Thursday, May 17, 2012

Library Videogame Collection Showcase, Friday, June 1st 3 - 9 PM at the Logan Center

Over the past few months, LUIGI members have been intimately involved in the selection process that has guided the University of Chicago Library's recent acquisition of over 230 videogames, representing the beginnings of its newly-established videogame collection, to be housed in Mansueto.  To celebrate the establishment of this collection, LUIGI is pleased to present a day-long showcase of select titles representing the breadth of the University's holdings.  This showcase will be held at the newly-opened Logan Center, which itself will soon become home to the University's collection of videogame hardware.

A six-hour event, this showcase will be broken into half-hour sessions, each of which will focus on a specific genre, gameplay element, visual idiom, or subject matter.  Positioned at the intersection of art and technology, videogames have seen astounding formal changes throughout their fifty-year history.  This showcase has been designed to highlight both what videogames have drawn from other media and what makes them uniquely worthy of study and preservation.  The use of three screens for each session will allow for the simultaneous presentation of a cross-section of developments in gaming history.  A final 90-minute session will bring together some of the collection's must-see titles, including Rayman Origins and the high-definition remake of Shadow of the Colossus.

The schedule for the showcase is below; additional information on the curatorial themes of each session follows.

Library Videogame Collection Showcase

The Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts
915 E 60th St, Chicago, IL 60637
Room 603
3:00 PM - 9:00 PM

3:00 Session - Our Intrepid Hero

3:30 Session - Fast Forward: Racing and Speed

4:00 Session - Gun Crazy

4:30 Session - Player Vs.
Pong Sports (1977, Atari Video Computer System)
Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting (1994, Super Nintendo Entertainment System)

5:00 Session - Ilinx: Vertiginous Spatial Navigation

5:30 Session - The Uncanny and Horrific
Limbo (2010, Xbox 360)

6:00 Session - Cinema Invents Ways of Playing: Remediating Hollywood

6:30 Session - I am Your Density: The Joys of Complex Interfaces

7:00 Session - My God, It's Full of Projectiles: Moving through Space in the Shooter
Rez HD (2001/2008, Xbox 360)

7:30, continuing to 9:00 - The Spectacular Session
The full lineup of this session will be announced at the showcase.

Our Intrepid Hero 

Itself a homage to the adventure serials of the 1930s and 40s, George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg's 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark provided a rich template - the unflappable treasure hunter, alternately outsmarting the traps of ancient temples and besting modern gun-toting baddies - that game developers began exploiting immediately, and show no signs of stopping thirty years later.  Highlighting three examples of this trope from three decades of gaming history, this session will simultaneously display the adventures of Pitfall Harry in Activision's 1982 Pitfall! for the Atari VCS, Nathan Drake in Naughty Dog's Uncharted 3, released in 2011 for the PlayStation 3, and, of course, the iconic Laura Croft in Core Design's original Tomb Raider, released in 1996 on the PlayStation.

Fast Forward: Racing and Speed

This session recognizes the ability of videogames to thrill us with speed – and to place the responsibility of harnessing this speed in our hands. WipEout XL sends the player twisting though sci-fi cityscapes as part of a long tradition of futuristic racers.  SSX 3 is a downhill snowboarding game known for its loose grip on real human abilities.  Forza Motorsport 4, in contrast, exemplifies the graphical and experiential realism of the racing simulation genre.

Gun Crazy

This session is devoted to that most notorious of videogame subjects: the hero with the gun. Contra III: The Alien Wars is characteristic of the action/shooter of the early 1990s: punishingly difficult with an excess of enemies and projectiles  closing in from all directions. The game’s over-the-top 16-bit graphics and surprising shifts in perspective make it a must-see. GoldenEye 007 is a groundbreaking mid-90s first-person shooter and one of the most acclaimed movie-to-game adaptations of all time. Vanquish is a high-speed spin on the modern cover-based shooter genre, bringing the chaos of the early action genre to the present generation of games.

Player Vs.

This session is devoted to games of competition that pit the player against a single opponent, produce complex interpersonal connections, and remind us that videogames are part of the more general category of games.  They also show that even in non-narrative videogames, the player is both actor and audience; the most satisfying matches, even for the loser, can be those that are well constructed and the best demonstration of the game’s complexities.  Players work against each other to win, but work together to create an engaging performance.  When the opponent is not another player but the computer itself, games such as these highlight the subtle forms of competition between player and programmer that form an essential, though easily overlooked, component of the videogame experience.

Ilinx: Vertiginous Spatial Navigation

"The pleasures of videogames," Epsen Aarseth writes, "are not primarily visual, but kinaesthetic, functional and cognitive."  Although it's open for debate whether or not this well-defined line between the "visual" and "kinaesthetic" Aarseth proposes actually exists, there's certainly no denying that the illusion of bodily movement ranks high on the list of gaming's pleasures.  Taking its inspiration from Roger Callois' term "ilinx," which he proposed as a descriptor for games "based on the pursuit of vertigo ... which consist of an attempt to momentarily destroy the stability of perception," this session features games that encourage players to queasily pursue mastery over unusual geography and/or physics.

The Uncanny and Horrific 

Game scholar Bernard Perron writes that the interactive component of videogames "intensifies the emotional experience of the horror genre;" game designer and theorist Richard Rouse III posits that the success of the horror genre in videogames was "inevitable."  Whether one finds oneself skeptical towards or in full agreement with these claims, there's no denying that presentations of horrific, uncanny, and disturbing imagery and themes have enjoyed a rich history within videogames.

Cinema Invents Ways of Playing: Remediating Hollywood

Although the stark graphics and competitive rush of Pong, the rhetoric of musical performance that surrounds the rhythm genre as explored in Frequency, and the painstaking pursuit of simulation in Forza Motorsport provide plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the notion that videogames have never aspired to be anything other than "interactive movies," there's also no denying that the visual language of Hollywood cinema has had an enormous impact on videogame design, especially as technology has improved and opened up more options.  The three games grouped in this session explore various attempts in the history of videogames to not only borrow plot elements and action-scene scenarios from popular movies, but also visual idioms, from hand-drawn animation to shot/reverse-shot editing of dialogue sequences.

I am Your Density: The Joys of Complex Interfaces 

Acting as a counterweight to the self-conscious remediation of cinematic language on display in the previous session, this session explores a specifically "gamic" form of hypermediacy, highlighting games with especially information-dense interfaces that require constant interruptions of and intrusions into the games' depicted space.  Although they stretch across multiple genres, all three of the games presented here of present strong examples of the ways in which this heteroglossic clutter can crowd out games' windows onto their world, often resulting in unique aesthetic effects.

My God, It's Full of Projectiles: Moving Through Space in the Shooter

The typical premise of classical side-scrolling and rail shooters are undeniably cliché: you, the last surviving fighter pilot, are all that stands between earth and the alien army. But to focus on the hints of a narrative is to miss the constantly shifting patterns, both visual and aural, that make the shooter one of the most abstractly beautiful, immersive game genres. Axelay is a 16-bit side-scrolling/on-rail hybrid shooter of the spaceship variety. Panzer Dragoon Zwei places you on the back of your trusty dragon, shooting down steampunk airships in a glorious early 3D environment. Rez HD makes the rhythmic and abstract subtexts of the genre into text, punctuating successful shots with clear tones and enlisting the player’s help in creating its soundscape.

- Chris and Ian

Machinima Screening, Friday, May 25th

On Friday, May 25th, at 6:00 PM, the University of Chicago Film Studies Center (Cobb 307) presents a selection machinima videos, curated by Cinema and Media Studies PhD student Kalisha Cornett.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Game Design Meeting, Wednesday, March 28

Hey everyone,

We'll be meeting in Harper 125 this quarter, on Wednesdays from 6:00 to 7:00 to discuss VGE/the Logan Center Game, and from 7:00 to 8:00-8:30 to have our general game design discussions. 

For the VGE meeting Wednesday, we'll be talking logistics, and Nicholas will share some of the ideas and he picked up at SXSW. 

In the second half of the meeting, from 7:00 to 8:30, we'll discuss brainstorming. Brainstorming isn't always as intuitive as it seems, so we'll be talking about strategies for generating ideas collaboratively, and thinking about ways to apply this to the game design process (or any creative process).

See you soon,
Lyndsey (& Nicholas)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Game Design Meeting, Wednesday, February 29

Hi Luigites,

Welcome to 9th week! Normal meetings on Wednesday. If I can manage my time correctly, I'll bring in a baked good of some kind for leap day. 

In gaming news, we totally forgot to give a shout-out to the PlayStation Vita that came out last Wednesday.  Pokemon: Black and White 2 was recently announced. Brian showed me about a really cool game Dear Esther that came out on the 14th.  Mass Effect 3 comes out next Tuesday.  I'm going to try to get in the loop about these things and include them in these weekly announcements.  Maybe I get also upcoming game sales and stuff too. Feel free to send info my way if you want it included.

Wednesday, February 29
Harper 135 - 6-7pm: 
Project: Van Gogh's Ear - Rabbit Holes
We'll spend today brainstorming rabbit holes and listing out some groups/RSO's we should consider making contact with. We'll also draw up some symbols and continue discussion on structure.

Harper 145 - 7-8pm: 
Discussion: An Intro to Flixel
If you're like me, you have a lot of interest in making digital games but don't actually know how to start. Well that time is over! I want to make games for two final projects, so it's time to get coding and I'm bringing you guys along with me. This week, we'll begin looking at the Flixel game-making library developed by the amazing Adam "Atomic" Saltsman. Feel free to bring your computer along with you to follow along during the tutorial, but download the library and a development environment first. Also, if you are willing to let me use your computer to use and hook up to the projector (especially if you have Adobe FlashBuilder), I would be very grateful. We're also starting a thread on the message board about it, which you can find here.

Additionally, we have a bit of administrative stuff to talk about for a few minutes at the beginning of the meeting, primarily about next quarter. Think up some possible events, game night themes, or meeting discussion topics so we can have the best Spring quarter ever.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Game Night, Thursday, February 23: Familiar Games, Unorthodox Controls

LUIGI's game nights are social events designed to provide an opportunity for undergraduates, grad students, and faculty to come together, play, and discuss games.  Game nights consist of hands-on demonstrations of games, accompanied sometimes with formal presentations, and always with discussion.  They provide outlets for scholars in the U Chicago community to present ideas concerning the socio-cultural, aesthetic, political, and technological dimensions of games, opportunities for designers and players to get together and discuss the medium, and spaces for both seasoned gamers and the uninitiated to come together and play games both beloved and overlooked.

Please join us for the final LUIGI game night of the quarter, held this Thursday, February 23, from 7-9 pm in Cobb 115. A multi-screen event, we will be playing a number of games with control schemes and on platforms for which they were not originally designed.

With half of the space, we will be using both traditional controls and DDR Dance Pads to play games such as SoulCalibur II, Street Fighter II Turbo, and Super Mario Kart, highlighting issues of virtuosity, physicality, and performance in video game culture. The rest of the space will be devoted to playing Nintendo 64 games such as Super Mario 64, GoldenEye 007, Starfox 64, and Banjo-Kazooie on multiple platforms - including the original N64, the Nintendo DS, and the MacBook. This will allow us to consider the instability of the video game text resulting from industry repackaging, video game preservation, and emulation.

Come to experience these games for the first time, to challenge your friends to old favorites with a twist, or watch people dance their way through a racing game!

Suggestions for topics and/or games to be covered in future game nights can be made on this thread of LUIGI's forums (login required).

Hope to see you this Thursday!

- Chris

Game Design Meeting, Wednesday, February 22

Hey Gamers!

Game Design Meetings:

Wednesday, February 22:
Harper 135 - 6-7pm:  
Project:  Van Gogh's Ear - We'll continue talking about the narrative arc, final event, and rabbit holes

Harper 145 - 7-8pm:  
Discussion: Educational Games - We'll talk about educational and persuasive games, whether they suck, and how to make them better if they do

Spring Classes:

Remember to sign up for classes this week! I always try to remind my friends because I've forgotten twice and it is no fun. Need suggestions? Digital Imaging (ARTV 22500) with Jason Salavon is great--I'm in it now and I've actually made games for two projects. Plus, he used to do graphics for the N64 or something. He's also teaching Data and Algorithm in Art (ARTV 22502) which might also interest some of you. If you're into macabre stuff like me, Hauntology: Ghosts, Specters and Other Paranormal Phenomena in Contemporary Art and Beyond (ARTV 26213) also exists. TAPS is offering a course called Story Through Music and Sound (TAPS 27800), which may be helpful if you think audio is important in games (PS: It is). Also consider Issues in Film Music (CMST 28100). Intro to World Wide Web 2 (CMSC 10200) probably wins the title for the least descriptive class (the CompSci department is really good at that). I think it's focused on building web apps--you'll be learning JavaScript and PHP and stuff, plus, I think it fills the math requirement. Probably very useful if you're into Internet. The other CompSci classes all have prereqs, and if you're in the major you already know about all the classes so I won't bother listing them. Still, for what it's worth, I really enjoyed Intro to Computer Systems(CMSC 15400). That was a solid class. 

Little Red Schoolhouse (ENGL 10300) will be one of the most useful courses you will take here, and Lines of Transmission: Comics and Autobiography (ENGL 25944) seems like it might have a cool reading list. Good luck!

Sorry for the long one,

Monday, February 6, 2012

Game Night, Thursday, February 9: Landscape and Videogames

LUIGI's game nights are social events designed to provide an opportunity for undergraduates, grad students, and faculty to come together, play, and discuss games.  Game nights consist of hands-on demonstrations of games, accompanied sometimes with formal presentations, and always with discussion.  They provide outlets for scholars in the U Chicago community to present ideas concerning the socio-cultural, aesthetic, political, and technological dimensions of games, opportunities for designers and players to get together and discuss the medium, and spaces for both seasoned gamers and the uninitiated to come together and play games both beloved and overlooked.

The theme of this week's game night is "Landscape and Videogames."  Notes on games to be played, and general themes that will organize the night, follow below.

The open expanse & the guided tour: 
Staging in Red Dead Redemption and Resistance 3

In many game genres, the handling of space design by developers comes down to finely-tuned issues of game mechanics.  Especially in the age of the online FPS--in which knowledge of any map design imbalance will spread just as quickly as knowledge of any other type of exploit, quickly breaking the game as informed players attempt to eke out the slightest competitive advantage--developers' consideration of space often boils down to a hard look at the placement of spawn points, choke points, and pickups.  Extensive playtesting, as well as more specialized tools such as heatmaps, are essential here.

Games with more specific narrative ambitions require additional considerations when it comes to the designing of spaces.  Certain games, for instance, are required to engender a very specific sense of place in order to claim their generic inheritance.  Although it would be technically accurate to describe Red Dead Redemption (Rockstar North/Rockstar San Diego, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, 2010) simply as an open-world sandbox action-adventure game, any full description of the game would require noting that it is also a late-period Western, set in 1911 along a fictional stretch of the border between the U.S. and Mexico.  Likewise, one could serviceably describe Resistance 3 (Insomniac, PlayStation 3, 2011) as a first-person shooter, but it would do the game a disservice to not also mention that it is a post-apocalyptic alternate-history road trip, set in a 1950s U.S. devastated by an alien invasion and terraforming project rather than enjoying postwar prosperity.  In games such as these, so dependent upon landscape design not only to set mood, but more fundamentally to establish genre, the dividing line between the successes of art direction and those of map design is harder to pinpoint than in a game such as, say, Counter-Strike (Valve, PC, 2000).

At this LUIGI game night, we'll be playing sections of each of these games, specifically looking at the strategies each uses to guide the player's attention to events and objects salient to gameplay, plot development, or both.  Red Dead Redemption sells itself on the strength of its open world; in many ways the primary joys of the game consist of little more than the desert, the sky, and a horse.  How does the player's relationship to this landscape change once they are in the middle of the more directed action of specific missions?  How does Rockstar handle the shift between landscape-as-sensual-pleasure and landscape-as-level-design?  And how do the strengths and weaknesses of Rockstar's approach to these elements compare to the more linear approach taken by Insomniac in Resistance 3, which restricts players' access to several of the game's landscapes via on-rail sequences?  What is gained and what is lost in each of these two approaches to introducing the player to a place, and to the actions that occur within it?

Urban spaces as sites of investigation: 
L.A. Noire and Shenue

Following a focus on the desert and rural Americana in Red Dead Redemption and Resistance 3, we'll next be looking at the depiction of urban space in games, specifically in L.A. Noire (Team Bondi, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC, 2011) and Shenmue (Sega AM2, Dreamcast, 1999).  These games share multiple surface similarities:  Both are set in simulated depictions of actual cities (Los Angeles in L.A. Noire, Yokosuka in Shenmue).  Both are primarily structured around detective work (Cole Phelps investigating multiple crimes as he climbs the ranks as a detective in L.A. Noire, vs. Ryo Hazuki engaging in amateur detective work to discover more about his father's murderer in Shenmue).  Both feature long sections without combat, in which each game's unabashed adventure game roots show through--players are required spend long hours engaging in conversation, examining items, and following leads recorded by the player's avatar in a notebook.

However, it is perhaps the differences between these two games' use of urban space in their respective investigations that are the most illuminating.  In one, the city exists primarily as a commute, as a delaying tactic spacing out closed, narratively-salient encounters with select individuals (with the additional possibility of an occasional chase scene).  In the other, the city is fully inhabited, though an excess of interactive possibility tends to sap the momentum of both the gameplay and the narrative.  What can these games tell us about the proper balance between robust simulation and engaging gameplay?  What sorts of antagonisms exist between these two possibilities, and how might they be used productively rather than disjointedly?  And sort of image of the city and its inhabitants does each game promote?

"Landscape and Videogames" Game Night
Thursday, February 9th
Cobb 145 - 7pm-9pm

Suggestions for topics and/or games to be covered in future game nights can be made on this thread of LUIGI's forums (login required).