Playing with Toys and Why the Loss of Language?

As children we pattern our play on observed experiences, be they witnessed first hand or told through the various mediums of storytelling. Relationships are formed with the characters we play with through playing them. The play is a combination of what we can recall from experiences and our imaginations.

This patten of play does not end as adolescence approaches but carries on through our adult lives. Be it through the playing of games with each other, the passing on of game rules to friends and family, especially our children this pattern continues. Yet it is also present in our relationship with characters. We can become attached to characters in kitchen set melodrama as reality as we can to those who live their lives on interstellar space station trapped inside wormhole, and immature as we might feel it may seem to others we attach ourselves with these characters in an effort to live vicariously, to conquer enemies we do not believe exist, in hope of feeling warranted as somebody we do not believe we are, but we could be. (We may relate more openly with each other when we discover we each have a similar fondness for these characters.)

An ownership is formed in the minds of the audience members who then may seem fanatical.

The character is now (in the mind of the fan) only allowed to do what they think the character should do. The fan is trying to repeat the process of play which they followed as children.

They make their voice now however they can, sometimes creatively. (Works of art, fan fiction etc)

Why are we passionate for characters that only exist in our imaginations?

Are we unable to accept that these character can be re-imagined?

Are our own lives integral to these relationships with characters, and as such if the character is changed does that mean we have to change?

As a Christian and procrastinating artist I am both curious and appalled of how social networking has encouraged what seems to be an ever growing vocal minority to constantly litter open forums with foul language and crude thoughts with seemingly no consideration for either the people they are commentating on or they themselves will be perceived by those that read said comments.

There are numerous accounts of hate

filled comments that have led to the term Troll progressing into mainstream media such as the recently broadcast BBC programmeThe Anti-Social Network. While the programme and its presenter may have a specific target audience who may be considerably less internet-savvy than yourself it is important to realise what seems like an anomaly has been present for the past forty years. I question why are people so vile when hid behind the wall of anonymity offered by their computer screens? More so I question why some choose to vent frustration at the creators entertainment products? Websites such as offer the option to post user comments under every video or article available on the site. Daily they are filled with dozens of negative comments among two hundred posts stating consumer opinion. While is a universally accessible website its user base (an estimated 6,450,000) will be computer and video game consumers. In other words the people who support the industry are also the harshest critics. Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with preferring Mozart over Chopin or in the case of games Nintendo over Sega but what is strange is the consumer led backlash against products that sell millions of copies to those same consumers.

The most recent and prominent example of this is EA published Mass Effect 3. Consumers in their thousands have apparently stated their unhappiness with the ending of the game. Buyers remorse perhaps, but the volume and intensity of the negativity has led to the abuse of a female community manger for the games developers (Bioware) website and complaints to US federal agencies in support of consumer rights.

Why do consumers prefer to vent frustration in this way rather than seek a refund?

Why so much hate?

The relationships that people have with fictional characters are akin to the relationships that they have with other people what differs is that fact that they can treat fictional characters as if they are toys to play with however they desire albeit within the rules of a fabricated universe. Toys are played with but they do not play back. Fictional characters are not capable of returning affection, they will not listen to the readers adventures unless they are imagined to do so. The relationship is one way as even the smallest (if jaded) child would be aware, but if so much time is concentrated on having these one way relationships communication will not be returned and without a return of communication language depletes.

When someone feels that they lack the appropriate language necessary for a social interaction they lose confidence and will either fight or fly.

I hypothesise that in the case of unhappy game consumers that the occurrence is due to a lack of language. I intend to show how potentially that the lack of confidence in a persons own language skills leads to a recurring cycle of negativity and hate.

To begin with I will start with children.

Children and the Magic of Lego

Often the first social commentary on technology that children encounter is mediated through the toys they are given which are not only technology based themselves but also carry messages about the social relations in which technology gender class and much more are embedded. The impact of these first cultural utensils cannot be overlooked. They not only help establish world views at a time when ideologies are still being formed, but they are also generally presented as bearing the official or favoured explanation (if not the only explanation) of the way things are, because they given and promoted by parents and other adults who are generally acknowledged by children to be those from whom the workings of the world must be learned.

(Wendy Varney 2002)

Children learn through play, adults learn through play. We know this. The difference between child and adult play is the amount of time available to play and thus learn. Varney suggests that children are deeply influenced by the toys that they are given. If we take Varney’s words seriously then we should consider that a father giving his son a technology proficient character such as ‘Action Man: Space Ranger Captain’ the boy would see the figure to be an instruction of what he should aspire to, eagle eyes, a posable body and tilting head for the perfect sharp shooter pose.

The son will play with the figure within the boundaries of his knowledge. If he has witnessed his father working in the garden then play with the ‘Action Man’ may involve the digging of ponds or the removal of earth. Of course the child’s influences are more than just the experiences of one person. It is reasonable to believe that the child would of been told of the premise of space travel, the reason for a space suit, the need for an armoury. Of course the human race does not exist by doing only one activity. If the father was to leave the boy at home while he worked he would return home to tell his son of the adventure he had that day. If the father did not communicate to his son through we could presume that the father would find relaxation in television or another form of media. If the child does not hear of experiences from his father directly will be witness to the experiences that the father hears, and that will also affect the child’s play with ‘Action Man’. It is through this play that Varney claims the child understands what life is. Consider that the child would have experienced a form of discipline(s) (by which I do not mean punishment but simply an exploration of physical boundaries) it would natural for the boy to either adhere to the rules he has learnt through said discipline(s) through play such as keeping ‘Action Man’ human and experiencing injuries such as a cut knee or a broken leg. Alternatively he may choose to go against those rules and claim ‘Action Man’ to be super human with the power flight and the strength to fight giant space worms.

For the son parts of life as a man are learnt through playing with ‘Action Man’. The son experiences life as a man through the pushing of boundaries and injuries. He also experiences life as a man through flying in space and fighting monsters. The boy creates his toy’s adventure from his own life plus his perception of how he maybe when he has grown up.

Varney is concerned with gender, I feel that gender traits are formed biologically and are not generally developed through psychological nurturing yet although it is clear that both genders pass on their most distinct characteristics to their own and not the other, experience with my own children has led to the realisation that gender based choices vary depending on the child's age and experience. For example; I was the primary parent for my elder daughter her experiences with toys and leisure were mainly masculine. Her collection of toys and bears were Winnie the Pooh or other Disney related products that were animal rather than human in an attempt to create a genderless environment, yet by the age of two she was able to carefully handle a video game controller and by four could identify an ageing collection of Transformer toys.

She grew up wanting to be Hannah Montana, now at the age of thirteen she is aware of her femininity and enthusiastically enjoys the works of Jacqueline Wilson and Suzanne Collins, capably relating to the heroines these works have presented to her.

In contrast my younger daughter (with whom I was unable to spend as much time with as an infant) has grown up with a streak of engineering creativity. She loves to create card board robots designed to produce movement, to glue broken ornaments from the inside. Her heroes are The Incredible Hulk and Wolverine not from the stories that a written of them, but from what she imagines that they can do.

My point is that children learn (as do adults) from each experience, not just by by observing their parents or a television advert but from the environment that they are in. If the family home is safe and secure then there would be no reason to expect the television or the daily newspaper to present something unsafe or dangerous to mimic. Mimicry as Roger Caillois suggests is an incessant invention.

Whilst playing, a child will mimic what they have experienced, be it the memory walking the dog followed by the steam train journey that took the family through a haunted tunnel, or maybe the adventures of the Red Power Rangers that was on television while mum dad prepared the Sunday dinner. This form of play is available to any one who has been given the freedom to play, hence not restrained by a situation of work free to move in an imaginary environment governed by its own set of rules.

Lego is at first sight a collection of connectable blocks that can be built in to anything imagined no matter the gender of the person. However the act of playing with (rather than creating with,) is and has been marketed at boys. I am not going to discuss the gender ethics of Lego Group or other multinational corporations but it is important to note that safe media experiences can influence a child to accept what they view to be something to aspire to even if it is only baking in the pink and purple build it yourself kitchen offered by Lego Friends. Lego does allow any one to build and create and thus is opened to the child's interpretation of what is to be created and how it is to be played with. A persons experience with Lego (or any toy) is not defined by the product but by the experiences leading up to the first time of play. It is not until after playing (with Lego or otherwise) that the toy can be considered to be part of an experience. Even then the toy is not definable as an experience but simply a product of expectations that were formed from all that had been experienced before through media and other communications that spoke of it. The toy itself will become part of the expectations for further experiences.

With that said I can confirm that the results of on an observation with two brothers; Isaac and Luke aged nine and six respectively revealed that they mimic what they view on television as part of their play.

Pointing to a Lego rock monster.

Shane: so he can not swing on a web like spiderman because?

Isaac: we don't let the happen because we normally do things as it properly is in the adverts.

Extract from ‘Transcription of Isaac and Luke Observation’

In trying to classify forms of play Robert Caillois states that ‘All play presupposes the temporary acceptance, if not an illusion, then at least of a closed conversational, and, in certain respects, imaginary universe.’

The description is of what Caillois calls mimicry. It may also be called imaginative play or role play and may or may not involve toys. Caillois’ description however is far more viable.

The rule of the game is unique: it consists in the actor's fascinating the spectator while avoiding an error that might lead the spectator to break the spell. The spectator must lend himself to the illusion without first challenging the décor, mask, artifice which for a given time is asked to believe is as more real than reality itself.

Caillois on mimicry; Man, Play and Games 1958

More than mimicking a scene from a promotional advert for the toy, the boys have created a world with rules to follow. They have established a predetermined yet freely customisable world with rules to be adhered to. Breaking the rules of the world will in turn break the illusion of disbelief or as Caillois puts it, spell. The spell is as important to the boys playing as it is to a spectator. The play enacts and reenacts the boys’ experiences, imaginings and experienced imaginings. To the spectator this is an interactive experience requiring a deliberate effort to see what the players see just as the viewing of a theatrical production requires effort to ignore that there is a world off the stage (as well as behind) that is unimportant to the events on stage, events only possible because of this outside world. For the boys the performance is just as important to them as it is the spectator; as it is their actions within the world according to the worlds rules facilitates their play creating enjoyment from doing something not possible without a performance and like actors who are aware that they are on a stage surrounded by props hoisted on pulleys, the boys are aware that their hidden base is in the crevice of the family sofa, and their supply of characters and attachable weapons are reliant on the large box of Lego in the corner of the living room.

During the observation I asked Isaac and Luke if they ever copied the stories which they saw on television, Isaac was positive in his response stating that an earlier scene that played out involving the gate crashing of a party by the bad guys was an idea he took fromHorrid Henry, he then showed me his own creation of Spider Man who like the Spider Man featured on television was able to spray webs in face of one of the boys’ own creations whom Isaac would choose to be either good or bad depending on how he wanted to use the character. Isaac and Luke play continuously. They claim that their stories never end. As Luke so eloquently states ‘it just keeps on going on.’ No one ever really gains victory in their battles, when the bad guys die they simply change in to something more powerful and often change side in the process. Six year old Luke referenced the Green Ranger becoming the White Ranger in an episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers

that dates to 1994.

I asked the boys if they ever built girl pieces, Isaac pointed out that they had a Lego Ninjago figure named Leah and a Lego Batman Catwoman figure whom has an alternative face printed on the head piece that Isaac believed was ‘for what she’s feeling or something’.

The boys are mimicking television programmes that produced two decades ago, yet had no inclination of why a Catwoman figure would allow them to mimic alternative life of a heroine. I would guess that the language of their experiences have been male orientated. As I stated with an account of my own children, gender based experiences do not dictate the personality or the interests of a child but it may limit the diversity of experiences and thus would limit the extent of their vocabulary and ability to both create and describe their play. Whilst reviewing the footage of the boys without an observer, their play mimics the planning session for a piece of creative media such as a play or film. There are often stops and rewrites as decisions are made and remade. The play has a purpose, to create reasons to play. A never ending process of building and breaking, new ideas influenced by the existing ideas presented through television, film and their previous experiences with play. A locked structure of time that never produces anything of relevance outside of the act of playing or the memory of the act of playing. Is it possible that this act can evolve to something deserving of the time and effort required or is play time consigned to be the freedom to waste?

Leisure: A period of time referred to as discretionary time. It is that period of time where an individual feels no sense of economic, legal, moral or social compulsion or obligation nor of physiological necessity. The choice of how to utilise this time period is solely his. In leisure time an individual feels he does not "have to" do anything...

Justin Voss, The Definition of Leisure (1961)

Once children start school they are, under general circumstances afforded leisure time. Time in which both play and work is possible. Caillois defines one of the requirements for play to be ‘Free: in which playing is not obligatory; if it were, it would at once lose its attractive and joyous quality as diversion;’


Play is not constrained to be set a specific time, but takes place only for an allocated time. Play is possible while at leisure and just as possible while in a situation of work, otherwise it would not be a diversion. Similarly leisure time can be filled with both play and work. A school child may continue a creative writing exercise that was set as homework after the time required to work has expired, he continues for his own enjoyment. Caillois suggests another requirement for play to be ‘Unproductive: creating neither goods, nor wealth, nor new elements of any kind; boxers, jockeys and actors it is clear they are workers and not players.’

Caillois suggestion supports the idea that an activity produces goods or wealth is work and not play thus it can be agreed that a child spending the leisure time to produce a piece that is to be graded, has produced a good and received wealth in exchange. It therefore can be assumed that the child considered themselves to be working during their leisure time.

The child did not have to work but did and as such received payment, the grade for his sacrifice. The grade is a symbol of the value of the sacrifice, a high grade equates to a valuable piece of work and gives recognition of the sacrifice of leisure time, a low grade values the work as being less worthy a waste of time and a pointless sacrifice. Time has become the child’s commodity maybe their only one, the response he receives to how he spends that time will tell him the value of that time.

An adult consumer is free to spend money on what ever they choose. In theory the consumer works to earn the money so goods can be purchased which the consumer will spend time enjoying. The consumer will have to sacrifice time to benefit from the purchase, a purchase which required money, money which required a sacrifice of time. The time sacrificed to earn the money was work time, the recognition for the work produced was financial reward yet to benefit from the reward another sacrifice of time has to be made. If the consumer chooses to spend the money on activities that require a learned skill or trained talent, a greater sacrifice of time is required before the benefits maybe received. Gardening, martial arts and calligraphy are activities that require a lengthy sacrifice of time to become skilled enough to recognise the received benefits, even when a gardener has a beautiful garden and the martial artist has become a champion, there is still more to do, more time to sacrifice. These activities never come to end, they simply stop when the time is no longer sacrificed.

In contrast the reading of book takes considerably less time, less sacrifice before the benefit; the end of the book, is achieved.

Computer games combine the need to sacrifice time to be skilled at the activity with the confirmed ending of a book. The player must sacrifice time to be skilled at the game but will eventually reach the end of the games narrative and thus receive the benefit. While it is an arguable point that games do not need either a progressive scripted narrative or even an ending, Pac-Man (1980) being one such game that had neither yet reportedly made over 100million US Dollars and been played 10 billion times before the year 2000,

I argue that all games that have an opening narrative allow the player to take part in a story that will eventually come to an end even if the game simply restarts at the first level after the final level has been conquered.

Player Narrative as I define it

is the story of the players experience with a game. A game may open with a small scene such as Double Dragon (1987) where a girl is punched and carried away; or Sonic the Hedgehog (1991) where the is no narrative catalyst or suggestion outside of the instruction manual, yet the player is still taking a blue hedgehog through various lands, across ever changing terrains they tell the player how for they have journeyed. The journeys end is one that can be achieved at remarkable speed, untypical of hedgehog, in which the player as Sonic bounces and rolls into various robots and in doing so frees small mammals and birds which the evil Dr. Robotnik had previously imprisoned. As Sonic reaches the end of each land he must confront Dr. Robotnik in one of his egg shaped killing machines, the first of which is a flying cup, (Robotnik himself tops the cup to create the egg shape) whirling a wrecking ball at the vulnerable blue hedgehog. It is up to the player to decipher how to utilise Sonic’s ability to jump in to a ball and the fixtures of the environment, (in this instance two floating platforms) to avoid the wrecking ball and attack Robotnik. Once Robotnik has been has been bounced on eight times he retreats allowing Sonic to free the rest of the animals from the first land, Green Hill Zone; by bouncing on the Egg Capsule, which holds them. The player and Sonic will repeat this exercise seven times across the seven other lands each time sans the final stage, confronting Robotnik in his exaggerated egg shaped machines. On the final stage Scrap Brain Zone, Robotnik is stood inside a giant piston. For the first time the player views Robotnik as man and not as the top half of an egg, and for the first time Robotnik will attack Sonic directly (albeit cased inside a piston) rather than attacking with an extension of a machine or shooting at the player controlled sprite. Once Sonic has avoided the Pistons and hit the one which Robotnik is in, eight times, Robotnik runs to the right of the screen and jumps in to an egg cup shaped craft identical to the one the player destroyed on the first stage, Green Hill Zone. Sonic makes one final leap at Robotnik and the craft explodes and a red faced Robotnik leaves via the bottom of the screen. The credits roll, Sonic is shown running and bouncing through each of the lands/zones, finally he is returned to Green Hill Zone running from right to left until he is in a closed area with two floating platforms, giant flowers and lots of small mammals and birds. Sonic stops looks towards the player, wags his right index finger jumps towards the screen. Sonic has finished his journey and so has the player. The player can choose to play again experiencing the same story, maybe at a faster pace, maybe collecting more gold rings at receiving a higher score at the end of each zone, or perhaps losing all of his lives/chances halfway through the journey. The game remains the same; the story is different. The players experience recollected is the Player Narrative and it is different for every player. The amount of time a person might need sacrifice to play a game till its end can be vast, it is dependant on the skill of the player, the intended length of the games story the number of stages and the ability to persevere failed attempts and continue to retry.

Mass Effect 3 is termed a third person action role playing game. To correctly classify Mass Effect 3 the term has to be taken apart.

  • Third person: The game is played with camera behind the character controlled by the player. This places the player as the third person, controlling the character but never seeing the world through the characters eyes. The second person is represented by all other in game characters.
  • Role Playing Game (RPG):Mass Effect 3 is a westernised RPG, which in brief; originates from table top role play games in which the results of activities such as combat are determined by the role of dice. The alternative would have been the Japanese RPG (JRPG) in which combat and similar event are determined by Roshambo also known as Rock-paper-scissors. RPGs typically task the player with saving a society from a great threat with most of narrative journey separated from the battles, but involving the player in character events such as sleeping, eating and socialising.
  • Action: According to the Oxford dictionary an informal definition of action is an exciting or notable activity.
  • Traditionally RPGs contain lengthy narrative that require little to no reflexive actions allowing the player to wonder throughout the games world at their leisure. An action role playing game attempts combine the urgency of game such asPac-Man, Space Invaders (1978) or Sonic the Hedgehog with the player involvement of sleeping, eating, socialising and wandering.

Having sacrificed forty seven hours and eleven minutes in an effort to experience the end Mass Effect 3, the third game in a trilogy; and thus the end of narrative that in my experience has spanned 135 hours; I feel confident in stating that the sacrifice was beneficial, for me.

The game is set in the year 2183 CE, 35 years after humans discovered the ruins of an ancient spacefaring race called the Protheanson Mars. With the technology from these ruins, humanity learned the secrets of mass effect physics and element zero, unlocking faster-than-light travel. Humans also discovered the mass relay network that threaded the galaxy, permitting instantaneous passage across thousands of light-years. Humanity began its journey among the stars, encountering various alien races and establishing itself on the galactic stage.

Extract from the Plot of Mass Effect: Mass Effect Wiki

The original Mass Effect (2007) places the player in the role of Commander Shepard. The player first chooses if Shepard is male or female and then is offered the option of the default Shepard and the choice of a first name, or the player can opt to create a custom character in which they (according to the games instruction manual) can control every detail. If the player takes the latter option they are given three questions each have three possible answers. The answer to the questions effect the way other characters react to the player within the game, the characters phycological profile and the class of fighter he or she will be. There are six classes available to the player, the first three allowed individual specialism in combat, tech and biotic classes. In general terms they can be read as warrior, engineer and mage respectively. The remaining classes are combinations of the initial three. The final stage before commencing the start of the game is facial customisation which to paraphrase from the instruction manual, allows for the creation of a unique face for the character, the entire face or focus on specific area using the sliders to adjust a range of facial details.

The player has been asked to make make an investment in the character even before the game has begun. The player has been given the option to create a person that may or may not resemble the player, but has to be human the player is not being offered the opportunity to have the experience as any character other than one from a human position. If the player chooses to create a face similar to their own or not, the length of the game allows the player to become very familiar with their Shepard creation.

A reading of the instruction manual alludes to how the game should be approached and of what was to be expected of the player in term of investment and the sacrifice of time.

The cinematic, choice-based dialogue in Mass Effect lets you fine-tune your character and story using the conversation wheel at the bottom of your screen.

Choices on the wheel’s left let you explore a conversation in-depth, while choices on the right tend to move the conversation to completion.

The top of the wheel typically corresponds to the Paragon path, where your character makes selfless, cooperative decisions. The bottom of the wheel generally corresponds to the Renegade path, where your character is more aggressive and hostile.

When you spend Talent points on Charm and Intimidate talents, new options appear on the wheel’s left that may help conversation outcomes later. Charm options appear in blue text. Intimidate options appear in red. (See Talents on p. 28 to learn more.)

Click your response to play it in a cinematic style. As soon as the conversation wheel appears, you can select your response. Your character speaks the line at the dramatically appropriate time.

Extract from Mass Effect Instruction Manual page 10.

The player is being asked to perceive Shepard as both their creation and their avatar. As a creation Shepard is a toy or ornament to be looked at and admired in world of galactic politics and amorous aliens. As an avatar Shepard is the vessel which transports decisions of the player in to the game, the response of the in-game characters towards Shepard are to be read by the player as a response to the player as if they were Shepard. Shepard is not simply to be looked at but to be considered, to be respected, to be valid. The player as Shepard will be making decisions that will impact the world of Mass Effect uniquely for as each player can make their own Shepard, each player can make their own decisions. With Shepard each player is of impactful, each player is unique and each player is valid. The player sacrifices forty hours of leisure time and in return is made to feel responsible for an entire galaxy.

The players sacrifice created neither goods, nor wealth, nor new elements of any kind outside of the game so the player must have been playing and thus received what was awarded to him from spending the money he earned by working that would allow him to purchase the game and enjoy his leisure time. Except this did not happen. Playing the game produced response from the player, if the player liked the game he would tell somebody about and perhaps they would purchase a copy, if so then the playing of the game produced wealth for games maker and the games merchant. The players feeling of validity would affect the players future purchases, Mass Effect 2 (2010) and Mass Effect 3 (2012) take the players decisions from the original Mass Effect in to consideration and each game changes accordingly allowing the player to feel that the actions he made with Shepard in the first game have affected the characters he has met in the third. This has allowed the player to feel valued as a customer and led to what Entertainment Weekly touted as one of the pop culture events the of the year,

with announced shipping figures of 3.5 Million to retail outlets ‘around the world’. The phenomena is that there has been a backlash against the scripted ending of the game. Those complaining feel that there should have been more variety to the endings, one fan of the series made a complaint to the United States Federal Trade Commission, El_Spiko stated ‘Against EA. After reading through the list of promises about the ending of the game they made in their advertising campaign and PR interviews, it was clear that the product we got did not live up to any of those claims.’

The reaction from El_Spiko and others is understandable, but it is not anger at the product or the producer that has caused anger it is the lack of language.

Shane: so when it's time for to tea, do you have to put everything away?

Isaac: no we leave it out.

Shane: till the next day?

Isaac: yeah.

Shane: so you mum doesn't make you put it away?

Isaac: only when guests are around and that's like every two days!

Shane: (laughs)

Isaac: it's really annoying though...

Luke: we're, we're not allowed to go the computer on those days!

Extract from Isaac and Luke Observation

I can not imagine Isaac and Luke feeling as betrayed with Lego as consumers have claimed to have felt with Mass Effect 3. The children play with their toys, they connect with characters and they place ambitions on future play whilst considering their present and previous experiences. The players of the Mass Effect trilogy of games have played with the toys of character creation, plotting the trajectory of a space ship and customising dangerous weapons. The players of Mass Effect have connected with characters forming both fragile and passionate relationships. The players of Mass Effect placed ambitions of future play whilst considering their past and present experiences. What happened to make the adults who are in charge of the purchase decisions and the administrators of their own leisure time act like they were treated unfairly? Seemingly the adults should be mature enough to make a purchase and critique their experience without the need to channel their anger at the provider of their experience. However if Isaac and Luke’s play time is removed they are “putout” to the extent that they will complain to a relative stranger who they are aware is making a record of everything that they say. The is an obvious metaphor here, the boys’ complaint is both public and covered with amenity as they will never meet anyone who has access to the records, and if they do, the boys are children and as such are absolved from all unintended harm their comments might cause. The children are unable to express their feelings as anything other than annoyance. Their submission to their parents is not due to an understanding of their parents activities but simply that their parents require them to put the Lego away and play not play.

The unhappy game consumer has submitted to the regulations of a capitalist society. They have sacrificed time, money and more time. This pattern is repeated each time they purchase a game. If the consumer is unhappy with the experience, repeating it is redundant, yet the consumer is looking for validation. The consumer demands validation. Without validation the consumer feels rejected, the consumer followed the rules, submitted to the demands required to proceed and is expecting their reward, as evidence that their submission is valued that they are worthy of validation.

Throughout this piece I have spoken about the mechanics of play. These mechanics are built upon the languages that we have learnt through interacting with one another over the past three millennia. For some reason we do not not seem to be able to develop our languages to include love and compassion for one another; we mimic and pattern ourselves on all of our experiences. We find comfort in rules, if we find ourselves in a situation without rules we create them and determine punishments for breaking them.

Children understand the language of play, the player understands the language of games, the consumer understands the language of capitalism; they understand the rules. When rules are not followed they are confused, they lose confidence in their ability to communicate and are unable to express their feelings as anything other than annoyance, waiting for someone to be punished.

S. Gibson 2012

April 23 2012


Heavy Battalion; Steel Armour

'Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.'

(Ephesians 6:11. KJV)

From Software's recently released Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour has been received unfavourably by the mass majority of the 'gaming press', the only positive reviews were from the Microsoft endorsed Official Xbox Magazine and its American affiliate. Metacritic only consider one of these to actually be positive, but Metacritic opts to turn all review scores in to a percentage causing a contrast between the English publication which scores with whole numbers over the US publications fractional rankings.

The reading of some of these reviews does lead to more positive comments about game, but each positive review is followed by user comments aggressively unhappy with the idea that that someones opinion would differ from the majority. There is a disheartening amount of negativity not just from consumers but also employed journalists who have seem to taken the idea that the game is not what they want it to be as a personal attack on them. Brad Shoemaker's review highlights his own problem of not feeling connected to the game via the Kinect stating that it is unreliable.

It's frustrating enough to play a game that flat-out refuses to behave properly, but in Steel Battalion's life-or-death situations, it's absolutely unforgivable that you can't always do exactly what you want to do when you want to do it.

Brad Shoemaker June 19 2012

The question to ask here is should we be able would be able to do everything we want to do when we want to do it?

Whilst playing Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour you are placed in the role of pilot. A pilot who has a history of piloting the vertical tank. As a pilot you would not be flailing you hands around in an effort to use instruments, you would know which ones to use, and when to use them.

(The Kinect setup within my home is a simple one, problems only regularly occur between midday and five in the afternoon as the sun travels.) But the complications of playing with Kinect are not inevitable, it not a lack of technology but a lack of understanding the physical language between the user and the screen.

We are able to move within our world, forwards, backwards, side to side, around in a circle, jump and crouch. In fact the only movement we can not make is in to the world of the screen. The game screen is a window to a possibly endless number of worlds, but the closest we can come to experiencing these worlds is through the holding of a button, stick, or stylus based input device. Kinect has all the capabilities required to put a person in to these worlds, but not physically. As in all games the player is represented by an avatar (and as such a representation for both himself and the character) except the avatar can be the player. The players face is recognised, as is the colour of his clothes, the length of his hair and the shape of his waistline. The Kinect sees everything visible via its 3 cameras. The Kinect knows everything the player is doing, notices another person joining the player it even listens to the conversation that they have.

The Kinect is not capable of effecting the players world. It can not alter the natural light allowed in to the playing area, it can not move the player, it can not reposition itself in to another corner of the room.

The Kinect is simply a way to communicate with the software that the player is using. Like a control pad or a joy stick theKinect is reliant on the player knowing understanding the language of the software. If a player does not acknowledge that the 'A' button allows the games protagonist to jump, the control pad is not at fault for the players failure to make a jump to safety in the game which the player was playing. Likewise if a player does not physically jump or pose when required, it is not the fault of the Kinect that the player is not communicating with the software.

So is it the fault of the software? Not really.

The players ability to interact with the software and with the Kinect is dictated by the screen. This is always in two dimensions, it is closed window. You maybe able to see someone through a closed window, you can communicate by waving or shouting, they maybe able to follow commands that you give them, but that is the limit of your interactivity. You can not touch them you can not manipulate their environment other than through gestures. Of course they can not touch you, you can not feel each other. If you walk out of the sight of the window that person know you are there but is unable to show you they effect you commands have on them. Kinect is not capable of showing you what effect you have in a game if you are not in view of the screen.

The complaints levied against both Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour and Kinect come from an area that it does not cover, the Kinect was never intended to show you your behind, Steel Battalion: Heavy Armour was not intended to wipe your behind.

The game offers a great example of showing you exactly what the Kinect is capable of. Your view of the action whilst in the cockpit of the VT is small glass window, you place both hands towards your TV screen to get a closer look, as the pilot you are never able to physically touch the outside of the window whilst you simply make a gestures and issue commands, to walk and target and shoot via the the control pad in your hands. Unless focused the player can find themselves franticly moving hands and swinging their arms while trying to decide how to hold the control pad if at all whilst trying to get a peak out the small window.

Your Armour is directly in front of you, you peak through the visor but your behind (as well as your sides), are completely uncovered, leaving your squad mates as your only form of protection, when your alone you have no protection.

For Kinect to place the player fully in the world would require more screens, and even then the Kinect would simply be the visor in the armour.