Reflecting on ICA 2008

I just got back from Montreal, where I was attending the International Communication Association 2008 conference. Due to cost and scheduling issues, I wasn’t able stay for as long as I might have liked, but even in the couple days I was there, I got to see some thought-provoking presentations and meet some interesting people. Here are a few things I wanted to make note of before I forget. Find out more information about these panels in the ICA conference program (PDF link).

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Links: A Few Notes During a Moment of Quiet

Things have been busy with non-web writing lately, and are about to get busier, so updates may be sparse (or, I suppose, absent) around here for at least another week or so. Tomorrow I’m headed to Montreal shortly for the International Communication Association 2008 conference, presenting a paper on experimental comics and the concept of visual language. In the meantime, here’s a few links I’m not sure what to do with, but which seemed interesting enough to post.

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Making Games (More) Capable of Storytelling

As you might have guessed from some of my earlier posts, I’m fascinated by storytelling in video games, but I also feel like there are some severe impediments to narrative engagement in the way games are currently designed. I find it useful to criticize what games might be doing that actively screws up narrative engagement, like letting your protagonist die repeatedly, but in a way, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. An even greater issue, I’d argue, is in the range of input and interaction techniques that games offer, effectively pre-determining what kinds of stories get told.

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Locating Aesthetics Between Various Game Appeals

John Rose recently wrote an article for Gamasutra titled “Fewer Mechanics, Better Game,” a look at what makes games not just enjoyable, but objectively identified as good. I found the article thoughtful and interesting. I also (almost) completely disagree with it. It fits neatly into the recent posts I’ve been doing on game narratives, appeals, and play styles, so I thought I’d take a moment to analyze another person’s perspective and explain how our opinions differ.

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The Multiple Appeals of Gaming

In our discussion about what we should call heavily story-oriented games, we got to talking about what the different appeals of video game play may be. I encourage you to go join in that discussion if you haven’t yet, as I’d love your input on what to call “narrative games.” For now, though, I came across an interesting illustration of the different appeals that games have, and I thought it was worth sharing separately.

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Reflecting on PCA/ACA 2008

Last week blogging was a little light as I attended the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association 2008 conference (PDF schedule here). The word “geek” came up way more than I expected, considering that I was presenting on my games research and wasn’t even bringing up geeks there myself.

I thought I’d share some thoughts on a few of the panels and presentations I saw, including the panel I chaired in the Digital Games division. It’s not representative of everything I saw, and sadly, I had to miss several things I wanted to catch, but that’s the way things are at a big conference with lots of interesting stuff going on.

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The Motivations and Problems Behind Geek-Media Activism

You might recall that I wrote a recent post about the oft-heard question of whether geeky media, like comics and video games, would ever “grow up.” In it, I suggested that video games and comics can be promoted as “adult” (or at least “not juvenile”) through concerted creative and marketing efforts. Matt S. has an interesting post up in response which asks a fair question: Why bother? Geek-friendly media clearly have relevance for geeks, and trying to make these products palatable to “high-culture” interests runs the risk of ruining what actually works about them. I started writing a comment for his blog, but it got so long that I figured I should just put it here as another post. (And I might be delayed in replying to comments, as I was delayed in posting this, due to traveling.)

Ultimately, I think we might agree more than we disagree. As I said in the original post, I don’t think all our media has to have high-brow pretensions, and I do think that adults are entitled to media that seek to do no more than to entertain (even in ways that seem juvenile to some). But it is still interesting to discuss whether the motivation to be seen as “legitimate” is even worth it.

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D&D, Pretend, and Geek Culture

The passing of Dungeons & Dragons creator Gary Gygax seems to have sent aftershocks through the internet and news media, and then back out into the world beyond. Every day, I happen upon more stories and examples of people reflecting on the impact that his creation has had on the development of gaming, technology, and geek identity. Of particular interest to me are those who have started musing on where gaming and geeks fit in our world, and how a game based around pretend came to inspire so much.

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More on Death in Games

Dear Bay Area: I’ll be at the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference in San Francisco in a couple weeks, presenting a paper on protagonist death and failure in video games (which I’ve written about in a few posts here). Feel free to let me know if you’d like to grab a cup of coffee and chat about geeky (and/or academic) stuff.

Here are some links about death in games I’ve been saving up for a while. I figure I might as well throw these out for you as I sort through my materials for this paper.

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