Movies and books have long been used to advocate for causes, such as climate change or breast cancer. As video games become more mainstream, advocates are beginning to see how this art form can be a new way to reach out and get people engaged in a cause.
Take Half the Sky, a book about the struggles of women and girls in the developing world. Teacher and mom
Suzy Kosh read it in her book group. When she heard there was a Facebook game based on it, she checked it out, and her 6-year-old son noticed.
“He got on my lap, and I started explaining it to him, and then he was so intrigued that we kept playing,” she says. “You were going and helping people and saving people, and he was really interested in doing that.”
The game puts the player in the shoes of Radhika, a poor woman in India who lives on a farm. As Kosh plays with Dylan on her lap, Radhika’s goat gives birth.
“Remember what happens when they have a baby?” Kosh asks Dylan. “How does that help everybody in the community?”
“We can, um… so then we can get goat milk!” he says. Continue reading “Video game activism”
MOMA in New York as always saved a spot for design, and by extension, popular culture.Video games, as their name suggests, combine the ancient human practice of formal play with moving pictures, a younger form, reports today’s New York times. “But the unsatisfying name we are saddled with for this medium — itself approaching middle age, if you date its history to the first home console in 1972 and apply the rule that middle age begins when you are older than every current Major League Baseball player — doesn’t capture the essence of video games.
“The defining feature of video games is interaction, the three-way conversation among designer, machine and player. “Applied Design,” a new installation at the Museum of Modern Art — and an important one because it is the first time the museum has displayed the 14 video games it acquired in November — attempts to isolate this relationship. The games on view, from Pac-Man toCanabalt, are naked, without their packaging or other nostalgic trappings. There are no arcade cabinets on view, no outmoded consoles or computers to gawk at.
“Instead, each game is austerely contained on a screen set against a gray wall, with a joystick or other controller resting on a spare platform beneath it. The installation is “an experiment to isolate the experience of the interaction itself,” said Paola Antonelli, the senior curator of the museum’s department of architecture and design, comparing her decontextualized approach with Philip Johnson’s in his 1934 “Machine Art” exhibition at MoMA, which set things like propeller blades against white museum walls.
“This philosophy is markedly different from the one that motivated the Museum of the Moving Image’s “Spacewar!” show, which closed Sunday. That exhibition, which presented a more focused argument, refused to separate the interactive experience of playing a game from the object it first appeared in. An iPad game would be played on an iPad, and Space Invaders and its ilk were on view, and playable, in their original stand-up cabinets.
The boss of Electronic Arts (EA) has denied there is any link between video game content and “actual violence,” reports the BBC.
“John Riccitiello spoke out on the subject during a conference call with bank analysts following his firm’s latest earnings forecast. But he acknowledged that his industry did face a ‘perception issue’.
“The topic has become the focus of political debate in the US following shootings in a Connecticut school and a Colorado cinema. After the incidents, the National Rifle Association (NRA) – which itself had been accused of culpability – said the video game industry sowed ‘violence against its own people’. Continue reading “Game maker contests worries over violence”
If you are one of the few people who doesn’t know about Minecraft, imagine a cross between Second Life and Legoland.
But more likely you indeed do know about Minecraft, because it arguably was the fastest growing online game craze of 2012, especially among kids.
“Last year saw a total of more than 15 million purchases of Minecraft across all platforms, with Pocket Edition the leader at just under 5.9 million across iOS and Android,” reports Joystiq. “As if we needed any more proof of the blocky sandbox’s success, Mojang published concrete figures for last year’s sales, demonstrating just how prolific 2012 was for its franchise.” Continue reading “Minecraft empire building”
This is terrible news for video game makers – but they brought it on themselves. Apparently, Electronic Arts and other developers of some of the most violent shooter games employ a form of product placement in which the “real” guns depicted can be found through links to gun manufacturers from within the games themselves.
“Among the video game giant’s marketing partners on the Web site were the McMillan Group, the maker of a high-powered sniper’s rifle, and Magpul, which sells high-capacity magazines and other accessories for assault-style weapons,” reports a front-page story in the Christmas Day edition of the New York Times Continue reading “Top games link to gun makers”
Here is the scenario: An invisible menacing force is trying to get you, everywhere you go. A malevolent secret organization wants to take over the world by sneaking into your mind. Walk too near the wrong trash can or tree, and it could zap your brain. And by the way, it already has possessed loads of the people around you, even your most trusted friends.
“The world around you is not what it seems,” the promotion for Google’s new Ingress phone game says, “It’s happening all around you. They aren’t coming. They are already here.”
Game news website CNET describes Ingress like this: “Ingress begins with a series of training missions designed to orient new players. Quickly it introduces you to its quirky lexicon. Around town you will find various “portals”; the point of Ingress (at least so far) is to control them. To control portals you have to “hack” them, which is akin to a check-in on Facebook or Foursquare. Hacking portals rewards you with various items, the most important of which are portal keys and resonators. Portal keys allow you to link portals together; resonators power them up and can protect them from being stolen from your rivals. Linking three portals together creates a “field,” which is more powerful than a portal, and is apparently essential for world domination.
“The game takes the form of a free mobile app, now available on the Google Play store for Androiddevices. It is the second product from Niantic Labs, a startup accelerator within Google. Niantic is run by John Hanke, the former head of product management for Google’s “Geo” division, which includes Maps, Earth and Local, among other divisions. Niantic’s first project was Field Trip, an Android app for discovering the world around you. Released in September, Field Trip sends notifications to a smartphone whenever a person passes an area of possible interest — a landmark, a park, a highly rated restaurant. In my use, it’s been a fun way of exploring new cities and unfamiliar neighborhoods.
“Have you ever done something uncomfortable in the name of perceived beauty?” This is the provocative question asked by a new computer game aimed at exploring conceptions of body image and gender norms. Games for Change discusses “Gone from an Age: A Fitting” in the following excerpt from an article entitled “’Fitting’ Game to Explore Body Image.”
“At one point in your life, you may have tried chemically altering your hair, tried on a pair of pants that were way too tight, or focused more on fashion over function. All for the goal of achieving a specific look.
“Many of us partake in these practices to achieve a standard of beauty in modern society. Too often, we do so without considering why, the social costs if we don’t, or what physical and mental harm these activities are causing every day. Some would argue that beauty is purely for the benefit of those who are gazing upon it, disregarding the discomfort of the ones who have to achieve it.
“To give others this distinct understanding, game designers Amanda Dittami and Blair Kuhlman teamed up to create “Gone From an Age: A Fitting“, a motion controlled game that asks players to contort and perform for an audience, in what Kuhlman calls “a cross between a game of Twister and Vogue magazine.”
Currently, Dittami and Kuhlman are working hard on tweaking the game with a design team, local dancers, and fashion designers to get the game ready for “Off The Beaten Path“, a traveling art exhibition that aims create a dialogue about violence against women through various forms of art. To fully participate in a powerful way, the team has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds.”
Increasingly artists and scholars are attacking the separation between virtual worlds and real life. A recent paper by Linda Ryan-Bengtsson published in Leonardo Almanac continues the argument, stating that “When digital technology is integrated into our everyday environment, the border between media interfaces and physical environments is being blurred. Traditional division of spaces dissolves and are rearranged, complicating the linkages between private and public spheres. Interactivity intersects these spaces allowing users of mediated content to be affected by the actual and vice versa.”
Entitled “Renegotiating Social Space: Public Art Installations and Interactive Experience,” the paper states that its analysis “has emerged through the need for further research focusing Continue reading “Virtual and Real World boundaries blurring”
By some reports in the financial sector, the meteoric ascent of computer games in the 2000s has officially ended, with sales of titles like Diablo and World of Warcraft dropping 28% in the past two years. The New York Times recently ran a story comparing gaming today to the dot-com phenomenon of the 1990s, as it now “ has found itself teetering at the edge of a financial cliff.” But closer examination of the situation reveals that while big-name console games have indeed sold less, the number of people playing games on smart-phones and tablet computers continues to surge by as much as 35% in 2012 alone. Excerpted and linked below are two stories on this topic. Continue reading “Has the gaming bubble burst?”