I am very sorry that this blog post is extremely late. I somehow missed it when it was due.
“Grotesque.” “Squalor.” “Arbitrary anguish.” Bogost uses adjectives that are seemingly the antithesis of what games are supposed to represent. He lures readers in with a brash hook that eventually leads to his point that we use video games as a devices we operate. This disconnect from reality and lack of rewards differentiate games from sports such as football. While Bogost builds up games as something we merely control, he eventually destroys the idea that we enjoy it because boardgames such as Monopoly and chess brings only anguish in defeat rather than glory like a football match. His point is odd and can easily be refuted but by doing this, Bogost forces the reader into a state of confusion and expects them to oppose his views.
After the introduction, Bogost begins going into a humorous definition of Flappy Bird and its simple stupidity. He leads this into how the game is detached of affection for its players. Its beauty comes simply from its repetitiveness much like trying to fix and unfixable real problem, in this anecdote a sink. The simplicity and idiocy of games like Flappy Bird reveals the broad definition of what it is to be a game. Despite calling the game disgusting or useless, Bogost goes against his earlier statement or rather expands on it by telling the reader that they are not stupid for playing stupid games.
The structure of Bogost’s chapters heavily revolve around the same main themes: a brash or outlandish statement, logos examples and definition of the subject pertaining the statement, a pathos appeal through more examples or anecdotes, and wraps up with a general statement that sometimes contradicts the brash statement that he sets up.
In Chapter 5 of How to Talk About Videogames, Bogost works to find the origins of certain aspects of videogames. His example takes place in the Nintendo DS game Scribblenauts when a player discovered a derogatory term, “Sambo,” as an acceptable response to a puzzle in the game. While many accused the creator of the game, Jeremiah Slackzah, of being racist, an interview proved otherwise. By his lack of knowledge of the racist and slang definition of this word and a viable reasoning for putting this word in the game, Bogost concludes that just because something exists, it does not necessarily have a malicious meaning. The game Scribblenauts clearly did not mean to offend people. His conclusion gives reason to the idea of the multiple interpretations that videogames can have. Although the Scribblenauts issue might be well known, Bogost defamiliarizes it by including outside sources, such as the interview and other, less well known games of controversy. By categorizing this kind of debate as one of controversial and offensive to certain races, beliefs, and genders, Bogost makes his argument unique. Through a developed idea of the differences between purposeful and accidental, Bogost helps game creator, Slackzah, by backing him up on his mistake.
In Chapter 11 of How to Talk About Videogames by Ian Bogost, defamiliarizes gestural interfaces videogames expanding on the idea that gestures are more important than one would think. He begins the chapter by giving a miniature history lesson on when gestural interface games began blowing up in the late 2000s. Next he lists, and describes mainstream examples of videogames like the Wii Balance Board and the Kinect 2 in order to give the reader a better sense of the type of videogames he refers to. This is a beneficial strategy because most people may not know what Bogost is talking about just by game type alone. Once he establishes his topic, Bogost begins to build his argument. First, he states that gestural videogames are more gratifying the more realistic the corresponding real-world action is performed on the screen. Bogost argues that goal of “physical realism” only distracts from the fact that gestures convey and not just action. This is where he starts hinting at what he’s trying to get to the bottom. Bogost is trying to undercover that the gesture videogames can be extremely emotionally tolling, especially when they achieve physical realism. He expands on his argument by explaining the importance of gestures. Then he talks about how much we as people depend on nonverbal communication through gestures. There are intransitive gestures like scrunched eyebrows, crossed arms, or even a smile that don’t necessarily perform an action. And there are transitive gestures such as flipping the bird or wave hello that are technically actions, but they don’t “alter the physical environment in the same way a racquet does when striking a ball” (Bogost 90). What these gestures do is alter our feelings and the way we think about ourselves and the world. Once he sets up his argument, he begins giving his example to support his statements. His first example is Manhunt 2, which is a controversial game released in 2007 that is played on the Wii (Bogost 91). He uses this game as an obvious example of what he is trying to prove. The game asks its players to physical act out torturous and heinous action. This game is an obvious example of how gestural interface videogames can be emotionally tolling on their players. But, in order to make his argument even stronger, he uses a less obvious game called Train as an example. He begins by explaining the game and how it is twisted. Players have to perform gestures that in the game correlate with put people on trains that end uo in concentration camps or Auschwitz. The goal of the game is twisted enough but by asking the players to physically place people onto these trains, it adds a new level of emotional distress. Worst of all, this game isn’t even a gestural videogame. He asks the readers to imagine if we had the technology to turn Train into one. He concludes Chapter 11 with this idea that maybe we shouldn’t rush to improve the technology of gestural interface videogames because they may be too emotionally taxing to still even be enjoyable. Bogost does a great job of forcing his readers reconsider videogames like the Wii by making them aware that these games impact people in ways they couldn’t see before.
Bogost, Ian. How to Talk about Videogames. N.p.: U of Minnesota, 2015. Print.
This chapter stuck out to me due to its farfetched argument. The idea that the “Blue Shell is everything thats wrong with America” is a very bold statement. Boost backs up as the chapter continues to state the context to his claim, but even then the reasoning falls short. Ian Bogost is trying to argue that the Blue Shell is showing that someone from the very back of a race and ruin everything for the person in first. That is what is wrong with society, he believes, the fact that with blind luck and no effort you can knock someone off their podium who has arguably worked harder and deserves to be at the front.
He defamiliarizes Mario Cart by taking the Blue Shell out of the Mario Cart world. He uses the line “by 2003 everything had changed, and not just in the Mushroom Kingdom.” From this sentence he launches off about real world examples and how this idea of almost cheating to win is toxic. Though he continues with the history of the shell he does it in an almost shaming tone. He writes how Nintendo tried to fix the shell, but they did it by adjusting what place in the race you are. This only means that now the person that throws the shell doesn’t even get to win. They may benefit by moving up but in general it should have no direct affect on their race. Boost wraps up the chapter writing about those who have mastered the “real Blue Shell.” People who have learned how to apply this to their actual lives no longer need to play the game. Those who have managed to mastered the Blue Shell have found the “trump card against the universe.”
Boost does not bring in much outside media in this chapter. Instead he sticks with his own strong opinions. He does delve into the history of the game and consoles to try and legitimize his argument, but most of his points come from his own beliefs. Bogost uses the same tactics in most of his chapters. He starts with a bold claim then works to back it up. In this chapter though he starts with the claim, but then works to make personal connections to try and discourage arguments.
Overall this chapter has some potentially strong points, but his lack of sources and proof hurts its legitimacy. Bogost does not even create strong real world examples to argue with. Though his points did make me reflect on the game and the blue shell aspect, I still felt as though I could easily argue that his claims were too general and bold to be factual.
The Blue Shell to the average person is nothing more than a power-up in a video game that gives the user an ace in the hole. It is joyous to those who use it, torturous to the those it attacks and irrelevant to everyone else. However, just like with every other game, Ian Bogost finds a way to critique it in a manner that makes you feel like the game has committed some deep sin that must be atoned for. In this case he digs into the fault of a new generation, my generation, to believe that success can be achieved with minimal effort and difficulty. Why empower kids to feel like even in last place with seconds left in a race they can come back with this quick destruction of the first place racer? It’s akin to giving out medals of participation to those who have obviously lost or leading someone on when in reality they aren’t even a true candidate. This is what Bogost tries to delve into. He constantly references different versions of Mario Kart only to use them as a springboard for his claim showing that as the Blue Shell’s characteristics and uses changed over the years its function always corresponded to “what’s wrong with America”. He does this in such a way that even the avid gamer may feel like he’s never played before as he paints a portrait that doesn’t stray from truth, but is likely nowhere near what you see when you play Mario Kart. On top of this he includes statements referencing Bill Clinton, Mark Zuckerberg, and Google Car (names that are well known and connect to technical industry) all in an effort to show that the shell has “grown up” into the monstrosity that he sees it as today. However outrageous it may sound, there does seem to be a correlation between his words and the evolution of the Blue Shell. Whether this is intentional, subliminal, or consequential is the real wonder.
Bogost usually starts his chapters with a bold absurd statement about video games or the one he will be talking about in particular. He then objectifies video games and views them from a perspective like no other. He gets to the point of the game and what is accomplished by playing (if anything). Next, Bogost often times uses a counter argument that sometimes justifies why this game may have even been made or why people even play this game. Bogost does a great job of viewing video games from a distinctive view and bringing in new points that are reasonable but unique.
In chapter 7 of How to Talk about Videogames, Bogost discusses the game Hundreds. Specifically, he delves into the cool aspect of the game.
Bogost begins by analyzing different forms of media, and their purposes. He explains how design, or the appearance of media can often be the purpose. Rather than penetrating our lives, they may just skate the surface. Thus he points out fashion, and designs are cool.
He continues to change our perceptions of the game by zooming in on the game. He mentions the past success of the creators, and their games. He finishes this section by explaining how their previous games were dorky and wacky, rather than the cool seen in Hundreds.
Next, Bogost points out the complexity and originality of the seemingly simple app. Despite its competitors, Hundreds keeps the full attention of its players and actually utilizes the phone to a fuller extent of its capabilities. While Flappy Bird requires just one finger and minimal attention, to play Hundreds and succeed, players must focus completely and use both hands to succeed.
Finally, Bogost finishes the chapter by explaining how the design being better than the functionality epitomizes the coolness of the game. He describes how fashionable accessories are not practical, but manly for looks, which makes it cool. Even though Hundreds has secret messages and a secret power, it is almost ignorable as this is not the cool way a Hundreds player would go about the game.
Chapter three of Ian Bogost’s book talks about how the blue shell of Mario Kart is what is wrong with America. He starts this chapter with the bold claim that no one has ever said. As he writes his claim Bogost even says “Ok, nobody said that…”. To draw in the readers to a seemingly boring topic, he must in some way draw them onto the topic of the blue shell.
As he gets into the chapter, Bogost does not compare two games, rather he looks back at all the different versions of Mario Kart and the systems it was played on. He writes of the progression of sound the shell makes to the the ways it looks. By doing this he makes the reader see how something supposedly the same has changed throughout time similar to America. People get lazier or rely more on things to push them closer to first. The shell is modified over time to make it easier than ever to destroy a race that the person has no impact in.
Throughout the chapter, Bogost talks of how things did not exist when the first version of Mario Kart came out. From telling how Clinton was still in office, Amazon’s IPO had not come about to Zuckerberg planning his bar mitzvah. He brings in social history to give a sense of the gravity of the situation that game holds by staying relevant for so long. At the end of the chapter he starts talking about present technologies that seem unreal to think about when looking at the history of consoles Mario Kart went through during this chapter.
The something that Bogost is trying to get to the bottom to in this chapter is that like this game, America has seen its ups and downs financially and in its popularity. From remodeling the system or changing ways it operates, the game can either succeed or not as it is a 50/50 shot. So America, the things going on can be changed over time even though they might share concept many years ago.
Finally, the author makes us think how the blue shell has changed throughout its existence to change how we see it. As we play any version of the game, we do not see drastic changes that he talks about. But if we dig deeper, we see that the progression of changes in the blue shell has impacted the game immensely either from the colour of the shell to the ways to avoid and detect it.
Almost everyone is familiar with Mario Kart games. For most people, they either have played the game or at least have heard of it. When I played this game in my childhood, I just thought it was fun to play. Since I can not drive a cart in the real world, the game provided me a chance to experience the excitement in the game world. I never thought the game can imply any life-long lessons or teach its players any truth about the society. Ian Bogost’s book How To Talk About Videogames proved me wrong. The “Blue Shell” in the game clearly, according to Bogost, teaches players an essential lesson about the real world: you are all by yourself and there is no victor until you cross the finish line. The “Blue Shell” gives players far behind a chance to catch up, but for leading players, they have to be cautious because anything could happen in the game. The game implies the impermanent nature of the world where future is extremely unpredictable. More dramatically, in the later version, the thrower of the “Blue Shell” could be hit by it, which is ironic and further strengthens the unpredictable nature of the game and the real world. Later, the “Blue Shell” even has wings. This revision of the game adds more uncertainty to it and makes it uncomfortable and chaotic for players. Bogost does not stick to only one idea of the game; instead, he starts with a bold yet plausible idea and expands it to a broader and more controversial one. Sometimes, I feel it is too much of a criticism for only a game. In this chapter, he also mentions Google and Yahoo as a comparison to Mario Kart, which adds more credibility to his argument and really defamiliarizes the game itself. It seems like Mario Kart is no longer simply a game, it is something that consists of social, economical and cultural aspects of the society. He expects a game not only can bring fun to its players, more importantly, but also teach its players instrumental lessons of the real world.
In chapter 3 of How to Talk About Videogames, Bogost discusses the subtler meaning behind Mario Kart’s infamous Blue Shell powerup. Bogost starts off with a broad and shocking statement, mainly to lure in the reader and capture their attention. “The Blue Shell is everything that is wrong with America”. Is this true? Probably not but it will keep the reader reading and give them a foretelling glimpse of Bogost’s eventual point. Bogost claims that the Spiny Shell (because technically it’s not a “Blue Shell” – which Bogost pointedly says) represents the issue of victory and defeat, and how there is no real level playing field in true competition. The Spiny Shell is the redistribution of wealth, the consolation trophy that everyone gets, the advantage given to the losing side. The idea of a player being able to claim victory due to their skill, or lose due to their improficiency is a lie. Winners and losers get their status not from competition, but from chance. The lotto numbers falling in a line is what determines first place and last place. Whoever is graced by the Spiny Shell, and whoever is unlucky enough to be in its way.
Bogost drives these points home by examining several games while discussing the history and meaning of the Spiny Shell, as it makes appearances in several Mario games. He not only discusses Mario Kart, but also Super Mario titles ranging from Super Mario Brothers on the NES to New Super Mario Brothers on the Nintendo DS. He also alludes to the Nintendo company itself, citing their economic issues from previous business flops and their ironic attempt to increase revenue. Nintendo had the special edition of Mario Kart 8 come with a statue of the infamous Spiny Shell. Bogost poignantly ends the chapter with a depressing notion: “There, the Blue Shell Participation Trophy overlooks the gray pavement of your cubicle… where, like Mario Kart players of every generation, you labor quietly under the false impression that someday you too will be a victor.” This stark and bleak reality that Bogost purports is a physical link between the confines of the video game and the reality of our world.