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Erik Loyer's Stories as Instruments or Why Isn't Bigger Always Better?

Interactive media artist Erik Loyer, perhaps most well known to academics as Creative Director of Vectors: Journal of Culture and Technology visited the University of California, Riverside earlier this week to give a talk titled “Stories as Instruments.”

Loyer explained his design philosophy that games should break free of the restrictions of plot-centric progression and character focused instrumentality (his recent innovative iPhone game Ruben and Lullaby is a particularly illustrative example of this trajectory). Loyer points to the genre of the musical as an important influence and model for new forms of storytelling in games. Musical arias feature characters that step just outside the world in moments of intense expression. Loyer analogized this as a blend of first and third person perspective. The singing character in the musical is locked into the narrative space contextually yet elaborating that context. The best games, according to Loyer, allow the player to assume this role: doing things as they should be done logically in the world but also knowing what one is doing.

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National Center for the History of Electronic Games

The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, NY houses the Center for the History of Electronic Games. According to their website the museum "collects, studies, and interprets electronic games and related material and the ways in which electronic games are changing how people play, learn, and connect with each other."

They have a collection of 15,000 items and, according to Kotaku, every console ever made on display.

Without question, this is game geek heaven and a productive development for game studies. I have heard similar rumblings from other academic game research centers about developing collections of materials for the study of games, but funding, especially right now, seems to be difficult to acquire for this incredibly necessary effort in the development of game studies. Developing these kinds of collections would be an immense help to those of us interested in historical approaches to game studies specifically in light of the hardware-centric scholarship being done in MIT's platform studies.

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Video Game Canon

A little over a year ago the NY Times and various other media outlets and blogs reported on Henry Lowood, Warren Spector, Steve Meretzky, Mario Bittanti, and Christopher Grant's list of the ten most important games of all time.

Many referred to it as the creation of the first video game canon.

Certainly we are all aware of the problems of creating any kind of canon yet I think we all recognize their usefulness as well---if only as the subject of critique.

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Research Software and Tools

The time for Ph.D. exam preparation is fast approaching (I really should start this summer) and I have been trying to develop strategies for successful note taking, organization, research, and scheduling.

I was initially inspired by D. Travers Scott's blog courageously chronicling his exam reading. After some more searching I stumbled across David Parry's excellent blog discussing a variety of different tech tools for academics, Academhack.

So far I have gotten a hold of EndNote on the recommendation of a colleague, but have yet to really play around with it. I have been told it is incredibly helpful in terms of managing and implementing citations.

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Games, History, and Emotion

Ian Bogost gave a thought provoking speech at the Southern Interactive Entertainment and Game Expo recently which has been reproduced on his website. The title is “Videogames: Can They Be Important?” and in the speech he considers how videogames might be recognized as a form of expression capable of mattering on the level of literature or film.

Bogost does not explicitly say that videogames matter; instead his perspective seems to be that it will only really be known if they have impact until after we are dead, as people in the future experience the games. Thus, his recommendation is for designers to not “will” videogames to be artful, but to “live as people, as flawed, confused, aggrieved, dismayed joyful, surprised, hopeful people” and to “record those flaws, confusions, grievances, shocks, joys, surprises, and hopes.”

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In Media Res

Media Commons has an excellent ongoing project called In Media Res wherein media scholars post short videos with introductory statements meant to engage the community in conversation.

It is not only a really interesting twist on academic discussion, but a great way to gain exposure to the various projects people are working, as well as potentially get some preliminary feedback on your own project.

I have a machinima video and short write-up there this week that I am using in a current paper and would love to get some feedback and thoughts on it from the Gameology staff and readers.

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Competitive Gaming and Masculinity

Most of us are now aware, especially after the media coverage of Blizzard's Starcraft II announcement in Korea at their Worldwide Invitational event, that competitive gaming is a big deal in other parts of the world. Watching footage from this event and other similar events definitely proves that competitive gaming could potentially takes its place in the world as a very popular and bankable industry, with its own stars, endorsements, fanbase, and culture.

Of course, efforts have been underway for quite some time to get the U.S. more interested in competitive gaming. There are a variety of leagues, a star (Fatal1ty), and even some sporadic television coverage on cable.

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Loading...: a new game studies journal

I am not sure exactly when it was released, but I just found out about a new game studies journal launched by the Canadian Game Studies Association, it is called Loading...

Here is an excerpt of their mission statement:

Quote:
The primary objective of Loading… is to publish Canadian scholarship, research and art in the interdisciplinary field of digital games studies. Canadian perspectives and voices, especially cross- and inter-disciplinary studies are encouraged as is more technically focused work. Every effort will also be made to support special issues of the journal that take up particular themes and/or problems in the field.

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Cerise Magazine

While doing my usual round of blog surfing today I came across a brand new video game e-zine that, in much the same vein as The Escapist, publishes what I suppose could be called New Games Journalism. However, understanding the stigma attached to that term, perhaps we can just call it serialized digital writing on games which is far more intellectually sound than say, Destructoid.

This magazine is called Cerise and they call themselves a "gaming magazine for women" and just released their first issue this month. The articles seem to be rehashing a few of the Girl Games debates from years back, but I think the magazine is overall productive in terms of repackaging some of these academic arguments in a more accessible format. I am quite fond of the idea of some of the academic gaming criticism leaking into the public for a larger discussion.

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Content-Producing Games, The Movies, and Grammar

Mark Marino over at Writer-Response Theory wrote a really good and important post about what he terms Content-Producing Games, like The Movies. In this article he begins the task of defining and understanding this genre of game.

Mark, being an author of interactive fiction and other such work, is interested in how games such as The Movies, and I would assume construction sets bundled with the Elder Scrolls games as well as Neverwinter Nights and other examples, provide new tools for interactive storytelling.

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