Now think of how many of those female characters and protagonists are oversexed, created for the male gaze, or put in an inactive damsel role for the plot of the game. Representation matters. A Study last year proved that exposure to tv shows increased the self esteem of young white boys and markedly decreased the confidence and self esteem of girls across the board (and we haven’t even started on the representation of characters of color and the effect it has on children’s self perception).
Video games are a different media, and even more concerning if representation metrics are changing how our kids think of themselves. Especially knowing that 67% of American Households have video game consoles and 91% of Children play video games regularly, how do you think the portrayal (and lack of portrayals) of women and girls in these games is affecting little girls – or influencing how little boys view their importance and/or influence over them?
— Comics. Movies. Lit. Pop Culture. The Smash Survey is an upcoming podcast project that will critically explore the representation of race, gender, and queer identity in media and pop culture in a fun and engaging format.
Addendum to my last post: when that klaxon starts… klaxoning, its not like I hunt down every guard in a fit of rage. No, they pretty reliably come to me. Every guard in every level of the game has to come hunt for the intruder, since they’re just doing what the klaxon tells them to. And since the intruder has nowhere to hide, the intruder keeps taking headshots and feeling progressively worse with each one.
I mean, these guys aren’t guards all the time, right? They have imaginary wives and maybe an imaginary child! Maybe their wives are trying to talk them into a second imaginary child, but the Shadowy Corporation just isn’t giving them enough guard hours to make that even remotely feasible. Plus, have you seen health plans for your standard “pistol and a flashlight” guard? It’s like, “sure, yeah, you patrol this dimly lit warehouse and hope a heavily armed mercenary doesn’t shoot you in the neck, but the moment you get tranq’d for an hour and go to a hospital, sorry, no coverage for you.”
Not like the heavies—the ones covered in armor carrying miniguns—their health plans are golden, lucky bastards. Figures, right? They’ve got armor three inches thick and their deductibles are, like, $100. Mr. Pistol-and-a-Flashlight spent $4,000 getting himself checked after being unconscious for an hour (which is, by the way, super bad for you, even if Heavily Armed Mercenary properly calibrated his tranq load for your specific body weight and med tolerance, which—in today’s Heavily Armed Mercenary climate, doubtful.), and ShadowCorp’s plan wouldn’t even cover it! Whatever.
I guess it’s almost better if Heavily Armed Mercenary just shoots him. At least then he doesn’t have to go to Imaginary Mother-in-Law’s house and make nice next weekend. She’ll give him that talk again, and she and his wife will share that look, and he’ll get agitated and put his hands on the table and look at the placemat really hard, and try to be even and calm, even when even and calm turns into a growled monotone. He knows ShadowCorp doesn’t promote from within. He’s looking, okay? Just—this isn’t what he thought he’d be doing. He only started doing the guard thing to pay for that electrical engineering degree, but walking all night every night—that same little loop around those crates—got so tiring that he quit the engineering program. It would be there later, right? He just has to find another job that offers better hours with less strain. So yeah, he’s trying to quit ShadowCorp. But it’s not as easy as you make it sound, Susan.
So do it, heavily armed mercenary. Shoot him. Just end it. A funeral would be cheaper than what another neurologist visit would cost.
Wait—wait a second—didn’t they announce through the ShadowCorp listserv last week something about the terms of their life insurance policy changing? Something about payouts not covering workplace-related homicide?
Oh no. No no no—
Anyway. That’s why I feel bad about killing the guards.
Instructions for playing stealth games like me:
Quick interface critique:
What on EARTH is the point of that top black bar? It gives the title of the article, and a list of social media sharing buttons. I know the title of the article. That’s why I clicked on it. The title’s already listed above the header picture. I know the stupid title. And the social media buttons? I can find those in a dozen other places. They’re already at the top of the article, between the title and the picture, and at least in Chrome, I can share any page to pretty much any conceivable outlet through the browser itself. Fastening those buttons to the top of the screen, in a bar that follows me as I scroll down the article, is just ridiculous. It carves out precious screen real estate, and, honestly? It reads as pathetic. “Please share me! I’m so lonely here! Share me! SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE SHARE”
Edit: there’s also a “LIKE US ON FACEBOOK” button that hurls itself into the article frame when you scroll past a certain point. At least you can dismiss it. But again. All that mewling for social media engagement is just sad.
Gilles Deleuze, “Three Questions on Six Times Two” in Negotiations 1972-1990
On March 12, 1989, the visual layer of the Internet was quietly revealed, fundamentally changing the way we communicate, research, consume and share media, waste time at work, and, well, do everything else really. It was called the World Wide Web. To celebrate, we’ve put together a purposefully brisk and oversimplified history (trust us, you don’t want to see the unabridged version) leading up to its now 25 years of existence.
Read> Fast Company
Goofus underlines every word, slowing other readers down and damaging the book. Gallant draws polite lines in the margins and adds a short, neatly-written note.
(In reality, of course, Gallant uses sticky notes. Writing in library books is terrible.)
(Archaeology of Knowledge 13)
Ever since Tiny Tower, I’ve gotten excited about new NimbleBit games. I downloaded both Pocket Planes and Pocket Trains at midnight, and played them obsessively for days. Both addictions eventually dissipated (in the case of Pocket Trains, because the price of opening a new area would have taken days of progress-less work. Or, y’know, five bucks. But I digress.). So these days, when a new NimbleBit project comes down the pipe, I snap it up.
This week, NimbleBit, in partnership with Milkbag Games, released Disco Zoo. Going in, I knew practically nothing about the title, other than that it would probably involve disco and a zoo. So I’ve played for a few minutes this morning. Before I go into my thoughts, check out a couple screenshots and see what you can discern.
Ah! A zoo! Cute-ish, minimalist pixels, friendly, colorful buttons, and NimbleBit’s distinctive retro typeface.
And a whole lot of freemium going on. Nothing new or revolutionary here: two-tier currency system, cool down timers, a revenue trickle that you have to renew every few minutes, and the constant prompting to collect more. Here’s another screen, replete with more freemium hallmarks:
Ah yes. The construction cool down. Not only do your resource-generating animals have cool-downs (they go to sleep, and you have to poke them to wake them up. Wait, isn’t sleep deprivation a torture technique? Nevermind.), but they also have a longer initial cooldown, representing “construction.”
So far, so NimbleBit. The revenue model is almost copy pasted from every other NimbleBit title (except NimbleQuest): construction timer, resource collection timer, two-tier currency, and occasional coin pop-ups (to reward the waiting player).
Here’s where Disco Zoo departs from the NimbleBit standard model: it includes a game-within-the-game. Pocket Trains/Planes, andTiny Tower/Death Star were simple management games—the management was the game. In Disco Zoo, there’s another layer. This is what it looks like:
It’s basically animal Battleship in a smaller space. Each animal has a pattern, so once you find one animal square, you have to figure out where the other squares of that animal are. Like I said. Animal Battleship.
But here’s where it starts to get insidious. NimbleBit has learned a thing or two from Candy Crush Saga and games like it, and has implemented what Ramin Shokrizade calls the "pain relief" style of monetization.
You only get a set number of “rescue attempts” (moves) before the game ends, at which point, the game presents you with this screen:
Yep, you can buy your way back into the game. The idea here is that the game’s mechanics emphasize finding parts of collectibles, but those parts are useless unless you find all of them. So the game expects you to—at least occasionally—run out of attempts before you find all of something you want. And the game is very clear about what you want.
Remember that unicorn from earlier? That’s a “Mythical Animal.” Most animal squares show up green (or whatever color the rest of the game board is), but Mythical animals have pink squares. “Find us,” they whisper. And when you fail to find them in your five attempts, that matching pink “Buy 5 More Attempts” button looks a little better. If you’d rather “Get 5 Free Attempts,” you can watch an ad and keep playing. You can, apparently, keep doing this forever (which leads me to wonder why you’d bother paying premium currency, unless you’re just deathly allergic to ads).
So the game offers pain relief (relief from the potential pain of losing a new animal) in exchange for either your time or premium currency.
But that’s not all. Disco Zoo has another marker of freemium: playing costs currency. Each time you play the Battleship rescue game, you have to pay some amount of coins. But here’s the kicker: that price of admission raises each time you pay it. So at the beginning, you can gather animals on the farm for 100 coins (which, isn’t that stealing? Taking animals from poor guy’s farm? Nevermind.), but each time you play, that price creeps up by ten coins. Obviously, ten coins isn’t going to break the bank, and I suspect that it’s meant partially to keep some kind of pace with the player’s constantly increasing revenue stream.
There are a few other little gamified bits and pieces here and there. Your animals can level up, rewarding you slightly even when you find the billionth rabbit on the farm. Even lack of progress is progress at the Disco Zoo. Just keep playing. At worst, you level up your cows and find a few coins. At best, you get a unicorn! And who doesn’t want that?
But there’s one more piece—the one I went into this game wondering about. We’ve seen a whole lot of zoo so far, but what about the disco?
Here’s the disco:
You can pay some premium currency to trigger a disco party, where the animals don’t get sleepy, their revenue doubles, and coins drop faster. Disco parties are actually a shined-up version of a feature dating back to Tiny Tower: the currency converter. If you were short of coins, you could trade premium currency for coins, which is, generally speaking, a terrible deal. Coins appear all the time; they accrue while you’re not even playing. Premium currency doesn’t. It’s rare to find during gameplay, and the only reliable way to get more of it is to buy it.
Disco Zoo's disco party is a shinier, more obtuse currency converter. You pay premium currency, and in exchange get a cute visual, double base currency income, and freedom from having to wake animals up every few minutes. The Disco half of Disco Zoo is divorced from any meaningful gameplay or decision making by the player. It doesn’t influence choice, and it doesn’t create or demand actions. All it does is offer temporary (and expensive) relief from the game’s own timers and micro-costs.
Let’s review those freemium elements again.
So is Disco Zoo a bad game? Depends on how much you like Battleship, I guess, and how much you’re motivated by digital drip-rewards (does the promise of a pixelated unicorn get your blood pumping?). For me? Absolutely. Disco Zoo is a terrible game.
But it’s a great monetized reward dispenser.
My media consumption has been skewed much more in favor of books than games lately, which got me wondering how many of you are also big readers? I don’t hear most of you talk about books very often - what are y’all reading right now?
Also, on a semi-related note, I’ve been itching to write some…
I read a lot, both for research and pleasure. I assume you’re talking about fun reading, so I won’t bore you with what games studies and Foucault books I’m reading for my diss work.
I tend to read several fun-books at once, depending on mood and time of day. I’m currently reading:
Infinite Jest before bed
1Q84 in the afternoons
Blood Meridian when I have the emotional fortitude.
I’m nearly done with 1Q84, and while it’s good, you can really see Murakami indulging his love for passivity and quiet, slow progress. The result is atmospheric, engaging, and charming, but it’s built around a surprisingly underdeveloped mythology (which isn’t a problem in and of itself—Wind Up Bird Chronicle had a similarly light mythology, but it was evocative and shadowy in a way that 1Q84 rarely is). I’d recommend it to firm Murakami fans, but for newcomers, I’d suggest one of his earlier books like Wind Up Bird Chronicle or Kafka on the Shore. Anyway.
As soon as I finish 1Q84, I’m moving on to Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea, and after that, Titus Groan.
Someday, when I have lots of time and spare mental energy, I’m going to finish Godel, Escher, Bach and I Am a Strange Loop. I have a hunch that the GEB would make a fascinating lens for my academic work, but it’s a demanding book.