Author: John David Flores

The Panopticon in my Bedroom: The Role of Prison Discipline in Video Gaming in the 21st Century. (Part I and II)

Editor’s Note: This treatise is in no way intended as an attack on the gaming industry, community, or culture. BOOM Salad is both honored and privileged to consider itself a card-carrying member of all three. However critical or controversial the conclusions of this paper, as revealed in Part II, they are motivated by three goals: 1) To dispel the myth that these games are simply ‘childish diversions’; 2) Admit publicly that the rating system is toothless and therefore, of little or no consequence. And finally, 3) As willing participants and a mature community, gamers have a responsibility to protect future gamers: our little sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, grandchildren, etc. from harm in the ever-evolving phenomena we call “gaming”. That these risks to young players exist is well-documented. That we can do something about it, is not. This essay is an effort to begin that process responsibly and respectfully to all involved. In the end, it is our sincere hope that you may enjoy it. -BOOM.

Figure 1 Battlefield 4: Operation Locker: Enemies raining down on me in a bombed-out Panopticon.

Figure 1 Battlefield 4: Operation Locker: Enemies raining down on me in a bombed-out Panopticon.

“…at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy… They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible.” – Michel Foucault describing Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon prison design, Discipline and Punish, 1975.

Video games have been a part of my life since my childhood days growing up in Silicon Valley during the mid to late-seventies. I can still remember playing the first video game console, PC, and arcade games that would become the genesis of the video game revolution of the late-20th century.

But at a certain point, just like my Wolverine comics, “blue” my baby blanket, and my horde of football, baseball, and basketball cards, I gave it up for something better: girls. Afterwards, I played video games only sparingly and mostly solitaire and chess. Thus, the feeling of play never matched the fond memories I have of a youth misspent in the darkened, cavern-like, mall arcade circa 1982 (see Figure 2). Continue reading

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El “Panóptico” en mi cuarto: El papel de la disciplina penitenciaria en los videojuegos del siglo 21. Parte I y II.

Nota del Jefe: El objetivo de este tratado no es de ninguna manera atacar la industria, la comunidad, ni la cultura del juego. Al contrario, es un honor y privilegio para Boom Salad ser un miembro pleno de las tres. Cuan críticas o controvertidas que sean las conclusiones de este ensayo como se expone en la segunda parte, son motivadas por tres objetivos: 1) destruir el mito de que estos juegos son simplemente “diversiones infantiles,” 2) admitir públicamente que el sistema de valoración no es más que un tigre sin dientes y por tanto de poca o ninguna consecuencia, y por último, 3) como una comunidad de participantes voluntarios y maduros, estos jugadores tienen la responsabilidad de proteger a los futuros jugadores: nuestras hermanas menores y nuestros hermanos menores, las hijas y los hijos, los nietos, etc., de los peligros del fenómeno en constante desarrollo que llamamos el “juego de video.” Son bastante documentados estos peligros para los jugadores jóvenes. Por otro lado, no está bien documentado el hecho de que podemos hacer algo para resolver este problema. Entonces, este ensayo es un esfuerzo para empezar ese proceso de una manera respetuosa y responsable para todos los participantes. Al fin y al cabo, esperamos sinceramente que ustedes lo disfruten.

 

Figure 1 Battlefield 4: Operation Locker: Enemies raining down on me in a bombed-out Panopticon.

Figura 1 Battlefield 4 (Campo de Entrenamiento 4): Operación “Locker”: Los enemigos me caen de todas partes en un Panóptico bombardeado

“… en la periferia, un edificio anular; en el centro, una torre; esta torre es agujereada de ventanas anchas que abren al lado interior del anillo; el edificio periférico es dividido en dos celdas, cada cual extiende la anchura entera del edificio; tienen dos ventanas, una adentro que se corresponde con las de la torre; la otra de afuera permite que la luz atraviese por la celda de un lado al otro. Entonces todo lo que falta es colocar a un supervisor en la torre central y encerrar en cada celda un loco, un paciente, un condenado, un trabajador o colegial…Son como tantas jaulas, tantos teatros pequeños en los cuales cada personaje está solo, perfectamente individualizado y constantemente visible.” – Michel Foucault al describir Panopticon prison design, escrito por Jeremy Bentham, Discipline and Punish, 1975.

Los videojuegos han sido parte de mi vida desde mi niñez en Silicon Valley, empezando desde mediados, continuando hasta finales de los años setenta. Todavía recuerdo jugar al primer videojuego de consola, de PC y las maquinitas, que luego se desarrollaron en la cúspide de la revolución de videojuegos a finales del siglo XX.

En un momento dejé de jugar videojuegos, tal como lo hice con las tirascómicas Wolverine, “blue”, mi manta de bebé, y mi colección de tarjetas de fútbol americano, béisbol y de baloncesto, por algo mejor: las muchachas. Después de eso, jugaba los videojuegos sólo y con moderación, sobre todo el juego de tarjetas solitario y el ajedrez. Así, la sensación de jugar nunca ha sido la misma que habita en mis memorias de una juventud malgastada en la oscuridad como la de la cueva del mall arcade alrededor de 1982 (véase Figura 2).

Continue reading

The Battlefield Efficiency Rating (BER): How Much BOOM Salad Do You Create?

Battlefield 1943

The rule of the Kill/Death regime begins.

Since the days of Battlefield 1943, (and even earlier, if we go back to Battlefield’s PC-only origin), the “Kill-Death” ratio has long ruled the bombed-out wastelands of the Battlefield universe without pity, and rightfully so. Fighter games were built upon the fundamental duality of Killing versus Dying. Thus, whether it is represented in the brutal, graphic harmony of games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, or in the head spinning, make you want to vomit, flight-fighters like the immortal Red Baron franchise: Kill and Death are Yin and Yang, the essence of all fighters (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Typical game score summary. Note the K and D at the top alongside the total score and rank.

Figure 1 Typical game score summary. Kills and Deaths are prominent.

But times are changing. There are a lot of ways to make BOOM Salad, and the role of Kill versus Death, while still the KING of the First Person Shooter (FPS), is no longer adequate as the only assessment of a player’s effectiveness on the Battlefield, not since the emergence of what I call the “killing machine (see Figure 2).”

Figure 2 The rise of the "killing machine.”

Figure 2 The rise of the “killing machine.”

This type of player is easily represented, and perhaps unfairly so, by the sniper lying camouflaged by rock, 400 meters away from the frontlines, loading up on their Kill/Death and Spotting scores. He may die once a round, but his Kills will be way up there. Even more deadly, are the jet or helicopter fighters who have no airborne rivals and populate servers where the infamous twins, IGLA and her sister STINGER, are banned. These, “killing machines,” be they on the ground or in the air can dominate a round-squad score without blinking their eyes (and I mean that literally, see Figure 3).

Figure 3 "...can dominate a round-squad score without blinking an eye."

Figure 3 “…can dominate a round-squad score without blinking an eye.”

Killing machines” may have high Kills versus Deaths but their contribution to the winning or losing, my definition for “Battle Effectiveness” is suspect. This leads us to the notion of quality kills and, even more controversially, quality deaths. Continue reading

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