Conversation in LinguaMOO, with Frink, an old friend and long time computer game player.
(and yes, I am Missepus)
Frink says, "So I hear you were searching me out for an argument (Though I can't recall on what, except it made me salivate)"
You say, "YEs, that is right, thanks for reminding me"
You say, "It's about something Mark Bernstein is asking people: if computer games teaches us anything."
You say, "I'll find the link for you"
Frink says, "Particular knowledge, about ourselves, or just random stuff?"
You say, "http://markBernstein.org/November01.html#522"
You say, "He asks specific question: what does games teach us about sex?"
You say, "What does games teach us about handling dramatic personal discoveries?"
You say, "Game question one and two"
You say, "His premise is that games should teach us the same as books do. I don't agree with him."
Frink says, "I'd agree on face - no medium should behave as another."
You say, "At the same time: I don't see that games can avoid being learning lessons: even if the lessons are different from those of books."
Frink says, "I don't think they need to avoid it, however."
You say, "No, why should they?"
You say, "anyway - I think you'd be able to answer his questions easily. and I think you should - just send him an email."
Frink jots down the address, and'll do that.
Frink says, "and by book I'm guessing your refering to fiction, or all written print?"
You say, "Fiction - which is his question"
You say, "one problem with his question is that I feel it's very much about high/low culture."
Frink pulls up the page, and laughs at the first thing. "I think I'm gonna have to check this page fairly often.
You say, "just: http://markbernstein.org/ gets you his entire page."
You say, "And Eastgate is developing the program he's using for making the page, which is rather neat."
Frink hurms and considers the basic question. "Its fairly loaded and fairly specific in its approach. I would have to say that in most genres we get a similar education to sexuality ... as ... oh as the supermarket magazines that features models and questionaries about sex life."
Frink says, "That said, if you do some hunting - in some RPGs you actually get something mildly deep... at least the lesson that actions have consequence and you'll not always be in the happiest of circumanstances."
You say, "which I guess is a good answer - and the most important answer as to what you learn from games which you can't learn from books."
Frink says, "Causality? I dunno, a good book can paint the picture for you."
You say, "Yes, but it can't hit you in the head with it."
Frink nods and looks at the second question.
Frink thinks on it some..."Generally speaking - family in games is a shallow plot device. They've been hurt, they're evil, they need to protected, they do really cooky and odd things."
You say, "so having a really weak father would not be anything new in a game"
Frink says, "If we were to include online games, I'd say its different. "
You say, "it could be the entire plot of a game: figuring out how to deal with that."
Frink says, "It could be, it might even be compelling."
Frink says, "However, rarely is there that level of depth/interaction with the player and other characters. Which, isn't suprising."
You say, "why isn't there? I think that's an important question."
Frink says, "Now, I bet if you look about you can probably find some examples of it in NPCs interacting, but most likely they're small side notes, things to look at and go "Oh neat." and move on."
Frink thinks on that one.
Frink says, "This is off the hip, so it might be a bit to rash, but I would say the problem ties into causality again."
Frink says, "That and immersion."
Frink says, "While games have a higher potential for immersion, its a harder sell. And if your giving a player control, you need to come up with solutions to a wide variety of action."
Frink says, "And for the most part, when dealing with games, writers/programers would rather add length than width."
Frink says, "Mind, you could probably do it in a fairly linear fashion..."
You say, "this is great. Promise me you write Mark bernstein about it. Or I'll cut and paste this conversation into my blog."
Frink says, "I just doubt it would be that good."
Frink says, "(While like books, and movies for that matter, games can endear you to characters, how can a game adequetly display the reaction of another character if one of the character's is you.)"
Frink says, "You can abstract the character/player connection some, which is done now and again... Cutscenes, inserted dialogue, and other forms of feedback, and this can be decent (I don't want to say good, because usually it comes off a little flat, mostly because of voice acting)"
Frink thinks of a recent first person shooter...Max Payne, "The central plot starts with your character coming home, and finding it a mess. You go through your house and kill some thugs. But not until you find the wife's corpse. If I recall correctly there are inserts of the main character's voice, calling out names at some point, then the yell of grief when the mess is found."
Missepus is copying, pasting and editing to the blog as you speak.
Frink says, "Its horribly cliched"
You say, "Cliches work for a reason"
Frink says, "But then the whole game is."
Frink says, "I don't know what to make of the sequence as an educational subject though. I'm inclined to say its irrelevant. Though if you want to grab a lesson, I guess it says "Bad things can happen to those you love and in your home." (Not suprising given that most games are about bad things happening, or doing bad things.)"
You say, "I think he isn't really thinking of "education" as much as "presenting new models for action in certain situation""
You say, "And there I think games can't really offer much complexity: at least not single-user games."
Frink tries to think of other sequences involving family. "This one might have merit. In an RPG, Fallout, one of the minor quests is rescuing a daughter. Standard fair. Not all that interesting, until you actually do it."
Frink says, "Afterwards you can talk with the rescued daughter. She's down on the town she lives in, finds it boring and wants to see the world. Yet, when you suggest her leaving, there is a little litany of excuses of why she couldn't (Ending with it would destroy her father)"
Frink says, "And I don't think I'd agree with you. It offers as much complexity as a book or a play."
You say, "length, not depth?"
Frink says, "Width. (Depth is possible, width tends to refer to creating multiple paths)"
You say, "And as to the girl - do you think that can be a result of the "why do we have to rescuse the same stupid NPCs over and over-syndrome" that Brant was trying to avoid when he made the Moon Palace?"
You say, "Ah. Three dimensions. *smiles happily*"
Frink says, "No, I think that is more of an example of, "Why the hell are so damn many things in games just nameless faces""
Frink says, "Its more an attempt to add personality."
Frink says, "And yes, three dimensions, play time(length), possible consequences(two branches reaching the same goal, but having different side shows)(width), and content quality (Depth)"
Frink says, "As for games presenting model for action .. Its as possible as any medium, though a game is not just the player's actions, so you can show it with other characters. If your really good though, you can make it so the player has to do things they'd normally not think about."
You say, "I think that would be the most interesting aspect of computer games: gently pushing limits and introducing new realisations."
Frink says, "I'm simple minded, the most interesting thing about games to me is playing them. I could see how that is intriguing though"
You say, "well, the fact that all these media are actually used is intriguing."
Frink says, "Another odd paralell/discontinuity jost popped in my head."
You say, "If we were more rational animals, literature wouldn't matter, nor games..."
Frink says, "Written work is fairly stationary in its base constant"
Frink says, "err in its base parts/how its formed."
Frink says, "Words. New styles of fiction creep in now and again(The short story, novels). The variety of plays and the like."
Frink says, "With movies, the tools change over the years, better film, variety of acting methods, changing editing principals."
You say, "MmmHmm?"
Frink says, "With games things change at a much more rapid rate."
Frink says, "While there are a few sets of genres, and some methods/principals that are set in silicon...the underlying tech changes constantly."
Frink says, "An engine is fortunate to be used comerically a dozen times, and modified by hobbiest half a hundred. "
You say, "Are this technical changes quicker and more revolutionary than the early film technology do you think?"
Frink says, "I wouldn't say revolutionary, but definatly quicker."
Frink would be suprised if there is someone in the industry that got to work with the same tools/engine/tech five times.
Frink says, "(The numbers are coming off the top of my head)"
You say, "compared to the already developed technology? What has been introduced in the last - 7 years - which has changed the computer as medium as much as sound changed film?"
Frink says, "3d technology."
Frink says, "Lighting tech, 3d audio."
You say, "isn't that just adaptions from existing technology? was this created for the computer?"
Frink says, "Of later computers, and games, are driving the 3d rendering hardware developments."
Frink says, "and what I really mean to emphasise is that the barrier to creation is higher. Each technology has a different way of creating content."
Missepus nods - that's a good point.