are interested in writing and getting published, the writing track has panels that are good to attend where you can listen to published authors talk about how they got published.  Better yet, you can probably ask them yourself.  (Just don’t hand them a manuscript, they aren’t -generally- publishers or editors themselves.)  However, after you’ve been to that panel a few times, unless they add some new and awesome guests you don’t need to attend it again, or at least just not every year.  Go to con enough years and you’ll find that you’ve “seen everything” – which you really haven’t, believe me, just when you think you’ve seen it all at Dragon*Con someone will walk out in a costume or some guest will sign on (Shatner and Nemoy last year!!) and prove that you haven’t – but when you get to feeling that way there are really only too options: coast or step up.

To coast would be to attend every year, go to the parties, visit a few panels, maybe wear a costume and just enjoy the weekend.  Nothing wrong with that at all.  But the other option, to step up, would be to volunteer for staff.  Dragon*Con is a con for fans by fans.  Grim said it pretty well:

Now, here are some major differences between Dragon*Con and “everybody else”…

GenCon is gaming, only gaming, nothing but gaming.  They are the Mac-Daddy gaming convention, and they do gaming very well.  They do not, however, have concerts, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Costuming, or any of the other “3 hotels worth of stuff” that Dragon*Con does.

Penny Arcade Expo, is run for gaming companies, by gaming companies, and caters to an established audience.  If you are a computer or console gamer, this is a great convention.  If, however, you want to have drinks with celebrities, or are not a hardcore gamer.  PAX isn’t for you.

Comic-Con focuses on Sci-Fi and (duh) Comics.  You’ll have a pretty good chance of seeing celebrities there (since it’s located near Los Angeles and New York) and there is a correspondingly large media presence there.

There is only one convention that does “all of the above”.  There’s only one convention that isn’t so hip-deep in advertising and sponsorship dollars that you can save yourself the trouble and just download press-releases all day.  There’s only one convention that boasts 24-hour, round-the-clock, non-stop “stuff to do”.  There’s only one convention that is run by fans, for fans.

That’s us.

And it is with this in mind that I noticed last year I spent about 80% of my time in the MMO Track, so I’ve volunteered and joined the staff.

Recently, Grim wanted the gang to start updating the track blog more, to keep a flow of information to help build and cement a community around the track.  I suggested and volunteered for Saturday Morning Cartoons.  If you know of any good MMO videos, be they music videos, comedy routines, awesome raid take downs, Easter eggs, or anything worth watching, especially if it’s for a game that isn’t WoW (no offence to WoW, but there is just so much for them that finding WoW-stuff is easy… not so much other games), let me know.

Another place I’m involved is in trying to track down guests, or companies that want to send us some swag to give away… if you happen to read my blog and Dragon*Con looks like fun to you and you happen to work in the MMO industry, let me know.

We’re about five months away from Dragon*Con 2010, and I’m more excited about it this year than I’ve ever been.  This is going to be great!

The Pitfalls of Design

As a gamer, I have often found myself uttering things that begin with “It can’t be that hard to…” followed by something that logically it can’t be that hard to design. For example, in many MMO games, friend lists usually have a hard cap, some games go high to start with while other games begin at 10 or 20. Later on, people will want more friends on their list and will say “It can’t be that hard to increase the size from 10 to 20.” And logically, they are right. In a perfect world, you’d just go into the code where the MaxFriendListSize variable is and change it from 10 to 20, or 50, or 200.

As a programmer, I have often found myself nearly exploding in a fiery ball of hate when a boss or customer says things that begin with “It can’t be that hard to…”, because honestly, if it wasn’t hard, we wouldn’t even be having the conversation we were having for them to be able to say that, I would have just done it. The problem is, that when designing a program, you literally can’t think of everything. You know, yes it wouldn’t be hard at all if there was in fact a MaxFriendListSize variable, but we didn’t think of that when writing the program because that number, 10, was only supposed to appear in one place, however, over time it ended up in 22 modules and one lazy coder even used that number to hack some other part of the program and when we changed it from 10 to 20 on one of our internal test servers the character models all doubled in size… grrr…

Seriously… This is exactly how programming works sometimes. You sit down and design out 500 features of your program, then, 18 months later, you realize that you need feature 501, but the best way to do number 501 involves redesigning 47 other features because 501 needs outputs or to share variables with some of those features, or 501 just kicked off an idea of a much more efficient design template that would make a number of other features work better.

Nothing, and I mean nothing in programming is ever easy. Its like getting to the end of writing a novel and deciding that “well, I don’t think the brother should be the killer, it should be the police officer” and now you have to rewrite half to book to make it all make sense.