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Posts Tagged ‘definitional arguments’

From "Shadow of the Colossus"

This week, we tackle video games.  You’ll spend three days setting up the online adversarial and two days wrapping it up back in the classroom.  What you produce in the comments section of this post will become, for many of you, the final grade of this course; for the rest, it will be the grade that sets up your final project and exam.  Keeping the conversation online also forces you, or so the logic goes, to consider your contributions carefully.  Your effort, investment, insight and collaboration will be on display.

  • Day 1: Read the articles in the list below. Comments will be unlocked at the start of Day 2.
  • Day 2: Begin to enter the adversarial discussion in the comments section of this post. Answer the questions, ask questions of your own, and offer insight.
  • Day 3: Return to this post to reply to your peers’ comments. Follow the usual adversarial guidelines to develop the conversation.
  • Day 4: Balance your time in the classroom between further adversarial discussion and face-to-face clarification.
  • Day 5: Tie off any online discussion during the period. Comments will be locked at 2:20 pm.

If you feel that a particularly compelling discussion should continue past that time, request an extension in an email, and the thread will be kept unlocked over the weekend.

The crux of it
These two questions are your central concerns.

1: Are video games art?  It has to be more than a semantic debate, too; we can redefine the term art until it necessarily includes video games, but that is less helpful than a look at the factors outside of strict etymology and common usage.  Note, for instance, that the roots of art involve skill and craftsmanship, and no one can deny that creating a game takes skill.  This is about high art—about respectability and acceptance at multiple levels of society.

#2: When is mature content in a video game gratuitous?  There are likely better adjectives than mature, and certainly better adverbs than when, but that will serve for now; we are looking at graphic violence, sexual content, profanity, and anything else that earns a game a little controversy.  Consider these elements under the aegis of video-games-as-art, and remember that gaming is a unique medium, because it is by definition an interactive one.  What is the impact of these elements on the player?

Core texts
Read these first. Note that the Daniel Floyd lectures are on YouTube; you will need to watch them at home.

  1. Roger Ebert, “Video Games Can Never Be Art”
  2. Roger Ebert, “Okay, Kids, Play on My Lawn”
  3. Simon Parkin, “I Kill Children”
  4. Daniel Floyd, Video Games and Choice 
  5. Daniel Floyd, Video Games and Moral Choices

Secondary texts
Read these, too, as you become interested in the concepts raised above.

  1. More with Ebert: a discussion with Clive Barker; an early response from Joystiq.com; a response that folds in Brian Moriarity’s “sublime art”
  2. More of Daniel Floyd’s lectures on YouTube: Video Games and StorytellingVideo Games and the Uncanny Valley
  3. @PBS.org: The Video Game Revolution
  4. And from the Smithsonian: a list of games selected for the 2012 exhibit on video games as art

Your discussion can wander down any number of paths here, and it might be good to get a little lost; speak to your own experiences, ask questions of those who are more experienced, and see what rich veins you can find to mine.  You can’t lose sight of those core questions or texts, however, and this remains an adversarial.  If you need clarification, send me an email or speak to me in class.

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