Two Tech Questions

Two burning technical questions that I have been looking for a solid answer for. First of all – I am wondering if there is a way to play XBox 360 games from an external hard drive. I know that you can store saved games on an external, but want to know if they can be executable directly. (I keep thinking that Microsoft should have this as an extension hardware…). Secondly, I know that the PS3’s are not backwards compatible with PS2 (or 1) games (except the first batch, which I did not get one at the time out of sheer laziness) – but I was wondering if there was a way to make it backwards compatible myself (w/a chip I seem to recall hearing …). Anyways – if anyone has any direct information, that would be great.

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That Time of Year Again

Never fail, come spring or fall, I get the urge to change the look of my blog… usually lighter in spring and darker for fall, but for some reason, I am in a light mood, and so, chose something out of the limited templates that reflected the calm smoothness I have been feeling these days. In regards to the limited options, I have been seriously thinking about paying the whole kit and kaboodle and getting my own space, with templates I can manipulate again. Any suggestions in this direction would be greatly appreciated!

Back in Montreal

After a great week in London, a delayed flight home, and an evening of struggling to stay awake so as to get back on mtl time, I am home and enjoying my late morning coffee. With a full EA workload this month, the never-ending editing of my secondary comprehensive exam (formally known as my indexicality paper, now on “impression and trace” … ) and encyclopedic entries to write for an upcoming publication, I think September will simply fly by.

On the plane home, I was reading the September issue of Edge magazine, and saw a great list of games that I really want to be playing. Hopefully after this month, I will be able to get into a play headspace (with an eye towards my dissertation of course). After hearing the panel on avatars this week, and a few comments on identity and avatars, I am riled up to write again(always a good thing).

DiGRA: Morning, Day 4

After a nice afternoon in London checking out all the great shops (like Octopus and Fortnum & Mason – should have brought a larger suitcase!) and a nice dinner at the Crusting Pipe, I am headed back into the conference rooms for one last session. Unfortunately for me, and due to some poor planning on my part, I am only able to attend the first session today – luckily for me, it is a panel on avatars and identity.

The first presentation, by Kristine Jorgensen called I’m Overburdened!’ An Empirical Study of the Play, the Avatar and the Gameworld. The presentation centered around how players view the player/avatar relationship. Although this sounds eerily familiar for me, I am happy to hear that her overarching goals is to look at the relationship between the user interface and the player, in regards to the game-world and game design. When thinking about the avatar, she uses both Rune Klevjer, and Jonas’Linderoth‘s conceptualization of the avatar as an extension of the player (vicarious embodiment), as role, tool, and/or prop.  The bulk of the presentation was focused on player quotes and contextualizing them into the definitional constructs of the avatar (briefly) outlined (above).

The second presentation of the session, Emma Westecott’s The Player Character as Performing Object focused on the idea that gameplay is a performance act, looking at the moment of interaction between the player and the game-world (player as puppet-artist / puppeteer). Coming from a film and performance arts perspective and literature, and primarily semiotics of puppetry (Frank Proschan), the presentation was quite theoretical from perspectives that I am not familiar with and so made it quite interesting to think about the relationship between the player and the object of the avatar – controller and game. While I don’t usually take the direction of avatar as puppet (role, prop or tool..), I appreciated seeing the player / avatar relationship explained from a different angle. Apologies for my brief and perhaps inarticulate synthesis.

The final presentation of the day is Clara Fernandez-Vara’s Play’s the Thing: A Framework to Study Videogames as Performance which essentially is a set of tools in order to look at videogames, as well as the implications these tools carry. Performance in regards of “performance studies – human action in context (showing doing) which are necessarily activities that are separate from everyday life (Schechner, 2006; Huizinga, 1955). I spent most of the time listening intently, and taking notes, so here is the basic foundation:

Performance Framework: comparative framework

Three layers

Theatre (Pavis, Schechener)
Digital media
Games (not exclusively digital) – Hunicke et al

Theatre model – how do we understand theatrical performance

–          Dramatic text (what is ready before it begins)
–          Performance (actors concretizing the text)
–          Mise-en-scene (the necessity of the audience to make sense of the text and the performance)

Performance in digital media (Software as performance)

–         Code (instead of dramatic text – this is what the computer “has” to do –
–         Run-time (computer performs the text – the performance is not complete without an interactor – as co-performer
–         Interaction (player)

Games (Hunicke, R. M. Leblanc et al) MDA : A formal approach to game design and game research

–          Mechanics (what is needed to start playing – objects as part of the mechanics) [rules attached to the objects]
–          Dynamics (rules set into motion – applied rules, not translation of the rules, but the acting out of them)
–          Aesthetics – (ambiguous in MDA) [types of fun or activities that are engaging] what happens to the player while playing .. player experience

Player as performer and spectator = making sense of the actions (spectator) and making things happen, set things in motion.

So there it is – another interesting panel to wrap up another great conference with great people in a great place. I am both sad to leave and happy to go home and see my family. Safe travels to fellow delegates.

*Please disregard typos and poor sentence structures =)

DiGRA: Morning Day 3

After spending another great evening in Uxbridge last night, and an on campus nightcap with a few friends, I woke up a bit late (seemed to have missed my alarm!), but still managed to make it to the morning’s panels on time.

This morning’s first panel – Wii play: gestures, bodies and technologies – the presentations (by Bart Simon, Rune Klevjer & Patrick Crogan) were all quite theoretical, connecting ideas about the ways in which the Wii and its controls are pushing the boundaries between the player, movement and gameplay.

The second panel I attended was on games and education – the first speaker, Kenneth Hullett presented Better Game Studies Education the Carcasonne Way which focused on using board games to teach game mechanics in design class in response to the fact that many students who enter game design have great ideas, but lack the understanding of the mechanics. The presentation was mostly a relay of results between those who participated in playing the boardgames and those who did not to measure the level of understanding of game mechanics.

The second speaker, Suzanne de Castell, presented a paper titled  As If or Just Like:  From Simulation to Imitation in Educational Games. The presentation was relatively conceptual, but raised a very interesting point about videogames that claim to be simulation but are controlled with a traditional handheld controller. There is a disconnect between the actions on the screen and the physical actions required to make the actions occur. Whereas more ’embodied’ games such as Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero have more (intrinsic) connection between the actions that occur on the screen and what actions are required by player to make it happen. This differentiation is important when considering educational games.

The third paper The Gigue is Up: High Culture Gets Game, presented by Jen Jenson, focused on a game project they had done for the Toronto Baroque Orchestra  Tafelmusik. The presentation focused on the challenges they faced making an accessible ‘edutainment’ game to introduce Baroque music to a new generation.

DiGRA Side Notes

I haven’t been able to blog yesterday and this morning, I was preparing my presentation and it sort of consumed all of me. We (Shanly Dixon and I) got to speak in a “Canadian Consortium” panel, with Alison Harvey and Nick Taylor. Our panel really flowed well – actually, the Women in Games sessions all had a really nice flow into one another.  We got a few questions at the end of our presentation – always a sign that you did something right (if even just pushing some buttons…).

On the social side of things (a big part of any conference), the weather has been great which has allowed for a lot of walking about. We spent the first day figuring out where things were in and around campus. Since we arrived on a Sunday, not much was open, so we took a walk to the closest town (village?) – Uxbridge. On Monday, we took the tube into London proper (45 minutes!) and spent the day seeing the sights (Buckingham Palace, Picadilly Circus and of course, a fish and chips early dinner at a local pub). Monday night was pre-conference pub night at a great little local place called Load of Hay quite close to the campus (small picture here). A good 30 people gathered on their outside terrace – which was absolutely beautiful as the tables and seats were carved out of an old forest tree stumps that were cut down some 80 years ago. We took some pictures, so I will post them when I get home and upload my pictures. We had ordered the game pie – well worth the wait and the kazillion calories in the mash and gravy!

Yesterday was the first formal day of the conference, we attended the panel on horror and videogames, where we saw some great presentations on the uncanny and on the heuristic cycle of gameplay (which encompassed issues of gameplay time, and game ‘completion’ based on external goals). Afternoon was spent writing and powerpointing. Early evening  began with the conference wine and cheese – which was really more Flemish beer (there was wine though) and candies/chips. Interesting conference fare indeed. Before heading back to our dorm rooms, it was back to the Load of Hay for a bite to eat, and nice pint of Guiness. Mind you, perhaps having the mash and sausage drowned in beans and gravy was not necessarily the best pre-presentation meal to have!

We are heading into the Women in Games Keynote, and then off to their wine and cheese. Perhaps afterwards, if I am not too full, we will venture back into town for a drink and yet another search for good food.