Archive for February, 2010

Learning Incorrect Schema

Posted in Academia, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Fiction, Games on February 17th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Just finished watching Will Wright’s presentation for the Games for Learning Institute.  It’s cleansing, I think, to move from some of the raw intuition that open source types present as social commentary and listen to someone like Will Wright, who’s actually considering the difference between “the social landscape and the material landscape” and has been doing so for years.  The talk itself focused on the concept of games and stories as schema, fostering understanding of our world through lessons and cause-effect chains.

Wright obviously has been engrossed in story for his entire career, and during the unplanned delay before the talk engaged with an audience and pointed out that games do not supplant the linear narratives of books, but rather modify and complement them.  This comes up at the end of the talk, where he discusses Fractal Entertainment– How modern “properties” or “worlds” are not a single piece of media, but rather multiple expressions (some cinematic, some interactive, some linear, some board game, some RPG).  This includes not only top-down licensed expressions but also crowd-driven epiphenomena such as machinima and graphic novels based on Sims gameplay.

Also interesting is the concept of emergence not only within a game but also around a game, where the activity that surrounds, say, Wii Bowling, is as important to the enjoyment and definition of the game as the hardware and software.  As Wright puts it, the absurd gesticulations one makes while trying to bowl with a plastic stick.  But emergence plays a role outside the story proper, and becomes part of the meta-story, where the story is dissected and used as lesson (Wright notes that Blade Runner is the inspiration for city planners for The Dystopian Future to Avoid) and also as Story deconstructed into components to create what the designer calls “possibility space”.  And once that space is created, story emerges from it, to start the dialectical chain all over again.

Of course, story is too narrow, and Wright deals with this by settling on describing movies and books as linear narratives, which is broad enough not only to cover romance novels but also monographs and encyclopedias.  The convergence presented by Wright is mirrored by the convergence of high end research, focusing on model building and schema pattern strategies.  And while these schemas and models are arbitrary, they allow, as Wright points out, the ability to map the patterns that emerge within possibility space.

So many years of so many toys has left the theorists of the world in flux.  That’s why we have so many would-be philosophers with no background in the matter and so many academics struggling to understand their place in  society cut loose from the linear narrative.  It’s good to see someone like Will Wright, who is knowledgeable and systematic in his understanding of how the digital world and the social world mesh and the new subtleties available as a result of that meshing.  And on top of all that, there’s a great story about the Soviet space program accidentally crash-landing in China.

“Dinner for wolves”

Esoterica

Posted in Art, Buckeye, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena, Eschatology on February 9th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

It’s hard to tell if there’s such a fragmentation of visual culture that the post-ironic, repurposing crowd exists at a convex location from the materialist/idealistic crowd or if they’re right next to each other but, because of how we project them, they get split in half and floated away on an imaginary ocean.  You know, like Greenland when you run a Lambert Asian Conformal Conic.

To muddy the water a bit, I offer this piece of <3000 viewed Youtubedness:

What’s going on here?  Is it an attempt to show how absurd dancing is, or to show how absurd arguments are?  Or is it just playing a game with highly responsive digital tools (that’s about the only excuse I can imagine for the Brendan Frasier clapping meme) and the actual message isn’t a message at all, other than, “Look, I did something cool with Final Cut!” which is, ultimately, so idealistic as to be childlike, and hence the exact opposite of the ironic implication of much of these memes.  I think there’s a serious schizophrenia in modern underculture media production, to the point where I’m no longer sure if anyone is reflecting at all about what they’re producing and how it’s communicated.

OSRIC, the Usurper

Posted in Buckeye, Games on February 8th, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

Against all intuition and spurred by willful nostalgia, I went out and bought the 4th (5th?  18th?) Edition Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide.  I remember the halcyon days of yore, when I would spend hours of nerdy bliss reading about spheres of annihilation or various bits of Vecna–and even occasionally playing the games with others (which, in my experience, invariably proved that CRPGs didn’t turn gaming into a manic-obsessive tactical combat and resource gathering exercises, it simply did it with incredible graphics).  Of course, if you done what I done, then you know what I’m about to say.

It’s horrible.  It’s indescribably bad.  I had to go pick up an old MERPS scenario just to get the Pepsi flavor out of my mouth.  Apparently, despite the sublime comedy of Order of the Stick, AD&D can officially now stand for Attention Deficit and Disorder.  So I did what any right-thinking modern individual would, and I checked to see how the copyright works on good ol’ 1st Edition and it turns out you can’t copyright rules (I don’t know how WotC managed to trademark or patent or otherwise legally absorb tapping, maybe that was all just a dream…) and, sure enough, a bunch of good folks (who probably hold Richard Stallman in higher esteem than I) have already produced OSRIC, the Old School Reference and Index Compilation or, to put it another way, all of 1st Edition minus the Mind Flayers, blurry cats and balls o’ eyes.

Imagine a world where anyone can discover a +5 scimitar, regardless of whether or not they want to have dragonpeople come along for the ride (don’t get me wrong, I thought Dragonlance, while kinda drawn out and cheesy, way okay, and anyway, it’s Samson Agonistes compared to 4th Edition).

Updated Apple Downloads for Flash Player

Posted in Art, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena on February 3rd, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

I took the liberty of updating Apple.com’s woefully out-of-date description of its Adobe Flash Player for Mac.

Now includes information for iPad and iPhone owners!!!

Now includes information for iPad and iPhone owners!!!

Apple Hates Homestar, Seriously

Posted in Buckeye, Digital Innovation, Epiphenomena on February 1st, 2010 by Elijah Meeks – Comments Off

I’ve stumbled upon an imbroglio:  Apple hates Flash.

I had no idea until Stanford got me an iPhone and said “Develop scholarly digital media for mobile devices!” and I said, “Yeah, sure–John Milton’s Paradise Lost: Mobile Edition!”

And then I found out that the iPhone doesn’t support Flash, and that Steve Jobs thinks Flash is awful because it makes Safari crash and that the only way to get your Flash app working on an iPhone or iPad is to use some packager from Adobe that isn’t even out yet.

Way to go, Nintendo.  Seriously, now that Apple has locked in a revenue stream by controlling the applications that run on their proprietary mobile environment, they’re happy to lock out the greatest tool for rich internet applications because they, claim, it’s not open.  It’s two issues, really:  Apple wants to break the chokehold Flash Video has on the net, and I don’t give a hoot about that, but I do care about issue two: Apple wants to control the “software processes” that run on its little closed-core world, and that sounds like it puts Apple on the wrong side of 1984.  The amazing genesis of Web 2.0 came about because of platform-independent application environments, not because of Quicktime.  Closing down the fun little platform that Apple has created means someone like me, who already knows a perfectly usable platform independent language for writing code, has to go and buy the Nintendo SDK (or whatever it’s called for the iEnvironment) and submit any application for review by the Standards Board so that it can appear in the official company store, even if it’s free.

Don’t get me wrong, I love svg and HTML5, and maybe in two or three years that’ll provide a competitor to Flash, but the idea that Apple is going to close itself off because HTML5 will be here someday doesn’t ring true.  They might as well say they’re not implementing Flash because the iPhone is waiting for the Semantic Web.