Monthly Archives: February 2014

Matt Chat 229: Stewart Cheifet from Computer Chronicles

This is the first part of my interview with the great Stewart Cheifet of Computer Chronicles. In this installment, we talk about the history of the show, the sad story of his co-host Gary Kildall, and much, much more.

Download the mp4 here.

Watch episodes of Computer Chronicles for free at Archive.org

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All Games are Political; Are They Also Unethical?

Okay, I’m deliberately raking the coals with this title. What does it mean to say that “all games are political” or “unethical?” Obviously, some games are concerned with politics (such as Democracy), and some that are clearly unethical (Ethnic Cleansing–no way I’m going to link that). But what about games like Halo 4, Gears of War, or Skyrim? Clearly, there’s nothing “political” or “unethical” about them, right? They’re just “games,” you say, with no connection whatsoever to reality. But, hold on a minute–what if we’re wrong about that? What if all games, no matter what their content, are expressing a political and ethical perspective that we–as gamers, unconsciously embrace (or consciously reject) when we play them?

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A Neo-Marxist Perspective on CRPGs?

Are CRPGs good for nothing but reinforcing capitalist values? Is there nothing else for us but looting, slaying anything that isn’t “one of us,” and romanticizing that bloody climb up the social and corporate ladder?

I know I’m probably driving some of you guys and gals batty with all of this academic stuff, but the truth is, I’ve so immersed in it these days (I am a prof, after all) that it’s about all I have time to think about. Fortunately, most of the theoretical stuff I teach (or, at least, attempt to teach) to students is nicely applicable to videogames.

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The Book is Here: Vintage Game Consoles

There’s a special feeling you get when you first see and hold a book you wrote for the first time. Usually, it’s bittersweet–you always feel that there was more work to do, and plenty of parts you aren’t happy with. You brace yourself for the inevitable scathing reviews, and just hope that those are balanced out by people who appreciate what you tried so hard to accomplish. Above it all, though, is the simple fact that you’re now holding something in your hand that was all just thoughts in your head and bits floating around in cyberspace just a few days before.

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Interviewing Brenda Romero & Richard Garriott Tomorrow

Hi, all. I’m interviewing two awesome people tomorrow: Brenda Romero and Richard Garriott. Brenda (formerly Brenda Brathwaite) is probably best known for her work on the Wizardry series, though she’s also done some work on sex in games (yeah, thought that might get your attention). She’s also the wife of the most popular Matt Chat guest of all time, Mr. John Romero.

I interviewed Richard (aka Lord British) for Matt Chat already, but now I’m chatting with him for an upcoming issue of Retro magazine. I don’t want to rehash the same old stories, so let me know what thoughts you have for questions.

 

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Fantasy and Rhetorical Vision

I just read a great article called Fantasy and Rhetorical Vision: The Rhetorical Criticism of Social Reality by Ernest G. Bormann. Bormann is well known for his Symbolic Convergence Theory. It’s not as technical as it sounds. Basically, he’s interested in seeing how the stories we listen to and tell each other “create a sense of us and them” (Sellnow 97). His research comes out of analyses of small group discussions, where people tell stories to relieve tension. These stories could be quite simple–you just need some characters (real or imaginary) “playing out a dramatic situation in a setting removed in time and space from the here-and-now transactions of the group” (397). The story in question could simply be about what happened at the office last week, or it could be about what happened on a recent episode of Dexter. The key part for Bormann is that the other folks there have to help “chain out” the story, legitimizing it by adding something or making an appropriate response, such as laughing at a joke. If you mention something that happened on Dexter and everyone just scratches their heads because they haven’t ever heard of the show, they don’t share that part of your symbolic reality. 

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Gamer Regret? No way, man.

Dani Bunten Berry, the famous designer of M.U.L.E. and The 7 Cities of Gold, is often quoted as saying, “No one ever said on their deathbed, ‘Gee, I wish I had spent more time alone with my computer.'” I see this as an early example of what we’ve come to call “gamer regret,” that is, the kick-to-the-belly feeling you get when you realize that you’ve spent 562 hours playing Civilization V. When you figure out all the math, you realize that you may have spent months of your life engrossed in a videogame. “Oh, man,” you say, “I feel so awful to have wasted all that time doing something so stupid! I could have spent that time with my family, or learning a foreign language, exercising…” You get the point. These feelings are reinforced by our “helpful” loved ones, who may be fond of saying things like, “If you spent as much time doing X as you did playing that stupid game, you’d be rich/successful/famous/holy now.” It all boils down to not doing whatever it is you (or other people) think you ought to be doing with your free time.

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