Final Exam: One Unit of Gameplay

Objective: Commit more random acts of kindness (RAKs) and volunteer hours than other players for an amazing prize! This will help out the community that we live in.

Rules:

1. You can perform as many RAKs as you want, but if you perform three to the same person in one day, that will still only count as one.

2. 1 volunteer hour = 1 RAK

3. The interpretation of a RAK is completely up to the admin.

4. To get credit for a RAK or volunteer hour(s), you have to post a pic, video, vine, etc. of you performing the RAK or volunteering onto the Facebook page I created.

HOW TO PLAY

Take five minutes and perform a couple RAKs around UMD. Anything you do will probably fit my description of a RAK.

Prompts:

1. Stand by a heavily used door and open it for people as they walk in and out. Make a vine and compliment them while you do it.

2. Offer to buy someone whatever they are about to buy at the Coffee Shop.

3. Carry someone’s books with them to their classroom. Get to know them.

#Gamergate

I have been following Gamergate for a while now. I have played video games for most of my life, and I also want to get into the field of journalism, so both of these are great interests to me. When I read articles in Game Informer, a video game magazine, I wonder what we don’t hear about in regards to how the journalist was treated by the company that owns the game the journalist is reviewing. For example, did the company, as opposed to Game Informer, pay for the journalist to come out to test the game? Where did they stay? Basically, what happened behind the scenes that could have affected the journalist’s experience and drove up the review of a game?

In the case of Gamergate, I feel like it is less about journalistic ethics and more about social justice warriors trying to leave their mark on video games. Were I to explain it to a friend, it would go something like this: Zoe Quinn, a female game developer, created a mediocre game called Depression Quest. It received higher-than-expected reviews. Quinn was quickly called out by her ex-boyfriend who said she slept with the reviewers of the game, which led to the higher-than-expected scores. She received a LOT of backlash from seemingly everyone who had an opinion on the issue, including places like 4chan, reddit, YouTube, etc. When these mediums decided it was a bad idea to shame someone for their sex life, they quickly changed the focus to ethics in journalism, specifically gaming journalism.

I liked the article on Gamasutra about how Gamers don’t exist anymore. I think that gamers exist, but the line defining what a gamer truly is has become too blurred to even admit there is a line. Anyone with a smartphone can be called a gamer because they have apps like Candy Crush, Temple Run, and any number of other apps. This also brings up the question of what a gamer was in the first place. We all have our preconceived notions about what a gamer is and the stereotypes that go along with it.

I think it’s great to step back and evaluate the way any system works, journalism included. However, that is not the issue in Gamergate; to say that this movement is about ethics in journalism is untrue. I believe that if a male game developer slept with a female reporter who then reviewed the developer’s game, there would be the same amount of backlash online. However, I don’t think that the male developer would be doxxed and have all of his information publicly put online. I  In my opinion, the issue is what Anita Sarkeesian, a controversial feminist critic, says about video games and women developers, gamers, and characters, or lack thereof. Sarkeesian says that, for the most part, women characters are in video games to please straight white males.

I disagree with Sarkeesian’s idea. I think, in general, female characters actually play a part in the story and are not there for eye candy. Obviously there are exceptions to this rule. Lara Croft, early in her career, was the embodiment of Sarkeesian’s idea that women are too sexed up in video games. Also, playing games like Mortal Kombat with scantily clad women jumping and fighting is an example of this. But I think, for the most part, game have moved towards less scantily clad women. Look at Lara Croft then vs. now:tomb raider

On the left she is sexed up, and is clearly meant to be eye candy for the player. On the right, she looks like a real person (an attractive real person, but a real person none the less). Furthermore, the argument that only women are over sexed up works for men in video games as well. Choose 10 random male video game characters and chances are some of them have bodies that are as, if not more, unattainable as Lara Croft or other girl characters. These characters include basically any character in Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, etc.

As for female developers, now is as great a time to get into the field as any. Indie games have become such a great way for anyone, regardless of gender, to get into the field. The key is to make a game that people actually enjoy. Quinn’s problem was she made a game that people didn’t like, so she tried to boost the reviews of her game.

Make the World Better Game

CONCEPT

My game would focus on getting people to commit more Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs), as well as volunteer in their community. Players who wanted to participate would sign up prior to the beginning of the game. The game would cover a 3-month period of time, during which the players would volunteer and commit RAKs as much as they want to. Every time they are working somewhere or committing a RAK, they would post it online with a picture or video.

At the end of the three months, the admins of the game (myself and whoever else I ask to help) would tally how many posts people had. The top five posters would receive $50 gift cards to any restaurant or store they want in their town, as well as recognition by the admins to the group. Some might say, “So it wasn’t really volunteering, because there was a prize at the end,” or “That defeats the purpose of volunteering.” To that I would ask, in this case, does the intent matter? As long as people are working together to make their community a better place, I don’t think it matters. The prize is there so hopefully people who wouldn’t normally volunteer or commit RAKs would do so.

If the game were to be played today, it would probably start out just as UMD as a community. The players are put into groups based on location, so everyone at UMD would be in one group. If enough people participated and the ball got rolling, it could spread to CSS, LSC, UWS, then eventually Duluth, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc. There could be competitions between cities at that point, and it could take off exponentially from there. Might need to hire more admins and step up the gifts.

GAMEPLAY

All I want the player to get out of this is a sense of belonging in their community, and also to see the benefits of helping out people within their community. Whether it’s buying a homeless person boots, volunteering at the YMCA, or shoveling snow for a local business, if people in a community support one another it becomes a beautiful thing. The players would be encouraged to team up with other players regardless of where they stood in the competition for the gift card/other prizes, because the more people working to accomplish a positive change in the community, the better. As I mentioned above, players would document the work or RAK they did by posting it online with a picture. An updated leaderboard would be published at the end of each week so players could check their standings. Hopefully, people get super competitive about it and try to one-up each other to stay in the top 5, committing more and more RAKs and helping out the community in a bunch of ways.

World Without Oil

I love the idea of the World Without Oil game. First of all, I like the alternate reality idea and all the great ideas that can pop out of it. Not only can the ideas be hilarious, they can also be helpful and/or thought provoking. I Like the slogan of WWO, “If you want to change the future, play with it first.” I think this alternate reality was a great service to any and all players and people who talked about it later.

I had never heard of the term serious games before taking this class. I love the idea of doing something enjoyable while also learning or participating in the solution or management of a real world issue. I believe that there is a market for this, if only some creative geniuses would team up with people who know all about the issues at hand. However, these games would cease to be played once the issue is solved, which is also fascinating. If there was high enough support for this type of game, combined with the number of gamers in the world, we could actually see change in the world.

As for a learning tool, I think WWO did a great job of alerting people that we would be unprepared for something like this to occur. I liked the quote by Matthew Sparkes of Design & Architecture, “The idea is half fiction, half investigative process,” because I think the fact that WWO spread awareness and led to meaningful discussions about oil is the important and amazing part about the game.

Ghosts of a Chance

The Ghosts of a Chance ARG seems like a fun way to spend a couple months in the dead of winter. However, I am not that into art, so the story would have to be really gripping for me to do this at an art museum. If they did this same idea at a baseball park or at some place like that, it would be super fun! You could go catch a game and solve a mystery at the same time, which would be great!

I liked the idea of having a similar experience at the museum for people who just wanted to participate for a day. While I like the idea of the 6-8 week program, if people begin to lose interest in the story, it could completely die out. With the day program for visitors, it is short and sweet. There is not enough time to lose interest in it as long as the interest exists at the beginning.

I think Ghosts of a Chance as a learning experience has a lot of potential. As participants learn more and work together, they might uncover ideas that they had no idea about. For example, I don’t know anything about computer coding. In the article it said sometimes clues can be hidden in these codes. Because of this, I might team up with someone who knows code and learn about it in the process.

#1wknotech reflection

I thought #1wknotech was a fun project to work on, both because we could be ironic and clever with our posts, but it also raised questions about our dependence on technology. When I started on Monday, I thought about ways I could be clever, like making a Vine while walking past my TV, Xbox, Wii and laptop, talking about how being without tech for a week was exhilarating. But I thought that that would a little bit of overkill, so I started small, talking about registering for classes. Registration is completely online, so it was ironic, but for people who didn’t know that, it seems like a totally normal tweet. That’s the kind of stuff I was shooting for at first, and got goofier as the week moved on.

I didn’t have trouble putting the phone and other tech away for an hour and being tech-less. I often go hours without checking my phone just because I forget about it. I don’t think I’m addicted to technology; I realize the importance of it and utilize it, but if all the phones and internet shut down tomorrow, I would be okay. But this brings up a theme that was evident throughout the project: some people get their self-worth through their selfies and tweets. I understand that it feels good to get 50+ likes on a picture, but I get the feeling that some people actually need that recognition and validation.

Although I talked about how I would be okay if all the tech shut down tomorrow, that also brings an interesting question: what exactly is tech? Is it digital TVs with 1080p? Is it VCRs? Is there a difference between an iPod and a Walkman? The other interesting point this project brought up was the idea that we are slaves to technology. As a student, I need to have almost constant access to the internet to succeed; moodle and email are the main way professors communicate with their students out of class, and both are online. Furthermore, I haven’t turned in a paper that was hand-written since early high school, everything else has been word processed and printed out. This shows that we are dependent on technology much more than we think about.

I thought the theme that was most apparent during #1wknotech was the discussion, if it can be called that, about what technology really is. Dean Alaska had a number of posts about it. His opinion on technology differs from mine. I would say that any television is technology, but, as Dean posts below, he is still watching TV. However, it’s standard definition, which is what the early cavemen had.

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Again, Dean posts that he hasn’t been able to buy anything because he doesn’t have any cash. Therefore, he must not be using his card. I didn’t think about my card as technology; I thought about things with screens and flashing lights as tech. It was fun to see what other people came up with regards to their tech use.

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Here, Jeff T. Johnson is literally just listening to his iPod. I think this is funny because he doesn’t have headphones or anything in his ears; he is just listening to it as though it would produce sound. I think this use of technology is okay because he wasn’t actually using it. He was simply holding it up to his ear in some misguided attempt to listen to music.

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I thought another cool theme that emerged from #1wknotech is the questions being raised at the end of the week. These were sometimes hinted at, other times they were directly stated, but they all focused on whether or not going back to tech was a good thing. Below are a number of examples.

I like how Sasha M.’s post shows how happy she is that #1wknotech was over, and that she was “free.” Then she wonders if she is actually going back to being trapped under the thumb of technology. I think this is a super interesting idea. She brings up the idea that maybe we were free during #1wknotech and now we are going back to the slavers, which is our tech.

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Lita-lota also touches on this idea. She wishes farewell to #1wknotech and then comments that she is now going to lose sleep over technology. Finally, her hashtag, #goingtomiss1wknotech, shows that she is on the same wavelength as Sasha M. I think the idea that #1wknotech was actually a good thing for us is a fun theme to play with, and these tweets show that perfectly.

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Rosie also talks about the end of #1wknotech. She says that she is proud to have made it through the week, and that she realized the benefits and downfalls of technology during it. I wish she would have tweeted more about what specifically she learned, but his also is on the same theme that Lita-lota and Sasha M. touch on. I think we could do a #1wknotech hangover-style tweet, where we talk about what we did after #1wknotech and how we reacted to it.

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A third theme I found interesting was how participating in #1wknotech was affecting people’s social and work lives. In Chris Gnarley’s post, he talks about how he can’t work on a group project on Google docs. I think this would be the part of my life that would be most affected by going a week without tech. Everything we do related to school is done using email, word processors, and other forms of tech. It make you wonder what would happen if the Internet stopped working all over the world.

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This post is on the same track as Chris Gnarley’s. I was sitting in my house procrastinating, and thought about how much work I could be doing. Then I remembered that I could blame not doing work on #1wknotech and not feel bad about it whatsoever. Thus, I took to twitter to blame #1wknotech for not being able to use moodle, word processors, etc. It was beautiful.

 

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In this one, I posted about how I was missing out on “likes” on Facebook. I took a picture of a squirrel eating pizza and mentioned that I would love to post it on Facebook but couldn’t because of #1wknotech. Chris Gnarley tweeted back, saying that “likes” are what he uses to measure his worth, and that this week has really been tough without them. Sketchy McGinn gets in on the action in a self-deprecating way when he says that his selfies never get likes anyways, so this week has been good to him. I thought this was a great exchange, and brought up a few interesting points. Do “likes” really hold that much power over some people? Would they actually be affected if they couldn’t post their selfies and get confirmation of their hotness? Or does Sketchy McGinn have a point, and people who don’t get tons of likes or recognition on Facebook should delete their accounts?

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In conclusion, I think that #1wknotech was both fun and thought-provoking. It was fun in the sense that we could be ironic and hypocritical with our posts about technology. It was thought provoking because of the observations made by students, often in a subtle or ironic way. The themes of what tech really is, the pros and cons that people brought up at the end of the week, and the idea that people were missing out on all-important recognition, bring up a number of questions that don’t have concrete answers.

I think the most interesting theme is the idea of recognition and how some people judge their worth on how many “likes” their post on Facebook gets, or how many favorites their Tweet garners. I don’t post very much on twitter or facebook, mostly because I know I don’t have too much of interest to share with the world; if I want people to know something about me, I will tell my close friends and family because they are the people I actually care about, not the kid I used to sit next to in 11th grade Chemistry. But some people take a different approach, posting multiple times a day. I always think of these people as attention-starved, and that they NEED the attention in a sense. Obviously there are people who do this just to stay close with family and friends, and that’s totally okay. However, I think that if Facebook or some other social media site is the number one way one feels worth in themselves, that’s kind of sad, but also brings up another huge set of questions, including just how much can it mean? What would happen if we deleted that person’s account? People in the Dark Ages had self-worth but never had Facebook; this is a problem that is just a baby in the grand scheme of things.

I also enjoyed the theme that appeared at the end of the project about whether #1wknotech was liberating or not. I liked how Sasha M. tweeted about how we became “free” after the week was over, but then quickly asked if we are going back “under the thumb” of technology. I think this is a super interesting question. If we actually went a week without tech, would people find it hard to go back to using phones all day, everyday? I think going out to live in the woods for a week or two, armed with basic survival gear (and during the summer) would be great, and I would be able to get away from everything. I feel like I would be much less stressed if I did that. However, I couldn’t do that during the school year, because I have responsibilities. This brings up questions about the dependence we have on technology these days. If somehow the internet was shut down, UMD would probably close for a number of days as they try to sort things out. They would have to make phone calls (*GASP*) to other people instead of emails. We would turn to the news organizations for information, but they wouldn’t know how to contact people without looking at their respective websites, which would be down. Nobody has phonebooks anymore, and chaos would take hold.

I may have gotten a little carried away there, but I think there is some logic hidden deep within that paragraph. #1wknotech brought up a number of questions that I didn’t think it would; I thought this project would be just be a fun, ironic tweetorama, but it turned into something much more, almost philosophical.

 

Tentative Week Without Tech

Monday: Talk about how easy it is to go a week without tech.
Tuesday: It’s getting tough, but I’m doing okay so far.
Wednesday: Not as bad as I thought it was.
Thursday: Just kidding. It’s bad.
Friday: Start withdrawal symptoms. Think about breaking it off.
Saturday: Start hallucinating about tech. See it everywhere I go (literally, but also where it isn’t present, such as the woods).
Sunday: Start to enjoy not having tech, just in time for the project to be over.