NooBTooB BooK CluB: Everything Bad is Good For You
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    Ok folks, we're gonna try a new segment and see what sort of interest it gets on our forums. We usually have some sort of cultural topic each episode which comes from one of our users voicemail, but this week we wanted to see if we could go a little further and cover some of the more scholarly work that's been done with video games.

    The way it works will be similar to the Retro Gaming Club. Two weeks at a time, with the first week so you guys can find a copy and start reading it, and then the next week to discuss it.

    Steven Johnsons book is a great study on the three main pop culture mediums, tv, movies, and video games and how they're all beneficial and have been making people smarter. If you're tired of hearing all the politicians try to turn video games into the new evil, read the section on video games if you read anything this summer. Find a copy at your local library, or get it off Amazon for $11:

    amazon

    Yw - don't worry, no crazy affiliate links.
  • cool, i was looking for gaming related books, as was denoted by my post about them :) just picked this up for £2.83, used, from amazon, thats about $5.50 :) so even if i don't like it then their isnt much i have lost :D
  • I actually read this book a while ago, as it was recommended during one of my writing classes at The Second City.

    Johnson makes a compelling argument for the growing complexity of entertainment media... that the audience is a lot more willing to keep multiple threads (of plot) in their minds than in the past, and I feel this effect is obvious in the gaming community.

    Look at the evolution of plot in games: take the plot of Super Mario Bros or Double Dragon--girl kidnapped?=kill everything--and compare it to the complexity of plot in RPGs like the Final Fantasy series or the KOTOR series, or a game like Fable (where your choices effect the plot), or even FPSs like Halo 2--which has a plot growing in complexity and depth from even the first game of the series, even though it's still a game where you just go around shooting stuff. It is obvious that video games themselves have grown in complexity over the past fifteen to twenty years.

    Whether a gamer's willingness to allow increased complexity into their games means that gamers are "smarter" is up to interpretation. One need only be fragged by a high-schooler over XBox Live to hear that some gamers will never be smart.
  • just picked up a copy from my library, will start reading it soon.
  • just ordered it, and it should be here in a few days.
  • going to head out to my library tomor and see if they have it.
  • i read the video game section a couple years ago, and used it to write an english paper :D

    i borrowed it from a friend, so i'll check if he still has it.. i may finish the rest
  • I'm really glad to see so many of you picking up this book!

    Please feel free to start discussing it here in the forums during the week as you start reading it. Next week's episode Yuzo and I will have a section discussing it, but we'd really love to hear your thoughts, and incorporate them into the episode.
  • just ordered it now off play.com 4.99 pound, quite cheap. sounds quite interesyting, i will probably not read it lol i hardly ever finish n e books, the only books i have finished lately are harry potter (i know there for kids but they pwn).
  • Gonna go grab it from borders tomorrow to read while I'm on a trip.
  • i found a great deal on it. for all those who live in canada, you can order it online for 6 bucks canadian on the chapters (the bookstore) website. now theres no reason any canadian shouldnt buy this book
  • im going to get it a week from nwo since my bookstore didnt have it and so i asked the guy behind the counter he said he can order it and hold it for me also my dad asked how long its going to take he said about a week so im going to have to call them a week from now
  • I started reading this evening and so far am enjoying it. I haven't got very far yet, but have come across the part about how a significant part of gaming isn't actually fun, but frustrating. The idea of games being instant gratification is, when you think about it, not always true. The best rewards are the ones you've worked hard for.
  • well, i got it, started reading it and im loving it. the way he explains everything puts it into a way that even a non gamer would understand it. i really recomend it and thing that everyone else should get it too. now i wonder how the next one could top it.
  • mine is in the post as we speak and will arrive probably tomrrow.
  • I've finished the gaming section (isn't it convenient that it's at the very beginning of the book?) and I must say it has changed my perspective of games fundamentally. Yuzo was totally right: I am now fully equipped to argue the case for the benefits of gaming.

    As a physicist, experimentation played a big part of my education, and yet somehow I missed the connection with the way games encourage you to explore a new world and discover its rules. Johnson's idea of the "physics" of the world reaching beyond how strong the gravity is and how good the lighting techniques are, to more fundamental gameplay aspects like "in this world, it is possible to maintain the airborne nature of a corpse by repeatedly shooting it with rockets" is fascinating. What's weird is that half-way through reading the chapter, I suddenly thought to myself "I'm going to play Oblivion."

    It does ask the question, though, of what benefits there are for games outside the Zelda-esque examples Johnson uses; games in which it's not about experimenting with the world in order to get round obstacles to progress. Puzzlers have obvious benefits in metal dexterity, and RTS games teach complex resource management and task prioritising (no matter how much Tobin might hate that). Racing sims probably encourage the ethos of rote learning and repeated practice.

    But actually, all those examples do share the probing aspect of Zelda, just in more subtle ways. Ways which aren't directly necessary to progress (How do I get this boulder out of my way?), but are part and parcel of getting better at the game. Is it a good idea to send my scouts to that far strategic point, or will that just get them killed? Maybe I should wait and give them some backup. Can I go that little bit faster round corner 4? Is there enough time to queue up the rest of the blocks before the chain reaction starts?

    That's the amazing thing about Johnson's idea. It applies almost everywhere you look for it.
  • just bought the book, it looks great!
  • gameaddiction said:
    just bought the book, it looks great!


    and it is. its well written, and i dont know how many people i told to read it, but it was alot of people
  • Jam Enslaver said:
    Johnson's idea of the "physics" of the world reaching beyond how strong the gravity is and how good the lighting techniques are, to more fundamental gameplay aspects like "in this world, it is possible to maintain the airborne nature of a corpse by repeatedly shooting it with rockets" is fascinating. What's weird is that half-way through reading the chapter, I suddenly thought to myself "I'm going to play Oblivion."


    Hah, that's awesome. I would probably think to play Crackdown myself though :).

    But yeah, I love how gaming is all about making decisions, seeing the results, and making different decisions based off that. It really is science in action, and the ability of that sort of action to rub that little spot in our brain that triggers the "oh, I just figured something out" is one of the best parts of gaming.

    I also like his point that a lot of gaming involves learning the rules of the game. It's that sort of mechanic that draws me to big sim games like Civilization or SimCity. I'm guessing Tobin doesn't have a receptor for that kind of bit which is why he hates them so much..

    Yw
  • Got the book this morning, i have got to the reality tv bit so far, so i have read teh gaming chapter and i have to say it was very interesting to read, i thought i would read a bit and get bored like majority of other books i read but i am very interested on his views and i am gonna read it all.
  • Jam Enslaver said:

    It does ask the question, though, of what benefits there are for games outside the Zelda-esque examples Johnson uses; games in which it's not about experimenting with the world in order to get round obstacles to progress. Puzzlers have obvious benefits in metal dexterity, and RTS games teach complex resource management and task prioritising (no matter how much Tobin might hate that). Racing sims probably encourage the ethos of rote learning and repeated practice.


    Excellent post, Jam Enslaver... noobie for you!

    But I would like to add something to your post that might not be immediately apparent to 'gamers' like us. You mention wondering about the benefits of non-Zelda-esque games... whether one still has to do the same 'mental gymnastics' in other games. As such, for you, allow me a brief anecdote:

    My girlfriend--who is not a "gamer"--and I were recently playing through Halo (the original, because she loves the Assault Rifle). Even a world which is fairly linear to most gamers provokes a "where do we go next?" from those who aren't seasoned gamers. Johnson even talks about it in his book--that non-gamers are almost constantly feeling lost, wondering which way to go next... and if the way to go will even ever become apparent: will I be lost forever? they wonder. As such, I feel that even in games without puzzles, the non-gamer may have to experiment with and in the world to move forward in the game.

    Furthermore, she needed to only run out of ammo once before she started taking better account of her resources--making sure she had enough ammo became her priority, and she learned to use unlimited ammo (on the Warthog or in a turret) whenever possible to conserve her ammunition.

    My point, of course, is to make sure that gamers recognize the benefits not just of the complicated, time-consuming games that we love... but also the simpler, more straight-forward games that can offer a challenge to less skilled players.
  • i lol'd on page 136 (in my version)where johnson writes the games he thinks actually make you smarter are god sims and sports games so basicly games tobin snores at lol.
  • this has just arrived at my house :/ that took ages considering i ordered it as soon as this topic went up :S Moving house this week, so won't have much chance of reading it in the next few days, but will try and get through it by wednesday and will let you all know what i thought of it
  • Great discussion. I'm buying this for my m0m. XD
  • I didn't get a chance to read the book but I did have a total déjà vu moment.

    In WoW I was a leatherworker and I would earn money by selling them to the keepers. So I was totally using a calculator and seeing if I spen tthis much money on leather and made this many leather pants I would get a profit of ?. And then I found out I could make more money putting them in the aution house.

    This was exactly what they were talking about and it would seem if you would relate this to the real world you could understand. It is total business! You make a certain profit when you buy the materials and sell them for a certain price. Alos you can find you can make a larger profit if you decide to sell to a different market.

    This is what I have learned thhrough one part of gaming.
  • yeah but dude in real life a profit and loss account is a little ore detailed than price of material and selling price. So its not helping that much because on WoW you dont have to think about things liek rent and other bills you have 1 variable cost to worry about. So i agree it may help you math but not so much your accounting skills

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