Wednesday of the Robot
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The Magic Circle Persists

Mia Consalvo doesn’t believe in the magic circle. In her article, “There is No Magic Circle,” she decries the magic circle by explaining that we always take everyday life with us into games. It’s impossible not to; we each have experiences, cultural baggage, and learned behavior that we simply cannot forget when we enter the world of a game. These things influence how we play and experience games. Mia Consalvo’s argument, then seems to be: there is no magic circle because we can never forget our “real” selves completely. 

Consalvo is correct, of course; we don’t get amnesia every time we enter a game. That being said, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t a magic circle. Perhaps I’ve simply been totally misunderstanding the nature of the magic circle, but to me, it isn’t the rigid barrier that Consalvo sees. Rather, it functions on a much more semi-permiable level. It is a cell membrane, not a brick wall. That is to say, little things (like societal mores) can and do enter and leave the circle. It is almost always clear, however, that the circle exists; I don’t start playing World of Warcraft and suddenly become convinced that I’m an elf in real life. I usually know where the bounds of playing the game and not playing the game exist. This is a bit harder to argue with some ARGs, but I think we can say that in cases like those, we are at least aware that the bounds of playing the game and not playing the game do exist, even if we don’t know exactly where they are.

The magic circle, then, persists. As with any theoretical framework, it has its loopholes, but for the most part, it is an incredibly useful and simple way of describing that we know that game worlds aren’t the same thing as the real world. 

A New Kind of Narrative

In “Games Telling Stories?” Jesper Juul makes it clear that he does not think that games have narratives. Whilst he admits that they may have narrative elements, and may share commonalities with more typical narrative vehicles like movies and books, Juul still maintains that games fundamentally cannot have narratives. 

Juul claims that narratives must always “prior”—that is, that those experiencing the narrative must always have the sense that the narrative is somehow in the past. As Juul points out, games are played with the sense that everything in them is happening in the present. For Juul, then, games cannot have narratives because they can never have “prior” narratives.

I, on the other hand, think that’s a pretty rigid way to view narratives. Juul needs to realize that things change. With the advent of the video game, we’ve been able to really integrate story into our games. We can easily tell that there is a huge difference between The Last of Us and Mancala. That being said, there’s also a huge difference between The Last of Us and Threes. We can see then, that not all games—even modern electronic games—are narrative games, but also that some are. “But,” Juul would probably say, “that’s not narrative! The experience in The Last of Us and other similar games is simply too immediate! Narrative must be in the past.” Well, Juul, it’s really your theory of narrative that is in the past. At some point, narrative stretched and remolded itself to welcome games, and their present tense stories, into the fold. It follows that if we can easily describe games like The Last of Us as telling stories (which I believe we can), then we can also argue that these games have a narrative structure—even if this structure isn’t what we originally envisioned as “narrative.”

To this, I’ll add an article about how games are changing the way we experience stories and narrative. Interestingly enough, it is from a television and film review website. Simply the fact that the TV and film reviewers are able to welcome games into the sacred garage of narrative vehicles suggests that our definitions of narrative have somehow changed as a culture.

Cultural Influence on Games

In “Nature and Significance of Play as a Cultural Phenomenon,” Johan Huizinga states that “play” is “not ‘ordinary’ or ‘real’ life” (SZ 103). Of course, he means to make a distinction between play and everyday life. To a certain extent, however, the type of play that we engage in reveals a lot about our everyday lives and the cultures we live in. In this way, play is almost indistinguishable from “ordinary” life, insomuch as it is culturally tied up in our ordinary lives.

For instance, the very fact that we feel the need to put a J in front of RPGs that are produced in Japan suggests that we view them as unique to Japanese culture and not to our own. Japanese RPGs, whilst similar to our own Western RPGs, are imbued with a cultural significance that feels distinct enough to us that we must label it as a completely new genre. Similarly, we often refer to German-style board games. Of course, many people in America produce German-style board games, but there is still something different enough about this style of game that we must label it as “German”—distinct from games in our own cultural milieu. 

Defining what makes games feel like they come from other cultures may quickly become problematic, however. We can always poke fun at our own culture, positing that Monopoly is distinctly American because of our extreme love of capitalism and its requisite trappings, but it is difficult to boil down other cultures in a similar way without being deeply offensive. 

Regardless, games are clearly influenced by the cultures that they come from. It’s a subject that is worth looking at, if we can find a way to discuss it in a tasteful manner.

Gamer and Nerd Culture

In class we went through a list of topics that we may end up covering on the syllabus. We touched a bit on gender, race, and demographics. A lot of people would probably argue that gamers are the key demographic for  most games. Recently, gamers have come under fire for being less than sensitive about issues of race and gender. 

This article (http://www.pajiba.com/think_pieces/its-not-just-gamers-nerd-culture-is-a-sick-wasteland.php) is an interesting critique of gamer and nerd culture. I agree with some of it. It is true that there is quite a bit of misogyny and racism in gamer and nerd culture. That being said, this article seems to suggest that ALL gamers and ALL nerds, by identifying as such, align themselves with, and therefore become, misogynist racists. I definitely don’t agree with that. The comments on the article are also extremely interesting, and often quite well thought-out. They’re worth a look. 

Despite these issues, I still identify as a gamer. Is there a way we can take back the term “gamer?” I feel like being a gamer doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The writer of the Pajiba article, Corey Atad, says he is purposefully choosing to stop identifying as a gamer in order to distance himself from the misogynists and the racists. To me, that feels like giving in to them. I don’t want to surrender “gamer” to the bad guys. I want to take it back.

(Source: willrc)

  • 8,611 Plays

vintagesonia:

Shake, Rattle and Roll - Bill Haley & The Comets

theniftyfifties:

Elvis listens to records. 

theniftyfifties:

Elvis listens to records. 

bronsonyoung:

yes, this is real.

bronsonyoung:

yes, this is real.

This is why oxford commas are important.

This is why oxford commas are important.

(Source: mumblrmumblrmumblr)

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