Monday, January 29, 2007

Major Brown, hungry spaces, and the "noble work" of games

From this week's reading, G.K. Chesterton's short story "The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown":

"Major," said he, "did you ever, as you walked along the empty street upon some idle afternoon, feel the utter hunger for something to happen--something, in the splendid words of Walt Whitman: 'Something pernicious and dread; something far removed from a puny and pious life; something unproved; something in a trance; something loosed from its anchorage. and driving free.' Did you ever feel that?"

Is there any space where you have hungered for something playful or adventurous to happen? What was it about the space that made you wish for more? What kinds of places, in general, make you wish something like a game would intervene?

"We believe that we are doing a noble work," said Northover warmly. "...We give [the player] a glimpse of that great morning world of Robin Hood or the Knights Errant, where one great game was played under the splendid sky. We give him back his childhood, that godlike time when we can act stories, be our own heroes, and at the same instant dance and dream."

Can digital game design be considered a noble work? Not just ubiquitous games, but any games? Pick a specific genre of games -- ubiquitous games, adventure games, virtual worlds, first person shooters, action games, MMOs, rhythm games, whatever -- and defend your position. Why or why not?

Or: Feel free to pick any other quotation from the story that captured your attention, and explain why!

Play Me! The Sweet Cheat Gone

This is our first opportunity to play together in a real, live, ubiquitous game!

It's called The Sweet Cheat Gone, it's free, and it's one night only here in San Francisco.

So mark your calendars now: Saturday February 10, at 7 PM, the game begins with a meetup at Steuart between Market and Mission.

The game is described:

"An investigation of guilt and innocence played out across the streets of San Francisco. You are a prosecutor, a private eye, a witness, collecting evidence, not knowing who tyou can trust, betraying your friends (enemies) to build your case. Pursue a thread of desire that takes you to imaginary crime scenes beneath the skyline."

It's organized by the game group SF0 -- I've played with them before and love them. So I'm really excited about this event!

TO PLAY: You need to register your name, an email, and a password here.

I hope most of us can play -- this will be a great experience and the perfect game to write about for your first essay (due about 3 weeks after the game.)

If you plan to play, leave a comment here so we all know to look for you at the game! (But that doesn't mean we'll trust you. Mu-ha-ha....)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pushing the Limits of Play - Game Examples

Yesterday we talked about games that have been pushing the limits of the "magic circle"--the boundaries that prevent gameplay from influencing real life, and vice versa.

Here are links for you to find out more about those games! Feel free to post your thoughts about the potential benefits and possibly negative consequences of pushing any of these specific gameplay limits.

Since we are concentrating this week on the WHY of ubiquitous gaming, how do you explain these specific experiments? How might you account for the desire to push gaming into new spaces, or new social contexts, or new timelines, or new real-world matters?

Pushing the Spacial limits - Where do we play games?
Nintendo DS Skydiving Experiment
You're In Control (Public Urinal Game)

Pushing the Social limits - With whom do we play games? How many can we play with at once?
XBox Live
World of Warcraft

Pushing the Temporal limits - When do we play games, and for how long?

Pushing the Cultural limits - How seriously do we take our games?
America's Army
Super Columbine Massacre RPG

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Why do we want ubiquitous gameplay?

In our first class meeting, we watched The Game (David Fincher, 1997).

This film depicts an immersive, reality-based game that blurs the boundaries between play and real life. Although "The Game" played in the movie does not really exist, the movie is an extremely important artifact in the historical development of ubiquitous gaming. The Game has been cited as a major inspiration by the designers of the earliest ubiquitous games--Wink Back Inc.'s The Go Game (2001), Electronic Arts' Majestic (2001), and Microsoft's The Beast (2001). And it continues to serve as a reference for more recent projects, such as Mind Candy's Perplex City (2005).

If you have time to follow the links for these games, you can learn more about their design. What parallels can you find between these real games and The Game?

You can see some of this history played out in the online articles "Geeks Without Borders" and "Games People Play: Life invades games, and vice versa", two of the first popular press discussions of ubiqutious gaming, explore projects like The Go Game and The Beast in relation to The Game.

What do you make of Fincher's vision of immersive gameplay? Would you want to play? Why would anyone want to play such an unbounded game? What desires does it speak to? What thrills does it provide?

Why do you think real-world game developers were so inspired by this movie? What qualities of "The Game" experience do you think game developers would want to replicate in their real games? Why?

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Welcome to This Might Be a Game

Welcome to our course blog!

We'll use this online space to discuss our readings and to report on our play tests.

Feel free to link to other interesting projects, articles and anything else that you stumble upon! And remember to weigh in weekly to get full participation credit.