New Acquisitions

Library publishes ‘Homer in Print’ catalogue

Homer in Print: A Catalogue of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana at the University of Chicago Library, is now available for consultation or check out at the Library and for purchase from the University of Chicago Press.

Homer in Print cover

Homer in Print cover art. Jacket design by Jerry Kelly, using a roundel by Bruce Rogers from his 1932 edition of the Odyssey.

Homer in Print traces the print transmission and literary reception of the Iliad and the Odyssey from the 15th through the 20th century. Over 175 mini-essays provide new details of each included edition’s textual, intellectual, and publishing history. Three long-form essays contributed by scholars Glenn W. Most and David Wray, and collector M. C. Lang,  place these editions within a wider context, exploring their role in ancient and modern philology, translation studies, and the history of printing. An extensive and strikingly illustrated testament to the power and popularity of Homer over the past 500 years, Homer in Print is an essential text for students and teachers of classics, classical reception, comparative literature, and book history. This volume, a product of new research and sharp scholarship, evidences Homer’s ability to captivate the imaginations of poets, editors, and readers throughout the centuries.

Edited by Glenn W. Most and Alice Schreyer and published by the University of Chicago Library, the Homer in Print catalogue and the collection it documents provide the foundation for the upcoming exhibition Homer in Print: The Transmission and Reception of Homer’s Works, on view at the Special Collections Research Center from January 13 to March 15, 2014.

Online access to The Times of India

Times of India masthead.The University of Chicago Library now provides online access to the historical backfile of The Times of India, one of the Subcontinent’s most important English-language newspapers.  Library users can browse single issues and search all content (articles, editorials, and advertisements) published 1838-2003.

 A link to the resource is available at here.  Coverage includes: Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce (1838-1859), The Bombay Times and Standard (1860-1861), and The Times of India (1861-2003).

This new resource will be of interest across all disciplines.  Social scientists and humanists will value the coverage of events from the late stages of the East India Company through colonial and into post-colonial India.  It is a valuable resource for the study of law, business, economics, the arts, popular culture, international relations, social services, and public policy, as well as the biological and physical sciences.

 Our one-year trial subscription will allow us to assess levels of usage and make the case for a permanent subscription.

 Please contact James Nye, Bibliographer for Southern Asia, or Laura Ring, Assistant Southern Asia Librarian, if you have comments on The Times of India or if you would like assistance.

Library purchases access to Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics Online

Hebrew text and name of productThe Library has purchased access to the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics, edited by Geoffrey Khan and published by Brill. Access to the online version begins immediately. Best described by the publisher, “The Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics offers a systematic and comprehensive treatment of all aspects of the history and study of the Hebrew language from its earliest attested form to the present day. The encyclopedia contains overview articles that provide a readable synopsis of current knowledge of the major periods and varieties of the Hebrew language as well as thematically-organized entries which provide further information on individual topics. With over 950 entries and approximately 400 contributing scholars, the Encyclopedia of Hebrew Language and Linguistics is the authoritative reference work for students and researchers in the fields of Hebrew linguistics, general linguistics, Biblical studies, Hebrew and Jewish literature, and related fields.” The online version allows for electronic access, full text searching and navigation between entries by hyperlinks.

Library purchases access to important digitized Tibetan texts

Tibetan Buddhist TextAs of June 6, the Library provides access to Collections 8-10 of the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC). These collections were purchased this spring with a combination of funds donated by the Library Society and the Divinity School, as well as a price reduction offered by the TBRC. With this purchase, the University community has access to all the collections available from the TBRC. Each collection consists of 1,000 volumes and covers the full range of genres and topics. The high-quality scans are zoomable and searchable. Many of the texts that have been digitized were printed in the pre-modern era, allowing users to study the physical qualities of the texts as manuscripts, and not simply its content. The volumes are available through the Center’s website for institutional subscribers and are also delivered to subscribing institutions as electronic files.

The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center (TBRC) was founded and directed by the late Dr. E. Gene Smith (1936-2010), the former Director of the Library of Congress Field Office in New Delhi and an acclaimed Tibetologist, in order “to seek out, preserve, organize, and make available Tibetan literature.”   The texts have been converted to electronic format and proofread according to very exacting standards by a staff consisting of Tibetologists and librarians. They have become the standard for research.  Image of text being scanned The Center “is dedicated to the preservation, organization and dissemination of Tibetan literature. Using the latest digital technologies, TBRC is ensuring that the treasures of this incredible body of literature will never be lost.” (www.tbrc.org)

Tibetan texts are indispensable tools for research on Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, history, ritual, art, and linguistics.   In recent years the University of Chicago has expanded its program of training in the languages of Southern Asia.   Under the direction of Matthew Kapstein, Numata Visiting Professor of the Philosophy of Religion and the History of Religions, Christian K. Wedemeyer, Associate Professor of the History of Religions, and Daniel Arnold, Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Religion, the University offers a comprehensive curriculum in Tibetan studies for both undergraduate and graduate students. For the past two years, Karma Ngodup, a native Tibetan speaker and pioneer in the use of digital tools for Tibetan language pedagogy, has lectured in beginning and intermediate modern literary and spoken Tibetan, making the University of Chicago one of a handful of institutions at which undergraduates can study Tibetan language.

Grimm Tales without Words: New takes on old tales

To supplImage from bookement the Library’s strengths in graphic novels, the Joseph Regenstein Library has recently acquired Grimms Märchen ohne Worte [Grimm’s Fairy Tales without Words] by Frank Flöthmann.  This innovative collection retells selections from the Grimm Brothers Kinder und Hausmärchen using highly stylized graphical representations.  In this collection of tales, featuring familiar tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel, all dialogue is replaced with symbols, some of which require creative interpretation but reward the reader with many amusing surprises.

grimm001 Flöthmann’s adaptation plays around with faithfulness to the original text.  For instance, in the adaptation of the Frog Prince, the princess is playing with a soccer ball rather than a golden bauble, modernizing the tale to better relate to a modern audience.  The adaptation, however, often stays true to the blood and violence of the original tales.  For example, the adaptation of Cinderella still features the mutilation of the feet of Cinderella’s stepsisters, a detail left out of many modern adaptations.

The overall collection is highly amusing with interesting twists on familiar tales.  Flöthmann has a good graphical sense and plays with panel order and graphical representation.  These adaptations highlight the importance of language to the tales in a creative way and leave the reader with new insights into these classic stories.

Special Collections Research Center acquires comic artist R. Crumb’s Jazz Trading Cards

The Special Collections Research Center has acquired a second printing copy of artist R. Crumb’s “Early Jazz Greats” trading cards, first printed in 1982 for Yazoo Records.  The set includes 36 cards featuring original images by Crumb and short biographies of early Jazz musicians, including both household names and relative unknowns.  Crumb’s love of early Jazz music comes through in his artwork, often reproduced from black and white photographs of the period.  The set includes a number of musicians with ties to Chicago like Benny Goodman, Roy Palmer and Junie C. Cobb.  Crumb followed this set with “Heroes of the Blues” and “Pioneers of Country Music”, and the set joins a number of works by Crumb in the Special Collections Research Center.

Cover of Early Jazz Greats

Benny Goodman Trading CardRoy Palmer

Eastern Hemisphere maps donated by Nokia-Siemens to Chicago, Northwestern libraries

Nokia-Siemens Networks of Arlington Heights, Illinois, has donated an extraordinary set of approximately 24,200 sheet maps to the University of Chicago Library. The maps were selected from a larger collection as part of a collaboration with Northwestern University.

Carte d'Algérie 1:25 000

Carte d’Algérie 1:25 000. A small fragment of one sheet in this multi-sheet set now held at the University of Chicago Library.

The maps are nearly all topographic maps. They show buildings and settlements, infrastructure, vegetation, hydrography, relief and, in some cases, land use. Scales range from 1:5,000 to 1:500,000. The maps date from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Many of the maps are from countries where topographic mapping is normally restricted. The collection includes, for example, local 1:50,000 maps of much of Jordan, Egypt, Algeria, and South Korea, and Soviet 1:50,000 maps of all or part of Poland, Greece, and Turkey. Even beyond the likely cost, it would be essentially impossible to recreate this collection by purchases.

The maps were originally used mostly to site cellphone towers. They were collected by Motorola before its acquisition by Nokia-Siemens Networks. According to Malcolm Matthews of Nokia-Siemens, the company began to use satellite imagery and GIS in the late 1990s rather than sheet maps. A decision was made in 2012 to offer the maps to local research libraries.

The collection is being shared with Northwestern University, with each institution receiving maps that are most appropriate for its collection. Northwestern has taken most of the maps of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and the University of Chicago Map Collection has taken most of the maps of North Africa and the Middle East, Europe, the former Soviet states, and South, Southeast, and East Asia.

With this donation, the University of Chicago Library Map Collection’s holdings of sheet maps will likely reach 460,000.  Our Map Collection has been adding approximately 2,500 sheets per year over the last decade, so taking on more than 24,000 sheets at one time represents a substantial addition. A major shift to accommodate the new maps was necessary. Its chief component was the compression of U.S. Geological Survey topographic maps to create space in the Eastern Hemisphere cases. More than 300,000 maps have been moved in the last two months.

Processing the maps is also a major task that is currently underway. It will take several months to process the maps. In the meantime, there is a rough list of acquisitions and the maps can be accessed. Researchers who need to consult this list and to access the new maps should contact me at wintersc@uchicago.edu.

As the maps are being processed, they have already found a University of Chicago user. One of the Map Collection’s student employees is writing a bachelor’s essay on Amman and is consulting a 16-sheet set of excellent 1:10,000 maps of Amman in the 1980s and 1990s. This set of maps is not held by any other library and is not for sale in Jordan.  This project suggests just the beginning of the enormous research potential the maps offer to University of Chicago faculty and students. 

Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries Online and Armed Conflict Database

The Library Society has recently funded the Library’s purchase of two new databases that have broad applications for research and study across disciplines and regions: Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries Online and Armed Conflict Database.  Each can be accessed through Lens, the Database Finder or from links on a variety of Library Guides.

Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries Online
Edited by Alexander Lubotsky

The Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries Online reconstructs the lexicon for the most important languages and language branches of Indo-European. It is a rich and voluminous online reference source for historical and general linguists. Dictionaries can be cross-searched, with an advance search for each individual dictionary enabling the user to perform more complex research queries. Each entry is accompanied by grammatical information, meanings, etymological commentary, reconstructions, cognates and often extensive bibliographical information. New content will be added on an annual basis.

The online edition includes etymological dictionaries of Latin, Greek, Slavic, Proto-Celtic, Old-Frisian, Armenian, Hittite, Luvian, the Iranian Verb, and Proto-Nostratic. Etymological dictionaries of Proto-Germanic and Persian are forthcoming. 

Armed Conflict Database

Map of armed conflicts

In order to keep up to date on conflict-related matters around the world, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) has produced the Armed Conflict Database. It is a project that aims to provide an interactive and user-friendly source of information on armed conflicts worldwide.

As with the IISS Chart of Armed Conflict, the database seeks to cover international and internal conflicts, as well as terrorism. It provides information on 70 armed conflicts, including terrorism, refugees and returnees, Internally Displaced Persons, weapons used, fatalities, historical backgrounds, annual updates and timelines.

With the Armed Conflict Database, users can generate reports and download data as well as browse through year-by-year analyses and fact sheets online. Users are able to generate reports on conflict data back to 1997 and correlate reports from various years, conflicts, regions and topics. The database includes conflict reports from 2000-2001 onwards.

New Library videogame collection

As emerging disciplines develop at the University of Chicago, the Library creates new collections and services to support them. Recent examples in the humanities include the addition of zines and poetry chapbooks made in Chicago, the expansion of the graphic novel collections, and most recently, a new collection of videogames that responds to faculty and student research needs

Adventure

Adventure (Atari VCS, 1979, Atari Inc.)

This new collection of videogames, which will soon be available for checkout from the Mansueto Library, establishes a core teaching collection for faculty and students working on transmedia, new media or comparative media studies, as well as reflecting an emerging research interest on campus in game programming, the sociology of games, videogame music, and other areas that touch on videogames, gaming and gamers. As interest develops, the collection will continue to be shaped by research and disciplinary needs as well as budgetary considerations.

The formation of the videogame collection has offered the opportunity for an exciting collaboration between the new Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts and the Library. The Logan Digital Media Center (DMC) has agreed, as part of its mission to make equipment and facilities available to University of Chicago students, staff, and faculty for artistic creation and teaching, by keeping game consoles in its Equipment Cage. They may be borrowed from the DMC according to their policies.

To retrieve videogames from Mansueto Library for checkout, Library users can locate the desired game title in the Catalog or Lens and place a retrieval request as they would for any other item in Mansueto. 

Videogame collection supports scholarly study

After several months of fascinating discussion about emerging interest in the academic study of videogames, I am overjoyed that the University of Chicago Library has acquired its first videogame collection, and that these games will soon be available for borrowing from the Mansueto Library. Why, some might ask, should a university library add videogames to its holdings? Moreover, why is the popular digital game form important? And, finally, what might the University of Chicago community gain from this new collection?

VideogameThere are many ways to approach these questions. I’ll offer just a few responses. Digital games are one of the major entertainment and art forms of the late 20th and early 21st century. Taking into account the combined growth of console, personal computer, portable, and online games, estimates suggest that games are a roughly $60 billion a year industry and some estimates suggest that they’re poised to reach $70 billion a year by 2015. In 2011, there were approximately 183 million active gamers in the United States who played digital games an average of 13 hours a week. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average American gamer in 2010 was 37 years old, and 42% of all game players were women.

These averages are suggestive but some games inspire even more extreme forms of spending and gameplay. For example, in late 2010, the game Call of Duty: Black Ops earned $650 million in worldwide sales in just five days — a huge yield even by comparison to the top-grossing film in a comparable five-day time span, The Dark Knight, which earned about $200 million. Perhaps the more startling fact, reported by Black Ops creator Activision, was that the over 20 million early adopters of the game logged more than 600 million hours of collective gameplay in the first 45 days after release — a play time that adds up to an astonishing 68,000 years.

That videogames are extremely profitable and a popular form of entertainment that touches millions of people in the early 21st century suggests that they are and will continue to be of interest to social science fields such as psychology, economics, anthropology, and education. However, these reasons alone perhaps do not offer a compelling enough reason for assembling a historical collection of videogames at a top university library.

Art videogameYet the games themselves, I would argue, are equally important and worthy of study as the activity that they inspire. In recent years, the humanities and social sciences have started attending increasingly to the historical, technological, and artistic properties of videogames. There are many ongoing debates among scholars and game designers about which properties of digital games derive from other forms, including novels, films, theater, and sports contests. There are discussions about which components of digital games — interactivity, networked communities, hypermediated interfaces, and so on — make them unique. Cultural studies has also raised critical questions about the ways in which race, gender, class, and sexuality are represented (or often go underrepresented or misrepresented) in popular games, as well as the ways in which players negotiate these categories during play. Increasingly, the overarching question of “Why should we study videogames?” is yielding to more refined questions and significant research projects that are shaping a rich field of study.

There has already been a great deal of excitement surrounding videogames as an area of serious scholarly study at the University of Chicago. In 2010, Professor John Reppy taught an upper-level Game Construction course in the Computer Science department that approached software engineering through computer games. In 2011, along with Melissa Gilliam (Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Pediatrics and Chief of the Section of Family Planning and Contraceptive Research), I started the Game Changer Chicago initiative to oversee projects related to serious games and health education.

In the winter quarter of 2012, I also taught a graduate-level, humanities-oriented course called Critical Videogame Studies that attracted 23 students. These participants came from a wide range of disciplines including English, cinema and media studies, anthropology, economics, history, and law. These students were interested in applying various methodologies and asking different kinds of questions about our shared topic. Over the course of the quarter, our close readings of games attended to their aesthetics, interface designs, narratives, gameplay procedures, player interactions, cultural dimensions, economic implications, and technical attributes. We discussed the historical development of videogames from Steve Russell’s early 1960s game Spacewar! to 21st century massively multiplayer online games such as Minecraft. We explored numerous videogame genres, including first-person shooters, music performance games, serious and educational games, and independent art games. We read texts by game theorists including Ian Bogost, Roger Caillois, Nick Dyer-Witheford, James Paul Gee, Johan Huizinga, Jane McGonigal, Marshall McLuhan, Katie Salen, and Eric Zimmerman.

The intellectual energy surrounding videogames that I observed in this recent course has extended far beyond the classroom at the University of Chicago. Beginning in 2010, we had our first informal gameplay and discussion nights that included undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty. Building on these sessions, a dedicated group of participants started a vibrant student group called the Ludic Union for the Investigation of Gaming Interfaces (LUIGI) that encourages the study, design, and development of videogames and transmedia games at the university. Several undergraduate and graduate students in this group are working on scholarly and creative projects about videogames and are planning to teach future courses on different topics in the field.

The videogame collection at the University of Chicago Library is intended to support both teaching and research about videogames. The first version of this collection, which we hope to expand even more in the coming years, already includes a range of games released between 1977 and 2012. There are games for consoles that include the Atari VCS, NES, SNES, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, Wii, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Certain consoles (including the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and Xbox 360), which have been both donated and purchased, are also available to be checked out at the Department of Visual Arts (DOVA) equipment cage in the recently opened Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. Even as the collection is currently focused on console games, we hope to expand it to other areas, such as computer and mobile games, in future years. The games included in the present collection have been carefully selected to cover a range of genres, historical developments, platforms, and design innovations.

 

Selected Games

As part of an invitation to explore this collection together, I have asked members of the LUIGI student group (who have played an active and vital role in shaping the collection) to offer a brief introduction to some of the games that they find most significant from a historical and artistic standpoint. While many of the videogames we find most compelling had to be left off of this list, this selection of games purchased by the Library offers a taste of what our growing collection has to offer.

Adventure (Atari VCS, 1979, Atari Inc.)
Ian Jones, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

AdventureWith Will Crowther and Don Woods’ 1976 work of interactive fiction of the same title serving as its inspiration, and everything from The Legend of Zelda through Shadow of the Colossus and Red Dead Redemption standing as its spiritual progeny, Adventure for the Atari VCS represents the birth of the console adventure game. One of the few games on the VCS to represent a space that extended beyond the bounds of a single screen, Adventure is a fascinating example of the emergence of new depictive forms in the face of technology poorly optimized for the task, and its “Easter egg” — a well-hidden room sporting the message “created by Warren Robinett” — provides a small window into labor relations in programming at the time.

 

Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo Entertainment System, 1985, Nintendo Creative Department)
Chris Carloy, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

Videogame Super Mario Bros.There may not be a more iconic videogame than Super Mario Bros. Its clean, colorful pixelated style and musical score have become shorthand for the videogame as a cultural object — and the subcultures that surround it. To play Super Mario Bros. is to experience a desperate rush to safety at the end of the level — to sprint under enemies, leap over pits, and land precariously on the other side. Though it rewards practice and patient exploration, its most thrilling moments come from being overwhelmed — when there are so many enemies, such unfamiliar terrain, and so little chance for survival that there is no time for thought and one is given over to impulse and leaps of faith. As with similarly iconic works in other media, its familiarity can easily overshadow its difficulty, its depth, and its influence.

Virtua Fighter 2 (Sega Saturn, 1995, Sega-AM2)
Chris Carloy, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

Videogame Virtua Fighter 2The Virtua Fighter series played an important role in the evolution of both the fighting genre and videogame graphics in the mid-1990s. The privileging of simple moves over virtuosic button combinations, together with the groundbreaking use of polygon graphics to give weight to characters’ bodies and increase the illusion of onscreen depth, made the Virtua Fighter experience as much about the interaction of two bodies in space as it was about knockouts. Playing a fighting game typically means practicing series of finger movements, developing and performing a personal style, and testing of one’s abilities against another human or a computer. The Virtua Fighter series demonstrated that the distances between characters and the pauses between moves are as palpable a part of this experience as the frenzy of attack.

Earthbound (Super Nintendo Entertainment System, 1995, Ape and HAL Laboratory)
Patrick Jagoda, University of Chicago faculty, English

Released under the alternate title Mother 2 (1994) in Japan, this epic turn-based role-playing game (RPG) invites the player to guide a party of children through an American metropolis, a zombie-infested town, a cultist village, an overpriced resort town, a parallel dimension inspired by Twin Peaks, and many other settings. Complicating the fantasy-oriented RPG, this postmodern production offers a lengthy quest that unfolds in the game’s contemporary 1990s. Although it was not originally a commercial success, Earthbound garnered overwhelmingly positive reviews and developed a cult following. The game operates at once as an innovative RPG and as a parody of the genre. The game calls attention to its gameplay and narrative conventions through self-referential commentary and clever, media-specific violations of the fourth wall. Earthbound was designed by Shigesato Itoi — a popular cultural figure in Japan whose creative work includes essays, copywriting, lyrics, voice acting, short stories co-written with award-winning Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, and a well-known news site (“Almost Daily Itoi News”).

Resident Evil (PlayStation, 1996, Capcom)
Clint Froehlich, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

Videogame Resident EvilInspired by horror games Alone in the Dark and Sweet Home, Capcom’s Resident Evil (1996) was singular upon its release. Its popularity led to the categorization of “survival-horror” as a sub-genre. A corny corporate-malfeasance narrative and famously bad dialogue and voice-acting (“Here’s a lockpick. It might be handy if you, the master of unlocking, take it with you”) don’t detract from the game’s frequent scares and creepy atmosphere. It remains notable for its stunning pre-rendered backgrounds and its effective emulation of horror-movie tropes through static camera angles (very rare in today’s games), cinematic “cut scenes,” and an agile soundtrack that values ominous silence and disturbing sound effects more than aggressive underscoring.  

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64, 1998, Nintendo EAD)
Nicholas Cassleman, University of Chicago undergraduate, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (Game Design)

Like the other games in the Zelda franchise, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is lauded for its sense of grandeur and adventure. Inspired by childhood explorations of Japan’s countryside, Zelda’s creator Shigeru Miyamoto aimed to create an expansive, adventure-filled world that empowered its players. Puzzle-endowed dungeons, cumulative collection of unique items and powers, and rich 3D graphics for the game’s new 64-bit console helped Ocarina of Time become one of the console’s top-rated games. Many systems in the game, including target-locking and situational controls that were developed to overcome problems interacting with a 3D environment, have become conventional mainstays in today’s videogames.

Shenmue (Sega Dreamcast, 1999, Sega AM2)
Lyndsey Moulds, University of Chicago undergraduate, English

Videogame ShenmueOften described as the first true “open world” adventure game, Shenmue (1999) is notable for its unprecedented focus on creating an immersive world. In a revolutionary attempt at realism, elements of the game are illustrated with equal attention to detail: the game’s numerous characters and interiors are all painstakingly rendered, regardless of their relevance to the main story. Shenmue is notable even when compared to contemporary games for its portrayal of the mundane — perhaps best exemplified by the way the main character carefully removes his shoes each time he enters his home.

Super Smash Bros. Melee (Nintendo GameCube, 2001, HAL Laboratory)
Marley-Vincent Lindsey,
University of Chicago undergraduate, History

Videogame Super Smash Bros. Melee

Building on the original Super Smash Brothers (1999) for the Nintendo 64, Super Smash Brothers Melee (2001) is the best-selling videogame for the Nintendo GameCube. It provides a universe in which major characters and stories from all of Nintendo’s consoles collide. The combat system is different from other fighter games because more damage does not guarantee victory — players must instead force opposing characters offstage to win. Melee provides a challenge, both through game design and exploits (or parts of code that had unintended consequences). For example, “wave dashing” is a technique through which the player can continue moving while being viewed by the game engine as standing still, thereby allowing for attacks to continue. Such exploits were quickly adopted by professional players and implemented in tournaments. The game was picked up by Major League Gaming in 2005, and was also featured in prominent competitive game tournaments from 2003 to 2007. It is one of the rare instances in which competition thrived even after the release of a game’s sequel (Super Smash Brothers Brawl for the Nintendo Wii in 2008).

PsychoNauts (Xbox, 2005, Double Fine Productions)
Ian Jones, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

PsychonautsAfter his critically beloved Grim Fandango flopped and effectively ended LucasArt’s PC adventure game division, renowned game developer Tim Schafer formed Double Fine Productions and turned to console game development.  PsychoNauts transfers Schafer’s talents for deft characterization and madcap dialogue into a somewhat off-kilter hybrid of the adventure and 3D-platformer genres.  Although the core gameplay can be uneven at times (with certain later levels becoming infamous for their wildly out-of-balance difficulty), PsychoNauts nevertheless utterly charms with its whimsical world filled with pyrokinetic mountain lions, shadowy conspiracies involving milkmen and girl scouts, and tiny cities players find themselves wrecking, Japanese monster-movie style.

Shadow of the Colossus (PlayStation 2, 2005, Team ICO)
Chris Carloy, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

Shadow of the Colossus

Shadow of the Colossus, like many adventure games before it, is built on familiar tropes: as the hero, take your sword, and your horse, and go kill giants in order to revive a lifeless damsel. Remarkably, by stripping the game of all but these elements and by pushing the scale of settings and monsters to unimaginable heights, the makers of Shadow of the Colossus created a game that was one part meditation on solitude, the sublime, death, and the moral ambiguity of violence, and one part ecstatic, breathtaking hero’s quest. In Shadow of the Colossus, giants’ bodies are living geographies — and the player scales their heights only to bring them crumbling to the ground.

BioShock (Xbox 360, 2007, 2K Games)
Nicholas Cassleman, University of Chicago undergraduate, Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (Game Design)

BioshockBioShock is considered by many to be one of videogame form’s finest examples of art. The game takes place in Rapture, an underwater city inspired by Ayn Rand’s Objectivist philosophy. In this world, a mysterious protagonist fights his way through the dystopian remains of the 1960s era city. In this environment, he encounters Rapture’s twisted inhabitants who have been driven mad and deformed by an addiction to recreational genetic modification. Drawing from the First Person Shooter and survival horror genres, BioShock delivers polished gameplay mechanics while telling a mature, conceptually rich story. It creates a world brimming with spatial narrative and detail matched by few other games.

Metroid Prime Trilogy (Wii, 2009, Retro Studios Nintendo)
Ian Jones, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

Dubbed the “Citizen Kane of videogames” by critic Michael Thompsen, Metroid Prime introduced 3D gameplay to the Metroid series, inviting players to inhabit the first-person perspective of its protagonist, interstellar bounty hunter Samus Aran. (The game remains, along with Perfect Dark, one of the few first-person games featuring a female protagonist.)  Originally released on Nintendo’s GameCube console in 2002, Prime was lauded for successfully translating the series’ trademark haunting, solitary exploration of alien landscapes into three-dimensional space, and for its presentation of backstory through in-game logs and journal entries accessible to curious and persistent players, rather than through excessive, flow-breaking cinematic cut scenes (a technique built upon later in Bioshock). Metroid Prime Trilogy collects Prime together with its sequels, adding one of the Wii’s strongest motion control-schemes to the mix.

Heavy Rain (PlayStation 3, 2010, Quantic Dream)
Kalisha Cornett, University of Chicago graduate student, Cinema and Media Studies

Heavy RainHeavy Rain embodies the potential of the medium of videogames both figuratively and literally. This “interactive drama” realizes gaming’s mimetic qualities by giving players an unprecedented relationship to the motivations and physicalities of a rotating cast of character avatars. Utilizing a context-sensitive user interface that has proven to be vastly influential across a variety of media, Heavy Rain is an ambitious, risky game that features stunning set pieces of emotional intensity and noir-infused action. Just as the art of origami transforms a flat object into a beautifully complex shape, this game becomes far more than it appears to be.

 

Videogame Showcase
June 1, 3-9 p.m.
At the Logan Center

We also invite you to attend an upcoming showcase of select titles representing the breadth of the University’s holdings on June 1 from 3-9 p.m. at the Logan Center. This showcase has been designed to highlight both what videogames have drawn from other media and what makes them uniquely worthy of study and preservation.  The six-hour event will be broken into half-hour sessions on a number of themes. Come to play or watch, for a single session or the full six hours, and learn about games and their study at the University of Chicago.  For a complete schedule, visit the LUIGI blog.