Published: “Do(n’t) Hold Your Breath: Rules, Trust, and the Human at the Keyboard”

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My article “Do(n’t) Hold Your Breath: Rules, Trust, and the Human at the Keyboard” was just recently published in a special issue of New Review of Film and Television Studies entitled Breath: Image and Sound, edited by Jean-Thomas Tremblay. Readers of the blog may recognize it as being built on the bones of this previous blog post. Hooray! Academic blogging acting as a stimulant for future writing, just as it is supposed to.

Abstract:

The maintenance of rules within the ‘black box’ of code, away from human eyes, constitutes a major difference between digital games and the social history of their analog counterparts. Meanwhile, the incorporation of new types of human behavior into digital games’ rulesets has placed games on the cutting edge of machine surveillance technologies. This article examines several digital games that stand in opposition to these trends, by opting out of monitoring certain aspects of player behavior, and opening social dynamics of trust and cheating that digital games have historically avoided or shut down. Chief among these examples are Asphyx (Droqen, circa 2012) and With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine, 2014), two games that incorporate player breathing into their mechanics, while forgoing any technical means of monitoring players’ respiration. In place of the usual command/output logic of human–machine interaction, these games map a more intimate alternative, in which players’ relationship to their avatars and in-game actions is built from a foundation of trust, shared truth, and consent between human bodies and software operations.

DOI link for those with institutional access here. I’ll be uploading a post-print version, suitable for those who don’t have institutional access to New Review, soon.

Let’s Study Half-Life 2, Pt 4

So, I actually uploaded this one to Youtube on Thursday, but forgot to embed it here until now. Oops!

I’m going to try to teach myself some new tricks for Part 5, so expect a bit of a wait before that appears.

Script below the jump.

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Half-Life 3 Confirmed!

Er, that is, “Let’s Study Half-Life 2, Part 3″ confirmed.

(That is to say, it’s live now on Youtube.)

This video is the longest so far, and will likely be the longest video of the whole seven-part series. Putting these together has been taking a lot out of me, so expect somewhat shorter installments in the future, along with longer breaks between each installment. (I won’t be posting more than one a week, now.)

Transcript below the jump.

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Goodbye, Final Cut Pro 7

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So, I have a confession to make. Apple released Final Cut Pro X in June of 2011. I remember the moment well. In April 2011, the University of Chicago Film Studies Center was lucky enough to score a talk with the legendary editor and sound designer Walter Murch, and the very first question he took in the Q&A was someone who practically leapt from his chair to ask him what he thought about the new program. Murch seemed uncertain, and equivocated in his response, attempting to soften his obvious distaste for the new UI. And, in the coming months, as the software was commercially released, that distaste spread far and wide. Editors weren’t picking up Final Cut Pro X. They were teaching themselves Avid, or Adobe Premier, or announcing that Apple could pry their Final Cut Pro 7 from their cold, dead hands. And Apple did, in fact, continue supporting Final Cut Pro 7 for an unusually long time.

And I stuck with it. At first, I wasn’t editing video much in graduate school, so it made sense to just keep old software on my computer, rather than to attempt to learn a new UI. But then I started making things again. This and this and this and this were made on FCP 7. Less than 4 weeks ago, I made a video on FCP 7. I put up with countless headaches in my continued devotion to software released in 2009. I put up with agonizingly slow rendering. With severe lag that frequently made frame-by-frame viewing of clips untenable. With the program’s complete inability to deal with MPEG-4, which meant hour upon hour spent on transcoding. With the fact that the program would instantly crash to the desktop any time I tried to use some of its titling features. And with the fact that I couldn’t upgrade my main computer to High Sierra, because Apple had finally dropped support for FCP 7 on its most recent operating system.

Well, no more. I got FCP X two weeks ago, and already edited parts one and two of “Let’s Study Half-Life 2” on it. I think I’m adapting pretty well, so far. I have minor quibbles with the UI, but that’s true of any piece of software. And, seven years on since its launch, its benefits far, far outweigh any tradeoffs when it comes to replacing the now-fundamentally-broken FCP 7.

Anyway, just a small life change for me. Probably not worth sharing, but, what do you expect? This is a blog, after all. Oversharing is baked into the format.

Let’s Study Half-Life 2, Part 2: The Horizon

Part two is up!

It will likely take me longer for me to get part three up. (I’m thinking Monday, April 2nd, at the earliest.) This is the last video in the series that borrows heavily from my dissertation and prior course materials—subsequent videos will delve deeply into new material, which means they’ll be spaced out more.

Script below the jump.

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Let’s Study Half-Life 2

For the past couple of months, I have been hard at work at a new “Let’s Study,” the most ambitious so far. It’s for Half-Life 2, and I foresee it being spread over seven parts. Part One: Linearity is now posted.

There’s a lot of material in this particular Let’s Study adapted from the first chapter of my dissertation, as well as material I developed when teaching the Half-Life franchise in class (including this lesson from my “Comparative Media Poetics” course). My first “Let’s Study” was just a playthrough with some commentary and a bit of b-roll; for this particular series I’m really leaning in to the video essay format more, trying to create shareable versions of what are basically class lectures, or conference presentations. This particular series is still geared very much toward a general audience, but I’m using it as prep for potential future adaptations of dissertation material into video essay format for submission to a genuine peer-reviewed academic video essay journal.

As usual, the script is below the fold. Part two coming soon!

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Wednesday, March 14: Unlimited Animation: A Tribute to Hannah Frank

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Well, now that the “Heaven Is a Place” screening is over and done with (and what a screening it was! my hat goes off to all fellow filmmakers & artists), it’s on to the next announcement.

It’s that time of year again: the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. This year, I forwent presenting a paper myself, and instead opted to act as an organizer for a special event. The event in question is “Unlimited Animation: A Tribute to Hannah Frank,” a celebration of the life and scholarship of one of film studies’ most promising young scholars. It’s scheduled for 7:00 PM on the evening of the first night of the conference, Wednesday, March 14. If you find yourself in Toronto then, I invite you to come.

Full schedule and details below the fold.

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