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Fionnghuala's Journal

Not to be taken

6/9/08 04:43 pm - Under the Mask...

Spent most of my weekend going to an interesting day conference in Luton about videogames. The first videogame-thing I've been to since last Summer. Has got me thinking that maybe I should take some steps to include games in my project, or more accurately find one participant who self-identifies as a gamer so I can position myself in that field. Or at least with one foot or even one toe in it. There seems a lot of scope for going around saying 'This is rubbish', in the same way that at the moment I love going around saying 'The internet is rubbish'. I've been seduced a lot more by literary criticism generally, recently (I say that seamlessly assuming that videogame studies is a branch of lit crit, which is an appalling reduction, but the kind of one I like).

Anyway, here are some links to Things I Saw There That Were Cool:

The Passively Multi-player Onling Game - which looks kind of interesting and I'd like to play, but apparently slows Firefox down a lot, and my laptop is already stuggling to make sense of the world.

Chore Wars - An equally hilarious game concept, where you assign XP-amounts to chores in your life, and then compete with your workmates/housemates/etc to level.

Hide and Seek Festival - Games festival at the Southbank at the end of June. Which sounds terribly terribly cool. You have to read this page very cynically to not be attracted to it, I think. Although it was nice to see Tanya Krzywinska, who's a v cool elder screen-media researcher glaring powerully at the playful and stripey guy who presented about this, because he was From Industry. Her angsty behaviour was one of my favourite things about the day.

Wonderland - Gamer blog that includes lot of funky game-related craft stuff. Not that I would be interested in anything like that, obv.

DiGRA - The Digital Games Researcher Association, which ran a conference in Japan this year that all the cool kids went to. The site archives all the papers from their conferences and other things. Which is a lot.

Gumbaby.com - Blog of a woman doing work that might cross-cut with mine somewhere, about people leaving innapropriate messages online. Apparently these are overwhelmingly women, and relate to not understanding how the site they are on works. Or usability/design issues... but I don't really care about those.

Women in Games conference - A conference that maybe I should think about going to. It's one of those fusion academic and developer things, that you seem to get a lot of in games research and I guess is why there seems to be so much money flying about. Doesn't seem to be a niche where I could submit a paper, probably the only thing I could think to do would be something about barriers from the embodied side to women playing. But I could probably learn a lot of stuff about the relations women have to gaming and by extension computers and online stuff. Or, more accurately, I could learn a lot about how people are approaching those questions and what the popular sets of assumptions are. Which is the kind of thing I learn most days...

Ludica - Women and games research group. Something about searching for possibilities.

8-bit Flickr pool - And finally, some nice pictures.

The big question I have to ask about whether I want to do anything Game Studies, is do I want to hang around with a bunch of geeks forever, painting myself as an outsider because I can't keep up with how many games they play? And, similarly, how much crappy stuff gets written because of the sheer, ridiculous, volume of it.

6/3/08 11:05 pm - Snack based observations...

I now understand how a cup of tea can be refreshing in the heat. After hours of trawling through Hay-on-Wye offerings I was both hot and real thirsty, and I knocked back a restorative cup of tea super fast, with the gentle scorching sensation in my throat making me feel cool and soothed. This has never happened to me before, and I don't think I really believed it ever could, despite mrmisanthropy's wild claims.

Today I was nosing about the biscuit section, when I noticed you can now get Oreos in quite respectable sized packets... I have long refused to buy them in those tiny, over-priced snack packs. I snapped them up, thinking they would be a talking point with my American tea-guests. This is a thinly veiled rationalisation, I rarely have American tea-guests, and all grown-ups reject Oreos anyway. Turns out there are things your core sense of self just never stop missing...

6/2/08 11:54 pm - ARPAnetz

   Despite all the hype, technoscience is not the Greatest Story
   Ever Told, but it is playing powerfully to large, widely 
   distributed audiences.
- DH

Have just been reading Donna Haraway's thought-provoking thow-away comments (can that woman do no wrong?) about the implications of the internet originating in military contexts, then NSFnet and university contexts, etc, etc. And suddenly I realised, I have heard this ancient history story a million times, but I have no idea about the infrastructure of the internet right now. What computers does it run on? Who do they belong to? How is it funded? How come we hear tons about google and microsoft and gang their hold on the internet, but never anything about this material stuff?

Then I realised you wise lot on my friends list are sure to know the answers to these questions. So I am asking you...

5/29/08 09:15 pm

Have finally returned home, after a week of varied adventures. I'm choosing to gloss the whole thing as 'partying', although some was of the social-theory-orgy variety. Feels like perhaps more than a week. Having failed to go regularly to my spanking new shiny gym has made me realise how busy I've been recently. I begin every new week with a sense that this week I'm exceptionally tired out and Won't Be Able To Fit It All In. So now that I'm back, I'm going to be making a special effort to take it easy for a while.

Which brings me to a topic that has been troubling me for the past year, and particularly for the first half of my par-taying. Is it really so great having a porch on your tent?

Before I had a tent with a porch, I coveted one like mad. I had a brief flirtation a few years ago, but it was one of the few casualties of a very gentle relationship break-up and is long gone. Finally, last year my trusty old two-man (this is of course a lie) finally packed in, and I had to embark on finding a brand new tent. And of course I wanted a porch. And I got one. And I used it for all the Summer season. And I've just come back from sharing what might even have been a four-man (similar lies) which had a porch. And I've finally realised that maybe porches aren't all that.

The main benefits of porches are the obvious place to store your wet shoes and wet clothes and wet everything - if you don't have a porch you need to painstakingly set aside a space for wetness, usually in a crumpled plastic bag that takes up valuable space. But the hidden and most glorious benefit, is that you can pee in your porch while invisible to passers-by.

But I've slowly slowly realised that there is a cruel price for all this luxury. The porch creates a buffer between you and the outside world. The best thing about sleeping in a tent, I think, is snuggling up into bed, and then lying with the door wide open looking up at the stars and appreciating the night air. In my tiny little dome tent, the door was a big segment of tent that swept above me and ended well over my head, so there was no barrier at all between me and the night sky. In a porch-tent, the door is too far away to comfortably reach from a settled bed position. And anyway, there's a damp, crumpled plasticy mess between you and the outside. Which kind of breaks the magic and makes the outside feel like something nasty that you need to be insulated from.

Seeing some photos a friend posted on Facebook of this marvellous, freedom-inspiring view, has reminded me how important it is. So I'm starting to wonder if I can fix my skanky old teenage rubbish tent...

5/20/08 07:43 pm - Time

Have been thinking a lot about the past and the passage of time for the last few days. My Sam weekend wasn't as whimsical and charming as the last one, but was still good fun in a more low-key, grown-up way. Some accounts put this as my tenth year, which feels like it deserves some marking.

I want to say something profound, or at least thought through about this. But more that I notice time passing and things changing. And being in that space, I appreciate being able to watch all these people just do being alive and have things move slowly and rhythmically.

5/16/08 12:03 pm - Funz ?

I am now officially looking forward to the weekend. Actually I have been really really really looking forward to it for approximately three weeks, as the last one was terrific. I can't work out whether it was so great because I was different, or because it was different. I've definitely been a lot more outgoing recently, and that worked so well being there, surrounded by people I know and have.... been through stuff with. In the past I really haven't fully taken advantage of what a great environment it is. And recent years have been clouded by my generalised anxieties, when I obviously wasn't well enough to be there, but was also not well enough to make the decision not to be there.

But it was also an extra-intimate gathering; much tho I love the little n00bs flapping about, there is something seriously special about looking round a crowded room full of people and pretty much every single person being someone you know and care about on some level.

This weekend, however, promises building a fire and telling stories. I am very impressed that this has been planned by C. I thought his special skill was being terribly cute and making ladies of a certain age squeee (although dangerously I think I may be sliding into the 'ladies of a certain age category' - his squee-ing powers seem to be cumulative...) (and to limit it to the ladies is also very closed-minded of me. One of the most laugh-out-loud trying-to-look-supportive moments I've ever experienced was a very heterosexual, very unreflexive 50-yr old man thinking he was feeding back to me about C's work, but actually just telling me over and over again how beautiful he is). Anyway, looks like he's also turning out to be hippie-tastic. Which is definitely all good. I'm hoping there will be puppets, too...

Although saying that, I am major stressing over work. This is because I know I have to leave here at a specific time, and have done some tidying (i.e. and additional task besides the big one I'm doing right not) before I go. That's how terribly terribly bad I am at having Plans.

5/14/08 01:13 pm - Gold Farming... Whatcha Reckon ?

Just went to an interesting talk by my supervisor where she mentioned MMOs and gold farmers. I've heard the story before a few times. She's talking about the exploitation of low-paid workers to support the play of richer players in the west. So that the fantasy of mastery can be purchased, while somebody else's labour is obscured.

Suddenly, this made a connection for me with some stuff I've been thinking about gaming and work. Two other examples I've been rolling around in my head for a while gained new meaning. There are:

1) T.L. Taylor, who is fucking cool, has done some ethnographic-y work with Powerlevellers. Basically d00ds who are playing super-efficiently, putting in a lot of hours, to get hold of the best stuff and effectively beat the game. Traditionally researchers found this hard to make sense of because it looks like work. TL just accepts that this is another form of play that people like, and hangs out with them acting impressed about their groovy items.

2) A guy I did some research with about internet use. He gave me some audio-diary stuff of him playing Dungeons and Dragons Online, which I am looking at for how playing is accomplished through emotion. And it boils down to him having no fun while he plays, and experiencing the game a lot like work. He's pissed off that he/his character is spending a lot of resources he can't really afford, pissed off that the people he's teamed with are playing badly, and have designed their characters badly/selfishly, and his main motivation to play is the XP. All he wants to do is drag his character to the next level. So his play resembles work, but unlike TL's, where they are go-getting professional-types, he's doing some kind of not-fun alienating work.

So basically I'm struggling with the idea that play can look and feel like work. And then yesterday it struck me, it can also have an exchange value like work. Grinding for gold to pay for your mount, or XP to get out of a slump level into a shiny, fun level, becomes almost a money-saving exercise (like doing your own DIY, or mending your jacket, or whatever), in a world where you could pay £20 for someone else to do it for you. And does this then impact on the warm-shiny feeling you get to have accomplished it, the knowledge that you could have, and some people definitely will have, bought it?

So now there really isn't a terrible lot of difference between play and labour. TL's latest work is with professional Counter-Strike players, where the difference becomes even more crazy-blurred.

So is play work ? Or, more accurately, in what ways can playing an MMO be work?

4/2/08 07:11 pm - There'll be No. Butter. In. Hell !!!

Finally saw Cold Comfort Farm last night, after almost a year of expectations. There were fantastic moments, like realising that Stephen Fry was playing Mr Mybug, and essentially is him in real life. But overall I was a bit disappointed. The humour wasn't relentless enough, and a lot of the low-key charm was pushed a bit, too. Even the no butter in hell line, possibly one of the funniest in the entire universe, was a bit too Made For TV :(

This is a bit of a limp entry. All the cool entries in my head require a bit too much commitment for my current, failing-to-get-any-work-done mode of operation.

PS: Donna Haraway rocks my socks.

3/25/08 01:41 pm

Just settling down to my lunch and am assaulted by the horror of no crisps. A terrible oversight on my part. I pop downstairs to the cafe to make good my mistake. And no cafe. Fuckin Baby Jesus. But of course he's not a baby by this feast day. He's a grown man. A grown man of the kind of potency that can keep my from my crisps !!! YEEEEAAAAAAAAARRRRGGHHHH !!!

I am chuckling in satisfation about this conversation, taking place on a virtual plane not far from here:

On first looking into... Grass Jelly with Milk

knifecollector wrote
at 9:24pm yesterday
what kind of grass...
Milk jelly sounds nice. Wait. That's what blancmange is!

fionnghuala wrote
at 9:26pm yesterday
Literally the kind of grass we take for granted and walk on every day. That's what it tasted like!

Then it was cut into tiny shreds, and suspended in a glass of, quite literally, milk.

fionnghuala wrote
at 9:28pm yesterday
I have also encountered a Milk Jelly on my recent travels. It is a normal jelly made up with a tin of evaporated milk. It's then topped up to a pint, but I can't remember if that's with ordinary milk or just with water. It is fuckin fantastic. Maybe we should make some at the weekend ?

knifecollector wrote
at 9:43pm yesterday
Yes! =D
I loves me some evaporated milk.

Largely estranged father wrote
at 3:39am
Milk jelly was a Dorothy [parent of Largely estranged father] special. It must run in your genes...

Largely estranged father wrote
at 3:39am
Mind you, so was stewed tripe. One can only hope that that particular gene is recessive.

fionnghuala wrote
at 10:52am
Sophie and I love tripe, as it happens. We are part of Gordon Ramsay's tripe revival ;)

at 12:21pm
Tripe ftw!

3/24/08 08:37 pm - The other green drink...

While in Glasgow I pottered to the supermarket to purchase something to sip genteely on during the evening. I thought a warming ginger wine would be ideal for my purposes, and so I set out to look for some. Undeterred by it's placement on the shelves directly next to the Buckfast tonic, and the price slightly higher than the Tesco's-own I am in the habit of drinking, I purchased a bottle of Crabbies Ginger Wine. It was am-a-zing. Far far better than the skanky Green's that is available outside Scotland. I am dreaming of it's comforting layers of spiciness, and authentically green hue still.
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