October 21, 2005

Zimmerman's Naughty Terms

medium is the message?

To read Zimmermanís essay, I copied it into word program so that I could print it out in fewer pages. I have to admit, once I took it out of the more artful design of the web page, it lost some of its gloss.

That got me to thinking about how aesthetics affect the reception of the words by the reader. On the ELO site, it looked quite attractive, and if it had been in a book, it would have carried at least the authority that it had been deemed important enough for publication, but from the 12 point font of my black and white version, it didnít seem to carry much authority at all.

Perhaps this influenced my take on Zimmermanís essay, because, after I printed it out, I was able to reference various pages side by side, to write notes in the margins, and to read it easily without starting my computer. And so, on to the essay.

The Fuss?

On the one hand, Zimmerman says that "shelves of books like this one are being written and published," on the other, he says "it's clear tht the 'game story' as a form remains largely unexplored." I'm wondering if Zimmerman needs some representational discipline.

At first, I thought the "discipline" theme might be kind of fun, especially compared to overly-convoluted writing of most academia, but it did not take long for the whole get-tough thing to seem a bit cutesy.

In truth, the essay did not truly clarify anything. And ironically, Zimmerman merely continues to quibble over the same issues he admonished in his introduction. As he continues the academic tradition of an over-proliferation of text, I was still left wondering why this dose of "discipline" is important, and still thinking, but they are just games afterall, which is perhaps the predictable fumble of those outside of the gaming world. I can't help but think the sociological and psychological implications of games are important, but important in many of the same functions that we already study.

resistance is defining.

Even as he begins his task, Zimmerman qualifies the essay's function by saying the terms he will spank, so to speak, are "signs for clusters of concepts," which would explain why his peers in the field cannot agree on proper definitions. "Clusters of concepts" is wriggily enough, and resists stable definition. Aside from that even, the "naughty" terms he is trying to regulate are not really "naughty," but inherently expansive terms that touch on nearly every aspect of human life. Of course they will be difficult to corrall.

For example, Zimmerman writes that games must be voluntary, and that, if you're forced, you're not really playing. I disagree completely. You are still playing and interacting even if you're forced to. That seems obvious to me. And he says that "rules are essentially restrictive and limit what the player can do." I think that without rules, no one could play. Some rules can be very limiting, and some can create a sort of democratic opportunity. Undoubtedly, most attempts to concisely define terms like "game" or"play" will result in lengthy and contradictory ends.

Then he goes on to say that play is "uncertain, creative, improvisational, and open-ended." Well, maybe to a certain degree, but most study on play shows that there are unspoken and spoken established rules, whether it be concerning three year olds or adult basketball. It is usually not uncertain, and less often open-ended. Socially, we begin learning the rules of play very young, at one or less years of age. A player begins a game knowing where he wants the narrative, as Zimmerman calls it, to end.

To some degree, the over-academization of Ms. Pac-Man is typical of the huge gap between scholar/creator and actual product user. Ms. Pac-Man is about winning or losing a game, and about wasting time. People who have a very busy schedule do not have time to spend on video games. That is why the users are predominantlyadolescent or younger males. Generally speaking, females are more socially busy, leaving them less time for solitary activities such as video games. I find it a stretch to say, as Zimmerman does, that Ms. Pac-man is a "narrative about life and death, about consumption and power."

analyzing pleasure

I would imagine that the pleasures derived from games much depends on the kind of game being played, just as it would depend on what kind of book you read or movie you watched. To delve shallowly into theory, just as with other media, the experience between the player and the gamer creates what you might think of as a "cogito" (Georges Poulet), or consciousness, that exists as a result of the interaction, but I regard gaming as a sort of mind-off, blank consciousness that doesn't quite achieve the same kind of cognitive flexing that books, or even movies ask of the participant.

In some ways, video games remind me of sleeping dreams. The sleeper sees it happening, and it is useful to some degree in waking life, but if you sleep too much, you become a prisoner of your dreams.

Game, in the card or board game sense, are constructive for mind-bending, but above and beyond that, they are constructive as a social exercise. They are challenging in multiple ways because the tactics include social structure and interface as well. You can play with others in an on-line game, but they still feel like an electronic being, like a computer entity. Posted by wood0072 at October 21, 2005 8:35 AM