June 17, 2005

DIGRA - Janet Murray Keynote

Janet Murray – The Future of Electronic Games: Lessons from the first 250,000 Years

The last word on ludology and narratology – showdown at HUMlab Jan 2005 – Jenkins and Aarseth. Ludonauts.com – aarseth “as far as narratology is concerned, there was nothing to engage in. As Jenkins himself points out…, he is not a narratologist. … The real iron is that virtually all the so-called ludologist are trained in narratology. Hopefully there will be some strong “narratological” position paper at digra, where the ‘ludologist’ are met with rational counter-argument… and games are shown to be stories.”

What this quest for the phantom narratologist?
What is ludology? A methodology, an ideology – we need two different terms (one for each).
Methodology: Computer Game Formalism (CGF) – based on premise that games can be described as a discrete category with stable descriptors; uses methods derived from structural narratology; Phantom opponent “narratologists”: want to put games into the colonial grasp of narrative by denying their unique form [the colonialist myth]

Game (Studies) Essentialism (GSE or GE)
Defines the field of games studies as concerned ONLY with those formal elements unique to games; insists on the irrelevance of other approaches

Aarseth test – ref. The First Person article and the debate between aarseth and moultrhope regarding the importance of lara croft. There is no single orthodox reading of a game. Formal and cultural approaches are both valuable.

Did games make us human?
How did we become human?
New research in cognitive science examining the problem of how human beings got so smart so fast.
Merlin Donald – cognition linked to culture; our culture and brains co-evolve. Progress of hominoid cognition:
Mammalian: episodic awareness: self-awareness, event sensitivity, recognition of individuals
Hominid: mimetic gestures: social bonding via imitation of bonding
Homo Sapiens: symbolic communication, narrative, mythic framework
Human culture: external symbolic media
Mimesis --> Language

Are games the missing link? Merlin Donald is challenging the language model. Human children play rule-governed games by imitation; they invent games without language. Test chimps v. baby by playing games. Chimp loses interest in synchronized tasks. “Zone of proximal evolution” Apes can almost play advanced games, but not quite.

Michael Tomasello – culture ratchets
Awareness of other’s minds; awareness of shared consciousness – human babies aware at 9 months. Tomasello would argue that causal thinking develops at this time as well. Develop causal narratives. Mark Turner – small spatial stories that are the basics of grammar.
Joint Attentional Scene resembles a game. Shared limited focus; witnessed intentionality; symbolic communication. Which leads to: self in relation to others; perspectival thinking; develop basis for intentional instruction.

Carol Eckerman (Duke U) – Toddler-Toddler Imitation Games. Reciprocal imitation. Reflect pleasure in the intentionality and mirroring of behavior. Synchronize. This leads to language. Pleasure in shared pattern. Hellen Keller initially thought of the hand signals as a new game, until finally making connection to meaning. (Merlin Donald – Origins of the Modern Mind)

Wittgenstein: there is no essential game. Murray wants to put Ring Around the Rosie in the same league as chess, Tetris, etc. Synchronous participation, mimicry, pleasure. The “quintessential mimetic game”

Is our pleasure in and propensity for games a driving force of our evolution (cultural, biological, social)?
Types of games in cognitive development
Mimetic contests (follow the leader) – dance dance revolution
Abstract cognitive patterns (knucklebones) – counting, sequencing, etc – Tetris (What happens when we replace the human consciousness exchange with computer consciousness?)
Abstract social patterns – turn taking, contest, betting
Emotional social patterns: performing, spectatorship, cheating, risk-taking

Senet; Book of the Dead. Games direct attention to the symbolic nature of representation.

Games in a procedural medium: where are they leading?
Reintroducing mimetic task into the ‘larger village that we live in”
Reference to Façade – having to reinvent the joint attentional moment
Gonzalo Frasca’s Madrid – game as ritual; mimesis of coordinated action
Ian Bogost “Take Back Illinois”
Will Wright “Spore” – meta-mimetics of shared procedural creation; recreating that sharing and mimicking

If mimetic games make us human, then what kind of games do we want to play and make?

[please see Notes on Notes]

Posted by Jason at June 17, 2005 1:16 PM | TrackBack
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