This week’s lecture of interpassivity reminded me of something I learned in one of my environmental studies classes, the issue attention cycle. The issue attention cycle describes the lifespan of a current issue under the media spotlight, for example the Kony 2012 debacle. The cycle goes through four stages:
- Pre-problem stage: an existing problem that has yet to receive media attention/frenzy an example would be the poor water quality on Indian reservations near paper mills in Vermont etc.
- Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm: usually a major disaster or event will bring public attention to the issue and people become very aware of the imminent disasters or evils of the event. A recent example would be Hurricane Sandy, especially footage of the damage from floods used on the cover of a magazine accompanied by the text “Still don’t believe in climate change?”
- Realizing the cost of significant progress : in this stage people realize the true cost of something, for example the fiscal impact of cutting car emissions etc. and rely on technological innovations
- Gradual decline of intense public interest: after realizing how difficult or costly a solution would be people lose interest or become discouraged
- Post-problem stage: focused on other issues
I thought this was an interesting way to see interpassivity in the way our interests are directed by media cycles of coverage. What was especially interesting to me is the way we frame these problems and relegate solutions to donations and other micropolitical actions such as “liking” something or retweeting it. Though I do believe these are important to bring awareness to issues and place issues in the public consciousness that do influence policy at higher levels. I’m not writing this on some soapbox to bemoan political lethargy, I’m just writing this article not actively fighting some kind of social injustice or anything. I just wanted to compare creative destruction with the alarmed discovery stage and how we arrest issues into these narratives that assumes a conclusion once our interest fades. During the alarmed discovery/enthusiasm stage the public wants to “solve” this problem and believes the solution is external to the existing system ie. no restructuring of the existing system is needed to solve the issue at hand (ex: super pacs/campaign donation regulations). The needed solutions are related to the creative destruction mentioned in class and require the re-ordering the existing powers at hand.
Many video games offer the promise of allowing the user to escape into another world, a world where nothing matches the characteristics of the world in which we live. Although these games do offer the promise of escaping, perhaps no game does it as well as the famous Grand Theft Auto series, and yet these games also perhaps allow us to realize something more important. The newest Grand Theft Auto, which was released four years ago, mirrored the world we live in with an almost scary level of detail, but in doing so allowed the user to realize certain concepts involving our world through the in game experiences. Allowing your main character to sit down and watch television within the game world, the user will often find parody’s of famous television shows from the real world being played on the in game television, usually with an underlying message about what is wrong with some aspect of the real show. Roaming around the virtual city in which the game takes place you will come across various landmarks that attempt to replicate those of New York, and yet in exploring the city the user will eventually interact with fast food restaurants that tout their food as unhealthy and fattening, come across the “statue of happiness” holding a can of soda rather than the statue of liberty holding a torch , or maybe even come across an advertisement for a musical titled, “Banging Trash Can Lids for an Hour!” an obvious opinion on the well known broadway musical “Stomp.” It is through these subtle takes on actual real life circumstances, that Rockstar is attempting to relay their opinions on what they believe is wrong with the world today-and for the most part I agree with them.
Games have long been used to tell stories. Such stories could consist of the more traditional narrative storyline, like the Zelda series, or could even be seen in the 2,500 year old game of Go. In the former, the story is clear: certain events happen throughout the game, such as the abduction of Princess Zelda, and as you progress through the game more things happen and the story progresses. In the latter, the story is not expressed through a narrative story line, but rather, the story is told across the board as each piece is placed. Pieces are captured and become dead, territories are attacked and defended, borders are created, etc. Games have several ways to tell a story, dictated by the rules, functions, and limitations of the game itself.
This week, we had played a game called Small World. Does this game have a story as well? As you play through, you discover more of the world you exist in. The more you explore, the more you can see. Eventually, you discover another “small world.” There is no narrative story, but it’s possible that the game still tells one. This game that we played for our class reminded me of another game called The End of Us. It is intriguing as a game because it is extremely existential. In the game, you take control of a purple comet that is flying around in space. This comet could represent you, or not. Eventually, you are joined by an orange comet who bumps into you, friendly or not. As you two interact, a relationship forms, but the nature of this relationship is completely up to the gamer’s interpretation. Are you enemies or are you friends? Depending on how the gamer feels, the ending can be sad, triumphant, sacrificial or a failure. I personally love games such as these because I feel it is much like the Hundred Thousand Billion Poems–they prompt us to take a look at games themselves. I encourage you to take a few minutes and try this short game:
This week’s topic of the gamer was extremely new to me because I know very, very little about video games seeing as my only experience with them was playing very old versions of Donkey Kong when I was probably around eight. I have never put much thought into my opinion on video games, but when I do think of them what often comes to mind is those people who believe video games are harmful, perhaps too time consuming and violence causing, most likely because that was my parents viewpoints on video games while I was growing up. This week’s topic truly argues the root of those opinions and proves them wrong. In the first few sentences of Gonzalo Frasca’s article she asks a series of questions about the politics of video games and if or how they can be addressed through video games themselves. The few examples of video games that Amanda provided us for this week out of I’m sure thousands more, are perfect answers to the questions addressed in Frasca’s article. The first question, “is it possible to design video games that deal with social and political issues, corresponds perfectly with Amanda’s link to Molleindustria – Radical Games. These games address very profound and rather off-putting controversial issues in today’s world. Some may argue that some, if not all of the issues should not be placed into the form of a video game, perhaps especially “Faith Fighter” or “Operation Pedo-Priest.” Yet it is the intense controversy of the topics of the games themselves that allow the games to be interesting, ironic, and extremely thought provoking which, other than being fun to play, is their intention. The game we focused on during class, “Small Worlds,” perfectly addresses Frasca’s second question that wonders if video games can encourage critical thinking. We discussed how this game is all about movement, it’s simplicity is what makes the game, yet it requires a good amount of focus and patience as well as critical thinking. Frasca’s article along with just a few examples of these thought provoking games are enough to argue and prove the potential of video games as an alternative channel to exercise the world’s critical issues.
From the words of its creator Anna Anthropy dys4ia is “autobiographical game about the period in my life when i started hormone replacement therapy. it’s a story about me, and is certainly not meant to represent the experience of every trans person”. The creator’s experience is presented in an 8-bit early video arcade game aesthetic. By playing the game the user lives vicariously experiencing the unease in first using the different gendered bathrooms, the metamorphosis of the body, and changing social perception. The narrative unfolds in different small games, much like the simple Atari games like Tetris. I thought this was an interesting way to describe the shift in the body. The objective of the game is to get an irregularly shaped piece through a wall which gestures to her feelings of marked difference. I thought this game was interesting because it uses game media as the possibility space to discuss trans issues and her difficulties. The Frasca article discusses how video games like theater are spaces to engage with social issues. I thought this was a very interesting way to re-create the esthetic osmosis discussed in Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. Each user inhabits the creator’s body, interacting with the changes within their shared bodies, and struggling with the construction of a gender. I thought this was especially interesting because I don’t really play any video games, and I tend to categorize them as war/shooting/sports that reinforce an existing power structure (Gauchospace article on black representation in video games). But video games can be powerful avenues to explore trauma. Although this game is not specifically about trauma, the game narrative has been used as a therapeutic method of coping with harrowing experiences. I recently watched a TED talk in which the speaker pretended to live in a game world, dealing with her head injury in the way that helped her.
The Concept of the possibility space was something I had never fully considered when playing video games. I went through my video games exploring the space and its limitations and each had an interesting set up. Certain games would kill your player when exceeding the possibility space, others would tell you that you’re away from the playing area, and others would force a restart of the level or scenario. This then poses an interesting dilemma when considering games that are supposed to put the player in control of the dynamics of the game. The one that came to mind was Dungeons and Dragons; the idea is that you’re able to create worlds and adventures. Dungeons and Dragons follow rules like any other game but the possibility space is one that can keep expanding depending on the player creating the different levels. The question is then whether there is in fact a possibility space when the possibilities are hypothetically endless. D&D has different levels and maps but it is always created by the player which then brings us to question the level of interactivity of the gamer vs a role-player. Both require a higher level of input in order for their medium to succeed but the role-player offers more of a flexible and diverse experience. Where the gamer is given a possibility space, the role player is given a blank slate in which to create a possibility space which expands. Most D&D maps end and have boundaries but the process itself reminds me of the game we played Smaller Worlds. The difference lies in that Smaller Worlds has predetermined levels and movements whereas D&D has black spaces for the player to fill. We must then question whether or not video games have the possibility to have similar creative possibilities and whether or not video games as a medium would change as a result of the breaking of the limitation that is the possibility space.
I know that there have been multiple blog posts about trolls, but the one that I specifically wanted to write about is the issue with violentacrez. Violentacrez is a forty something year old man with a family that lived a pretty normal day, but when he wasn’t at work, he became a different person and he literally spent most of his time on reddit. He was most known for his thread of photos categorized under the name of “jailbait” which has underage girls taking pictures of themselves in their unmentionables and at first, he blamed reddit saying that reddit congratulated him for his page reaching an outrageous number of views because whether it was good or bad, reddit was making money. Then he said that he loved making people mad. Did he love doing it because he had an alias? As we talked about before in the quarter, there is a strong sense of power that one holds when no one knows our identity. It’s the reason why there are so many cyber bullies on the internet for absolutely no reason and although we have the right to say whatever we want, just one of the many privileges of living in this country, it still isn’t right to insult someone using unkind words. Violentacrez loved the attention that he was getting on his page because he no one could actually do anything about it. He was fully disguised behind a monitor and a username and although he was being judged for the threads he was posting, it didn’t affect his real life because no one really knew that it was him. The power of anonymity is so underestimated; People don’t realize its potential until its used for something bad. We can become whomever we want without any punishment.