Chinese Cyberculture: Shanzhai and Competition – TA

Shanzhai culture probably brings to mind counterfeit knock-offs for many western businessmen, and any visit to a shanzhai market would immediately reveal why.  Such markets are overflowing with odd products, particularly cellphones, that are impossible to find in major retail stores.  Some products look very similar to their corporate counterparts, but others are strikingly bizarre.  With designs shaped like Ferrari cars or Barack Obama’s face, these shanzhai products draw from other sources in very blatant ways.  But that is not to say that shanzhai is entirely copied.  If anything, shanzhai breathes innovation back into an otherwise monopolized and stale market.

Aside from drawing cosmetic inspiration from outside sources (sometimes to the point of mimicry), shanzhai is free from the constraints that many corporations face.  For example, a shanzhai producer doesn’t really have a reputation to maintain, so they are freer to experiment with hundreds of different designs.  These producers are also smaller entities, so changes can be made to their products much faster than large corporations could manage; it isn’t rare to see a seller in a shanzhai market tinkering with their products while they wait for the next customer to start browsing.  These factors have led to a truly innovative market, with shanzhai phones regularly containing extra speakers or multiple cameras.  The sales of these specialty phones doesn’t matter as much, because the producers are only focusing on smaller consumer bases.  An example (given by David Li during a local speech I attended, not the one linked) might be a phone designed specifically for construction workers.  China is known for its constant construction projects, so construction workers make up a noteworthy portion of the population.  What is specific to the work environment of construction is the high level of noise.  So, to overcome this problem, a phone was developed with several speakers capable of overcoming the even the construction noise.  This is a situation that certainly would never have happened from a larger company because the situation was too specific.  The innovation and personalization of the shanzhai culture is truly astounding to anyone accustomed to the pseudo-monopoly of larger corporations.

In some ways, shanzhai culture may reflect an ideal form of capitalism.  It is no new idea that corporations are far from the ideal capitalism Adam Smith proposed.  The monopolization and market power of large corporations take away the benefits which free-market competition promised.  Shanzhai culture undeniably reintroduces these benefits by reintroducing competition itself.  The effects have been listed already, with personalized products reaching pleased consumers at reasonable prices.  Shanzhai also democratizes the production process, opening professional opportunities to many more people than cumbersome corporations support.  In other words, shanzhai culture is much better for society overall than the its reputation would suggest, and may point towards the next stage in the the global economy.  Already the shanzhai process is moving to Africa to move closer to a promising new market.  Of course there is a long way to go before shanzhai becomes a mainstream market force, especially considering the legal challenges it would face in many places, but shanzhai at least offers insights into viable production structures outside of the corporate model.

Meditations on simulation

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Cellular automata is a model of a system of “cell-like” objects with the following characteristics: they live on a grid, each of these cells has a state (1 or 0, on or off, alive or dead) and each cell has its neighborhood. (1) In 1970, John Conway, an English mathematician, designed the Game of Life, a cellular automaton whose evolution is determined solely by an input of an initial state, requiring no further alteration. This game is a zero-player game, meaning that, after creating an initial configuration, its evolution is observed as well as the patterns it generates. The simulation consists of a grid which extends in all directions infinitely. Every square in this grid can either be on or off. The state of each square (cell) depends on its neighborhood, that is, what is happening in the eight other squares close by.  If a living cell has no cells around it, it will die of loneliness. If a living cell is surrounded by three other living cells, it will die of overcrowding. However, if a dead cell is surrounded by three living cells, it becomes lit; it is born. Once an initial state is set and the simulation initiated, this very simple  set of rules determines the outcome of the system in the future. The results are astounding. In the system’s further progression, complex shapes start emerging and disappearing spontaneously. These shapes interact with each other, some even reproduce, just as life does. Even though these laws contain no conceptions of reproduction, movement and growth, they manage to produce complex properties and patterns. It becomes clear that it might be possible to imagine something like the game of life resulting in some highly complex systems, for example – intelligence. Considering the numbers of cells in our brains, this mere analogy seems much closer to dynamical nonlinear systems present in nature.

In Western thought, there has been and still exists a strong tendency to think that there must be something fundamentally special about humans, in terms of the intelligence we exhibit and its level of complexity. In A New Kind of Science, Stephen Wolfram presents an empirical study of computational systems such as cellular automata, and argues that the approaches and philosophy to studying these “simple” programs are also very relevant to other fields of science. Wolfram introduces the principle of computational equivalence – all processes that are not obviously simple can be viewed as computations of equivalent sophistication. (2) Apart from this, the principle says that systems found in the natural world have the capacity to perform computations up to the universal (maximal) level of computational power, hence most systems are computationally equivalent. So this means that, in the end, there is no difference between the level of computational equivalence achieved by humans and other systems in nature. Whether a human brain, a fluid, evolution of a weather system or cellular automata, the behavior it exhibits corresponds to computation of equivalent sophistication. Computation is therefore “simply a question of translating inputs and outputs from one system to another”. (2) There certainly exist many systems in nature, whose behaviors are complex enough to attribute human features to them, an example of this being animism and similar pantheistic beliefs. Even if the underlying rules of different systems are as simple as possible, abstract systems like cellular automata can still achieve exactly the same levels of computational sophistication as anything else.

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The main dogma of digital physics (digital ontology or digital philosophy) relies on theoretical views based on the idea that nature, and hence, the universe, is describable by information and therefore computable. According to this theory, the universe may be formulated as either the output of a deterministic or probabilistic computer program, a vast digital computation device, or mathematically isomorphic to such a device. (1) The foundation of digital physics lies in the following premises: the physical world is 1. informational, 2. computable, 3. can be digitally described, 4. is in essence digital, 5. is itself a computer and 6. is the output of a simulated reality exercise. The man who first introduced the hypothesis that the universe is a digital computer was Konrad Zuse, a German computer pioneer. In his book Rechnender Raum (Calculating Space), Zuse suggested that the universe is governed and computed by some sort of cellular automaton or a similar discrete computing machinery, focusing on these “substrates” of computation and pointing out that the long-held views of entropy growth do not hold in deterministically computed universes. (3) One of the lead assertions here is that there exists, at least in principle, a program computing the evolution of the universe, computed either by a huge cellular automaton or universal Turing machine. (1)

In the paper “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”, Nick Bostrom argues that at least one of the following propositions are true: 1. the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage, 2. any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history and 3. we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. (4) Interestingly, he offers statistical arguments to support his claims, reaching a final conclusion that, unless we are living in a simulation right now, our descendants will almost never run an ancestor simulation. Roughly estimating the computing power needed to emulate the human mind, we could primarily rely on how computationally expensive would it be to replicate the operations of a piece of nervous tissue, given the fact that it already has been replicated in silico, would yield ~10^14  operations per second of the entire human brain. (5) Another estimate may be conducted through the synaptic quantities and their firing frequencies, giving a figure of~10^16-10^17 operations per second (4). Reducing this potential neural computation even more would reveal the nervous system’s high degrees of microscale redundancy, which compensates for the noisiness and unreliability of its neuronal components. In response to this, Bostrom argues that one would therefore expect a substantial efficiency gain when using more reliable and versatile non-biological processors.” Simulating the environment is also considered, however, the main point is that, in order to get a realistic simulation of human experience, much less is required; in fact, “only whatever is required to ensure that the simulated humans, interacting in normal human ways with their simulated environment, don’t notice any irregularities.” So, according to this simulation argument, it is highly likely that, at the present moment, all of us are living in a massive computer simulation. This simulation may be selective, that is, focused on a single individual consciousness, or it could be simulating billions of brains simultaneously. 

Yet, if we were to step away from the simulation argument and simply consider the mind itself, and the external reality it is immersed in, we may conclude that it can only access them indirectly, “For, since the things the mind contemplates are none of them, besides itself, present to the understanding, it is necessary that something else, as a sign or representation of the thing it considers, should be present to it: and these are ideas”. (6) Moreover, many if not most of mental representations are also, in essence, virtual. (7) For example the binocular visual field is synthesized from two monocular sources of visual input. Hence, the human perception of the surrounding environment is actually “fused” together from two separate physical sources. Examples like these demonstrate that virtually all perceived reality is merely a construct, or a simulation. Therefore the mind itself acts like a virtual reality machine, in a way. (8) As the engineer Andy Fawkes pointed out at a talk at London’s Digital Shoreditch festival, “the human brain is one of the best simulators we’ve got”. (9) The embodiments of simulation seem to include many modes, which all seem to point at an inevitable conclusion – representations of reality, whether “objective” and “external” or constructed within the mind’s ecology have to be simulated. Bostrom’s simulation argument is in line with some of the main principles of digital physics and philosophy. If all nature, including human intelligence, is indeed computable, then living in a massive simulation, whether run by a posthuman civilization or an automaton does not seem as impossible. 

 

References:

  1. Schmidhuber, J. (2000). “Computer Universes and an Algorithmic Theory of Everything”.
  2. Wolfram, J. (2002). A New Kind of Science.
  3. Zuse, K. (1970). Calculating Space.
  4. Bostrom, N. (2003). “Are You Living in a Computer Simulation?”. Philosophical Quarterly
  5. Moravec, H. (1989). Mind Children. Harvard University Press
  6. Locke, J. (1690). An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  7. Merker, B. (2007). Consciousness without a cerebral cortex: a challenge for neuroscience and medicine. Behav. Brain Sci.
  8. Edelman, S. (2015). “Mind as a Virtual Reality Machine”. H Plus Magazine
  9. Turk, V. (2015). “Simulated Worlds Will Soon Be Indistinguishable From Reality”. Motherboard
  10. Shiffman, D. (2012). The Nature of Code 

 

 

What is Internet Addiction?

The 2013 documentary Web Junkie highlights one of – if not the – most striking problems among Chinese teens: internet addiction. Home to over 400 “rehab” camps for internet-addicted teens, China ranks highest among nations for internet addiction prevalence with reports of 42% of young netizens feeling addicted to the internet (Dubois).

The film captures many elements of this compulsion; trust, despair, and the search for control. When the kids apologize to their parents and admit their obsession with gaming, do the kids actually realize their “addiction” and want to change themselves, or have they just realized the more strategic approach of showing the camp counselors what they’re looking for in order to get out sooner?

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What resonated with me most was a scene when one of the students explains his need to give in to the internet: “the real world is not as good as virtual reality.” He explains that his addiction to this ‘electronic heroin’ comes largely from his own incompetence from doing well in school, and that gaming reminds him that “at least [he is] better than others in one thing.” This reminds me of Gareth White’s lecture in November; in his outline of the psychological model of gamers, the self-determination theory highlights player experience of need satisfaction, the idea that through this cybernetic feedback between input and output systems, human beings have the ability to feel competent within video games.

In Chinese culture, it’s often considered shameful and almost taboo to be anything but academically successful, and a child addicted to the internet or gaming is a parent’s worst nightmare, causing the family to carry out drastic measures such as that time a father hired ‘online assassins’ to “kill” his son in World of Warcraft, or that time a 19-year old boy from Jiangsu province chopped his hand off to ‘cure’ internet addiction.

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What is internet addiction? Professor Mark Griffiths, a gambling and addictions expert at Nottingham Trent University, explains that “most excessive game playing is usually a symptom of an underlying problem,” such as lack of parental attention or disinterest in pursuing other “conventional” activities such as academics, relationship or sports (BBC). When a child is expected to only study, they need companionship, and when their parents are at work and unable to provide this attention, the kids instinctively look to the internet, where they find similar people and even online relationships. Ultimately, putting – or more plausibly tricking and kidnapping – a kid into ‘rehab’ just isn’t going to change much for family relations.

As much as I see the problems associated with excessive gaming, a part of me believes that there isn’t such a thing as internet addiction – and at the very least, “rehab” isn’t the right approach to dealing with the compulsion. I agree with Professor Griffiths in that “it’s not the time you spend doing something, it’s the impact [the addiction] has on your life.” Though he acknowledges the existence of “very excessive players – playing for 10 to 14 hours a day,” Griffiths asserts that “for a lot of these people [gaming] causes no detrimental problems if they are not employed, aren’t in relationships and don’t have children” (BBC). If these players are content in spending their days at an internet cafe and it does not affect their personal lives, who are we to stop them from “ruining their lives”? Then again, would you define “ruining their lives” through the lack of self control, or actual quantifiable harm on the person’s physical or mental health? Often times, it is their parents who are most affected and concerned by their obsession with gaming, so kidnapping a kid away into a rehab center is definitely not going to help the dynamic. As a nurse from Daxing Camp points out in Web Junkie, “distrust is the origin of despair.”

Phonebloks, the phone of the future?

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When we started talking about Shanzhai and the maker culture in China, we got the chance to discuss the role it has in fostering creativity and advancing technology in China. A couple of days afterwards, I remembered an article I came across about a phone that you can build yourself assembling its pieces as you want them. The idea originally came from the Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, who wanted to reduce the amount of electronic waste in the world by making sure that people could upgrade/get rid of only the parts that were outdated/deteriorated. Hakkens explains on the project’s website that he wants this new generation of phone to be developed and created by a group of cellphone companies and a community made up of fans of the idea. This led to many companies starting to develop and build their own version of this potential next generation of cellphone. The most famous one being carried out is the project Ara, by Google/Motorola, and in this video, you can see the first prototype of the product. The idea behind phoneblocks is not only to reduce E-waste, but also enable the consumers to be more creative and be able to personalize their phones to fit their needs and preferences. The consumer is hence less restricted by the company’s product. The Phoneblocks team explain this concept even better in this detailed video from their website. They want to go even further and apply this modularity to all technologies, ranging from cellphones to laptops and washing machines.

This relates so much to the discussion we had in class concerning the Shanzhai and the maker culture in China, particularly to the discussion we had after watching the short video by MIT about this market in China. Indeed, one of the many points touched was the fact that the big phone companies around the world are not giving room to their consumers to personalize their own cellphones and define the features according to their needs. The video shows the market with unique phones that you usually do not have the chance to see in the world market (phones that can help charge other phones or ones with lights). This discussion also led to the fact that we, as consumers, do not have the chance to be creative and innovative with products such as phones or computers. We are less and less likely to become “makers” because we are so used to just buying them and adapting to their features.

The existence of this “community” in the making of the Phoneblocks also shares a great feature with Shanzhai and the maker culture; the gathering of a group of people with different ideas and skills who are free to develop their own versions of a technology.

It is very exciting to see the development of such a concept that is not only environmentally friendly, but will enable us to have more freedom over our technological products and make them fit our needs. It is also very impressive to see it coming from a Dutch designer and developed by groups of people from all over the world.

The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests

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Many people (outside of China) have had the chance to come across this iconic picture of a young man standing in front of a tank. This picture was taken in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square protests led by Chinese students. The students first started gathering to mourn the death of the communist party general secretary Hu Yaobang who had previously started developing liberal ideas within the communist party and was forced to step down as a result of the growing hostilities that his ideas provoked. The students then started asking for the government to accept the views of Hu Yaobang on democracy and gathered in campuses and famous places to conduct hunger strikes and protests. These protests also happened during the visit of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and as Rebecca MacKinnnon says in her article China’s ‘networked authoritarianism’  “Students hoped that Chinese leaders would follow his policy of glasnost, the Russian word for “openness,” which became the catchphrase for a loosening of controls on the Russian press and discussion of political reform”.

 

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On the 3rd of June 1989, the Chinese government ordered the clearing of Tiananmen Square where thousands of Chinese (students and other citizens) were gathered to continue the protests. 218 civilians died during that attack with thousands wounded. Despite the major media turmoil this event created in the world, the Chinese government made sure that any discussion on the event was suppressed and to this day, China celebrates more the birth of Hu Yaobang than his death in fear of bringing back the memories of this event. Some terms related to the Tiananmen Square massacre are still censored by the “Great firewall” and the government controls any information available to the public on this event. The results of this control are heart breaking and the silence of the government is completely erasing it from the History of China. In 2005, a PBS documentary crew showed the photo of the man standing in front of the tank to many university students in Beijing. The majority didn’t recognize it at all. This shows how by creating the “Great firewall” and controlling the information flow, the Chinese government is not only depriving its citizen of the events happening now around the world, but also their own past. People outside of China who have no direct link with the event have probably viewed this emotional video more than the Chinese citizens whose freedom has cost these people’s lives. This also reminds me of the story told by one of my classmate who couldn’t find information about a protest his father was part of in mainland China and how he spent a lot of time searching for it on google once he was on vpn. I believe that the Chinese government risk facing more uproar by making it hard for its citizens to have access to these kinds of events so crucial to the past of their country, as they cannot hide it from them forever.

Augmented reality in therapy

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly known as PTSD, is defined as a disorder that can be developed after a person has been exposed to one or more traumatic experiences. This anxiety disorder has been frequently diagnosed among soldiers or veterans. Lately, with the rise of augmented reality or simulated worlds, doctors have found new and effective ways to help these patients recover from this disorder.

This method is part of a broader practice called exposure therapy which is defined as the exposure of the patient to the feared object or context without any danger, in order to help them overcome their anxiety. In this case, the scenario, environment, object or creature responsible for the anxiety is virtually reconstructed using augmented reality. In the case of PTSD in the military, this mostly involves recreating moments during the war or making them meditate like we can see in this video about “Satellites” (augmented reality system).

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Using exposure therapy through simulated worlds has been particularly successful in treating PTSD and other anxiety disorders. As you can see in the following image, it can be used to treat a wide range of psychological disorders.

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This is also used in the treatment of anger management among troubled teenagers, like it is described in this article. A mental health center used a game in order to facilitate communication between a 13-year-old patient and his family.

This medical breakthrough is very crucial to our understanding of the interactions between the world of games (virtual world) and human beings.

In the documentary “Web Junkies”, a group of Chinese teenagers were sent to a center in order to help them get over their video games addiction. While watching it, one could feel a set of recurrent reasons that those teenagers used to explain why they prefer the virtual world to the real one, or why they are willing to spend so many hours in that world. From the teenager who sees real life as “fake”, hence worthless, the one who couldn’t see his father for consecutive days, to the one who affirms that “At home, I feel I don’t exist” and “On the Internet, I have friends who care about me”, we can affirm that gaming addiction is very tightly related to the fact that those suffering from it are sometimes trying to escape from the real world in order to “create” another one in which they have more control. There are also a couple of them who affirmed that unlike school, they were really good at playing video games and this made them feel worthy. In this article published in Psychology Today, the author affirms that:

“When it comes to problems in socializing that might make gamers especially vulnerable to video game addiction, the following factors seem to be important: Lack of successful, experiences in real life, Low parental support, Divorce or separation of parents, Behavioral problems or problems at school, School phobia, Poor grades, Repeating a grade (…)”.

These are also factors that can lead to depression. Going back to the practice highlighted at the beginning of this post, we are trying to see whether there is a possibility to use video games and simulated worlds in order to help these people conquer the feelings generated by those factors. Instead of letting them lock themselves in these worlds, we can use video games to not just help them escape their reality, but also learn to understand the real world and gather the right emotional tools in order to conquer their fears. They can be taught how to communicate better with people around them. As the engineer Andy Fawkes says in his talk reported here, “on some level you know it’s not real, but that doesn’t stop you from being emotionally invested”, this is the power of augmented reality and we can use it to help human beings overcome some psychological disorders they have to deal with on a daily basis.

Video Game and Simulation

The recent discussions on the classes made me reconsider the connection between game and simulation and what are the roles that they could play in real life.

Video game and stimulation shares similarity in the sense that they are all the extension of the real life. Video game, in most of the case, is the variants of real-life activities. They are either imitation of what people enjoy doing, such as sport and adventures, or imaginary worlds where people can exceed the physical constraints. Yet, even in those imaginary worlds, the players still has to follow some of the basic physical laws or fundamental values. On the other hand, stimulation is reproducing real life. They are essentially both the digital version of the physical world with the different focus: entertainment or accuracy. Therefore, it raises the question that if it possible to create a digital system that has the same features as real life but also entertaining, and more important, it is capable of help solving real issues in the world. Moreover, the further question that if simulations could be integrated with themicrosoft-hololens-minecraft real world, so as to beautify the physical world by making some part of it become attractive and even addictive games. Instead of a piece of code in computers, stimulation could create a virtual reality on the real physical world, with vivid graph, sound and tactile sensations. In the video about the game addiction, it is proved that while children encounter lots of discouragement and failure in schools and family, they tend to look for achievement from video games, which is an important cause of game addiction. A well-designed simulation game may be able to solve the problem.

Jane McGoing, a game designer, once discussed the possibility of using the game to solve real issues in a TED Talk called Gaming can make a better world. She thinks there are several factors that make game so attractive: Urgent Optimization, Blissful Productivity, Epic meaning and Tight Social Fabric. Urgent Optimization means the challenges in video games are designed according to players’ level, which give gamers a reasonable hope for success. Blissful Productivity means that as people are happier playing games, they are also more productive. Epic meaning refers to gamers loving to be attached to awe-inspiring missions to human planetary-scale stories. Tight Social Fabric refers to the fact that people feels better about each other after playing games. This explains why so many children are addicted to games, especially when their parents do not know how to develop the relation between children and family. However, what if, in the future, the family life is formatted into a game and people could get +1 on their skill if their actions are favorable to the relation with other family members.  The advantages of games are that it is well-designed by experts, gives players clear goals about what is the riabckat2ght thing to do, and people could switch between games to choose the one they like most. Games could play the similar role of good textbooks for teachers. Even if the some teachers don’t know how
to structure their courses, the textbooks offer solutions and ensure the qualify of educations. In term of educations, parents have poorer knowledge than teachers. 
When parents do not know how to educate their kids, games know! Moreover, different from educational video games in a screen, simulated virtual reality games are directly related to the issues. Players are guided make correct actions the time they face issues, instead of learning in front of computers, then practicing in real life! 

Achieving this goal has high requirement on professional education knowledge and game designing skills. However, it would be a new and revolutionary form of education!

 

 

 

Chinese Cyberculture: Video Games Post – TA

Video games are increasingly becoming a spectator phenomenon.  Esports are the most obvious example of this, with large tournaments garnering tens of millions of viewers.  But this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to watching other people play video games.

The first thing many people ask about “watching games”, as I will put it, is “why watch someone else play when you could play the game yourself?“.  This isn’t an unreasonable question, especially considering that the most popular YouTube channels are Let’s Play channels.  Randy Kulman, with a PhD. in psychology from Kent State University, breaks the reasons down into three categories: skills boost, social connection, and entertainment.  To briefly summarize these categories, people watch games either to learn how to play them better, to have something to talk to their friends about, or simply to enjoy the same way they would a TV show or movie.  What makes watching games different from watching TV is the connection between creator and audience.  On YouTube, any viewer can leave comments on videos to engage with the video’s creator, and many creators respond to at least some of these commentors.  More popular creators also have separate systems for interacting with their audience, such as setting up Reddit channels or going to conventions to meet fans.

From the Let’s Play movement has spawned a more recent trend in streaming games.  Services like Twitch provide users with tools to create live streams of their play, allowing for immediate interaction between the creator and their audience.  Even YouTube recently started their own version of live streaming called YouTube Live.  These live streaming tools can even facilitate truly interactive games, such as Twitch Plays Pokemon (TPP).  In February of 2014, an anonymous Australian programmer set up an instance of Pokemon Red to respond to commands entered into Twitch’s chat system.  Essentially anyone viewing the stream had control of the player, but only for the brief moment when their command was processed (this is made worse by the delay between the chat and the stream).  Eventually the chaos of this system made certain sections nearly impossible to navigate, so a democracy system was introduced to take only the most common command every few seconds.  From the chaos of TPP emerged an immersive lore created entirely by the community.  You can find a brief overview in the video below, and read a bit in this post.

However, all of these examples come from the West.  In China, streaming is still mainly focused on Esports, especially professional gamers.  China has its own versions of Twitch, such as Douyu (斗鱼), with viewership numbers that far exceed those of Twitch and other streaming services, although these numbers are often treated with suspicion.  Still, the streaming service is a major market, and Tencent has recently looked into acquiring Douyu.  It seems unlikely that Chinese streaming will develop the same trends that Western streaming, especially since China lacks the Let’s Play culture which now dominates Western streaming.

Are videogames form of art?

   In 2012 the Smithsonian American Art Museum debuted an exhibition entitled “The Art of Video Games”–featuring games that were chosen by a popular online vote. The exhibition’s goal was to demonstrate the development of video games programming and designing techniques over the time span of forty years. Indeed, the progress is undeniable. There were eighty games presented, which were chosen online by the fans and players, through “still images and video footage” (SAAM). In addition to that, the visitors could also watch the interviews of twenty most influential developers and artists to understand the video-gaming culture from a different perspective. By presenting such exhibition, authoritarian Smithsonian American Art Museum assumed that this form of medium is art.

 Now, in the book How to Do Things with Video Games Ian Bogost questions whether videogames are the form of artistic expression or a simple form of media. He argues that if using the term art-games, it may “suggest  that games can be construed natively as art, within the communities of practice and even the industry of games, rather than by pledging fealty to the fine art kingdom” (Bogost 11). He believes that art-games cannot be classified as a traditional form of art as paintings or sculptures, rather this is a new emerging form, which needs recognition in order to flourish. 

Nonetheless, not everyone would agree with Bogost. In 2010 famous film critic Roger Ebert published a blog post titled “Video Games Can Never Be Art”, that raised a lot of concerns among game players. He went on playing with the definition of “art” as well as the definition of “game”, but that did not persuade me in the fact that video games are not art. After all, his most appealing argument was that “one obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game” (Ebert). True, the game is designed to have rules, objectives and goals, while art is a pure self-expression with no rules whatsoever. However, such line of reasoning only goes along with a classic definition of art, and, quite honestly, seems like Ebert forgotten that we live in the 21st century; nineties are irrelevant.

On the other hand, Robert VerBruggen in his article “Games People Play” suggest that the process of creating the game is itself artistic. It is not only a matter of drawing a reality appealing to the eyes of the players but also composing the sound effects. The pre-90s “blips and bloops” are long gone, now the London Philharmonic wilfully takes part in recording pieces for videogames music collection, which includes themes from Super Mario Bros., Call of Duty, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, Halo, World of Warcraft, Angry Birds and others (VerBruggen 554). In my humble opinion, VerBruggen is the one who is most precise in answering the question whether videogames are art or not. Moreover, Bogost’s statement makes sense to me as I believe the art of videogames has not reached its peak potential, and with further development of technology, we will see more and more art exhibitions about videogames.

Works Cited.
1. VerBruggen, Robert1, rverbruggen@nationalreview.com. “Games People Play.” Academic Questions 25.4 (2012): 552-560. Education Source. Web. 8 Dec. 2015.
2. Bogost, Ian. How to do things with videogames. Vol. 38. U of Minnesota Press, 2011.

 

Is Addiction in Video Games a problem in the future?

With the development of video games, our experience in games is more real. As we can see in the documentary, video games addiction has already become a problem for some children. But whether this problem will expand in the future? If we can experience exactly the same or even better than the real world, why shouldn’t we spend more time in the sim world?

I think the reason why games are so attractive is because of its imperfect simulation. In the game Gator Hero, people react to the visual image and music by tapping the keyboard, which creates a delusion that we are creating the music. * Though players never create a music, they can gain the happiness of creating. In the newest SimCity, we can design every road, every school, every hospital and consider the welfare of out citizens. we can get a sense of achievement of creating a new city in few hours. What people really care about is always the sense of achievement instead of achievement. Though nothing real is created, we can gain happiness. Video games delete those difficult elements which exist in the real world, through which achievements become easier. What’s more, video games also delete those negative elements which may cause bad experience. In the book How do we do Things with Video Games, the author’s criticism of a notorious simulated torture game is not that it’s too realistic, but rather that it’s not realistic enough. He argues that the dangerous thing is to depict torture as a pleasantly sanitized activity; if we could live through an accurately simulated experience, we probably wouldn’t want to do it and we would oppose torture more strongly. *

Another factor that influences our experience is the level of visual reality. As we can see in the official trailer of SimCity and The Sims, everything looks so real. Perhaps in the near future, we can get extremely similar experience in the video games as we experience in the real world, especially with the development of virtual reality technology.

The real world is much harder than the simulated one. Too many people can’t get a sense of achievement in the real world. However, games are much easier. We can make a “big achievement” with little efforts. I think video games potentially provides us an opportunity to flee away from the real world.  “Internet addiction is not an illness, but a phenomenon”, a child in the documentary said. I totally agree with this idea. I think the reason why we addict in video games is because we can get what we lose in the real world from video games. As we can observe, video games are not like heroin, which causes indistinctive addiction for everyone who use it. Video game only attracts those people who are losers in the real life, like the children in the documentary. So whether video games will become a problem in the future? I think it’s irrelevant to how real the simulation is, but how good the reality is. The only way to avoid Matrix is to creating a world which can creates opportunity and esteem for everyone.

 

 

*Bogost, Ian. How do we do with Videogames? University Of Minnesota Press, August 5th 2011

The Sims Get Together Official Trailer

SimCity 2013 Official Trailer