August 30, 2004

Gamespot Spots Academics

Redefining Games: How Academia is Reshaping Games of the Future, by Lauren Gonzalez [via GTA]

It's Academic, Really (Gamespot on Academic Study, again)

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August 26, 2004

Interesting is a Good Placeholder

I work for a very interesting agency.

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August 25, 2004


I recently picked up Battlefield: 1942, a first-person shooter set in a series of WW2 battlegrounds. The game, which has been available for a while now (I rarely am hip enough to pay full retail for games anymore), has two expansion packs; you can pick up the 3 pack for around $40 or Costco has just the first game for about $15. 1942's online play is great, allowing you to make a series of back-to-back battles with a set time limit and a variety of options. This kind of game makes it much easier for me to jump online with my buddies for an hour, as opposed to playing something like Neverwinter Nights or Asheron's Call, where the first hour can be spent simply sorting your pack.

I've never been much for frag-fests, aside from an occasional late-night blowouts on Quake 2 (and one in particular in the library that did not end well). I have, on the other hand, played a number of single-player first person shooters (Quake 1/2, Unreal, Half-life, Return to Wolfenstein, etc.), though I've felt like I missed out on something with never having tried Counter-Strike or the other online versions of these games. 1942 seems to fill that gap, providing solid team play and 5 different "kits" - typical infantry (machine gun, grenades), bazooka guy (5 shots with a bazooka), medic (can heal allies w/in a radius, machine gun slightly less powerful than Infantry), engineer (sniper rifle sans scope, mines, explosives, wrench to repair tank), and sniper (slow loading rifle with a high power scope, grenades). All kits have a type of pistol, a knife, and a type of explosive (usually 3 grenades). Anyone, regardless of kit, can jump into the tanks, jeeps, boats, and airplanes that scatter the battlefield. The tank is a blast (apologies for the pun), but I have yet to master flight, unless mastery involves crashing into mountains.

The logistics are fairly straight forward. Teams (Axis & Allied, with nationality determined by the location of the map) are measured by "tickets" and tickets expire depending on a number of circumstances, including death/regeneration and control of strategic points that freckle the game map (if one team controls more areas, the other team's tickets clock down at a faster rate). So, controlling and defending key points on the map is an essential element of gameplay. Another key element of the play that I like: if you die, you respawn after a brief time period (and at the cost of tickets), allowing you to seek revenge.

I wonder how much 1942's map-building resembles more strategic turn-based war games (such as the kind Matt likes to play). Certainly, the capture and control of strategic points reminds me more of RTS-type games, where you have to harness resources in order to build up and protect your armies, though clearly 1942's first-person perspective and real-time effort is quite different than hovering over the war-gamer's cardboard chips, thoughtfully planning your next move.

One other plus, in my mind, is that 1942 is not just a frag-fest; running headlong into danger is likely going to get you killed. After storming Omaha Beach a few times, I started learning how to use the buildings to flank the enemies, eventually winning the day, despite starting with a lower number of tickets and at a strategic disadvantage. Sniping can be fun, though the long reload time means quick death when things get fierce, like when fighting in the streets of Berlin.

As of now, I have only played with a few friends against mostly bots. Now that my gameplay has improved somewhat, I'm eager to build up a slightly larger team so we can try some PvP battles against opponents that are (presumably) smarter than the AI. I'm also curious about the social aspect of the game. What kind of people, for instance, tend to choose Axis? Usually the weapons are better, so there is certainly a strategic angle there. And since the game has stripped all Nazi-type insignias from the game, the stigma doesn't seem quite as strong - almost an odd reversal of America's Army, where you are always "America" and the opponent is always just "the enemy" (on both sides).

Anyway, if anyone is up for charging Omaha Beach, I’m game.

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August 18, 2004

Baptism Pics

Pics of Evie's baptism via the image below.

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Serious Games Summit DC, Take 2

In case you were wondering, there is no student discount for the Serious Games Summit in DC this coming October.


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August 13, 2004


Summer 2004. Ill-defined. We moved to a house on Memorial Day weekend, welcoming more space, a yard, sanity, and escape from a dungeon-like condo that shed light rather than received it and thrummed with the pounding of those living above us, who we dubbed the "Cement Feet People." The next weekend, a day before our daughter was christened, I had an ultrasound. "We found ill-defined masses," they said. Ill-defined. What does that mean?

The "C" word became a common currency, our household economy. We were concerned. Friends referenced Lance Armstrong, and we watched him begin his Tour, anticipating strength and victory. Surgery was recommended, relatively minor in scope. Some snips, some stitches. Rest for a few days. Wait to hear. We talked about it and we didn't. Too many contingencies lay on the other side of that report. It made little sense to fret about what we didn't know. Rational, but I'm not sure it prevented us from actual worry.

And then we heard good news. Vasculitis, they said, not cancer. Your blood vessels up-and-died. Your symptoms, they said, are "ill-defined." Again, that phrase. A whole new series of concerns and doctors, all culminating in a watch and prevent attitude. You look healthy, they say. You feel healthy. If anything changes, they say, let us know. We'll keep tabs and look carefully. Otherwise, they advised, be glad, feel fortunate.

It's been an ill-defined summer. Overly busy, leaving little time to read, write, and think. We are both anxious to return to our dissertations, to our intellectual pursuits. We want time to go to the zoo, to introduce Evie to the panda bears (at a safe distance, of course). The family blog has gone far too long without new pictures. And our daughter is growing and advancing faster than we can keep track.

So, I'm looking forward to a well-defined fall. An unpacked and settled house, with pictures hanging on the walls. Introducing my daughter to the changing leaves. Writing, again. Playing and reading. Spending time with my wife. Letting work settle into a routine and leaving it at the office. Getting my damn dissertation done. Enjoying time with friends. Spending less time in a doctor's office.

Being glad. Feeling fortunate.

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August 11, 2004

Dood, where do you buy your games?

Started searching around for some games that I wanted - either don't have them any longer and want a new copy, or I need it and never had it. Games like Grim Fandango and Planescape: Torment (since I'm mostly focusing on RPGs and more narrative-style graphical games). I noticed that these two games are no longer available on Amazon and I started poking around some of my normal websites:, ebgames, eBay (I think I'm the only wired person in the U.S. that has never actually *bought* something via eBay), etc.

I started wondering, though, where other people bought their games. Where do you get the best deals? Or is there no mystical land of game plenty, especially for poor researchers?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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August 6, 2004

Voter Registration

Since I moved recently, I needed to update my voter registration, which I just did through George's link to a "Get Out the Vote" website that helps people fill out the forms so they can just drop it in the mail for easy registration.

Regardless of who you choose to support (not that I don't have my biases), register and vote. Following George's example, I have posted a link to Rock the Vote, which will remain in the right column. Remember that in most states you have to register at least 21 or so days before the election.

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