This cybercultures class is really interesting. Cybercultures sounds like a term used to describe stuff that’s happening in the future, like the cyberpunk world I wrote about last week. Sometimes, you touch on something much closer to home, like interactivity.
Interactivity, on the scale we have it today, hasn’t really existed before. It’s not the best word for what people are describing though. You could always write letters to the editor or phone up and make requests on your favourite radio show, but today, you can tweet out to your favourite YouTube personality (who you’re paying through Patreon) and tell them exactly what you thought of their latest playing of Happy Wheels. And maybe they’ll tweet back!
Interactivity as it’s used today is more about the ease of access people have to their media and it’s producers. And over all it’s a good thing. People have more control and influence over the things that they care about. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re one of 10,000 people trying to get the attention of the celebrity du jour then you’ll likely get ignored or drowned out. The principle is solid, it’s just a matter of breaking the boundary and standing out.
I think the thing that makes today’s interactivity stand out and above the old forms of interactivity is that it’s much more open. Letters to the editor are not only selected behind closed doors, but no one should be reading them except the writer and the selection team. If I leave a comment on a public video, or the appropriate reddit thread, everyone can see it and respond including the author and their staunchest defenders. People communicating in this way should lead to a healthier discussion on pretty much every topic, so long as everyone agrees not to spout their beliefs in a similar manner to a hose.
So in the last class that was undertaken for digital game cultures we all tried to come up with a simple game. A quick mechanic or focus that could become a game and a rough guide on how to present it. Personally, I’m a fan of cookie clickers (which is a sad name for a genre as I prefer progress simulator but this way people know what I’m talking about).
For those that are unware the name cookie clicker comes from a game with the same name in which you click on a cookie to accrue more cookies, which are then spent to gain a way to gain more cookies which are then spent to gain more cookies ad infinitum. It’s one of those things that, psychologically make you feel like you’re making progress when you’re not even close to doing so. There’s also a lot more going on that isn’t immediately obvious but that’s the crux of the game: click to progress.
If I only had 15 minutes to make a game, this is what I would make. I would make a game like this where you click to progress. Since I’m trapped at university for the immediate future I’d use that as a starting point and make the game a metaphor for getting through university. Maybe I’d break it into levels based around each class/exam/assignment/laborious social encounter but that’d be as fancy as it got. The best thing about these games, and this is a little depressing but also a load off my shoulders, is that there isn’t really a victory. There’s no “YOU WIN” screen. You just have to be better than everyone else. I could probably make this.
I should make this…
Seeing as I had such a fun time writing before about the memex I thought I’d continue talking about what people thought of the future. Isn’t it a dark and dreary place…
Sometimes the future is dark and scary
Sometimes it’s green
from the hopefully upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game trailer
Screenshot with appropriate quote from Deus Ex: Human Revolution (and sometimes the future is orange)
All of these worlds are referred to as being cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is the dark and dirty future that technology would have enabled if laws and regulation didn’t catch up to them. Also it’s raining and everyone wears leather trenchcoats. These stories were, and continue to be a sort of almost cautionary tale of the evils of letting technology take over the world. God forbid that happens.
Tomas refers to the people in these types of worlds, inspired by Gibsons writings, as “technophilic”. Peoples lives revolve around, depend upon, aspire to be more technological. But the part that confuses me is that that’s almost where we are today. Okay, we don’t have blades coming out of our arms but we have the worlds information in our pockets. We have smart watches and smart glasses and smart food.
Every day we move closer to the world that is cyberpunk, just with more rules; Hopefully no one will be able to break into my brain and ruin me. I’m just glad that no one is too keen on the silly leather trench coats anymore.
Source: David Tomas. “The Technophilic Body: On Technicity in William Gibson’s Cyborg Culture.” The Cybercultures Reader. Ed. David Bell and Barbara Kennedy. London: Routledge, 2000. 175-89.
Videogames are a weird medium. They aren’t weird because they’re hard to understand, they aren’t weird because now your mum can play them on Facebook. They’re weird because they let you do things that board games can’t.
On a board game, if players moved their pieces at the same time it’d be both almost impossible to physically play and really confusing. The tangle of arms and fingers is just monstrous. You can get around this in video games. Strategy games on a table top have too many little pieces to move easily and quickly but a couple of clicks can send 200 zerglings to victory.
This took far too long and half of it was automized
Racing games are another one where, really, moving pieces have to take turns. This is one where I think board games have an advantage because while it is fun to zip past your friends in Forza and Mario Kart it’s much more exciting to roll the dice and hit sixes to help you stream ahead and leave your “friends” in the dust.
With this in mind we were tasked in class with redesigning a video game as a board game, and if you haven’t guessed which one my group decided to up grade you haven’t been paying attention. Kario Mart is a racing game where you and your friends can fly around our course with shortcuts and weapons everywhere.
Basic version. Black = Start line; Blue = Weapon; Red = Thwop; Yellow = boost
So basically you roll to move your little racer around the map, some spaces have weapon cards you can pick up and use to hinder your competition, some boost you ahead. There are also alternate paths with a risk-reward kind of emphasis. Do you take the short path and risk getting thwomped?
Wouldn’t want to run into this guy <src>
All things considered, this game looked kind of fun to me. The only problem (out side of the obvious copyright claims that Nintendo would do in a heartbeat) is that we haven’t actually play tested it. This is all theory so far. That said, there’s nothing stopping us from re-skinning it and just saying what inspired us.
So in all honesty this should have been up earlier but I’ve been slack and didn’t plan ahead. What I should have done on Monday after my DIGC335 (Cyberculture) class was write about what we did and the readings for that week.
We were looking at the ways that different ages have predicted the future. In 1945 Vannevar Bush wrote As We May Think in which he proposed devices such as the “memex” which acted remarkably like a mix of tumblr and reddit on a giant paperback locked into a desk.
What’s interesting to me is that this device was thought up in the early 20th century but only really came to fruition in the past decade just with more electricity powering the machine and its display. Which leads to the question, do these predictions guide us? The mobile phone was originally displayed to the public as the “communicator” in the television show Star Trek. And it acted like a mobile phone but it still wasn’t the same.
The communicator, just like the memex, was a simple prediction that was functionally similar to the tools we have today. And even then the way that they were presented was as a product of their time. The memex still used sheets! Things were hooked up via cables! It was sized and shaped like a desk.
That last paragraph was typed on glass that detects my finger on a virtual keyboard.
There are some glaring differences but the end result is still quite close. When people predict the future, it is in no way set in stone but writing these things gives them more weight than just an idea. What would be interesting to see is if the people working on advancing technology look for predictions to fill or if they see a need and simply try to fill it.
That’s definitely something too look into.
Alrighty then, been a while so I did this and I might be a bit rusty but here I go…
To all the new people (yes all two of you) welcome to my blog! What started out as something slightly personal that shouldn’t have been public has now transitioned, perhaps poorly, into my ramblings and some assignments related to my uni work studying my Communications and Media degree. To start us off in this new year I’m studying two courses. One titled Cybercultures and the other Digital Game Cultures. Despite my writing practice I don’t think words alone can describe how keen I am to be studying these subjects.
I am far too keen to see the way technology is evolving and will continue to evolve in Cybercultures. Both the technology itself and the way that society adapts around it is fascinating to me as someone who was born slightly too late to fully understand the way the internet changed things. This should be a fun subject.
Digital Game Cultures is, to put it simply, my life outside of university. I play games. I try to play lots of games. If I like a game one of the first things I’ll do is go to reddit to see if other people liked it or appreciated the same aspects that I do. And this subject encourages us to make our own game and our own community. I imagine it’ll be a hectic ride but one that is important to my personal growth as well as my university education.
Like I said, this should be a good university session.