Games

Mining in Mass Effect 2: Make My Work Count!

Mining image from Special Collections, Delamare Library, University of Nevada, Reno

Why not put that gamer brain power to some good use, since we've got it doing grunt work anyway?

I did a lot of mining during my first play through of Mass Effect 2. I did a lot more than I had to, and when the game ended, I had thousands of units of resources, while at the same time I'd researched pretty much every upgrade I could. I probably spent more than two hours in excess of what was necessary guiding that scanner around planets, waiting for the squiggly line to spike, and for my controller to start vibrating in my hand. As mini-games go, it's not thrilling. Of course, it's not terrible either. The simple system reminds me of what using a metal detector on the beach must be like, which makes thematic sense. The hide and seek element means that technically, I guess, it's a kind of game, albeit one requiring only patience rather than strategy or skill. However, within the context of a game in which I was heavily invested in building up my crew and doing the best job possible in my quest to save the galaxy, I mined and mined and mined with nary a complaint until now.

But as I scanned and probed, I had a lot of time to think, and I wondered if there was some more productive way that someone could exploit my mindless willingness to mine for the greater good of The Normandy and her crew. The first thing that came to mind was the work being done at reCaptcha.net. We've all seen captchas when registering with web sites: you have to identify the word to prove that you're human. ReCaptcha uses two words instead of one, one is for security testing and the other is a scanned image from an old printed book. By entering what you interpret that the scan as saying, you add to the database of reliable translations of scanned texts, helping to eliminate optical character recognition errors. Obviously the Folding At Home project for Playstation 3 re-purposes the gaming console for some sort of public good, but it just takes advantage of idle CPUs, not the player's own cognitive skills.

What if instead of playing the hacking mini-game in Mass Effect 2 as it currently exists (which is actually pretty good), the game incorporated some reCaptcha data in that activity? Why not put that gamer brain power to some good use, since we've got it doing grunt work anyway? Mining through word recognition isn't a great fit, I admit, but perhaps, there's some other form of data crunching that would work. Maybe we could look for patterns in SETI data or help capture transcribe audio for the hearing impaired?

Or, how's this for a crazy conspiracy theory? How about an espionage themed game where you have to closely examine pictures for signs of signature activities (say enemy troop movements), but in reality, your game is getting fed data directly from spy satellites and you're doing analysis for the CIA. Oh, and if you do really good at that arcade game with the space ships, you can become the Last Starfighter. Oay, I'm rambling, I know. You know why? Because my brain is melted from so much damned mining! So, can anyone else think of good (or evil) uses to which our gaming drudge work could be applied?

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image