Alrighty – just some random followup from class today and some paper idea proposals.

I’m thinking about a few paper ideas here, but don’t really have anything super concrete yet… Initially, I’d like to do videogames…the most recent of which I’ve beaten are Soul Caliber IV, Peggle Nights, Psychonauts, Metal Gear Solid IV, and Grand Theft Auto IV.

Spore‘s narrative logic interests me in terms of its trademark Will Wright sandbox gameplay, but I’m not sure that type of narrative really applies to what we discuss in class. It’s not just games that tout infinite narrative options that will affect character and story (like Fable or Shinobi) that allow their users to create stories as they go. Any gameplay-based game without any significant plot (sports games, real-time strategies, massive-multiplayers games, or first-person shooters) afford their participants an opportunity to use their imagination and skill in order to create their own narratives, sometimes even cooperatively. These is just an extension of tabletop gaming. Also, I haven’t looked too far into Storytron, a communal, interactive storytelling program/website, but it looks pretty cool.

But I started thinking about focalization, slant, and filters in class today and what part of narratives are character-driven/subjective vs. the creator driven slants. Like The Sound and the Fury, in which the story of the failing Compson family is told three times over by three brothers; one who’s retarded, one suicidal , and one extremely cynical. Unreliable narrative techniques in film go back as far as Rashomon, an innovative Kurosawa film with unreliable narrators in which the audience acts as a sort of jury for a murder trial.

I’m trying to think about focalization in videogames and whether there exist games in which alignment and the idea of an unreliable narrator are important. In the stealth/espionage Metal Gear series (which span 50 years of political intrigue, combat, biology, and family opera), there are significant amounts of betrayals and twists, some of which come from intentionally deceitful narrators you’ve trusted for tens of hours of gameplay (Like Master Miller in MGS1 or Roy Campbell in MGS2). Were these betrayals portrayed in film, they’d simply be plot twists, but since they’re explicitly giving bad advice to the gamer for hours, I feel like the mechanism changes because if you fully immerse yourself in a game, you’re being expressly lied to, not watching a character getting lied to.

Final Fantasy Vii‘s main character and biggest twist (probably only in my opinion) is not Gamepro’s death of Aerith (and I disagree with most of their top 10, but try away from internet/blog lists as a general rule), but rather Cloud’s amnesia and inability to correctly remember the past…a serious game-changer 2/3’s through the game. The other thing that came to mind when I think Final Fantasy VII (which has remained my overall favorite game since I played it 12 years ago) is how the extended universe has been constantly expanded with cell phone games, a CG film, a few offshoot and follow-up games (of different genres on different consoles), and a short hand-drawn animated film. How the storyworld of media like FFVII and to a greater extent, something like Star Wars gets constantly added to in different mediums is pretty interesting.

The Cast of Final Fantasy VII, my favorite game.

Saying “favorite game” is also a complicated issue because the reasons for liking a game can be so diverse in terms of gameplay mechanics, story, replayability, multiplayer options, etc.

I also thought of the TV series My Super Sweet 16 (a show I have trouble turning off) as an example of filter and slant; with the filter being the spoiled teens’ skewed perceptions and expectations of the world and how they’re going to come across on TV, and the slant being MTV’s editing and extra writing, directing, etc. that makes shows like that not actually reality TV. The creator-driven slant seems really focused on making these teenagers a sideshow to be ridiculed, not admired or envied, but the teens don’t ever really seem to get this, seeing it as an opportunity to show everyone how privileged they are.

More organized/developed ideas to come as I scour my memory for games I’ve liked in the past.

also, does anyone need a partner for the remix project? I’m one of those guys that isn’t too experienced with video editing (especially final cut), but can rip and do other computer stuff pretty well.


3 Comments so far

  1. Jason Mittell on October 20, 2008 7:47 pm

    Lots of ideas here. I definitely think exploring the role of narration, focalization, slant/filter, etc. in games is a great topic.

    Some more brainstorming: A game that kind of mimics the Memento amnesia trope is XIII, where one of the goals is to piece back your memories. (Is Max Payne like that too? I haven’t played it.) Another interesting facet of this is games where you shift focalization – the game of King Kong toggles between the hero and Kong, with different modes of gameplay. In fact that game interestingly provides a first person mode without the standard health/ammo data, but rather more subtle clues for status. And then there’s Eternal Darkness, which plays with first-person insanity. Lots to explore… Good luck!

  2. Matthew Leonard on October 22, 2008 12:53 pm

    I think a video game essay topic is obviously right up your alley Andrew, and it will undoubtedly be a useful addition to our leading the discussion the last week of class. I think the focalization and slant/filter ideas almost come through clearer in a video game narrative than in that of film. In my experience, a gaming scenario tends to try to link it’s protagonist and the game-player more so than a film’s protagonist and the film viewer, so the focalization becomes more clear. Obviously there are a lot of games, especially in the last five years which are complicating this but good luck exploring the topic and thanks for the Blade Runner commentary.

  3. Joey Meyer on March 10, 2016 10:29 am

    Andrew, this was an excllent write up. You are truly talented. I wrote an article about E-Cigarettes but your article puts mine to shame. Cheers!

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