Tie And Jeans

Video Games in Makers

Apparently I have things to say about video games. This is a course posting to current students in Makers.

I’ve been stewing about the role of video games in Makers for several hours now. I don’t think I’ve been very clear about what my rules are for when video games are an acceptable Makers activity and when they’re not.

This is my attempt to fix that.

Video games can be part of Makers if they represent something that you’re making or have made.

There are lots of ways to make video games.

The obvious, and most ambitious, is to actually MAKE a video game. Write one. Grab art assets. Mod an existing game. Write code. Doing this at ALL is interesting and complicated. Doing this well is a lifetime worth of creative engagement AND involves playing a lot of video games. I heartily support this process in Makers.

You can make STUFF that plays video games. This can involve cosmetic MAKE around the boxes that play video games – from LED mods to full casemods to custom controllers to monstrous franken-system to the pinball machine to MAME cabinets. There are lots of physical things involved in playing video games. Making any of those in class opens the door for a good amount of game playing during “testing”, “research” and “victory laps.”

You can MAKE while just trying to get videogames to work. I recognize that this will sound like “I walked uphill in the snow, both ways” Yorkshiremen griping (look it up), but the core reason the generation who MAKES the games you now play learned most of their computer/programing skills was because the games we wanted to play didn’t work! The frustrated Pooh Bear feeling, of being out of hunny at the bottom of the tree with the beehive, is an incredible motivator. One reason why I like the Raspberry Pi is that you need to DO something to make it into a funtimes-box.

Finally, you can make WITH video games. Combo vids, speed runs (natural or tool-assisted), let’s play, strategy guides… games are craft, art and culture bundled together. Anything you do to contribute back to that cultural landscape is welcome in Makers.

You’ll notice that there’s no space in this list for playing videogames while you’re waiting for a partner to finish a task, or when the soldering iron is being used, or because there’s only 5 minutes left. Games matter. They have a place in Makers when they’re at the heart of what you’re making, not as a stall or dodge.
So what does that look like in class tomorrow?

You could try to get a new game working on the Raspberry Pi. I might suggest this incredible demake of Hexagon for the Commodore 64 emulator -

You could go a step further and fire up the MAME and Atari2600 versions of the 4-player classic Warlords and make a video review that compares them.

Of course, Warlords is meant to be played with paddle controllers.

No one makes paddle controllers anymore, but you can build some.

 

The last meaningful version of Warlords was made in 1983. Don’t you think the world is ripe for another?

None of this bars the possibility of an occasional MarioKart challenge or BusterBros co-op run. But those moments are rare and, honestly, entirely part of my arbitrary teacher discretion. If you want video games to be a more consistent part of your Makers experience, figure out what you want to make.

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Video Games in Makers

  1. For starters, I think you’re bang on. I’m not a huge fan of video games (especially point/shoot). And I agree that they can be distracting, lazy outs for kids who don’t want to have the mental discipline to do something else. (I say lazy because it becomes habitual, done without knowing why, or just by default).

    I know you mentioned MarioCart though, so I thought I would provide an example of when perhaps playing a video game might actually be valid research for a project :)

    Actually – i think it’s a new category to add to your list above: turning a video game into real life!

    I found this in Pop Sci. You may have seen it already. It’s awesome!

    http://www.popsci.com/diy/article/2013-04/real-super-mario-go-karts

  2. tieandjeans on said:

    You’re right, that is an extra category! I’ll take kart-racing and extend it to Tetris wall-magnets, or Pacman played out on skyscraper windows. Maybe we could scale that down to Pong for our school buildings.

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