Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Belly of the Beast

Redmond, Washington is probably best known in digital studies circles as the corporate home of proprietary software giant Microsoft, although companies like Boeing and Nintendo are also important in the region. Unlike Seattle, where this photograph was shot, the urban landscape of Redmond seems made up of mini-malls, industrial parks, and planned communities. We did stroll around one noteworthy Microsoft complex, which was meticulously landscaped around an artificial river and seemed more architecturally purposeful than the rest with its orientation around a two-story chalet style eatery.

My host, Professor Michael Aristidou (pictured above) teaches courses on fuzzy logic and quaternions at DigiPen, which had invited me to I give a talk about "games with publics." Quarternions are apparently non-commutative sets of numbers that are particularly useful for calculations involving three-dimensional rotations, which can be very important in computer animation and produce superior results in comparison to better known methods, such as matrices and vectors. Particularly now that procedural animation has become so important for lifelike effects and other kinds of interactive content, such as Crayon Physics, with which my household is currently obsessed, it's strange to see that even lay people with better than average numeracy have so little knowledge of these kinds of mathematical operations.

I went through a talk about game design and player subversion that emphasized five kinds of game audiences.

1) collaboration audiences (games, which can be single player as well as multiplayer -- that reward cooperation as well as competition in a reputation economy that is internal to the game)

2) elaboration audiences (games that inspire machinima, mods, and the production of new digital media in a reputation economy that may be external to the game)

3) opportunistic audiences (games that encourage users to share information about the game world, walk-throughs, cheat codes, etc.)

4) regulatory audiences (games that shock or awe legislators or members of the mainstream media who often condemn or laud games they have never played)

5) mixed reality audiences (games that lead to situated action in real-life cities or other public places and encourage exploration of the player's identity rather than that of a fictional character)

The slides for my talk are here, and the links to clips and websites I showed are here.

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