Gaming Has Positive Effects On Your Health… So Where’s The Hype?

By Sparling Wilson

In class, we have discussed how video games incorporate many different philosophical, artistic, historical, and social issues across their many forms and types. For some games, relaying information or a critique to the player is the end of goal, while others incorporate these elements more subtly to make a deeper and more complex gaming experience. Even first person shooter games incorporate high though, such as Bioshock’s blatant critique of Ayn Rand’s objectivism. However, even games that are not as cerebral can benefit the players.

Heath and mental benefits of these games range. According to Dr. Daphne Bavelier players’ eyes may actually benefit from looking at a screen for hours, improving the ability of people who play most to distinguish gray scale and the definition of objects. She also indicated that playing certain kinds of games have positive effects on people’s ability to multitask and on their attention.

Here is the video, where you can see Dr. Bavelier giving the talk..

Ted Talk On The Benefits of Gaming

This Ted Talker spoke about designing games to be useful for rehabilitation or specific learning purposes, which of course is valid. At the same time, I must offer a critique on her idea, and specifically her presentation of it. While she just spoke about the benefits of playing video games, and most importantly first person shooter games, which have long been considered the most extra-regular of the gaming family (minimal story line, all focused on simple, repeated task of shooting enemies), she just took a major step back and gave a large blow for the gaming community. Sadly, she separates games played for pleasure from games with a practical application. If you watch the video, she spends a great deal of time relaying how these pleasurable games actually do have a practical application, and yet, she does not consider games played for pleasure to be completely as applicable as a game designed with a more scientific purpose.

Personally, I am constantly befuddled at the mainstream community and scientific community to continually write off gaming and gaming culture,  especially after seeing the great deal of high-concept thinking that video games employ. Why can’t we accept that games are a valid form of media, and event at their most basic form, they provide health and mental benefits when used in moderation?

I have come to view gaming as awesome: it incorporates visual art, audible art, narrative, philosophy, history, culture, participates in remediation, and critiques itself, probably more than any other form of media. What’s more, I’ve come to regard it as one of my favorite forms (although I’m still new) because it’s interactive and challenging: I am able to participate in the art and narrative in a way that is unique to gaming.

I guess going back to my previous question about people accepting the validity of gaming in the mainstream, I can relate to the haters. A few months ago, I didn’t really understand much of the hype or the depth that games can possess; I merely thought of gaming as entertainment. My assumption is that as gaming continues to attract more and more followers, both through a diversity of genres and increasing accessibility because of platform integration (hello, mobile games), people will begin to see games as a more valid form of media. As a result, more scientific and sociological research will be done on games, and then, once the artistic and scientific communities fully accept games, the medium will receive the respect it deserves. It is sad that acceptance necessitates this kind of validation, but I really hope that it comes soon.

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True Life: I’m a LOTRO Addict

I am very proud of myself… I’ve made excellent strides in the gaming world. For those of you that don’t remember, I am the newbiest of newbs (the writer who basically had only played iphone games), so when I downloaded LOTRO and was told that it would be a part of my grade for the course, I was wary at first. Initially, I struggled with the controls of the game, not realizing that the arrow keys could be used in place of the “a” “s” “d” and “w” keys for movement; not being able to move with ease was frustrating and really put a damper on my enjoyment of the game. Another issue I had at first was navigation through the game with the quests. I did not realize that one merely had to follow the glowing ring on the map to find the next part of the quest, and because of this, the going was excruciatingly slow. A silver lining the this issue was that I learned how to move before I learned how to navigate, and so I spent a long time fighting wolves in Thorin’s realm and reached a higher level by the end of the intro period that most. On the issue of navigation, I wish that staying on the epic quest line would be more self-explanatory because I’ve spent a lot of time doing side quests that I would in some cases prefer to avoid.

With that being said, these were just issues I had at the beginning of my journey. Since I’ve managed to get over these problems, I have become completely enamored with the game. If I’m waiting around, I play the game. If I’m bored, I’ll play the game. Not feeling like going out on the town? I’ll visit the Prancing Pony in Bree. I am seriously getting addicted to LOTRO!

One aspect I really love is the role playing. I love the fact that I can customize my character’s wardrobe and appearance, as well as the specific skills I can gain as an Elf Champion. I think one reason why this part of the game is so appealing is due to the fact that I am an English major and avid reader. When I am reading (especially in the Lord Of The Rings series) I can imagine myself in the protagonist’s position and wish I were apart of the action. By playing LOTRO, I am able to engage with the narrative in a way that has never been open to me before, and that helps to fulfill this desire.

Additionally, the quests provide just enough challenge to be fun and engaging, but are not difficult to the point that I want to abandon them as a lost cause. Even if my character dies, I feel like I can evaluate my performance and improve enough to give the challenge another go and ultimately be successful. While this game isn’t as strongly based on learning as the game Braid was, I still think it is an important factor here. In playing this game, you learn new strategies to help you play more efficiently and creatively.

One thing that I have learned since starting this game is that apparently Lore Masters get to have animal pets. Since I have been enjoying playing so much, I think it is time for me to create a new character of the Lore Master variety so I can acquire some of the cute and friendly creatures I’ve spotted along the way!

-Sparling Wilson

Form and Function

Admittedly, I am a total newbie when it comes to gaming. Seriously.. I’m the kind of person whose experience with games stops with Mario cart and scoops for my iPhone. So when I jettisoned myself out of reality and into the world of gaming by downloading the game Braid, I was skeptical as to if I would have even the minimal amount of fine motor control to successfully play the game, let alone be able to enjoy it.

 

Luckily for me, Braid is the kind of game that is totally transformative. I found myself lost in the aesthetic beauty that appeared on the screen as it whisked the hero, Tim, and me to a fictional and imaginative land. It is the very visual appeal of this game that makes all the difference, as well as works in conjunction with the fiction of the game to elevate and transform the narrative.

 

The backdrop of the game is striking. It’s like being inside one of Monet’s masterpieces. The highly impressionistic setting is important because it lends itself to the creating the element imagination that so many gamers enjoy. I am personally in the camp with the game theorists that believe that the fiction and landscape of the game space are more than just decoration to the game’s rules, but rather are a part of entire gaming experience where form and function come together and help inform one another. I’d like to think that the creator, Jonathan Blow, is too. The game creates a cohesive theme of two-dimensionality within the landscape and the rules of the game that I assume help to enhance the narrative, but I’m not really sure yet. Don’t worry, guys, no spoilers here: it took me many hours and lots of help just to figure out the basics of how to play the game, and I still can’t figure out how to properly utilize the monsters to get more height… However, I assume that when I finally get to the end and have the whole story figured out (I can’t bring myself to read ahead on Wikipedia), this theme of two-dimensionality is going to tie-in some how.

 

Now, while the visual background to the game is exceedingly exquisite, I can’t get over Tim’s chic and streamlined menswear look. I love how his conservative and prep school-ish ensemble stands in direct opposition of his environment. Where a normal game maker might design a charter’s wardrobe to fit the theme of his surroundings, Tim’s outfit stands in stark contrast of it. However, his navy blazer and khakis don’t pull me out of the game, but rather help me to relate to Tim because he looks just as lost in this game as I feel. But actually, Tim’s outfit gives an ironic sense of realism to a game that plays with the concept of time and looks more like a painting than reality. And with class just starting back, the timing of discovering Tim’s outfit couldn’t be more perfect! With his navy blazer and khakis, he looks so ready to hit the books.

 

Here, I’ve made this ensemble more ladylike by incorporating my favorite brown leather Christian Louboutin wedges to keep the outfit from looking too masculine. This Brooks Brothers navy wool blazer and white (wrinkle-resistant!) button down and J Crew tailored khakis keep the look true to Tim. Of course, I had to include a braid as a tribute to the game itself. Now that I look the part, maybe I can figure out how to actually win!

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-Sparling Wilson

Kill Me Later

By A.A. BENJAMIN

 

Braid seems like it was made by some guy who was slighted by love and needed a place to vent.

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And…I like that. The idea of a forgiving game creates a zone of warmth and comfort that propels game exploration. Braid is an escape and an innovative game style that has the potential to inspire other games to step out of the stoic guns-bared emotionless realm and into the hearts and minds of our everyday life. After all, game making is art. Just as the writer can lament in her journal, and the painter can brood in an attic and let his heart bleed paint, so should a game maker be able to get his heart broken and then construct a platform game that makes him feel good.

Aside from my judgmental assumptions, there is more magic in this game than the narrative. The creators not only say, “to hell with un-forgiveness” but take it a step further to say “you must make mistakes to win this game.” The gamer must take the stick out of their butt and do it again, and again, and again until they figure it out, or until they so-called “cheat,” snatching that magic key and rewinding themselves to victory. This piece of fictional media opens up our minds to the different realities of life, just as every good piece of fiction should. I read an article once that challenged the idea of multiple lives and checkpoints in video games. The writer wanted to know what would happen if games became more realistic and eliminated the multiple lives syndrome that desensitized us to death.

 Well, Braid does that by going in the complete opposite direction (pun intended). Because like humans the main character continues to live only because he never died. He escapes death and failure only because, like humans, he is able to adapt and learn from mistakes.

My favorite part about this game is the integration of this method into actual gameplay, rather than just a cool “perk” of the game. I was delighted every time I faced a boss and found out that I could not manipulate him in my time-turning shenanigans. It forced me to dissect the pieces of my in-game reality and use what I could manipulate to win (maybe that sounds a little bit scarier than I intended, but, maybe I’m manipulative?) I did not, in fact, beat the game. However, challenges such as these make me feel that I can go back and play again at least a couple more times without the experience being one-noted. I can make different mistakes if I choose, I can accelerate the success of my strategies, and, I can make Tim dance back and forth and remix the music if I so well please.

A Walk in the Park

I have always been fascinated with the English language.  I am an avid reader, a crossword puzzle fanatic, and I pride myself on my diverse vocabulary.  Recently however, I was at a loss for words when asked to accurately define the difference between game and play.  I knew what both the words ‘meant’ but I couldn’t vocalize the root difference.  I took the logical next step and sought out official definitions of both words, they are as follows:

Game: “activity engaged in for diversion or amusement” (From Merriam-Webster)

Play: “recreational activity; especially the spontaneous activity of children” (From Merriam-Webster)

These definitions do not clarify the difference, as they are nearly identical.  We can agree that both games and play are active, and they are both for amusement, but what sets them apart? In order to explore the difference between games and play I have gone through a step-by-step visualization… just bear with it.

Its Saturday afternoon and you head down to the local park.  The air is crisp and the sun is shining.  You lazily stroll along a winding path until you come upon a group of toddlers.  The small children seemingly wander about aimlessly, but upon further investigation you realize that they happen to be chasing small butterflies.  You think to yourself that these children are at play, innocently engaging in a freeform activity for the sake of amusement.  You continue along the path until you come across jungle gym swarming with 9-year-old children.  The children seem to be participating in a game they refer to as cops and robbers.  At first the activity seems to be completely devoid of structure, but upon further investigation you find that there is a rudimentary rule set.  There are two teams, waging battle, but you would not necessarily consider this a game.  Children switch sides at will and they fail to follow any unified set of conventions.  Soon the activity ends as children begin to wander off.  This seems to be a more organized form of play, but it’s not quite a game.  Once again you proceed along the path until you come across a group of elderly gentlemen playing chess.  Surely we consider this a game.  The men play for amusement, but unlike the younglings they follow a strict set of conventions.  Each piece has a unique style of movement, limiting the player’s options.  The battle is waged turn by turn until one player reigns supreme, there is a clear end game.

Hopefully what this visualization shows us is that a clear set of rules separates games from play.  The toddlers activity is completely spontaneous, it is play in its most basic form.  The 9-year-olds are participating in something slightly more complex, as they are beginning to form a rule set.  Cops and Robbers is somewhere in-between random wanderings and chess.  The elderly gentlemen are completely dependent upon a rule set, and it’s the rules that separate games from play.

Hey! No running near the pool! -300 points!

by Calvin Patimeteeporn

The debate of over play and games have raised quite a debate in class, with arguments ranging from rules of games being the main construct of the definition of game to random inclusions of Newton’s laws of gravity. About 90% of the time when we talk about play v.s. games we bring up one defining factor of games: rules. While this is a huge part of the gaming as it basically provides the structure of games, we cannot define anything with rules as a game as we have done for quite some time.

Almost everything has rules, from basic etiquette to swimming pools, yet none of these can be considered as a “game”. This is, of course, the reason why we must narrow down our definition and stop subjecting life as a game simply because we “obey the laws of gravity” (This is for you Tyler). So, while rules play a part in gaming we must also consider another trait of games and not play: a removal of the individual from reality and into a gamespace.

A swimming pool, although filled with rules, is not a game as it does not actually transfer the user to another virtual realm. The pool doesn’t take the user into a fantasy world where there is an objective, goal, or conflict, it instead just gives you a hole with water and rules. Hardly a game. Thus, we can’t consider the difference between play and games as simply rules, but rather the transportation of the user.

For instance, games such as Grand Theft Auto take gamers into a different world with different rules. A player in Liberty City in the game are subjected to different rules and privileges that normally wouldn’t be socially acceptable in real life, a key difference between games, play, and life.

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“In hindsight, I can see why this may have possibly been a bad idea”

That being said, I conclude that play and games are, indeed, different, but the difference between them are not just rules but rather an inclusion of a gamespace as well. A classroom has rules but it is obviously not a game (or play for that matter). Thus, these arguments of life being a game or trampoline also being a game due to the laws of the universe, can be refuted as neither of which bring the user to a gamespace.

Games: A Subset of Play

Matt Almeida

        Depending on the way you look at it there seems to be a number of ways you can interpret games and play. At first, the two terms may seem interchangeable, perhaps even synonyms, and indeed many people use them as such. However, upon looking more closely at these two terms and seeking out their differences they come to mean two distinctly different things.

                 First off it is important to see how games are a specific part of play. You might ask how are the two any different? Play seems to be an integral part of any game and a game seems to be a specific form of play. This is certainly true but games are more so just a specific and specialized form of play. Play is a broader term encompassing all sorts of activities while the word game indicates a very specific act containing certain aspects and modeling  a definition. In my opinion play can refer to any sort of enjoyable activity. It can be a sport, a toy, or any sort of activity someone partakes in for fun. Someone merely jumping on a bed or even cooking food for enjoyment could be considered play. Until the activity at hand has some sort of goal or purpose it is not a game.  Also, I think it essentially must be some conflict or battle for fun and for enjoyment otherwise any activity could be considered a game.

                The aspect of having a goal or objective is what I think is the most important part of a game. With this objective then comes a number of other things that help to constitute something as a game. In order to achieve this objective a number of rules and guidelines need to be set up that modify how someone reaches that objective. These rules make the act of play something more, something of greater meaning. They force players to enter the game, interact, and make decisions that affect the outcome of the game. Players must abide by the rules and make choices accordingly as they attempt to attain the objective at hand. There is now a formal activity taking place that takes the form of a game rather than just random play. The activity can now be distinguished and recognized, giving it a specific form and usually even a name. Just throwing a ball and playing around now becomes dodge ball, football, or baseball. Simply looking at cards or tossing them around now becomes poker or blackjack. Running around a park or a playground now becomes tag, hide and seek, or maybe even capture the flag. With rules and guidelines pertaining to a goal at hand, play takes a specific form and becomes a game.

                Along with the objectives and rules of a game I believe there are some  other aspects that are essential to games. Whether or not these aspects are taken into account when forming the game, they inherently become important parts of the game.  Some of these components are the fact that games are inefficient, uncertain, and that although apart from reality they are very real and intrinsically related to real life outcomes. Salen’s and Zimmerman’s definition of a game as “a system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome” does not necessarily encompass all these components. I agree with the definition they state but I feel there is much more to the definition.

                Naturally, I believe aspects of inefficiency and uncertainly lie within games. By following the rules and attempting to achieve a goal a game becomes both of these things. Rules make a game both inefficient and uncertain. The most direct way to achieve a goal in a game is also the most efficient way. The most efficient way to score a touchdown in football would be to run the play straight down the field in a direct line. However, the rules making the defense attempting to stop this act complicates things. Next, one would most efficiently score by running around the defense but the rules setting up boundaries to the game also complicates this as well. Similarly, in baseball the most efficient way to score would be to drop the ball over the outfield fence for a homerun. But, the rules state that the ball must be pitched , often at an absurd speed with interesting movement, and then hit with a small wooden stick. This complicates this activity as well. This applies to all games as well. The rules also make these activities incredibly uncertain. The rules create two opposing forces consisting of many players who are attempting to achieve the same goal. The two forces battle and this makes the outcome uncertain. Although there are only a certain number of outcomes, there is no way of knowing what the outcome will be or how this outcome will be arrived at. The natural laws and rules of games make them both extremely inefficient and uncertain. These two aspects though are incredibly essential to games and make them what they are. If games were efficient and simple than it would take all the fun and enjoyment out of them. If you could know the simple outcome of a game before it started then what would be the point of playing the game at all?

                Finally, I believe that games are very much related to real life, even if the games may be “artificial” and have outcomes that are not entirely real. People become personally invested in games. People allow their emotions to be involved in games and they very much become a part of this game. The real life emotions of players as well as viewers of games are affected by the game and its outcome. Also, many people play games for a living.  Not only in professional sports, but in many other games such as video games, players play for money and this is an integral aspect of their everyday real life. The outcome of the game greatly affects their lives and it is no longer just some distant artificial conflict. The games are very real and have value of great importance. This also pertains to gambling and other such activities that involve money. With games such as this there is again a real life feature, in this case real money, that is on the line. This is an important aspect of games that is often forgotten or even sometimes contradicted in certain definitions.