Posts Tagged ‘ video games ’

Skyrim- it’s fun because it’s shaggy

I know, I know. I’ve been completely remiss in updating this blog. It’s not that I haven’t had content to add, but that I’ve been too busy to take the time to write it. I hope to catch up on that after the Christmas break, once the burden and expectations of coursework have abated, and my only priorities will be thesis research and whatever projects tickle my fancy (believe me, there are more than a few just waiting in the wings).

In addition to being super-busy with thesis prep and coursework, most of my at-home free time has been dominated by video games. For the directed study I’d planned this term, I played through both Dragon Ages; then some content analysis coding related to Mass Effect came up in my research methods course, and I just couldn’t help myself. And more recently, Skyrim, the most recent installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise was released, and I find myself well and truly addicted.

There are several things about Skyrim that set it apart from other games, but the most important quality is the high level of freedom given the gamer to explore the gameworld. Not all the rules are obvious; it often seems more like a simulation game than an RPG. And in a world as big as Skyrim, this can lead to unexpected results. The AV Club’s review of the game puts it best in the following excerpt:

The soul of Skyrim isn’t in these meticulous improvements, but in its shaggier side. Not every aspect of this world lines up perfectly. You might be anointed by an ancient priesthood as the greatest warrior in all the land, only to walk 10 yards down the road and get slaughtered by a stray bear. Incongruities like this arise all the time—characters behave weirdly, and quests veer off-script. It isn’t just about bugs, although there are some of those. These eccentricities are the result of an extremely detailed organic world acting out in unexpected ways.

Skyrim lets these rough edges show, because the element of chaos lets players feel like the game is happening to them, and they are alive in it—not just cogs in a pre-fab Game Experience. That’s what sets Skyrim apart from some of its contemporaries. Where many games with lavish production values seek to direct players’ imaginations, Skyrim seeks to ignite them.

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New term, new posts

So it’s that time of year again. The start of the new term means new courses, new projects, and new posts on the blog.

A description of what to expect:

After wrapping up my study of social media use at the reference desk at Grant MacEwan University, I’ll be conducting a similar study with librarians at the University of Alberta. This project represents roughly a third of the work I’ll be completing over the next few months, as well as a significant chunk of the research I intend to use for my thesis. This study, ostensibly, is framed within an LIS course entitled “Advanced Research Methods”, where (mainly) thesis students in the program form a support group to get through the early phases of their thesis research. I’m actually pretty excited about this project, particularly since I’m going into it with findings from my summer study. I expect to post one or two updates over the course of the term, at the least.

I’ll also be taking a course on Reference Services. Not sure if that’ll actually make it on the blog in any form, but it’s worth mentioning insofar as it’s something I’ll be preoccupied with.

The course I’m most anticipating, and that will definitely be featured in most of this Fall’s blog posts, is a directed reading called “Video Game Criticism”. For this, in addition to a ton of self-assigned readings, I’ll be playing Dragon Age 2 and subsequently writing a critical analysis of the game. The basis for this course– unlike most video game courses, which tend to be focused on design and production– is summarized by Ian Bogost in his introduction to Unit Operations:

…similar principles underlie both contemporary literary analysis and computation. I will use this commonality to analyze a field of discursive production that has yet to bind an authoratative place in either world– videogames. […]A practical marriage of literary theory and computation would not only give each field proper respect and attention from its counterpart, but also create a useful framework for the interrogation of cultural artifacts that straddle these fields.

In other words, I’m interested in developing a model or framework for studying video games that is analogous to how we perform literary criticism. As both an English student and a video game enthusiast (not to mention a digital humanist), the most urgent question is why I haven’t thought of doing a directed reading like this before.

Chief component of the directed reading– like last Winter’s directed study in social media and Knowledge Management– is to maintain journal entries (read: blog posts) about my progress in and thoughts of the game, and my synthesis of related readings about game design and theory.

In addition to the more formal journal entries (or “response papers”), I would like to start using this as a personal blog once more. I plan on at least making the attempt; in the past I’ve never been able to consistently keep that sort of thing up.

On a final note, a former professor of mine emailed me a link to this blog post about defining the digital humanities. Imagine my surprise in discovering that my own definition of DH, supplied for 2011’s Day of Digital Humanities, was prominently cited. As a mere graduate student, I feel sheepish about “eschewing disciplinary rigor”, adroitly or not (who am I to fight convention, after all?), but proud all the same that I apparently managed to “capture the spirit” of the DH community.

I must tip my cap to Eric Forcier, whose reply adroitly eschews disciplinary rigor in favor of admirably capturing the spirit of the DH community—especially in painting DH as an ephemeral, seemingly idiosyncratic curiosity that either attracts or repels people, and often changes them fundamentally:

When I first applied to this grad program, my understanding of what DH was all about was crystalline in its purity. Not so today. My idea of DH is that it’s sort of like a highway oil slick on a sunny day. When you look at the slick, depending on the angle, you might get a psychedelic kaleidoscope of reflected colours; if you’re lucky you might spot your reflection in it; then again, all you might see is darkness. And if you feel compelled to step in it, don’t be surprised if you slip. Those stains will not come out. -Eric Forcier, University of Alberta, Canada

I’ll try not to let it go to my head.