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thoughts, provocations, insights, and introspection on games, gaming, and we the gamers.

Author: aspekx

What makes graphics old school or new school for you?

Posted by aspekx Monday September 12 2011 at 11:44AM
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this is not going to be my main post for the week, but a question arose for me recently while posting a response to an article on a game i enjoy. there were a few people who were complaining about the graphics being 'old school' or in particular 'outdated'.

at first i wondered about their graphics settings or hard/software. but then it dawned on me, what are they seeing that i do not.

now i am not implying that its a negative or even a positive thing to see something that others do not. i actuallly mean the question quite literally: what are they seeing.

in other words, what lines or curves are giving them a signal psychologically that informs their brain: this is old/outdated? now, its obvious that personal taste is going on here, but beneath that i suppose i am wondering what the cues are for determining that a game has great graphics or outdated ones.

clearly, the difference between 32bit Final Fantasy and FFXIV (or even XI) is tremendous. at this point the gap is so large that the overwhelming portion of the population is going to socially experience the same response.

in part because there is the social memory of the game having been around so long. and in part because social influence helps us all agree upon certain basic standards of beauty. as you can tell i am *not* a Platonist when it comes to such things, ie., i do not believe that there is something in the universe that's called Beauty which exists in and of itself. beauty is a construct based upon context and by context i mean universal context.

so now, have you ever considered what aspects of a game make you think that the graphics are old school or even outdated? what curves or lines tell you that you are looking at something old or something that is not beautiful in the gaming realm? is it instead the hue and tone of the colors?

i would love to hear some response on this as it strikes me as a potentially interesting conversation to be had.

Assault Girls - a film by Ghost In The Shell director Mamoru Oshii set in an mmorpg

Posted by aspekx Friday September 9 2011 at 8:03AM
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Assault Girls

this was a thoughtful production by the director of Ghost in the ShellMamoru Oshii. as a Japanese live action film it is most certainly *not* a Sucker Punch! movie. like many of his works it is full of philosophical quips and quirks. this is more art film than action, though it is still a feature film, not some surrealist, bauhaus production.

be prepared, there are long sequences of characters within the mmorpg world he portrays wandering for long periods of time looking for mobs and a particularly difficult mob boss Madara. (think EQ1 corpse walking.) the game portrayed is a 3d virtual world of complete neural immersion. the game is skill based and characters spend points on items and skills. the particular world in the game on which the characters find themselves is a desert planet of rocks, little wildlife and scrub brush.

the filim is primarily about two things it seems, though i am sure there is more buried in there. Oshii's commentary on the direction of society and the growing feeling of futility and stagnation amongst individuals in the more inudtrialized world. thus they turn to a virtual world where rules ensure that gameplay is balanced and individuals can experience restarts and rebuilding that the real world cannot provide them. it is also about alienation, betrayal, and the human need to group, if only for mutual benefit.

the acting at times can be a bit stilted, but i attribute that mostly to the use of English as the primary language for Japanese actors who are clearly not fluent. (don't worry there are subtitles throughout the entire film.) there is no character development. instead this is a lengthy vignette in which we are dropped off to view a snapshot of 4 gamers versus themselves and versus the mob boss Madara.

what was really well done was how Oshii blends these themes with the world of mmorpgs. i think he does an excellent job here and shows evidence of a deep metagame understanding of the genre and the social interactions players experience on a day to day basis. it would perhaps have been better as a short film, but then again, the sweeping vistas and camera play that Oshii provides really could only have been done in a full length feature film.

all in all, i would highly reccomend this movie for individuals who enjoy thoughtful discussions of their games, gamers, and gaming. for those of you who prefer not to metagame in your gaming or in real life, this film will probably bore you to tears.

now for discussion, i was fascinated with a topic Oshii broaches which i have found myself and my friends discussing time and again. in fact perhaps, this is a cliche by now, but i think it worth bringing up. how much of our enjoyment of gaming relies on the futility we feel in our own lives?

i am not talking about the 40 year old in his mother's basement and the stereotypes associated with such a fictional person. more to the point is, in an advanced industrial or post-industrial world, with an economy lopsided in its average wealth distribution between a small minority at the top and a large one at the bottom, how much of gaming for us is a release? a release, i mean, from the lack of upward mobility, new places to explore (even if only new to us), a sense of disjunction from our own work in real life, and our desires to create, to become, and to be seen?

is this perhaps a viable explanatory theory for hardcore gamers, griefers, sandboxers, and crafters? do you feel your own inability to afford or have time to create things in the world leaves you looking for such opportunities elsewhere, as in gaming?

i know this is true for me. i have several interests, sadly they all require money, space, and time that i do not have. let's be honest, blacksmithing in real life, boat building in real life, and doing so ingame are two very different things, even if you could spend the same amount of time on them. resources cannot simply be mined out of a node in your next door neighbor's front yard, nor would they appreciate you skilling up on their backyard shade trees.

we are a generation limited by resources, time, money, and space (or land if you prefer) constraints like no other generation in our Western countries have ever seen.

there is no more frontier, you can't simply go walking into the local national forest and plop down the house you've crafted at the local crafting station. and speaking of money, especially in this economy, grinding on your neighborhood pets to level up and get vendor trash to sell isn't going to work either. 

but this is not true of virtual worlds. and this will continue to be part of our underlying struggle with them over the next few decades.

so perhaps we turn to alternate forms of creativity to give ourselves room to express and make.

it is in this that i appreciated Oshii's examination of life and game worlds the most. he attacks economic stabilization it seems, for fear we will al crawl into a virtual world. i would argue that it is the economic destabilizaation, the shifting of the majority of income and resources to an ever smaller portion of the population is what breeds stagnation.

can you imagine what you would create if you had just the minimal time, space and resources to do so? nothing big or expensive, but the basics to pursue your interests? see i believe that work, in its various forms, is inherently good for us and that even when we hate its abuses the most, we still know that we need it. and not just to feed ourselves. we all desire, i believe, to make, to create, to give and to receive, in kind, for our efforts.

how is this reflected in your choices of games and game mechanics?

what things *would* you create? what work would you do, given the time, space, and resources?

would this affect your gaming at all do you think? or do you have such working and creative fulfillment in your life that you can't relate to those who do find such satisfaction ingame?

looking forward to hearing your responses.


Posted by aspekx Thursday September 8 2011 at 3:04PM
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well, i've never been very successful with blogs and blogging. but i do tend to spend quite a bit of time thinking about games, gaming, and gamers. in short: metagaming.

this is not theorycrafting. while i highly respect those capable of such pursuits my interests lie primarily in the social, psychological, and at times even purely scientific research that pertains to gaming. sometimes this is in obvious, straightforward ways. yet other times my thoughts become quirky as i stray a bit and wander into anthropology, physics, and paleontology.

if this kind of introspection interests you, if you find yourself wondering whether game races afffect players or players affect game races; or if you wonder what quantum psychology and hilbert vectors might have to do with the future of gaming; than this blog is for you.

i invite all sorts of comments and questions and critiques and challenges. this is movement and that means there is thinking and possibility. as my adoptive kentucky mother used to say: " a rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out," ie., if something is not changing its not living.

so let's see what happens.

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