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Games Entertainment

Academic Journal on Computer Games 87

Espen Aarseth writes: "The world's first academic journal on computer games, Game Studies, is now online. With several international conferences and a peer-review journal, 2001 is the year that the academic world finally takes computer and video games seriously."
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Academic Journal on Computer Games

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  • I mean, everything gets analyzed these days, games just never made money in studies before.
    • I wonder if it`ll tell us anything the average game player wont already know. "They are popular because they are fun", that sort of thing. "They engage the player far more than passively watching television". But no doubt they`ll remind us "Some games are better than others". Etc.
      • I wonder if it`ll tell us ...

        Alas, we'll never know, will we ... the truth is hidden behind a hyperlink.

        *sigh*
        • No wait! Whats this? The question:

          Is It Possible to Build Dramatically Compelling Interactive Digital Entertainment
          (in the form, e.g., of computer games)?

          I guess the answer will be printed next month?
          Sort of reminds me of Chris Crawfords `journal of interactive entertainment design`, which printed a monthly list of all that was wrong with computer games, but no ideas to help right those wrongs! That was amusing for about 5 mins too.

          I`m pretty sure most games programmers wont be reading this stuff very much, in the same way that most madonna fans dont read those amusing post-modern deconstructions of her work in high-brow critical theory wank mags.
  • I like game dev for one... very good mag.

    anyone have other favorites?

    subatomic
    http://www.mp3.com/subatomicglue [mp3.com]
  • So we have the philosophical aspect of gaming. Does it make you a bloodthirsty killer or whatnot.
    We have the engineering standpoint. Obviously tons of game specific coding skills.
    Not to mention hardware engineering specifically for games
    We have games as works of art. Character design, texturing, model building...
    Throw in a "phys.ed." class and I think we've got the beginnings of a gaming university.. Can you imagine the kind of revenue and the amount of people to try and attend such a place... Coming soon to an ivy league near you! "Gaming U"
    A really cool place to go to school ...except that it's light on girls.
  • by synapz ( 451870 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @08:46AM (#2120089)

    In my experience, most academics in the field of computer science consider game development to be an waste of computing resources and expertise.

    I had to fight hard to get my university to allow me to develop a PSX game for my final year undergrad project and I was lucky that my supervisor was not an old-school stick-in-the-mud, and was very supportive.

    I ended up with a great mark (80percent) and a lot of decent experience which got me a job in the games industry. A lot of my contemporaries ended up doing 'suggested' projects - i.e. donkey work for lecturers who wanted some kind of utility to make their lives easier.

    I'm pretty anti-academia and I think my main reason for being like that is that I saw these guys (university fellows, doctors, lecturers, or whatever they want to be known as), who really should have known better, acting like they were supreme masters of computing when really the stuff they were doing was stuck in the 70s. Game development is, by necessity, cutting-edge stuff.

    I'm not arguing that there is not room for more 'traditional' computing, but the way these guys dismissed game development, you got the impression they considered it something that was only for people without the intellectual capacity to do something more 'academic'. In reality, the average big-budget game these days requires more combined knowlege and skill, across a multitude of disciplines, than almost any other type of software development.

    Some great developments have come about through videogames. I'm sure you've all heard about how interested the military was in Atari's tank war game, or DID's combat flight sims. I'm sure there are lots of other examples of gaming technology going mainstream a few years down the line

    The bottom-line is that "fun" is very difficult to quantify and it can't be expressed in mathematical notation. Therefore, the thinking goes, it ain't science. Therefore, it ain't academic enough.

    -Sy/\/apZ-

    • I think part of the reason for the attitude you encountered might be that coding games requires (I imagine - I've never done it!) heavily optimised, very specialised code.

      I'm thinking of "hitting the hardware" and writing hacks to get the absolute maximum performance out of the system.

      I could well be wrong in assuming that's how games are written - I suspect the days of hitting the hardware may be gone, but I think that's the way a lot of people view game development.

      That kind of coding goes very much against the grain with academics who learned how to code from K&R and Knuth, teach how to code out of K&R and Knuth, and place great importance on formal methods etc. In scientific disciplines there's a very strong mindset towards following convention, and many people's view of game development is that it is unconventional. For many academics I think it is too easy to equate uncondtional with incorrect.

      As an aside, surely a student will learn so much more from a project they are interested in and engaged by than grinding out a solution to someone else's problem?

      Seems to me that CS courses are wildly out of step with the real world.
      • Writing games for modern hardware does not require the obfuscating (although certainly clever) hacks needed when consumer computing was in its infancy. A modern game engine can be designed in a robust, readable, object-oriented manner and still get outstanding FPS.

        If a student recently wrote a game using the "old school" attitude than I think his professors would be perfectly justified in at voicing dissatisfaction with the students work.

        • On a PC, I agree with you 100percent, but there are still plenty of devices out there which require low-level coding and optimisations to get the required performance if you're doing something cool.

          For example... Nintendo Gameboy (GBA less so, but there's still an argument for using asm for some loops) or Mobile Phones (quite powerful, but a lot of CPU-time is taken up with 'being a phone' code).

          Even something like a dreamcast has a lot of low-level registers and ports for controling the custom chipsets for graphics and audio. Sure, you can code for DC in DirectX, but you can bet your ass that Sega didn't use it for JetSetRadio!

          You're right, though. The age of die-hard low-level hackery is coming to a close and your average game nowadays is written at a reasonably high level of abstraction from the hardware.

          -Sy/\/apZ-

          • Most (PC) game interface code is written with DirectX, yes, and lots of strategy and other games that are not dependent on FPS can be done using nothing but higher-level DX API calls. However, FPS and 1st person games are still done at the low level with lots of C and asm. Example: EverQuest's graphics engine was written mostly in assembly. I happen to know the guy who did it (Howard Dortch), and he's one of the few assembly gurus left in the world. He was hired strictly for tuning the C/C++ code with assembly at critical points. He now works for AMD doing test and tuning code for the Athlon line. - JW
        • ...this is the reason most games today suck? Maybe I am just held in thrall by the power of nostalgia, but it seems to me that games done by comittee and with 'project managers' and the rest of business infrastructure around them do not seem as exciting or as well built, as when they were done by a few with vision.

          Maybe, (and maybe I'm just talking out my ass), the shift to the 'proper' way to program in games has helped the increasing crapiness of modern games.

          • There has not been a shift to the "proper" way of programming! What's causing the flood of crappy games are the entertainment conglomerates driving programmers to work 18 days every day of every week, paying well less than tech sector average wages, and sacking teams after every game.

            Games today will be more complicated and more graphics-oriented than in the past. It's what the market dictages. But by taking advantage of software engineering practices, even lightweight ones like XP, programmers will find that its easier to develop robust, extensible, maintainable engines -- they can then spend more time working on the gameplay issues instead of constant rework on the graphics engine or squashing bizarre, intermitant bugs.

    • Ken Perlin's work at NYU is an excellent (and unfortunately unusual) example of how extremely practical academic research can contribute to computer games (and many of other fields).

      Most other academics are not as focused on such pragmatic applications of their research, but Ken Perlin serves as a great example for others to emulate. The guy has great ideas, and can really program!

      http://www.kenperlin.com/

      http://mrl.nyu.edu/~perlin/

      http://www.lushcreations.tv/Movies/KenPerlinStream ing.mov

      This is the audio of Ken Perlin's talk at the Game Developer's conference, about character animation, noise, and applications to computer gaming. His answer at the end of the talk to the question from a clueless audience member about "how does this apply to computer gaming" is hillarious (but to really appreciate it, you have to understand that he's a New Yorker giving a talk in California).

      -Don

      • It's hard to get this bug report through the lamness filter, but here goes another try.

        Oops, somehow a space crept into that url, and I though it was just bad kerning. Here's the correct URL of Ken Perlin's talk, on my streaming QuickTime server.

        http://www.lushcreations.tv/Movies/KenPerlinStream ing.mov

        No, the space is back, and I am sure I didn't type it this time! So if you want to listen to the talk, please remove the space yourself, because I can't.

        This looks like a bug in Explorer or Slashdot. Watch this line of 60 x's:

        xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxx

        It displays as 50 dashes, a space, and 10 more dashes. And that's the text I select in the comment preview. But in the comment editor textarea, the space isn't there, even after hitting preview.

        This slashdot text area goes: <TEXTAREA WRAP="VIRTUAL" NAME="postercomment" ROWS="10" COLS="50">

        What in tarnation is WRAP="VIRTUAL"? I tried to reproduce the problem by using the same html with Zope, and it doesn't have that behavior. Maybe it's a slashdot, Perl, Internet Explorer, or some combination. Sorry! Does anybody else get their long words chopped after 50 characters?

        -Don

        • That's strange. I suspect it has something to do with slashdot's (misguided) attempts to improve the signal to noise ratio.

          There's no subsitute for moderation, that's for sure.

    • First off, I'd like to point out that an inferior solution doesn't mean the current one isn't ass.

      The fun factor. That term "game journalists" coined to qualify the fact that some games are fun, even addicting, while some don't warrant another look. Its a start, but a horribly shoddy one. Rather than deconstruct the gameplay involved into what works and what doesn't, we get a number, from one to ten, telling us how fun everybody must think it is. Of course, this is far from the truth, or everybody would be busy playing masterpieces like Might and Magic 4, or Jumping Flash! The reality is that different games appeal differently to different people. The tendancy is to like games you're good at, and not like games you're bad at. I think a good start would be to look at why games are played. Zoologists tell you animals play games as practice for the real hunt. Your roommate says you play games to evade the fact that you have no life. Your thirteen year old brother loves games because theres lots of blood everywhere.

      Its psychological [gamecabinet.com]. Game playing is fundamentally a developmental activity. Whether physically, socially or mentally, we seek to improve ourselves. I think the most valid analysis of game design will come from the field of developmental psychology. Ender's Game is a popular book, especially among gamers and game developers. Not for the "suprise" ending, nor the campy sci-fi atmosphere, but because of how psychological the novel is. Every moment is accomanied by what Ender is thinking. Good designers need to understand psychology. Which is why its hard to find good designers, and subsequently, good games. Great console designers have something similar to focus groups. Miyamato frequently watches player test groups to see what parts of his games players enjoy and which they don't. That doesn't mean taking out the ones that don't, just ensuring that the parts they don't like (aka dying ) were the expected parts. Much like if nobody laughs at a joke in a test screening in a theater, if players get frustrated with a game's controls, its a problem that needs to be addressed.

      Single-player games are an oddity in a few ways. Like television, Single Player games have only come to popularity as of late. Players still seek to play for social connection, but now with the game, rather than other players. This is similar to television, where a person (or ironically, a group of persons) watch for a social need. This is where Operant Conditioning (the reward/punishment deal, I hope I got that right) can really shine. The most addictive games tend to be the ones that reward players just right. Enough to keep playing but not enough to make the rewards pointless. And occasionally even punishing the player. Consider Tetris. Commonly agreed as the most addictive game ever, the game uses many reward schemes to encourage the player, and any mistakes made are only indirectly punishing (no lines cleared, and another line closer to death).

      Obviously my comments are superficial and barely scratching the surface of how psychology can unearth the plague of the Fun Factor.

  • Some thoughts... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gingko ( 195226 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @09:09AM (#2131464)
    Game Institute [gameinstitute.com] offers courses (non-trivial ones at that) for the aspiring game maker. They look pretty good, and I've heard good things about them, but I haven't done one myself.

    The thing about game development is that is rapidly turning into its own kind of engineering. Large projects neccesitate good engineering practice. However, there is reputedly still remarkable reluctance on the part of developers to adopt coding practices that have been the norm in other development fields for some time (the adoption of C++ for one, but I realise that can start a flame war, so don't).

    I don't think it's reasonable to say that game development is an academic discipline - a reasonable acid test is whether there is active research in game development. There's loads in graphics and visualisation, probably a bundle in audio techniques, and a lot of AI... but these are all ends in themselves, rather than explicitly contributory research to the field. Most implementations of research techniques are very heavily tailored due to the contraints placed upon the games developers by technology.

    That's not to say that game-development doesn't take skill - clearly there are some incredibly bright people working in the field. It certainly warrants its own journal. Maybe we'll see some standardisation bodies :)

    Henry
  • Missing something... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ChristianBaekkelund ( 99069 ) <draco.mit@edu> on Friday August 03, 2001 @08:51AM (#2133634) Homepage
    As someone who actually does some amount of game studies in my actual academic studies, I feel that some of the posts here so far are missing an important feature...

    People have stated that games are "science"...and that they are "feats of engineering"...but, what's missed is that to a large degree they are also works of "art" and as a whole comprise an artistic medium. There are journals analyzing film-work, television, music and such from a cultural, social, and/or humanistic academic standpoint. It was important for this distinction (in both ways) to happen with respect to gaming as well...

    • Art is a very subjective thing (disclaimer)

      But usually one would note the difference between artwork and popular culture/entertainment. For instance, although the talent level is often of the same level, most people will differentiate between comic books and "gallery" art. Same thing with novels. Most people would like to seperate Tom Clancy from Ernest Hemmingway.

      Computer games require alot of talent to create in every facet, from the story of Myst to q2dm1, but still remain an elaborated fantasy for the purpose of entertainment.

      Unfortunately the area between art and entertainment is often hazy because viewing and interpreting art is considered entertainment. Perhaps the best distinction for me between art and entertainment is the goal. Does a computer game intend to comment or question life/humanity/etc? Or does it seek to entertain?
      • I would say.... (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Vermifax ( 3687 )
        That the people making these distinctions between art and entertainment are putting up paper thin walls of distinction. Not only that put the paper walls are transparent to anyone who looks too hard.

        Art has always been for entertainment. Its just that most people don't see thinking as entertainment anymore and so we get art that you don't have to think about.

      • I think Black and White achieves many of the lofty nobel goals of Art. The design was not as corrupted by outside pressures as most other games are, and they took as long as was required to finish it properly, instead of shipping it before it was done. But most games don't have those advantages, and their quality as Art suffers. I mean the quality of the game as a single coherent piece of art -- how it all fits together as a design, distinct from the quality of the individual pieces of artwork (2d bitmaps, 3d meshes, animation, sound, text and storyline) that comprise the game.

        -Don

    • I agree with you almost completely. I have come to the conclusion that programming is not art, it is craftmenship. Video games are the fusion of art and craftsmenship, such as web pages sometimes are, although video games, or interactive entertainment of other kinds take it to much higher levels. (If its not entertainment, it doesn't need to contain art, so interactivity alone does not necessarily mean a combonation of art and craftsmenship). I think there should be a word for a the intersection of a tool and artwork, but I can't think of one right now.
    • Yes I completely agree, this journal is not about the scinec of creating a game it is about the discussion of its cultural and artistic merits. It is similar to something like discussing the way a building is built, as contrasted with discussing the aesthetic beauty of the building.
      They are discussing the way the game plays and looks, not the way that it was made. For most of the cultural studies work on gaming, the actual things that make up the game really aren't that important. As another analogy, it is similar to discussing the cultural impact of a classic car, a '57 chevy for example, the way that the car was made is not of the utmost importance for the discussion of its cultural impact of beauty. This si what they are trying to do with gaming.
  • 2001 is the year that the academic world finally takes computer and video games seriously.

    Hmm, that's a bit harsh. Although games have never had a scientific conference or a peer-reviewed journal of their own, they have had their place in many journals and conferences for quite a while now. A few among the many: SIGGRAPH [siggraph.org], which sponsors many conferences including of course SIGGRAPH 2001 [siggraph.org], GI [graphicsinterface.org] the Canadian conference which often focuses on interactive rendering and animation, Eurographics [eg.org], which sponsors many publications, journals, and conferences on rendering and animation, etc, etc. Gaming is one of the stronger motivations of all this research, and they do talk about other aspects of gaming. For instance SIGGRAPH had a course on game AI for at least the past 2 years, and often presents articles on 3D sound.

    Just seems slightly sensationalistic to claim that the field has been ignored by the academia while it has been a driving force of so much research for at least 5 years, perhaps 10.

    -- Eric Plante,
    M.Sc. in CompSci on hair dynamics,
    University of Montreal, 1999.

  • The exact academic value of this is still in my mind doubtful.

    There is nothing here that hasn't been covered (in less detail but covered none the less) in various computer magazines.

    Do any of the writers have a degree in gaming?(http://www.hotecho.org/hotecho/archive/se2 7/sch-uni/sch-uni.html)
    • the problem, of course, is that there are no higher degrees in gaming, there are at best degrees in related fields. Prof. Aarseth is widely known for working on establishing an academic discipline from which people could get graduate degrees in computer games.
    • Ummm... how exactly would you define academic value anyway?

      Academic pursuit is a kind of game in itself and it has its own set of rules. Even if there really isn't anything there that hasn't been covered in computer magazines it doesn't matter - it hasn't been done in an "academic, peer reviewed journal" - and that's part of the rules of the game.

      Another very important rule is "let's all pretend twe are not playing a game".

  • by hillct ( 230132 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @08:27AM (#2137711) Homepage Journal
    It's about time this happened. Computer game programming has evolved since it's inception from an amusement of a few engineers, to a legitimate commercial enterprise, to a force in the marketplace and finally to an area of academic research.

    In fairness for those who look on this with skepticism, the computer gaming industry integrates a variety of areas of research which together can be applied to computer gaming, buy are legitimate areas of study seperately: Mathmatical modeling, Graphic Arts, a whole variety of areas around AI research from the 70s, and the study of sociology, in attempts to create acccurate simulations of human responses. Aparently, all we really needed was some motivation to study these areas, and the pursuit of entertainment is just such a motivator.

    --CTH
    • fairness for those who look on this with skepticism, the computer gaming industry integrates a variety of areas of research which together can be applied to computer gaming, buy are legitimate areas of study seperately: Mathmatical modeling, Graphic Arts, a whole variety of areas around AI research from the 70s, and the study of sociology, in attempts to create acccurate simulations of human responses. Aparently, all we really needed was some motivation to study these areas, and the pursuit of entertainment is just such a motivator.

      You're right, and studies of many game-driven (or at least game-related) computer science topics already are fairly common at academic conferences and meetings. I've sat through uncountable presentations on 3D-modeling, polygon reduction, texture mapping, landscape generation, networked real-time simulations, etc., in which the author(s) made it clear that computer games were one of the primary motivations for the study.

      Then again, it cuts both ways---a lot of the technology available for Real Work[tm] was driven by games. A lot of the nice engineering design and visualization packages only started becoming useful on PC platforms after 3D accelerated hardware for the PC started becoming affordable---and we all know that PC 3D video performance is driven by gaming requirements. Also, many games have gotten use as more serious software---flight simulators being used in real pilot training, for example.

      The possibilities of increased academic interest in gaming are interesting, because making a really good game requires a lot of useful investigation: user interface design, efficient graphics manipulation, improved realistic rendering, etc.

      • My background is in user interface research, but I've been frustrated by the industry's lack of acceptance for new ideas. One reason I got into gaming was that it's an excellent way to get new user interface techniques out there where people can use and get used to them.

        Most applications are built with standard gui toolkits, and innovation is not a design goal, so they use inefficient but traditional linear menus instead of faster but non-standard pie menus. But immersive games practically require innovative user interface design. So techniques like pie menus that have been around for a long time, but never widely used, are finally showing up in games. Only after pie menus are commonly used in games, will they find their way into the so-called "standard" user interface toolkits.

        I designed and implemented the pie menus in The Sims, but they're hard coded, special purpose, and not reusable. But since then, I've implemented a free reusable general-purpose pie menu component, in JavaScript. It requires Internet Explorer 5.5, since it's implemented as a Dynamic HTML Behavior plug-in. Pie menus are specified in XML and rendered in Dynamic HTML, so they can exploit the full capabilities of web browser, and integrate easily with other technologies.

        http://www.piemenu.com

        I'm sorry that Netscape/Mozilla doesn't support the technologies necessary to run my JavaScript implementation of pie menus. I hope that instead of mindlessly complaining about Microsoft, somebody will take it as a challenge to enhance Mozilla to support XML data islands, generic scripting engines (so you can write scripts in any plug-in language, that can call each other and pass objects and data back and forth), full Dynamic HTML, style sheets, XML DOM and XSL support (just follow the standards like Microsoft did), as well as plug-in Dynamic HTML Behavior components (so you can easily implement your own intelligent reusable plug-in components in any scripting language).

        Back to the topic of using games as a virus for innovation: I've written a simple little free game called "Fasteroids", whose user interface incorporates both pie menus and linear menus. (Pie menus have an option that makes them lay down and act like linear menus, so it's easy to compare them fairly.)

        But actually, the game is really a candy-coated distributed user interface evaluation experiment, that empirically compares your selection times and error rates of pie menus versus linear menus. It shows you the resulting statistics, so you can judge for yourself how fast and reliable pie menus are for you. No need to take my word on it: you can find out for yourself exactly how much faster they are. And there's a button to report the results back to my server if you like, to share the statistics for use in a study.

        http://www.piemenu.com/fasteroids.html

        Please tell me if you have any problems with the software (as long as you're running the latest version of IE5.5 on Windows, otherwise I know it doesn't work.) I hope this will convince other people to use pie menus in their own toolkits, games and applications.

        -Don

        • I agree that games tend to be on the forefront of UI, even more so than you're probably aware (Secret of Mana and Ring Menus). The largest problem with menus and mice is how inefficient they are. Consider a menu manipulated by a "joypad" or arrow keys comapred to a clickdown menu operated by a mouse, or even a Pie Menu. I think an interesting study would be to compare differant menus, but also to compare the results with a keyboard vs results with a mouse. The real problem here is that games need mice. Games that use the keyboard are usually that more complex, requiring you to press a button to move, press a differant one to pick something up, another to use it, etc. On the other hand, can be good for integrating the UI.

          In the end I guess its a tradeoff. Console games like FF have mastered the keyboard/joypad interface and are faster, but the integrated UI style of the mouse is rather useful for a game design. All in all, Pie Menus are quickly becoming another tool in the belt to bring mice closer to the joypad interface.

      • I think that quite a few posts on this topic are missing what I percieve to be the point, and significance, of Game Studies. It's a corss-disciplinary journal on what many people percieve to be a technical topic -- computer games. But it's a humanities journal. (Some folks may be disappointed by that fact, but I think that's the context in which editor Espen Aarseth was writing the passage that was posted to Slashdot.)

        kaszeta wrote:

        You're right, and studies of many game-driven (or at least game-related) computer science topics already are fairly common at academic conferences and meetings.

        True, but conference papers aren't nearly as valuable to the professional career of the academic. Since few humanities academics work at well-funded research centers (or at any kind of research center at all), few humanities academics can afford to attend the kind of big conferences in which the proceedings are all published (thus providing all the speakers with a "publication").

        I've sat through uncountable presentations on 3D-modeling, polygon reduction, texture mapping, landscape generation, networked real-time simulations, etc., in which the author(s) made it clear that computer games were one of the primary motivations for the study.

        Okay... but consider the mission statement from the Game Studies [gamestudies.org] home page:

        "Our primary focus is aesthetic, cultural and communicative aspects of computer games. Our mission - To explore the rich cultural genre of games; to give scholars a peer-reviewed forum for their ideas and theories; to provide an academic channel for the ongoing discussions on games and gaming."
        While some people may question the value of the existence of the humanities in the first place (that's an argument for another day), I think the real value of the journal Game Studies is its intention to legitimize the study of this particular cultural activity, which hasn't yet been taken seriously by mainstream society (beyond the same old same-old about violence and obsession).

        Articles on computer games do get published from time to time in mainstream humanities journals such as Computers and Composition or any of the journals that focus on postmodern cultural studies, but it's true that many of them do tend to fixate on those aspects of computer gaming that support independetly existing postmodern theories, or else they look at the gaming culture as an isolated subgroup, the way an anthropologist would. Of course there are probably scores or hundreds of exceptions to the sweeping generalization I just made, but many humanities folks still think that clicking on a hyperlink is somehow more interactive than turning to page 24 of a Choose-Your-Own Adventure novel; Aarseth's book Cybertext argues strongly for the notion that hypertext fiction is not the only kind of cybertext. This is likely not news for the Slashdot crowd, of course, but professors in departments outside of CS and AI programs need to hear it.

        Perhaps some of the articles in this first issue show the literary lens through which humanities folks look at computer gaming activity... but I think it's wonderful to see a journal that intends to focus on the cultural and aesthetic aspects of computer games.

        Speaking more generally, and not directly in response to kaszeta, I would say that to express disappointment with Game Studies simply because it does not look like a promising place to swap AI algorithms and Quake mods is, I think, to miss the point.

        Dennis G. Jerz
        Department of English
        University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
        Literacy Weblog [uwec.edu]
        Interactive Fiction Call for Papers [uwec.edu]

  • The winner of the best paper at the AAAI conference was on AI used to play a board game. So yes, it is taken fairly seriously by existing organizations, but it is good to see more focus on this. (Gamasutra.com has some good research-level information on techniques as well.)
  • The American Association for Artificial Intelligence [aaai.org] AI Magazine Summer 2001 has a paper by John E Laird and Michael van Lent "Human-Level AI's Killer Application - Interactive Computer Games". The title says it all (and I don't want to get in trouble quoting bits of it).

  • My Thesis! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Root Down ( 208740 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @08:10AM (#2147486) Homepage
    Now I can go to my review board with some credibility on Quake mods as a viable master's thesis!

    Root DOWN
    grep what -i sed?
    • Re:My Thesis! (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What, and give up the one you were going to do on the virtual societies of MUDs?
    • PCU (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      That's the beauty of college these days. You can major in GameBoy if you know how to bullshit!
      • It's all well and good until after graduation when you find yourself majoring in deep fat fryer.

        • Strange as it may sound, university isn't what makes you good at a job. Some companies hire people strictly on that basis, but you wouldn't want to work for them anyway, not if you wanted to enjoy your work.
          None of our programmers consider their university years to be of any use. What they learned to get here, they learned on their own. The slip of paper was handy, but then when they found the job they wanted, it was on their abilities that they were chosen. Not some sheepskin with printing on it. Which is good, cuz I'm a 4 (yes FOUR) time college dropout :)
          Let's hear it for equitable hiring practices!
          • Re:PCU (Score:1, Insightful)

            by NonSequor ( 230139 )
            That's partly because the idea of a well-rounded education is very nearly dead. At my school anything not related to engineering or computer science is considered unimportant. As such, it is possible for people who are barely literate to graduate.

            I'm majoring in discrete math (I don't want to do anything with computers, because CS majors are morons). Because I am not doing something practical, people think I'm strange. Also, I would like a degree in philosophy, but the closest thing is a degree in philosophy of science and technology which sounds pretty worthless to me.

            The original purpose of college was to teach you a wide variety of things, not just to prepare you for work, but because it makes you a better person.

            Oh, and my proof that CS majors are morons is pretty simple. They think that Snow Crash is a good book.

    • Sort of like what I am already doing? My masters thesis is on first-person shooters and gaming subculture. Check my stuff out here. [geocities.com]
  • Well this is what i get for procrastination... I had thought of starting a similar site - however I kept finding myself playing the games rather than writing about them.

    I am thinking of starting a 'Gaming School' type of site - nothing fancy, mostly some tutorials, nice graphics for different examples etc... even a monthly comic. Who knows - it's still in the works, but it's something I think I could enjoy and maybe bring some shiny happiness to someone elses life.... *pffftt* I think I'll do this one for me. ^_^;
  • Games are a science (Score:3, Interesting)

    by steveo777 ( 183629 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @08:23AM (#2147614) Homepage Journal
    Tons of time and resources are devoted to all sorts of games. Algorithms are researched and revised constantly in order to make them more efficient. I'd have to say that even though the "high-society" may not enjoy reading about the latest Sims expantion, I still think that there is quite a bit to be learned from the people that code them.
  • I think this is a good opportunity for the enhancement of video games. For my senior project in college, I made a "human frogger" where a person moved around a room, tracked by digital cameras, and had to interact with enemies on a big TV screen (all done in Visual C.) This was a challenge for me because it not only had to be a smooth running game but it also had to interact in real time with massive amounts of input from the cameras. Anyway my point is that it would have been nice to have such a forum/journal as this to look to for advice, or maybe even contribute my final results to. I hope this journal results in better gaming for everyone.
  • We've only had professional game developers for at least 10+ years :)

    It reminds of the Journal of MUD Research now Journal of Virtual Environments ( http://www.pennmush.org/~jomr/ [pennmush.org] )

    Maybe we'll see more well written articles like the clasic Bartle's "HEARTS, CLUBS, DIAMONDS, SPADES: PLAYERS WHO SUIT MUDS" [pennmush.org] ( http://www.pennmush.org/~jomr/v1n1/bartle.html )

    Of course we've had Gamasutra hosting articles by Ernest Adams.
    i.e. http://www.gamasutra.com/features/20010521/adams_0 1.htm [gamasutra.com]

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday August 03, 2001 @01:37PM (#2158742) Homepage
    I'm not impressed with Issue I. "The Case of Narrative in Digital Media" indicates a complete lack of familarity with the issues of game design. The place of narrative in game design is widely discussed in the developer community, and is examined in detail at the Game Developer's Conference every year. There's a basic tension in modern game design between world-building and narrative. Managing that balance is hard, and it's a recognized problem. The author of that journal article didn't know that.

    A game is a place that you go or a thing that you do, not a story you listen to. Game designers who ignore this (usually ones stuck doing a game related to some Hollywood property) produce games that lock the player onto a story track. Such games get lousy reviews, and are only played a few times.

    On the other hand, the game designer can easily create a world in which life is nasty, brutish, and short. That doesn't, of itself, make it interesting, although plotless pure first-person shooters do have a substantial market. There's a temptation to add a plot or backstory to give the game depth. But the two are hard to mix. The usual options are to lock the user into a series of challenges to be faced in order, or to build an adventure game with free movement but a finite set of puzzles. Getting beyond those models is a hot topic among game designers.

    The author of the journal article was, clearly, totally unaware of these issue. So they were thus unqualified to write that paper.

    But at least they didn't quote Derrida.

  • The subject of my post is not the concept of a scholarly journal devoted to computer games--I think it's a great idea. What I want to criticize is this implementation of the idea.

    I read several of the papers on the web site, and was very unimpressed. They're about on the level of /. Articles: one person's opinion of some aspect of games. It's possible that my problem with it is that I don't know filmspeak or whatever jargon they're using, but I don't see the point in some of them, and the theses that I can find seem to be obviously false if you've actually played a lot of games.

    One article lauds The Sims and bashes fantasy games because The Sims is about people and fantasy games are not (so the author says). It's nonsense to say that no fantasy games are about people. Planescape: Torment, for example, raises issues of mortality, ethics, and identity.

    Another article claims that no dramatically compelling games have yet been written. It never explicitly defines dramatically compelling, but says that no games "offer captivating narrative". Considering that I know people (and have been one) who sometimes watch people play some games (Final Fantasy, Baldur's Gate II, Fallout, Zork: Nemesis, just to name a few) for the purpose of seeing how the plot (or narrative) will unfold, I'd say this proposition is clearly false.

    I would like to see a high-quality academic journal about games, because I think there's a lot more to them than they are given credit for. Unforutnately, this publication isn't it.

  • Hosted in Norway? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by MOMOCROME ( 207697 ) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (emorcomom)> on Friday August 03, 2001 @06:54PM (#2160426)
    I think this is a strange place to host the 'academic' face of the videogame industry. Norway has not been known for their great VGI culture, nor their profusion of products. Perhaps this is their way of breaking into the field? Or is the site mearly hosted in .NO and run by established members of the industry?

    In any event, as a professional game designer, I am not amused by the hoity-toity leap to exclusive peer review journals cluttering up the landscape. It seems the best games come from the underground, the fresh blood seems to come out of the garage. Well, the current culture of academic arrogance has killed any chance of a new Thomas Edison appearing on the Science and Technology horizon, and I'd hate to see the trend develop for video games. Or we may never see the next John Carmack!

I am here by the will of the people and I won't leave until I get my raincoat back. - a slogan of the anarchists in Richard Kadrey's "Metrophage"

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