BLACKBOX / WHITEBOX

by Kyle Bickoff Over the course of Day 2 we took a close look at game cartridges—rather, we dissected cartridges. After opening up the NES cartridge we then removed the chips on the card that store the contents of the game. We then extracted the contents off the chips, transferred them via a universal controller device via USB to a laptop, merged the files, edited them, rewrote them to writeable chips and then ran our modified game on an NES. I summarize our work today because it describes a methodology that very much resists a term I’ve written on previously—that term is the black box. The black box typically refers to a system in which the data is input into...

Limitations

By Ashlee Bird Having only ever viewed the world of hacking from an extreme distance, today was nothing short of a revelation. While I mentioned in my previous blog post that I want to pursue Gitelman’s insistence on dissecting a particular medium before analyzing its contents, today’s workshop brought into perspective just how intensive that task actually is, if it is to be done with any kind of serious depth. Simply analyzing the code of Super Mario Bros. (SMB) in our attempt to change the text “Mario” to “Nerds” was not only achieved through much trial and error on our part, but had additionally been prefaced by a 30 minute intensive lecture on hexadecimals, their chronology, and the effects that...

Hacking as Feminine

by Bailey Kelley In thinking about ways of putting today’s (incredibly fun and not nearly long enough) workshop in conversation with my project, I quickly made an analogous connection between learning to hack and learning to cook. First, each calls for (if not necessitates) explicit training from either knowledgeable individuals or other resources, and the feelings of gratification that I’ve experienced from even small successes in both fields are remarkably similar. Second, a student needs not only the proper ingredients (fresh vegetables, the right cut of meat, a working NES cartridge), but also the proper implements (pans and whisks, screwdrivers and soldering irons). Different dishes or projects require a vast diversity of ingredients, but specific implements may be useful to...

Rom Hacking and Legibility

In Tuesday’s workshop, we explored (and hacked) a variety of NES cartridges. We traced Super Mario Bros. from its material allocation on the PRG and CHR banks of its cartridge to its playable, modifiable instantiation on a windows emulator. The second half of the workshop offered a rich set of code reading and code producing tools to break, tweak and explore our super mario bros. roms. In this short probe, I’m going to think through the affordances of writing with these tools. We started our workship with this video of code-bending. The asemic substitutions of ram glitching contort the game beyond human legibility, and yet, the game still runs. to watch them slip so casually out of domains of human understanding...

/ August 3, 2016

Invisible Material: How Material Media Archaeology Illustrates Missing Voices

by Jaime Kirtz * This post is in response to Hertz and Parikka’s essay, “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method” as well as a day spent desoldering, modding and working with vintage video game cartridges and chips.    In their paper, “Zombie Media: Circuit Bending Media Archaeology into an Art Method,” scholars Garnet Hertz and Jussi Parikka designate the term ‘zombie media’ to obsolete or ‘dead’ media that is “revitalized, brought back to use, reworked” (2012, p.425). Precedents for zombie media, such as projects like “The Edison Effect” by Paul DeMarinis, exemplify the intersections between engineering and art that remix, reuse and reappropriate purpose, context and use of various technologies/media (Hertz and Parikka, 2012, p.249). Hertz...

Storyworld Spatiality

by Becky Anderson Recently I read Colin B. Harvey’s Fantastic Transmedia: Narrative, Play, and Memory Across Science Fiction and Fantasy Storyworlds and I was immediately enamored. It examines the manner in which several storyworld franchises engage with and extend across various media platforms to attract and heighten the interest of their respective audiences and fan bases. It contains a chapter that addresses the recent Jackson film adaptations of Tolkien’s universe. Since my initial encounter with the text, I’ve been working through some questions about how spatiality and place-making factor into the adaptation of a Secondary World with a specific focus on game-based adaptations of Middle-earth. As such, this week I’d like to consider and begin to dig into the tropes of medievalism that...

Ctrl + S for Save

by Kyle Bickoff “Ctrl + S.” “Save Progress.” “Are you sure you would like to overwrite the current saved game on the memory card?” There are a significant amount of different methods for ‘saving’ games, progress, high scores, saved game states. Some saved games physically ‘write’ this information to internal memory, while other games require the user to manually transcribe a serial number, oftentimes returning the played game to a certain ‘checkpoint’ in the middle of a game. Not all games ‘save’ by the same means—there are many different ways the software of games permits this. In regards to hardware—sometimes this memory is written to very small internal memory chips in the handheld game cartridge, buried in the arcade cabinet,...

The Politics of the Archive

by Jaime Kirtz I begin with the question: what are the politics of space (i.e. public and private) and how do they emerge in the university? How is it related to the archive? The politics of space have long been discussed throughout different academic displicines from political economy to architecture to visual arts. The history of the politics of space is established in the book, The Politics of Space and Play, with the first sentence through which the authors state: “in a world characterized by deep-seated, growing inequalities and highly asymmetrical concentrations of wealth and power, it hardly seems necessary to insist that the spaces through which we move and the places in which we live are thoroughly political, if...

Ingress as a Media Archaeology Artifact

by Kaitlin O’Brien After my initial decision to pursue death imagery in older games, I have decided to shift in a different direction and to instead focus my blogs on the augmented reality game (ARG), Ingress. Yesterday’s discussion left me with a lot to think about, and I realized that in many ways, components of Ingress are rooted heavily in media archaeology. Over the next week, I aim to delve into Ingress and explore its manifestations of socio-cultural imagery within the game. Ingress is a mobile game rich, with a narrative that heavily supports its gameplay mechanics. How does embodiment relate to Ingress? Game players, known in this game as agents, are applying their physical bodies to this augmented reality...

Cinema and the SNES

By Ashlee Bird After a brief conversation with Professor Boluk yesterday, I have made the decision to change the research topic that I will pursue this week. While I do wish to pursue a study of education based games and the relationship between the communities that produce them and the communities that they successfully reach, I believe that particular topic does not adequately utilize the resources at hand during this workshop. Therefore, I got to thinking about to types of games and tech that I will have access to this week, and I started thinking about the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES). A particular genre of games for the SNES that I remember having in abundance when I was a...