Don’t Shoot the Puppy

Don't Shoot the Puppy

Don’t Shoot the Puppy is a clever flash game that made me laugh. The instructions are simple: don’t shoot the puppy. Just don’t do it.

games work

The Outfit

The Outfit title image

The Outfit game for Xbox 360 is now in stores.

Last year I had the opportunity to be a small part of the creation process, helping with the motion capture setup and then again later as a production assistant. I saw a copy of the game on Friday and sure enough, my name is in the credits.

About a month ago the developers started posting a blog about the conception and realization of the game; it’s interesting to read the posts from some of the great people that I met in Vancouver.

Of course, I still haven’t actually played the game yet, but the reviews I’ve read so far have been positive.


Binding Keys in Wolfenstein Enemy Territory

Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory Screenshot

Here is a quick tip for binding keystrokes to access features that normally are not available in Wolfenstein Enemy Territory. First off, access the console by hitting the ~ key. Then type /bind <keystroke> [command] where keystroke is the key on your keyboard or mouse that you want to use to activate the command.

The two commands that I learned recently are throwingknife and playdead. The throwingknife command lets you do just that, throw knives at enemy players while playdead lays your character down on the ground and takes a wounded position.

If you have a 5 button mouse you can even bind the throwingknife and playdead command to your back and forward buttons. For example: /bind mouse5 playdead would make you play dead and come back “alive” when you hit the back button.

I realize most of you probably don’t play Wolfenstein Enemy Territory but I get the occasional Googler coming here looking for tips, so I hope this helps. For a complete list of commands try typing cmdlist in the console and then use the “Page Up” and “Page Down” keys to scroll through the list.

education games life

Tuesday Night Video Game Class

Tuesday was the evening of my Video Games class. The semester is winding down and I really need to get working on my final project — not to mention finish up some other somewhat overdue items.

I’ve been asked by some friends what the class is actually about. In it we talk about everything from gameplay and graphics to the cultural and philosophical implications of popular (and sometimes less popular) video games. The professor shows video clips from rare or unusual games and we learn about different genres and how things like setting and ambiance change the mood of a game.

We also talk quite a bit about gender stereotypes, violence, and the way the media portrays video game culture. It’s pretty clear that although there may be statistics out there claiming a lot of girls play video games, there are only two girls in the class and 30 very nerdy boys. (They’re not all nerds, some of us are in there doing research for blog postings). But seriously there are a couple of fairly nerdy guys in that class that drive me insane. Before this semester I wouldn’t have believed it possible to become THAT immersed in video games.

I think the most ironic thing for me is, now that I’m in the class I’ve probably played less video games than I did all summer, and yes playing video games is a requirement. I can’t explain it, but I guess it just goes to show — I’ll do anything to avoid doing homework.


Duck Doom

Check out this mash-up of the classic Duck Hunt with another classic, Doom.

Duck Doom

“The objective is simple. Shoot as many ducks as you can with Doom weapons such as The Super Shotgun, The Chaingun, The Rocket Launcher and The BFG-900!”

Personally I find the regular shotgun to be the most reliable. Total retro awesomeness: Duck Doom.

(via BoingBoing)


Nintendo Revolution

Nintendo has released a teaser video of their new system and wild new controller. Danc from offers a scholarly essay on Nintendo’s genre innovation strategy.

Nintendo Revolution Controller

At first I thought the controller looked ridiculous and thought it would be a tremendous flop, however Danc’s article has made me reconsider. His article doesn’t focus on the new system itself and it is a bit long, but if you’re curious about why Nintendo would invest so heavily in an untested market, it’s worth the read.

I hope we talk about this in my Theory and Aesthetics of Video Games class.


Flash Game

Hey, look who they made a game about.

article games philosophy

An Analysis of "Structural Ambiguity: An Emerging Interactive Aesthetic"

The following is a review paper I wrote last night for my Net.Art Class. A boring read for most, I’m sure, but I wrote it so I might as well get as much milage out of it as possible.

As humanity exited the darkness and despair of the middle ages and entered the renaissance, literature and theatre established themselves as mankind’s primary tools for stimulating critical thinking. A new book or play would tackle subjects with the intent of educating while it entertained. In an effort to increase the influence of these mediums, authors and dramatists alike have been striving to create interactive constructs. Randomized non-linear books however have not been plentiful nor are they generally considered anything more than a gimmick. Choose Your Own Adventure books fall short due to the fact that once a path is read the interactivity remains but the ambiguity, the intriguing nature of the book, is lost. Theatre has more potential to be interactive but it has only been in the last century that society has seen numerous attempts to alter the traditional linear productions. While they are more successful than literature they still fall short of true interactivity due to the fact that for the most part the essential plot structure is unaffected by audience member participation; there is little ambiguity from show to show. Giving the audience full control over a full-length commercial production would be too expensive and too taxing on the actors.

Enter New Media — the medium that possesses a unique capacity for interactivity. It is cheap and accurate. It is the new catalyst to inspire creative thinking all the while entertaining through humankind’s natural desire to discover. Jim Gasperini’s article “Structural Ambiguity: An Emerging Interactive Aesthetic” articulates that computer technology realizes both the ability to convey a dynamic story while at the same time has the potential to maintain replayability through structural ambiguity. He believes that if computer technology does not develop a true interactive aesthetic then it fails to take advantage of the essential power of the medium.

Gasperini explains that there are three levels of ambiguity — two familiar levels and one that is quite new. They are textural, interpretive, and structural. Textural ambiguities are the double meanings we find in prose and text through similes and metaphors. Interpretive ambiguities are those that appear when words emerge as part of a theatrical performance. The same words may be used, but two different renderings of the play may choose to make very different interpretations of the script. The final level is structural ambiguity, which arises from the role the audience or user plays in creating the plot. The two subclasses of structural ambiguity are closed-ended and open-ended. Closed-ended structural ambiguity is found in what Gasperini refers to as “twich” games. Games that depend primarily on learning to perform hand to eye coordination task fall into this category. He also includes the action / adventure genre. By his definition some examples of closed-ended ambiguity style games are Tetris, Castlevania, Super Mario Bros., and The Adventure of Zelda series. Gasperini claims that interactivity is only feigned in these closed-ended structural games and that replayability leaves something to be desired. I have to point out the fact of the matter is these games are classics and are fun to replay — if not so much for ambiguity and mystery than for nostalgia. Open-ended structural ambiguity, on the other hand, comprises works that become more ambiguous the more they are played. The style of game where this is most evident, explains Gasperini, is within the simulations genre. He highlights Sim City and Hidden Agenda as prime examples of games that use open-ended structural ambiguity. It should be noted that Gasperini has a bias because he helped write both Sim City and Hidden Agenda. Personally I wonder if you can find more people still playing the tried and true arcade classics like those I mentioned above over simulation type games like these. I hadn’t even heard of Hidden Agenda before reading this article.

It is Gasperini’s intention to try and define a new genre for these simulation games. He would prefer that because they are different than games with closed-ended structural ambiguity that they not be called games at all. He doesn’t seem to realize that it’s okay to call something he cares about deeply a game. But as he points out himself, even America’s favorite pastime, baseball, is just a game — and many people take it seriously.

Gasperini goes on to extol the strength of the medium. He articulates how the media enables the audience to become the protagonist and how it allows them to gain a greater sense of empathy toward points of view other than their own.

In the end, Gasperini asks a lot of seemingly rhetorical questions and then answers them with very “ambiguous” answers. I’m not sure, but is he striving for a theme? One would expect that in his conclusion we should find something substantial to back up his thesis; instead he ponders deep philosophical questions about the relation between games and quantum physics. He does however get back on track when he admits that the medium is still new and that it will take time for authors to develop stories that make the best use of the tools available.

The article sets out to convince us that if computer technology does not develop a true interactive aesthetic then it fails to take advantage of the essential power of the medium. He isn’t right because given the capitalist nature of our society, rather than choosing the type of game that best takes advantage of the medium it is judicious to let the people designing games to give users what they want; design a game that is fun to play that keeps them coming back for more. Examples of these games mix aspects from both the closed-ended structure and open-ended structure. They sometimes include a compelling single player campaign mode and enthralling multiplayer action. These games range from real-time strategies like Warcraft and Starcraft to first person shooters like Doom and Half-life. On the one hand their single player missions give a narrative that forces the direction the game takes, but on the other hand the multiplayer mode places the user in a situation where anything can happen. Not only do the users choices affect the outcome but also there are a lot more random events that can affect the game-play. This type of interactivity with other players makes the games addictive. So much so that it might just kill you.

Gasperini seems motivated to sell the types of games that he likes and that he has helped produce. While he made some good points about the dynamics of games that use an open-ended structure, he was so focused on that one aspect of the game design that he ignored the fact that there is more to making a good game than having an open structure. Most users want to have their cake and eat it too; they want the comfort of familiar closed-ended structure of campaign mode as well as the more ambiguous nature that the open-ended structure of multiplayer melee bestows.

games Sport

Tribes and Late Meetings

I downloaded the demo for Tribes 2 on the weekend. I am completely addicted to that game. Anyway I played it all day Saturday, and a couple of rounds Sunday morning. Don’t worry though — I’ve decided for my own good to erase it, and hopefully I’ll be able to resist downloading it again.

In other news I am going to Calgary for the weekend for a swim meet. The swim team is having a mandatory meeting this Wednesday at 9pm. It kind of ticks me off that they are always having these 9pm meetings. I mean we see each other at practice and I usually don’t leave the school until after practice ends at 4:30, so to have to come all the way back at 9 just sort of bugs me. I am excited to have another meet so soon though. I hope Gary takes some good pictures too. Maybe there will be an angle where you can get some Calgary swimmer in with me and then publish the picture under the pretense of that Calgary swimmer, but I’ll actually be in the picture too. That’d be sweet.