Author Archives: Tyler Dennis

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Natural Violence

To supplement my point that video games CAN teach violent tactics, here’s an example of a practice among FPS “camping”. Yes this is also taught in movies, but with games, you reiterate the same thing over and over – sniping people in a bottle neck from an angle they weren’t prepared for. “It certainly works in paintball”  It’s not just “camping” though, it’s anticipating where the other guy is going to set up shop. Knowing that a melee weapon might not alert other members of the opposite faction that anything is out of the ordinary (the Assassin’s Creed franchise makes teaching this tactic a substantial portion of the game). No, I don’t think the average gamer is incited to go on a melee weapon rampage in the office/school, but if they were to do so, I think it’s safe to say they are a more “weaponized” version of themselves after playing 500 hours on an FPS with sprites programmed to behave more and more human.

[viewer discretion – depictions of death ‘R’ rating, it’s a scene from Saving Private Ryan] http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=bwBkQy9CpS0#t=1080s

Don’t get me wrong, I think the benefits of video games far outweigh the detriments, but I’m not going to pretend that watching a violent movie, or immersing myself fully in a highly realistic video game where I happen to learn advanced combat tactics doesn’t have any effect on me at all…

Gambling in Games

I think back to my childhood of some of my favorite games and realize the concept of “chance” played an important role. In many games, the system is made to utilize random chance to extend playability. A game like World of Warcraft utilizes this in item/loot drops. Each enemy has a specified probability of dropping a range of loot. The entire game is just pressing a variety of keys on an elaborate slot machine where the reward is loot instead of monetary credits.

One of Blizzard’s other hit franchises, “Diablo” has gambling functions within the game. The in-game gold is used to purchase unknown item classes with variable stats. This may or may not have been the reason so many users spent countless hours farming the in-game currency. I see little difference in using real Canadian dollars to purchase the in-game currency, and then use these “credits” to purchase items with randomly assigned values; and then potentially “cashing out” by selling these items back in exchange for real world currencies.

Are we training our children to keep pushing the neuro-gratification button? When the games become boring will they make their way to the slot machines? The exploitative American gambling laws we heard about today in Nevada – will the people ever need to leave their computer chairs? When the system is set up such that the “house” slowly dwindles your money while distracting you with flashy lights; or perhaps worse, makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something by destroying a game sprite demon of some kind — do these people even have a …chance?

False Dichotomy of Interactivity

I don’t see a categorical difference between the interactivity of video games and the interactivity of more traditional mediums like television/radio. On a long continuum of interactivity we could certainly place video games on a side of “direct-highly-interactive” and something like radio on the polar opposite; but we <i>do</i> interact with these apparent one directional outputs. It’s just less direct.

With a video game, we expect to have near complete control (within the confines of the system) where our inputs are immediately correlated to some reaction on the screen. With TV, our interaction is a little less direct. Instead of an immediate reaction to pressing a button, there’s a lag time between, but reaction nonetheless. Those television programs that induce observers to change the channel (or simply turn the TV/radio off) are subsequently pushed off the air. Or, modified in some way to cater to a more appropriate target audience. In other words, if stupid people watch the show, the jokes/dialogue will get more stupid. If a show has an extremely large audience, they often feel the pressure to take on more social/political/topical issues; consider themes of “The Simpsons”, “Family Guy”, “South Park”, in their later seasons compared to the earlier seasons. The size and type of audience has a direct (or more indirect) impact of what the show’s themes will be. And, has anyone ever called into a radio show? Whether you get through or not, you’ve essentially pressed the ‘A’ button. I don’t see why we should discriminate on “interactivity” being instantaneous and predictable vs variable and subtle.

Perhaps somewhere closer to the middle of the continuum would be a DVD menu; or better yet the “spectate” function of many competitive video games. The spectate function within League of Legends or Starcraft 2 give the spectator the ability to see the game played from a different perspective, and to modify the perspective in real time. The spectator may not impact the result of a match, but their unique exercise of skill and judgment in deciding what is important to consider (graphs of army strength, economic factors, which character to follow and when etc..) if expressed (recorded…?) would certainly be the subject of intellectual property. There are professional spectators, well paid for their expertise in this role!

Moral rights and Harriette Potter

Interesting discussions today in class. Some thoughts and concerns:

I find it quite reasonable to recognize copyright protections for expressions and NOT ideas. If the goal of copyright is to promote and encourage new works and the dissemination of these works, what would affording “exclusivity for a period of time” on an idea even look like? I can imagine a 1984 scenario playing out whereby thought police are invoked to enforce some statutory damages on having contemplated on an idea that had previously been contemplated on .. by anyone…  It becomes absurd fast. Protections should only be granted to those individuals contributing to the commons/market place of ideas through expressions; if for no other reason than for lack of feasibility in copyright protecting “ideas”. Far be it from me to speak on the chaos of the modern patent system – perhaps in some other post since the “the tragedy of the commons” was raised and the bigger problem I see in the patent system is the tragedy of the ANTICOMMONS.

Ken raised some issues on the permissibility of mash-ups and extra contributions to the commons through such modification and additions.  I like the idea of the copyright modernization act allowing for such things under fair usage; but it doesn’t escape me that such things can easily be abused.

Imagine Joanne Rowling having just finished her final sentence on what could potentially be one of the world’s best selling novel’s “Harry Potter”. Now imagine Tyler-the-lazy-jerk doing little more than copying/mashing up/modifying every iteration of the name “Harry” and any other signals that the character is male. Imagine I modify it to be Harriette. The book may still be wonderfully written (as it’s substantially the work of a good writer), but now it’s in the genre of “homoerotic magical fantasy”. Worse, I may have greater resources through piracy/internet to propagate my version of the book. I may propagate the homoerotic version of the book so adequately that consumers are more likely to associate the story in that particular niche; and Joanne Rowling as a writer within that subculture. At the very least she’ll have lost control of her work and have gained the reputation (that she didn’t intend to have) of being a great homoerotic fantasy fiction writer. At the very worst, I’ll have destroyed any chance she had of being popular amongst her original target audience – young males not interested in reading about “witch…craft…”

I use this as the example because Joanne Rowling used JK Rowling as the author’s name (not having a middle initial) to simply make it ambiguous as to whether she was female; thereby not alienating herself from the overly sexist niche of young males who might have discriminated. The connotation is irrelevant, it could just have easily been modified to be white power literature (simply make Voldemort the only black character…); it’s that the original author loses control with anyone messing with the integrity of the work. Where’d late 90s music sensation “Creed” go? Did someone by chance mash up one of their songs with something a little too Christian Rock? Gain fans from a minority subculture at the cost of everyone else … ?

Imagine someone (or a corporation hired to do such things) doing malicious mash ups to out-compete and over propagate over an authors intent…  Imagine having no recourse because the legislator said it was “fair use”.