A Note from the Editor

By Kaetz, James P. | Phi Kappa Phi Forum, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

A Note from the Editor


Kaetz, James P., Phi Kappa Phi Forum


IN THIS ISSUE

I probably have said this before in this space, but it is worth repeating: I love computers. I love what they can do and what they allow us to do. When I became editor just twelve years ago, the World Wide Web was still in its infancy. If we wanted to contact a potential author and did not know where that author was located, our only recourse was to call the publisher of the author's book, a process that often resulted in ignored voice-mail messages or a refusal to provide that information. Now, one can simply put the name in a search engine and invariably find a Web site at the author's university or organization that will have all the contact information that we need. In rare cases, we have even located authors simply by searching in a nationwide telephone database. Admittedly, this ease of finding out information via the Internet is a little frightening, too--but it does make our lives easier.

All that said, before we decided to do this issue I knew virtually nothing about computer/video games. I am not even a good pinball player, so you know that my skills in the few computer games that I have tried are abysmal. Yet when I see other people play them, I am absolutely fascinated by their realism, and I envy the skill and patience that it takes to master them. Because video games are often seen as the "bad guys" in the computer world, the purveyors of mindless violence, we decided to go beyond the surface impression by letting some of the people who work with, create, and teach the creation of such games tell us about their experiences. The result has been an issue in which we have all learned quite a bit about games and those who play and create them.

To lead off, Jon Skinner of Southern Methodist University's Guildhall program (described as "an intensive eighteen-month certificate program in digital-game development") takes us through the complex process of creating a computer game. Skinner describes the careful planning and teamwork that it takes to put together a computer game, including those who conceive of the idea, manage the project, the coders, the artists, and so on. Donald Marinelli then tells us how he went from being a professor of drama to co-director of Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center. In the process, he relates what he has learned from designers and players of games, how he had to open his mind to a world view very foreign to his own.

John Borland and Brad King next tell us about the world of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs), the descendants of games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Borland and King talk about how tens of thousands of people all across the world will communicate and work cooperatively to solve puzzles and reveal a game's secrets--a reality almost completely unlike the stereotype of the bloodshot-eyed gamer sitting in isolation in front of a screen for hours on end.

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