Friday, June 23, 2006

CFP: Nordic Game Conference

Games researcher and really nice guy at ITU Copenhagen, Jonas Heide Smith, has posted a really cool looking call for papers for "Nordic Game."
It looks at understanding the player, and I'm all about understanding the players!
Check it out.

Nordic Game 2006 – Research Program - Open Call

Call for presenters for an academic symposium “Understanding the Player” at Nordic Game 2006. 19-20 September. Malmö, Sweden.

After two years under the banner Nordic Game Potential, the Nordic region’s premier game industry event is now simply known as Nordic Game. The event will feature programs for research, development, public interest, distribution and retail, as well as a business marketplace. This year the academic track has been extended and will include keynotes from Julian Dibbell and Mary Flanagan. Moreinformation about the event is available at:

We hope to bring together the most interesting and exciting researchers, not only from the Nordic region but from around the globe, to focus on this year’s theme: “Understanding the Player.” We are counting on your help to make thishappen.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Leonardo: Great Northern Way Campus and TRIUMF

Today the Leonardo Summer Institute visited Bruce Clayman, President at the Great Northern Way Campus. It's a budding collaborative campus between four institutions: SFU, UBC, BCIT, and ECIAD. Really ambitious! It was a great opportunity for our group to see exactly what was going on, and where Bruce saw the campus going. In addition to its concentration on sustainability issues, local companies like Electronic Arts have an interest in the campus, which will be sort of a training ground for those who want to work in arts, culture, and digital media. We also had an intimate Q&A session with him about public funding and got his perspectives on many issues to do with academia and funding agencies. Really interesting for grad students, who are trying to navigate these waters.
The GNWC will also be hosting the World Urban Festival, which will occur concurrently with the World Urban Forum in Vancouver next week. There will be shuttle busses going back and forth between the Trade and Convention Centre and this campus. In their "black box studio" which used to be a FINNING welding shop, they have erected a giant structure modeled after the living structures of the Yanomamo... where performances will occur!
After lunch, we travelled west to TRIUMF near UBC, which is again a collaborative venture (built in the 70s) and we got a talk about technology transfer (the process of invention to patents), and got a tour of the facility.
Vancouver is the happening place to be.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I've come back to haunt you, Lo Pan! And other goodies.

Here's an editorial from Grimwell Online, originally written in French and translated into English. It's an interesting look into gaming from a European perspective.
Check it out>>

It also uses that remark I made after my DiGRA presentation a few years ago in the Netherlands, which was quoted by Reuters the next day, which ended up in lots of languages I wish I spoke (like Hungarian). The one where I say games are no more addictive than work or school. It didn't seem that revolutionary at the time, but was it really? People seem to have glommed onto it... either agreeing wholeheartedly (mostly experienced gamers) or with shock and appall, with the idea "how could you compare apples and oranges." I still believe that as a society, we (a la Bourdieu) distinguish high and low culture activities. There is a definite cultural capital in various activities like participating in social institutions like community centres (which vary in definition) or school and work (again, varies in definition), but what we find productive and acceptable, is the readiness in conversion to symbolic capital ($$$$). Notice that people really pay attention when gamers go professional and start earning half a million dollars a year and marrying supermodels, and experiencing similar pathologies as the Hollywood types of celebs (but the superstar actor lifestyle, which chronically leads to divorce, drug use, adultery is fascinating at best, lauded on Entertainment Tonight at best)...

Causation... much different from correlation. I could talk forever, but class awaits. I've been scanning pop-intellectual books like Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel," along with Thomas Friedman's "The world is flat" (the book made it on the Jon Stewart show 2 nights ago!)
I totter off to class leaving you with this thought: history ain't over, folks. We're not at the 'other end' of it.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Gamers go to Amsterdam to get clean...

CNN posted an interesting news article on a new 'detox clinic' for video game addicts that recently opened in the Netherlands. I always find it interesting how often news articles on games addiction hold contradictory tones. They contain elements of both the fear inspiring 'emerging threat' news flash and the cheesily amusing 'public interest' piece. It can't decide whether or not to take itself seriously.

In this case, the article opens by announcing the emergence of a new treatment center for "people who can't leave their joysticks alone". Would you preface the announcement for the opening of a new chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous with the marquee: 'For folks who never met a bottle they didn't like'? The editor himself doesn't even appear to take the topic seriously and certainly wouldn't run those lines if he thought there was any chance of serious backlash from an irate group of former addicts furious at the network for making light of their affliction. Nevertheless, several paragraphs later the article issues grim warnings and proposes dire consequences for misguided parents who would unknowingly subject their children to the dangers of an addiction likened to substance abuse. Games addiction can "start with a Game Boy", progressing and culminating to insidiously designed "multilevel games that aren't made to be won", sucking up progressively greater amounts of time. In the end, homework is left undone, dinner un-eaten, drugs are consumed, and, most distressing of all, social networks are destroyed. Not only is their life in shambles, they've become social pariahs.

Articles on gamers and gaming often seem to flipflop between distaste and mockery of the gamers themselves and the perception of a real and serious threat to healthy, normative behavior. I think this highlights the real issue behind almost every mainstream discussion of games addiction: the privileging of certain kinds of behavior. The implication of this article is that gaming addicts are recluses with no social skills or friends. Frequent mention is made of socialization within the gaming sphere itself, but this is always contrasted negatively with normal, healthy, 'face-to-face' interaction. It isn't that these hardcore gamers don't have social relationships, they simply have the wrong kind of relationships.

It smacks of a circular argument. The proposal is that gaming is negative because it promotes anti-social behavior. The rebuttal is that gamers have numerous gamer friends. The counter is that these friends don't count, because they also partake in this negative activity. Why is gaming negative? Because it promotes anti-social behavior. Third base...

Certainly, I would regard extreme cases of anyone spending 14 hours a day doing any one activity distressing, but special attention seems to be paid when people spend excessive amounts of time on activities outside of mainstream culture. When anything similarly disparaged by mainstream culture is associated even marginally with such activities, drugs for instance, causal assumption gives rise to further demonization. I could write a number of satirical pieces similarly attacking mainstream activities, such as sports. How an innocent game of childhood ping-pong progressively and inevitably leads to football, frat parties, fornication, and unwanted pregnancies. How thousands of men across the nation neglect household chores, mates, and careers to watch hockey games, read sporting columns, listen to radio summaries, and obsessively memorize pointless statistics, all while slowly developing ulcers and diabetes from a steady diet of beer, nachos, and cigarettes consumed in seedy gin-joints.

Such simplistic arguments, however, would be based on unfair exagerations and generalizations of the extreme activities of a few fanatics. Certainly it's foolishness to equate table tennis and boxing, or the consumption of an occasional pint during 'the game' and raging alcoholism. Yet such are the kinds of conclusions drawn with video gaming, a category of activities that lacks the kind of protection that comes with being the recreation of the majority. A GameBoy necessarily leads to World of Warcraft, and gaming to cannabis and social isolation.

I'm perfectly willing to listen to arguments against excessive gaming, but let's keep the hyperbole and hypocrisy down to a dull roar please. Correlation only implies causation when you don't happen to like the subject matter.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

A formality...

Originally uploaded by FlorenceChee.
Yesterday was my grad ceremony for the Master's I defended last November. A little anti-climactic, I thought -- a whole bunch of hassle, a weird hat... I'm technically done the first year of my PhD program:P....BUT-- when all was said and done I could see why ceremonies were important. Humans seem to 'need' formal (public) rites of passage in order to ratify things. Think of important ceremonies like weddings, funerals, swearing in ceremonies, etc. For weddings, the people in the relationship love each other but the ceremony helps the family and friends come to terms with the union. Funerals are similar in function. And, people KNOW who won the election but things like this make it 'official.'
I found the vocabulary used during the ceremony interesting. It's so far removed from the academic administration that we're put through the whole time. Even though we had technically earned our degrees already, the PhDs in front of me having been "Dr." for quite some time already, this ceremony BESTOWED THE DEGREE UPON US... in front of the world(live via webcast).
Anyhoo, it was nice being piped in. I likes the bag pipes. I just want the puffy hat next time.