Tag Archives: bioshock

knowing, predicting, gaming

Fear and Loathing at LOEX

It was one month ago, fellow infomaniacs, that I made a terrifying pilgrimage, with copy of Fear and Loathing clutched in death grip, to the motherland of self-destruction and fine dining. Ironically, for a conference. Just imagine it…200 plus wide-eyed librarians descending upon the city, nervous to experiment with open bars and various things that “twitter” during the daytime to being thrown out of UFC matches and wave pools come evening time. Fear not readers, it wasn’t anything approaching, say, a Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Convention, but rather LOEX of the West, a conference celebrating the more eclectic uses of instructional technology in libraries. Needless to say, the double vision has subsided yet I am still recuperating as I write.

Gaming came up quite a bit, and a few points have been emblazoned in my mind like the Vegas sunshine. The keynote address was delivered by a very smart guy named Greg Niemeyer, who specializes in gaming at Berkeley. He talked for awhile and proposed a few ideas worth contemplating far more than the price of 3-for-1 drinks by the poolside. He listed the all necessary elements, conditions, parameters and dynamics entailed in gaming, but the biggest idea I came away with was that according to Niemeyer, “to know is to predict” and consequently “learning is training prediction“.

Niemeyer stressed how though gaming is an activity creating a “magic circle” that separates us from the real world, at the same time it creates a model of reality from which some juicy sense of embodiment, transformation, growth changes us. This dripping corpuscle, infomaniacs, is the realization that one here has actually learned something, acquired some knowledge of import. Exponentially strengthening this knowledge is the activity of interaction; the more people participating, the the greater brainpower, the wider avenue for acquisition. Zombies, a tight soundtrack and an Xbox Live account doesn’t hurt neither.

Back to Niemeyer’s main point…gaming is an activity of retention; our capabilities for critical thinking develop directly with our memory, especially when focused within our magic circle, our elven kingdom, our world of warcraftery, as it were. Knowledge occurs when we are able to predict when you need specific information, action or abilities. It forms when we come to the point in the game where the wooden crates no longer drop the zombies like a shovel, when committing to memory that lobbing grenades at the toxic aliens rather than hitting them with the assault rifle is the only way to go.

My question: if the knowing is predicting, once we learn the prediction patterns for a game, does this ultimately diminish the ending of a game? Won’t this newfound majestic boredom be the natural barrier to the anti-climactic ending we are so sure to experience when we take the time to finish the game (take Bioshock, for example, stunning game but definitely anti-climactic ending[s]!)? I guess making the prediction patterns more randomized and thereby difficult is the key to the challenge. Bigger orcs and awesomer wizardry, too.

Anyway, enlightening persentations at a fun conference. And the venue couldn’t have been more choice.