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York University
Natural Science
NATS 1700
Zbigniew Stachniak

Lecture 17. Joystick Culture: Games Informal and unedited notes, not for distribution. (c) Z. Stachniak, 2011-2012. Note: in cases I were unable to nd the primary source of an image or determine whether or not an image is copyrighted, I have specied the source as unknown. I will provide full information about images and/or obtain reproduction rights when such information is available to me. Fig. 1. Games are fun!. Photograph by Z. Stachniak. Introduction Games are essential to human experience and, most likely, they always will be. We are many things, creatures who think and create as well as destroy without mercy. But we, like many other animals, are also playful creatures. We can play with sticks and stones, words and thoughts. On a sunny day, in a city park or on a mountain trail, someone picks a stick. She will try to balance it on a tip of a nger, he will throw it high in the air to catch it after a few rotations, eortlessly behind the back impressive! Or children on a beach creating magic out of sand, a castle, a city. Then, with a stick or a spade they will defend them every time the sea monster returns with raging force of the ocean. 1 Fig. 1. Children building a sand castle to defend against the Dark Lord residing in the real castle. Sand Castle vs Real Castle. Photograph by Chris Tolga Pehlivan. Now, imagine what can be done with a computer at home on a rainy day... Like sticks and stones, like a deck of cards or warm sand of a sunny beach, the computer invites to play. 2 Computer games dened According to Digital Deli: The comprehensive user-lovable menu of computer lore, culture, lifestyles and fancy, computer games are desserts on the menu of computer applications. For some, they are the main course served 24 hours a day. But more prosaically, computer games are programs designed for recreational use on a computer or a dedicated game console in stand alone or networked conguration (e.g. multiplayer games over the Internet). Computers ability to generate, display, and manipulate multimedia objects in response to our inputs (or lack of) makes it an irresistible game playing device. Computer can not only imitate a games board or a scenario, but it can also be an opponent, a partner, a referee, or all of that simultaneously. Game playing computer can invoke deep emotions (too cliche?): the ecstasy of victory and the agony of defeat, the primordial joy of destruction and victory fed by the sense of duty and justice or fear, desire, revenge, and rage. Computers oer gamers yet another chance, dont mind the late hours, are indierent to our addictions and eating habits. In short, computers are perfect entertainment boxes. 3 It seems certain that we will be playing electronic games for as long as there is no better technology to provide us with articial entertainment (as opposed to natural one, such as performing or listening to music, dancing, engaging in sports). There will be claims made of technological advancement induced by the gaming culture and needs and of new forms of artistic expression. Games will continue to play an important role in education on all levels. One can easily design an undergraduate curriculum in computer science around computer game design, from computational geometry and computer graphics, computer user interfaces, and software engineering, to computer hardware, articial intelligence, and algorithms. Of course, it also seems certain that concurrently with the development of the electronics entertainment industry we shall continue the debate on the impact of such forms of entertainment on individual and social devel- opment. Are computer games unnecessarily addictive, hazardous to health (especially childrens health), could they stimulate or reinforce violent be- haviour? Do games change the social makeup by creating individuals mostly isolated from each other, with no or limited social interaction skills, who neither read nor write books? Are virtual games substitute for the real, with usvirtual avatars with several lives instead of one? Whatever else can be said or predicted about electronic games and their impact on the society, we shall be always playing games, in one form or an- other its simply genetics. In this lecture we shall look at the computer and video gaming industries and the continuous interplay between their advancement and social, eco- nomic, and cultural changes and demands. 4
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