You exert more of your agency through an avatar when you design it yourself … Your identity mixes in with the identity of that avatar and, as a result, your visual perception of the virtual environment is colored by the physical resources of your avatar.

If your avatar is carrying a backpack, you feel like you are going to have trouble climbing [a] hill, but this only happens when you customize the avatar.

Because building avatar identity is critical, it’s important to let users customize it. You are your avatar when it is customized.

S. Shyam Sundar, Distinguished Professor of Communications and co-director of the Media Effects Research Laboratory, Penn State


Bonding with your virtual self may alter your actual perceptions
By Matthew Swayne
May 2, 2013

via Wildcat2030 on Scoop.it

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BioShock: Infinite


Finished this title today. It was not what I expected — from the amazing previews, I’d gathered only that it’d be a fun Steampunk adventure. And it was that, in part…

But… well, if you’ve played BioShock games before (I hadn’t), you’re probably laughing at me now. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Mostly, the level of darkness was totally unexpected, although not unwelcome. In the end, it was so much more AWESOME than anything I thought it’d be.

The criticism of video games put forth most often, by those hopeful that the genre can mature but not yet convinced it has, is that games (especially popular games) — partly because they are games, foremost — lack substance: a story with morals and difficult questions, something to think about after you’ve finished shooting everything in sight. BioShock: Infinite has exactly that.

Possibly because I don’t game that often, I’m not yet numb to the level of intensity that built up in this one. It reminds me of T.S. Elliot’s lines:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

I’m sitting here with this feeling of mental overload. Similar to the kind felt after consuming more respected, traditional content: viewing a piercing art film, a heavy documentary, reading an enlightening-if-difficult book… or, thinking about quantum mechanics.

This last is an actual, primary theme in BS:I, alongside those of jarring racism, elitism, fundamentalism, bigotry, religious zealotry, violence and resulting questions of guilt and forgiveness, and forgive me if I’ve left any off the list but holy shit. Even this is a lot to take in over just a few hours, and I’ve never seen real issues like these addressed in a game (not including the indie realm), and this much in-your-face, loudly and apologetically, at that. It’s as if, for once, an account team somewhere didn’t care if a major company released something “politically incorrect” in a non-comedic, non-ironic way…

That’s too many ellipses already. I’m just shocked and impressed, let’s leave it at that.

Well said. :) Yours is an interesting perspective, and it got me thinking.

One of the main threads of game criticism is that games have always had trouble reconciling interactivity with narrative. For Bioshock Infinite, I think they could have gone a long way towards that goal by expanding the existing framework of Elizabeth’s tears as the main gameplay hook, as opposed to the safe and relatively average first-person shooting. It actually looked like they would feature more prominently in the early demo videos, but that particular reality never materialized.

There is also that element of relative experience at play. You said you don’t game often. As for me, I’ve played so many games for so long that it’s hard to not see—sense—them as a collection of mechanical systems sometimes. So the first-person shooting of BI, for instance, is really, really familiar and not that exciting to me. (The Halo series does this better for my tastes.) So it ends up being kind of a shame that it’s such a prominent part of an otherwise brilliant experience.

Anyway, I think you would appreciate playing the original Bioshock. It does some things better than Infinite, and vice-versa. As for Bioshock 2, that’s kind of a toss up. It’s what I would consider an obligatory sequel, but it has some interesting elements.

Thanks for this response!

I’d been thinking about the FPS element of it earlier; just got so caught up in writing the above that I forgot to address it altogether.

I agree with you, it’s actually very boring. I’ve played games that are solely about being FPS, like COD, wherein that style of play held up better.

But then, I realized that the dull shooting actually worked in this case: it allowed the story (and all the side-details) to be at the forefront of the experience. I’m not saying it would’ve been less interesting if the play-style was more intricate (haven’t seen the demos, sounds cool), just that maybe it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I hate to admit this, but this is one of the only games I’ve gone through fairly — no cheats, walk-throughs, glitch exploits, etc. I played on Medium: don’t care to challenge myself when it comes to games, and frankly hate when shit chases after “me”, thus would rather have less of it. It was easy enough that I could get through the thing and pay more attention, again, to the story, rather than to game-play details like bosses or leveling up.

Anyway, just another perspective.

BioShock: Infinite


Finished this title today. It was not what I expected — from the amazing previews, I’d gathered only that it’d be a fun Steampunk adventure. And it was that, in part…

But… well, if you’ve played BioShock games before (I hadn’t), you’re probably laughing at me now. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Mostly, the level of darkness was totally unexpected, although not unwelcome. In the end, it was so much more AWESOME than anything I thought it’d be.

The criticism of video games put forth most often, by those hopeful that the genre can mature but not yet convinced it has, is that games (especially popular games) — partly because they are games, foremost — lack substance: a story with morals and difficult questions, something to think about after you’ve finished shooting everything in sight. BioShock: Infinite has exactly that.

Possibly because I don’t game that often, I’m not yet numb to the level of intensity that built up in this one. It reminds me of T.S. Elliot’s lines:

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

I’m sitting here with this feeling of mental overload. Similar to the kind felt after consuming more respected, traditional content: viewing a piercing art film, a heavy documentary, reading an enlightening-if-difficult book… or, thinking about quantum mechanics.

This last is an actual, primary theme in BS:I, alongside those of jarring racism, elitism, fundamentalism, bigotry, religious zealotry, violence and resulting questions of guilt and forgiveness, and forgive me if I’ve left any off the list but holy shit. Even this is a lot to take in over just a few hours, and I’ve never seen real issues like these addressed in a game (not including the indie realm), and this much in-your-face, loudly and apologetically, at that. It’s as if, for once, an account team somewhere didn’t care if a major company released something “politically incorrect” in a non-comedic, non-ironic way…

That’s too many ellipses already. I’m just shocked and impressed, let’s leave it at that.

{ Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle }September 19, 2011 - 3:27PM

Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.… To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.…"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release.
"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."…
"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," he said."Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."

via { wildcat2030 }

{ Online gamers crack AIDS enzyme puzzle }
September 19, 2011 - 3:27PM

Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.

To the astonishment of the scientists, the gamers produced an accurate model of the enzyme in just three weeks.

"We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed," Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release.

"The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems."

"People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at," he said.

"Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans. The results in this week’s paper show that gaming, science and computation can be combined to make advances that were not possible before."

via { wildcat2030 }

"Stylized graphics do not make a game high art. High art is a work of importance. Works of importance are pieces of art that have cultural significance that include social commentary. Games as a whole are missing these key ingredients. Where are our games that deal head-on with themes like religious fanaticism, racism or the holocaust?"

-From “Roger Ebert is Right…

I firmly disagree with the above.

Many valuable points are made in the article: that the Video Game industry is particularly young, and that limitations like “must be fun” and “must sell” (for the mainstream, anyway) can keep them from being “art”, etc.

However, “Works of importance are pieces of art that have cultural significance that include social commentary. Games as a whole are missing these key ingredients.”

Are you MAD? A lack of social commentary?
I don’t think you’ve ever played a video game. Enjoy your hand.

deal head-on with themes like religious fanaticism, racism or the holocaust?”

I can see how that is “important”, but on the other hand, I think it is also very shallow. There is so much “art” like this already that it is almost a sad default: instead of being made for the right reasons - to challenge outdated, ineffective ideals, to inform - much of this kind of art can feel like a giant pessimistic circle-jerk of brooding. For the sake of progeny and so forth, the three examples cited certainly should not be ignored nor forgotten, but as far as examples of High Art go they are terribly limiting.

Yes, games are fun, and hopefully they will expand… but even Now their immersive qualities shouldn’t be overlooked. A game needs little to no explanation: it engages a gamer totally, it becomes their world for a time being, and it is beautiful. Days on end (of forgetting oneself in order to enter One Idea, One World, One Problem, stopping only to snack on bad fast food). Years, even. What else does that? Creating art does that. Scientific inquiry does that.

A film can do it for a few hours, a painting can do it for… well, that’s variable, and even so an ”art piece” often needs a little placard next to it, to explain what the hell it is that someone was trying to symbolize.

Games have the ability to take us away, and drop us back here, still thinking and even dreaming of them. That is really powerful, and hopefully won’t go overlooked for too much longer.

Games are a young form of media and in the years to come we will be given the opportunity to answer our critics and gain the respect of the mainstream, let us not waste it.”