Thursday, 29 March 2012

Ancient Games: Tafl games and The Stanway Game

Tafl or Hnefatafl

A small insight into ancient games which aren't Chess takes us back to 400 AD. A game known as "tafl" which has grown to be known as hnefatafl or The Viking Game. H.J.R Murray suggested that it was the "only board game played by the Saxons" (Murray, 1952 p.52) Which I think cant be true. Many board games must of existed, but not documented. The game is played on a square checkered board which has to have odd numbers of squares on each side (11x11, 13x13). The game was played on whatever the played could create, often the games were embroidered onto cloth or linen so it could be transported. The defending player stats in the middle with all their pieces placed symmetrically in the centre of the board or cloth. The central piece was often larger and was known as the "king" piece. The attacking players are placed around the outside and outnumber the defending player (king) by 2:1. The object of the game was to move the defending "king" to the outside of the board where the attacking player must intercept and surround the king in order to defeat the player. The object of the game for the attacking player is to eradicate or remove all of their opponents pieces (or the king) Pieces can be taken by both sides as long as a piece is sandwiched between two opposing pieces. However the king can only be taken by being surrounded by all four sides. Each piece can move as many places as they want in one turn, but can only move in a straight line. There has been many variations of this game which varies from changes of rules to scale of board, but one of the most famous variations is chess, you may have heard of it.

The Stanway Game

This was a game recently excavated in our region just outside of Colchester in the 1980's. It was discovered in a quarry and was believed to be buried around AD40-AD60. This particular excavation brought with it alot of attention and enthusiasm as the items contained within the burial were rather unusual compared to a range of artifacts usually found within burials in Britain. The game consists of a 13x9 squares with 13 different coloured pieces for each player. Similar to Tafl, the proposed rules to the game are that the players have to capture all the opponents pieces by surrounding a piece on two sides. The goal of the game is to capture all of the enemies pieces.

, H. J. R. (1952) A History of Board Games Other Than Chess. Oxford. Clarendon Press. See "Ancient Games" and "War Games".

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Remediation from Bolter and Grusin

Remediation is a term used from the work of both Bolter and Grusin. Remediation is the term given to the representation of one medium in another. They describe that how new mediums often use remediation from their predecessors.

The article shows a spectrum as to how new media 'remediates' old media.

Immediacy is a type of media that aspires to create a type of transparency over the viewers eyes. The aim for this type is to make the viewer 'forget' that they are indeed watching a film by using such immersion techniques. Using virtual reality throughout the media confuses the viewers mind as to thinking if the things they are seeing are in fact real, and during the watching is can be hard to pull the person away from such immersion. Using photo realistic images also has the same effect and are another technique used.

Hypermediacy are objects or artifacts that are aware of their existence and want to display the way they fit into the world and not be blurred into the image. Examples of this would be the WWW or video game HUD's.

An example here of remediation is that of photo realism. Photo realism uses aesthetic conventions which is of its predecessor 'photography' however it is not actually its replacement as they both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Another example of remediation is the of the perspective of 3d shapes on a flat surface. This feature dominates contemporary computer games and were first worked out, pioneered and explored during the renaissance. Since then many media have used the same techniques as the conventions of perspective within are now standardised. Technology that is considered fairly new would be the invention of the wide screen television, however this size and aspiration was explored by 17th century artists such as Van Gogh. Van Gogh was an artist known for his odd and experimental perspective, he was a pioneer of cubism which affected his aspects of artwork. One of his main objects of study was large open landscapes, using thousands of tiny purposeful strokes he practically developed landscapes and wide canvases into being within the art industry.

Conventions of a media are usually successful remediation's of a previous medium. It would take time for a new medium to produce its own unique convention, but this would just simply be remediated by another media in the future. A phrase known as survival of the fittest comes to mind at this point. The remediation is similar to the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin. Remediation is a constant development process for media.

From this read, it has brought to my attention how common practise it is for new mediums to 'use' conventions of similar alternative mediums to gain an advantage with the development process. I see this now in computer games more than any other media. The use of conventions from storytelling, film and moral human interaction.

Narrative in games: Chris Crawford

Looking at an article by Chris Crawford (2005) On interactive storytelling : New riders I have seen a new light on the way story is told throughout games. Crawford suggests that gamers who play games that include a storyline don't complain about being jerked around through wild dramatic syrations as they don't actually see these storytelling conventions as protocols of storytelling. Many people don't see the storytelling part of the game to be the most important, however in my opinion the storytelling for me is actually very important depending on if the game is of a specific genre of course. Arcade games don't necessarily need a storyline, although containing a brief story doesn't hurt as long as the reason for playing is apparent from the start. But with games such as adventure game, I play many games such as Assassins Creed by Ubisoft for the storyline. The narrative that trails through their whole series captures my enthusiasm partly because I've always loved history and architecture, but back to the article.

Stories are about people, or personificated items. Items used can sometimes represent people as they would act within a narrative as a human being would do, or would seem to do. This is because the original story is created and told by a person. Stories can also have objects as their central components such as Lord of the Rings. The narrative suggests the story is about rings, however rings are the central object but the story is about the people who interact around the object as such.

Chris Crawford describes many of the games characters within games as Cardboard people and suggests that:

"The cardboard people in the games do for drama what inflatable dolls do for sex"

This obviously suggests that the acting within games are a pitiful attempt as to imitate proper storytelling instead of actually creating a deep and compelling narrative. As with any story in any language or genre The protagonists and antagonists contain these basic conventions:

Good guys: White clothing, handsome and noble.
Bad guys: Black clothing, black hats, missing teeth, bad breath.

Games are typically good at using the most direct form of stories and conflict, THIS IS VIOLENCE.

Puzzles are mentioned through the article as not being stories. But puzzles are often used as part of a story, or to unlock part of a story. Often used within hidden object and mystery games, puzzles can be used as a theme to extend the depth of a story, however your outcome of a puzzle never usually directly manipulates the games narrative.

Throughout a narrative, choices of the characters are an important aspect of the actual storytelling. In most stories, the story builds up in tension and revolves around a key decision or action from a person.

The is also stories which rely mainly on a spectacle. By providing exotic imagery for the viewer to immerse themselves within the game, this type of story tends to be a dominator in the movie/film industry. However computer games have mostly been dominated by the request for evermore realistic graphics, yet these graphics often contain huge spectacles. We are currently in a period where it is: Rise of the image, fall of the words. Storytelling is now being eradicated by visual thinking, but this should not be the case as storytelling gives us humans a purpose that has lived on throughout time.

Games need to pay more attention to the way in which they convey a story to the player, especially if the game is story-based.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Games Britannia: part 3 of 3

Diving deeper into the games Britannia series, here we learn about the Joystick generation, the birth of the commercialisation of video games we know today. Benjamin woolley starts us off by talking about his childhood ant how he loved Tolkiens: Lord of the Rings book, the fact that he loved the idea of adventure and the map in the back of the book. This thirst for adventure brings him to playing a game called Dungeons and dragons, where he first experiences a taste for this adventure. He suggests that these games are appealing as "they open up a story" "add an interactive dimension which allows you to explore a fictional terrain."

The first computer game Woolley encounters is a game called Elite, it was a pioneering videos games. its opened up the way video games were made. The programme then explores Black and White, a game based on compulus, where you play as a god role and use a hand to control the world, however this may be the case, you may be the god and control everything, but the little people are actually the controllers as they all need homes, something to eat, somewhere to live, they need your help with most things, so really the people roaming the game are in charge.

Lara croft was one of the most revolutionary games of the time, it was one of the first games to put a personality and a face onto a game character. This games makes the player feel responsible, similar to a god game, it makes you feel and care for the character you are playing.

The typical Grand Theft Auto is also reviewed by the programme, suggesting its moral destroying behaviours. Woolley suggests that this game blurs the morals of us as human beings. This game relishes its role as a rebel, it draws from many other famous games and their niche features.

The development of Multi-User Dungeon paved the way to social gaming, many games are mostly multiplayer. All gamers enjoy playing games, but enjoy playing games with other people even more. The multiplayer games market is the equivalent of the the way board game brought players together. Socialising and playing together is the most effective form of gaming.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Gender and Games - J Prescott and J Bogg

The reading concerned with gender and games this week was that of J Prescott and J Bogg. Segregation in a Male-Dominated Industry: Women.

From reading this whole article I discovered how unproportional and under represented women are within the games industry. However occupational segregation is illegal throughout the EU and the UK,  although it clearly happens throughout the Games Design industry. Both horizontal and vertical segregation  occurs within this male-dominated industry, the females employed are underrepresented across the whole of the industry within all job types, as well as the managerial roles from these jobs. There is around 9000 employees currently in the games games industry and which 4% of those are women.  6.9% of those are in the creation and development of the game other than the typical administration and marketing, which many people believe is more suited for women. So all of that adds up to 24.84 women out of 9000 that are heavily involved in the development process withing a computer games design company. This is quite a small number of influential roles women occupy to the development process of games. Many of these companies claim to be gender neutral companies which is what the law wants to enforce, however these companies can sometimes be known as gender-blind companies or do not act upon their gender inequalities.

The under-representation of the women in the games industry has resulted in a stereotypical female character in the game world, mainly because the characters are designed by men the stereotypical character are either one of 3 things:

  1. Helpless female
  2. Sex kitten
Girl power figure

Women attitudes:

Within a male dominated industry the job opportunities for women can be minimal, however when a women is employed into this masculine game world, the women can adopt masculine behaviour just to fit into the workplace. This could be trying to take interest in male activities etc...

454 women in the games industry were given a questionnaire and from this questionnaire the majority of participants tended to be young, single or living with a partner, childless and spent most of their leisure time playing computer games. This is definite evidence that the modern games industry has effected the younger generation than the older.

Traits from both genders by Schein:

Feminine: Warmth, kindness, selflessness and sympathy.
Masculine: Aggression, forcefulness, rationality, competitiveness, decisiveness, strength, self confidence and independence.
                                                                                                               (Schein, 1973)

A larger number of females in the workplace would create a more welcoming environment because of the above traits BUT it could easily create a female-dominated area and sub fields. This area of the industry could also get quite aggressive.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

La decima vittima

La Decima vittima or The 10th Victim is an Italian/French science fiction film based on Robert Sheckley's 1953 short story "Seventh Victim"

The film was a subtitled Italian film based upon a set of individuals who are plying in one big game known as the Big Hunt, where ten competitors have to murder 5 other victims and survive 5 murders to win the largest prize. The Big Hunt then comes down to two competitors Caroline Meredith and Marcello Poletti, who typically as in most films, become romantically involved. Caroline still wants to kill marcello so she can get the money all to herself. The ending however leaves the film viewer baffled as they don't know whether they get away together or kill one another.

I found that this film had a good concept and story behind it. It would do well in the box office now if it was converted or remade into a modern style film. However the storyline reminds me of Jerry Zucker's, Rat Race (2001). The plot is similar to La Decima, however the characters are in the race to the finish line to grab 1 million dollars. It's full of comedy similar to La Decima.

I did however discuss this film to one of my work buddies at University who is also Italian, and he suggested that the film has too much crammed into it. He explained that Italian film makers always have a tendency to cram many different film genres and styles into a film. I also feel the same, there are too many genre styles involved in the film however the comedy does split the film up from being a constant blood sport, to an enjoyable film, if you don't mind subtitles.

Thursday, 2 February 2012