What is a Sports Videogame?

Video of my Vienna Games Conference Keynote

Earlier this fall I gave a keynote at the Vienna Games Conference, aka Future and Reality of Gaming, or FROG. The video of the talk has now been posted, and you can watch it in its entirety. The talk tries to answer the question in the title… the gist of my response is that sports videogames are variants, not simulations.… read more

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Swing Copters: The Randomness of the Universe, Captured in Pixels

The creator of Flappy Bird is back with a game offering the sublime agony that comes with mastering a craft—and still failing.

Many of the highest-performing professional athletes are also the most superstitious. Serena Williams bounces the tennis ball five time before her first serve, twice before the second. Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina basketball shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform. Baseball hall of famer Wade Boggs bore a bounty of superstitions. Among them: He ate chicken before each… 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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The Squalid Grace of Flappy Bird

Why playing stupid games staves off existential despair

Games are grotesque. I’m not talking about games like Grand Theft Auto or Manhunt, games whose subjects are moral turpitude, games that that ask players to murder, maim, or destroy. I mean games in general, the form we call “games.” Games are gross, revolting heaps of arbitrary anguish. Games are encounters with squalor. You don’t play a game to experience an… read more

A Machine That Makes Cameras: The Aesthetics of the Lytro

An image taken with a Lytro camera is not really an image, but a machine capable of producing many possible renditions.

The Lytro Light Field Camera Let's think about photography as people live it. A posed family picture might be taken once, then again, and again until the right combination of open eyes, smiles, and light and shadow produce an acceptable portrait. An action, performance, or sports shot that could speed by too fast for human judgement partakes of a surrogate: the… read more

Wii Can’t Go On, Wii’ll Go On

What is Nintendo really attempting to do with the Wii U? From my "Persuasive Games" column at Gamasutra.

For a century and a quarter, Nintendo has devoted itself to an unspoken mission: making games safe, stripping them of their risk and indecency. The company started as a hanafuda playing card manufacturer in the late nineteeth century. Like most gambling, hanafuda was closely tied to organized crime, and the term yakuza, the Japanese word for an organized crime mafia,… read more

In Defense of Competition

On sport, games, success, and failure

On her blog, my Georgia Tech colleague Amy Bruckman writes about her dissatisfaction with this year’s Olympics. While she loved the games as a kid, Bruckman wonders if her new feelings of disappointment arise from watching them as an educator rather than as a little girl: “I look at young people and want to see positive outcomes for all our… read more

Simulating Social Shame

How Spent missed the mark

There’s a nice persuasive game making the rounds, called Spent. It was made by ad agency McKinney for the Urban Ministries of Durham. The game attempts to illustrate how easily financial hardship and low income work can devolve into homelessness. It does a pretty good job, too, taking the same basic method as did Tenure, the 1975 PLATO game about… read more

RIP Jack LaLanne

Father of the first exercise videogame

Fitness expert Jack LaLanne died yesterday at age 96. He’s most notable for starting the first health clubs, but anyone who lived with television in the late twentieth century couldn’t have missed LaLanne’s many programs and endorsements. Despite his fame, and despite the recent popularity of home fitness videogames like Wii Fit and EA Sports Active, few know that LaLanne… read more

2010

A summary

Here’s a quick link summary of my 2010, including both major events/work and smaller moments that took the form of blog posts. Happy new year, all. Disney cease-and-desist – the turtlenecked hairshirt – the Art History of Games – Hacks, Remakes, and Demakes – Heavy Rain – Pascal spoken here – I hate gamification – Knight News Challenge – philosopher… read more