Gameplay; educational or not?

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‘Seen as encouraging anti-social play in violent and morally dubious computer environments and narratives, videogames become everything that threatens an idealised children’s culture’ (Lister 2009)

        Taking the above point I would like to expand upon the reasons why theorists such as Lister claim that videogames are the downfall of a child’s culture. Having been raised with only a Gameboy colour, I never understood the ‘magic’ behind videogames. Granted, they are vibrant in colour, with twisted storylines, shooting and killing, but unfortunately they are not my sort of game, I’d rather play snake or solitaire. I always saw videogames as a form of escapism as McLuhan explains ‘games are a sort of artificial paradise like Disneyland, or some Utopian vision by which we interpret and complete the meaning of our daily lives.’ (McLuhan 1967: 238) I am not claiming there is something wrong with that however if we compare playing GTA (Grand theft auto) to playing a board game with your friend such as trivial pursuit then I believe the pro’s of playing trivial pursuit outweigh the pro’s of playing GTA. Trivial pursuit and other such board games allow you to bond with your friends, find out facts about different subjects, which can also be classified as ‘information learning’ and you seem to be active rather than being sat alone in your room.

         Furthermore, as Turkle claims ‘computer games are rule-governed rather than open-ended’ (Turkle 1984) so surely living in a society which is already to a great extent governed by rules, why would one want to immerse him/herself into another world in which to get by you have to find cheats online which give you money or unlock a weapon? Caillois explains this point by talking about the extent of corruption evident in these games and how the fact that there is a ‘sharp delineation between fantasy and reality protects the player from alienation from the real world (Caillois 1962: 49) Therefore to a great extent, the fact that these games have been designed in such ways that the player is aware that he is immersing himself into a vessel of entertainment rather than another reality does protect players from getting too involved and falsely believing that they are entering a parallel world. This isn’t the case all the time however, as when acclaimed writer, Tom Bissel became addicted to GTA and was asked what the game offered him he responded by saying,‘What have games given me? Experiences. Not surrogate experiences, but actual experiences, many of which are as important to me as any real memories.’ Depicting how some people’s lives can be distorted through gameplay.

        Moving on to the idea of games being the basis of learning for children which was initially proposed by Jean Piaget, I believe the technological advances which have occurred over the years have made his above statement inapplicable to todays children’s games. As is evident in the video where psychologists use games to teach children basic cognitive functions, games in the older days where much simpler and hands-on, allowing children to use their brains to think of solutions.

         In today’s technological revolution, I would like to use Stutz’s quote referring to todays ‘‘electronic child’ hemmed in by conflict and fear’’ (Stutz 1995) to explain how and why I believe children aren’t benefiting very much in terms of cognitive evolution through today’s gameplay. In no way am I saying that games such as Mavis Beacon’s typing computer game(see below) didn’t help me in learning how to blind-type on the computer at the age of 13 however I find that the games provided for today’s children are spoon-fed information, not allowing them to learn for themselves.

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        Agreeing with Andrew MacTavish, ‘the pleasure of computer games therefore is a technological pleasure. It is a pleasure of accessing, witnessing and performing technologically mediated environments.’ It is not aiding children to problem-solve, it is teaching them to be aggressive and find cheats so that their Sims can afford a pool. Therefore when in his blog Henry Jenkins claims that ‘the power of games is in part that they provide such clarity in defining the roles and goals, that they helped us to know what to do and how to do it, and as such, they motivate deeper forms of learning’ I find myself disagreeing. How are children learning through predetermined outcomes of gameplay and through being shown exactly what to do and how to do it through ‘walkthroughs’ of games as is illustrated below?

Digital labour

if you’re not paying for something, you’re not the customer, you’re the product being sold’

Andrew Lewis’s words above I believe are a great reflection of today’s relationship between media and economy. We are part of a ‘free labour’ society that allows for us to be used without us even knowing. We are providing companies with steady income through merely looking at their pages and advertisements; Facebook being one of those companies who profit greatly through ‘advertising and marketing vendors’ by provoking us users to click ‘like’ ‘comment’ and ‘share.’ Trebor Sholz argues that what we are witnessing now in terms of digital labour resembles what occurred in the ‘early stages of industrialization’ where the evolution of machines and technology began to push society towards higher production and manufacturing. Employing the free labour of us produsers and the use of crowdsourcing argues Sholz, ‘offers a more impersonal solution that slices costs and relieves owners from any employer-type obligations.’ This is evidently true as it is so much easier to employ people online and not have to provide services such as healthcare and insurance. Tiziana Terranova talks of how many people are working for minimum wage, for hours on end, with no actual benefits of working online and that the majority of these people are women. It is shocking that people are now paying to have an unpaid internship and I also almost fell for that idea myself had my parents advised me not to. People are so desperate to find jobs that they will pay to not get paid, they are willing to work arbitrary hours and they don’t complain or shy away from them because they need the income.

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In an article in the Guardian we see how there is a market out there for people who sit behind screens and ‘fake like’ pages so that they can receive more views. In Bangladesh people get paid 3 dollars per 1000 likes to help companies’ get up and running and gain publicity through likes and sharing. The person behind this claims that ‘the blame should rest with those who commission the work’, a statement which is partly true because people who involve themselves in such tedious tasks clearly do it for the money they can make from it but on the other hand people who produce such digital labour are aiding in the downfall of the internet’s authenticity. One can merely Google ‘fake likes’ and the first website to come up is likefake.com which does exactly what the people above, in Bangladesh do.

Barbrook put forward a model of what he found the Internet to be and it is interesting to see how far we have deviated from it as he claims ‘unrestricted by physical distance, they collaborate with each other without the direct mediation of money and politics.’ Barbrook’s statement I find is a complete misjudgment of what the Internet provides, sure, it isn’t restricted by distance but it is in no way not money orientated. We are all participants in this economy of free digital labour whether we like it or not. There are many pro’s to this concept such as the fact that companies can progress and produce income so easily with limited spending because we do all the work for them but then on the other hand there are a lot less jobs out there and the ones that are out there are extremely low paid and take advantage of the work people do.

Levy explains how our society has progressed from a ‘Cartesian model of (I think) to a collective or plural (we think)’ and this supports McLuhan’s idea of a global village which the internet seems to resemble. However Lisa Nakamura rightly states that in every village there is a threat, a villain. Who is the threat in today’s Internet village, is it the users, the people who work for the companies or the companies themselves?

‘A phantom limb’

Listening to Aleks Krotosk’s talk on the BBC regarding whether or not the internet inspires malicious behaviour and listening to Jamie Cochran, a well known internet troll was admittedly quite shocking. Aware of the 1971 Zimbardo experiment, which concluded that when people are given power and a ‘role’ they undertake what, is known in psychological terms as ‘pathology of power’ it became clear to me that something very similar is occurring online today.

Taking this article for example, it is evident that people like Jamie Cochran work the Internet in order to get reactions out of people and claim ‘If someone gets mad about something over the Internet then they have lost.’ Its not a game! In trying to distinguish between cyber bullying and trolling I believe they are pretty much the same, they both ‘corner’ peoples physicalities, beliefs and characteristics in order to evoke emotion and anger. Caroline Criado-Perez petitioned for Jane Austen to be on the ten-pound note and ‘Twitter trolls used the anonymity of the internet to inundate her with threats of rape and violence.’ So answering the question of whether the web allows us to create a hidden personality and use it as a vehicle to act completely out of character and do as one wishes, the answer is yes. The veil of anonymity inspires spiteful behavior in many cases such as on Ask.fm.

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Claire Hardaker writes in the Observer that this can be called ‘The Gyges effect – the way that the internet can encourage a disinhibition people simply would not experience face to face.’ She claims that it is due to boredom and ‘a need for attention, a craving that will accept any kind of attention, however positive or negative, as long as that person is at the center of it.’ This is one of the thing we talked about in our seminar; people blog, like, share, comment in order to feel good about themselves when someone ‘likes’ the photo, blog or link that they shared earlier that day. Everyone likes the attention, which the Internet and social platforms provide us with and it is easy for many people to take advantage of that.

During the summer when I was playing Sims on my I-phone my mum couldn’t understand why I would want to play a game which adds so many more responsibilities to my day, feed the Sims, take them to work, make some cupcakes etc. and it actually rings true. Games such as this one require you to leave your reality behind and immerse yourself in this cyber-life with ‘inanimate’ characters. Similarly, in 1996 Sherry Turkle described shockingly how, a 21-year-old college male claimed that through his violent character online he’d ‘quite frankly rather rape on MUDs where no harm is done.’ We all allow ourselves to slip into this cyber life and this is why Turkle’s book explains ‘why we expect more from technology and less from each other.’ She goes on to argue that it is due to human weakness that we give in to the seductiveness of the Internet and that the Internet is so less demanding than real life, ‘it offers the illusion of companionship without the demands of a friendship.’ Her book goes on to show how many people would rather have a robot as a friend rather than an actual human being. Due to the advance in technology, machine’s ability to talk to us like Siri does and to recognise us like iOS’s new ‘fingerprint recognition’ app gives these devices human characteristics, inclining people to rely on them. Companies as well as ourselves are eliminating human tête-à-tête and endorsing these faceless platforms of communication.

Why are we content to befriend technology rather than another human, why would we rather scroll online at a bus stop rather than talk to the person next to us? I agree with Turkle’s argument that ‘technology has become like a phantom limb’ and it is quite a depressing fact, which will not be addressed but rather will be enhanced to a great extent until we are sleeping next to and with robots rather than humans because they are ‘uncomplicated’ and ‘wont cheat on us.’

Participation Vs. Creativity

 

‘If it doesn’t spread, its dead’

It’s the year 2013 and Henry Jenkins in his book about ‘spreadable media’ tries to explain why audience participation is so extremely important to the way the internet and to the way information evolves and is transposed. The quote above implicitly stresses the importance of audience participation in an era where popularity of content is the deciding factor of it lifespan. Considering the fact that according to multiple critics the producer and consumer are merging into what is known as a prosumer it is interesting to try and grasp what is being said about the extent of audience participation and how the consumer is able to take charge or not take charge of the Internet.

Coming from a person who has little desire in being an active prosumer, I, as many, struggle to grasp the differentiation between an active and inactive participator. Undoubtedly I am one of the 53% which Ofcom claims multitask whilst watching TV; if you ask me the last time I genuinely watched a movie without picking up one of my other platforms which allow me to play ‘Hay Day’ or chat on Facebook…I definitely couldn’t tell you. I personally see myself as one of the 53% of inactive users on the web as half the time all I do is scroll down, scroll down, scroll down and click share. I rarely tweet, I sometimes upload pictures, I never blogged until this year and in all honesty I would call myself a ‘Lurker’ in the words of Jenkins. However Lave and Wenger argue a concept of ‘legitimate peripheral participation’ whereby ‘Lurkers’ learn through watching and become motivated to also become active participators. Arguing against Jenkin’s point that Lurkers merely take from the online community without reciprocation, I ask, what about sharing content? By the mere click of a button, important causes and news is spread instantly amongst social platforms, raising awareness and participation in important matters.

            Moving away from participation and onto creativity, Raph Koster claims that ‘everyone is a creator, the question is of what?’ and this is the continuous argument evident concerning this subject, people have different ideas as to what constitutes active or inactive participation, however no one can point a finger at someone and say ‘you aren’t a creator, you don’t participate, you don’t contribute.’ It’s subjective. The video below doesn’t contribute to online politics but it does make my day every time I watch it. (I have a thing for cats) The person who filmed it and uploaded it is clearly a creator in my opinion.

 

 

 

Bradley Horowitz explains that it is ‘obstacles’ such as effort, money, dedication etc. which prevent people from turning from lurkers to creators as he claims, ‘these are filters which eliminate noise from signal.’ This rings quite true and I believe is one of the ways in which the internet is able to manage who is able to dedicate themselves fully to the web’s entirety as this is clearly one of the reasons behind the fact that I am quite inactive on the internet, it consumes so much of ones time.  

I would say that we are all creators in one way or another, to agree with Raph Koster and that user participation on the Internet depends on what each individual has to offer and is willing to offer. There are people like me, who just enhance other people ideas and viewpoints whilst sharing and coming across interesting materials and there are others who dedicate themselves to a cause and use every chance they have to push their cause forward using the Internet including activists, advertising companies and fandoms.

 

 

So this is the future…

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During the summer I came across an Ipad advert which looked just like this with the writing ‘this is beautiful’ next to the girl; for some reason I cant seem to find it anywhere anymore! Seeing this image made me really angry for many reasons, one of which is the fact that instead of playing with toys or being told a bedtime story this little girl is ‘swiping’ along her Ipad, probably on Facebook at the age of 11. Secondly, relating to Jameson’s idea that everything, ‘in the last analysis is political’ it makes sense that the target market for all this new media is young kids which are the gullible audiences of all film merchandise, eatertainement and the whole package which comes with watching a film. Jay David Bolter explains, the ‘goal is to literally engage all of the child’s senses in the consumption of ‘Batman’ property’- Batman simply being an example. When coming to think of it, naïve children-and I’m not saying I wasn’t involved in this technical illusion/delusion when I was a child-have become forced to be enticed, almost cornered into wanting all of these goods so that multiple markets can strive whilst pushing more and more merchandise and interactive media towards kids which will pester their parents until they get what they want. Call me old fashioned but shouldn’t kids want to be outside playing? Shouldn’t they beg their parents to read them books instead of buying them a kindle, which they’re too young to even use? And all of a sudden it hit me that this is what new media is; recycling older vehicles of entertainment/communication into much cooler ones. Alongside the change in the social evolution over the years as well as the technical revolution/boom that has been increasing over the past years its evident that were galloping towards a future where books and toys won’t even exist anymore.

Now that’s terrifying.

Digital media

On a daily basis I find myself sitting in front of a laptop screen for what seems like a whole day. Enticed by all the new films and series which circulate the internet and are much more accessible I have found myself glued to the screen on multiple occasions, sometimes eating dinner alone in my room whilst watching Mad Men whilst my parents watch a film; highly unsociable if you ask me. On the one hand, digital media allows for instant communication with any country in the world, boosting industries as well as globalization but on the other hand it halts communication in terms of face to face relations, going out to shop rather than do it online, and relying heavily on cyber space rather than on actual objects such as USB’s or DVD’s.