Archive for June, 2009

Citation Stylings

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

My dissertation occasionally presents me with some odd dilemmas resulting in strange turns of phrase. This is largely an artifact of working with an in-text citation style (APA), which blends a somewhat scientistic air with sometimes quite … let’s say, colorful names and language. No matter how many times I read this sentence, for instance, it looks strange to me, though there’s nothing objectively wrong with it:

Sexist, racist, and homophobic sentiments may be amplified by the somewhat anonymous and depersonalized format of internet venues – an “online disinhibition effect” (Suler, 2004) in psychological terms, though well known to geeks under such terms as “the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” (Kruhulik & Holkins, 2004).

The phrase is indeed well known, and I offer an endnote to expound upon that a bit. But it still looks like a weird sentence. (And yes, the lowercase “I” in “internet” is intentional.)

My dilemma today is how to cite an article by Iroquois Pliskin. Citing people by handle/screen name is usually no big deal for me. Because I’m quoting heavily from comments on blogs and publicly viewable forums, I already have plenty of citations like “(CmdrTaco, 2007).” This gets trickier when citing someone using a screen name that takes the form of a pen name. If I’m to treat this like a screen name, I’d cite it as “(Iroquois Pliskin, 2009).” On the other hand, this has a first and last name, so should it be “(Pliskin, 2009)”? “Mark Twain” was just a pen name for Samuel Clemens, but I think you’d still cite him as “(Twain, 1876).” And I haven’t even addressed how I decided to cite the Penny Arcade strip noted in the quote above as “(Krahulik and Holkins, 2004)” rather than “(Gabe and Tycho, 2004)”; citing when you have a screen name and a real name associated with a work presents its own challenges as well.

I’m not going to let something so silly hold me up right now, so I’m just going with citing as a screen name for consistency with the other online sources I’m using in cases when no real name is given on the work itself. Perhaps I’ll revise after defending if need be.

If Mating Were a Math Problem

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Several people have made note of this to me today, so I figure I might as well post it. A Slashdot reader asks the community how to meet people, especially of the opposite sex.

I have a question for my fellow Slashdotters, and yes, I realize I am entering the lion’s den covered in tasty meat-flavored sauce. I have never been a very social person, preferring to throw myself into technology; therefore, I’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful in developing any meaningful interpersonal relationships. Lately I have begun to feel that this situation is not tenable, and I would like to fix it. But I really don’t know how and haven’t the faintest idea where to start. I know that I am in the minority and that there are many different kinds of Slashdot readers, most of whom have more experience in this realm than I do. So please tell me: how, and more importantly, where do you meet fellow geeks — preferably including some of the opposite gender — in meatspace?

The asker acknowledges that s/he is going to get flamed (and eaten), which seems exacerbated by wording that seems to have been interpreted as genuinely detached rather than playfully self-mocking (e.g., using terms like “meatspace” and analytically concluding that having no friends “is not tenable”). I’m not sure which I find more interesting: the frankness of the asker in trying to find a solution to this dilemma, which is presumed to result in meeting one of our own kind (so to speak); or the variety of answers that Slashdotters offer, ranging from specific things to try to get geeky and non-geeky women alike. (Everyone assumes that the person posting is male, though I’m not sure that was ever stated outright which was eventually revealed later but omitted from the original post so as to be more useful for a wider range of future readers.)

I’m too far into the dissertation to really be incorporating new data, but this seems interesting enough to at least warrant a footnote. Maybe I’ll come back to this if I ever get around to writing a paper on the role of dating in shaping geek culture and identity, as has occurred to me repeatedly as I write this. And in that case, I’d like to also note that this post has directed me to Sex Tips for Geeks, and has reminded me of an Escapist article titled “My Big Fat Geek Marriage” and a potentially relevant xkcd cartoon.

And as for the original Slashdot post: As easy as it is to mock someone for asking this question, you’ve got to give this person credit for recognizing solitude as untenable, and taking the first step toward finding an alternative.

Playboy, Fanboys, and Olivia Munn

Saturday, June 20th, 2009

Kotaku has a post up about G4 television personality Olivia Munn’s recent Playboy shoot. Apparently Munn had agreed in advance that it would not be a nude shoot, but was pressured otherwise at the shoot itself. She did stick to her guns, though, and complete a clothed shoot as planned. Said Munn, “It ended with my publicist and the stylist screaming at each other.”

I was particularly interested in writing up a quick post about this piece because of the last few paragraphs:

Munn’s knows that part of why Playboy came calling, and was cool with her not doing nudity, is she has a fan base that’s highly coveted by advertisers. Gamers are easily separated from their dough, after all. But the positive response she’s gotten for not taking it off tells her that her fans do care. “They’re not going to say, ‘Oh, titty! Oh, that’s Olivia’s vagina, let’s go buy it!'” she said. “They’re supportive, not just because it gets them off.”

But she doesn’t worry about being typecast for the geek demographic. To the contrary, it gets her plenty of work. She’s just finished up a role in Iron Man II, and got an offer for another from producers who said they wanted someone who isn’t the kind of pedestalized-hot that Megan Fox represents.

“I love this world I am in,” Munn said. “If I could stay in this world forever, the nerd world, I’d be happy. I’ve been here for three years, and I can confidently say this is a world I feel comfortable and welcomed in.”

I thought it was really nice that she describes her fans as supportive and welcoming. Predictably, Kotaku’s comments on the article include many crude responses, though I was interested to see several people commenting that this makes them respect Munn even more. I’ll leave further commentary aside for now (must focus on more pressing writing tasks), but I thought this might be of interest to some readers here.

Where’d My Key Go? (And Other Game Design Annoyances)

Sunday, June 14th, 2009

I was talking to a friend the other night about how many (ostensibly) narrative games often do things that entirely defy logic and ruin a sense of immersive storytelling. The most obvious such convention may be the character’s repeated death and rebirth, but that one presents a particularly difficult question: How do you get around this convention without undermining the whole point of the game, which is to fight and escape death? That convention doesn’t have an easy answer, though, and not everyone is buying the kind of answers that have been offered to date.

Some other tropes, however, remain quite common and entirely possible to address if you’re really interested in prioritizing storytelling aspects. I thought it might be fun to point out a few such annoyances and suggest how they could be (or even have been) approached in more coherent ways. (And yes, when you’re writing a multi-hundred-page dissertation, thinking and writing about anything else in the world for a few minutes a day definitely counts as “fun.”) I invite you, too, to respond to these or come up with some more of your own in the comments.

Read the rest of this entry »

What Heavy Rain Might Tell Us About Choice

Sunday, June 7th, 2009

I have a few blog posts on deck that I’ve started but keep putting off. (Such is the nature of dissertation writing, I suppose.) I beg your forgiveness again, then, for posts few and far between, on happenings that may seem like yesterday’s news. Today’s late-to-the-game post is on Heavy Rain, one of the few games that makes me want a Playstation 3 (along with The Last Guardian, Team Ico’s upcoming game).

I’ve been seeing some fascinating interviews lately with David Cage, director of Heavy Rain and head of the development studio behind that game and its predecessor Indigo Prophecy (a.k.a. Fahrenheit). As you might have been hearing, one of the big points of buzz around Heavy Rain is that when characters die, they stay dead, so as to tell a more seamless and less frustrating story—a mechanic discussed elsewhere on this blog and in one of my articles. I’ve been fascinated to see that some gamers reacted with skepticism (or even hostility) to this idea when I first published on the topic, but it looks like some might be warming up to it—albeit with some reservations—now that it’s actually being implemented in a promising fashion.

Read the rest of this entry »