Loading...

COMM002: Media and Society

Unit 9: The Virtual World of Games   In Unit 7, we discussed how movies, games and comic books coexist as transmedia, where familiar characters inhabit familiar worlds in stories dispersed across many types of media. At first, an electronic game might be based on a popular movie or television show, such as Star Wars. Today, the flow is just as likely to go the other way, with movies portraying characters from popular games inhabiting their familiar game worlds. For example, Angelina Jolie has starred in two movies as Lara Croft, the game character first seen in the Square-Enix game series Tomb Raider. Games have had a profound effect on other media, even broadcasts of sports events. This unit will explore the world of games, first looking at the technology, then the cultural aspects, concluding with movements to use games as educational tools.

Unit 9 Time Advisory
This unit should take you approximately 9.25 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 9.1: 2.5 hours

☐    Subunit 9.2: 4 hours

☐    Subunit 9.3: 1.25 hours

☐    Unit 9 Assignments: 1 hour

☐    Unit 9 Assessment: 30 minutes

Unit9 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - identify key moments in the technological development of games; - describe the place games have come to hold in our culture; - analyze the effects of games on other media; and - discuss the use of games for purposes other than entertainment.

9.1 From Pong to Wii: The Quest for Really Real Virtual Reality   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 10: Electronic Games and Entertainment, Introduction: Want to Get Away?”; “Section 1: The Evolution of Electronic Games”; and “Section 2: Influential Contemporary Games” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 10, Electronic Games and Entertainment, Introduction: Want to Get Away?”; “Section 1: The Evolution of Electronic Games”; and “Section 2: Influential Contemporary Games” (PDF)
 
Instructions: These sections of your textbook on pages 431-452 provide a good overview of the history of video games, the gaming industry, and the most influential video games. As we will see in the subunits to follow, the quest for more and more realistic games has gone hand in hand with their popularity.
 
Reading these sections should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

9.1.1 As Processing Power and Bus Speed Increase, So Does the Fun   9.1.1.1 Meet the Man Behind Your Video Board   - Reading: All Things D: “Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang Describes Mobile’s Powerful Future at D@CES” Link: All Things D: “Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang Describes Mobile’s Powerful Future at D@CES”(HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the interview and watch the video of Jen-Hsun Huang discussing the future of video graphics and the world of media. The quest for more realistic games has involved billions of dollars invested in research and development spent by some of the most talented computer designers and programmers in the world. Jen-Hsun Huang, the co-founder and CEO of NVIDIA, discusses the history of his company and the challenges of innovation with Ina Fried. Where is mass media going? Huang thinks it will be to a new class of super cell phones.
 
Reading the article and watching the video should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.1.2 Master of Complexity   - Web Media: YouTube: “RSX: Reality Synthesizer - Part 1” Link: YouTube: “RSX: Reality Synthesizer -Part 1” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this video as Jen-Hsun Huang explains some of the features and processes behind NVIDIA’s latest video-gaming breakthrough. He explains what went into the RSX Reality Synthesizer Graphic Processing Unit (GPU) and lays out how speed and beauty in video games are not compatible, leading to the quest for more and more processing power.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.1.3 Close Isn’t Good Enough in the Virtual Reality World   - Web Media: YouTube: Popular Science: The Science of YouTube: “The Uncanny Valley” Link: YouTube: Popular Science: The Science of YouTube: “The Uncanny Valley” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: When the people in a virtual-reality world are almost -but not quite -real, you get an “almost human” presence on the screen that is creepy, an effect called the “uncanny valley,” to use the term coined by Japanese robotics Professor Masahiro Mori. Watch this explanation, then an example of the uncanny valley in the next subunit.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.1.4 A Creepy Example   - Web Media: YouTube: Quantic Dream’s “Heavy Rain Casting Call” Link: YouTube: Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain Casting Call” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: You’ll see what Professor Mori means by watching some of this original demo for the game Heavy Rain, released in 2006. After you watch this video, compare the human-like qualities of its characters with those of the official game trailer, released in 2009.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.1.5 Heavy Rain Trailer   - Web Media: YouTube: “Heavy Rain − Official E3 Trailer” Link: YouTube: “Heavy Rain-Official E3 Trailer”(YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this trailer, released with the game in 2009, and compare it with the “casting call” segment in the previous subunit. Warning: This trailer contains violence and adult themes.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.2 Physical Action Becomes Part of the Game   9.1.2.1 Wii Hacker Shows His Stuff   - Web Media: YouTube: Carnegie Mellon University: Johnny Chung Lee’s “Tracking Fingers with the Wii Remote” Link: YouTube: Carnegie Mellon University: Johnny Chung Lee’s “Tracking Fingers with the Wii Remote” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: The ability of consoles to sense participant motion came to video games when Nintendo introduced the Wii remote in 2006. Microsoft followed in 2010 with the Kinect motion sensor for Xbox. Unlike Wii, the Kinect did not require the game player to hold a device, as the Wii did. But both devices immediately found uses outside of the gaming world. Watch this fascinating video in which hacker Johnny Chung Lee adapts the Wii remote for the kind of computer hand control seen in the movie Minority Report.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.2.2 Wii Becomes a Force for Good   - Reading: Michigan State University: “Researcher Uses Nintendo Wii to Address Cancer-Related Fatigue” Link: Michigan State University: “Researcher Uses Nintendo Wii to Address Cancer-Related Fatigue”(HTML)
 
Instructions: The Wii also has been adopted for medical use, in this case as a form of exercise for cancer patients, according to this article. Consider this and the previous subunit as examples of how game technology is moving into many areas of everyday life.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.2.3 Kinect Becomes a Force for All Sorts of Things   - Reading: The New York Times: Rob Walker’s “Freaks, Geeks and Microsoft: How Kinect Spawned a Commercial Ecosystem” Link: The New York Times: Rob Walker’s “Freaks, Geeks and Microsoft: How Kinect Spawned a Commercial Ecosystem” (HTML)
 
Instructions: When Microsoft introduced the Kinect motion-detection interface, it provided programmers and developers with a low-cost, high-tech interface that could be adapted to a dizzying variety of uses – if only Microsoft would let them. Eventually Microsoft did, as Rob Walker recounts.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.2.3.1 Kinect Graffiti   - Web Media: Vimeo: Jean-Cristophe Naour’s “Kinect Graffiti” Link: Vimeo: Jean-Cristophe Naour’s “Kinect Graffiti” (Vimeo)
 
Instructions: Watch this video about how one artist uses the Kinect to create visual displays.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.1.2.3.2 The Kinect Effect   - Web Media: TED Conferences: Ads Worth Spreading: “The Kinect Effect” Link: TED Conferences: Ads Worth Spreading: “The Kinect Effect” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Microsoft has fully embraced the use of Kinect for non-gaming situations, as this Xbox promotional video shows.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to TED Conferences and Microsoft, and the original version can be found here.

9.2 Gaming’s Effect on Culture   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 10, Section 3: The Impact of Video Games on Culture” and “Section 4: Controversial Issues” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 10, Section 3: The Impact of Video Games on Culture” and “Section 4: Controversial Issues” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read these sections of Chapter 10 on pages 452-468, paying special attention to the effects of video games on other media. Then, apply what you’ve learned to the subunits to follow.
 
Reading these sections and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

9.2.1 Violence and the Gaming Culture   Note: This subunit is covered by the reading for subunit 9.2. Also, review the section of Chapter 2, Section 4 (page 87) from Understanding Media and Culturethat includes the story of Jack Thompson, a crusader against violent video games. It has implications for the readings below.

9.2.1.1 Psychologists Connect Games and Violence   - Reading: American Psychological Association: “Violent Video Games Can Increase Aggression” Link: American Psychological Association: “Violent Video Games Can Increase Aggression” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the press release about the study from the American Psychological Association, and then read the journal article linked below.
 
Reading the overview and taking notes should take approximately 5 minutes.

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Craig A. Anderson and Karen E. Dill’s “Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life” Link: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Craig A. Anderson and Karen E. Dill’s “Video Games and Aggressive Thoughts, Feelings, and Behavior in the Laboratory and in Life” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: After clicking the above link, find the section titled “Read the Journal Article,” and click on the title. Skim the article, paying special attention to the methods and results. Note the complexity and limited scope of the research. This study in its opening paragraphs refers to the shootings in April 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado. Is the conclusion warranted that video games “may be more harmful than violent television and movies because of the interactive nature of the games”? Most people will not read the research itself, but instead take the conclusion at face value.
     
    Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.1.2 The Opposing View   - Reading: Forbes: John Gaudiosi’s “Expert Calls Blaming Video Games on Tragic Massacres Like Oslo and Columbine Racist” Link: Forbes: John Gaudiosi’s Expert Calls Blaming Video Games on Tragic Massacres Like Oslo and Columbine Racist” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Christopher Ferguson of Texas A&M International University, a leading expert on video game violence and mass killings, tells Forbes that blaming video games for Columbine-like massacres is playing to a stereotype of the white male. And not all mass killers play video games.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.1.3 Where Children Go to Make Sense of Violence   - Web Media: MIT: Henry Jenkins’s “Media Literacy as a Strategy for Combatting Moral Panic” Link: MIT: Henry Jenkins’s “Media Literacy as a Strategy for Combatting Moral Panic” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Henry Jenkins makes the case in this video that the online world was a place for young people to gather and help each other cope with the Columbine tragedy. What does Jenkins say about the assumptions we make concerning children and media?
 
Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. It is attributed to Henry Jenkins and MIT OpenCourseWare, and the original version can be found here.

9.2.1.4 No Doubting the Link Between Violence and This Game   - Web Media: YouTube: “Super Columbine Massacre RPG (trailer)” Link: YouTube: “Super Columbine Massacre RPG (trailer)” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: “Super Columbine RPG” takes another approach entirely to the place of video games in such tragedies as Columbine: the lock and load approach.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.2 Sexism in Games   9.2.2.1 The Problem Explained   - Web Media: YouTube: Feminist Frequency: Anita Sarkeesian’s “Support My Kickstarter Project − Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” Link: YouTube: Feminist Frequency: Anita Sarkeesian’s “Support My Kickstarter Project -Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: If you love video games, you have to be concerned about the issue of sexism in the games themselves. As the Entertainment Software Association notes, 47 percent of video game players are women, and this segment of the audience is growing fast. Anita Sarkeesian decided to turn her feminist point of view on games into a research project; watch her Kickstarter video soliciting funds to study female tropes in video games. Note that it received a spectacular response from contributors, almost $160,000 when she was asking for $6,000.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.2.2 An Example from the Movies   - Web Media: YouTube: Feminist Frequency: Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs. Women #4: The Evil Demon Seductress” Link: YouTube: Feminist Frequency: Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs. Women #4: The Evil Demon Seductress” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: In this video, Anita Sarkeesian explains the concept of a trope and uses the movies to provide an example. Make sure you understand what she means by a “trope” and try to apply it to other things you’ve seen in the media. How is a trope related to a stereotype?
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.2.3 Why Anita Sarkeesian Raised All That Money   - Reading: The Huffington Post: Sara O’Meara’s “Internet Trolls Up Their Harassment Game With ‘Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian’” Link: The Huffington Post: Sara O’Meara’s “Internet Trolls Up Their Harassment Game With ‘Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian’” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this article and look at the pictures and slides that go with it. Sarkeesian’s initiative on games drew a violent and hostile response from some who may or may not be representative of the gamer culture. It led to an outpouring of support.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.2.4 Does Video Gaming Have a Place for Women?   - Reading: The American Prospect: Amanda Marcotte’s “Move Over, Mario” Link: The American Prospect: Amanda Marcotte’s “Move Over, Mario” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Amanda Marcotte believes that a violent sexism is deeply ingrained in gamer culture, and that has to change if for no other reason than women are as much into games as men. Connect this with what you read in the previous subunit. It is an example of how a culture can develop around the act of creating and distributing media.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.3 Televised Sports and Video Games Influence Each Other   9.2.3.1 The Cultural Convergence of Games and Broadcast Television   - Reading: Spectator: Christopher Hanson’s “Television Sport Broadcasting and Technology” Link: Spectator: Christopher Hanson’s “Television Sport Broadcasting and Technology” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Download Christopher Hanson’s article in PDF form from the University of Southern California archive. Hanson analyzes in depth the relationship between sports and video games. Concentrate on the last section beginning with the heading “Aesthetics and Implications of Sport on Television and in Video Games.”
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.3.2 A Clip From “Madden NFL 13”   - Web Media: YouTube: EA Sports’s “Madden NFL 13 @ E3: Raw Gameplay of RGIII & Andrew Luck - Colts @ Redskins” Link: YouTube: EA Sports’s “Madden NFL 13 @ E3: Raw Gameplay of RGIII & Andrew Luck -Colts @ Redskins” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this clip from the video game “Madden NFL 13.” Note the use of graphics, the blimp shot, and the camera angles that all mimic broadcast television. But also note the view of the game from behind the play. As you watch, remember the video about the “uncanny valley.” You might see that effect here.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.3.3 The Television Game   - Web Media: National Football League: “Superbowl XLVI Highlights” Link: National Football League: “Superbowl XLVI Highlights” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Now watch highlights of the 2012 Super Bowl. Compare the use of camera angles with the video game clip. Note the on-field graphics in the “live” game highlights. It’s something designed to integrate the gamer look into the televised game.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.3.4 Skycam Takes You Inside the Action   - Web Media: Skycam: “Skycam in Action” Link: Skycam: “Skycam in Action” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Once you get to this webpage, click on the start arrow to watch Skycam in action. Compare some of the shots in this promotional video to the video game angles.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.4 Virtual Cameras, Warts and All   9.2.4.1 Lens Flare, Hold the Lens: Games and the Conventions of the Camera   - Web Media: GamesRadar: Justin Towell’s “A Brief History of the Most Over-Used Special Effect in Video Games: Lens Flare” Link: GamesRadar: Justin Towell’s “A Brief History of the Most Over-Used Special Effect in Video Games: Lens Flare” (HTML)
 
Instructions: This reading is subtitled, “Virtual cameras don’t have lenses. You know that, right?” So how do you make something look more realistic? Put in the imperfections caused by lenses that show up in pictures taken with real cameras. Read the article decrying the overuse of this technique in video games.
 
Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.2.4.2 Nice Flare   - Web Media: YouTube: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” Link: YouTube: “Star Trek: Into Darkness” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Visit this website for the latest Star Trek movie. Watch the trailer and see how the director, J.J. Abrams, incorporated lens flare and “lens schmutz” into his computer generated imagery. A careful comparison of movie video and game video shows how much each medium has influenced the other. Finally, if you have a smart phone, download the app. Note how Paramount Studios is using a game-like experience on your phone to promote the movie.
 
Watching this web media video and exploring the phone app should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.3 Expanding the Functions of Video Games   - Reading: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 10, Section 5: Blurring the Boundaries Between Video Games, Information, Entertainment, and Communication” Link: Understanding Media and Culture: “Chapter 10, Section 5: Blurring the Boundaries Between Video Games, Information, Entertainment, and Communication” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Chapter 10, Section 5 on pages 468-474 sets the foundation for understanding how an entertainment medium such video games can become a way of spreading culture in ways not originally intended. As you read this section, think back to the unit on television: in its early days, many thought of television as a medium for education and the arts, but it soon branched out into a medium for news, sports, and entertainment. Is the medium of video games developing in a similar way?
 
Reading this section and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share-Alike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

9.3.1 Games in Education   - Reading: University of Wisconsin-Madison: David Williamson Shaffer, Kurt R. Squire, Richard Halverson, and James P. Gee’s “Video Games and the Future of Learning” Link: University of Wisconsin-Madison: David Williamson Shaffer, Kurt R. Squire, Richard Halverson, and James P. Gee’s “Video Games and the Future of Learning” (PDF)
 
Instructions: In this paper, four proponents of video games in education discuss the promise and the issues of gaming in the schools. They argue that the most powerful learning experiences are personally meaningful and experiential, and that most educational games have been developed without any coherent educational theory. The authors then try to fill in the theoretical gap.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.3.2 Where Video Games and Military Training Meet   9.3.2.1 Militainment   - Web Media: TEDTalks: “P. W. Singer on Military Robots and the Future of War” Link: TEDTalks: “P. W. Singer on Military Robots and the Future of War” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: P. W. Singer describes a new kind of warfare, using robots controlled by soldiers far away from the reaction – and recording it all. Killing the enemy is more like a video game than wars of the past. Watch this video, and then go on to more of Singer’s ideas in the subunit below, in which he directly links video games to the military.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to TED Conferences, and the original version can be found here.

9.3.2.2 P.W. Singer Discusses the Implications of Military Gaming   - Web Media: YouTube: Big Think: “P. W. Singer on Video Games and War” Link: YouTube: Big Think: “P. W. Singer on Video Games and War” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Singer, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, discusses the implications of the military’s use of games for training and recruitment.
 
Watching this video should take approximately 5 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

9.3.2.3 Game Break! “America’s Army”   - Activity: “America’s Army” Link: “America’s Army” (HTML)
 
Instructions: For this OPTIONAL activity, visit the US Army’s website, where you can download “America’s Army” and play the video game. Maybe you’ll sign up for duty. But mostly note how this game makes the Army seem exciting and even sexy.
 
Completing this activity should take approximately 10 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.