Thursday, April 29, 2010

Video Games Can Be Art

So, recently, Roger Ebert (whom, to be clear, I adore) once again declared that video games are not art, and CAN NEVER BE!

Which is absurd. Of COURSE games can be art. Everything about Shadow of the Colossus is art, not just the fantastic visuals, not just the story, but even down to the controller itself! But it's clear that Ebert has never played SotC. (This, despite it being mentioned several times in reader responses the first time he brought this up). His initial argument is "Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control." But, games like SotC has its plot on rails; the player has "choices" but really, the player has to move the plot forward. If the player goes off exploring, the game pretty much just waits. Ebert just appears to be completely unfamiliar with the wide range of games and gametypes available (he also appears to believe that ALL games have winners and losers, which has never been true).

He also never played Braid, although he knows enough about it to discounts its possibility as art. Well, I say he knows about it, but clearly his opinion is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the premise. Ebert's entire article was prompted by Kellee Santiago's TED talk (which you can see here). Here is a quote from his piece:
Her next example is a game named "Braid". This is a game "that explores our own relationship with our encounter enemies and collect puzzle pieces, but there's one key can't die." You can go back in time and correct your mistakes. In chess, this is known as taking back a move, and negates the whole discipline of the game. Nor am I persuaded that I can learn about my own past by taking back my mistakes in a video game. She also admires a story told between the games levels, which exhibits prose on the level of a wordy fortune cookie.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Braid doesn't allow you to go back in time and correct your mistakes, it FORCES you to go back in time and correct your mistakes. That's a fundamental part of the game mechanic, arguably the entire POINT of the game. It's not 'taking back a move' and negating the discipline of the game, it IS the game! And his remark about 'wordy fortune cookies' is another indicator that he never played it. Yes, you are given tiny snippets of a story, but the larger story becomes clear as you play. If he HAD played Braid, he would understand that.

So let's talk about Chess (which he also mentioned). Santiago says that Chess isn't art, and can't be art, because it's just a set of rules. No matter how elegant the set of rules, it's not art. Fine. I'm not going to argue that point. So, let's try this thought experiment:

Imagine there is a PLAY about Chess. The actors dress up like the pieces, you can have fights between the white pawn and the red knight, eventually one king is killed and the play is over. You don't see the chessboard itself, the play is just using a Chess theme.

Can that be art? Of course. A play can be art, even if its theme comes from a game.

So, now imagine that towards the end of the play, the white king can send his knight or his queen to fight the red bishop. OK? Both parts are scripted, but it's up to the audience to shout out their preference for that performance. The play has two different endings, depending on the outcome. Everything else about the play is the same.

Can that still be art? I think so. The presence of a choice by the audience does not negate everything else in the play. The audience's choice isn't the art, it's still the writing/acting/etc.

So, now imagine that the audience has a choice twice during the play. Or three times. Or twenty. Everything else is still true, there are scripted scenes for the players to act out. Eventually, the audience could have enough choices to play an entire game of Chess.

Is that still art? Again, I think so. There doesn't come a point where the fact that the audience has choices negates the art in the rest of the play, because the art is NOT about their choices! The art is always about the play, and what is shown to the audience.

It is the same with video games. The art isn't about the player's choices, it's about everything else.

As the Penny Arcade guys said, Ebert's simply a man determined to be on the wrong side of history. And that makes me sad.

Friends with Lauren Hudson

I was on Facebook today, and noticed that I had a friend request from Lauren Hudson (from April 8th, if that gives you an idea of how often I check Facebook. Which is never, actually, I was only on because I noticed a friend request from Ken). So, who is Lauren Hudson?

I'm not sure.

BUT, I saw that I had 15 mutual friends with her. So, I looked at that list, and they were predominantly people from the CEB, or people associated with people from the CEB. Unfortunately, I couldn't see Lauren's full profile unless we were friends. So I accepted a friend request from someone I didn't know (this is the first time I've intentionally done that).

Well, only the single photo (the profile picture), sparse Info (18 year old bisexual interested in friendship, dating, and networking), and that's pretty much it. She has close to 900 friends though. And the messages on her wall...

Justin Abel eracvm,lorjktgopaejlpvjporjktgv,pckpt5ojkvopaetjkoijolgvji,lijghiovj,wrvojirtwoicvj,oij

Drew Scott
Hey hey, we use Earth languages here!
Justin Abel
Is this girl even an earthling?

Justin Abel Kommunikation ist der Schlüssel! who are you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...

Tyson Cox Has Lauren responded to anyone?? I sent her a message but haven't heard back from her..

Timothy Dane Lawrence
no response at all.

Allie Friese Are you a real person?

Isaac Kuula
i second that...

Michael Fuller What up how are you who are you

Justin Abel Ms. Hudson, have we spoke?

Washington Leifi i dont know you.... but hey thanks for the add..... we should get to know eachother.....

Adam Ovenell WHO YOU!

Daniel Pierce

Phillip Rabideau And you are?

Bryan Dunn
I'm smelling a bot.... 600 friends and no other activity...
And (I assume) so on. Most of the wall posts are like that. So, this is the future we live in, where bots pretend to be 18 year old bisexuals in order to gain our friendship. Oh robot, you know me so well.

Does anyone else remember when Facebook was an actually great, functional site? It's a shame that great, functional, helpful sites don't make as much money as spam-filled social crapfests.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

This Concludes Our Broadcast Day

I can't believe I'm still awake at nearly midnight, as I got up around 3am. This is what happens when I get in the groove on the computer and lose all track of time. It's also how my sleep schedule gets all out of whack.

Choices, choices. Get up early tomorrow (and be groggy all day, but have a normal sleeping schedule), OR sleep in (wake up refreshed, but slide my rhythms around until I'm up at night and sleeping in the daytime).



BECAUSE I keep forgetting what it's called, here's a post I can look for later. This morning I was trying to remember what it's called when someone takes an image, and you see a sequence of zooms, usually to a close-up of someone's face. Apparently, that's a Tenso.
The word “tenso” is Portuguese for “tense”. This is a meme that spread through Brazilian blogs and forums in 2009, and consists of an image edited to form a sequence that closes up the frame and emphasizes a “tense” face or situation.
(Thanks, KnowYourMeme!)

This post is what brought it up, and culminated in me making the following Tenso:

I don't get why Donald is so miserable about being in the water.

He's a duck.

Who served in the Navy.
(ILikeBumblebees, same Reddit thread)

(Also, it's frustrating how small Picasa limits linked images now)

The Great White Noise

So, The Passing is still not out for the PC, despite being April 22nd for over 7 hours now. I should be happy that it's going to be free for me, as the XBOX360 version costs cashy money (an edict by Microsoft, because they don't want XBOX customers getting accustomed to getting things for free. Really.), but the XBOX crowd already has theirs. I imagine it can't possibly be more than a few more hours away though, as VALVe employees are scheduled to play games with us commonfolk starting at 11am PDT. So here's another post to past the time.

Let's talk about Tumblr.

I like(d) Tumblr, and you can see a bit from my Tumblr feed there on the left (below the Shared Items). But what I REALLY like(d) about Tumblr is the Popular page.

Don't bother clicking that link, it doesn't go anywhere anymore.

What the Popular page USED TO be was a list of all the popular images/posts that week. Which ones got the most likes/reblogs. It was great, and there was usually tons of highly entertaining stuff I hadn't come across on there.

Well, apparently Tumblr didn't like being a popularity contest, so that feature was recently cut, and with it pretty much my sole reason to use Tumblr. It has been replaced with a way to recommend individual Tumblogs. Well, I don't CARE about Tumblogs. There are TOO MANY of those. I just want the best pictures and posts. I'm not going to follow each recommended Tumblog hoping to run across cool stuff. I don't have that kind of time.

See, the Internet, it's BIG. And it's just FILLED with stuff, most of which is complete crap. That's how things work. But some stuff is awesome, which is why sites like Digg and Reddit are so popular. They go through all that stuff and people pick out the things they like, and if enough people like it, it's highlighted for everyone else to see. That's also how Tumblr's Popular page worked.

But without that filter, without any method to highlight the cool from the crap, the Internet is just white noise.

RIP, Tumblr. I will truly miss you.

Blogger Rollovers

In my recent Magic and Not A Spiral posts, I used mouse rollovers to help illustrate the differences between two images. For anyone else who uses Blogger and wants to know how, here is a handy guide.

First, Blogger doesn't (easily) allow Javascript, so this will be pure CSS. Second, I wanted the rollover code in the post to be as small and repeatable as possible. So, I used Tables (gasp!).

There are two pieces of formatting code.

Piece Number One
This goes in Layout | Edit HTML, somewhere in the CSS layout. If you don't know what the CSS layout is, probably shouldn't be playing around in the HTML. So, this guide is not for you. For everyone else, here's what to paste in:
table.rollover {
border-width: 0px;
border-spacing: 0px;
border-style: none;
table.rollover td {
border-width: 0px;
padding: 0px;
border-style: none;}
table.rollover td img {
border:0px none;
table.rollover:hover img {visibility:hidden;}
What this does is, when you create a table with the "rollover" class, it will hide any image inside the table, which will leave any background image visible. It also removes table and image borders, as my normal layout has those.

Piece Number Two
Now, whenever you want to include a rollover image, all you have to do is use:
<table class="rollover" style="background-image:url(rolloverimage)">
<tr><td height="73"><img src="regularimage" /></td></tr>
Set "rolloverimage" to the url of the image you want displayed when the mouse is over, and "regularimage" to what you want shown normally. (I don't remember why I put height=73 in there, but it works for any size image [except maybe those with height less than 73?]).

Voilà, pure CSS rollovers usable on Blogger. And here are some examples in action, using Calvin re-enacted by seefresh's lovely wife.

Production Values

Good morning, world! I love getting up before the sun, especially that part where I can stalk around my apartment like a cat, seeing everything so clearly in just the ambient light. What I don't like is the fact that I live in Cheney and absolutely no stores are open right now. So I'm going to pass some time on the computer.

First up, how do I UNSEE something? Somewhere along the line, I became aware of fake-consumption in TV shows. People "drink" from empty cups and "eat" with nothing in their mouth. I was reminded of this last night while watching LOST, when Sawyer "ate" an apple, but really it's epidemic. I watch a lot of police-procedurals, where they "drink" a lot of coffee, and it's always so SO obvious! They should start filling those empty cups with water at least, so the actors remember they can't be tossing them around.

The WORST offender was probably White Collar, another police-procedural (and one of my favorite variations, the cop+civilian team [see also: Castle, The Mentalist, Bones, Lie To Me]). There was an episode of White Collar where it was an actual plot point whether or not a glass of wine was poisoned/drugged. So the woman took a "sip". Now, this is with a crystal-clear glass, and we can all SEE that she didn't drink anything! ARGH!

Of course, this is the same show with the set-design so poor that when they close the doors in the office, the entire wall swings precariously (very visible in the first episode). Their solution? For the rest of the season, they never closed the door. And when a scene called for the door to be closed, they would foley a door-closed sound with the door a few inches open. Which we could see. There was even a shot THROUGH the gap at a character outside the office. It's like, it's like the whole THING was a joke! Arglebargle!

Anyway, my point was, good morning.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Not A Spiral

Following up on this article, which was shared in Reader.

I wondered why it seemed to spiral in counter-clockwise. Dan suspected that it was the orientation of the corner diamonds, so I made a second image with the black and white squares reversed, which you can see below (mouse-over the original). Does it reverse the spiral for you?