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Ok, Ok, I opened up to her!

Jane McGonigal and Reality is Broken… What a topic. When we read her book, I could barely stand her writing. Each section goes on about how there is just three steps and to wait because it gets better like my life… But I’m over all that criticism, because I’ve come to terms with the positive merits content as well as her optimism. Its really is good stuff, despite the beef I had (still kinda have) with her writing. But! She does cover massive gaming territory. Looking back and comparing her work to the other others we read, I can hardly believe it. She breaks down different platforms into insightful components that ended up being a great foundation for our new media studies.

Is Halliday Responsible?

Throughout Ready Player One, I kept wondering if Halliday’s gigantic fortune was the cause of the problem? Halliday and OG were said to have some of the largest sums of money in the novel’s world. If his hundreds of billions were to be pumped back into the world, could it have made a difference? Art3mis certainly thinks so. Wade is not so optimistic. It is hard to tell. Halliday was a genius, but he also was detached from the world. He did not care what happened to humanity nearly as much as he cared about the 1980s. Even if Halliday wasn’t the  problem, the distribution of wealth, coupled with the irresponsible use of resources, monetary and natural ones, were the problem.

Ready Reader 1

First off, I’d like to say I really enjoyed the book. It was a fast paced and fun. And that’s not even unrelated to my post. The novel incorporated a lot of the concepts we discussed throughout the course and put them into play as literature. In that sense, it took a different, but not less related approach to understanding and representing videogames. Where the other texts we read were theory based social science/ philosophical works, the novel lives as art. Ready Player One delivered an art as art. While the others were definitely more important to scholarship, Ready Player One helped keep gaming fun

Cline and an Easter Egg Hunt

I’m always intrigued by the implementation and struggle of finding / discovering Easter Eggs, as  seen in the plot of Ready Player One, as I have found that the inclusion of “easter eggs” not only have been implemented in many different video games but also film and other forms of media.  After looking more into the author of Ready Player One, I found that Ernest Cline ran a competition for his readers that challenged them to find an easter egg hidden within the print copies of his book.  This would then lead the person to a series of three games, and in the end, the overall winner would receive a restored Delorean.  Here’s a video of one of the games in this easter egg challenge, designed as an Atari 2600 Game specifically for this contest:

To complete the set

This book was a wild ride through a not so distant future that shows the value of safety as well as knowing your 1980’s movies. I thought it was an interesting book with the hardcore chase that starts with Wade just trying to have fun and allow himself to dream of a better place to the serious threat that the IOI posed. Like all things when money gets involved everything turns upside-down and his abilities become his curse. I like the dichotomy of the story with his biggest talent being the thing that has placed him in the most danger but I have to respect him for sticking to his guns and not selling out. In the end the hero is rewarded for his determination and even gets the girl but finally begins to accept reality. I guess life is easier to handle when you are rich and not living in stacked trailers.

I also really liked the 80’s references used throughout all of the events making me form a stronger connection to the book through my own history with these movies and games. I would have performed very well in most of the classic games but I will have to admit it has been a while since i have watched a few of the movies. I also liked the sense of flow that was given when the character was achieving the goals throughout the book similar to what McGonigal mentions giving him a sense of positive work.

 

Final reflections on Ready Player One

I know I am way behind over here, but I took my time finishing Ready Player One and I wanted to share some of my final thoughts of the novel. I said this in my last post, but I think it bears repeating that the OASIS is completely different from any game in existence, even games like WoW or HalfLife. It doesn’t really fall into any category of game that we have discussed in this course. It doesn’t fall under of McGonigal’s categories for what games are or should be used for and it contradicts a good amount of what Nardi explained about WoW.

The OASIS is so huge and so well integrated into society in Ready Player One that there are no comparisons that can be drawn to it. The game’s currency has become one with the real world currency and instead of a temporary release, it has become an alternate reality. A whole different universe that not only has different places, but its own laws of physics.

My interpretation of the book as a whole, and the way it ended specifically, is that Cline did not write this book with any middle ground between being completely immersed in technology and never using it at all. What game me this impression was the last line of the book, when Wade says he had no urge to go into the OASIS. This is after he spends the majority of the book emerged in the OASIS, coming out only when he really had to.

In terms of real life technology, I find myself between those two extremes, and I think most people would agree with me. Although I spend the majority of my day in front of a computer (especially this summer at my internship) I enjoy my time away from it on a different level then my time in front of it. Additionally, the time I spend in front of the computer is generally used for either honing some skill of mine, or keeping up with world events of some sort. I rarely emerge myself so deep into a screen as people in Ready Player One due. My main issue with the way the way the dystopian future is described in the book is because of the willingness people had to isolate themselves from the world and give up things like travelling. Obviously there were other motivations behind giving up travelling, but I don’t think thats a past time most people would give up easily, especially with how popular it has become.

The counter argument to my issue with the book, is Anorak’s final words to Wade, which are of course don’t give up the real world, because its real. And I think thats the lesson to be learned from this book. Not just that the real world is real, but that the OASIS is part of the real world. And when they are used in conjunction, you can reach a certain peak that is impossible when you interact in either exclusively.

Key Terms And Concepts

These are some notes and quotes I took from Ch. 1 to help me stay consistent with Galloway. They are coming in handy with my paper so they might help with yours too. I cut out most of the Diegetic/Nondiegetic things because that conversation has been had many times already.

Video Game– “A cultural object, bound by history and materiality, consisting of an electronic computational materiality, consisting of an electronic computational device and game simulated software.”

Machine– typically has input devise like keyboard or controller and output like a screen.

User– communicates with software and hardware through input device. A.k.a. operator.

Software to Hardware– Software is data that issues instructions to the hardware of the machine. The hardware turns the coded software into the ‘materialized’ game.

Action– “Word one for video game theory.” The user interacts with the materialized game that makes the medium unique.

As “Object and Process”- Video games only exist as an object in process. “They can’t be read as texts or listened to as music, they must be played.” -Aarseth

Active Audience Theory– Media theory “that claims audiences always bring their own interpretations and receptions of the work.” Galloway points the reader to resist this theory for video games action.

Action-Based Medium- From cybernetics and IT. States “an active medium is one whose very materiality moves and restructures itself” Represents a shift from passive spectatorship to action.

Machine to User– “[The Machines] act in response to player actions as well as independently of them.

Machine actions- “acts preformed by the software and hardware of the game computer.”

Operator actions- “acts preformed by players.”

*Games are often rated in hours of total gameplay.

Friedrich Kittler (code)– German media theorist. Paraphrasing him, Galloway states, “code is the only language that does what it says. Code is not only a syntactic and semantic language; it is also a mechanic language.” Like the speech act (ex. “I now pronounce you husband and…).

Video games as software systems- Stresses this point as key to understanding medium. Videogames, being algorithmic functions are more closely related to other kinds of software than other kinds of games.

Ambience Act– A timeless safe place where the operator produces the only stimulus. The machine will randomized environment changes independent of user action (“in a state of pure process”). The machine becomes “purely aesthetic,” like painting or film.

Offline– Moments of player passivity filled with film or animation that relates to diegetic whole of the game. A playful bit of perspective: “Formally speaking, cinematic interludes are a type of grotesque fetishization of the game itself as machine.”

“Nondiegetic operator acts in video games are an allegory for the algorithmic structure of today’s informatic culture.”

Game– An activity defined by rules in which players try to reach some sort of goal.

Play– Executed within fixed limits of time according to rules that are freely accepted, but absolutely binding with its aim in itself. A game produces feelings of tension, joy, and consciousness that it is “different” from “ordinary life.” – Huizinga. “culture arises in and through play.”

*Galloway separates play and game theory from his videogame analysis to decentralize play in relation to the medium as a whole. Play is a component of the medium, but not the foundation. Galloway argues that Huizinga and Caillois overly focus on the human experience, which detracts from other components of the medium.

The dromenon– the ritual act. Strongly relates to the diegetic operator act inside the imaginary world of gameplay.

Move act– changes the physical position or orientation of the game environment.

Expressive acts–  interacting with the environment.

Disabling acts– death and software crash are examples. These nondiegetic machine acts negatively impact diegetic user experience.

Enabling acts– bonuses and other nondigetic machine acts that positively impact diegetic user experience.

The HUD is uncomfortable in its two-dimensionality, but forever there it will stay, in a relationship of incommensurability with the world of the game, and a metaphor for the very nature of play itself. The play of the nondiegetic machine act is there fore a play within the various semiotic layers of the video game. It is form playing with other form.”

“I have deliberately avoided the assumption… that videogames are merely games that people play on computers. Such a position leads to a rather one dimensional view of what video games are. I have also tried to avoid privileging either play or narrative, another tendency that is common in other approaches… Thus I suggest that video games are complex, active media that may involve both humans and computers and may transpire both inside diegetic space and outside diegetic space.”

SGT. Galloway’s Lonely Hearts Club Essays

I was reviewing Galloway and noticed a bit of analysis towards the end of chapter one that reminded me of The Beatles: 

“Gaming is a subjective algorithm, a code intervention exerted from both within gameplay and without gameplay in the form of the nondiegetic operator.”

Of course, the quote uses the same language as in the track “Within You Without You.” But there is a bit more to it than that. Both the song and quote point towards similar concepts of how art transcends the bridge into reality. The Beatles use the term to describe ones relationship to life (nondiegetic in “without” and diegetic in “within”) and Galloway in his observation on nondiegetic user interaction within and without the narrative. We can better understand the division between the two mediums by getting to the crux of the linguistic truth embedded in the relation between “within” and “without” and by viewing how each medium employs that truth. 

Immersive Virtual Reality

Reading about immersive virtual reality technologies such as the fictional OASIS seen in Ready Player One and the possible implementation of immersive technologies in the future (i.e. Google Glasses) had me thinking of the Oculus Rift.  The Oculus Rift is a virtual reality head-mounted display that allows for affordable immersive gaming. Here’s a link to a youtube video describing and showing the use of the Oculus Rift:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpV7qq1vyd4

I for one feel like devices like the Oculus Rift and Google Glasses will change not only the future of gaming, but the way we use technology in or daily lives (however it is important to consciously enact moderation and balance while incorporating these devices into our lives).   

The New Media Drug

Galloway addresses the effects of social realism of both videogames (and other mediums) in his third chapter. It is particularly interesting how Galloway draws on the relationship between videogames and other types of media (particularly film) throughout Gaming. It was not so long ago that we, as a society, were fighting the same fights about representations in film not more than half a century ago. Whenever there is a new medium introduced to society, there is a cycle we go through as societal sheep. Be it radio, television, videogames, or the Internet, we go through these basic steps. First we are enthralled with the new technology. It is an entirely new way to reach people and we cannot seem to get enough of it. Much like a drug, we become skeptical. What are the side effects? With the amount of said media we are consuming, what will this do to us? Will we become violent? Will we have an unrealistic view of society? Will we lack ability to adequately maintain interpersonal relationships? Eventually all this talk and skepticism dies down to a degree (the noise will always be there) and a new medium is introduced and the cycle begins again.