According to the latest trailer from the Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP guys, we can expect what appears to be an game of epic 8-bit wonder for the iPad around March 20, 2011! Watch the trailer on their official website: s:s&s ep – hello, world:.
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is planning an exhibit on “The Art of Video Games,” and they want our feedback on the selections for the exhibit. Read below for part of the press release from the Smithsonian and the link to the official site:
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is inviting the public to help select the video games that will be included in its upcoming exhibition “The Art of Video Games,” which opens in Washington, D.C. March 16, 2012. The exhibition is the first to explore the 40-year evolution of video games as an artistic medium, with a focus on striking visual effects and the creative use of new technologies. Chris Melissinos, founder of Past Pixels and collector of video games and gaming systems, is the curator of the exhibition.
Voting will take place online, www.artofvideogames.org, from Feb. 14 through April 7. A valid e-mail address is the only requirement to vote. The website will offer participants a chance to vote for 80 games from a pool of 240 proposed choices in various categories, divided by era, game type and platform. The winning games will be displayed in the exhibition as screen shots and short video clips. The website will include an online forum where gaming enthusiasts can campaign for particular games and voice their opinions about the selections.
The New York Times features a front page, top section video game review of Dead Space 2 (although it originally appeared on page C1 of the New York print edition). Is this heightened video game respect, or is the NY Times targeting this review to me based on my demographic information that I gave them about 10 years ago to create my premium account login?
Today, Y and I met up with her best friends from high school for a vegetarian lunch followed by a temple visit and then hanging out at Anita’s home. During the day, I had a wonderful conversation with Y’s good friend Amy Yau, who is an editor of computer and design books in Taipei, about science fiction fandom, otaku, and “home guys.”
I wrote about the Taiwanese “home guy” back in 2009 here. In that earlier post, I wrote about people in Taiwan who are technology and video game enthusiasts who in the States we might call nerds or geeks: “Home guy (阿宅) is a term that was originally reserved for folks who majored in computer science in school, but now the term has an expanded meaning that encompasses someone who is shy, plays video games, and reads comic books (girls are a marginalized minority in this group but there are definitely some out there)” (Ellis par. 4). I also wrote about the home guy movement’s self-proclaimed spokesman or leader, 朱學恒 (Xuei-Hen Ju).
I am a novice when it comes to Taiwanese fandom, and I am glad that I had a chance to speak with Amy today to further develop what I wrote earlier about home guys. She provided me with additional information about different kinds of home guy, and she pointed out a very important distinction between Japanese and Taiwanese otaku.
The three types of home guy are more nuanced that I originally described in my earlier post. According to Amy, the first kind of home guy is what the media has constructed from existing stereotypes. The media home guy is a man who stays at home, plays video games, wears t-shirts and lousy clothes, avoids showers, and most imporantly, is very shy.
Counterposed to the media home guy is the actual home guy, who is a technology enthusiast, comic reader, and video game player. Amy considers herself a home guy in this regard. She is a successful young person with a promising career who enjoys a technology and new media lifestyle. She goes out with her friends regularly, and I can attest to the fact that she a kind and outgoing person who does not fit the less pleasant aspects of the media home guy. She and many other home guys break the stereotype that the media continue to promote here in Taiwan.
Finally, there is the third type of home guy or what I call the Lucifer Home Guy. Xuei-Hen Ju is the self-proclaimed leader of Taiwanese home guys or what you can call the “Home God.” In his formulation of the home guy, it is a person who enjoys new media and technology but also goes out to do things socially, especially in groups. He wants to bring people together to do things. These are generally good things, because they are also breaking the media promoted stereotypes. However, there are two concerns about his assumption of the home guy leadership if any such thing is even needed. They are: who elected him to Home God, and his problematic promotion of other home guy stereotypes.
First, Xuei-Hen Ju has become a spokesperson of sorts for home guys through his blog and his organization of home guy social events (including the one that I wrote about before here). Amy said that he should not be the representative of home guys, because he does not really represent all home guys. He is one person among many, many home guys with different levels of home guy participation. Imagine home guys as a spectrum that involves not only involvement but also different kinds of fandom (technology, comics, video games–supposedly fringe or marginal entertainments and engineering that are in fact mainstream now). Xuei-Hen Ju is one among many home guys, and he should not be emblematic of the group as a whole.
Second, Xuei-Hen Ju participates in some media home guys stereotypes such as wearing too casual clothing and t-shirts. He may be attempting to reach out to home guys who do appear that way, but he clearly wants to create his own home guy stereotype. Why not challenge the most obvious signifier of the home guy: what they wear? However, there are some things that he does that Amy lauds such as his translation work that brings Harvard and MIT lectures to Chinese speaking people for free.
Regardless of the differences of opinion between home guys and Xuei-Hen Ju’s version of home guy, both groups do not like their portrayal by the Taiwanese media. In this at least they are united.
The second part of our conversation, Amy told me about the core differentiating characteristic between Japanese otaku and Taiwanese otaku. Otaku is from Japanese and it means an obsessive enthusiast, particularly someone who enjoys manga (comics), anime (animation), or video games. Taiwanese otaku is another way of saying home guy. What makes these two groups different, at least concerning men in both groups, is that Japanese otaku obsess over and actually fall in love with virtual girls while Taiwanese otaku or home guys only like real girls. Evidence for this can be found by regularly reading Danny Choo’s website (his website here is a portal to Japanese otaku). Virtual girl fetishization seems to be a way of life for young men in Japan: body pillow cases, virtual girl friend games including Love Plus, female figures and action figure toys, etc. On the other hand, Amy claims that male Taiwanese otaku do not fall for virtual girl friends. For example, Xuei-Hen Ju favors posting images of real girls rather than artistically created virtual girls on his website here.
Like my earlier post about home guys, this is only a quick sketch of a term endeared by some and reviled by others. Amy helped me develop a more nuanced approach to the home guy phenomenon, and she helped me understand some imporant distinctions that I was not aware of before.
Casey Boyle sent this out this call for applications for the Humanities Gaming Institute to the litsci mailing list. Sounds like fun, but the tail end of the institute conflicts with SFRA 2010 in Carefree, Arizona on June 24-27.
Humanities Gaming Institute 2010
The University of South Carolina’s Center for Digital Humanities, with generous support from the NEH’s Office of Digital Humanities, invites applications for a Humanities Gaming Institute, held June 7-25 2010 in Columbia, SC. Our institute will assemble a diverse cohort—teachers and researchers, faculty and advanced graduate students—from across the humanities disciplines to pursue a three-week investigation of the use of games to concretely advance teaching and research in the humanities.
In addition to HGI’s team of local scholars, a large group of resident experts—including Anne Balsamo, Ian Bogost, and Tracy Fullerton—will join us to explore how gaming allows us to advance existing humanities questions in the humanities as well as chart new areas for research and teaching. In addition to theoretical and pedagogical discussions, HGI will include practical hands-on work in game development to help participants pursue innovative projects tailored to the specific disciplines of the humanities. Generous funding for twenty fellowships ($1875/each) will help defray the cost of attendance.
We invite hybrid and interdisciplinary teams, as well as interesting smaller projects. With a mandate to extend shared infrastructural resources, we solicit projects from institutions without a dedicated presence in the Digital Humanities. For more information on HGI, including how to apply, see humanitiesgaming.org.
On the final full day of conferencing at SFRA 2008, we shifted from the Holiday Inn Holidome to the beautiful, (de)constructed campus of Kansas University. I only note the state of construction on the campus, which is a continual state of affairs for all large universities, because Jason Embry, Melissa Colleen Stevenson, and I got totally lost on the way to the University Union. Luckily, we had a delightful breakfast at Miltons after we thought the empty Ingredient was closed, so we had the energy to persevere–I to find the parking deck, and Jason and Melissa to hoof it in the rain to the Union through the construction barricade. They made it to their panels on time, and I ducked into the first morning panel shortly after it began.
The three morning panels at KU were full of great papers, but I decided to go to the “Beginnings and Endings” panel, because Jason Embry was presenting on Philip K. Dick’s Valis and I’ll be working with Mack Hassler on PKD in the fall.
Rikk Mulligan, who I paneled with at IAFA 2008, presented on S. M. Sterling’s Dies the Fire series with his paper, “From the Ashes: S. M. Sterling’s Novels of “The Change” and the New Postapocalypse.” I think his connecting Sterling’s work with America in the here-and-now is an interesting take on the present. His essay was packed with a lot of ideas and details that I think he can turn into a larger paper for publication.
Veronica Hollinger presented a paper title, “Science Fiction and Posthumanism: Intersections of Story and Theory.” Her essay is an indepth and insightful survey of posthumanist theory, and it’s taken from her chapter in the upcoming Routledge Science Fiction collection.
The last presentation was Jason Embry’s “Recovering the Third Eye: Gnostic World-Building in Philip K. Dick’s Valis.” He brings Lacan and the Real to bear on Dick (no multiple pun intended). He talked about language in Valis, and how Dick sought to reclaim that which was lost through language. The idea is that there was a loss through accepting one language and symbolic order. Valis is an attempt at returning to a lost unity, hence the gnosticism in the novel. This is great stuff, and it comes from a chapter in Jason’s dissertation that he’ll be defending soon–best of luck!
After the panel, Jason and I walked through the widely spaced rain drops to the library and the Science Fiction collection book sale. When we arrived, it was clear that a lot of stuff was cleaned out, but there were still some jems hidden in the stacks. Some of my finds included Bruce Sterling’s Schizmatrix (Veronica mentioned this as a must-read in her presentation), a collection of C.L. Moore stories, a handful of collections edited by Judith Merril, and Harlan Ellison’s Again, Dangerous Visions 1.
We had a nice catered lunch in the Big 12, and then it was back to work. I walked up to the English Room for the “Playing the Universe: Reading and Teaching Science Fiction with Video Games” roundtable that I participated in with Pawel Frelik (the organizer), Craig Jacobsen, and Donna Binns. It was my first roundtable, and I had no teaching experience to speak of, but I came prepared with some ideas that I had regarding Pawel’s two discussion leading questions:
Are videogames as a medium ready for the mainstream humanities on a par with literature and film? What are the biggest problems that videogames face concerning their acceptance as relevant and attention-worthy texts?
As a medium that often captures the imagination of young students much more than books or even TV shows/films, how can games be used to assist teaching fantastic literatures in the older media? Any specific strategies? Any specific examples that you feel would be perfect for teaching space opera, cyberpunk, etc?
Craig and Donna had some great practical advice based on their use of video games in the classroom. Craig uses video games in a genre studies course, and Donna uses video games as a way to get students writing about games and their relation to other media/genres–she asks her students to make content that makes sense. Craig made an important point that I had missed in thinking about video games in the classroom–don’t forget small, online games. He described using the online game Deanimator as an introduction to his “Zombies” class–he has everyone play it at their computer station, and then he has them stop playing and turn off their monitors. He asks everyone to describe the setting, how the controls work, what else was going on besides killing zombies. Interesting, no one remembers these things, which drives home the point that students will have to consider these things as texts with deeper meanings than the activity of killing zombies. Also, he tells them, “I don’t care what you like just like your chemistry teacher doesn’t care what your favorite element is.” This is an important lesson that I’m going to bring into my classroom.
After a great exchange of questions and discussion, I stuck around for Mack Hassler’s New Boundaries in Political Science Fiction book launch. Mack had a copy of the book, fresh off the press (make sure your hands are clean). The panel of contributors included Peter R. Bergethon, Lisa Yaszek, Doug Davis, Mary Elizabeth Ginway, Thomas Michaud, and Marleen Barr. Peter is a neuroscientist and doctor, who wrote the opening piece, which is about how as our minds physically change with the advent of new technologies, our engagement and ways of thinking about politics will also change. Marleen wrote the end piece, part of which she read at the 2005 SFRA in White Plains, NY, which is about how Condoleeza Rice is a dominatrix robot controlled by George W. Bush–that’s all I remember about it, besides the boots–but for this one essay’s humor and scholarship alone, you should check out this book when it comes out! More info here.
The day wound up with an indoor BBQ, complete with stout beer. There were many thank yous and congratulations on a successful conference. Also, being July 12, everyone sang happy birthday to Jim Gunn, and then Sue Hassler shouted out, “it was Jason’s birthday too,” so everyone clapped for me. A good time was had by all, but I was groggy from lack of sleep, so Jason, Melissa, and I drove back to the hotel for a nap before going back out later in the evening.
Meeting back up in the bar downstairs, we had some Guinness, said our good-byes to Melissa who had to leave early in the morning, and then Craig, Sha, Jason, Natasha, a-friendly-bloke-whose-name-escape-me, and I checked out the Lawrence, Kansas nightlife. We braved hordes of fans, groupie gangs, and the hipster legions at the Bottleneck and another place way too crowded to warrant a name other than “Mathematical singularities for fun and profit.” Also, Craig conducted experiments on signification. I had a great time, fell asleep with a nice buzz after talking with Yufang on the phone, and woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed (with hangover) for the business meeting Sunday morning. More on that next time…