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Good day, and welcome to a wonderful horror edition of my blog posts. As the month of October, a month associated with terror, fear and horror, comes towards a final bombastic close in the form of Halloween; I wish to throw my wood into the fire and share with you over the roaring flames what has tingled my spine. What has left me agasp in what I've witnessed in visual novel videogames. A tale of death, both of a physical and a psychological nature. After all, if there's certainly one thing worse than being in a state of real physical death, it's the knowledge that while they exist physically inside they're long gone. They breath, they sleep, they eat, but they were not the ones we thought we knew. That they are inside broken, destroyed and perhaps dead, a puppeteer of a parody of what we once knew and cared about.
So you may cry: “But why spine chilling creep, why not the horrors that keep you shaking and checking under your bed?”. To this, I respond with that horror is cheap and plentiful. You wish to be left paranoid, shaking in bed as you stare into the black void that may hide that which may claim your life, this is a cheap thrill. A building of atmosphere, the sensation that a creature may destroy you around the next corner, is something that requires no investment in the tale. It's when you become creeped out however, that requires something special. It requires build up, a strong story to keep you invested and then the unpredictable twist. As you look upon your spoiled goods, and see your fears become a reality in front of your eyes.
The only story here is about workplace exploitation.
So I wish to tell you of three visual novel videogames that have created a particular creep, that has left me disturbed and just saying a singular phrase over and over like a dark bird-song: “Oh no”. However, I wish to not sell you short, as every single one of these have left me worried, but still enjoying it. Like Alice as she burrowed deep into the hole, I wanted to go deeper but was scared of the outcomes to come. Naturally, spoilers will be afoot, but each chapter will begin with the videogame of discussion. So you may simply skip to the next videogame if you wish to experience it yourself in the future. If pictures are required to illustrate a point, a handy link will be given as a gift so those avoiding information on the game will not be foretold of the twists and turns. So, if you are sitting comfortably with a refreshment of your choosing, I shall begin.
999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors
999 is a visual novel with puzzles, the first in the Zero Escape series. You play as Junpei, a college student stuck on a boat that will sink in nine hours, along with eight other people and with one goal set out by the antagonist: Find the 9th door to escape. There are various rules set out to make sure people didn't cheat to escape with the ultimate punishment for breaking them: Death.
Each person has a bracelet with a number on it. This serves two functions: The number is used for the doors, and it can trigger a bomb inside the owner's body if a rule is broken. To enter a numbered door for the first time, two conditions must be satisfied. The first is the digital root of those who wish to enter it must equal the door number, and it must be between 3 and 5 people. This is confirmed by swiping their bracelet on the external box and locking it in. Those who enter then have to disable the countdown on their watch by swiping it against a box inside, so it prevents those who are unregistered rushing into the room.
"If there's no limit on how many people can enter a room, they'll probably all just go into a cabin and go to sleep. Hhmm...Better put a time limit on too. If they sleep on the job, it'll be hard to get them out if they can't be bothered."
During the plot of the game it is revealed that two of the characters, Clover and Snake, are related as sister and brother. Snake however gets a chronic case of the dead. This is thanks to someone pushing him into a numbered door alone, making him unable to disable the bomb ticking down. This is because everyone who is registered on the external box needs to swipe the internal box for it to disable the bombs. His death is revealed later, depending on if you force yourself to go into the 3 door or not. Needless to say, Clover is horrified at the revelation of her brother's death. She flips between being quiet and furious that it could have been anyone who threw Snake in. Plus, it would have to be more than one person, due to it requiring at least 3 people to open a door.
This failing of trust of who killed her brother climaxes in the Axe ending. After working out who must have thrown her brother in, she kills them (7+3+2= 12 1+2 = 3). However, with killing Santa and Seven, there was sadly an avoidable casualty. Someone who stood between Clover and the two people who must have killed her brother, and that was your love interest June. The only one who knew you outside of the 999 events. All Junpei can do in retaliation, is just to fall to his knees.
Just the knowledge this person was just broken beyond belief, and unpredictable, made the screenshot of Clover creepy. In some way, you contributed to what is now a very mentally damaged girl. It was enough to make me remember the ending every time I think of Clover as a name. It doesn't help that Clover then uses an axe to cut you up for your bracelet, after asking you for your hand so you and this broken little girl can escape. Made even worse that even if she got every single bracelet, she wouldn't be able to escape out of the furnace. Meanwhile, her brother actually trapped in a coffin that no one can let him out of due to the two people who would have been able to being dead. A somewhat creepy experience, but I'm sure I can up the ratchet.
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney: Duel Destinies
So this is one that may simultaneously create confusion and a knowing nod. Perhaps something people wouldn't expect on a list like this, but yet they know the scene I'm going to be babbling about. Perhaps I should explain.
To the uninformed, Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney is a series where you are a lawyer who must defend clients from a guilty verdict, and thus in the process reveal the true culprit of the crime. It's a light hearted series that has plenty of jokes, fun visuals and some silliness as well. Duel Destinies being the sixth Ace Attorney game released in the UK (they did release Ace Attorney Investigations 2 in Japan only) and the first on the 3DS. As you play as Phoenix Wright, returned after having his lawyer license revoked from the previous game. Along with Apollo Justice from the previous game, and a new face: Athena Cykes.
Apollo comes back, angstier than ever.
Athena is a character that comes across as constantly happy, always with a smirk on her face. However, there are signs something is not quite okay with her. This becomes most apparent in case 3, Turnabout Academy, when Athena gets taunted by the suspected, and then proven, killer to the point of shaking with severe self-doubt. At the time, there is no knowledge of what causes Athena to lose faith in herself to the point of clutching herself, and sure she is unable to win the case.
However, it begins to be revealed that perhaps Athena may have had something to do with her mother's death, Metis Cykes. That when Simon Blackquill, the person charged with the death of Athena's mother, turned up at the laboratory for a psychology lesson Metis was already dead. Stood over her, was Athena with a grin on her bloody face. Athena only had one thing to tell Blackquill: “Something's wrong with Mom, so I'm taking her apart to fix her!”. Due to Athena's sheltered childhood, she believed as a child that people could be fixed in the same way robots could.
So she wasn't sad about her mother being dead, but glad to help fix her using the machine that disassembles and reassembles robots her mother happened to be laid upon; with a sword wound to her gut. This memory of her mother's murder, and of her believing in being able to fix the fatal wound, was blocked out to the extent that upon remembering it again she realises the conclusion to be drawn: She was the one who killed her mother. Just the look of sheer joy of unawareness, and somewhat due to this very dark moment coming from nowhere, sent a creep tingling up my spine. I pressed on, wanting to know more of what happened with her mother, but wary that the truth may be something even more horrible. Fortunately, it turned out to be someone completely different, but the possibility it could go even bleaker had me creeped out.
Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward
So this was a game that had no mental breaking moments, but did create two scenes that I consider the most creepy occassions in visual novels for me. I figured I'd focus on one, so I had to pick which one made me more fearful to know more but yet made me want to dig deeper. In the end, I had to go with Luna End rather than Clover End.
Do I prefer to be creeped out one way, or another... How about alcohol? I prefer that.
So say you went down the far left path of the flowchart. You first find a mysterious woman who is dead from a stab wound to the chest. Then the small boy, Quark, goes unconscious due to the mysterious virus Radical 6. He later goes missing after a room. Followed by Alice dying from a stab wound to the chest, similar to how the woman died. Next, Luna is found dead from being injected with a chemical that stops the heart, with later hints that perhaps Clover did it.
While you'd be forgiven for suspecting the deaths end there, it does not. Clover and Tenmyouji fail to turn up to enter a door on time, which carries the penalty of death by a heart stopping injection. You find the two of them, handcuffed to a sink together. A bloody message by Clover left on her inner thigh hinting at who did it: “016”. Finally, you enter the Rec Room to find K with an axe in the back of his head and Dio with a lance in his stomach.
So now, you and Phi are all alone. There is a killer somewhere out there. Either a 10th person, or perhaps Quark managed to hit K with an axe hard enough to penetrate his armour? Quark is just a child though...Right? Whatever is the case, you and Phi are next without a doubt.
That's when you enter a code into a PC in the director's office. ID: GTFDML016. That's when you find out the ID name is a GAULEM Unit's (i.e. robot) serial number. That's when you open the file, and see a familiar picture next to a GAULEM specification notes. Luna. Luna's serial number is 016, as written on Clover's inner-thigh. Your brain begins to snap into place.
Luna is robotic, and so would be able to fight as well as required and be as strong as required. She'd be able to wield the axe and spear, perhaps at the same time. Luna wouldn't be affected by the heart-stopping chemical, so she could act in stealth. Plus, who would expect someone as lovely acting and innocent looking as Luna doing something as foul as murder?
"PLUS, WHO WOULD EXPECT A WOMAN TO ACHIEVE A RAMPAGE?!"
The announcer starts counting down to the voting time, something at least one person in a group of three must do or be punished by death. Sigma and Phi arrive at the voting booth and swipe their card. They step in and turn around. Together, the two of them see a terrible figure just as the doors are closing.
This creepy moment is made even more so by the simple fact that Luna is your opponent in voting. What if she knew if you allied or betrayed? What would she do if you betrayed her? What is her next move? What is she going to do? You're now trapped in a small voting booth, told to vote to ally or betray Luna (both would give you the required 9 points to leave, if Luna does not vote) with Luna quite possibly waiting outside for you. She's already possibly killed 6 people including the old woman, with an unknown fate for young Quark. You vote, and she's gone. Just like that. Depending on how you vote, you either get a character ending (akin to a good ending) that has been considered one of the best endings and the most depressing ending in the game or a bad ending.
So I hope you enjoyed the delightful venture into the creepier side of visual novels, where you must dig deeper to just find out how deep the hole goes. If you request a visual novel that is perhaps more horrifying than just creepy, I recommend for you to take a gander at Corpse Party. It is a delightful visual novel for the PSP where rather than obscuring the horror, they sit it out in the open for all people to look upon. You get to experience in full graphical detail the deaths of many teenagers, along with some pictures of said grizzly scenes (e.g. NSFW and an early spoiler ), with the knowledge that some of them are your fault and others are bound by fate to death. Which makes me wonder: Is it worse to die to a fault that is your own, or know you were powerless to it? Alas, I'll admit to not being quite sure of that.
May you have a wonderful Halloween, your tastes lying in atmospheric horrors of things just lurking and watching or with buckets of blood and gore sloshed around or somewhere in between.
Until next time... Take care...
There's some small announcements, skip the italics if you don't care really.
Okay, so two small announcements:
1. Does anyone know about the number of characters in a title at most? Just keep having problems with trying to fit the title. The official title was "Speaking The Feminist Fable: The Problems Of Applying Sociological Theory To Videogames". A bit lengthy perhaps unless if it was a journal article. I believe it's 80 characters, but in the past had the title cut out a bit.
2. A bit more an entertaining news. Basically, worked out my schedule, and I plan to do an analytical article every two weeks. Just to avoid burning out completely on what to write about, and trying to get it done within a week (it takes about 2-3 days to work out what to write about, and the rest to try to write it without burnout, so imagine a typical sociological 2k essay once a week, a bit tiring). What will happen instead is during a non-analytical week, I'll do something more miscellaneous. Unless something else piques my interest to talk about, it'll likely be a "Riobux Recommends" series that'll be somewhat similar to the Extra Credits (lord & saviour) series James Recommends. I'll admit it'll be leaning closer towards games I find interesting in one way or another rather than games that do something interesting. However, don't worry because I wouldn't just be constantly verbally making love to the game as I will point out weaker aspects of the game. This wouldn't start next week, but rather three weeks from now due to the Community Contest.
So, just for clarity, this is my current calender:
Week 13th-19th: Analytical Article: Feminist Fable.
Week 20th - 26th: Community Contest: About 2 3DS games and a DS game. Feel free to guess.
Week 27th - 2nd of November: Analytical Article: ?.
Week: 3rd - 9th: Riobux Recommends: Zero Escape: Virtue's Last Reward.
Anyway, onwards with the show:
One of my earliest articles (which is perhaps more raw than this, and harder to read) dipped into a few of the problems of sociology while discussing why the debate on videogame violence is a tedious one. However, the problems of trying to engage in sociological analysis does not end there. There are similar and unique problems associated with using sociology to describe ways videogames may be improved. So I may mention things I've already talked about before, so I'm sorry in advance.
For better and for worse, we've become increasingly critical of videogames. We attack the developers and publishers behind them, we attack the people who populate the videogame culture and, most of all, we attack the videogames themselves. One of the most vocal criticisms of videogames is about representations of people. While someone has made a good case that no one is represented well, the typical target of criticism is of characters who are not white, heterosexual, Western and male, or lack of said characters. This criticising of the lack of good representation has combined with a resurgence of a sociological movement to create Feminist analysis.
I'm sure somewhere there's a Marxist who believes the lack of Marxism representation in the videogaming culture is a conspiracy theory hatched by EA and Activision.
As more females who play videogames become more vocal about this poor representation, this has led to growing criticisms of the movement. One of the more notorious Feminist analyses is Feminist Frequency, a series by Anita Sarkeesian as she scrutinises poor female representation in videogames. The extent of disagreement became strong enough for Sarkeesian to block Youtube comments and later do a TED Talk on the experience of being verbally attacked. However, I wish to propose an alternative reason for the backlash Feminist videogame comments get: A misunderstanding of sociology theory.
There are three aspects this article will cover about the misunderstanding between what sociological theory may offer and what people believe it may offer. This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but I feel it is enough of a list to outline why people reacted so passionately against Sarkeesian and other Feminists critical of videogames and why they may have been incorrect to do so.
The first aspect is the claim someone is wrong because others have reached a different conclusion. It is possible for two different sociologists to examine the same evidence and conclude different conclusions. A classic example is sociologists studying GCSE results by various children by different demographics. A Marxist could conclude that education favours those from a middle class background and puts those from a working class background at a disadvantage. For example, education favouring elaborate language codes (i.e. context-free sentences like “I kicked the ball through the window”) while the working class uses restricted language codes (i.e. context-sensitive sentences like “It got kicked through there”).
"NO! I don't care if you're educated! I don't care if you're using elaborate codes or restricted codes of languages! You're still grounded and you're still doing chores to help pay for the broken window."
While a Feminist may conclude females are disadvantaged due to some classes favouring particular genders (e.g. low females in engineering/science, while high females in things like dance). Another Feminist could even conclude males are disadvantaged, as shown by females doing significantly better than males. In 2013, 24.8% of exams by females were graded A* or A , while for males it was 17.6%. 72.3% of exams by females were graded C or higher, in contrast to males where it's 63.7% (Link to source of statistics). That is not to say one is wrong, or others are correct, but rather a different interpretation of a large amount of data.
So it is possible for the damsel in distress trope to simultaneously be a sexist trope in games from the mid 80s to the mid 90s as observed by Sarkeesian as well as a short cut used to tell a story in the limited amount of hardware space they had by referencing common movie tropes (e.g. save the world, kidnapped your girlfriend or just kill the criminal). Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Pool Of Radiance came with a book which the game referenced pages for you to read at particular moments as to create storylines. So rather than resort to creating characterisation and conflict to drive the plot as this would require explaining to the player why someone is doing something, tropes allowed the player to be instantly familiar on the what, where and why of the events which saved space. This is down to personal interpretations. While it's acceptable to disregard interpretations you don't accept the logic to, and maybe even explain your own logic in your conclusion, it doesn't make sense to flat out tell someone their perception is completely wrong. It makes even less sense to get angry about it. Why get angry that someone can't see the rabbit in the clouds? Why be angry they see a duck instead?
Although feel free to judge the jerk who sees both the rabbit and duck in the sky. What a smart-arse.
So, you could wonder why a theorist doesn't cover all the angles. After all, isn't it the job of an academic to address the full story? However, that brings me to the second incorrect assumption: That sociology is in any way holistic (i.e. complete). By their very existence, theories are reductive. This happens for two reasons: The first is a simple case of logistics. It is borderline impossible to study a sociological phenomena from every angle within the time period that makes the event relevant. An example of this is education. For a singular sociologist, or a group of sociologists, to study what aspects of education leaves some groups disadvantaged it would take so long that some of the things they point out as creating a disadvantageous situation are long in the past and new aspects have appeared that they are unable to consider. That is assuming they wish to not play catch-up constantly where they will never truly catch-up.
The second reason for reductionism is less of an ethical reason. Cherry picking evidence that makes your argument strong and your opposition weak is something that does occur. While you are expected to make an opposition argument in papers to point out problems with your argument, you are expected to explain why the problems are acceptable. This is often done by creating an intentionally weak argument against you by cherry picking what is said. While it's rarely done to the point of being a strawman argument, it's still intentionally brief and weak so you can dismantle it.
The classic example of cherry picking is a radical Feminist theory on domestic violence. A theory proposed by them was that domestic violence was something due to men. That because of violence being intrinsic to men, it wasn't an “if”, but rather a “when” and by removing the man from the situation, violence is averted*. Radical Feminism is Feminism taken to an extreme radical level of blaming problems of society on men. So they cherry picked their evidence to exclude cases of domestic violence by females, especially lesbian domestic violence as this eliminated “justified violence” by the female towards the male in a relationship. Fortunately, they've always been in a very small minority in Feminism.
This admittance of necessary reductionism by sociology is one of the reasons why sociology has somewhat shifted away from macro-theories such as Feminism/Marxism/Post-Modernism/Post-Postmodernism (seriously, Post-Postmodernism exists) that explains as many things as possible in society. What is more typical is hundreds upon hundreds of micro-theories that explain aspects of society, such as an aspect of education, of crime or of consumerism. Another reason is due to the popularity of Grounded Theory in sociology, but I'm getting off topic.
The basic summary of grounded theory is "This research is not bias because the theory comes from the data rather than using an existing theory to design the hypothesis, and then I make the theory in the conclusion. I could never be bias." Due to the appeal, it leads to a lot of theories and little debunking.
The third incorrect assumption is that a sociologist picks up and uses a theory as required. That it's common for one theorist to use Feminism for education, and Marxism for crime/deviance. However, the reality is a sociology theory is an obsession. This appears in the reductionism a sociologist will tend to achieve as they look through a particular lens. To appreciate a sociological theory is to live, breath and read the world of that theory. This obsession is positive in that it can greatly motivate some people's activism. It can give a label and a flag to rally under for the fight of equality. While the term “Feminism” has been used to fight against female oppression, it has also been used to help fight against ways males are oppressed (e.g. males are less likely to seek medical (physical or mental) help partially due to it being a sign of weakness).
However, it does have it's negative slant. This obsession can create a particular colour lens that restricts the user in considering other possibilities. If the possibility has been considered, it is to be pushed to the side. To use Anita Sarkeesian's Feminist Frequency as an example, the more evidence Sarkeesian is able to present to show the ways videogames abuse female characters, the more correct she is able to seem. There is a possibility that Sarkeesian has interpreted some of the aspects of videogames due to her Feminism obsession, and that's fine. As a Feminist sociologist, there is nothing else to be expected, especially of a show called Feminist Frequency. However, awareness needs to be considered that when a sociologist follows a theory (especially a macro-theory), they are locked into an obsession. The goal is to sell as much evidence as possible that shows your theory is correct.
The conclusion I wish to present is one of a warning to prevent fruitless arguments. If you wish to argue to prove Feminism is wrong, expect to lose. As you are arguing from your own perspective against someone who lives and breaths their own obsession. It's akin to convincing people who play videogames regularly that their habit causes violence. We are all locked into our own obsessions, and it's unlikely an argument will break us from our little obsessions. However, what we can do is discuss our perspectives on an issue with respect given to how people's perception on reality do vary based on previous experiences and beliefs we hold. So let us share our realities in a civil manner, rather than telling someone you wish to use their eye-socket as a “love hole”.
Despite all that, I promise you sociology is a science.
*NOTE: If the example I've given of radical Feminism towards domestic violence appears out of context or simply wrong, here is an example of a book describing the theory: link The word radical in radical Feminism is used almost to the same extent the word radical in radical Islamists is used. Although, without the violence. As I explained, they really are/were (if they are still around, they are in a VERY small minority) extreme in their beliefs and did believe in sexist beliefs towards men. Another theory they held was political lesbianism, where the radical Feminist would become a lesbian as to avoid sleeping with the enemy. An example of someone who believes in political lesbianism in the UK is Julie Bindel, a columnist at the Guardian. Her beliefs in the concept actually does come out in some of the writing she does for the Guardian. If you want more details on how it occurs, feel free to ask me as this note may be going a bit long. Just know that radical Feminism is not representative of typical Feminist beliefs, before you sharpen your pitchforks to lynch a Feminist.
Also on a side note, if there's anything you wish improved or wish to suggest an article, feel free to suggest away. I'm still adjusting concepts here and there so I'm still altering things to see if it works out better. Feedback is always welcome as always.
This article was written before I recieved news today that AFK News will not be released soon. It may come one day, but it most likely wouldn't be a day any week soon. So I'll be returning back to my usual schedule of one-a-week for articles. However, I'll need to get back into the swing of things so the next article wouldn't be next week but the week after. After that point, it'll be a once-a-week schedule as usual.
Edit: So the full title "Futurism Of The Oculus: A Consideration Of Possible Future Scenarios Due To Techology Advancement" couldn't fit in the title. So it's now shorten.
So when I went on board to take part in AFK News (it's coming, I promise), a few decisions were made about the type of content to reflect AFK News's goal of creating professional analyses of videogames. If you've worked on a social science paper, especially sociology, it's roughly the same style. This means things like to avoid a casual writing style, using language to signify ownership (e.g. “this paper will show” rather “I will show”) and baseless conclusions with no evidence. The last part is what makes it tough to talk about something I would like to: Futurism in Videogames, especially concerning the technology of the Oculus Rift.
Futurism, or Futurology, is the process of using current knowledge to attempt to predict future events. It tends towards using tools like extrapolation and assumptions to assume what may occur. For instance, there is a tendency to predict that humanoid robots will exist one day that will past the Turing Test (even if you may technically get the Chinese Room problems). This is born from our extrapolation of the progression of technology will continue unhampered, that our goals of said robots will not shift and similar assumptions. I explain this to help you recognise that not only this entire article is guess-work and I will likely be very off the reality, but also that I am aware of these problems.
However, despite this, I wish to discuss interesting possible sociological/psychological aspects that may come about from the Oculus Rift based on a video that inspired me to write this article. It will make the assumption a technology akin to the Razer Hydra (a product that is now discontinued) will exist, but technology will be discussed as well. It will also make the assumption that there will be a gradual shift towards games that use the Oculus Rift and other supporting technology, which I'll admit to being an assumption that flies in the face of how much people do not like motion sensor games at all, including me. Part of the reason for this assumption is how the Oculus Rift functions differently to existing motion sensors like the Kinect and the Move, and partially because the Oculus Rift looks like it actually works.
"As you can see, the Kinect operating machine works roughly 10% of the time. Looks pretty to investors, I don't doubt sir...Up to the point when they see we save people 10% of the time. Percentages increase if it's a simple routine operation like exploratory surgery on the knee...To about 40%."
The first aspect of this is a re-emergence of the “what is a videogame” conversation, as a new form of simulation is born. This new form of simulation will likely be due to the Oculus Rift's form of motion sensor technology being in the form of vision. With interactivity of being able to look around and, potentially few other things, it could be argued that it isn't a film. However, due to the low-level of interactivity, people will argue if it's a game. This is an example of what type of interactive-experiences may end up being born to cater to the simulation experience the Oculus Rift may offer.
Despite the discussion, I feel it'll be the type of question that'll already be answered by the reader and all forms of discussions are actually bitter arguments from the “is Gone Home a videogame?” discussion. However, due to the simulation-esque feel of the Oculus Rift, videogames that would normally appear too boring for standard audiences (e.g. Dear Esther) may get a resurgence. This could be due to people's curiosity being fed by the new form of presentation and a greater amount of immersion.
From this new venture into simulations and interactive-experiences, new technologies may come along. There are technologies that look to be designed with the Oculus Rift in mind. Two successful ones are the Razor Hydra, which is now discontinued, and the Virtuix Omni. While the Razor Hydra sought to replicate hand movements, the Virtuix Omni was designed to allow foot-movement to be detected.
However, naturally, there are downsides to both technologies. The Hydra does not have a device that can alter weight so a handgun is as heavy as a rocket launcher. While the Virtuix Omni has no way of detecting crouching or being prone. However, chances are is in time these problems will be fixed. A less commercially successful product was the Haptic Suit which gave feedback depending on where you were being hit in game. If it failed due to it's own limitations or due to people not wanting to feel it when they're shot is unknown.
Simultaniously the reason why it did as badly and as well as it did was because it lacked a lower-half part. This would be so you could punt people between the legs through the internet, rendering them hopefully sterile, every time they said or did something so stupid you died inside.
The other downside to the technology is how piecemeal it is currently. Put together, you'd be walking around on a pad with a harness on it, gripping two sticks as your controller, a headset on you and, assuming the Haptic Suit, having a suit on as well. It'd honestly be surprised if a company doesn't decide to combine all the technology together into one collection that functions with each other. If it's an existing company or a new one is unknown. If a guess had to be made, then it'd be Oculus VR which is now owned by Facebook, but it could quite easily be any other company.
The possible psychological impacts can be split into two sections, the positive outcomes and the negative outcomes.
Starting with the positive outcomes, there are a few but I'll cover two. The first is it can help potentially distressed individuals while they are in hospital. With the immersion the Oculus Rift potentially holds, it can distract patients who may be in pain and be unhappy with their environment or themselves (e.g. if they are using chemo, it may distract from the hair-loss and the weight loss that occurs). By putting the individual in an environment they may enjoy more, even if it's a simple walking through the garden simulation, it has the potential to raise their mood. Which by raising the mood of the individual, they have a greater chance to recover than someone who has given up.
Another such positive is it can allow people to experience things they may not be able to experience. While there will be elements that are very far away from being simulated, such as smells, tastes and being able to feel like you're walking when you're not, the Oculus Rift has the potential to become close. This creates the possibility to simulate things not out of entertainment or interest, but for a more positive psychological state for someone. One such example could be to alleviate some depression symptoms brought about because physical disability (e.g. damage to the spine) by simulating some experiences they enjoy such as travelling to foreign places or taking part in sports they loved.
Thanks to Oculus Rift, soon disabled elderly people may experience a joy they once experienced before being bound to a wheelchair: Chasing children who rang their doorbell and ran away, with belt and a lot of colourful language.
Another example that has been theorised is it could help with transgenderism. By allowing the individual to experience a body of the opposite gender, they can determine how they feel in said body. BeAnotherLab did an experiment where two individuals could feel like themselves in a different body. By synchronising movements and wearing Oculus Rifts connected to a camera the other person is wearing, a person may feel what it's like to have a body of the opposite gender. This may help someone discover if they feel more natural as their original gender or as the opposite gender.
However, there are a few psychological problems that could occur from technologies such as the Oculus Rift.
One such problem is it may increase the addictive nature of videogames. By having greater immersion in a world where the individual is loved, praised and depended on, like a MMORPG, the greater the chance this may cause someone to disregard a world as rife with problems as their own actual lives and focus upon living in a world where they are psychologically satisfied. This is not to suggest however videogames addiction doesn't already exist (it does) or that it'll affect everyone (it wouldn't), but there may be a growing amount of cases. Although that excludes how this is reported cases, and videogame addiction is a condition that is increasingly being legitimised in the mental health field so the amount of people reporting it will most likely rise anyway.
Another problem is by creating greater immersion in the game-world, the events in the game have a greater effect on the player. While this on the surface is a very good thing, it does have the potential to cause some negative psychological repercussions. If a particular experience in a particularly immersive game ends up violent or traumatic, it could affect the individual negatively. For example, if there was a scene particularly violent, the individual may get PTSD symptoms.
Another example is an individual may end up mourning a character, either due to their death or due to the game ending. While there hasn't been a game example, besides the videos on Youtube of people crying about game characters they consider their waifu, there has been an example in film. After the release of James's Camaron's Avatar, a film with high special effects work, people began getting depressed. Accordding to the Huffington Post, there have been reports of depression and suicide on forums dedicated to the film Avatar. So the possibility exists for fictional events in a visual medium to invoke feelings of depression, even if it's just due to the fictional nature of the world. So isn't it possible a particularly immersive interactive-experience could invoke these feelings?
Sadly, like a character with plot armour plumetting to a death that consists of a floor of spikes, the fans of Avatar ultimately missed the point.
The final interesting aspect to discuss is how this type of technology could theoretically revolutionise videogames as a sport. In it's current state, videogames tend to be a competition of tactics, reflexes and much more mental abilities. Physical strength and dexterity (besides reflexes) are left out of the equation. So, consider a videogame that used the Oculus Rift, Virtuix Omni and the Razer Hydra in conjunction that was created to function at competitive level. A FPS for instance. In that instance, a new skill list would be required.
To use a FPS simulation at competition level for an example, a skill list that could be required could include things such as stamina for running, fine motor controls for aiming, smaller body shape to decrease targeting area and maybe even the ability to quickly learn the environment if rules and levels were designed for the event as to prohibit reflexive actions that can occur in games like Counter Strike. This in turn could act to either legitimise or delegitimise videogames as a sport. Videogame culture could claim the virtual sporting event, thus allowing more tactical-based videogames to become a legitimate sport in the mainstream. However, it could become distant enough to typical videogames as to be considered not a videogame and possibly picked up by sporting circuit or simply not be a formalised competitive sport due to the lack of any backing.
Fortunately, I don't think having exhaustive knowledge of the many ways you can call someone offensive insults or imply the ways they screwed all of your family including the pet guinea pig would be part of the skill set of a competitive FPS simulation. Sending a false alarm to your competitor's local police station about your competitor holding children hostage however may be part of that skill set though.
So, considering all the possibilities that future videogame technologies hold, it is naturally a future that looks simultaneously promising and one with problems. However, what the future will most likely hold is increasingly interesting technological advances that'll further increase engagement. It will be one naturally with some problems at the start, in a similar way that motion sensors on consoles has turned into a running joke. Even include some instances of people making some business decisions based on past logic that no longer applies, like different release dates globally for digital releases despite no shipping or colour encoding systems (e.g. PAL and NTSC) to consider.
However, especially with regards to possible psychological problems, we need to show caution. We need to be not afraid to say no to pushing the envelope, at least without any research into the effects. We need to be able to admit our videogames may cause harm in others, like they do today with regards to addiction. If we, as a culture, refuse to admit fault people's lives may be destroyed and we'll all be worse off for it. Every form of media has it's shady side. Such as snuff-films, corrupt journalism and moral panic inducing TV programs. It's okay to admit a shady side to videogames if future developments start suggesting harm is being committed. This article is all speculation, but grounded enough in reality that a possibility exists of it occurring. If our love for videogames blinds us from the harm it may cause rather than motivates us to improve it, then videogames will be demonised by the mainstream and all the work for legitimation of our medium in the last 40 years will be for naught.
However, if videogames ceased to be trying to be serious and legitimate, at least we could all bask in the warm flame and insane-song of increasingly tedious videogame debates. Worry not, because there will always be arguments to warm our bodies and lose our minds to.
Hey, so this is my first blog post since joining AFK News (sadly don't have a link yet to it), and I wish to discuss something I will be doing for 61 days. This is a personal goal, for my own interests, but if others wish to join in I really recommend doing so.
On the 30th of September, I will purchase Sid Meier's Civilization: Beyond Earth and, if it's paid DLC, the Payday 2 DLC released on that day (the Hotline Miami one). From that point on, from the 1st of October to the 1st of December I will not buy a single video-game related item. Not an indulging of a deal on PSN or Steam. Not a Payday 2 DLC. Not even a Humble Bundle for less than £1. No games, DLC or added content. Anything relevant to videogames at all. This is for reasons beyond financial (as I'm not even buying $1 Humble Bundles), and dips into psychological.
As I've hinted at time and time again, I am someone with an anxiety disorder. It's something that has followed me from an early age. So, naturally, I found my own releases to deal with anxiety. A few can be seen as perhaps positive. Some like my tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve. I'm usually open how I feel emotionally. However, I also have some negative habits. I've had a long history of using alcohol as something to lean on during my teens, and somewhat a little bit during my early 20s during hard moments.
As much as I stole alcohol from my dad during my teens, I never stooped low enough to drink White Lightning. Even alcoholics have to have standards.
One tactic I've used to deal with my anxiety through-out my entire childhood and even today has been videogames. I grew up with them, and used them to get through a childhood that was spent pretty much in social isolation. That and the internet (a place that I had a few associates and no friends) were my two tools of helping to deal with things. However, when I moved out and went to university, the power of complete control of my life went to my head. I begun buying games on a whim, looking to play something that piqued my interest or held my attention. My standards of what would hold my attention for a length of time increased. So I bought more and more. Not usually at full price, but let's say that Humble Bundle's $1 for 3 to 5 games became a good friend.
If this is starting to sound like an addiction to videogames, I'm not so sure it's necessarily that. It's more an addiction to purchasing games. A rush of “maybe this is the game that'll captivate my interest” occurs when I buy a game. 99% of the time, my interest is not kept long. The wishful gazes of the title before purchases, and the rumours of just how this game is amazing and may change my life, just leaving me with something resembling a hang-over. A disappointing “...That's it?”, before I bumble off to see what new shiny games are being sold.
The reasons for this are somewhat self-inflicted as well as created by their own. As I've grown up with videogames, so has my demand of them. I demand more things of them. No longer I wish to be simply entertained by gunplay and sword-fights. I wish to be intrigued. I wish to be drawn into a world that makes me think about things I would not have thought of. I wish to be distracted not by gameplay but rather stories. My tolerance level and my expectations are now of an unachievable level. A level that I need to bring down myself.
However, another aspect to consider is Cryder, et al's paper on Misery Is Not Miserly. The short version is that sad individuals spend more than non-sad individuals. Their theory being that with the combination of a sad event and self-focus, it leads to devaluation of the self. Devaluation of the self leads to desire to enhance self. This in turn leads to the increase valuation of possessions that one may acquire. So with my state of social exclusion and anxiety, it's hard to have value in myself. I simply do not value myself much at all. So it's understandable that maybe, just maybe, this videogame will complete me and help me value myself more.
I'm sure on a sub-concious level I somehow thought "yes, a game where you shoot police officers and sometimes accidentally civilians as bank robbers as you steal cocaine, money, gold and guns will complete me psychologically some how" when I bought Payday 2. Then again, it is good fun.
I'll also admit that financial reasons are important as well to all of this. As I'll be leaving my home to live far away, hoping to get a job. I need to try to avoid as many avenues where I may lose money due to my own incompetence. Humble Bundles only cost $1, but I can be swayed easily to purchase a game or two on Steam that catches my eye for £20. I've also bought into quite a few Kickstarters that look interesting in my eyes.
I'll admit in this, I've rambled quite a lot. That it's very unfocused, very casual and very introspective. I'm not doing this to raise awareness of videogame addiction, nor have I adequately discussed it (maybe in AFK news in the future?). However, I wanted to write this for three reasons. First, I wanted to introspectively discuss this so I could understand this more myself. Secondly, I feel if I didn't put this down in paper then I can see myself backing out of it. At least in paper, it's harder to not feel like I'm betraying someone by caving in. Thirdly, I wanted to open up on my experiences so others may know of them. At the very least, so if someone is feeling somewhat similar or they wish to undertake a “videogame fast”, they may do without feeling alone. After all, it is hard sometimes to just say no. To deny the thing that you feel may complete you. I hope to further complete myself by denying said items for a while. Afterwards, well, I hope to spend money on videogames in a more controlled manner.
On a side note, damn the editor has changed. It means I can't do the dark-green text for captions. Also, I'm glad Payday 2's Crimefest is a thing. That should save me some money.