Friday, February 02, 2007

tmmtlt has moved

Hi all two of my loyal readers,

Just wanted to let you know that I have moved out of blogger and onto a real website.

Check it out here, and change your bookmarks.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

CFP: Japanese 'Cute' Children's Culture 1995-now

Modern Language Association (MLA) 2007
Chicago -- December 27-30 Children's Literature Division

Japanese Kawaii/Cute Children's Culture 1995-Now

Cute, as we now commonly conceive of it, originated in the U.S. in the late 19th century. Japanese 'kawaii' is a quite recent import altering and adding to 'cute' in a variety of ways. Contemporary Japanese artists creating animated feature length films, children's picture books, video games, characters, and fine art gallery and museum installations, are both borrowing from and also changing children's literature and culture.

This panel seeks to explore the uniquely Japanese form of 'cute', known as 'kawaii'. In the United States, Asian-American subculture is increasingly identifying with kawaii, as is the larger American culture (e.g. Target and other retail stores consistently sell Hello Kitty books and merchandise, Katamari video games, and Spirited Away DVDs.) This session invites papers that approach this topic from any angle, but particularly welcome are scholars taking an Asian-American, post-colonial or international perspective.

Papers might address why Japanese artists whose kawaii art depicts children or children's literature references are receiving international recognition and top auction prices when all other Japanese artists are virtually ignored. How does this change North American conceptions of multiculturalism? How and why are countries including Korea, China, France, and the United States consuming kawaii Japanese artists/products so happily and then changing these artists/products? How is this proliferation changing children's culture production and conceptions of the child internationally?
Possible artists include Hayao Miyazaki, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Chiho Aoshima, Chinatsu Ban, and Aya Takano. Possible characters include TarePanda, Hello Kitty, Pucca & Garu, MashiMaro, Cinnamoroll, Burnt Toast, Chibamaru, and Mr. DOB.

Deadline for submissions: March 1, 2007

Please submit abstracts for a 15-20 minute presentation or 8-10 page papers along with a short bio and contact information to:

Jaimy M. Mann
Department of English
University of Florida
P.O. Box 117310
Gainesville FL 32611-7310

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Yes! Finally Had an Excuse to Post a Pic of Angelina!

The award ceremony of the Golden Globes was on TV last night. I don't watch that stuff, too much talking and what they call jokes and at many, lip-sung performances. These things should take an hour, max. Anyhoo, I much prefer to read the results the next day and look at pictures of what people were sporting.

I was made happiest by the wins of Ugly Betty and America Ferrera. Apparently such a win is atypical because of the relative youth of the show (not even one season long), but it is easily explained. No matter how much I love my crime, hospital, and supernatural action shows, Ugly Betty is a breath of fresh, funny, touching air. A comedy that is not a sitcom? Get out! And it works. Sending up not just the fashion industry but racial stereotypes, Sex-and-the-City love and sex dillemas, and gender roles, Ugly Betty is smart packaged as cute and kitshy. Plus the writers and actors have fun playing with the audience, as evinced by Amanda's double role last week as her skinny, hot pant-sporting self as well as bespectacled mess at the other mag. And who doesn't love Cristina? Mark? Vanessa Williams's completely hyperbolic evil bitch character Willemina? Now if only they could replace that dud of an actor playing the not-so-prodigal son, Daniel.

Other awards went to Babel (must-see), Studio 60 (whatever), Grey's Anatomy (so good), Borat, I mean SBC (over-hyped), and Helen Mirrin for The Queen (eerie eerie good). And they all say that the Globes are a pretty good indicator for the Tall Gold Man Statue awards. We shall see...

Oh yeah, Angelina was there, looking like perfection.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A Timeless Question, or, Gaming to Learn

The BBC reports West Nottinghamshire College teachers used Atari's Neverwinter Nights to reach "disaffected" students and improve their literacy and numeracy skills. Research on the project found that successful learning of key skills had tripled, to 94%. Over 700 learners played the modified game, which cost $25 million to develop from the original game.

Long before I got into video game theory I was working as a instructional designer for e-learning tutorials (my lawyers tell me not to disclose any further information on my employers). Anyhoo, I read a lot about the use of 'interactive' tools like games for learning, with many e-learning folks in favor and traditional book-learning people against. The whole design of online learning is geared toward mainly basic skills such as grammar, writing well, etc. because the quick delivery method is posited to lend itself well to lower-wage, perhaps non-English learners without the time or money to go to the community college for courses. Furthermore, rather than pedantically telling the learner the parts of grammar, these tutorials largely teach through examples, scenarios, questions, and tests, thereby immediately putting all knowledge into action.

We have known for a long time that there are many kinds of learners, tactile, auditory, by-experience... Most of these courses work on all levels, comprising audio elements, learn-by-doing activities, etc. And to me, games always seemed an excellent avenue for this.

Later, I read a chapter in the Video Game Theory Reader on an experiment at MIT where a few games were developed with loads of money to teach university-level students. The most compelling game was one that allowed students to better understand the obscure physics theories that could not be experienced in life through game mechanics. Instead of memorizing a theory, they were feeling it as they hurtled through space. Genius, I thought. Too bad most places do not have a third of MIT's budget, or $25 million to mod Neverwinter Nights.

But do we need that much money? Are we spoiled forevermore by the graphics, interfaces, and engines of commercially-produced games, to the point that anything lesser would be more remarkable for its cruddiness than its lessons? Why did that college need to use such a sophisticated game to teach area and volume anyway?

Perhaps the best route for delivery of teaching games would be through the same companies that make textbooks. If the cirriculum endorsed a game made by a familiar name, they would be in the schools and the bookstores. But I cannot envision a game labeled McGraw-Hill Ryerson, can you?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

5 Days To Go!

Browsing the BBC, I came across an article on World of Warcraft and its first expansion, The Burning Crusade. Due in stores in the first minutes of January 16, 2007, this expansion to the world's most popular online role-playing game ever has been garnering pretty much universally good reviews from the closed beta.

Some of the additions offered include a new race for both sides of the fight, the Blood Elves for the Horde and the Draenei for the Alliance, each with a whole new set of storylines, capital cities, and a brand spanking new continent. Additionally, these new races bring complexity to the war, as they are both traitors to the other side. The expansion also offers more enemies and allies for each side. Finally, Horde can now play as paladins and Alliance as shamans.

Furthermore- my favorite trait- players are now able to Look for Groups doing the same quests. Other expansion characteristics include expanded talent trees and new professions such as jewel-crafting, and the removal of the fairly useless (to me) honour system.

Why am I, whose main is only level 16, so excited about an expansion that is mainly geared toward lvl 60 players, with new quests, zones, mounts, and instances reserved for these high-enders? I guess part of it the knowledge that at some point I will indeed be one of those crazy nerds. The other part is that I love the idea of being able to do quests in groups easily. But finally, I so badly want to play as a Draenei, who crashed their spaceship and who you begin play as surrounded by the wreckage of your ship and the corpses of your comrades. Awesome.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Wii Legacy?

I wouldn't be so silly as to say that Nintendo started the trend of focusing on novel external interface devices with the Wii-mote, but it would seem to me not only anecdotal that 3-D computer mouses had a strong showing at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas (no, that is not where the IPhone debuted- that was the MacWorld Conference and Expo).

CBC reports that the three different computer mouses, meant to enhance play in 3D environments, have three entirely different approaches to carrying out their goal.
Novint's Falcon stands out just because of its odd appearance. This 'mouse' is shaped like a globe attached by three arms to "what looks like a lunar module resting on its side". The three arms allow 3D movement, and the controller is posited to allow the feeling of force effects during play. Sandio's Game O' mouse does not sound too innovative as it is described as akin to a standard mouse except that buttons on the side of the mouse slide both sideways and up and down. Cylo's 3style mouse sounds the most tactile-intuitive. It is a round wireless mouse that is controlled by how gamers spin it.

I think the development of external interface tools is an interesting method for exploring and improving gameplay (graphics and processor speed are a tired route). The Wii-mote has been a success in console gaming, so what can we do for computer gaming? I am not sure huge, chunky devices will take off. Of course, only play will tell, but do you think these are all simply gimmicks?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Slamming Slamdance for its Slights

Some pretty big news in the game world this week doesn't come from reports on sales figures but from a controversy generated by the Guerilla Gamemaker Competition of the Slamdance Festiva;. After courting the game, electing it by jury, and advertising and promoting its status as finalist, the organizers pulled Super Columbine Massacre RPG from the competition. The game is pretty much what it sounds like, that is to say you role-play as Harris and Klebold on the fateful morning of the Columbine Massacre. In all likelihood, this description elicited either of two reaction from you, either complete disgust that anyone could make a game of such a tragedy, or that this is just in line with the production of fiction films like Gus Van Sant's Elephant that explore one of the darkest moments in recent history.

Needless to say, this variation in potential reactions is fueling a pretty big debate and backlash. Besides a number of debates raging on the usual gaming sites, Grand Text Auto, The Ludologist, and Water Cooler Games are reporting that Brad, flOw, and Everyday Shooter have dropped out of the competition in protest.

Before you pass further judgement, take a look at some screenshots from the game here. The two quotes at the bottom (and their inclusion) are to me very telling. The whole issue also seems to drive home the question of what games can do, and what they as a form are allowed by the media and the public to do.

Too Much Media Too Little Time