[-empyre-] December Discussion - Gaming Subcultures

Simon Biggs s.biggs at eca.ac.uk
Mon Nov 29 20:54:00 EST 2010

All interesting. No mention though of Huizinga's work, or that of numerous
related theorists, on the role of play in the formation, practice and value
of cultural activities.



Simon Biggs
s.biggs at eca.ac.uk  simon at littlepig.org.uk
Skype: simonbiggsuk

Research Professor  edinburgh college of art
Creative Interdisciplinary Research in CoLlaborative Environments
Electronic Literature as a Model of Creativity and Innovation in Practice
Centre for Film, Performance and Media Arts

> From: Gabriel Menotti <gabriel.menotti at gmail.com>
> Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Date: Mon, 29 Nov 2010 08:16:15 +0000
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: [-empyre-] December Discussion - Gaming Subcultures
> Dear all,
> Welcome to an early December and another debate! This month, empyre is
> dedicated to the general universe of Gaming Subcultures - the
> different forms of "playing outside the console," titles that explore
> such dynamics and, especially, the social practices built around them.
> In spite of the many stories they might tell, videogames are first and
> foremost narratives of mastery over the system. Their particular drama
> is not situated on whatever turning points are shown on the screen,
> but between the player and the controls. This is easier to perceive in
> highly technical genres such as platformers and rhythm games. To play
> a game is to learn how to perform within it ­ how to take things into
> effect.
> In an article about game design, [1] Daniel Cook shows that the
> gameplay is meant to conform the user to its rules gradually, in a
> sort of smooth pedagogy of procedures. The extent to which this
> increasing reflexivity between man and machine can be tutorial is
> obvious from titles such as Mario Teaches Typing. [2] However, this
> tendency may not be collateral, at least according to German
> philosopher Claus Pias: in a thesis that is available online (but that
> I could never read), Pias finds the historical origins of videogames
> in military training. [3]
> Could videogames be then reduced to a mere dressage medium? I believe
> not. To do so is to attribute an impossible self-sufficiency to them.
> On the one hand, the designers themselves are never completely free to
> set the conditions for training. They are also constrained by rules:
> those of the available frameworks, libraries and engines, whose total
> parameters often escape them. This is why bugs occur and, sometimes,
> the users get to find something that the designer did not put there.
> The same Daniel Cook, upon sharing a hint page of his Steambirds on
> Google Reader, confesses: ³Now I finally know how to play my own
> game.² [4]
> In that sense, one cannot ignore that every platform is contained
> within others, and therefore can be exploited, hacked and cheated
> (just like school). This means that the feedbacks between player and
> system can occur far beyond the individual and pre-planned hand-eye
> coordination, they can happen on a larger socio-cultural scale. Even
> if internal mastery cannot be achieved, the game can be beaten from
> the outside ­ or, better yet, circumvented into other uses.
> I personally consider these activities a constitutive and inseparable
> part of ordinary gameplay. I take that from my personal memories of
> titles such as Stunts [5] and Street Fighter II, which I played during
> my early teens with the neighbourhood gang. Our main mode of
> interaction with the former was making and exchanging racetracks in
> which we never actually care to race on. With the later, it was
> watching friends fight each other in living room championships, while
> we waited for our turn to use the joystick (for barely three minutes).
> Even so, there was a lot of engagement even when no playing seemed to
> be involved. It comes as no surprise that the off-game creation and
> trade of in-game content (from Chinese Gold Farming to Knytt Stories
> [6]), as well as the physical situation of the gaming platform (from
> the Pokéwalker [7] to Auntie Pixelante¹s Chicanery [8]), are fast
> approaching the centre of the stage. Maybe this is a mark of the
> increasing complexity of the medium. Maybe it¹s a sign of the
> colonization of these social fields by the system¹s logic.
> Finally, the debate means to focus on how videogames can be publicly
> appropriated through the invention and transmission of supplementary
> parameters, leading to activities that James Newman dubs as
> ³superplay.² [9] These include but are not limited to their use as
> platforms of audiovisual creation and their employment in sport-like
> tournaments.
> Our first guests are Joshua Diaz and Julian Kücklich. They will be
> addressing how the gaming practice often spills into the immediate
> surroundings and then back again, as playing becomes a subject of
> everyday conversation and players resort to each other to understand
> rules, optimize their skills, pass through a certain stage, etc. All
> this communication requires and generates its own channels, such as
> gamesforums and faqs. More often than not, these external channels are
> the only way to get into the system's most internal rules - the ones
> that are never written on manuals and made explicit, such as hints
> (e.g. the order to fight megaman's bosses) and exploits (e.g. konami
> code). Bios below (and links bellower).
> *Joshua Diaz*
> Joshua Diaz is a game designer and researcher. Currently working in
> social games in the SF Bay area, he's a graduate of the Comparative
> Media Studies program at MIT and an alum of the GAMBIT Game Lab. His
> research focused on multiplayer game design and the impact of player
> communities, collaborative storytelling and procedural narratives, and
> game literacy research in education and development. He's findable
> under the nick "dizzyjosh" most places, like
> http://twitter.com/dizzyjosh.
> *Julian Kücklich*
> Julian Kücklich is an independent media researcher based in Berlin.
> More at http://playability.de.
> Best!
> Menotti
> * * *
> [1] 
> http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/1524/the_chemistry_of_game_design.php
> [2] http://www.abandonia.com/en/games/987/Mario+Teaches+Typing.html
> [3] http://e-pub.uni-weimar.de/volltexte/2004/37/
> [4] http://hubpages.com/hub/Steambirds-Strategy-and-Hint-Guide
> [5] http://stunts.hu/
> [6] http://nifflas.ni2.se/?page=Knytt+Stories
> [7] http://bulbapedia.bulbagarden.net/wiki/Pok%C3%A9walker
> [8] http://www.auntiepixelante.com/?p=507
> [9] http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415385237/
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