For the last week, they note that there are lots of types of games that are supposedly “serious” i.e. aimed at serious purposes. In the history, the longest running example are wargames, but there are also “tycoon” games that are about business simulations. However, the largest sub-genre are education games, such as the Oregon Trail or Carmen Sandiego. Over time, the educational starter series have moved into mobile apps, virtual environment, and training simulations.
Stepping back from the genre, I can see how they are dividing things. For example, there are:
– games used in instruction, where the game is an added medium (for processes or procedures); or,
– other games are used as a construction tool, and thus the game empowers the learning style of the individual student (explore and discover).
Games often have to walk a fine line between learning and fun/engagement, but while constructionist tools are often more “fun”, they are also ripe to be subverted by emergent play. » Read the rest
The first video for the week notes that “colour” is frequently used as a way of showing race, even when it is two armies — one red, one blue. As you go through the next four videos, it is expanded to show how race is used to indicate “the other” — an opponent, for example. Some examples for the week include:
Choices may often reflect external racism i.e. “black dwarves” are more evil than light dwarves, often as proxies for more complex situations;
Race serves as the basis for conflict, and conflict can serve as the basis for a narrative arc;
What is present is as important as what is absent;
Default characteristics can serve as “indicator” of what a “normal” character should be;
Character race representations look at cultures and roles within games, including options around protagonist or antagonist roles;
Fighting games often include game mechanics framed through a racial lens to control player attributes (strength, intelligence, etc.);
Week 9 of the MOOC introduces the theme of sexuality and how it is explored in video games.
In video 1, they focus on the first games that introduced sexuality — adventure games like Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork. Or how most of the text adventure games were relatively straightforward, yet Japan started introducing some sexual role-playing content with Night Life while America was still playing Kings Quest by Sierra. But mostly the video is about the development history of text games from basic parsers to added parsing, added exploration, added audio, added graphics, and expanded narrative arcs. It’s an okay start, but mostly it is just to give you the background so they can then talk about:
The history of sex in gaming
Five ways to imagine sex in gaming
Role of women in the industry
The second video talks about the examples of how it is introduced:
marketers using sex to “sell” to generally single heterosexual males;
designers including sex content (Sierra’s Soft Porn Adventure and eventually Leisure Suit Larry);
exploration of gender through cyber-sex roles; and,
creation of the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) as reactions to games with sex and/or violence.
I’m still plugging away on this MOOC. Week 8 of “Understanding Video Games” (hosted by Leah Hackman and Sean Gouglas through Coursera) starts off talking about violence in early games and begins with the old platform games (i.e. jumping to or swinging from platforms), ranging from Donkey Kong (static screens) through to Super Mario Brothers (scrolling), and on further into cinematic platform games. Even the cartoonish games attracted concerns of parental groups who wanted to limit ages or locations for arcades.
In the second video, the pair talk about blood and gore, and it’s long artistic roots in art as an aesthetic. They then move on to flagging the different interpretations — gory violence as nothing more than a video game “horror movie” experience; gory violence as a murder simulator; or merely a source of catharsis. Yet it is the same questions that have been posed of art, comic books and television too. » Read the rest
It has been some time, eighteen months in fact, since I viewed any of the materials for the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) called “Understanding Video Games”. It was hosted by Leah Hackman and Sean Gouglas through Coursera and affiliated for credit with the University of Alberta. I say “was” because the course was removed from Coursera’s offerings at some point during that last 18 months. I’m not sure when exactly, but when Coursera changed their website some time ago, and the links were all going to change, I downloaded all the videos to make sure I didn’t lose them and I wanted to enable offline viewing anyway. However, it was fortunate I did because when the course offering disappeared, so did all the materials. This means while I still have all the remaining videos, and they’re probably sufficient for my purposes, I don’t have the syllabus outline or the extra reading materials for the week. » Read the rest