Thursday, April 10, 2008

Thoughts on *GASP* Cheating

Is it really cheating to use cheat codes? I don't think it always is, but I guess it depends on how you use them. Last night I played around with the cheat codes for Age of Empires. Get some extra wood, some free coins, some food; it's nice to not have to spend the first hour or two of game play building up supplies. Then I tried the "big red truck" cheat code. I kid you not. Press enter and type "tuck tuck tuck" into the chat bar. A big red monster truck appears amidst the precolonial village. It can destroy any building or character it comes in contact with. I finished my game in two hours. Yup. It usually takes me more like five hours to win. This truck revelation may have just killed the game for me. It's not so interesting to play it without the truck when I know that it exists, yet it's also not really fun to play with the truck since it takes out any strategy. Hmph.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What makes it fun?

Yesterday, Joanne was talking about flow on her blog. More specifically, she was talking about what makes the game fun and the fact that the learning it might provide isn't really the point at all. I wholeheartedly agree! If you decided to play Age of Empires as a way to learn about colonialization, I think you'd be wasting your time. It doesn't have a huge amount of information in that regard and it's certainly not the most time-effective way to learn that limited amount of information. However, it does have one thing going for it that other means of learning about the topic area don't: it's fun. Pure and simple, players will enjoy the experience. After spending countless hours playing the game, I can't say that I've learned a whole lot or that I've somehow learned it better than I would have any other way, but I have absolutely enjoyed myself while playing. Plus, can you think of another learning experience about American history that would lead to a video as cool as this one that Andy found?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Different Kind of Game

This week I've been participating in round 2 of Sock Madness. It's essentially a speed knitting contest. Contestants are e-mailed a sock pattern and have to knit the pair before they are eliminated. A smaller number of knitters passes on each round. This round there were 35ish knitters in my group and 20 moved on to round 3. Once the 20 spots are filled, the round is up and anyone not finished is eliminated.

It's not at all a tech-related game, but technology has certainly changed the play of the game. Through a variety of social networking sites, contestants can commiserate frustrations and ask for pattern help. I've also seen people cheering each other on and praising finishers. I finished my pair at two a.m. Friday night (or early Saturday morning, I guess). It's total madness and we all will freely admit this. While I wasn't planning on talking about any of my course readings in reference to the game, it occurs to me that it very clearly fits the definition of game from Kupperman's (2007) Grasshopper article: "Games have rules. Rules are unnecessary obstacles that make the game possible." The concept of knitting a pair of socks, which generally takes an average of two weeks or so, as fast as you can is a bit ludicrous. During the contest it is not unheard of to knit a pair within two days. Of course, there is the matter of aching hands to deal with afterwards. Speaking of which, must go back to resting my wrists . . .

Monday, March 10, 2008

Girl Power?

This week's class readings have all been about gender and video games, and are mostly from From Barbie to Mortal Kombat : gender and computer games and Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New perspectives on gender and gaming. The pieces we read shared a general theme: girls like games with the following characteristics:
- female characters who are more than just pretty faces/bodies
- affective involvement (knowledge of emotions and social interactions with characters)
- opportunities for social networking
- less violence
- narratives

So, where does AofE fit into this? Lately I've been playing "Campaign" mode (I think this is the right one, as opposed to Skirmish), where you follow the Black family through the generations as they help to settle the new colonies. The narrative is appealing, but it's really secondary to the action. I have to wonder if it was added to appease both an educational focus as well as a gender-neutral focus. The storyline tells small details about the history of the time period, but also wraps in ideas about loyalty, love between cultures, trust, etc. Seems very girl-friendly, no? Also, I've noticed that this appears to be the only place in the game where females take on a more active role. Elsewhere, women are only settlers, helping gather food and gold, with no other contribution to the colony. Here there are two women "in power": a Native American woman and Lizzie. The Native American woman is sent home when the battles get too dangerous. Lizzie is a pirate queen. Historical accuracy??? I don't think I've ever heard of a pirate queen before. Both characters dress in a sexually seductive manner. I would assume that if you are planning to do battle, you'd want a little more coverage and support . . .

Edited to add: Clearly it's not just me. I googled "Pirate Lizzie" and "Age of Empires" and the only pictures I could find were marketing shots. I don't think it's so easy to get a good screenshot of AofE.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


I finally beat the moderate level on Age of Empires! Somehow it seems like the computer opponents always build up this huge army when I've barely gotten started on mine, but this time I've done it! I think it helped that my computer ally was very strong and actually willing to fight with me (sometimes they just sit back and don't help out). The "Victory is Mine!" screen has never looked so good. Wish I could figure out how to take a picture of it to share, but can't quite figure that one out yet. I've also managed to reach a level 15 home city, so now there are a lot of new options available. The factory is the best I've discovered so far since it allows you to build cannons. Ok, now I've actually got to get some school work done today . . .

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Arguably the coolest YouTube videos ever!

Seriously, you have to check this out:

And this one's pretty cool too:

Anyone want to head over to Askwith and make our own?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Emotions and Video Games

One of the readings a few weeks back, I think it was Gee again (can you tell how much I like that book?), discussed the idea of emotional satisfaction with regard to video games. Games like Halo or Alice seem to satisfy this need in people to be destructive, violent, or at the very least they provide an outlet for pent up energy and aggression. According to the reading, there is a certain type of person who is attracted to this type of game. Calmer games, like those in the Myst series, help players to relax and challenge them with puzzles and logic. A different type of person is attracted to this type of game.

Lately I find myself wondering where I fit into this idea or if I even buy into it. I've been playing and enjoying Age of Empires. The battle scenes certainly evoke aggression - I find myself striving to build the biggest army I can so that when I go into battle I will dwarf my opponent. I find it incredibly satisfying when I take over another team's trading post or knock down their town center.

On the other hand, I've just recently purchased Myst. To be completely honest, I bought the anniversary edition set of the first three Myst games. I've just started playing the first one. It's an interesting game. I find it a little slow and even frustrating at times, but when I get a step closer to solving a puzzle, it's very satisfying as well.

With this interest I've developed in two very different styles of game, I can't figure out where I fit within Gee(?)'s emotional satisfaction argument. My choice of one game over the other is not related to my emotional state at the time or a need to either relax or release aggression. It's merely just a choice made on a whim. I'll have to continue exploring this idea. I'm wondering if I misinterpreted his argument and I plan on going back to look it over again. The games certainly give me the emotional satisfaction he suggested, but I don't think I'm drawn to one over the other due to any particular need.