Review of Convergence Culture

A review of media studies scholar Henry Jenkins's recent book

I read Henry Jenkins’s new book Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide this weekend. The book is a short, smart, buttery read on a hot topic, and it is sure to draw both popular and academic interest. Jenkins is a multifaceted media scholar, a critic of vaudeville, fan fiction, comics, film, games, and more. He is also the… read more

Game Design Education: Integrating Computation and Culture

Co-authored with Janet Murray, Michael Mateas, and Michael Nitsche. Published in IEEE Computer Society, June 2006.

Electronic games are growing rapidly as a cultural form, a set of media technologies, and a global industry. Humanists are looking at games as a new expressive genre like drama, opera, or movies, social scientists are examining them as a new form of collective behavior, computer scientists, engineers, and industrial designers are finding them a new focus of invention. New… read more

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Game Studies, Year Fifteen

Notes on Thoughts on Formalism

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged—really blogged, you know, in the style of that form—for three reasons. First, because I’m talking about blogging in the first sentence, and second because I’m sending you here to read the prerequisites for this post. You’ll want to read the linked piece and as many of the subsequent pieces linked… read more

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The Cathedral of Computation

We’re not living in an algorithmic culture so much as a computational theocracy.

Algorithms are everywhere, supposedly. We are living in an “algorithmic culture,” to use the author and communication scholar Ted Striphas’s name for it. Google’s search algorithms determine how we access information. Facebook’s News Feed algorithms determine how we socialize. Netflix’s and Amazon’s collaborative filtering algorithms choose products and media for us. You hear it everywhere. “Google announced a change to… read more

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FYI, See Below

The purpose (and the sorrow) of the worst kind of email—the passive-aggressive forward

Email is the worst, but some emails are worse than others. The worst emails are forwards. And the worst forwards? Not the jokes your uncle sends you from his AOL account, but the ones your boss or your coworkers send along from some obscure corner of Administrivistan. Most work emails are purely defensive missives. They seek to shift effort, hide… read more

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Why Anything but Games Matters

On isolationism in game development; my Indiecade 2014 talk

A couple months ago, I was talking to a friend in technology media. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m in tech,” he started saying. He paused for a beat. “Then I think, at least I’m not in games.” He wasn’t even really talking about the Voldemortian “you-know-what” that was indeed the original impetus for our conversation. That’s just the latest example.… read more

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Future Ennui

As we march onwards towards wearables and alerts on our wrists, we're no longer shocked by technological progress, but rather exhausted by it.

It’s been seven years since the first launch of the iPhone. Before that, smartphones were a curiosity, mostly an affectation of would-be executives—Blackberry and Treo and so forth. Not even a decade ago, they were wild and feral. Today, smartphones are fully domesticated. Tigers made kittens, which we now pet ceaselessly. Over two-thirds of Americans own them, and they have… read more

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You Are Mountain

A strange video game from the Her animator bests Spike Jonze's film at depicting what a relationship with an alien really would be like.

Near the start of his relationship with a computer operating system in Spike Jonze’s Academy Award-winning film Her, Samantha the OS (Scarlett Johansson) helps Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) play a videogame. Called “Alien Child” by the filmmakers, the game seems familiar enough to be plausible to viewers, yet foreign enough to induce estrangement. The same could be said of the film’s high-waisted… read more

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Shaka, When the Walls Fell

In one fascinating episode, Star Trek: The Next Generation traced the limits of human communication as we know it—and suggested a new, truer way of talking about the universe.

On stardate 45047.2, Jean-Luc Picard leads the crew of the Enterprise in pursuit of a transmission beacon from the El-Adrel system, where a Tamarian vessel has been broadcasting a mathematical signal for weeks. The aliens, also known as the Children of Tama, are an apparently peaceable and technologically advanced race with which the Federation nevertheless has failed to forge diplomatic relations.… read more

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Google Car for Sale: Slightly Underequipped

Google will have to contend with the West's unique understanding of cuteness for its autonomous car to be accepted.

The Google Car prototype sure is cute. And as Megan Garber already explained on these pages, it’s cute because it hopes to convey familiarity and comfort while eschewing “creepiness,” that scourge of technology that arises when it seems out of place, over the line. Garber rightly connects the Google Car’s cuteness to Japanese kawaii culture. Japanese cuteness produces a sense of protection and innocence that appeals… read more