Archive for April, 2007

A New Geek Term?

Monday, April 30th, 2007

If this is indeed not just a localized phenomenon to his local bookstore, Mark Frauenfelder introduces ‘manga aisle hobos‘ to geek lexicon. He’s still seeking alternative phrases, though. (Maybe ‘manga squatters’..? And is this only with manga readers? And do I need a separate category for ‘Manga’ on the blog because I already gave ‘Anime’ a separate category from ‘Movies’ and ‘Television’?)

Update: Suggestions are piling up at this Flickr comment thread, with ‘hobotaku’ in the lead. Any manga fans out there want to comment on this? I’m very careful to “use members’ meanings” (as we learned in my Field Methods class), meaning that I generally avoid using terms to identify people that they don’t use themselves, so I’m curious whether this would strike manga readers as simply derogatory. (The commenters in that Flickr thread certainly mean it to be.)

Wear Your Geekiness on Your Sleeve (Or Sash)

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I didn’t last long as a Boy Scout, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the value of a good-looking merit badge. Boing Boing has some links to various nerd-oriented merit badges. I am particularly impressed with some of the designs and witticisms by the Order of the Science Scouts of Exemplary Repute and Above Average Physique. This, in turn, reminds me of a post up at Kotaku about Activision patches (arguably the precursor of the “Achievement” system on Xbox Live).

If I were a craftier (and less busy) person, I would figure out some way to get the Geek Studies logo onto a patch or perhaps embroidered onto something. It’s not as scalable as logos I would normally design, but I had a burning desire to create a pixelated coat of arms in Adobe Illustrator.

Also, in my defense: I may have never gotten past “Tenderfoot,” but as a Cub Scout, I did come in second at the Pinewood Derby one year with a car emblazoned with the Flash’s insignia, and I won a creativity prize another year for my car designed to look like the Batmobile. (I assure you that it was a coincidence that my parents were Troop Leaders, or Den Parents, or whatever they were called, that year.)

Analyzing Analog Games

Monday, April 30th, 2007

Linked to because I focus disproportionately on digital games: Board Game Geek has a feature on famous critics dissecting board games.

Trauma and Consequences in Narrative Games

Monday, April 30th, 2007

A friend recently told me an anecdote about a game involving space travel.1 There wasn’t much of a story to the game overall, but there was a narrative element insofar as your actions were supposed to have moral consequences. Basically, do bad things and you’ll go to the dark side. It’s somewhat ironic, then, that players determined that the best way to start this game was to throw a guy out an airlock.

This action wasn’t for humorous value or to demonstrate right off the bat how badass your character was: it was a strategy. The extent to which an evil act affected your morality was relative to everything you had done before it. Start the game with the most evil action possible, and you have nowhere to go but up. Only the good guys could eventually acquire the best ship in the game, and this strategy made that goal more easily attainable. This is just one of many examples of how games fail at emotional engagement because they are more about winning than about feeling.

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Media in Transition 5

Monday, April 30th, 2007

I just spent the weekend at a conference hosted by MIT, Media in Transition 5. I presented my paper “The Well Dressed Geek: Media Appropriation and Subcultural Style” on Sunday. I just want to make a couple quick revisions before I send along the paper to upload, but you can see the abstract on MiT5’s site; here are my slides and presentation notes, if you’re interested. (Update: the full paper is now available online. I’ll be revising it for publication shortly, so please feel free to email with any comments.)

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Wait, these people have their own magazines? Who knew!

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

Geek Monthly got a couple mentions on late-night TV. The tone of incredulity is interesting: “I guess this is flattering,” Jay Leno says of his guest, the cover boy on issue one, while Conan O’Brian makes a self-deprecating joke and notes that there are some sexy shots of his guest in the magazine.

Emphasis on the “Sub”

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

Comicon.com’s The Pulse has an interview up with the creators of a comic book called SubCulture, a story about media fans.

KEVIN FREEMAN: The primary focus is on fans of comics, gaming, anime, science fiction, and the like. As a group, we’re an interesting lot, and deserving of a closer look. But we wanted the book to be more than a series of jokes. Yes, there’s humor, but it’s set within the confines of a more serious story. […]

THE PULSE: Do you think people like to laugh at themselves and see comics like this? Are you worried you might be offending your target audience with their portrayal in SubCulture?

FREEMAN: I like to think that most of us don’t take ourselves too seriously. We’re an odd lot, but most of us embrace that fact. We like being different. I admit, the book does take a dangerous path. But I think the story is written in such a way that it ultimately portrays fans in a positive way. Sure, we’re all a little strange, but we’re also genuinely good people. I hope that’s what the readers get out of it.

STAN YAN: Honestly, I think that many of us that do take ourselves too seriously might not be able to see ourselves in the characters that share our “quirks”.

Mostly I’m just linking this because I like to keep track of when people specifically link the audiences of what are ostensibly diverse media (what do games have to do with comics?). It’s also interesting to note how the people involved in this interview all fancy themselves as part of the group being poked fun at here, but are still aware that some people might not find it so funny.

I’m inclined to agree with Freeman that the kind of folks who would even pick up a (somewhat harder-to-find) comic in the first place are also probably used to making fun of the stereotypes associated with fandom, especially as the creators are clearly part of the in-group. Certainly enough people can get behind that sentiment that you can sell t-shirts about self-deprecating geek humor. Maybe it helps to go the extra mile by portraying an avatar of yourself as the demented nerd in question.

Beaming Between the Lines

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Geek Monthly has an interesting take on some recent quotes by J.J. Abrams about his upcoming Star Trek prequel film. Noting a couple key phrases spoken by the director in a magazine interview and a science-fiction con, Anthony Pascale says:

Notice the use of ‘canon’ and ‘Roddenberry’s vision.’ These are code words to Trekkies promising to not do a Ron Moore’s BSG style ‘reimagining’ of the 40 year old franchise.

Every now and then, one of my more quantitatively-oriented friends in Communication asks me how to do a qualitative textual analysis for a paper in a required class. I should send them to Anthony Pascale. He knows that you can find meaning in things without doing a word count, and he is probably less likely to bore them with structuralist theory than most of my favorite books on the subject. (But I hear that the fans prefer ‘Trekkers,’ no?)

It may seem odd that J.J. Abrams (the man behind Alias and partially-behind Lost) would bother trying to reassure fans, but properly motivated fans can almost certainly boost sales. (People seem to believe that Snakes on a Plane proved otherwise, but I’m inclined to believe that without the fan support, it would have lost money.) Plus, if his dinner with Kevin Smith, Mark Hamill, and Stan Lee is any indication, he’s a pretty big geek himself.

Play Per View

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

Kotaku has a post up on XLeague TV, a British TV channel dedicated to showing actual video game play. Even more than the announcement of the new channel, what I found interesting were commenters’ reactions: the original writer of the post was very disparaging of the idea, calling the entire concept “pointless” and “weak.” So far, the comments that follow offer some voices of agreement, but mostly suggestions that it might not be such a bad idea.

Valee says:
In Korea, they have dedicated tv programmes for their online games like Lineage2 & Starcraft, which shows top players fighting it out. Then again, these games are wildly popular in Korea.

cyhborg says:
hey, i wouldn’t mind (i have no life…)

Cell9song says:
I thought about something like this while watching a friend play Halo 1. As stupid as it sounds it just may get a viewership. Just a hunch.

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Tracy Fullerton on Game Mechanics

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

It’s taken me awhile to get around to posting this, but Joystiq posted a synopsis of an interesting talk about game mechanics by Tracy Fullerton. You’re getting the talk through the filter of someone else’s notes, of course, but interesting food for thought on whether the game industry is stuck on the same old mechanics.