Friday, June 12, 2009

VGA ~ 6-1 ~ A Sexy & Delicious Death

Our dear ”Entertainment” has continued to progress into an extremely impressive means to convey experiences between the generations. In order to grow however, they’ll have to expand their “definitions” to match their own overbearing weight of versatility. This of course means that a plethora of notions and concepts that most gamers are already familiar with---will have to change, plain and simple. The medium has “suffered some luxuries” however and that’s what I’m here to talk about today. There’s three topics titling this blog (which I think are the most withered aspects for us), but there’s five in my head that act as pleasing ideas for the bulk of the gaming populous (not to mention the human race). These are…

1 – Birth
2 – Nourishment
3 – Sex

4 – Propagation
5 – Death

I’ll be presenting these topics with dual strikes on both fronts. First will be the symbolism they represent for the medium and the other will be a literal translation, governed by how typically they present in games (generally speaking of course).

Birth

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Toxic Planet by Orioto

By my own observations, this has already happened for all of us, as most of us nerds are extremely aware of the culture and things surrounding it. Of course, we don’t often act in its best interests, but that’s something to be expected at this point. Birth is by far the easiest transition for “us” to make, that’s just the law of nature. No matter what one believes in, their consciousness isn’t allowed will before birth, therefore said life has no real choice in the matter on whether or not they will be born, they just are. Most of this applies to the ties that gamers have to their most beloved titles as well. What’s really humorous is to contemplate the reality of prenatal care being the equivalent to following a game two years prior to its release. At this point my own head starts to swirl around with the possibilities of “stillbirths” and “crack-babies”, but that’s a divergence we can save for later.

The second the player slips the game in its respective system, “birth” begins. “Neonate Experiencism” is an almost supreme constant for most gamers(in short, their first experience with any game). Ironically, the term infant derives from Latin and roughly translates to “unable to speak”. Considering that the player’s first experience with a game involves a mandatory dialect, it’s an interesting corollary to draw. The way that playing games has evolved now requires us to begin consuming them on an unfair level. Not caring for one’s own experience with a game turns it into a far more superficial and short-lasting form of escapism. This creates an extremely large antinomy for the journalistic side of the industry, as they have to stay on a certain track to an arguable extent (I’ve never envied them myself).

You may be lost with this still, so let me try and clarify a little bit more. Birth means the first connection one makes with their respective title, nothing more. Whether the title is “good” or “bad” doesn’t even enter into the equation at this point; it’s the equivalent to placing judgment upon a baby on moral grounds because he or she is crying too much. That connection is delicate, it’s sincere and it must be nurtured, anything else constitutes negligence on the part of the player. The process of “birth” in a video-game has and will always remain pure act of privilege. It’s up to the player to perceive it as such.

Nourishment

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I wonder if these guys will ever finish this?

Nourishment for games means any collection of pixels that healthily stimulates emotional, spiritual, or intellectual growth. Extensions of perception can play big roles here. Most athletes can empathize with this at least. There’s a connection that people place between any two things in the world. For example, the feeling a basketball player gets before he/she even shoots the ball, between themselves and the goal (no, not the ball---keep up). Ever wonder why it throws some players off when there isn't a net actually available? Cognitive perception is an insanely strong process, and games are no different. I’ve already traced educational sustenance, so go see VGA ~ 5-4 if you need to refresh yourself with that. Feeding fanboys is not an easy task because developers have to do two things; they have to truly create something on their own while obeying fickle whims, two contradictory processes. Art and business have never mixed and any delusions to make it so are just plain sad.

Feeding fickle fanboys? Well, I can of course conjure up an example to speak for me. I’ll leave the interpretation of such to my reader(s). Here’s the first paradigm that my tortured fanboy psyche can cough up:

The Pregnant Narrative – A contextual innovation that can only be accomplished through narrative-based games, which have already proven themselves in terms of overall qualitative design.

Even among the company that exists as the modern day Willy Wonka of the of videogame developers (Nintendo), there's room for an explosive increase in their timeless "romantic" treasures. Particularly with Zelda, there's room for mechanics (that have already been hovering around an exemplary setup) to be even more amplified through a compelling experience. Stick with me on this for a minute; I’m not quite sure where I’m going with it myself.

What if Zelda, a tale which almost always revolves around the link between Ganon, Zelda, and Link through the Triforce was tinkered with just slightly? I'm not talking about a complete overhaul in what makes Zelda, most of the titles still stand firmly in pure form for what we have as a fairy tale from a videogame. What if it grew up with us as well? Should that be allowed, should they remain and possibly stagnate in the consistency of what they convey? I'm no deity, so I can't answer that. All I can offer are my desires, which are in fact the will of a fanboy.

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Some day...

I won't launch into some useless dribble analytically breaking down the game’s traditional mechanics (I’ll leave that to people who do it better). No, what I mean to address is what should always govern the will of a game’s mechanics, its own narrative. Don’t take that the wrong way either, I’m using the term very loosely here---as any context which a game revolves around is applicable. The relationship is not about one taking priority over the other, but both of them existing in an extremely delicate co-dependency (i.e. the government and it’s people). However, it’s pretty obvious that even with the best titles, there only exists sound game design (certainly not bad), with its own context existing as nothing more than an afterthought (which is bad in my eyes and thoroughly unforgivable).

Continuing on with my example, what if Zelda was actually a villain? There’s simply not enough female villainy around in the industry as it is and it would create a nice dynamic that would show some actual growth on Nintendo’s otherwise stationary stance regarding their own franchises. It would also be fairly easy to turn Ganon into an ally who is befriended over the course of the game (much like Zelda usually is). That's nothing more than a minor tinker that would thunderously leave fans in "shock and awe" if done tastefully. The mechanics that could result from this are just simply useless to talk about as potential ideas have no limit. It's something very different and very intriguing, but as a friend so obviously keeps reminding me, Nintendo won't screw with their formula. Their rigid nature on developing their games is a sad (and good) thing in many ways…oh well.

Innovation…
Style shocks…
Overdone…
Underdone…
Quality Sci-Fi…
Compress the established…
etc...
etc...
etc...

So many dastardly enjoyable concepts squashed by the oppressive equilibrium holding the industry up…it’s actually quite elegant (as it is absolutely disgusting).

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We've seen the boys, so let's see the man.

There is a height of enrichment; I actually stated this last year, but what about a game that goes in depth about the life of Sparda and his life leading up to the inevitable rebellion against hell? Shallowness and depth is one thing, but once one truly crafts and thread every single aspect of their "world", they'll wind up with something that transcends troubling terms such as "depth" and "quality" (which people apply on their own terms anyway). Instead they'll be left with something far more important, "richness". Right now Bayonetta exists as my earlier statement, extremely sound game design wrapped around a superficial package. At best, Kamiya will create another worthwhile character that fans love beating the hell out of things with. At worst, he’ll just make a good game with Asian sex-appeal directed at males and some females (it’s becoming trite here, but once again I assert that quality is irrelevant at this point). I don’t necessarily try to downplay the mechanics for a game; I just find the advent of thoughts for them more enjoyable to speak about, which IS IN FACT the context that surroundeds the stage. Displaying fertility in their presence, a truly rich narrative will give birth to many things across the mind of a gamer (and developer). The reality of Devil May Cry’s narrative is a moot point because not only can one NOT objectively judge quality of something that, they can’t dispel the actions of a game reacting in its own world. This has been proven for games time and time again. Example? Compare MGS3: Snake Eater to Lucas’ latter three Star Wars films.

When people walk into someone's house and see a case full of books, they will usually automatically assume that the owner is knowledgeable in some sense. When most walk into someone's house that owns a lot of games, they just simply assume that they are either spoiled, and/or have too much time and money on their hands. The last thing that crosses their mind would that the person has been granted the same sense of perception only granted to avid readers (I’d say film as well, but then I’d have to launch into differentiating between drama and Hollywood and I’m too lazy to right now). Now, I'm not going to go into an "will-we-ever-go-beyond-that" tirade, because I honestly I don't think that's going to happen for a very long time (and I’m being optimistic with that). We still have everyone and their mothers that watch the mass market of movies and consider themselves qualified to offer criticisms on it---to the extent of affecting other people's fragile ability to enjoy anything for themselves. Nah, gamers are still watching the ignorant, moronic, and half-wit jackasses on FOX news pathetically attempting to grasp a 30 second scene in Mass Effect (totally out of context). If an entire group of five or six adults are CONSISTENT in their complete and total idiocy, then gamers just going to have to wait until the day comes that everyone can actually “see” games. I know that our Sun is due to boil this rock up in just under a billion years and I’m still questioning the worth collective human perception by then…way out of my own damn lifetime.

Exploration...

Engagement...

Experience...

Hmm…water cooler talk is awesome, but I haven't experienced it myself in years...heh. The goal and journey debate is an interesting topic to think about though. I do plan to post a VGA entry later down the line about what FAQS and guides do to rob (and aid) the experience...so I must keep my mouth shut for right now.

Sex

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Paint Run by Transfuse

The notions of "Fun" & "Enjoyment" have become a simmering topic on the minds of most gamers and it’s creating a divide in the entire population overall. Gamers, developers, enthusiasts, they all have to sort through their own subjective takes on gaming in order to provide for the other two respective categories. Me---well my take on games was born in the primordial ooze of that old and archaic notion that video-games are at best enjoyable time-wasters, and at worst superficial escapism, which serve as convenient scapegoats for trash to blame society’s own fuckups on. That latter ideal or anything remotely close to it gives rise to someone like me, who serves as an abrasively opinionated and angry individual who demands the exact opposite. I’m not seeking to run away from the world through a video-game, I’m seeking to connect with it through one. I want all the fuckups, the horror, the hilarity, the outrage, and the hypocrisy to breathe back at me from a video-game. That means the exact opposite of escapism. What’s the opposite of escape…capture?

Thinking out loud here…enrapture…indulgence…detainment…encapsulate…ensnare, crap.

Yeah, well none of those really sound good with “ism” behind them, so I stand by my own doctrine of “experiencism”. I can live with that one until something better comes along.

When ”grounds of land” are formed, gamers engage in perverse actions towards them (e.g. war). This even incorporates those age old console wars, which I expressed my disdain for in one of Rob Zacny’s old blogs as well. In that post, I drew a direct corollary between console gamers (The Southern U.S.) and P.C. gamers (The Northern U.S.). I’m too lazy to elaborate on that, so I just urge you draw your own conclusions (if you’re too lazy to look through his blogs that I linked. If gamers are good at one thing, it’s what makes them human, the ability to fight brutally over trivial or self-traitorous matters. Star_Royal mentioned to me yesterday on my Thief post that the majority of gaming dialogue is skewed towards console gaming. He was right, I did already know this, but now I can fully appreciate it since I’m moving in the opposite direction of what the industry is chugging along towards right now. It’s the difference between knowing that there is death and famine in the world and actually experiencing it for oneself.

There’s no “romance” between any two sides of the industry now (most of the gaming industry just simply doesn’t know how to show it). Competition breeds the attainment of new heights, but that shouldn’t be at the expense of any two ideas converging or acting with one another. All gamers can SEEM to do now is conveniently wrap ideals around the simple act of “sex” (which is what quite a few do now with ACTUAL sex and love). None of us should be so proud of fucking each other...

If there’s one thing that’s extremely easy to find on the internet, it’s porn. For an area of “consumption”, people are extremely hesitant to admit that it’s not a ludicrous presence (at least compared to all the other weird shit going on in the world right now). It exists in such abundance for a REASON. Even calling it perverse is a matter of perspective and if there’s one thing that this blog states ever-so-subtly, it’s that I don’t stand for useless and pathetic social mores. If porn is guilty of any one real crime, it’s lying; portraying men and women in aesthetic states that are often confusing, arbitrary, and downright offensive. Let’s not pretend that EVERYTHING on T.V. doesn’t do that incessantly (THAT’S THE FUN OF IT!). If there were ever words spoken by fiction that I’ll have put on my tombstone, it’s:

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“Everybody lies…” – Dr. Gregory House

“I thought everybody lied?!”
“Truth begins in lies…think about it” – Foreman & House

“What happened to everybody lies?!” – Cameron & House
“I lied…”


Why do you think sex isn’t a more prevalent issue in games? People can’t even handle it in reality anymore let alone accurately (and consistently) portraying it in a game (don’t offer me scarce exceptions to the rule either, I’m aware of them). Successfully doing so would mean that my aforementioned “cyniquip" (I’m really loving these self-created portmanteau terms) regarding the person’s perception of love is entirely invalid. If there’s one thing I can say with absolute disdain these days, it’s that I’m hardly ever just plain wrong, especially about things like this.

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Dr. Allison Cameron: “I'm uncomfortable about sex”.
Dr. Robert Chase: “Well, we don't have to talk about this---“
Dr. Allison Cameron: “Sex could kill you. Do you know what the human body goes through when you have sex? Pupils dilate, arteries constrict, core temperature rises, heart races, blood pressure skyrockets, respiration becomes rapid and shallow, the brain fires bursts of electrical impulses from nowhere to nowhere, and secretions spit out of every gland, and the muscles tense and spasm like you're lifting three times your body weight. It's violent, it's ugly and it's messy, and if God hadn't made it unbelievably fun, the human race would have died out eons ago. [pause to breathe deep and they stare at each other] Men are lucky they can only have one orgasm. Do you know that women can have an hour long orgasm?”
House Episode 3~ Season 1 ~ “Occam’s Razor”


Propagation

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Old Snake by Scabrouspencil

There’s something a tad decent AND horrifying at the same time when considering the generational influx in regards to games. Adults are adults, teens are trees, and children are children. As this constant continually provides a mainstay for the times, the games have not---instead they’re growing ever so co-dependently with the tech. The corollaries between biological physiology and technological structures are not an old idea (i.e. the brain and a computer), and every few years the reality continually nears the realization of how far (or how close) both processes have evolved in tandem. In the context of games, let’s look at it another way. For example, a game engine is propagation. Hell even the concept of the uncanny valley is propagation. The way in which stylized organizations of code create their own cults, trends, and fads is only surpassed by their ability to motivate others to create.

The flaw that is disrupting the more positive traits would be the perceived limits of games in general. The genre for example, has become a downright offensive umbrella notion that categorizes a great deal of games for no other reason than cheap convenience. Think how modern and even indie titles have strengthened the bloodline of concepts presented by Mario over twenty years ago. Now think how the multitude of great titles all paying homage to that spirit suffer because they’re seen as nothing more than Mario clones. Furthermore, consider how others knowingly commit to just being Mario clones and nothing else.

Curiosity experiment (leave your ethics aside for the moment):

1 - First take a newborn child and strictly confine him to solitude while he grows up.

2 - Nurture his life and provide sustenance, but don’t proceed to teach him anything other than base necessities.

3 - Let any instinctual or “natural” developments occur as they will while maintaining a healthy environment for him/her.

4 – Choose a ripe, young, and spongy age for the child’s mind and present him/her with some options.

5 – Give them a book, a movie, a game, and a pencil & paper.

6 – Judge and measure how the child interacts with each one of them.

Now this isn’t some experiment to empower the concept of a game, but rather to suggest the cognitive development’s requirements around grasps of relations and concepts. Strict controls would have to be placed around how all the items are set up of course, but all the possibilities here are endless. Examples include:

Without the ability to read, will the child simply draw on the book?

Visual stimulation of the movie and any structural developments while watching it?

The pen and paper is an obvious choice, but what interaction would the child make with it? They have no sense of our reality, so they’d be just as likely to draw on the screen that's playing the movie.

Will they not be interested in any of them? Perhaps there’s some innate desire to escape their current situation? Without any moral constructs to stand on, the only thing left are raw genetics which can skew into any number of categories.

Will they simply harm themselves by misuse of the items?

All of these are extremely important, but in the context of this blog, the most important moment is what will happen to the child’s perception when they press right on that pad (assuming the video-game is left standing idle with Sonic tapping his foot). How will the accumulated knowledge and understanding of” developlay” (the player’s acquired knowledge game-wise and the developers laboring on building it) hit them exactly? The “sad part” regarding this is that the experiment would have to occur with more than one child and various control groups to get any worthwhile knowledge. The type of game is relevant as well. Imagine the difference generated by locking a kid in a room with either Mario or Silent Hill. How will the ideas we mess over and take for granted each time we pick up a game, affect this child. How will the propagation evolve at this point? What ideas will be produced? What ideas will be reproduced? What types of concepts and notions would be expelled forth as a result?

All curiosity…on my part. You can put your stupid “ethichats” back on now…


Death

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Liquid Sun by ineedchemicalx

For all the emphasis placed on life, we don’t seem to flinch at death anymore. No, I’m not talking about a game either. Do you know how many people lose their lives over the course of a single day? Go look it up, you just might be surprised. Even more surprising is the understanding is that these people have to lose their lives, they should lose their lives. Even by the moral foundations that this entire race has built for itself, prolonging life is extremely damaging for us in the long run. This is for no other reason than we only have one planet, which we’re already not good at sharing or understanding anyway. Our minds are like a disease, and so is our understanding of the world we’ve formed around us. That world sadly doesn’t exist and it never will…not so long as this race thrives in thesingular fashion that it does now. We can’t even embrace spiritual enlightenment anymore *cougheveryreligioneverconcievedcough*, let alone the disgusting strings attached to furthering the race’s needs with science and the arts.

One of the best things about the first Matrix film was a machine expressing actual disgust at mankind:

"I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? –A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we... are the cure."
---Agent Smith, The Matrix.


How does this affect the realm of games? Yeah well---we learn structure and discipline through trial and error, but how close does the gamer actually come to tasting death, truly? This was popped into my head a very long time ago by 1UP user Nel and I wrote this in response to it. It’s not new to any gamer certainly, but there will always be a difference between knowing the path and grasping it. Death only means something to a gamer in their formulative years as such. After that, it just becomes an archaic form of slapping them in the face with their own mortality AKA Human Error. Is there any way to establish that form of loss again? Of course that shouldn’t be applied to every game, but don’t use that argument without considering the number of games that would benefit from this. The most obvious example of this would be having a game literally pull the Mission Impossible stunt on the player upon dying ("You've died, this tape will self destruct in five seconds").

Imagine that after twenty hours of playing Oblivion, you die for the first time…now imagine that the disc literally melts in the console in response to that death. It’s even possible to envision a game where the mode of play could shift from a Shenmue based mechanic to a Devil May Cry one, simply in response to a player losing their life. Now me…I’m just presenting outrageous ideas that will work stiffly in the context of games willing to put meaning behind their play. There’s more to death in games than simply having “Game Over” flash across the screen. More accurately…there SHOULD be more to death in games than that…or should it? I’m more than open to any argument contesting it. Death is an antiquated novelty in video-games, but that doesn’t mean it’s above being challenged---nothing in this universe is.

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"Blink if you can hear me..."
"Oh...this is going to be fun."


~sLs~