computer games

Legends of the Joystick: The post-retirement lives of characters from your favourite games

Nobody plays Frogger anymore. Even less people are likely to play pong. At least you can probably get Frogger on the iPhone… So what happens to the characters from these games when they’re put on the shelf to rot. They get old. And become irrelevant.

Legends of the Joystick takes a trip down memory lane with some conversations with the original stars of the gaming world. Like Frogger, the 2 Pacs, Mario, and the paddles from Pong.

Eight more here.

He built this city for shock and LOLs

This is a cool story. It comes with a video that I haven’t watched (and I’m currently on mobile broadband so won’t until later). Let me apologise in advance if it traumatises you, or contains foul language.

It’s not the main point of this story, or I wouldn’t have posted it…

The link there contains a Q&A with the guy who built this city… oh he built this city…

It took one and a half years:

“During the planning stage of the city I was also busy constructing other large-scale cities, which laid out much of the theory for Magnasanti. New ways of doing things were not yet developed until experiments were done within the game to verify ideas, and notes had to be taken down in conjunction with each new experiment, as well as devising new experiments to find out if there were better ways of solving the problem. Building cities and doing in-game experiments to obtain the results desired takes time. Additionally, I had other things to do, and only worked on it in my spare time, so it was a gradual development, not something I was working on 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

It’s a brilliant piece of social/political/economic art. Here is what life in the city is like for its residents:

“There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle – this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. It’s a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They don’t rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years. 50,000 years to be exact. They are all imprisoned in space and time.”

There’s a whole other world in there…

I’ve never played World of Warcraft. I don’t like craft. But it turns out I had it all wrong. It’s not a craft game – it’s a populace the size of a small (to medium) country with a small to medium economy. I’ve certainly never wasted 30 hours of a week on a game (that’s not Tetris).

My inner “missional” man wants to know how we reach these people with the gospel – do we choose to become a human character named Jesus (in the game) in order to tell people we meet about the real thing.. If every Christian in the world did that this weekend I reckon these current numbers would take a tumble.

The Unbelievable World of Warcraft

On entertaining violence

Craig’s UFC post has opened up a philosophical can of worms. The discussion continued in real life at our Queensland Theological College weekend away with quite a few people seeing the debate in black and white terms based on their personal gut feel. The naysayers don’t see the debate as a matter of conscience, the blood sport apologists don’t see a Biblical problem with the sport, the debate is at an impasse.

For me the debate begs a broader question about violence in entertainment. How many of the anti-UFC types are anti-UFC because it is real and not fictional? That seems to me to be an odd and somewhat arbitrary distinction to make. If the problem is bloodlust then surely the problem arises for those who enjoy violent movies and video games. If I can watch UFC to appreciate the technical side of things (and I watched my first intriguing bout last week – I believe this is possible, like it is possible to enjoy League despite the violent collisions not because of them) and don’t glory in the violence does that appease the anti-bloodlust lobby? Some in the debate say that it is a question of ends and means. If the end is testing to see which martial art is superior, and which fighter is superior – I don’t see how this by necessity equates to the end being violence.

But the begged question remains – can you position yourself against ultimate fighting while also enjoying Fight Club? Can you be for all intents and purposes a pacifist while watching war movies for enjoyment? Can you tell people that their love for mixed martial arts is Biblically unjustifiable while shooting people in a computer game?

I don’t think so. I don’t feel any pangs of remorse about enjoying the Hitman game series – the object is to be a sneaky assassin killing victims with a wide range of weapons. I don’t feel like there’s a distinction between enjoying the violence of Judges (like the story of Ehud) and the violence of whatever David Baldacci novel I’m ploughing through… In this case it would be hypocritical of me to take a stance against those who enjoy a sport that I have not, in the past, enjoyed, simply on the basis of violence. And much of this debate smacks of hypocrisy. I did speak to one Godly brother on the weekend whose aversion to violence (as a conscious conscience based decision) now extends to the war movies he enjoyed in his youth. At that point the issue is surely a conscience thing rather than a Biblically mandated aversion. If you can not, in good conscience, enjoy the spectacle of any of these elements of culture then do no. It’s a pretty easy decision.

All line drawing in these issues – other than being dictated by conscience – seems to be pretty arbitrary (unless it’s clearly spelled out in the Bible). When it comes to computer games where do we draw the line. Is it ok to kill Nazis (Wolfenstein) but not to kill police (when you’re an assassin)? Why is it almost universally ok to chomp on a ghost in Pacman or stomp on a walking mushroom (a goomba) in Mario?

I always feel bad when I kill a civilian in a game (and hope that I always do), and it seems that there’s an ethical line when you kill someone not expecting it as part of their job (in a game that is) – which is why I think the fact that highly trained UFC competitors are involved in the sport of their own volition (as opposed to gladiators in Rome and anyone featured in “bumfights” an online sensation where people make homeless people fight for money).

Here’s a post I just read about how video game developers seek to dehumanise bad guys so that we don’t feel bad about popping them in the head with whatever weapon we have at our disposal. Their tactics include featuring zombies, vampires and nazis as universally recognised bad guys – and if in doubt – masking the antagonist so that you don’t confront their emotions. The writer’s conclusion is this:

I believe that developers have come to realize that, while violence is often a necessary part of the action in many games, most people feel put out at the prospect of ending other peoples’ lives, even digital ones. While there are plenty of games that don’t adhere to the general categories I mentioned, most do. It’s the action and excitement of a scenario that draws us in, death is usually just an unintentional byproduct, but even so some effort is made to separate the gamer from what would be the terrible consequences of their actions. Developers do this because we are, despite what so many political blowhards and half-wit news anchors would have us believe, sensitive to violence in the real world.

I don’t get why as Christians we’re so keen to point the finger at our brothers and sisters to suggest that their enjoyment of a sport is due to some sort of sinful appreciation of unabashed violence. We should give one another the benefit of the doubt on matters like this shouldn’t we? It doesn’t surprise me that the vast majority of people commenting in support of watching UFC have some technical training or appreciation of the sport that they enjoy. These people aren’t the type to get excited about the misapplication of violence outside the context of sport or the pursuit of justice. They just happen to like a sport that is open and honest about the fact that violence is part of the game.

You got game…

If I was asked to reenact a scene from a computer game – any computer game – one of the last options I’d consider would be the bonus level from Street Fighter II where you get to beat up a car.

I’m not this guy. Who is taking things pretty seriously.

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