This is for all my academic friends, but also for the non-academic friends and family. Words are from Bruno Latour, a fairly major figure in contemporary studies of... well everything really.
What is an account? It is typically a text, a small ream of paper a few millimeters thick that is darkened by a laser beam. It may contain 10,000 words and be read by very few people, often only a dozen or a few hundred if we are really fortunate. A 50,000 word thesis might be read by half a dozen people (if you are lucky, even your PhD advisor would have read parts of it!) and when I say ‘read’, it does not mean ‘understood’, ‘put to use’, ‘acknowledged’, but rather ‘perused’, ‘glanced at’, ‘alluded to’, ‘quoted’, ‘shelved somewhere in a pile’. At best, we add an account to all those which are simultaneously launched in the domain we have been studying. Of course, this study is never complete. We start in the middle of things, in medias res, pressed by our colleagues, pushed by fellowships, starved for money, strangled by deadlines. And most of the things we have been studying, we have ignored or misunderstood.
Action had already started; it will continue when we will no longer be around. What we are doing in the field—conducting interviews, passing out questionnaires, taking notes and pictures, shooting films, leafing through the documentation, clumsily loafing around—is unclear to the people with whom we have shared no more than a fleeting moment. What the clients (research centers, state agencies, company boards, NGOs) who have sent us there expect from us remains cloaked in mystery, so circuitous was the road that led to the choice of this investigator, this topic, this method, this site. Even when we are in the midst of things, with our eyes and ears on the lookout, we miss most of what has happened. We are told the day after that crucial events have taken place, just next door, just a minute before, just when we had left exhausted with our tape recorder mute because of some battery failure.
Even if we work diligently, things don’t get better because, after a few months, we are sunk in a flood of data, reports, transcripts, tables, statistics, and articles. How does one make sense of this mess as it piles up on our desks and fills countless disks with data? Sadly, it often remains to be written and is usually delayed. It rots there as advisors, sponsors, and clients are shouting at you and lovers, spouses, and kids are angry at you while you rummage about in this dark sludge of data to bring light to the world. And when you begin to write in earnest, finally pleased with yourself, you have to sacrifice vast amounts of data that cannot fit in the small number of pages allotted to you. How frustrating this whole business of studying is.
And yet, is this not the way of all flesh? No matter how grandiose the perspective, no matter how scientific the outlook, no matter how tough the requirements, no matter how astute the advisor, the result of the inquiry—in 99% of the cases—will be a report prepared under immense duress on a topic requested by some colleagues for reasons that will remain for the most part unexplained. And that is excellent because there is no better way. Methodological treatises might dream of another world: a book on ANT, written by ants for other ants, has no other aim than to help dig tiny galleries in this dusty and earthly one.
Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory (122-124)
Recently I wrote a post where I defined ‘MMO Syndrome’ as a kind of threat to the pleasure of single-player games. The syndrome comes into effect when the reward schedule and grind start to creep into the gameplay experience at the expense of other kinds of fun. I felt like the way World of Warcraft was structured made it difficult sometimes to enjoy single-player games, like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. I have been thinking about the article I wrote, and reading the comments it generated, which have shown just how many views there are on the subject. I thought I’d share another one here.
Today is a lazy Sunday afternoon and I’m a little tired from yardwork, and I find that I just can’t be bothered to play any of the games I’ve got at my fingertips. This is the perfect time for an MMO.
So hello to any of my readers who have wondered where I've been lately. This post is obviously a little bloggish already, I know. All this inane first-person self-reflection! Sorry. I've been busy, no really. At the moment, a lot of my writing energy is being consumed by my PhD and a few paid freelancing jobs I've done over the last month. I have a review copy of Space Marine to tend to as well!
As a sort of 'relaxing' side project, I've been re-learning Blender modelling. Its a nice break from the words, but still creative/productive. So I thought I'd share some of my other work here - its my website right?! Anyway I am by no means experienced with this software, and I'm even worse with Photoshop, so my textures are demonstrative at best. I will probably update this post with a couple more snapshots of my models, unless I come up with something I'm actually proud of.
Anyway if there are any other modellers or Photoshop artists who read this, I'd be happy to chat about this aspect of videogames as well. I intend to at least get the hang of a workflow between Blender and Unity3D. Whether or not I end up being very good at it is beside the point!
So I actually got two articles out of Age of Empires: Online. The second one is now available for your reading pleasure in issue #196 of PC PowerPlay. So that's also my first magazine publication, congrats to me! (Self-congratulation on one's own blog: 30 Narcissist achievement points!)
The article is one of the new 'Perspectives' column that PCPP are attaching to some of their reviews that David Wildgoose describes as 'criticism.' In this case, I'm examining the nature of AOEO's art style. Its an interesting issue given that the art style of computer games is so often relegated to 'graphics' and measured in objective terms like number of polygons and draw distance. Here's the first paragraph:
In art forms other than videogames, the pursuit of high visual fidelity or verisimilitude is but one style of art amongst myriad others. In videogames, this pursuit of a visual realism is the de facto standard, and anything deviating from that is ‘artsy’ and somehow on the fringe. Even this discussion, which highlights the artistic style of Age of Empires: Online as an interesting factor worth exploring in particular, can easily be seen as positioning the ‘normal’ way of making games look realistic at the centre.
Now go and buy a copy of the magazine so I can continue writing these things!