Child Of Eden: Electronic Art

Video games have transformed from the days in the arcade. They have moved away from the 16bit blocky graphics to fully immersive 3D worlds, where a player can get lost in for hours at a time. Art, if done right, should elicit emotion in the viewer; art should enthrall and entice as well as satisty.

Recently, a game came out that can only be described as “trippy”; not only was it based in space, but was controlled by your body motions through the Xbox Kinect. Child of Eden is the kind of game where if you play it for long enough, you might lose touch with reality. You use your hands to control your ship, which blasts through artistic forms and enemies, often creating something visceral and beautiful at the end.

In this game, one controls the stars in space as you create incredibly artistic forms and images. You’re blasting stars for points, but you’re also a cosmic painter; your hands are your tools and you traverse multiple galaxies. It enthralls and excites, and leaves the player feeling better for playing it. Certainly not all video games are art, but some are certainly striving to be considered, and I believe Child of Eden is one of those games.


-Spencer Smith

What’s wrong with gaming?

For several years now, video games have been a useful stress-relieving component of my life.  Between school, sports, and dramatic friends it can be very difficult to feel in control of your life. Video games provide an outlet where one can can express oneself in a way that ordinary society does not allow. Role playing games are especially useful for this, whether they be set in a fantasy land or in everyday life, or even within a sports game. But if video games could be so useful to kids and adults alike, then what’s wrong with them, and why do people seem to have such a problem with “the gamer?”

In my life, I have never truly been discouraged from playing video games, although I must admit that it was not encouraged either. Occasionally I was chastised for playing Call of Duty instead of, say, mowing the lawn, but nothing atypical in the way of parental control. I have also been lucky to have friends that also enjoy video games, and even my girlfriend has an XBOX Live gamertag. But as I said, I am lucky to know such people that are very accommodating of the gamer in me, when many are not so fortunate. So why are people against gaming?

Quite simply, I believe that it boils down to a misunderstanding of the purpose of video games for many people. I would argue that a majority of people, especially of older generations, see video games as nothing but a waste of time and energy. However, the skills that children gain while playing video games, such as problem solving skills, quick reflexes, the ability to process multiple information sources at the same time, and the experience of cooperating with other players in-game are all valuable life skills that will translate into various other areas. Some will always disagree, but the results of gaming as a child will only become more clear with time.

The Lost Joy of Gaming

 I have been playing video games since when I was eight years old, and I still remember the day that I got my first Game Boy Color. It was the most fun toy I had ever gotten up that point, and I spent hours playing all my favorite games on it. When I was 12, I got my Xbox. It was like a completely different experience for me when I saw the 3D graphics, complex storylines, and real music. It was as if I had literally found another dimension. The upgrade to the Xbox 360 was just as good; it opened up a whole new level of gaming for me. Although video games weren’t a huge part of my life, they were still a great way to relax and could always be counted on to provide fun when I was bored.

Although it wasn’t my first or second choice for a writing seminar, I was looking forward to my first Worlds of Wordcraft class, where it would be fun to talk about, write about, and most importantly, play video games. Since my other classes were chemistry, physics, and multivariable calculus, I thought it would be a welcome change from the equations and formulas that usually occupy my thoughts during class, and talk about video games instead.

When we first started playing LOTRO, I was excited that we were finally able to start playing games. However, when I first started playing it, I was getting bored within a few minutes. I was totally confused about what I was supposed to do, and I didn’t really care to find out. After trying for about five minutes to get out of the first room, I closed the game and did not play it for another week. I kept getting reminded that I had to join the kinship, so I eventually had to complete the introduction, which took me about two weeks. Games are usually fun for me, but playing LOTRO felt more like homework than fun. After I joined the kinship, I thought I was done with the game, but when I found out that I had to go back in it to write the essay, I was fairly annoyed. I ran through the Old Forest and Barrow Downs quickly, took some screenshots, and closed the game for good.

I thought this class would make me enjoy games more, but instead it has made me indifferent towards them. Since I arrived at Vanderbilt, I have not really played any video games, and I didn’t even bring my Xbox 360. I barely played LOTRO, and I haven’t started Never Winter Nights. I’m not entirely sure why my attitude towards video games has changed; it may be because I didn’t like LOTRO, or maybe because I have no experience with MMORPGs, or maybe I just don’t have time for them. However, I think the main reason is that this class has turned video games into work instead of play. To me video games are a way to have fun and relax, not a serious topic to analyze and write essays about. When I think about games now, writing  five page papers and long reading assignments come to mind, not the enjoyment and carefree fun they provide. I really do like games, so I hope I start enjoying them for what they are when this class is over. On the plus side, games have not affected my academics, social life, or athletics at all, so it might be a good thing that I’m not playing video games.

-Kashyap Saxena

Risk over Halo anyday

By Aneel Henry

8 cans of Red Bull, 10 cookies, 6 treaties and 2 broken friendships later the game of risk ends in world domination. The winner runs around the table in a sort of victory ritual, hooting in excitement and beating his hands on his chest to clearly display his newly earned alpha male status.

I’m sure that most who have ever played an extended board game (like Risk or Monopoly) have witnessed a natural phenomenon much like the one I just described. The victory against the opponent, the conquering of the planet, and the complete and utter genocide committed upon all who stand in the victors way culminate in an immense rush of accomplishment and ecstasy for the victor. This degree of emotional investment is critical in creating a successful game. It is not the map design, or the quality of the pieces, or the rolling of die that makes board games like Risk fun. It is the intense competition that springs from direct person-to-person relations that make Risk and Monopoly universally appealing.

Unlike board games, console and online games are not direct interactions with other human beings but interpersonal competition reproduced through a medium (the TV or computer screen). Although this competition can be just as intense, it is much harder for a video game to produce the level of personal interaction achieved while playing a board game. Many companies have tried and succeeded in stimulating personalized competition with inventions like Xbox live, and massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG). These games link each unique avatar directly to a person, thereby stimulating intense competition that admittedly has the capacity to equal or surpass that of board games.

Despite attempts at recreating the intimacy of board games, I feel video games have not captured the universal human spirit of competition. Although many love video games, there is a large percentage of the population that finds the medium through which the competition is stimulated (TV, PC, etc) too confusing or not engaging enough to capture their attention. There is no equivalent to a board game. In a video game, it is impossible to fully personalize an opponent to the degree a board game achieves. There is nothing like watching the excitement melt off of your opponents face as your army wipes him off the map. Or just watching a player truly debate over the best strategy to win, concentrating so hard that you can practically see the gears turning in his/her head. Although video games, to some extent, have captured the competitive spirit of a select group of people, they have not been able to emotionally engage the player as board games have successfully done.