Being that it's the beginning of the school year, almost every class has proposed the same question: What is x? How can we define x? Replace x with either hacking, game production, digital new media, or communication and you have all of the classes I'm currently taking at NYU.
For one class, Digital New Media, the reader proposes not one but, eight propositions as to how new media can be defined. One of them was "new media as the mix between existing cultural conventions and the conventions of software." It's a very convoluted definition but I guess it works, kind of. My immediate thought upon seeing this definition was that video games and computer games don't fall into this category. However, the reader covered his tracks on that one.
"Computer games are one of the few cultural forms "native" to computers; they began as singular computer programs (before turning into a complex multimedia producitons which they are today)--rather than being already established medium (such as cinema) which is now slowly undergoing computerization."
I'm still confused about this definition though. Does this mean that video games are a type of media? Sure headsets and online communities have created a method of communication for gamers but are old games like Spacewar a form of media? I always thought media involved some sort of communication sharing, which doesn't happen in video games unless you count the interaction with the software or the interaction between players. I think maybe the term "media" has been broadened a little too much. I like it though, gives me an excuse to talk about video games in class.
Not everything in Digital New Media can be related to games though. Which, I GUESS is ok. Another piece I had to read was on Web Serials. Web Serials are essentially online television shows that aren't restricted to the standards of television. The Guild, Ask a Ninja and Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog all count as Web Serials. I never find out about these things until months afterwards they were popular mostly because I don't care enough to be committed to them. I love the Indie nature of these shows but honestly, I'd much rather play video games or watch Sportscenter.
Their popularity online is uncanny though. An article I had to read for class kept mentioning a web serial called lonelygirl15, which was essentially a pretty girl with a webcam. Seriously, I don't understand how such boring things get to become so viral. Lonelygirl15 had a massively long life too, spanning episodes for over two years. I understand that the quick-hit nature is part of the draw but over 2,500,000 hits for a girl with a webcam? Come on. At least The Guild had good writing.
Speaking of Web Serials, there's a new one coming out via MTV called The Engine Room. Did you hear about it? Probably not since it's ANOTHER Reality TV show from MTV. I only heard of it because of my professor. This shows pits college students broken up into four teams to see who can produce the best digital art. It's an interesting concept but I have a sneaking suspecion that MTV will somehow ruin it, possibly by trying to turn it into another Real World.
Thankfully, the episodes will only be about five to seven minutes in length, meaning MTV won't have much time to get into the personalities of the students, which will hopefully cause them to focus on the digital work. The prize is pretty neat too. The winning team gets $400,000 and they get to control the big MTV screen in Times Square for one night. I can't think of a better way to show off your digital art talent. I don't plan on watching the show; I would like to see the final project and what they do at Times Square though.
Lastly, we watched a video in class that showed the history of the internet up to about 1999. I didn't retain a lot of the information but it was interesting to see how many people genuinely worked together just to make a fast-moving communication system.
What I found especially funny was that, for the most part, telephone companies didn't see the birth of computers and the internet as helpful or threatening. If I was a business owner and I heard someone is making a product that could potentially be faster and better than mine, I'd be pretty concerned, even if I didn't understand it. Anyone in the field of tehcnology has to both fear and embrace new technologies. Who knows what will be the next standard? Something will eventually eclipse the internet; we just need to keep our eyes open.