Ars Technica on Learn With Portals and Free Portal Game Download

Ars Technica has a short post here about the free download of Portal for Mac and PC that I mentioned yesterday on Dynamic Subspace here. I knew that Portal had a good physics engine, but I didn’t know that Portal is used in education. According to Ben Kuchera of Ars, Valve Software promotes this use of their popular video game through the Learn with Portals website. Learn with Portals encourages the use of Portal as an educational playground for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

I believe that this is a wonderful use of video games as a supplement to education, particularly in the STEM cluster. Outside of cultural readings of video games, this is a very useful nuts-and-bolts use of video games for learning.

Find out more about this on the Learn with Portals website here.

You have until September 20, 2011 to download Portal for free on your Mac or PC from here.

Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions Now Live in Apple iPhone App Store

The long anticipated Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions just went live in Apple’s iPhone App Store here for $15.99. Other Square Enix games are on sale in the App Store this week. So far, Voice Fantasy has dropped to $0.99, but I haven’t seen any other price drops yet. It is only 12:19AM, so the price adjustments should roll out tonight. Good luck!

Thoughts On Gaming Journalism, Lasting First Impressions, and Ars Technica on Borderlands 2/”Shoddy Journalism”

I’m not too surprised by Ben Kuchera’s story, “Developer calls accurate Borderlands 2 report “shoddy journalism,”on Ars Technica that there is what I would call a video game developer-publicity-journalism complex. It seems that some developers and their hired marketing guns get pissy when gaming journalists actually do journalism including outing a game before it is “officially” announced. The funny thing about this problem is that so-called gaming journalists who sign NDAs with developers also get pissy when other non-NDA confined journalists beat them to an announcement. I can understand in the heyday of gaming magazines that this kind of collusion between developers, marketing gurus, and journalists promoted everyone’s interests: it sold games, it sold magazines, it kept the marketing departments or marketing agencies flush with cash, and the “story” about the game was firmly controlled. Now, however, the Internet and its new journalism is breaking down these firmly entrenched paths of information flow. The news is jumping the carefully laid tracks. This is good for news readers/gamers, but it is chaos for those who desire to control the flow of gaming news. I imagine the same is/will be true for other media creators. Bad or uninformed news early-on can sink or hurt new releases. This is probably akin to orchestrated fog of war news releases, but inverted–undesirable news released first leaves a lasting first impression.

Powers Gaming’s Texas Battlefield 3 LAN Party and the Practices of Re-Inscribing Misogyny Through Sexism

Stacie Hanes posted a link to this story by Tami B. about a unofficial Battlefield 3 launch LAN party being held in Texas that specifically excluded women from participating:

A large launch party and LAN for Battlefield 3 is being held in Texas, and women are disallowed from attending in order to protect them from misogynistic insults.

via Texas Battlefield 3 launch LAN bans women from attending | Border House.

Tami B. was responding to an earlier post on Kotaku.com, a video gaming blog, which summarized the situation as:

Enthusiasts of military-style first-person shooters are not well known for their progressive thoughts on the matter of gender. The organizers of a large LAN party in Texas, scheduled to celebrate the launch of Battlefield 3, have decided the best way to deal with any slurs hurled at female gamers is to simply forbid them from attending.

I wanted to know more about the knuckleheads who thought that the most logical way to nip misogyny in the bud was to apply a sexist attendance policy to the LAN party, so I found this response by Jason Powers full of “truth” meant to combat the “lies” perpetrated by Internet folk commenting on Power’s LAN party. Powers begins with the supposed origin of their “no girls allowed” policy: a guy named “Joe” said misogynistic things to another player named “Jane” during a LAN party. Instead of policing for idiots like Joe, Powers decided it was easier to exclude girls from the get-togethers.

Then, in order to set the record straight about how the world come to give a damn about his LAN party, Powers writes:

Fast forward to last week… Some girl from the QuakeCon forums was interested in attending our upcoming event, and read that “no women allowed” paragraph and took it the wrong way. Can’t say I blame her honestly; it was poor wording on our part. She never bothered to contact us regarding that policy; she was “just upset” and vented on an all-girl reddit forum.

[. . .]

Anyways, back on topic, this same “QuakeCon” girl contacted one of our admins (who’s also an admin for QuakeCon) and apologized for what happened in a PM. As it turns out, she’s really a nice girl who had no idea her one post would bring some 40,000+ hateful people to our sites, overwhelm our servers, and create a national fiasco. To me, that fact that she came to us (along with several of her friends), says a lot about the gaming community. We’ve been able to put this behind us, and move forward in support of something we truly love: Gaming…
I suppose someone whose logic is to exclude women from gaming events in order to eliminate the need to confront misogyny would think that a woman in the QuakeCon forums would take their “no women allowed” policy “the wrong way.” Then, as if placing the blame of the events on the event planners’ wording rather than the concept itself was not enough, Powers comes full circle to say that the “QuakeCon girl,” who is a “really nice girl who had no idea her one post would bring some 40,000+ hateful people to our site, overwhelm our servers, and create a national fiasco,” apologized for bringing this to the wider online community’s attention. First, I think it is selfserving for Powers to share a PM between that individual and the site admins. Second, and more importantly, he presents her apology in such a way that it re-inscribes the sexism that his group’s gaming policy enforces. The logic of presenting her apology to the public is essentially saying that this whole problem, as in the earlier case with Joe and Jane, is the girl’s fault. If Jane weren’t at the earlier party, Joe wouldn’t have been able to espouse his misogyny. If the QuakeCon forum member hadn’t publicized Powers Gaming’s stupid no-women-allowed policy, Powers and the other organizers wouldn’t be scrutinized or demonized in this way. Furthermore, the second example firmly places the blame on the woman and not on Powers and his friends. She supposedly apologized to them for making others aware that misogyny and sexism takes different explicit and implicit forms.
Powers Gaming is only a blip on the gaming landscape, and I suspect that this kind of policy is rare. Nevertheless, these kinds of exclusionary and sexist practices should be put in the spotlight online, because people need to know that they still take place and we can work together to stop these kinds of practices from continuing to happen in the future. Powers and his friends should rethink their policy in light of the fact that removing women from an event does not erase the misogyny of attendees. Instead, it erases women from a space where they can enjoy gaming with others. If someone wants to be a misogynistic knucklehead, that person should be kicked to the curb as Joe apparently was in the event that precipitated this policy. Simply removing women from this and future events is a sexist response to misogyny by excluding one group of gamers on the basis of their sex.

Let’s Play Lucasfilm Games’ The Secret of Monkey Island

Not science fictional, Lucasfilm Games/Lucasarts’ The Secret of Monkey Island is a fantasy game that takes place in the Caribbean during the 17th century. It follows a young man who wishes to be a pirate and claim a fortune. Postmodern anachronisms, puns, and tongue-in-cheek game advertisements for other Lucasarts games makes this an interesting and enjoyable game to play from the early 1990s.

Let’s Play Lucasarts’ Sam and Max Hit the Road

As I mentioned in my last post, Sam and Max Hit the Road is another fine game from the heyday of Lucasarts PC gaming in the early 1990s. I remember playing this game on my 486 DX2/66 at my grandparents’ house when I stayed with them the Summer of 1994. Sam and Max are two private detectives, a dog and an insane rabbit, who scour the United States for a carnival’s missing frozen big foot. Based on the comic book by Steve Purcell, Sam and Max Hit the Road is perhaps the most irreverent of the Lucasarts SCUMM games.

Like the other fine games from Lucasarts at that time that used the SCUMM game engine, they brought together humor and a tightly crafted narrative that gave gamers enough room to explore without being confined to a game-on-rails. The Monkey Island series is another example of these strong PC games (more next time!).

Let’s Play Lucasarts’ Maniac Mansion: Day of the Tentacle

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz3Aw5qLcOs%5D

The original Maniac Mansion was good, but the sequel Day of the Tentacle is comedic science fiction gold! In the longplay embedded above, you can follow the story as Bernard, Hoagie, and Laverne fight the ubermensch Purple Tentacle. The early 1990s was the high water mark for Lucasart humor-laden adventure games. Sam and Max Hit the Road is another amazing game from that era (fuel for another post!).

Let’s Play Mega Man on the NES

The above longplay video from cubex55 is an extremely fast and well-timed run-through of the original Mega Man on the NES. Mega Man is another early science fiction console video game and it is about the good android Mega Man, built by Dr. Light, defending the world against the evil robots built by Dr. Wily. Mega Man is a classic side-scrolling adventure that is among my favorite NES games.