Double Take

This may be a big call….but I think playing sport related videogames can lead to an improvement in ones physical game.

The idea of videogaming as being educational or having a positive effect on the physical games seems counterintuitive. This is somewhat due to public discourse surrounding videogames, which tends to focus on the negatives of videogaming – such as teen violence, obesity and addiciton.

However, according to a survey conducted by FIFA of more than 10,000 registered gamers, 58% of players believe that virtual skills learned playing EA SPORTS’ FIFA 12 on PS3™ has improved their real-life skills.

Playing videogames requires strategy, mental focus, skill and technique…and as my boyfriend would argue, playing Rugby Challenge before playing the physical game improves pre-game stress, mental preparation and performance. The graphics, images and player representation in video games now come close to matching real life. Playing videogames also claims to improve motor skills, fight off depression and encourage healthy competition.

A remarkable 43% of the gamers surveyed claimed that playing video games helped in better understanding of soccer tactics and 95% of players who could pick themselves as an avatar, did. I would suggest that playing video games is a learning experience to platform the different players on each team, a greater insight of the teams philosophies, the highlighted skill of each player, the position that athletes normally play and much more. It is also helpful when playing the actual physical game by better understanding how to move around the pitch and knowing how to react when one has possession of the ball.

Sport video games are specifically designed to mimic the actual settings, players, strategies and other conditions that athletes may encounter on the field. There is an undoubted nexus between virtual and physical sport and the opportunities for learning remains untapped.

The nature of videogaming allows players to experience immediate and often unpredictable consequences of their actions. Because videogames have a wide range of narrative possibilities, this allows the gamer to understand a wide variety of mental possibilities.

I would suggest that as technology improves and as more resources are injected into the video game industry, particularly into the sporting genre, people are going to be able to participate in new worlds, which may have a positive impact for gamers.

So think twice, before you contemplate having an argument because he wants to get one more game in before dinner, and learn from her mistake….maybe he was destined to be the next Dan Carter.

Ludo-what?

Apologies in advance for sounding like a pessimist…I do love gaming. But one cannot ignore the hard facts which suggest that videogames are still light years away from being considered truly realistic… now, this doesn’t take away from drastic advances since their creation, or suggest that existing videogames aren’t immersive, however until the disparity between the narrative offered by game creators, and the play acted out is eliminated, videogames will still be perceived by some, as unrealistic.

Ludonarrative dissonance (LD) is what is at play here. The concept refers to the aspects of videogames storytelling that are controlled by the player. LD is the idea that when a game tells a player to do X through its story and environment, the player becomes un-immersed and disconnected due to contradictions during game play. As the player becomes more aware of gaps in logic and presentation this continues to undermine the overall gaming experience.

Examples of LD at play:

Bioshock: The game gives the player the ability to exercise this free will by choosing whether to rescue or harvest Little Sisters. If the player chose an objectivist approach to playing by harvesting the Little Sisters, they would be acting in their own self-interest and would be perfectly aligned with the ethical thesis that the game sought to emphasize. One of the problems Bioshock has; is that there isn’t an option to not assist Atlas, or to align with Ryan. Anyone in this position has to merely accept that the game funneled them in that direction; the only other recourse would have been to quit playing.

Dead Space: Game play conveys the sense of sheer terror and loneliness that the narrative expertly strives to establish. More importantly, the game focuses its efforts in a mostly linear direction, and doesn’t really afford the player the ability to make decisions that would put this consistency at risk. Dead Space is a prime example of one of the more ludonarratively consistent games in recent memory.

To minimise or eliminate LD from their games, game developers have to create games that are continually evolving and 100% responsive to any actions the player makes. Developers have to shift focus from trying to tell a particular story to giving the player the opportunity to make a story. Considering technical and resource limitations, this is something that won’t recourse overnight.

To prevent divergence from the exact path that developers wish to take the narrative, the player would need to have little to no control over in-game decision making. Accountability would need to be taken by developers however, to ensure that no disparity existed.

We are then posed with the rhetoric… is it worth taking the freedom of decision and expansive universes offered by so many games, just to eliminate LD?

What’s with all the Zombies?


Zombies have been apart of gaming for almost three decades…The ‘zombie’ at the most abstract level is supplanted, stolen, or effaced consciousness; it casts allegorically the appropriation of one person’s will by another. The emergence of the zombie genre in the late 1960’s with ‘Night of the Living Dead, and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ spawned not only an entire movie sub-genre but continues to provide inspiration for popular culture and gaming today.

Why are zombies such a popular enemy and when did they first feature? One of the first games featuring a ‘zombie’ is a game released in the 1980’s called Zombie, Zombie which was a 3D isometric adventure gameers objective was to clear a city of the un-dead by making them fall to their doom. A number of other successful Zombie games then followed.

Today games which fall within the ‘zombie’ genre have become increasingly sophisticated. The development of graphics and technology have steadily improved thus making the genre more scarier, fear-fulled and realistic than ever. Zombies in movies are defined by their slow movements and reactions, herd mentality and obliviousness to the impact of bullets, which is pretty much how characters in games behave in any case. Advancements in technology have made character depiction more realistic and detailed.

Zombies fulfil two functions – one technological, the other psychological. First, the process of making convincing AI enemies is exceedingly difficult and expensive; for every game you can think of with believably smart enemies for the player to gun down, you can probably provide at least five examples of games where the bad guys are so stupid, they’ll walk into walls, get stuck on chunks of scenery, or stand stock still in a corridor while you fill them full of lead.

Today a deeper reading of a zombie texts involves issues surrounding race, xenophobia, masculinity and gender. Zombie presence in some texts is said to be representative of Western societies fears of xenophobia. Games such as Resident Evil and Night of the Living Dead, purport key ideas surrounding entire communities, whole countries and even the world being subject to destruction by increasing numbers of zombies. This further reiterates an underlying notion of fear that some western societies have towards displaced people (such as refugees and illegal migrants).

Perhaps this is a stretch on one of popular cultures favoured enemies…however it is no coincidence that the creature flourished in the twentieth century, a century whose broad intellectual trends were preoccupied with alienation…

Gaming + Exercising = Exergaming

Exergaming is the new term to describe the mode of video gaming which requires players to move their body along with the game. Exergaming became an almost overnight phenomenon after Wii was launched in 2006. Today exergaming is a multibillion dollar industry which seeks to appeal to a wide audience, young, old, fit, weak, male and female. It’s success stems not only because of its new hand held motion controller and other peripheral devices, but because it changed how consumers viewed gaming consoles and was popular with everyone including parents.

Todo sobre: Eyetoy

While the companies who have created these exergaming consoles make big claims surrounding increased energy expenditure, weight loss and fitness, there is still little evidence to support the claim that exergaming improves health. One of the concerns I have with the impacts of gaming is the sedentary nature which is problematic for young gamers. Exergaming claims to be the answer to the sitting down, couch potato nature of common gaming. Today, many of the activities young people like to engage in  are sedentary in nature, for example using the computer, watching TV and going to the movies, which is exacerbated by the popular and addictive nature of video gaming. 

The timing of the introduction one of the first ever exergaming tools, Playstation’s “Eye-Toy” fulfilled a gap in the market which was perfectly timed with the ‘obesity epidemic’. With exergaming becoming an overnight success, grossing revenues of $2.9 billion dollars and counting, I think parents have justified purchasing exergames, more so than other forms of video games because they have bought into the perpetuated myth that their children will become more physically active and ‘fit’, as well as spending less time on idled movement gaming.

Look don’t get me wrong, exergaming is fun, social and it is perfect for gamers who struggle to engage in physical activity. I find it awesome that young gamers can play their exergames in the privacy of their own homes in discretion as much or as little as they like. In reality, some physical activity is better than none at all, I guess.

While exergaming has been shown to increase energy expenditure under laboratory conditions, there is still little evidence to support the long-term benefits of relying on it to improve your health. Early research exploring the health benefits of exergaming focused on the energy used while playing. They showed that Wii games, for example, could contribute to health benefits from physical activities and reduce sitting time.

The face of exergaming has developed significantly since the ‘Eye Toy’. New exergaming technology has the potential to monitor energy expenditure through heart rate reading and better body tracking. This might also encourage people to be more active when playing (as they may be able to see actual physiological responses, changes and improvements).

There are probably health benefits to be gained from existing exergames. However, like many existing pieces of exercise equipment they require motivation to set up and turn on, discipline to use and perseverance. As the technology evolves there is certain to be plenty of opportunities for them to be part of a healthy lifestyle. 

OMG, I’m a Gamer Girl.

I am a girl gamer.
I am a gamer girl.
Actually, no. I am a girl that plays games.

I cannot make sense of the sexual stereotype for women in the gaming community. For definition purposes, I am just a girl who likes to play games. Most people of the female gender do not consider themselves to be ‘gamers’ even though they thoroughly enjoy casual games, such as Angry BirdsFarmvilleThe Sims or Bejeweled. Although statistics illustrate that the popularity of girl games is increasing world-wide, many girl gamers remain closeted. The number of girl games, I believe is unknown. I personally, love playing sporting type games, Rugby Challenge and NBA2K14 and play them on a regular basis. Further to this, female representation in games is poor. 6% of all video game protagonists are female, and in games where you can select your character, 50% of all games do not have any female representative.

According to ESA as of 2013, 55% of video gamers in total are male, and 45% are female. From these statistics it is crazy to see how the gap is closing between female and male gamers, yet there appears to be no change in direction when creating 94% of video game protagonists as male.

I can honestly admit I have never played online (although I have the obvious capacity to do so) and see no interest in extending my gaming to the online gaming community. There are a number of reasons for this:

I would consider myself a casual gamer. This form of gaming is an increasing division in the gaming industry because of its wide reaching mass market appeal. Accessibility to internet, tablet computers and mobile phones with gaming capacity mean more and more people have at least played some form of causal game at some point. Further, these games are appealing to a vast number and scope of people, young vs. old, smart vs. not so smart and male and female. The games are often short, require little to no instructions, trigger stimulation and are highly addictive. Take Candy Crush for example, each level you have to either send an annoying Facebook request to friends, pay the $1.29 or change the time on your iPhone. The addiction of this game spread to all members of my household, to a point where my mother spent $50 on buying ‘new lives’ and ‘catching the train’ – which was a lot faster than waiting for her friend to send a ticket.

Casual gaming is a rapidly growing part of the video games industry because of its mass market appeal. Everyone with access to the internet, a mobile phone or a tablet computer has played casual games at some point or another.  They are usually short and easy to play, with puzzle and simulation elements that make these kinds of games enjoyably addictive. However, most people who are avid casual gamers would not consider themselves  as ‘gamers’.

Stereotypically, what is considered ‘feminine’ from the western ideal supports the notion of commercialised beauty and other undesirable expectations of what it is to be deemed normal. The cultural and social differences between hardcore gamers and casual gamer girls, differ significantly. People generally find it odd when women break from the stereotypical ideals and for hardcore gamers, unfair labeling and connotations become associated with being a serious gamer girl.

There are gamer girls forums and communities which exist specifically for gamer girls (both hardcore and casual) however, even if these sites are designed as an avenue for girl gamers only, male gamers have no problem in voicing their detest and opinion towards this group which further adds another hurdle for gamer girls and exacerbates intimidation for the masked gamer girls who seek support and confidence to uprise, but instead remain closeted.

My personal experience has found that girl gamers will mask their identities and in essence play just as many games and just a frequently as their male video game counterparts. I personally do not take part in gaming community in fear of the wrath, criticism and sexual advances of male hardcore gamers. Many girl gamers ‘mask’ and play as a male protagonist (as only 6% of all games have a female protagonist) and even in my personal experience, I will opt for the male character because they are often more skilled, faster and stronger anyway. In order for change to take place, a challenge to the mindset of many gamers needs to be sought. Most women and girls do not intentionally mean to remain behind the so called mask but perceive gaming as a silly time wasting diversion as opposed to a satisfying hobby.

yep

Accepting girl gamers and treating them simply as fellow gamers rather than a strange alienate, over-sexual and exotic group would assist in shed the negative connotation surrounding gendered superiority across many levels of gaming. It would also go so far as to validate current statistics of the 45/55 percent gender divide in modern casual gaming today.