RB & GH Ramblings

Over at West Karana, I read about this guitar transformation for Rock Band 2. As Tipa writes, the idea of making a ‘fake’ guitar out of a real one for a guitar simulation (of sorts) is kind of interesting. I wonder how my father would feel if we modded his prized drumkit…

I bought Guitar Hero 1 a few weeks before leaving on holiday – hadn’t had much time to play it. With a week in the city ‘sans’ kids, I had alot more free time to play. I finished it on hard in about 4 or 5 hours (with a friend) and decided to be adventurous and try Expert. We finished it all in a few hours – except 2 songs – one by Stevie Ray Vaughn and one by Pantera… I can live with that. Although I was quite proud of myself, I had to admit that after GH1 they significantly upped the difficulty level for GH2 & 3.

The Rock Band 2 set list is out and I am drooling already. When we bought Rock Band, we had opted to buy it for the PS2, since my partner no longer plays on it since he got his xbox360 last year or so. The girls and I figured that if we ever wanted a chance to play, PS2 was the safer bet, that way we could play in the living room while he plays on the xbox in my office. But after experiencing downloadable content via a few friends, and getting bored with the static set list of RB on PS2, I am seriously contemplating buying RB2 for Xbox 360… but what about the PS2 instruments… its bad enough we have 4 guitars laying around the tv (one of the buttons broke on one of the wireless guitars, so we borrowed one from a friend – who lost her wireless receiver and could not replace it at the time). I have read about ‘converters’ for the instruments – anyone know if thats possible?

By the way, I was absolutely stunned to see my 5 year old nephew actually kick ass on the drums in Rock Band – I should take a video snip. He loves to practice when the game is not on. My father couldn’t be happier since he has been wanting to teach one of his (grand)children how to play the drums (my dad has been a rock drummer all his life, playing live since he was 12). Up until now, none of us have been coordinated enough to use all four limbs at the same time.

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Doctoral Seminar Series Pt. 2

As mentioned in the fall, our department has put together a doctoral seminar series. Next week, Laurent Jullier will be talking about Interdisciplinarity and Film Studies. Quite apropos given my seminar presentation last week!

The talk will be held in room C-2151, Pavillon Lionel-Groulx next Wednesday (April 9th) at 4:30pm. I will be sure to take notes and post them here afterwards.

Mainstreaming WoW

As much as we all know that World of Warcraft has hit the mainstream gaming audience with a veneance given their record subscription numbers, over this holiday season (when I had a chance to watch way more television than a healthy adult should) I was a little taken aback (perhaps pleasantly, I am not sure) to see William Shatner and Mr. T. plug gameplay in WoW. The commercials are show Shatner talk about his shaman-ness and throwing lightning bolts; Mr. T. ‘s avatar sporting the same, signature mohawk…Heck, while looking for those two links, I noticed even Jean Claude Van Damme has a commercial for WoW in French promoting www.warcraft.fr.

Now, besides the wow factor (grr, I hate that WoW has infringed on the use of the word wow…), I was interested in the fact that the three actors in these commercials would appeal to a particular demographic. My daughters don’t even know who Shatner is beyond his commercial spots for All Bran … while I believe my mother would play World of Warcraft if Van Damme does (or urged her to). Each actor also [one could argue] represents a particular (potential) player type, letting us know that all types of people play this game and not just ‘gamers’. But what does that do to the culture of the game?

As someone who has been interested in player and game culture by way of my colleagues, I am always happy for a game’s success but fear some sort of ‘high culture / mass culture’ kind of dilution of game culture, as much as I hate to admit it. I keep thinking of the (proverbial) great indy band that kicked butt, played hard and struggled to ‘make it’. Only to find out that once they’ve ‘made it’, they had to alter their sound to something more pallateable to the larger mainstream audience. More often then not, it is usually the downfall of something that, in its niche, was great. As entertained as I am when watching the WoW commercials, I get an increasing sense of loss – a sense of cheapening of a rich experience for so many people who enjoy the game through the participation of its culture. I feel like I have been listening to that cool indy band no one ever heard of before they got famous and now everyone and their dog thinks they’ve just discovered them… childish, I know.. but I fear what it will do to future mmorpg’s and who they will cater to in their design. Not a new question or concern for many, but one that pops its head up when commercials like these get heavy airplay.

End of Semester, Holidays…

And other things that take me away from blogging.

The last few weeks has been filled with alot of reading (re: my last post) and writing (I am supposed to be working on my last paper of the semester as we speak – it is due tomorrow!). Along with schoolwork, like most other people, I have been preparing for the holidays; frantically gift shopping for my family who live 1,000km’s away; preparing for my now past annual holiday pot-luck – which was a success I am happy to say; and preparing the house for my mother-in-laws stay with us for a few nights.

All that being said, while working on my paper today, I read Diane Carr’s chapter on Space, Navigation and Affect in the collection “Computer Games: Text, Narrative & Play” (polity press, 2006). It was a nice, quick read that gave me some useful terms to attach to some of the things I have been describing in my object materiality in virtual reality paper. What I liked the most about this chapter, is that it talks about cinematic identification, but pipes up that we must not get trapped into thinking that it is transferrable unto gameplay as is. I have been working on ideas that follow this line of thinking.

It is always nice to be able to point to a reference and say ‘see, this is what I mean, I am not making this up’. Sure it is nice to invent new things; to be the first one to utter what everyone has been thinking. But I live (and work) in a field that, as many of my colleagues have stated more than once, stands on the backs of giants. In order to build our case, we must always point out to what has been done before us, how it leads to what we are thinking/working on, and then we can say a few original words hoping to push the knowledge train a little step forward.

(another) Video Game Documentary

Via Grand Text Auto: There is a 5 part series on the Discovery Channel called Rise of the Video Game. Although the first two parts have already aired – I am hoping to catch at least one part. I only hope that Discovery Channel’s programming is not country/region specific. *it seems to be so /sigh

From the “About” page;

Rise of the Video Game is a comprehensive and progressive exploration of the past, present and future of video games and video gamers. From the early days of Pong to today’s ever-popular Halo 2, and from Atari 2600 to Nintendo to PlayStation, Rise of the Video Game tells the story of the people, the ideologies and the technology behind video games and how they have exploded into a cultural phenomenon. The evolution of gaming has seen the pendulum move from the days of games replicating society, to society replicating games. Featuring interviews with giants in the gaming industry of yesterday and today, this five-part series examines the evolution of the video game and its cultural impact on the world of entertainment today.

Eludamos: Journal for Computer Game Culture

Via Grand Text Auto, I found an open CFP for a new journal on computer game culture “Eludamos“. The next issue is set for February 2008. I am thinking it might actually be helpful to make a sidebar linking to game studies and game studies friendly journals. Here is Eludamos’ ‘about’ section;

“ELUDAMOS is an international, multi-disciplined, biannual e-journal that publishes peer-reviewed articles that theoretically and/or empirically deal with digital games in their manifold appearances and their sociocultural-historical contexts.

ELUDAMOS positions itself as a publication that fundamentally transgresses disciplinary boundaries. The aim is to join questions about and approaches to computer games from decidedly heterogeneous scientific contexts (for example cultural studies, media studies, (art) history, sociology, (social) psychology, and semiotics) and, thus, to advance the interdisciplinary discourse on digital games. “