33 Chapters
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7. Keeping It Real: Sports Video Game Advertising and the Fan-Consumer

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Cory Hillman and Michael L. Butterworth

IN THE UNITED STATES, FEW, IF ANY, CULTURAL ACTIVITIES, products, or experiences are immune to the often unrestrained hands of commercialism, marketing, and advertising in the ambitious and overzealous pursuit of audiences and consumers. Sports are especially subject to these conditions, evidenced by the following examples: advertisers spent approximately $10.9 billion on national sports broadcasts between the final quarter of 2010 through September 2011; NBC paid the International Olympic Committee $2.2 billion to broadcast the 2010 and 2012 Winter and Summer Olympics; CBS and Turner Broadcasting agreed to pay nearly $11 billion to the NCAA for the rights to the annual men’s college basketball tournament. Divisional realignment in college football has also been stimulated by the desire to create “megaconferences” in the chase for lucrative television packages with major networks, and the NCAA’s decision to determine its national champion of college football’s Football Bowl Subdivision with a four-team playoff beginning in 2014 came with estimates that the tournament could be worth as much as $6 billion.1 Meanwhile, fans spent $3.2 billion on Major League Baseball (MLB) team merchandise in 2011, marking an 8.1 percent increase from the previous season, and the typical NFL fan spends approximately $60 on apparel, snacks, and other merchandise during the week of the Super Bowl.2

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2. Chris Melissinos: Art and Video Games

David S. Heineman Indiana University Press ePub

IN HIS YEARS AT SUN MICROSYSTEMS, CHRIS MELISSINOSS official title was, in part, that of an “evangelist,” a role associated with street preaching, door knocking, dogmatism, and conversion. Those who hired him for the position of “chief evangelist and chief gaming officer” were no doubt themselves initially taken aback by his infectious enthusiasm for technology and, specifically, for video games. Talking about his time at Sun some years later, in an interview addressing the opening of the exhibition The Art of Video Games that he curated for the Smithsonian Art Museum, Melissinos reflected on having the opportunity to express his hope for technology’s future while at a Java Developers conference in 2009. “I made the point that technology is wonderful, and it gives us the opportunity to do many things, however none of it matters if we don’t find the humanity in it” (Bednarz).

If The Art of Video Games attempted to argue one thing, it is that a productive route to finding the humanity in technology is to approach that technology as an art form. Melissinos’s exhibit made a strong case that video games in particular might be understood as the work of artists who skillfully write beautiful code on the constrained canvas of a particular platform, who design experiences that provoke complex thoughts and actions from their audiences, or who merge existing art forms (music, illustration, acting, and more) into a novel expression of humanity.

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5. From Kuma\War to Quraish: Representation of Islam in Arab and American Video Games · Vít Šisler

HEIDI CAMPBELL Indiana University Press ePub

Vít Šisler

VIDEO GAMES INCREASINGLY RECREATE REAL-WORLD EVENTS and spaces, making tangible connections to the outside world. In doing so, they use real people, places, and cultures as their referents, opening new forms of representation.1 Since 9/11 there has been an increase in video games, mainly first-person shooters, produced in the United States and dealing with the representation of the Middle East, Islam, and Muslims.2 For example, in the popular Kuma\War (Kuma Reality Games, 2004), players can “replay” missions from the real military campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. These missions navigate players through Iraqi and Afghani cities, including many Muslim holy sites and mosques. They also feature Sunni and Shia Muslim characters, who are portrayed mostly as enemies in the narrative framework of insurgency, international terrorism, and religious fundamentalism.3

Simultaneously, many video game producers in the Muslim world have started to produce their own games dealing directly with the representation of Islam and Muslims. By doing so, they attempt, first, to provide their audiences with more culturally relevant representations and, second, to educate the outside world about Islam and Muslim culture.4 For example, the Syrian real-time strategy game Quraish (Afkar Media, 2007) allows the player to witness the origin of Islam and “replay” key battles from its early history, including the defeats of the Iranian Sassanid Empire and the Byzantine Empire. Although Quraish and Kuma\War similarly use what Ian Bogost in Persuasive Games calls the “expressive power of video game[s],” the images of Islam and Muslims these games offer are significantly different.5

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10. “God Modes” and “God Moods”: What Does a Digital Game Need to Be Spiritually Effective? · Oliver Steffen

HEIDI CAMPBELL Indiana University Press ePub

Oliver Steffen

IM NOT SURE HOW MUCH RELIGION YOULL FIND IN THE PATH,” writes Michaël Samyn, director of the Belgian independent studio Tale of Tales, in response to an inquiry.1 After all, The Path “is a short horror game inspired by older versions of Little Red Riding Hood, set in modern day.”2 Six sisters, aged nine to nineteen, are sent on an errand to their sick and bedridden grandmother. Mother tells them to stay on the path that leads through a thick and dangerous forest. The woods, however, promise adventures that can hardly be resisted by the girls. In the forest, they find strange areas and objects related to their characters and life situation. Most important, they find their personal wolf – a traumatic encounter, after which grandmother’s house becomes a place of surreal nightmares that end with the death of each girl.

The Path, which won awards for innovative game design, shows little overt religious symbolism, apart from some Christian crosses at the graveyard and the girls’ reflections about death. However, a glance at the developer’s forum reveals that players relatively often tie their play experiences to religious themes.3 Therefore, the game might be an example, on one hand, of the suggestion of William Sims Bainbridge and Wilma Alice Bainbridge that it is “possible that certain categories of games satisfy some of the same psychological needs satisfied by religion,”4 and on the other hand, of game researcher and designer Ian Bogost’s approach that games may have a spiritually relevant persuasive effect through their procedural representations and interactions rather than through their contents.5 In this chapter, I suggest a ludologically influenced religious studies approach to digital games.6 I am interested in the basic structural elements of games that generate religiously or spiritually relevant experiences in players. As a start, I examine a number of scientific and journalistic publications that, in their discussion of digital games’ effects, not only refer to religious terms, metaphors, and themes, but also provide details about the characteristics of the corresponding ludological structure. I offer a list of criteria to compare the spiritual efficacy of digital games – an essential aspect of the implicit religious potential of games. I then show that this efficacy may be understood and compared in terms of flow, meditation, empowerment, disempowerment, and morality. This catalog becomes the basis for my analysis of The Path, which is followed by a discussion from a religious studies perspective.

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10. Yes Wii Can or Can Wii? Theorizing the Possibilities of Video Games as Health Disparity Intervention

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

David J. Leonard, Sarah Ullrich-French, and Thomas G. Power

THE DEBATE ABOUT EXERGAMING OFTEN APPEARS IN headlines such as “Can Wii Games Replace Regular Exercise?” and “Is the Wii Fit Better than Regular Exercise?”1 In this regard, virtual gaming has been reduced to a binary, a mathematical formula that treats participants as universal subjects and analyzes how well the games transport those bodies into virtual space. It reflects on whether these games have real-life impact on the universal game subject and how these virtual activities compare to their real-life brethren. Take one study from the American Council on Exercise, which after testing sixteen participants on six of Wii’s most challenging games – Free Run, Island Run, Free Step, Advanced Step, Super Hula Hoop, and Rhythm Boxing – concluded that virtual reality was distinctively different from the real world, in that twice as many calories were burned with the real “thing.” Emblematic of much of the discourse, the adherence to the virtual-real binary and its conceptualization of all participants as having equal access and opportunity demonstrate the shortcomings of the discourse surrounding virtual exercise.2 Furthering the establishment of this dualistic framework, the discourse focuses on the caloric impact–energy expenditure rates of virtual exercise games; it works to understand if exergaming is a substitute for real-world exercise. Yet there has been little effort to measure the impact of games on the physical body (core strength, balance) and, more important, the impact of games on identity, knowledge about fitness, health, and nutrition. In the end, these studies, more than the games themselves, disembody people and fail to look at how games change people in a myriad of ways, from the physical to the mental, from identity to self-worth.

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11. Bridging Multiple Realities: Religion, Play, and Alfred Schutz’s Theory of the Life-World · Michael Waltemathe

HEIDI CAMPBELL Indiana University Press ePub

Michael Waltemathe

IN RESISTANCE: FALL OF MAN, A FIRST-PERSON SHOOTER SET IN an alternative history, aliens have attacked earth and enslaved most of humankind and transformed them into supersoldiers. Some of the fighting in the game takes place in what is left of Manchester Cathedral in England, which in the alternative history is now infested by alien forces. As a result of this depiction, in the real world the Church of England took legal action against the publisher of the game, the Sony Corporation. The legal argument was that Sony had not asked permission to use graphic depictions of the cathedral in its product.1 The official reason for the legal action can be seen in the following quote from Church of England officials: “We are shocked to see a place of learning, prayer and heritage being presented to the youth market as a location where guns can be fired. . . . For many young people these games offer a different sort of reality and seeing guns in Manchester Cathedral is not the sort of connection we want to make.”2

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11. Ian Bogost: Anxieties, Procedures, and Game Studies

David S. Heineman Indiana University Press ePub

IN LATE 2012, IAN BOGOST PRESENTED A PUBLIC LECTURE AND exhibited some of his work at the University of North Florida’s Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum’s director, Marcelle Polednik, in a press release advertising the event, described Bogost as “one of the foremost scholars and designers of games and game theory. . . . [His work is used to] both reflect on and deploy the media of today to highlight timely topics and issues to a wider audience.” Most who have had occasion to read Bogost’s writing or listen to him speak would probably recognize that, in Polednik’s description, there is a lot of truth. Bogost’s work is widely read and cited both inside and outside academic circles, he is a coeditor of an influential series in game studies (MIT Press’s Platform Studies series), and he has produced thought-provoking video games that model how we might think about design itself as a kind of critical practice.

Bogost often discusses the subjects he critiques – games, academia, business, and so on – with a pervasive cynicism and a seemingly entrenched skepticism. His work tends to favor clarity and directness over hyperbole and obfuscation, a characteristic that makes it hard to believe he would be comfortable accepting the kinds of accolades that Polednik’s statement ascribes to him. In the interview in this chapter, for example, he is somewhat blasé about the success he has had in a relatively short period of time, suggesting that “someone would have made similar observations at that time if it hadn’t been me.”

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3. The Global Mediatization of Hinduism through Digital Games: Representation versus Simulation in Hanuman: Boy Warrior Xenia Zeiler

HEIDI CAMPBELL Indiana University Press ePub

Xenia Zeiler

RESEARCH ON DIGITAL GAMES AND RELIGION HAS PRIMARILY concentrated on European and U.S. settings. Asian developments, except the Muslim Middle Eastern contexts of Syria and Palestine, have long been nearly completely overlooked.1 This is even truer when it comes to digital games that are related to Hindu and Buddhist traditions, regions, and audiences. Though in the first decade of the twenty-first century, several aspects of Hindu and Buddhist religions and digital media, namely the internet, began to be increasingly researched, so far this research has not extended to digital games.2 This is surprising since surveys, statistics, and projections on the role and importance of digital games in Asia or for audiences with Asian Hindu or Buddhist backgrounds regularly describe an ever larger percentage of users, as well as rapidly growing markets in the near future.

In this chapter I analyze Hindu deities and narratives in Indian-produced digital games and focus on disclosing negotiations of Hindu authority and identity in gaming contexts. I do so by discussing the first entirely India-developed digital game based on Hindu mythology, Hanuman: Boy Warrior (Aurona Technologies Hyderbad for Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, 2009), a console game produced for PlayStation 2. This game has caused heated debate on the appropriateness of incorporating Hindu deities in gaming environments. The debate surrounding the game has focused on the concepts of simulation and performance as opposed to the (pure) representation of Hindu deities, such as Hanuman, who is a major character in the Indian epic Ramayana and is mentioned in other important Hindu scriptures.

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6. Avastars: The Encoding of Fame within Sport Digital Games

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Steven Conway

LIONEL MESSI HAS DEVELOPED WELL DURING HIS TIME AS Surreal Madrid’s star striker. He has an overall rating of 98, with an attack and shot accuracy of 99, dribble accuracy and dribble speed of 98, and explosive power of 97. Allied to this are eleven special abilities, such as “incisive run,” “long-range drive,” and “roulette skills” (this refers not to the casino game, but to the skill of pirouetting over a soccer ball to avoid an opponent’s incoming challenge). He has evolved into the definitive “game changer,” as we say in common managerial parlance. My other striker, the 1961 iteration of Brazil’s Pelé, has a host of attributes in the high ’90s with eighteen special abilities. The latest boot technology from Adidas’s Predator range accentuates my strikers’ already extraordinary proficiency; I chose the Predator for its high shot power and swerve ratings over the adiZero’s high acceleration and top speed. After much careful tinkering with my squad’s formation and tactics, I take to the pitch, prematch nerves building in the tunnel. Following a sublime performance, we have annihilated FC Barcelona 4–0 in the semifinal of the Champions League. The intense rivalry between the clubs is well documented by the press, and I am informed postmatch that Surreal Madrid’s loyal fan base is distinctly pleased with the result; we are now an S (super) grade in popularity. This is particularly gratifying news for my scouts, who know that this rating may finally be the key to attracting Cristiano Ronaldo to put pen to paper for Surreal Madrid.

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9. The Importance of Playing in Earnest · Rachel Wagner

HEIDI CAMPBELL Indiana University Press ePub

Rachel Wagner

THE ERROR PEOPLE TEND TO MAKE THE MOST IN THINKING about games and religion is to assume that the primary opposition at work is the idea that religion is “serious” whereas games are “fun.” I propose that a more accurate distinction is between being earnest as opposed to being insincere in one’s engagement with the ordered world views that religions and games can evoke. The importance of constructing systems or worlds of order into which people may willingly enter is a key feature of both religions and games. The greatest offense in both experiences is to break the rules, that is, to become an apostate, an infidel, a cheater, or a trifler, to fail to uphold the principal expectations about how to inhabit that particular experience’s world view. To fail in being earnest in following the rules is to cause a disruption of order, a breach in the cosmos-crafting activity that both games and religion can provide. Of course, not all experiences of religious practice and gameplay will fit this definition, but many of them do. This, I propose, is a fundamental similarity between religion and games, generally speaking: both are, at root, order-making activities that offer a mode of escape from the vicissitudes of contemporary life, and both demand, at least temporarily, that practitioners give themselves over to a predetermined set of rules that shape a world view and offer a system of order and structure that is comforting for its very predictability. While it is true that games offer such ordered worlds on a temporary basis and religion attempts to make universal claims to such rule-based systems, the root impulse of entering into ordered space reveals a deep kinship between religion and games that is startling and evocative.

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4. The Social and Gender in Fantasy Sports Leagues

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Luke Howie and Perri Campbell

Since the mid-1990s, fantasy sports participation has grown at a significant rate. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, just under thirty-two million people over twelve years old play fantasy sports in North America (including Canada). In the United Kingdom, two million people participate in fantasy Premier League soccer games.1 The financial impact of fantasy sports is measured in billions of euros and dollars.2 Most people cite early 1980s rotisserie baseball leagues as the precursors to the contemporary online fantasy sports experience, but there is some evidence that rudimentary forms of fantasy sports have existed since the mid-1950s.3

In this chapter we provide an account of ongoing research being conducted with the members of a long-running fantasy NBA league based in Australia and their wives and partners. The league began in the late 1990s as a hobby for ten friends who had attended high school or college together, and all played competitive basketball, some to professional and semiprofessional levels. It is played online but features many offline supplementary activities, including a live offline draft party, elaborate mechanisms for choosing the draft order (referred to by participants as the “lottery”), and detailed, ongoing discussions about strategies, statistics, and trades taking place year-round. There are benefits to understanding fantasy sports as a site for advertising and marketing, as gambling, and as a problematic regulatory field.4 We are studying fantasy sports leagues as a social occurrence that takes place in online and offline realms where gender matters and takes various hegemonic forms.

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7. Hardcore Christian Gamers: How Religion Shapes Evangelical Play · Shanny Luft

HEIDI CAMPBELL Indiana University Press ePub

Shanny Luft

ON THE WEBSITE HARDCORE CHRISTIAN GAMER (HCG), EVANgelicals share their faith as they deliberate over their favorite video games.1 Their religiosity is overt. Members engage in online Bible study, post prayer requests, and share spiritual testimonies with one another. For example, in a discussion forum designated for sharing spiritual testimony, someone wrote of contemplating suicide before finding spiritual and community support in a church. Someone else shared witnessing a church member’s broken leg healed through prayer, and yet another described his spiritual struggle upon learning his brother was gay. Alongside these sincere and personal testimonies of faith, members of HCG converse about their favorite video games, including action games like Assassin’s Creed (Ubisoft, 2007–), role-playing games like Elder Scrolls (Bethesda Softworks, 1994), and first-person military shooters like Halo (Bungie, 2001–2010; 343 Industries, 2011–) and Call of Duty (Activision, 2003–). What many, although not all, of the games discussed on these forums have in common is their overt depictions of violence. In Assassin’s Creed II, for example, the player controls an assassin slaughtering his way through sixteenth-century Italy, dispatching enemies by thrusting swords into their backs, plunging knives through heads, burying axes in skulls, slitting throats, and jamming spears into the spines of his adversaries.

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1. The Name of the Game Is Jocktronics: Sport and Masculinity in Early Video Games

Thomas P Oates Indiana University Press ePub

Michael Z. Newman

ALTHOUGH IT MAY NEVER BE SETTLED WHICH VIDEO GAME deserves to be called the first, it’s notable that two games based on racquet sports always come up in talk of the medium’s origins. Tennis for Two, a demonstration using an analog computer and an oscilloscope at Brookhaven National Laboratory (1958), and Pong, the first hit coin-operated game from Atari (1972), are in some ways quite similar.1 Both are competitions between two players given the ability to direct the movement of a ball, which bounces back and forth between them. Both are examples of sports games, a genre that would prove to be among the most enduring, enjoyable, and lucrative in the history of electronic play. And both can be placed within a tradition of masculine amusements adapted from professional athletics, which had already been popular in American society in penny arcades and around gaming tables for more than a half century when electronic games were new. We can regard Pong not just as an early and influential video game, but as part of a history of sports simulations and adaptations and as an electronic version of tavern and rec room amusements such as pool and Ping-Pong, from which it gets its name.

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4. Henry Lowood: Archiving and Games

David S. Heineman Indiana University Press ePub

HENRY LOWOOD IS CURATOR FOR THE HISTORY OF SCIENCE & Technology Collections and Film & Media Collections in the Stanford University Libraries and a leading member of the Preserving Digital Worlds initiative funded by the Library of Congress. He has long been an instigator and an innovator in the emerging area of archiving games for historical analysis and has both produced prominent scholarship and taken part in groundbreaking archiving projects that continue to shape how we understand the historical importance of video games.

In 2011 Barwick, Dearnley, and Muir published an essay in Games and Culture that offered an overview and analysis of the most recent efforts in digital game preservation, wherein they concluded, “The preservation of computer games at present is based on imperfect solutions – the collection, storage, and display of computer games and paraphernalia, with arguably the more important issue of preserving gameplay being beset by legal ramifications” (387). These problems persist, they suggest, despite efforts by academic institutions, private and public museums, and state apparatuses to overcome them. Lowood’s work is largely directed toward proposing solutions for these obstacles, something he has accomplished by modeling preservationist and historical research that productively interrogates and successfully navigates a variety of academic, legal, and material concerns.

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1. Dreidels to Dante’s Inferno: Toward a Typology of Religious Games · Jason Anthony

HEIDI CAMPBELL Indiana University Press ePub

Jason Anthony

ITS HARD TO IMAGINE TWO MORE DIFFERENT ARENAS THAN games and religion. Games strike us as a pleasant distraction, a space where amiable conflicts play out to a conclusion which, tomorrow, won’t matter much. Religious activity is clearly quite different. It calls for utmost seriousness and a minimum of conflict, and our commitment will yield consequences that can last a lifetime – or longer, depending on the views we hold on eternity.

So goes the conventional wisdom. Yet games and religion share a long, rich, and intertwined history, even in the digital age. Consider a brief snapshot of the events at the 2011 Game Developers Conference. The world’s top designers, developers, and game studios have gathered to discuss the state of their art. Design guru and director of the NYU Game Center Frank Lantz steps up to the podium. In a highly anticipated talk, he advocates at length for the “sublime” in games. He explains that the venerable game of Go held a place in Confucian practice, and asks why poker and other complex games could not attain a similar stature: “Why can’t a video game be a spiritual discipline?” And he continues: “I want more video games that give me a space in which to entangle my mind with the mysterious infinite secrets of the universe. And this doesn’t have to be precious. Poker proves that it can have something vulgar and violent and dirty and shameful and dangerous and addictive. And if it’s deep enough, it can slingshot you all the way around to new orbits of insight and higher levels of consciousness.”1

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