Bogost*s Book: How to Do Things with Video Games

Report
“[W]e can understand the relevance of
a medium by looking at the variety of
things it does” (3).
 “Games . . . shouldn’t be shoehorned
into one of two kinds of uses, serious or
superficial, highbrow or lowbrow, useful
or useless” (5).
 Types, roles, and effects of a medium
 “The medium is the message, but the
message is the message, too” (5).

Given the title of the book and his
description of his aims in creating a media
microecology, he seems less concerned
with how to do things with video games
than what are things video games can do
 He picks 20, though there are surely others.
Are there some we would have liked to see
included/excluded?
 Bogost includes some functions of games
that he doesn’t seem too keen on—are
these rhetorically valuable to include when
creating a media ecology?
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It’s unfair to say games are not art, given that
art doesn’t even know what art is
Art forces us to see things differently, to change
and change us with it (11)
Game Art and art-games: Super Mario Clouds.
“These are games that get exhibited, not
games that get played.”
Ontological question: Is it a game if nobody
can play it? (e.g., Flanagan).
“At a time when videogames focus on
realistically simulating experiences,
proceduralism offers metaphoric treatments of
ideas” (17).
Braid, Passage, The Marriage
 5 common properties: procedural
rhetoric, introspection, abstraction,
subjective representation, strong
authorship
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqtS
KkyJgFM
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n3o
0HFXPfco
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“In writing and cinema, the vignette is often
used to inspire empathy rather than to
advance narrative” (23).
 “The vignette is neither essay nor
documentary. It does not make an
argument, but characterizes an
experience” (23).
 “Feeble characters do not wear shoes
anyone wants to wear” (23). You can’t play
a peasant in WoW. How effective or
compelling can empathy games be?

http://www.darfurisdying.com/
 http://www.gamesforchange.org/play/h
ush/
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxm
gr2fFAuI
 Are there examples of non-empathy
games having moments of empathy?
Bio-Shock? FFVII?

Resistance: Fall of Man
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TFabeI
WffV8
 “[V]ideogames have a unique power to
simulate the experience of this
estrangement [urban warfare] thanks to
their propensity for world building. The first
time the player cowers behind a bus or
encounters a destroyed bathroom, the
reality of war surfaces in a powerful way”
(27).

“The cathedral does not become a
symbol of humanity’s annihilation but of
the Chimera’s total disregard for human
culture and creativity” (29).
 Free or down-time in cathedral after the
Chimera attack is unique within the
game—it creates a sense of reverence
 This section focuses primarily on the one
game. Are there others we can point to
that create the same effect?

“[B]y becoming increasingly familiar with
a song’s structure and form, players
experience the transition from the
technical pedantry of an amateur to the
smooth confidence of an expert” (34).
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX9
Q3P0gqpU
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yz6
MManqikg

We play both music and video games, but
nosotros jugamos juegos [!] y tocamos
musica. Play and game converge, but play
separates in relation to games and music
 Rhythm games feature prominently in this
chapter (it’s how games function as music),
but what about games where music is not
foregrounded, but still essential?
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AJMuj
iJ-UQ
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“Receiving a ticket in Parking Wars isn’t a
prank on the level of spreading dog poo on
the underside of a buddy’s car-door
handle. Rather, the combination of latent,
ongoing play and occasional ‘gotchas’
makes plays in Parking Wars feel like pranks”
(40).
 Don’t most multiplayer games have such
moments? Are we happy with this?
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLrWw
mnt2po
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“Despite popular opinions suggesting that
GTA3 allows a player to ‘do anything,’ it
actually offers precious little freedom of
action . . . Instead, the game offers
freedom of continuous movement” (49).
 Players develop “an intuitive and
continuous relationship with [the game’s]
landscape” (49).
 How many of us still remember how to
navigate games we haven’t played in
years? What’s at work in our traversing
game spaces that makes it so memorable?
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In game product placement (fails?)
 Monopoly Here & Now edition
 “When familiar products and services
find their way into a game world, they
serve as shorthand for its social and
cultural circumstances” (57).
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPJ
pgjfFJpc
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Prediction that in 2008, every candidate would
have their own game “couldn’t have been
more wrong” (58).
“Videogames can synthesize the raw materials
of civic life and help us pose the fundamental
political question, What should be the rules by
which we live?” (61).
Electioneering games can benefit us by shifting
attention from politicking to policy
While games can focus on policy, can they
ever do so at a magnitude of importance?
They seem more an academic, intellectual
curiosity than a legitimate political tool
Advergame, product placement, in-game
advertising
 Burger King used these games as a lure to
draw Xbox owners into its stores to buy a
Value Meal. This and this alone was the
games’ primary goal” (67).
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnh6d2oi1k
 Promogames: “purpose is to promote the
purchase or product or service secondary
or incidental to the game itself” (67-8).
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“Snapshots value ease of capture and personal
value of photographs over artistic or social value”
(71).
Game-maker game, and DIY game tools [we might
add modding?]
“YouTube and Flickr and the like function as social
media because they function first as private media”
(73).
“The snapshot didn’t just popularize photography as
disposable, it also helped greater numbers of
ordinary people appreciate photography as a craft.
A successful game creation platform is one that fulfills
such a role” (76).
SimsCarnival is dead. The Movies is dead.
What are we to make of this?
 How would we define “success” for a
game creation platform? One that
doesn’t die within two years?
 What about machinima? It seems to
function within/as the media ecology of
games
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTU
P7hh9DCI
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“Even though image and sound make
up much of their raw output, touch is an
undeniable factor of gameplay” (80).
 The players captured in Wii Have a
Problem can attest to this
 Haptics, Rumble Pak, Texture
 Recoil of gun, collision, off-road, others?
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwW
Wkgx2Stc
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Thomas Kincaid and Kitsch (overt
sentimentality, overt application of convention,
lack of originality)
Ferry Halim is the Thomas Kincaid of video
games
http://www.ferryhalim.com/orisinal/g2/rainmak
er.htm
Click-management games (Cow Clicker?)
“The idea of complex, multiaction challenge
endemic to games is reduced to clicking the
right object at the right time. It is here that we
see the copying and dilution of convention
typical of kitsch” (86).
“After all, Facebook games like FarmVille
boast tens of millions of players, all
clicking cows and crops to show their
friends, just like they might display
Kincaid cottage paintings or Precious
Moments angel figurines” (88).
 Is this condescending? Given his critique
of click-management games with Cow
Clicker and his quote from the previous
slide, it reads that way
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Lean forward vs. lean back mediums
“Casual games inch closer to Zen because
they’re abstract” (92).
 “Relaxation and reflection arise from
constrained environments in which the
senses are de-emphasized and focused
rather than escalated and expanded” (95).
 Solitaire, Zen-mode Bejeweled, Shenmue
are examples Bogost supplies of relaxing
games
 There are other forms of relaxation than
physical, though, yes? This is limited
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Alternative definition of “casual”:
“[G]ames that players use and toss
aside, one-play stands, serendipitous
encounters never to be seen again” (96).
 How are snapshots (created with gamemaker games) different, then, from
throwaways?
 Casual sex metaphor—wha, wha,
what?! (100)
 Core vs casual debate

http://zidane-headbuttgame.funnypart.com/
 http://www.shockwave.com/gamelandi
ng/airportsecurity.jsp
 http://www.newsgaming.com/games/in
dex12.htm
 How effective can editorial games be
when they aren’t timely?

Custer’s Revenge . . . Facepalm
 Wasn’t comfortable googling RapeLay
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqX
pWJhsuaI&feature=related
 “[P]erhaps one use of videogame porn is
not to titillate at all but to give us a
defamiliarized and uncomfortable
experience of the various logics of
perversion that stimulate other human
beings” (109).
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Reductive, overgeneralized, simplistic
view of exercise
 “We think of exercise as a way to
compensate for increased use of cars,
increased leisure, and greater inactivity
at work” (111).
 Bogost doesn’t believe in blue-collar.
 Sam & her Wii-Sports tennis elbow.
 http://www.pennyarcade.com/comic/2006/11/13

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gh
6hzs_7Kc
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Hz
8gQlkiFA
 Exergames “simulate and create the
social rituals that make us want to be
physically active” (116).
 Wii-fit and chastisement
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Huizinga’s “act apart”
Constative vs Performative speech acts
“Stronger examples of performative
physical interfaces would act on something
more completely, and they would also
have the potential to act on more than just
the player him or herself” (119).
PainStation, Cruel 2 B Kind, World without Oil
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUw9BJ
S06NI
“All the best games are easy to learn and
difficult to master. They should reward the
first quarter and the hundredth” (Bushnell’s
Law, 125).
 “Familiarity is thus the primary property of
the game, not learnability; it’s familiarity
that makes something easy to learn” (127).
 “[H]abituation builds on prior conventions”
(127).
 “Mechanical simplicity is less important than
conceptual familiarity” (128).
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Sublime mastery, tracing the edges of a
game’s beauty: weird, fringe, alienating
 Low skill caps vs high skill caps
 Concept of “catchiness” on 131, as
opposed to addicting
 “[T]he ludic sublime is probably a very
rare terrain” (133).
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“If videogames place us in other people’s
shoes, those shoes are very often combat
boots” (134).
Do we agree with this? True of AAA titles
probably, but the indie scene is growing
Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition: NRA
Gun Club and The Bible Game
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXkKE2gV
4P0
I couldn’t bring myself to link Torture Game 2 or
Manhunt while we had food in front of us.
Torture Game 2 fails for not making us feel.
Drill as tool, as drilling simulation
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg
pzUo_kbFY
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pvd
CFYLf_JI
 Edutainment and its efficacy (or
lackthereof?) with Math Blaster et al.
 Cooking Mama and simulated drill
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“In this book I’ve tried to dig in the dirt of
videogames’ media ecosystem” (147).
 “We don’t need more media ecologists
raising their fists in boosterism or detraction,
painting overly general pictures with broad
brushes. We need more media
entomologists and media archaeologists
overturning rocks and logs to find and
explain the tiny treasures that would
otherwise go unseen” (148).
 Do we feel Bogost has avoided painting
with broad brush-strokes in this book?
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“Media are not democratized; they’re
tamed instead” (148).
 “Domestication is violent and tragic. It strips
the stallion of some of its power and magic
and beauty. But it also allows the cow to be
ranched and milked, the dog to herd the
sheep, and the wheat to be predictably
germinated” (151).
 “The more things games can do, the more
the general public will become accepting
of, and interested in, the medium in
general” (153).

“Soon gamers will be the anomaly. If we’re
very fortunate, they’ll disappear altogether.
Instead we’ll just find people, ordinary
people of all sorts. And sometimes those
people will play videogames. And it won’t
be a big deal, at all” (154).
 Do we like this vision of gamers/games?
How would such a future impact game
studies? Where could the field go if it didn’t
have to legitimize itself all the time?
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