November 29, 2005
The last 48 hours:
- Staw Wars Galactic Battlegrounds Clone Campaigns: Esteban, Diego, Ben and myself. This is a mod of The Age of Empires set in the mythological universe created by George Lucas. I set up a couple of copies on our home network to play collaboratively against four computer AI opponents. I thought that I had actually made one of the AIs an ally but this was a tragic misunderstanding of the parameters of the game. I didn't notice that my ally had turned in the first five minutes of the the game. I had managed to shepherd a non-violent exploration of the game world when I began to set up a colony on what I imagined was my allies territory. The AI turned beligerent, and instead of abandoning the colony I decided to defend it. This action was a mistake, and the whole game turned violent and blood-thirsty. At which point Esteban's expertise with air-borne assaults overwhelmed the AIs. Ben, who knew the interface from Age of Empires, was tickled by the shift of gameplay to the Star Wars universe. He was unfamiliar, however, with the capabilities of his civilizations. He was a quick study, learning the capabilities of his particular technology tree and contributing complementary troops to key battles. Esteban attempted to create an agrarian village in the midst of all of this battling, I think to appease my challenge to him and Diego. I keep asking them if it is possible to play against the predilection toward war and create a peaceful society within the game. The AIs overran the village that Esteban created, and he chose to send in troops to defend it. There are no "flower-children" available within the game who will put daisies into the barrels of guns. We will try again another day.
November 26, 2005
The last 12 hours:
- doubles tennis: Karin and Alejandro vs. Natasha and Me, Karin played strong, Natasha and I tried to psyche Alejandro out, we lost 6-2, 6-3
Games For Which I'm Grateful
- Continental Rummy
- Bogotá, Colombia, circa 1975. My cousins introduced us to this game. It is a variation of Gin Rummy that has loose house rules. We play eight hands, with multiple decks. The hands get progressively more cards dealt, from six to twelve per hand per player. The hands vary in complexity of gameplay as the goals of each hand changes. For example:
- 01: six cards dealt, build two trios or sets of three of a kind
- 02: seven cards dealt, build one trio and one escalera or straight flush of four cards
- 03: eight cards dealt, build two escaleras
- 04: nine cards dealt, build three trios
- 05: ten cards dealt, build two trios and one escalera
- 06: eleven cards dealt, build one trio and two escaleras
- 07: twelve cards dealt, build three escaleras
- 08: twelve cards dealt, build four trios
- Mexican Train dominoes: Ken, Anne, Alejandro, Natasha, Karin, and me; Ken taught us how to play this variation. We kept score, but I don't remember who won.
- Continental Rummy: Ken, Anne, Alejandro, Natasha, Karin, and me; this is a variation that my cousins taught me on my visits to Colombia as a kid; we kept score and I won
- Harvest Moon for GameBoy Color: Esteban and Diego while I looked on; they just got this game today at a used game store
- Kirby for Game Cube: Esteban and Diego; they just got this game, used, today
- Eightball pool: Alejandro, Natasha, Esteban, Diego, Karin, and me; three games, my sons played well and sunk the winning ball twice
- Continental Rummy (again): Alejandro, Natasha, Karin, and me; we played until very late; Natasha won
- Massively Multi-Player Freeze Tag
- San Antonio, Texas. Circa 1975. Blessed Sacrament Parish School. For several years, while I was the age my children are now, my school had a vacant field one acre in size. We would pass the time during recess playing a multi-grade game of freeze tag that seemed to have begun long before recorded history and which would go on forever. The play spanned the entire field, which felt like an entire universe. We played in teams that divided up along intuitively obvious lines, those that had cooties (girls) and those that didn't (boys). As I think back to it, and do the math, there would be no fewer than a hundred players each day. Each grade had thirty-five kids, and first through fourth graders would play, yelling and screaming with glee at the top of our lungs. The fifth graders were known to have achieved a level of sophistication beyond our reach. They stayed indoors during recess and played Jacks. It seems that they had managed a kind of cooties detente. The fifth grade boys could bring themselves to sit down with the girls – without exploding – and play a genteel game, competing without antagonism. It seemed inconcievable to us running on the field as fast as we could, rescuing our frozen comrades, that anything like peaceful coexistence with those strange creatures could ever come to pass. Something very powerful must happen in the summer between fourth and fifth grade. The game eventually came to an end when construction began on the grand new church that the parish erected on site. Even though the field has been transformed, I can't visit the site without remembering the bliss of the bell that signalled recess.
- Dominoes: four players, Alejandro, Natasha, Karin, and me; 12/12 and 7/7; kept score but didn't keep track of who won
- Scrabble: two tag-team players, Natasha and Karin, Alejandro and me; Alex and I started strong with Quasar, but Karin and Natasha came back strong; Karin assuaged my ego and allowed Zeno, a proper noun from Greek mythology, which allowed Alex and I to eventually win
- Fifa! Fo! Fum!: I had to fix the game in the Planet Colombia exhibit; thank you Game Pad Companion
In the last 24 hours:
November 24, 2005
Games For Which I'm Grateful
R: I should have started this sooner.
Last 24 hours:
November 16, 2005
Fifth Anniversary of Crosser and SWEAT
Five years ago the first generation of SWEAT convened to begin making Crosser! The project was completed during the second week of December, 2000. Now Crosser has circled the globe, and continues to be an influence among those making socially conscious videogames. My heartfelt thanks and congratulations to those collaborators during this thanksgiving season: Miguel Tarango, Francisco Ortega, Marco Ortega, Ryan Molloy, Tomas Marquez-Carmona, Carmen Escobar. You helped turn a whacky idea into an enduring work. Gracias.
Un abrazo grande,
Rafael Fajardo, director
R: National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation hosted a conversation with the authors of the book Smart Bomb during their show Monday the 14th of November. The authors, Heather Chaplin and Aaron Ruby, generously allowed NPR to share chapter one with us. Chaplin and Ruby reveal a newbie's sensibility to the analysis of videogames through the course of their conversation. They did, however, spend four years researching and writing. I will with-hold judgement on the outcomes until I get a chance to read the book.
The radio interview and chapter one are available on the Talk of the Nation site.
November 14, 2005
Whole New Mind
R: My colleague, Scott Leutenegger, has had his mind snapped by Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind. It is filed under business literature and seems to make arguments for a holism that I find attractive. The book may certainly help us argue for our approach to curriculum development. I'll extend this entry once I've read it.
Until then, here's an excerpt.
November 08, 2005
Put that down!
R: My good friend Jason Otero went to see Planet Colombia at the Museo de las Americas last week. He told me that – as he went into the room in the back of the museum that has dioramas of ancient Tenochtitlan – he heard a woman reprimand her child, who was playing Seeds of Solitude:
"Put that down! We didn't bring you to a museum so you could play videogames!"
I haven't been able to stop laughing about it.
Is the future of the book a videogame?
R: I can't believe I didn't find the Institute for the Future of the Book sooner! They are a smart and provocative bunch who maintain an open mind about what possible form(s) the thing we call "book" may possibly take. Of particular interest is the thread on their blog about the commercial videogame release based on the Godfather movies, which were based on the Mario Puzo novels. They mention Gabriel Garcia Marquez's reluctance to license One Hundred Years of Solitude:
Much has been said about the difficulty to faithfully adapt books to film. García Márquez, whose first love is film, defends his refusal to sell the rights of One Hundred Years of Solitude to Hollywood, saying that the screen robs the viewer the freedom of completing the characters of the novel in his imagination. His readers can, for instance, identify José Arcadio Buendía with an uncle or a grandfather. But, he argues, if that character were to be played by Robert Redford, that freedom of association would be lost. It would also be quite difficult to re-create on film the complex time structure of García Márquez's novel, or to render credible the many instances of magical realism that, when reading, one doesn't doubt for a second. Could this be done using electronic media?
This entry, by Sol Gaitan, continues to speculate about the time investment videogame players are willing to commit, and the disbelief we are all willing to suspend when engaged by high quality experiences. Mr. Gaitan doesn't offer any solutions nor does he find any conclusions, but his questions are provocative and deserve further exploration. We obviously don't yet know the full capability of the videogame. Several authors have attempted to describe them as either imperfect movies, or as that thing that cinema aspires to become. This is the first evidence I have found in a while that someone is thinking about the videogame as something a book – or, more specifically, a novel – might become.
Essay on Generative Game Engine published in iDMAa Journal
R: An essay that Chad Schmidt and I co-authored about the Generative Game Engine work-in-progress has just been published by the International Digital Media and Art Association (iDMAa) in their journal. It is available as a downloadable PDF on their site. This issue also includes a nice article by David Menchaca where he reviews the state of game studies degree programs in the US.
SWEAT on Italy.Indymedia.org!
We were mentioned on Indymedia's Italian website back in April! I only just now ran across it. Link.
SWEAT reviewed on Latino.MSN.com
R: Francisco Miraval has written a story about SWEAT tht appears on Latino.MSN.com. It is a great piece that covers the work in Planet Colombia and our earlier work! The piece also appears on another Spanish language news site, El Imparcial, though oddly without Miraval's byline. Miraval is a reporter for the international news service EFE.
November 03, 2005
Glen's head will explode any moment now
R: Glen has continued to advance and expand his ideas and work on emergent aesthetics. He has found a potential application in disaster planning/response work, which he has also wrapped his considerable mind around.
Link to his convergence of emergence.
Peace Maker: CMU follows SWEAT model
Carnegie Mellon University's Center for Entertainment Technology has announced that it will be developing a game to teach peace in the middle east. "Students Burak, Eric Brown, Eric Keylor, Olive Lin, Tim Sweeney and Victoria Webb, in collaboration with Carnegie Mellon faculty, are designing the videogame simulation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which will be available to the public in spring 2006."
The game, Peace Maker, is already receiving substantial press coverage, with a feature also on today's
All Things Considered by NPR BBC World Service.