(Video Game) Play and Nature

Video games are very popular in today’s society. While they are often blamed for being one of the reasons America’s youth is obese, and causes of violence—there are many positives to video games .

Last semester, I took a class here at the University of Michigan called EDUC 222. This class focused on the educational elements often implemented in games—sometimes without gamers even knowing. At the beginning of the semester, we each had to pick a game to play and study over the course of the semester. I chose a game that appeared rather simple, seeing as I am not a very experienced gamer. Continue reading

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Games can lose their integrity.

One of the world’s most popular game genres is known as “Role Playing Games” (RPGs). In RPGs, the player chooses a character (sometimes known as an avatar) that they wield control over. Once the rules and guidelines for success are laid out, the player is responsible for making decisions that will further develop his/her character. Some say that the popularity of this genre of game stems from the autonomy and freedom that players experience when playing in the world of the game. Of the myriad of RPGs, one that has gained a high level of acclaim is known as “Maplestory”. Maplestory is a free online role playing game developed by Nexon a South Korean company. It was released May 11th, 2005 and it is recognized as one of the most successful 2-dimensional RPGs of our time. The game is known for its cute animations, riveting backgrounds and trademark soundtracks. The point of the game is to defeat monsters, cultivate a specialized fighter, complete quests and outrank your competitors (fellow players). However, the game has been criticized in recent years due to one primary reason: the fundamental challenge(s) of the game have been eliminated.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NEXON_logo.gif

Credit to Wikimedia Commons.

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Sports and their Place in College


I never pictured myself at Michigan. In high school I was I was advised to attend a small liberal arts school. I essentially only applied to small schools, but when it came time to actually visit them, I realized that the only outlier in the mix that I applied to was also the only place I could actually see myself: Michigan.

I wasn’t prepared for Michigan. I may have been prepared academically, however in no way was I prepared for the jock culture that I would come to be exposed to. Everywhere you turn there’s a store selling maize and blue apparel or various deals associated with the Wolverines. The athletes, in particular the football and basketball players, are treated like Gods. They stand out in a sea of somewhat nerdy and bookish students. It’s not hard to tell who is an athlete at Michigan. Just ask anyone at this school.

Most people I talk to outside of Michigan can’t separate the University entirely from its football program. They may know who the football players are and what position they play, but when prompted to list what some of Michigan’s best programs are they come up blank.

It makes sense, however, when athletics is such a crucial part of this school and the revenue it produces.

So in what way are the athletes profiting off of this revenue? They work just as hard in many ways as the adults who make decisions for them. They go by a complicated schedule that doesn’t make a lot of room for their studies or a life outside of their team. They give most of their time and energy to the sport, Michigan, and its fans. While fans may give them recognition (there are many athletes on this campus that receive VIP status), they also don’t get much compensation after they leave the school. Athletes face the risk of concussions and other serious injuries that could greatly hinder their quality of life, not just their abilities on the field. These are injuries that players in professional sports encounter. Yet, they don’t get paid like these pro-players.

We could make the argument that they should be playing for the learning experience and getting a discount on a great education is payment enough, but when adults are profiting off of them, how is that fair?

It’s not. They’re devoting the majority of their time to the sport, they face injuries, and they also take the heat when the team doesn’t do well. Michigan and its fans already treat them like they’re celebrities, so they should be getting the payment of a celebrity.

If athletes are paid, though does it take the fun out of the sport? Indeed, it does appear that it takes some of the play and leisure out of what is meant to be an enjoyable diversion from the everyday monotony of work. It is meant to entertain. Athletics that involve play does not fit in with the definition of play that is given in Homo Ludens by Johan Huizinga. He believes that play should be meant to be a diversion from regular life and still maintain the fun.

This hardly fits in with what we witness in college sports today, specifically at Michigan.

Does M Club really support you?

So to conclude, what we have going on with athletics at Michigan is a system that profits off of 19 year olds who are getting their heads smashed in with little compensation. The fun is taken out of play for the sake of monetary gain. This debate will continue to be ongoing, but it is clear that athletics at Michigan need to change. The system isn’t working.

The Timeless Relation between Games and Diplomacy

World Diplomacy – Picture Credit: Have a Cookie

Diplomacy is the art of dealing with people or countries in a sensitive and efficient way. Its importance and value has been respected since ancient times. In fact, the Chinese General Sun Tzu once wrote in his book The Art of War, “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” His understanding on how diplomacy can single-handedly ended wars has been repeatedly proven in history through the centuries since his time.  Although not all diplomacy is related to war and peace, it is about making negotiations, building relations, and maintaining relations even in the presence of conflicts. Games and sports are a notable facet in history through which countries and people have applied diplomacy.

In Homer’s Illiad, the chapter on the funeral games for Patroclus is a prime example of diplomacy within a group through games. Achilles, the leader of the group, uses the games as a means to honor a fallen warrior, distribute the spoils of war, respect elderly soldiers, and as a way to keep his soldiers happy. His actions helped him maintain good relations with all his fellow soldiers. In addition, his abstinence from the Chariot Race (which he could have easily won) shows that he is willing to concede so that others have a chance in the race. Achilles, by his actions, displayed diplomacy on an individual level through the funeral games.

The funeral games from Homer’s poem bear a resemblance to a modern day games that also involve diplomacy: the Olympics. Although it may not seem so obvious at first, Olympics are one of best places to practice diplomacy.  One way countries can express their views is by choosing to participate or abstain from Olympics. One example of this use is the US boycott and attempts to convince others to boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980 in retaliation for the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Although not effective in changing Russia’s views, it did inform them peacefully of U.S. disapproval. Another way countries have practiced diplomacy during the Olympics is through the simple act of attending. By setting aside any differences and attending to celebrate games, an opportunity presents itself for feuding countries to reconcile. The Olympic Truce, an idea taken from history and has been recently promoted to the spotlight, has been a major diplomatic movement that aims to temporarily pause all wars around the world during the Olympic games to perhaps pave the way for new relations. Although the idea has only recently been promoted, it has already shown major promise in the United Nations when all 193 member countries voted to approve the truce in 2011.  These ideas and actions entwine games and diplomacy through a timeless relation for the betterment of the world.

Image Credit: Using public domain images (1 and 2)

Breakdancing: The Anarchic Game Paradox

Can a battle be considered a game? Can an all-out war be confined to a specific time and space? Can two parties with competing interests agree to play by the rules? Most people consider games to exist only in controlled, structured environments. However, I would argue that games can even be found in the most anarchic settings.

Credit to Seis Del Sur at the Bronx Documentary Center.

Credit to Seis Del Sur Company.

One game that most people do not know about in modern-day society is b-boy, or breakdance, battles. The term “b-boy” stands for “break-boy”, meaning dancers would dance to specific breaks in the beats and match his/her movements to the up-tempo tracks. B-boying is a very dynamic, acrobatic style of dance that was created from the ground up in the Bronx, New York. In the late 1970s and early 1980s it was a movement that spawned itself in areas of low socioeconomic status. Our nation suffered from a severe recession in 1982. The poor state of the economy made hopelessness spread like an infection, especially in lower income neighborhoods. Out of that despondency, an unexpected art form was birthed. There was so much energy in the young generation that needed to be expressed and thus b-boying was established. The dance is competitive in nature because it finds its origins in gang violence. Gang membership and criminal activity were at an all-time high in the 80s, and b-boying actually played a large role in stopping unnecessary bloodshed. Some say that the dance was a miracle because it took the kids off the streets and gave them hope for the future. The breaking culture was a positive influence because it promoted peace, unity, love and having fun.

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