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!


Jennifer said...

I think definitely in a work place since when work slows down (especially in places that are customer based) things get really rather boring. It would be nice if it's something customers and workers could do, but just workers is fine, too.

Or just any place that you have to wait including- but not limited to -lines, traffic, bus/subway stops, airport terminals, dental offices.

patricknm said...

In response to what types of spaces I would like to have something playful or adventurous happen, the first places that come to mind are the BART station and the bus stop. I personally spend exorbitant amounts of time waiting for public transportation, and I think that it is a perfect place for spontaneous game play to occur. I realize that these spaces are often used for performance space, but not often for game play. I think it would fun to try to incorporate the structural elements of underground tunnels into a game.

As to whether digital game design can be considered noble work, I think it really depends on what we mean by noble. I think most video games today don’t have a lot of redeeming qualities. Yes, they offer escapism, relaxation hand eye coordination and so on, but I think less and less games offer puzzles or real challenges for the brain. The current trend of console games seems to be towards uber violence. Regardless of this, I wouldn’t say digital design can’t be noble though, there are also a lot of interesting thought proving projects that exist out there.

lisatized said...

Places to play:
I thought about BART too. As well as sitting in traffic. Then the whole LED scare happened in Boston this week when that simple LiteBrite gone bad created panic about bombs. I still like considering those areas for a game, but hate that we have to consider the fear that is rampant right now.

Other thoughts:
schools; college campuses or younger
kid's req areas
flea market
1st Thursday gallery openings
huge parking lots

still thinkin'...

Jane said...

Great ideas so far, public transportation is an interesting recurring suggeetion... I'm a huge fan of designing experiences for BART -- I've never done a game there, and I think that's a great option, and it would be terrific to think of public trains everywhere as part of our scope... we design for BART, but how could others in their cities adopt or appropriate the game for their trains?

Lisa, the Boston incident is going to be extremely important to talk about and think about in class on Monday. Thanks for suggesting it as a relevant topic. We'll definitely look at that very closely.

evelyn said...

i agree with patrick in regards to digital game design as noble work. games don't need to be solely about escapism i think there's a potential to enrich and improve people's lives.

a game on BART might be made playable in other cities if participants are given general descriptions of things to find or do and then upload documentation of the completion of that task where players of the game can rate how well they accomplished it.

grey said...

I agree that BART/Subways are ripe for game play. Not only are you surrounded by a bunch of strangers, all waiting, but there are almost always self-defined teams (inbound vs. outbound passengers, platform 1 vs. platform 2, etc). Although if I recall correctly (it's been a while) the NYC subway has one platform for one destination. Is that right?

Do those of you with more worldly travel experience know if different destinations occupy the same platform in other cities/countries? How much does the layout vary?

Paul Kyle said...

I really like the idea of a BART game (Even though I'm a more MUNI sorta guy right now).

The ability to transfer the game to various cities seems great.

And I love the actual "space" of subway stations. The tracks, the architecture, the sounds.

In response to grey, NYC varies a lot, but it is *mostly* one platform to get on one train going to the same destination. Usually there is an express train. But each track serves its own destination, as oppossed to the sharing that happens in Downtown BART stations here. You can see a map here. There is a lot of variation, though, for example the AC and BD trains share the track up the west side of Central Park.

I also love airports as a site, but airports might be more inaccessible. And the inadvertent dangers of gaming in plain site are even more heightened.

Paul Kyle said...

I believe that the formal complexities of video games (and some television) is an important recent development. I think, counter to popular opinion, that they can increase mental agility an ever more complicated and possible world. I believe good, well designed video games engage the brain in complex ways undreamt of just 20 years ago. Here's a NYTimes article from a few years back that best espouses how I feel about this ...

Anonymous said...

By: Justin Begalka

This was one of my favorite lines in the reading, because I believe this type of feeling happens alot throughout a persons life whether he/she are concious of it or not. At the moment I live in Persidio, Baker Beach and I make the walk from school to Baker Beach four times a week and I have found after the first couple times walking it, that it has become dull. More specifically the walk up to the Golden Gate Bridge and every night I walk it always feels like I am walking it for a reason, that maybe one night something will happen...although I know I am very alone accept for the occasional biker or car that passes quickly by. There is a certain since of excitment while walking, allowing my imagination to explore what is there more carefully. I can begin to discover that I am not alone and I am being watched and whatever is waiting for me to discover them. Every night I walk I look to discover something that I had not noticed the last time...I am always waiting for something to happen...Perhaps I am trying to hard, or not hard enough. I am not sure of a game that could be developed from this, but the imagination is endless and the possibilities are infinite.

Jane said...

These are all great comments. I'm struck by the difference between the sense of energy and possibility in train stations that Grey describes (all those people! all that structure! all the movement!) and the sense of stillness and possibility that Justin describes on his walk to Baker Beach. I love this line "I can begin to discover that I am not alone and I am being watched and whatever is waiting for me to discover them." I do think there is a really great seed here in that particular line/feeling for something... I want to follow up...

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Τα καυτά χύσια στο λαιμό μου είναι σαν τη βότκα που καταναλώνω στα κωλόμπαρα της Αθήνας (είμαι άλλωστε φοιτήτρια Νομικής στο Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών και μέλος της ELSA Athens) προτού καταλήξω να πηδιέμαι στις τουαλέτες!

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