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About the Archives

This page contains all entries posted to GAMBIT in June 2010. They are listed from oldest to newest.

May 2010 is the previous archive.

July 2010 is the next archive.

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

6/29/10, 7pm: Harvard Book Store presents Tom Bissell, author of "Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter"

Tom Bissell. Photo Credit: Trisha MillerFrom the Harvard Book Store website:

Tuesday, June 29th, 7:00 PM
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Avenue

This event is free; no tickets are required

Until recently, Bissell was somewhat reluctant to admit to his passion for games. In this, he is not alone. Millions of adults spend hours every week playing video games, and the industry itself now reliably outearns Hollywood. But the wider culture seems to regard video games as, at best, well designed if mindless entertainment.

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter is a defense of this assailed and misunderstood art form. Bissell argues that we are in a golden age of gaming--but he also believes games could be even better. He offers a critique of the ways video games dazzle and, just as often, frustrate. Along the way, we get firsthand portraits of some of the best minds (Jonathan Blow, Clint Hocking, Cliff Bleszinski, Peter Molyneux) at work in video game design today, as well as a final chapter that describes, in searing detail, Bissell's descent into the world of Grand Theft Auto IV, a game whose themes mirror his own increasingly self-destructive compulsions.

Tom Bissell is a prizewinning writer who published Chasing the Sea, God Lives in St. Petersburg, and The Father of All Things before the age of thirty-four. A recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Bay de Noc Community College Alumnus of the Year Award, he teaches fiction writing at Portland State University and lives in Portland, Oregon. He is also an obsessive gamer who has spent untold hours in front of his various video game consoles, playing titles such as Far Cry 2, Left 4 Dead, BioShock, and Oblivion for, literally, days.

Photo Credit: Trisha Miller

Friday Games: Deus Ex

Deus-Ex.jpgThis Friday, we'll be celebrating the 10th anniversary of Ion Storm's Deus Ex! For folks who aren't familiar with this landmark title, we'll start playing the game at 5pm, so you can get an idea of the depth of the mechanics and range of possibilities for emergent gameplay in this RPG/FPS hybrid. A little after 6pm, Darius Kazemi will talk about what makes the game so compelling, even after 10 years.

Friday Games at GAMBIT is open to the public, as usual. Just go to the 3rd floor of 5 Cambridge Center, near Kendall Square, and walk to the GAMBIT TV lounge!

Friday Demos: Demos!

This Friday at 5pm, Philip will be screening a number of award-winning demos from the past decade! Everyone is welcome to hang out and check them out.

What's a demo, you ask? Well, it's basically like a music video, only all the graphics are generated in real-time in code. Demos are often on the vanguard of introducing new graphic effects or techniques on home computers. Even today, some folks specialize on getting old computer hardware to render and display effects that would tax high-end 3D graphics cards. Other demo programmers/artists/musicians ("demosceners") like to challenge themselves by keeping the entire compiled application (music, textures and code) under 64K or even 4 Kilobytes! It's both an aesthetic and technical challenge.

Demos are non-interactive, so they're not games. However, because demosceners are so good at making the computer do things in real-time, many of them go on to work in the digital game industry. LittleBigPlanet, Spore, Max Payne, and Chronicles of Riddick are just a couple of titles that have significant demoscene roots. Philip will go a little more into the history of the demoscene on Friday afternoon.

So come on by this Friday and see what the Demo scene is all about!

Joga Bonito

Much of our work at GAMBIT focuses on digital games. This is not unreasonable given the long history of digital game innovation at MIT, and it is important for us to stay on the leading edge of this rapidly emerging mode of communication.

However, we would be remiss in not pausing for a moment today to reflect on the event that will put a stranglehold on the collective conscious of the entire world for the next four weeks.


As the world's greatest footballers, and greatest football fans descend on South Africa, I am reminded of the power of elegant game design to unite people - under the banners of nationalist pride, and in equal measure, by showing and sharing their (com)passion for a truly beautiful game.

There is some irony in the world's most popular sport being one that forsakes the use of the evolutionary tool that helps set us apart as a species. The simplicity of the rule has enabled the sport's dominance as the world's most popular game. You don't need much to play. A simple ball can be found or fashioned from many things. You don't need official goals, or uniforms, or bats, or pads. You don't need bases, or uprights, or wickets, or even a stadium. You only need some space, and the most abundant available resource, some people. No wonder the sport thrives.

jozy-altidore.jpgThis simplicity, I think too, serves as a reminder of our unity as global citizens. No amount of dollars, or ready-made suburban homes, or skyscrapers, or cable television rights can be divisive enough. Some of the best players' skills are honed barefoot in the sand. Everyone can play, and many millions do.

So my spirit is invigorated this morning as the first ball is kicked-off. Amazing that a simple game can stir so much passion in so many, and can serve as a reminder of the basic humanity we all share. Joga bonito everyone, and enjoy the momentary pause in the earth's rotation as we all hold our breath in expectant pause before the exhale of triumphant jubilation - goal.

And I can't leave this without declaring my support, blood orange since my youth:
Hup Holland Hup!

Flat Stanley visits GAMBIT
A few weeks ago, international adventurer Flat Stanley took time out of his busy schedule to visit GAMBIT. He kindly agreed to be a guest blogger and write up his impressions of the lab. Take it away, Stanley!

May 24, 2010

Today, I went to go visit Marleigh in Boston. She's my friend Maddie's cousin. Marleigh took me to work with her, which I thought would be kind of boring, but it turns out her work is a really cool place! She works at the GAMBIT Game Lab and studies and makes video games for a living. I took pictures at her office.

Stanley_MarleighThis is Marleigh. Except I'm hanging from her hat, so you can't see her very well. She's the Lead Interaction Designer at GAMBIT. I don't really understand what that means. She said that's ok, no one else does either, but to trust her because it's very important.
Marleigh's OfficeMarleigh let me sit in her office chair. I guess she likes pirates.
TI-99Studying video games means they play them too. Some people were playing games from a really old computer called a TI-99. I liked Q*bert. It was fun.
Koch InstituteAcross the street, they're making a new building for curing cancer. One of Marleigh's projects is to make video games to help people understand how cancer works. When the games are done, people will play them in the new building.
SaraThis is Sara. She does lots of things at GAMBIT, but one is Quality Assurance, which means making sure the games all work and are fun. Her office is cleaner than Marleigh's, but she says that's only because it's a new office and her daughters haven't visited much yet.
Rock Band WallCollege students work at GAMBIT too. Sometimes after work, they all play Rock Band. If you get a high score, they take a picture and put it on the wall. The company that makes Rock Band is called Harmonix and is a few blocks from GAMBIT. They send GAMBIT a new drum set every year, because the drums get worn out so fast with all the people playing them.
Pre-CopierThey have a really fancy copier! I tried to copy myself...
Post-Copier...but it didn't really work.
Mike with StanleyThis is Mike! He was setting up computers for when the summer students come to work. He's also an artist and draws pictures of video game people and an old scientist named Nikola Tesla.
Stanley with Video Game CabinetThey have a lot of video games at GAMBIT. A loooooooooooooooooot of video games. This is only one of the cabinets.
Stanley with MarioJason was on vacation, but he's the art person. He painted this picture of Mario. Look, Mario is jumping over me!
Clara with StanleyClara is a researcher at GAMBIT. Researchers are people who write papers and drink a lot of coffee. But Clara drinks tea instead of coffee because she's from Europe.
Stanley with RikRik was the one person who had heard of me before Marleigh explained it! He's very cool. He has lots of great toys in his office.
Abe with StanleyAbe is the sound guy at GAMBIT. He played me some of the music he wrote for video games. He is working on video games about a Greek person named Sophocles. He said I'd probably learn about Sophocles in high school.
Philip and StanleyPhilip is the boss of everyone at GAMBIT. You're supposed to push the panic button if you need to talk to him. I didn't push it, even though I kind of wanted to. Philip was in Singapore, which is a small island about as far away from Boston as you can be. GAMBIT has another office there.
Drew and Stanley play Dark TowerDrew is the computer programmer. We played a game called Dark Tower. He won, but it was ok.
Gene and StanleyThis is Gene. He makes movies about GAMBIT and puts them on YouTube. He really likes Jamaican music, and made a movie about it that's going to be in movie festivals.
Matt's Office HoursMatt wasn't there either, but he makes the rules for games so that they're fun to play. Marleigh says he's written about James Bond, zombies, and Metal Gear Solid, but not in the same paper.
Stanley, Claudia's office, and ZorkClaudia handles the money, like when people go to conferences. A conference is when a lot of people interested in the same thing get together to talk about it. Her window has words from Zork, which is a video game from back before video games had pictures.
Caution, Adults at Play!I like this sign.

Thanks, GAMBIT! See you soon!


2010-2011 MIT Postdoctoral Associate at the Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab and Comparative Media Studies

The Singapore-MIT GAMBIT Game Lab in Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT is pleased to announce a postdoctoral teaching-research associate position for nontenured scholars and teachers in videogame research and development. Postdocs will be required to fulfill a combination of teaching, management, research, and publishing roles, working with faculty, graduate, and undergraduate students. The position is designed to encourage the academic growth of promising scholars with recent Ph.D. degrees. The appointment is for a one-year period beginning September 1st, 2010, with a salary of $49,000 and a competitive benefits package.

The Postdoctoral Associate position is available in one or more areas of specialization related to videogame studies, design, development or market analysis. Dossier evaluations begin July 1, 2010.

Click here for details about applications, qualifications, and areas of specialization.

One Paragraph Review - The Lurking Horror

This post originally appeared on Matt Weise's blog Outside Your Heaven.

The Lurking Horror (PC, 4-6 hrs) - The best H. P. Lovecraft game ever, at least in terms of evoking the famous horror writer's ambiguous prose style. Text is the perfect medium to describe "indescribable horror", and there's a lot that's indescribable in this effective text adventure from INFOCOM. The Lurking Horror puts you in the shoes of a student at "GUE" (actually MIT, right down to the floor layouts) who is snowed-in on campus while trying to finish a paper late one evening. This simple set up is all designer/programmer Dave Lebling needs to send you on a dark journey into the unspeakable, which involves extensive exploration of the campus tunnels, encounters with creepy janitors, and runs-ins with the occasional unseen terror. Puzzles are occasionally esoteric, but the slow-burn sense of dread and evocative anti-description make this a superbly memorable horror experience.

Research Video Podcast Episode 4: "Infernal Adaptation: The Thin Line Between Adaptation and Misappropriation"

GAMBIT's Sound Director Abe Stein discusses his newest paper "Infernal Adaptation: The Thin Line Between Adaptation and Misappropriation" , a look at the 2010 EA Games/Visceral release "Dante's Inferno" and it's relation to the classic work by Dante Alighieri.

Video Produced by Generoso Fierro , Edited by Garrett Beazley, Music by Abe Stein

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