[-empyre-] empyre Digest, Vol 112, Issue 23

Kara Stone kara.littlestone at gmail.com
Fri Mar 28 08:22:08 EST 2014

Responding to the last part of Chris' post about computational literacy:

I wonder how important it is that blossoming game-makers actually
understand how the programs they are using work. Yes, Twine and GameMaker
take us away from understanding code and the minutiae of computer
languages, but instead of seeing it as taking us away from something, maybe
we can view it as bringing us towards something. Particularly, towards
diversity of game-makers, enabling those who would not have otherwise been
able to make games. I've actually been thinking about this divide between
"techy" making and using simple programs. At DMG, again taking a big queue
from Anna Anthropy, people are very celbetoraby about game-making becoming
more and more accessible to different groups of people and less techy
through using programs like Twine, Gamesalad, Scratch and their very own
amazing FMV software iV. This makes it much easier for diversity in
game-making - people of different ages, cognitive capabilities, and access
to computers, as well as less techy people who still want make games. And
of course, "technically sophisticated" games do not equal pleasurable or
meaningful games.

I've been warned not to view coding or the very tech side of game-making as
something ~magical~ as the more technical aspects are often brushed away
from teaching women as mysterious, as if it is something we could never
understand. Yet I still find myself thinking of it this way.  Sometimes I
find myself wishing I knew how to code things from scratch, but it comes
from a place where I feel I need to prove myself in the game community, and
not at all a necessary tool for making the kinds of games I'm making.
And since video games are or can be multi-person projects, there is no need
for any one person to understand how every aspect of game making works. And
when we substitute these programs for a person, must we then learn the
details of how they work? Is it really troublesome if we don't? I couldn't
build a camera from scratch but I can still utilize it for my own purposes
- and analyze the cultural effects.

There seems to be something in particular about game-making that makes
people want to hold on to the code, hierarchizing programming and
"techy-ness" above all other aspects of game-making. The emphasis on
"knowing the tech" strikes me as a another way to ensure that women, POC,
the debilitated, and the very young or old, are not part of the dominant
game-world. Not to say that any of us can't be techy, but to ensure that
techyness is something dominated by white, cis, 20-30 year old men.
(I apologize for saying techy and techyness instead of finding real words).
I think what bothers me about not knowing how these programs work is that
it is presented to me as magical, something I would not be able to
understand, real "troublesome" that I don't already know it,  rather than a
totally possibly thing to learn -- a choice not to bother learning.

Obviously something I had been thinking about for a while, and just found a
small opportunity to explore my thoughts!


On Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 9:00 PM, <empyre-request at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>wrote:

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> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Today's Topics:
>    1. Re: Week 4: Playsthetics of Experimental Digital Games: game
>       design praxis (mez breeze)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 26 Mar 2014 17:06:08 +1100
> From: mez breeze <netwurker at gmail.com>
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Week 4: Playsthetics of Experimental Digital
>         Games: game design praxis
> Message-ID:
>         <CAG9+UiEjTk4UiJnU=
> jUT4J2Mt0ENN+tRRGQPBWekSmyvFOW56Q at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="iso-8859-1"
> On Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 2:01 AM, Sandra Danilovic <
> s.danilovic at mail.utoronto.ca> wrote:
> > 2.     How are experimental games vehicles for creative self-expression,
> > storytelling?
> >  3.     What does it mean to design 'unplayable' games, difficult-to-play
> > games, etc in relation to creative experimentation?
> >
> >
> >
> Hi All,
> I just wanted to quickly address these questions regarding experimental
> games as "self-expression vehicles" with intentionally unplayable/difficult
> aspects, especially in relation to some game-based projects I've
> co-created. These "Games" [or as I like to term them, Synthetic Game
> Environments] include The Dead Tower<
> http://labs.dreamingmethods.com/tower/>,
> #PRISOM <http://prisom.me> and
> Pluto<
> https://www.facebook.com/MezBreezeDesign/photos/a.217457635079683.1073741829.216671641824949/294561517369294/?type=1&stream_ref=10
> >[currently
> in development]. All three of these projects act to subvert
> traditional game dynamics [and mechanics] in various ways. In The Dead
> Tower, the player needs to navigate a dream-like arena, where snippets of
> words hang suspended in air, and text coats various discarded objects in an
> environment centred on a huge stone castle. As the catalogue from "Chercher
> le texte" 2013 describes it: *"Like the proverbial moth, the reader's
> attention is drawn towards the brightest things around: white words float
> in the air, static or rotating. And the lines of mezangelle
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezangelle> verse both heighten the dread by
> telling fragments of a ghostly narrative prefigured by the bus crash site
> the reader finds herself in, and soften the tone with hints about the
> interface that nudge the fourth wall." *In the Dead Tower, a player is
> given only the smallest of instructions, with some of the navigation
> instructions actually embedded directly into the game text [very meta].
> #PRISOM explores, and in part emulates, the increasing unveiling of covert
> surveillance on a global scale [such as the PRISM
> Program<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PRISM_%28surveillance_program%29>]
> and the increasing monitoring of individual's private data/lives - in fact,
> the neologism title was produced by merging the terms "PRISM" and "prison".
> #PRISOM is a synthetic reality game that's set in a 3D space in true First
> Person Shooter style, but that removes a player's ability to engage within
> the space as they typically would in a standard FPS by controlling the game
> through weapons, health-packs, and standard stable controls. When a player
> enters #PRISOM, initially the navigation seems to mirror FPS conventions
> [space bar to jump, arrow keys and "adws" to move, c to crouch, help
> screens etc]. But as a player begins to move around the prison-like
> environment, it becomes apparent that function and
> slightly-irritating-almost-unplayable-function are woven tightly together
> [like the difficulty level of some of the travel platforms being *almost*
> too annoying to jump on, or finding yourself running into an area that you
> think is safe passage but is actually an explosive glass wall]. During
> dev/beta testing, I always knew we were onto something if I pushed past
> that delicious [mostly FPS] game adrenalin-flow into irritation/frustration
> territory [which is exactly appropriate for #PRISOM inmates, especially
> considering the dystopic ending(s)].
> One #PRISOM review sums up the delicate process of juggling this game and
> "anti-game" orientation: "*"Thanks to #PRISOM, I am now successfully
> indoctrinated and prepared for the total loss of my civil and personal
> rights and a life of continual subservience. Seriously, this took a bit of
> navigation...but the payoff is definitely worth it. The environment is easy
> to get into, especially with the supporting audio, and once I got into the
> hang of what I was supposed to do, and where to find the test stations, all
> went smoothly. I was actually entranced by the whole experience, and felt
> that I just HAD to get to the end. This is [a] most ambitious work...with a
> piece that delivers a political message within the framework of a game that
> is actually no game at all - it's the serious business of where do we all
> go from here."*
> It's an interesting idea to short-cut [or at least heavily modify] many of
> the conventions or muscle-memory based habits that traditional game players
> have come to expect as part of their gaming experience, but also a risky
> one. On the one hand, you risk alienating players who have had no, or
> little, traditional gaming experience [newbies] with slippery
> "unplayability", and on the other, you risk frustration from expert gamers
> who might bristle at the reduced, or inverted, functionality.
> Chunks,
> Mez
> --
> | facebook.com/MezBreezeDesign <http://www.facebook.com/MezBreezeDesign>
> | twitter.com/MezBreezeDesign
> | en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mez_Breeze
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