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Posts Tagged ‘video games’

Game over: the kill screen.

When an adversarial is conducted entirely or primarily—or even partially—in class, it is virtually impossible to fail.  In most cases, a student would need to sleep through every lesson, cut every class, or set fire to someone else before he or she would earn less than a 60.  Even then, it would likely require students in the room to augment their work so vigorously that the scoring scale was broken: one student earning 150+ points to the derelict individual’s none.  An adversarial is the one assignment in Media Studies for which doing nothing does not result in a zero.

The reason a total lack of input or effort is treated with such forgiveness is this: By being in the room, a derelict student has likely picked up something from the collaborative learning that surrounded him or her.  As part of the environment, even when he or she is indistinguishable from a desk or chair or large rock, the student is given the benefit of the doubt.

When an adversarial is conducted entirely online, there is no way to say with any certainty that every student read every comment, or that every student read any comment, or even that every student read the original post.  Learning is demonstrated solely through participation.

Here are your scores for the adversarial conducted entirely online from May 9 to May 13:

Note: 1 = the points you earned for contributions to the discussion; 2 = the curved grade, from A to F, that you were given; and 3 = the final score that goes into your average.

You had the opportunity to request an extension, if the five days of uninterrupted access to computers in class was not enough; nevertheless, three of you posted zero comments, and about half of you posted no more than a paragraph or two of content.  I wish I could tell you that I heard enough in the classroom itself to forgive this, but I did not.  I listened intently to the conversations that spilled over into our 39-minute periods, and I heard only

  1. exhaustive consideration of the prom, “assassins,” and other senior-year activities;
  2. a spirited discussion of sports that never returned to the germane origin of that analogy; and
  3. random thoughts on subjects as unrelated to our course as next year’s living arrangements, your other classes, and the SEE project.

For those students who managed to leave comments, there was certainly room to work harder; few of you brought the discussion back to the texts or the ideas raised in the texts.  You spoke eloquently in some cases, but you sometimes substituted personal experience and partially-baked philosophy for the requirements of the prompt itself.  My question, asked not rhetorically but in actual confusion, is this: What did the rest of you do for five days in class?  If I ask the Tech Department to pull records of what you did online from 9:20 through 10:00 this week, what will I find?

Of course, some of you worked hard, and your scores reflect that.  If I gave the rest of you the grades you deserve, some of you seniors would find yourselves failing Q4.  You would have earned this.  Instead, I will give you, as a gift, a relative curve.  You have not earned this.  Those of you who did nothing now have a 40, not a zero.  The rest of you are curved so substantially by this that no one, not even the student who earned 9 points over five days, ends up with less than an 80 overall.

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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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