in Process, Research

Reflection for Reading Assignment

Selected reading: Turkle, Sherry. “Video Games and Computer Holding Power.” In The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1984-2005.

This reading makes it very clear that at the core of every video game is essentially a program, a set of code.

I was impressed by how the author uses various characters, such as the violent 13 year old girl who lost her game at the cafe and was insanely rude to the owner, Jarish, the boy with a unique name that meant nothing and has divorced parents, Marty, who seems awkwardly competitive online considering he is a 29 year old economist, Jimmy who is a total superstar online but only to mask his birth defect that has left him with an awkward gait and slightly slurred speech and many more, to protray how the computer has have such a holding power on everyone from all walks of life. Not just that but also, how the computers holds onto each one is presented differently showing the diverseness of the computer.

Through Jarish, the author presents how video games have this power of complying with one’s imagination. ‘New programming techniques offer the hope of creating characters who have more specific and interesting personalities.’ Author goes on to mention that Jarish was someone who would buy books which taught him to hack into games to modify and also disliked games in-built to cartridges because he had no access to the underlying program. This reminds me of an argument made by Lev Manovich:

Thus, hacking and adding to the game became its essential part, with new levels widely available on the Internet for anybody to download. Here was a new cultural economy which transcended the usual relationship between producers and consumers or between “strategies” and “tactics” (de Certeau): the producers define the basic structure of an object, and release few examples and the tools to allow the consumers to build their own versions, shared with other consumers.

Manovich, 1998, Our Emphasis

This is the basic fundamental which led to the creation of some of the most popular contemporary video games. An example would be: Counter-Strike. Counter Strike is actually a highly successful modification(aka ‘Mod’) from a PC first person shooter(FPS) game Half-life.

So what was being modified?
Counter Strike was not the first mod that the creator worked on, in fact it was his third version. This one modifies the multiplayer aspects of Half-Life to bring to it a more team-oriented gameplay. It is team-based featuring one team playing the role of the terrorist and the other team playing the role of the counter-terrorist. Each side has access to different guns and equipment, as well as different abilities. Its maps also have different goals such as: hostage rescue, assassination, bomb defusion, terrorist escape, etc. This new implementation of sophistication started off as a hobby project and yet now, the creator said ‘Counter-Strike probably helped the industry see FPS games as a potential for esports’

The creator also mentions that his biggest takeaway was that developers shouldn’t be scared to change things in the game, even if users aren’t on board straight away. This draws parallel to the reading, which writes the possibilities seem limitless if such marvelous things(in reference to Jarish accidental snow effect by just erasing one line of code) can happen by chance.

To read more on the creation of Counter Strike:

The original Counter-Strike mod was launched in 1999

For me personally, I found this concept of ‘the-essential-core-of-a-game-is-code’ appealing because it presents sort of a paradox. Knowing that video games are a database of codes and scripts, it’s interesting how something so systematic, so rigid is available to help facilitate and map out our infinite imagination and creativity. With that, does not not mean the player and the game share a sort of cybernetic relationship?

Seth Giddings and Helen W Kennedy presents:

Considering the need for interdependence of the player and the game, games can only come alive through a feedback loop between the player, the hardware, the software, and the screen.

Giddings and Kennedy, 2011, Digital Games as New Media

More than ‘interactive’, this brings the relationship to ‘cybernetic’ too. This loop and its need for continuity is in relation why the author describes Marty to feel ‘swept away and in control, to have complete power and yet lose himself in something outside when playing’ because it blurs out line that separates the players consciousness and game worlds.

Looking at it from the overview, video games is such a great representation of how and why computers have such a great holding power on us. The underlying algorithm, that is the fundamental of every game, is this deep structure that controls players reception and does it so cleanly. It introduces a switch from passiveness to a state of activeness within the player. By having the different elements of the computer to form a game, by having computer manifest itself this way, the player invests so much emotions from the demand of this powerful material, which suggests the intense power computers hold on us.