Battlefield 4, Empathy, and Drill

Kino Maravillas and Daniel Sperling examine Battlefield 4, a critically-acclaimed first person shooter game from Swedish developer DICE. Battlefield combines high quality graphics, directional audio, and realistic gameplay elements to deliver an immersive shooter experience. We used two chapters from Bogost’s book, “Empathy” and “Drill,” to describe how the game conveys these themes and thus supports Bogost’s assertions.

4. FIFA and Music

FIFA

Nick and Jay explore FIFA by EA Sports. FIFA is an interactive soccer game simulation. Because FIFA is one of the famous games around the globe, its soundtracks attract people’s attention from a wide array of backgrounds. Though FIFA’s soundtracks make users elated and pumped to play the game, they mean more than that. Ian Bogost believes music in video games no longer carry themes and messages with them, however, FIFA is the perfect counter example. Let’s find out why.

Background Music: Wavin Flag by K’nann (recorded from the game)
Works Cited
Quill, Greg. “The Story behind K’naan’s ‘Wavin’ Flag.’” Thestar.com. N.p., 27 Sept, 2012. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.
Goble, Corban. “FIFA 14’s Steve Schnure on Compiling ‘the Only Annual Soundtrack for the World’” Pitchfork. N.p., 24 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

Cibele Podcast Reflection

This assignment was unlike any other that I have done throughout my years at school. The best way for me to describe this podcast is an essay in the form of audio that was way more enjoyable to produce than writing an essay. Cibele is a game that neither me nor Laura had played before. I think most people plan to produce podcasts about games they know fairly well which makes our situation a little more unique. In Rohan and Zach’s podcast they didn’t really give much background on how GTA works because its such a well known game. Since our game was very obscure the first thing I made sure to do was write a brief synopsis to read at the start of the podcast to give our listeners a better understanding of our overall analysis. So obviously to start this process Laura and I had the play the game through completely. Based on our knowledge of Nina Freeman’s other game, Freshman Year, and our meeting with Professor Morgen prior to recording, we thought it would be interesting to examine the difference between male and female perspective of this game. We specifically wanted to examine the difference between which character male players felt empathetic towards in comparison to who female players felt empathetic towards.

After playing through the game ourselves, Laura and I felt bad for the main character Nina aka Cibele because she has her heart broken. In order to assess the male reaction, Laura enlisted her friend Willi to play the game and interviewed him during game play and asked him pre prepared questions afterward. These questions were aimed to help us get a sense of which character, Blake or Nina, he felt empathetic too while playing and why. One major decision we had to make was to determine which parts of the interview we wanted to use and which would be most beneficial to our argument. I think Willi’s interview was extremely important part of our podcast, it effectively displayed the difference in empathy between male and female players of Cibele. After Willi’s interview, Laura and I spoke about our opinions while playing to show the direct contrast between the views.

Making this podcast allowed me to be able to better understand video games as a piece of literature. In most freshmen english classes my friends are reading novels or excerpts and then writing a response about them. Our english class has a similar process to this but instead we are playing games instead of reading. In order to write valuable responses to these games I realized I needed to learn to think of them as pieces of literature rather than just a animation on a screen. Applying the concept of empathy from Bogost’s book encouraged me to see video games in a new way. I look forward to using this new mindset when writing reflections for games we play in the future of this class.

Doing Video Games with Reverence

binding of isaac header

Stephen Black and Max Faass explore The Binding of Isaac by Edmund McMillan. The Binding of Isaac is a 2011 Indie 2D dungeon crawler that portrays a modified version of the the biblical story of the same name. After Isaac’s mother hears a message from God commanding her to sacrifice her son as proof of her faith, Isaac flees into the horror-ridden basement to survive.

Background Music: The Binding of Isaac Menu Music (recorded by ourselves)

Cibele Podcast

Have you all already listened to the second podcast episode?

Note that if you head over to the episode on the Soundcloud site, you can leave comments. One nifty thing about Soundcloud is that you can key those comments into specific moments, so as you’re playing just hit pause and enter your comment and it will be tagged to that second in the podcast. Please do leave feedback and comments for Billie and Laura, and for Zach and Rohan on the first episode. Let them know your thoughts on their work!

Podcast Nuts and Bolts

Microphone

I’ve talked through some of the nuts and bolts issues with the podcast assignments with the first two groups, but now that the first episode is up and we’ve worked through some of the kinks, I want to put all this down in writing for future groups.

Equipment and Software

The Music and Media Library has a number of microphones available for checkout, including Snowball and Snowflake microphones. They aren’t on that list, but I believe they also have a box full of older iPod Nanos with microphone attachments that should work pretty well for recording voice too.

Audacity is a good, free, open-source audio editor (available for Windows, Mac, and Linux). There is a very good tutorial wiki for Audacity online — this basic page on mixing voice narration with music probably covers 90% of what you’ll need to do for your podcast. It’s not terribly difficult, but there is a learning curve to it and you should definitely make an extra copy of your raw audio files before you start mixing and editing them. Expect for it to take longer than you think it should to do the sound editing and build time for mixing into your plans. There are some students in the class who have a fair amount of experience working with Audacity — make friends with them and ask them for help (make sure to give thanks for their help in your episode credits!).

Exporting as an MP3: Note that probably the most complicated part of using Audacity will be configuring the MP3 encoder. Because of copyright laws, Audacity does not come with a native MP3 encoder so you can’t export as MP3 straight out of the box. You’ll need to download and configure an extra plugin to do so.

Student Digital Life also has lots of resources that should be of use to you with this project. If you want to use more advanced software, the Media Lab has the full Adobe Creative Suite, including Adobe Audition, available and student assistants who can help you in using it. The Tech Lab is also a great space for you to go to get ideas about how to approach these projects. There are also gaming consoles available in Cox Computing. If you want to do an episode on a console game and need a space to have your friends play and record audio with them, those might be really useful. Let me know if you need to reserve a particular time (gaming consoles are usually first come, first serve but for an academic use the SDL folks have indicated that they might be able to set up reservations — but you should probably run that through me instead of just going up to whomever is working the front desk and asking for a reservation).

Meeting

You should plan to meet with me a couple of weeks before your episode is due so that you can fill me in on your plans, we can brainstorm ideas, and you can ask me any questions that have come up. Try to come into the meeting with a paragraph of text outlining what you hope to achieve — think of it as an articulation of your hypothesis. You are the producers of the episode, which means you’ve got ownership of the it and make the decisions about how to get your episode together. I’m the executive producer, which means it’s my role to help you to achieve the goals you set for your episode while also ensuring that you meet the expectations for the series as a whole. These meetings should be collaborative negotiations.

Collaborating

You are allowed to bring in friends or other people from outside the class to take part in your podcast. If you ask someone from outside the class to appear in your episode, you should get them to fill out a media release form. Note that the form asks whether  the person wants to be identified by a pseudonym, first name, or full name — make sure that they let you know and then use whichever method they choose to identify them during the episode credits section at the end of your podcast. You can also ask fellow classmates to appear in your episode, either to be interviewed or to serve as vocal talent. I hope that most of you will serve as narrators of your own episodes but if you really don’t want to do so, you can script the narrative that you want and then ask a fellow student to record it for you (again, make sure to thank them in your credits!).

If I can ever get the achievements system fully working, I’ll award students in the class who aren’t producers on an episode but who provide vocal talents or other assistance with achievement badges for doing so.

Episode Structure

You are responsible for creating the audio for your episode, which includes an introduction that provides a title for your individual episode and the names of the two producers; the primary content of the episode itself, which should be about ten minutes in length; and a closing credit section for your individual episode in which you provide the title for any music that you have used and thank people who contributed to it.

You are encouraged to mix music, interviews, and sound effects or ambient sounds into your episode.

Turning It In

Once you’ve got the audio for your episode, upload the audio to Google Drive and then send it to me — preferably as an MP3 but if you have trouble exporting it that way, you can send the Audacity project file. If you have trouble with sending it, let me know. Include in your email a short paragraph describing the podcast and a text version of your comments. If you have someone from outside the class in your podcast, send me a copy of their media release form or give it to me as a hard copy during the next class session.

Send me the file by the Friday when your episode is due. I will take your episode and place it into the template for the series, adding on the series introduction and the series credit pieces. Then I’ll upload the episode to our Soundcloud playlist and include it in the RSS feed so that it pushes out to iTunes and to anyone who’s subscribed to the podcast. I’ll also publish a post to the podcast category page on the site with a Soundcloud embed.

Reflection

Once you’ve submitted your episode, each of the producers should write their own podcast reflection post on their own individual sites, with an embed of the Soundcloud episode at the top and then your reflection included below.

Podcast Reflection

Microphone

Once you and your co-producer have each completed your podcast episode, you should each write separate reflection posts, published to your own sites. Embed the Soundcloud episode in your post (if I haven’t published the episode yet when you publish your post, just edit the post later to add the link once I have).

Your refection should be 250 – 500 words and should be in the form of an essay with complete paragraphs, not as a list of bullet point answers.

Reflection Questions

Include a brief description of your process for developing the podcast. How did you and your co-producer divide up the tasks involved and how did you structure your collaboration? In what ways does your episode respond to the other episodes in the series — in other words, compare your episode to the ones before it, explaining how you gained inspiration from, adapted, or resisted something that your peers did in their episodes.

Please describe your primary goals with the episode that you produced and explain the strategies that you used to achieve them. You’re producing these episodes under a number of time and technological constraints, so it’s likely that there will be some goals that you just cannot accomplish within those constraints — address what challenges arose for you and the choices you made to meet them and/or describe what you would have done differently had you more time/resources available for your episode (in other words, what are some aspirational goals that were perhaps unrealistic given the constraints of the assignment but that you would have liked to have tried to accomplish if circumstances were different?).

How do you see your work on the podcast episode helping you to achieve the learning outcomes for this course? Link to the specific learning outcome posts that applied to your work on this assignment, and explain how you met that outcome with your work on this assignment.

Make sure you address the sets of questions above and then also consider some of the questions below and address them in your reflection (you definitely won’t be able to answer all of these, so go through the list and pick some that seem to be most of interest for you and write about them):

  • Were the strategies, skills and procedures I used effective for this assignment?
  • Do I see any patterns in how I approached my work on this episode? How was producing a podcast similar to or different from writing more traditional essays?
  • What have I learned about my strengths and my areas in need of improvement?
  • How am I progressing as a learner?
  • What suggestions do I have for my peers as they go about working on their episodes to come?
  • How can I apply the skills I used in crafting this podcast episode to future writing projects? Where can I use these skills again?
  • What are you most proud of about the episode that you created?

Week Ahead: 3!

Playing Card Tile 3 of Spades
3 1/26 Play through Gone Home to completion.

Due: Gone Home response and your Player Character Avatar.

1/28 Richard Bell, “Family History: Source Analysis in Gone Home.”

Begin “Unpacking Manuel’s” assignment.

Bogost HTDTWV “Art” & “Empathy” (9-23) was assigned for last week, will discuss today, so if you didn’t read it before do so this week.

Due: Drafts of visuals and a script for the series intro segment, which we’ll discuss in class on Tuesday.

Class Plans

We’ll spend most of class today discussing Gone Home while also deciding on next steps for getting podcast ready for publication.

On Thursday, we’ll continue discussion of Gone Home after having read Bell’s piece. And will spend much of the class session going over the Unpacking Manuel’s assignment and beginning to work in it.

Looking ahead: podcast series

The episode sign up sheet has been updated per our class discussion and agreement, so there are now 10 episodes with due dates on Fridays throughout the semester starting 2/12. You should be forming pairs and claiming slots on the sign up sheet.

Also needed for the podcast series:

  • 2 images for iTunes distribution: a square avatar (1400 x 1400) and a rectangular header (2480 x 520).
  • An audio intro for the series

 

Podcast Series

Microphone

Note this additional post with a bunch of nuts and bolts guidance on completing the podcast assignment!

Due: Fridays

This semester, as a class we’ll be producing a podcast series about games and gaming, in which we’ll share our thinking with each other and with listeners outside the class. Early in the semester, we’ll spend a class period developing a more specific plan for how we want to structure the series, coming up with a title for the whole series, and making some decisions about the process. We will also work together to record an introductory audio segment, which will go at the start of each episode of the podcast, and to design a logo and other visuals for promotion.

Read on for further details so you have a sense of what to expect.

The first episode should be published on Friday, February 5. Each Friday from then until April 15 one or two more episodes will be published.

Roles

As instructor for the class, I will be the Executive Producer for the series. In this capacity, it will be my role to consult with the individuals responsible for any given episode, to provide some guidance in order to ensure that each episode maintains the standards of the whole, and to provide feedback on the production.

Each student in the class will be responsible for serving as Producer for one single episode. The Producer initiates, coordinates, supervises, and controls all aspects of the podcast episode production process, including creative, technological, and administrative. A Producer is involved throughout all phases of production from inception to completion, including coordination, supervision, and control of all other talents and crafts, and publication and promotion of the completed episode.1

Each student in the class will also serve as the Assistant Producer for one episode. As the title suggests, the Assistant Producer helps the Producer to create a finished episode. Usually the Assistant Producer will come in after the initiation of the idea and will help to think through how to bring the Producer’s ideas to fruition, including providing assistance with storyboarding, recording, and editing. The Producer is responsible for final decisions and should be the primary coordinator for the entire process, with the Assistant Director serving to offer suggestions and feedback.

The Producer or Assistant Producer might ask other students in the class or outside of the class to participate in an episode by providing voice talents, being interviewed on a subject, or participating in a game session. Help out your fellow classmates when you can.

Publication

The Producer will publish his or her episode by uploading an MP3 to his or her own domain as a blog post designated in the category “podcast.” As with every other blog post you write, the post should include an interesting featured image that goes with the post in some way. The title of the post should be the title for this episode of the podcast. Your post should include a paragraph of text that describes and summarizes the episode in an intriguing manner. The Producer might also promote the episode through various social media channels such as tweeting a link to it or posting about it on his or her Facebook wall.

When you publish the episode to your blog page, it will be syndicated onto the main course site on the Podcasts page. We’ll use the RSS feed for that category to create our podcast on iTunes, which will allow each of us in the class as well as other listeners to subscribe and receive each new episode as we release them.

Episode Structure and Content

(We’ll discuss this topic as a class and develop guidelines for our expectations of each episode, so the following is almost certain to change.)

Each episode should be approximately 5 minutes in length and will begin with an introductory audio bumper that will repeat at the start of each episode. After the series introduction, there will be an audio introduction for this episode that will identify the title of the episode and name the Producer and Assistant Producer.

My initial thinking is that each episode will focus on a single game title, though I might be convinced otherwise, and should also address one activity that we can do with games, drawing from Ian Bogost’s book How to Do Things with Videogames. Ian Bogost lists 20 different ways computer games are used today: art, empathy, reverence, music, pranks, transit, branding, electioneering, promotion, snapshots, texture, kitsch, relaxation, throwaways, titillation, exercise, work, habituation, disinterest, drill. The Producer of an episode will choose a game title and one of these terms, or supply his or her own additional thing that we can do with videogames. The podcast episode will then explore the relationship between the game and the thing.

Should the podcast be only about videogames? Should we allow podcast episodes to focus on board games or other types of games?

Schedule

Sign up on the form here.


  1. Adapted from the Producer’s job description developed by the Producers Guild of America