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About the Archives

This page contains all entries posted to GAMBIT in November 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

October 2008 is the previous archive.

December 2008 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Matt Weise on Self-Reference in Games

GAMBIT's own Lead Game Designer Matthew Weise has a new feature article up at Game Career Guide, "Press the 'Action' Button, Snake! The Art of Self-Reference in Video Games". In it, Weise writes:

When a game is self-referential, when it acknowledges the technological apparatus of the computer, it can have a profound effect on player experience. As far as game designer Ernest Adams is concerned, this effect is negative, inevitably shattering the fictional reality of the game and rendering it impossible to take seriously.

I don't agree with this position. Self-reference in games is not an inherently destructive act. As game scholar Rune Klevjer asserts, "game fictions are not delineated by a 'fourth wall' as they are in film or literature." The fourth wall is, of course, a term from theater that has become shorthand for the boundary between fiction and audience in a variety of media. But applying this term to video games, Klevjer would argue, is a mistake because the line between reality and fiction in games does not function as it does in traditional media.

It is useful to think about the boundary between player and fiction as an elastic membrane -- a threshold -- rather than a wall, like Adams does. Drawing attention to how this threshold functions through self-reference can actually enhance fiction rather than destroy it. It can draw the player and game fiction together rather than driving them apart.

Check out the piece, and then the (frequently heated) discussion the piece generated at Slashdot.

Co-PI Henry Jenkins leaving MIT for USC

GAMBIT co-principal investigator Professor Henry Jenkins has announced that he will be leaving MIT at the end of this academic year to accept a highly prestigious provost professorship at the University of Southern California. From the official announcement on his personal blog:

On Monday, I announced to the members of the Comparative Media Studies Community -- our graduate and undergraduate students, staff, researchers, faculty, and alums -- that I will be leaving MIT at the end of the current academic year to accept a new position at the University of Southern California. I have decided that the phrase "bitter-sweet" is inadequate for such a moment, prefering to adopt the phrase, "Brutal-Sublime" to capture the extreme highs and lows I feel at what is for me a significant transitional moment in my life. This turned out to be one of the most agonizing decisions I've ever had to make.

For the curious, a provost professorship at USC is a high-level faculty (not administrative) position that operates without fixed disciplines. The position was created to forge bridges between different programs at USC, a job for which Jenkins is uniquely suited. As he notes himself, USC "offered me a truly interdisciplinary position, one which straddles the Communications and Cinema Schools and which is designed to encourage collaboration and conversation between their diverse faculty."

GAMBIT wishes Jenkins the very best in his new adventure. While GAMBIT will continue, all of us in our lab (especially those who were Jenkins' graduate students at CMS) will keenly feel his absence.

More about Jenkins' departure can be found at The Chronicle of Higher Education and Gamasutra.

Introducing Ochos Locos and the Locos Engine!

Ochos Locos is a tiny game with a tremendous goal: get players of all ages and nationalities playing and, eventually, creating together. Developed in Python, Ochos Locos was originally created for the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptop and is also now available for Windows and Linux environments.

In keeping with OLPC's mission, Ochos Locos was created to teach young children in many countries basic mathematical and logical reasoning skills with an interface unconstrained by linguistic barriers. Team Locos did a fantastic job crafting a colorful and attractive environment which allows even the youngest of players to quickly pick up the game's rules and start playing and learning.

GAMBIT + OLPC = Ochos LocosIn keeping with Ochos Locos's design aesthetic of accessibility and extensibility, the game includes the Locos Engine, the first playing card engine for the OLPC XO. This engine runs faster and requires less memory than similar engines developed with Python game development tools like pyGame, which is an important consideration for players running the game from their laptops in areas where electricity is a rare and precious resource.

Furthermore, the Locos Engine was designed from the ground up to be extensible, allowing players to begin creating their own card games. In fact, a team of MIT freshmen created their own unique game using the Locos Engine during IAP 2008. Since the XO allows its users to see the code of all software running on the laptop and can take them to the current line of execution, the Locos Engine was designed to introduce children to programming concepts and enable them to express their creativity and share their ideas with their friends via the XO's Mesh network.

As producer of Ochos Locos, it gives me great pleasure to release it to players around the world, and I eagerly await the results of your creativity. I hope that the tools Team Locos worked tirelessly to produce provide you with hours of fun and inspiration for your own games, and invite you to join us in the exciting world of game development!

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