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Structures of Participation in Digital Technology; Edited By: Joe Karagains

November 8, 2010

Chapter 12 à Game Engines as Open Networks; By: Robert F. Nideffer

First, Nideffer says (and it’s true) that the future of gaming lies with the Internet and any device that is able to connect to it (Xbox, Playstation, notebook and desktop computers, tablet PCs, smart displays/TVs, PDAs, cell phones, etc.). As an example of this, Nideffer gives the following statistics about MMOGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games):

  • They will generated about $1.3 billion in 2004 … and will increase to about $4+ billion by 2008 (a quick search on Wikipedia of MMOGs, and checking their sources show that in 2010 these games are generating around $5 billion with the U.S. alone generating $3.8 billion).
  • The majority of this money is made through subscriptions, but a growing portion of this will come from the sale of virtual assets (in-game property and other items).
  • By 2010, the use of mobile games will reach 2 billion people.
  • In 2000, Internet penetration exceeded 50% in the U.S. … with more than 53 million households connected.
  • According to a study done by Nielsen Netratings in 2004, 3 out of 4 Americans, or a total of 204.3 million people had access to the Internet.

The key enabler of this growth is the “Game Engine” – the background software that makes the game “run”, interactive, and dynamic … “one can think of the game engine as a culturally encoded ‘database interface’, that is, a mechanism through which a predetermined, relatively constrained collection of socially sanctioned procedures and protocols is used to render a world and make it navigable in context. Along these lines, I have argued that it’s important to look at the game engine as a cultural artifact that circulates within a specific social domain, in order to begin thinking about how to make more visible the implicit and often taken-for-granted assumptions operative during software development, as well as to extend the boundaries of what constitutes the game engine. I have done this in an effort to move beyond thinking of the game engine strictly in software engineering terms, and in an effort to also think about it in social engineering and networking terms” (201-202).

His goal is to “examine the ways in which Internet gaming is beginning to address a fundamental social and technical challenge for digital culture: the relationships between the technical challenges of ubiquitous computing, the new social and creative opportunities available to users, and the persistent commercial pressure to segment online networks into private monopoly domains” (202).

As work and play begin to “be articulated through online systems” interoperability and openness within networks will thus affect “our capacities to reinvent our environments in fundamental ways – to affect not only the content of structured interactions but also the infrastructure and context in which they play out” (202).

Kali à This “exemplified  a desire among users to act not only as content providers for a game engine, but as context providers who can rearticulate the uses of the engine.” It went beyond what First Person Shooter (FPS) games offered. Kali shifted “the dynamic from a person-computer interaction to a much more social experience in which multiple players competed or cooperated in the same online environment.” … Kali, “encouraged players to take part in the construction and manipulation of their experience at a deeper and more fundamental level than those enabled through the consumer interface. It traded transparency in the sense favored by game designers of a minimally intrusive interface, for transparency in the sense favored by hackers (and, not incidentally, social scientists) – that of revealing underlying processes” (204).

bnetd vs. Blizzard Entertainment à this case brings up the term “Reverse Engineering” – the process of taking example code (in this case Blizzard’s code) and making new lines of code (through “Packet Sniffing”) that create a better running and new feature using software.

  • Blizzard Entertainment won the case, which gets back to Lessig’s idea that copyright law limits and restricts innovation of current/potential technologies and their developers.

Majestic à “The innovative conceptual move made by the designers was to have the game take advantage of everyday communication technologies like the Internet, phones, email, instant messaging, and fax. Majestic sought to create a narrative experience that blurred the line between lived space and game space. Upon registering, players were able to set the parameters of in-game communication. Depending on these choices, players could be contacted at any point during the day or night by game operatives who would either give them vital pieces of information to aid in moving them to the next stage in the drama, or provide them with misinformation in an effort to send them off track” (208). Because of the huge conspiracy/revolution plot to Majestic’s theme two things caused its failure. First, one could see the problems surrounding its plot especially after 9/11. Lastly, what would family members or co-workers think if they accidentally intercepted a message saying such-and-such person was about to be die, or has an warrant out for their arrest? As a result access rights had to be granted to “intercept” these messages … thus taking away the “surprise factor” the designers tried to create. à Academia and Nideffer’s response to industry failures and governments control over innovation. I will summarize in class, but it can be found at the bottom of pg. 210 to the end of the section of pg. 213.

Chapter 15 à Price Discrimination and the Shape of the Digital Commodity; By: Tarleton Gillespie

Interoperability is hindered not just by copyright law/policies (and others) but rather by the national choices surrounding basic infrastructure … “Early national choices regarding basic infrastructure tended to create ‘path dependencies’ that shaped future developments and hindered the interconnection of national or regional systems (david, 1985; Hughes, 1987). The growth of global information networks reflects, in large part, the rise of a countervailing system of rewards for technologies and standard-setting processes that enhance interoperability, rooted in the concept of ‘network effects’, and in the broader conceptual linkages between innovation, welfare, and trade characteristics of global capitalism” (247).

  • Example – DVDs

Take a look at the image above, recognize it (Safari 4.0 license agreement)? Have you ever read the license agreements after downloading/signing up for some software or other media (movie, music, etc.)? You might want to!

In conclusion – (second paragraph under content protection versus protectionism till the end).

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