Why Technical English

Tactical Media and games

December 1, 2010
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

  

Introductory notes

Tactical media is a form of media activism that uses media and communication technologies for social movement and privileges temporary, hit-and-run interventions in the media sphere. Attempts to spread information not available by mainstream news are also called media activism. The term was first introduced in the mid-1990s in Europe and the United States by media theorists and practitioners. Since then, it has been used to describe the practices of a vast array of art and activist groups. Tactical media also shares something with the hacker subculture, and in particular with software and hardware hacks which modify, extend or unlock closed information systems and technologies.

Tactical Media in Video Games

Video games have opened a fully new approach for tactical media artists. This form of media allows a wide range of audiences to be informed of a specific issue or idea. Some examples of games that touch on Tactical Media are Darfur is Dying and September 12. One example of a game design studio that works in tactical media is TAKE ACTION games (TAG). The video game website www.newsgaming.com greatly embodies the idea of tactical media in video games. Newsgaming coins this name as a new genre that brings awareness of current news related issues based on true world events apposed to fantasy worlds that other video games are based upon. It contributes to emerging culture that is largely aimed at raising awareness about important matters in a new and brilliant approach.

Other examples of tactical media within video games include The McDonald’s Game. The author of this game takes information from the executive officers of McDonalds and giving it to the public by informing people about how McDonalds does its business and what means it uses to accomplish it.

Chris Crawford’s Balance of the Planet, made in 1990, is another example of tactical media, in which the game describes environmental issues.

Darfur is Dying description   

Camp of Darfuris internally displaced by the o...

Image via Wikipedia

Origination

It is a browser game about the crisis in Darfur, western Sudan. The game won the Darfur Digital Activist Contest sponsored by the company mtvU ((Music Television for Universities campus)). Released in April 2006, more than 800,000 people had played it by September. It is classified as a serious game, specifically a newsgame.
The game design was led by Susana Ruiz (then a graduate student at the Interactive Media Program at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California) as a part of TAKE ACTION games. In October 2005 she was attending the Games for Change conference in New York City, where mtvU announced that they, in partnership with other organizations, were launching the Darfur Digital Activist Contest for a game. The game should also be an advocacy tool about the situation in the Darfur conflict. Since mtvU offered funding and other resources, Ruiz decided to participate in this project.
Ruiz formed a design team and spent two months creating a game design document and prototype. The team spent much of the design phase talking to humanitarian aid workers with experience in Darfur and brainstorming how to make a game that was both interesting to play and was an advocacy tool. The Ruiz team’s beta version was put up for review by the public, along with the other finalists, and was chosen as the winner. The team then received funding to complete the game. The game was officially released at a Save Darfur Coalition rally on 30 March 2006.
Map of Darfur, Sudan (
Image via Wikipedia

 

Gameplay

The game begins with the player choosing a member of a Darfuri family that has been displaced by the conflict. The first of the two modes of the game begins with the player controlling the family member, who travelled from the camp to a well and back, while dodging patrols of the janjaweed militia. If captured, the player is informed what has happened to his/her selected character and asked to select another member of the family and try again. If the water is successfully carried back to the camp, the game switches into its second mode – a top down management view of the camp, where the character must use the water for crops and to build huts. When the water runs out the player must return to the water fetching level to progress. The goal is to keep the camp running for seven days.

 

Original caption states,

Image via Wikipedia

 Reception of the game

The game has been reported by mainstream media sources such as The Washington Post, Time Magazine, BBC News and National Public Radio. In an early September 2006 interview, Ruiz stated that it was difficult to determine success for a game with a social goal, but affirmed that more than 800,000 people had played it 1.7 million times since its release.  Moreover, tens of thousands of them had forwarded the game to friends or sent a letter to an elected representative. As of April 2007, the game has been played more than 2.4 million times by over 1.2 million people worldwide.

 The game has been the focus of debate on its nature and impact. Some academics, interviewed by the BBC on the game, stated that anything that might spark debate over Darfur and issues surrounding is a clear gain for the advocates. The others thought that the game oversimplified a complex situation and thus failed to address the actual issues of the conflict.  The game was also criticized for the sponsorship of mtvU, raising the possibility that the game might seem like a marketing tool for the corporation. The official site does not use the word “game”, but refers to Darfur is Dying as a “narrative based simulation.”

 

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Video Games Platforms

October 6, 2010
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

 

Terminology

The term game platform refers to the particular combination of electronic or computer hardware which, in connection with low-level software, allows a video game to run. In general, a hardware platform means a group of compatible computers that can run the same software. A software platform comprises a major piece of software, as an operating system, operating environment, or a database, under which various smaller application programs can be designed to run. Below main platforms of video games are reviewed.   

  

Platforms for PC games 

PC games often require specialized hardware in the user’s computer in order to play, such as a specific generation of graphics processing unit or an Internet connection for online play, although these system requirements vary from game to game. In any case your PC hardware capabilities should meet minimum hardware requirements established for particular PC games. On the other side, many modern computer games allow, or even require, the player to use a keyboard and mouse simultaneously without demanding any additional devices. 

As of the 2000s, PC games are often regarded as offering a deeper and more complex experience than console games. 

 

Video game consoles platform

A video game console is an interactive entertainment computer or modified computer system that produces a video display signal which can be used with a display device to show video games.    

Usually, this system is connected to a common television set or composite video monitor. A composite monitor is any analog video display that receives input in the form of an analog composite video signal through a single cable. The monitor is different from a conventional TV set because it does not have an internal RF (Radio Frequency) tuner or RF converter. However, a user can install an external device that emulates a TV tuner. 

  

Handheld game consoles platform

A handheld game console is a lightweight, portable electronic device of a small size with a built-in screen, games controls and speakers. A small size allows people to carry handheld game consoles and play games at any time or place. 

A One Station handheld console with game

Image via Wikipedia

 The oldest true handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges is the Milton Bradley Microvision issued in 1979. 

Nintendo, with a popular handheld console concept released the Game Boy in 1989, and continues to dominate the handheld console market with successive Game Boy, and most recently Nintendo DS models.  

  

Handheld electronic games platform

In the past decade, handheld video games have currently become a major sector of the video game market. For example, in 2004 sales of portable software titles exceeded $1 billion in the United States. 

The Gizmondo handheld video game unit. United ...

Image via Wikipedia

Handheld electronic games are very small portable devices for playing interactive electronic games, often miniaturized versions of video games. The controls, display and speakers are all a part of a single unit. They usually have displays designed to play one game. Due to this simplicity they can be made as small as a digital watch, and sometimes are. Usually they do not have interchangeable cartridges, disks, etc., or are not reprogrammable.  The visual output of these games can range from a few small light bulbs or a light-emitting diode (LED) lights to calculator-like alphanumerical screens. Nowadays these outputs are mostly displaced by liquid crystal and Vacuum fluorescent display screens. Handhelds were most popular from the late 1970s into the early 1990s. They are both the precursors and inexpensive alternatives to the handheld game console. 

Mobile games platform

A mobile game is a video game played on a mobile phone, smartphone, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), handheld computer or portable media player.  

The 16 best iPhone games of 2009

Image by docpop via Flickr

The first game that was pre-installed onto a mobile phone was Snake on selected Nokia models in 1997. Snake and its variants have since become the most-played video game on the planet, with over a billion people having played the game. Mobile games are played using the technologies present on the device itself. The games may be installed over the air, they may be side loaded onto the handset with a cable, or they may be embedded on the handheld devices by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or by the mobile operator. 

For networked games, there are various technologies in common use, for example, text message (SMS), multimedia message (MMS) or GPRS location identification. 

  

Arcade games 

The Simpsons arcade game by Konami

Image by Lost Tulsa via Flickr

An Arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine, usually installed in public businesses such as restaurants, public houses, and video arcades. Most arcade games are redemption games, merchandisers (such as claw crane), video games, or pinball machines. The golden age of video arcade games within the early 1980s was a peak era of video arcade game popularity, innovation, and earnings.     

Furthermore, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, networked gaming via console and computers across the Internet had appeared and replaced arcade games. The arcades also lost their a forefront position of the of new game releases. Having the choice between playing a game at an arcade three or four times (perhaps 15 minutes of play for a typical arcade game), and renting, at about the same price, the exact same game for a video game console, people selected the console. To remain viable, arcades added other elements to complement the video games such as redemption games, merchandisers, games that use special controllers largely inaccessible to home users. Besides, they equiped games with  reproductions of automobile or airplane cockpits, motorcycle or horse-shaped controllers, or highly dedicated controllers such as dancing mats and fishing rods. Moreover, today arcades extended their activities by food service etc. striving to become “fun centers” or “family fun centers”. 

All modern arcade games use solid state electronics and integrated circuits. In the past coin-operated arcade video games generally used custom per-game hardware often with multiple CPUs, highly specialized sound and graphics chips, and the latest in computer graphics display technology. Recent arcade game hardware is often based on modified video game console hardware or high-end PC components.

References:   http://en.wikipedia.org/

 

 


Contemporary gaming

August 29, 2010
2 Comments
Composed by Galina Vitkova

 

Dear friends of Technical English!

Having finished discussing new features of Windows 7 we were looking for topics that could be proper for studying Technical English. After a relatively short time we have chosen computer games for reasons as follows:

  • This topic may be interesting for a larger amount of people studying and needing English. Effectiveness of studying interesting subjects that fascinate you is, as well-known, much higher;
  • In PC games many general methods and instruments that are commonly used for building software applications and systems are applied, too. It means that the same terminology is used in both cases. Thus studying technical texts about PC games we can significantly enrich our professional vocabulary by those technical terms;
  • Games contribute to development of communication skills and reaction readiness, the interest to a game strengthen your ability to remember or memorize new words and expressions;
  • PC games, in spite of their controversial reputation, provide a good means for relaxation.

Enjoy the text and participate in discussion!

 

Contemporary gaming

Personal Computer games (also known as computer games or PC games) have evolved from the simple graphics and gameplays of early titles like Spacewar to a wide range of more visually advanced titles.

 

Playing Spacewar

Image by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

 

 

Although personal computers only became popular with the development of microprocessors, mainframes and minicomputers, computer gaming has existed since at least the 1960s. The first generation of  PC games were often text adventures or interactive fictions, in which the player communicated with the computer by entering commands through a keyboard. Increasing adoption of the computer mouse, and high resolution bitmap displays allowed to include increasingly high-quality graphical interfaces in new releases. Further improvements to games were made with the introduction of the first sound cards in 1987. These cards allowed IBM PC compatible computers to produce complex sounds using frequency modulation (FM synthesis). Previously those computers had been limited to simple tones and beeps.

 

Xbox 360 Case Mod - mosaic Tomb Raider Legend case

 

By 1996, the rise of Microsoft Windows and success of 3D console titles gave rise to great interest in hardware accelerated 3D graphics on the IBM PC compatible computers, and soon resulted in attempts to produce affordable solutions. Tomb Raider, which was released in 1996, was one of the first shooter games acclaimed for its revolutionary graphics. However, major changes to the Microsoft Windows operating system made many older MS-DOS-based games unplayable on Windows NT, and later, Windows XP without using an emulator. The faster graphics accelerators and improving CPU technology resulted in increasing levels of realism in computer games. During this time, the improvements have allowed developers to increase the complexity of modern game engines. PC gaming currently tends strongly toward improvements in 3D graphics.

Concurrently, many game publishers began to experiment with new forms of marketing. Nowadays episodic gaming is chief among these alternative strategies. This kind of gaming is an adaptation of the older concept of expansion packs, in which game content is provided in smaller quantities but for a proportionally lower price. Titles such as Half-Life 2: Episode One took advantage of the idea, with mixed results rising from concerns for the amount of content provided for the price.

The multi-purpose nature of personal computers often allows users to modify the content of installed games with relative ease in comparison with console cames. The console games are generally difficult to modify without a proprietary means. Furthermore, they are often protected by legal and physical barriers against tampering. Contrary to it, the personal computer version of games may be modified using common, easy-to-obtain software. Users can then distribute their customised version of the game (commonly known as a mod) by any means they choose.

The inclusion of map editors, such as UnrealEd with the retail versions of many games that have been made available online, allow users to create modifications for games smoothly. Moreover, the users may use for this purpose tools that are maintained by the games’ original developers. In addition, companies such as id Software have released the source code to older game engines. Thus they enable creation of entirely new games and major changes to existing ones.

Modding have allowed much of the community to produce game elements that would not normally be provided by the developer of the game. Due to it expanding or modifying normal gameplays to varying degrees has been enabled.

References:   http://en.wikipedia.org/


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