Latest Blog Posts

by L.B. Jeffries

5 Oct 2010


From www.cankickers.com

For the past several months I’ve been writing about virtual space and how meaning is created in that sort of medium. One of the core principles of space is that your actions partially define its meaning and vice versa. For that reason I think a good capstone to this work would be a discussion of the dynamic of meaning creation through space in a setting that’s familiar for many: your own house.

There’s a great TED talk given by David Byrne on the relationship between architecture and music venues (“David Byrne: How Architecture Helped Music Evolve”, TED, June 2010). The way people would engage and listen to music has an intrinsic relationship with the space they’re in. It wasn’t until 1872 that the concept of not being drunk and jabbering while someone was playing music became popular. This was mostly because of the changing design of opera houses such as Wagner’s Bayreuth Festspielhaus or Carnegie Hall. A quiet audience means that you can have more nuanced and complex music that will actually be heard, the singer does not have to scream. This dynamic exists with technology as well. A small club, before the advent of microphones, meant that you had to play loud and heavy music to be heard. Once the microphone was invented, crooning and much quieter songs became an option. Music in a giant arena typically has to take the form of a ballad to be coherently understood by the audience. An Ipod, on the other hand, allows for extremely nuanced and complicated music but has to always be at a certain volume, or you’ll make the listener go deaf. Since so much of music is defined by the space that it is being performed in, Byrne comments, “The passion is always there, but the vessel is what is created first.”

by G. Christopher Williams

4 Oct 2010


Hitler served as the final boss in World War II and also in Castle Wolfenstein, which is weird, right?

This week we consider a number of real life bad guys from the Nazis to the Mafia and the potential consequences of attempting to simulate such real life villainy in video games.

by Nick Dinicola

1 Oct 2010


This post contains spoilers for Alan Wake.

Events in The Signal take place right after the end of Alan Wake. Wake finds himself in a nightmarish world, a place “familiar, but wrong, somehow,” and an image of Thomas Zane in a bathroom mirror explains that Wake himself is “the one making all this happen.” That’s an interesting line because it implies that Wake is creating the world around him, not the Dark Presence. Throughout the DLC we see Wake on television screens, lying on the floor of the cabin’s attic where his typewriter is, rambling what seems like nonsense. Zane explains that this is the real Alan Wake, a claim that’s proven when the ramblings come true.

by Jorge Albor

30 Sep 2010


There is a curious and complex relationship between film and photography. Film theorist Peter Wollen describes the two arts respectively as fire and ice. While films are “all light and shadow, incessant motion, transience, flicker,” photographs freeze their subjects in place (“Fire and Ice”, Photographies 4, April 1984).  As Wollen describes them, “photographs appear as devices for stopping time and preserving fragments of the past, like flies in amber.” Within film, the depiction of photographs creates a bizarre linkage between stillness and movement. Video games that use cameras as a core mechanic also create a strange paradox that alters the relationship between player and game world.

For a photographer gazing through a viewfinder, reality is mediated by the camera. Some describe a distancing sensation, one in which the photographer is disengaged from a situation. For many, this phenomenon raises ethical concerns. The oft cited case of Marc Halevi, who captured on film a woman being swept out to sea while merely observing a failed rescue attempt, is a prime example. Paradoxically, the same dissociating effect of observing the real world through a camera envelops and immerses players in a game world.

by G. Christopher Williams

29 Sep 2010


I know that I usually just talk about video games in this blog, but I feel compelled to address Dancing With the Stars here anyway. Largely, this is due to the game-like qualities of the show, which is obviously a competition of sorts leaning more towards sport, perhaps, than the kind of games that I usually address. However, it seems to me that there are so many odd intersections of sport, performance (of several sorts, physical as well as more intellectual or emotive forms of performance), aesthetics, and even narrative that I feel that I need to unpack the odd mildly interactive experience that is the Dancing With the Stars phenomenon.

Additionally, Dancing With the Stars feels like a kind of game within a game, since what motivates its “players” seems a game only tangentially related to the competition that they are a part of. As Dancing With the Stars draws its competitors from a pool of “celebrities” (of varying qualities of fame, leaning often enough more towards a leaner form of notability than not), there seems some interest on the part of the performers in using the show as a means of playing at something else that at least resembles a game, public relations and marketing (especially of the self in this instance).

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