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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Deadline: Wednesday (30/4)
  • Subject must complete Page 11.
  • The transition between Page 2 and Page 9 should be clarified, if possible.

Progress report:
Both goals have been completed.

Next deadline: Thursday (08/5)
Goal: Complete Page 12.



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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Are games art?"

Okay, well, first of all, you asked that as a simple question, a simple yes-or-no question, so I first of all should give you a simple answer, which is "Sometimes.", but behind the question is a whole historical, historical sociological sort of way of thinking, which I object to.

See, we say that over here is entertainment and over here is art. And this comes from the class system, right? We've got the lower experience and the higher experience, the one which the lower class enjoys and the more sophisticated one that the higher class likes. And even though these days there aren't such limits on where you get what and you can get really good art or entertainment for free or really cheap, so even now we've still got the… remnants of that class system. And that's the distinction between "art" and "entertainment".

And… you'll probably think I'm stupid for saying this, but there isn't really… that's not a clear distinction at all. It's arbitrary. It's vague and hard to define. And it doesn't really mean anything. If you're making something, you don't say "I'm going to make a work of art!" or "I'm going to make a work of entertainment!", you say "I'm going to make a good work.". The creator is trying to evoke emotions, that's what this is all about. Right? The creator is, the creator of any work, is trying to evoke emotions through whatever means he feels like using. That's art and entertainment. So we say that art's here and entertainment's here, but it's not like that. They're all part of the same field! Creation is creation.

And what people tend to forget is that there is such a thing as bad art. Most art is bad, and you just don't see it because nobody's gonna put that in a museum. You've got experts hand-picking the best of the best out of the past few hundred years, and putting that on display, and we get the idea that art is great. But entertainment is great, too! If you're evoking emotions, you've done a good job, and it doesn't make any difference if a bunch of snobs in the 19th century would call it "art" or "entertainment"!

We say that art is inspiring and serious and world-changing and well-done and significant, but.. If I were to take, if I were to go through the last few hundred years and pick out the best-of-the-best of entertainment, the best magic acts, the best movies, the best comedians, the best videogames, you think that wouldn't be inspiring?! You think it wouldn't be significant? But we don't get the best of the best, we get whatever's going now. So we see it as, like, a scale, where you've got zero and then entertainment and then art, but it's not like that. There's just a scale of quality, and the "art" and "entertainment" the whole… argument over what is art and what is entertainment has nothing to do with it!

There's nothing inherently better about evoking emotions through dance and evoking emotions through people punching each other. Now you probably want to say that I'm an idiot, that dance is great and people punching each other is stupid, but that's the whole sociological thing I'm talking about! What does it matter how you get the audience to feel something, as long as you do? If you do, …bravo. You've done something good. And that's what all of it is about.

So now we have games. Where everything is possible, there are no limitations and set rules. It may seem like there are things we can't do, but that's just because even the best of modern technology isn't giving us everything we want yet. But we'll get there eventually, when the technology gets better. In principle, everything is possible.

So now we have everything and we're still holding onto our little groups. Here's art, here's entertainment. They're separate. And even though gamism encompasses everything, everything we could possibly want from it, we're still trying to fit it into these little boxes. Because that's what we do, from hundreds of years of… experience, I guess. Habit. We try to say "It's entertainment, because anyone can enjoy it!", and then some people say "It's art, because there's this neat game here which is hard to understand!" And we argue about it, moving games back and forth between these two categories which we think are miles apart. Guys, there is no distinction! Games are entertaining! Games are artistic! That's the end of the story.

So when you ask me if games are art, it may be that in fifty years people will look back and say, "All those videogames? All those early videogames, like Zelda and Myst and all that? Those were art.". But I really hope they don't. I hope that in the future we'll be more enlightened, and we'll stop dividing things into art and entertainment.

You could make a game that's similar enough to old art forms that a guy in the 1800's would say: "Ah, that's art." There's nothing wrong with that. Actually, that's really good, to try and be more intellectual or focused on aesthetics. But thinking that that's a whole different world from the "lower" forms of entertainment, and that we've gotta let games be one or the other, that's just wrong. Games don't have to pick a side. At least, they shouldn't have to.

Now, something which makes me… hopeful for the future is that these days, if you're talking about games, you don't talk about it being "artistic" or "entertaining", you say it's "fun". Which can mean both things, because "fun" doesn't mean anything. Entertainment is fun and art is fun. Everything's fun if it's good. So maybe this is, like, a sign that we're throwing away the old categories. And people still hold on to those categories and say that only this can be fun, but maybe that'll go away. Maybe.. Well, I guess what I'm saying is I just hope we get out of this way of thinking.



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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Deadline: Tuesday (22/4)

(update: 18/4, 4:16)
Um… hey. Look, Tuesday really isn't convenient. Tomorrow's Shabbat, then is the first day of Pesakh, and then on Tuesday there's a whole day of games over at Avri's house. And on Monday I'm really gonna need to recover from Shabbat and the first day of Pesakh. Y'know- that's gonna be really painful emotionally. So I'm gonna want to have fun on Monday. And today I'm… doing stuff. So Tuesday's no good. Tell you what, why don't we just delay the deadline by, say, a week or so?
Deadline: Tuesday (22/4)

Progress report:
Page 10 complete.



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Monday, April 14, 2008

Internet Nations

Culturally, I'm an American through and through.
Stop reading now! He wants you to think this is an innocent post, but eventually he's going to get to videogames and Wiis! It's a trap!
I thought you had left.
It's a public service.
Go away.

As I was saying, I'm an American as far as culture is concerned.

I watch American TV shows and movies.
I read American comics.
I play games adapted for Americans.
I speak American English.

Not too long ago, this would be very difficult and undesirable for a person living here. If you live in Israel, you speak the Israeli language and you watch Israeli TV and you read Hebrew books and you expose yourself to Israeli culture, just because that's what you have. And you learn to like it.

Ah, but the internet is breaking down borders, isn't it? I can get American entertainment just a few hours after they get it themselves! I can spend an entire day talking with people online without hearing a single word of Hebrew! The internet has everything short of the essentials: housing, food, water, electricity. (I look forward to the day when those are covered as well.) And it's accessible to everyone, without borders. The internet doesn't care where you live. principle, at least. Where this isn't true is whenever big corporations are involved. If I go to the website of, say, an American TV network, it won't let me see its streaming video. It checks where my service provider is. For some reason, the American companies don't want to lose the national borders. Maybe someone can explain to me why, because I have no idea.

A lot of media is still distributed in physical form. There are a few reasons for that. First of all, it's to prevent piracy. (This doesn't work, as my entertainment habits attest.) Secondly, people who haven't learned to access everything by computer yet think there's some intangible essence of media that's lost if they make the change. This position is wrong and will disappear with time. (At this point, I wouldn't want to see comics on anything but a computer screen.) I'm sure there are some other reasons too, but I'm not particularly interested. What matters is, discs and paper are still around. That's a problem.

I've mentioned the difficulties of getting videogames here before. If not for the rampant piracy on the internet, I would never have discovered videogames at all, since they have next to no presence at all here. Nintendo doesn't sell to Israel, not because they have anything against us but just because we're so tiny and insignificant to them. So if you want a Nintendo system, you've got to pay four times the price to get an imported one, for which it's rare to find any actual games here.

I thought the Wii would be different, because you can buy games through it directly from the internet. No shipping, just a direct download from Nintendo's servers to my system. Well, it doesn't work that way. It demands a billing address which is in Nintendo of America's territory (North and South America). If you don't have one, you're not allowed to download. (I called the technical support, who were very surprised that anyone in Israel would have an American Wii. They were no help.)

The only way, I learned, to get these games off the internet (and they are only available from the internet) is to buy a special card. Each one represents a certain amount of money, and it has a code you can type in to retrieve it from the online store. These cards can only be bought in America, of course. I can buy one online off of Amazon, but they won't ship it outside of America. Nintendo doesn't want to sell to anyone outside America.

Someday, big businesses may finally get the idea of the internet. I look forward to that day impatiently.



As usual, it turns out I saw a problem where there was none. The Wii Shop works fine! Moshe suggested I try buying something with a billing address unrelated to the credit card. It wouldn't have occurred to me that this might work. But I tried, and it did! It doesn't actually seem to care where your billing address is. So now I'm having a blast with Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda. It looks like I'm not going to have any trouble.


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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Waiting for progress.
Suspending until Sunday(06/4)…

Progress report:
Page 8 written.
There are severe glitches.
This is unacceptable.
Suspending until Wednesday(09/4)…

Page 8 is now complete.
Page 9 is also complete.



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