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Sometime recently, around the time I started to interact with my new iPad, I’ve come into heavy contact with a game called Draw Something. I have the sneaking suspicion that I am by far not the only member of this class that has spent many, many brief moments (which add up). And recently, came across this video:
I was shocked by how much it spoke to me as a player, and it made me remember my first days playing: Draw Something is a game with a lack of rules, in fact, despite a fairly shoddy interface, it’s gained massive popularity. Because of this lack of rules, people have adopted a number of systems that help that break the game, but oddly, the game has a distinct since of playability, as brought up by Lowgren but lacks a sense of elegance and transparency.
I sometimes find the game downright impossible to navigate, where even simple things like finding out how many coins or what colors you have is entirely dependent on the screen that you have. The video, in some ways, while not articulated, speak to this: Looking to how the game’s user base contextually creates their own styles of play, based on their tools, opponents, words, screen size and so on. And when there is a lack of rule, binding the user to a certain manner of playing, once you hand the user a blank screen, just about anything can happen.
I’ve been fairly vague in my thoughts of my paper up until this point, but I wanted to throw my thoughts out there for people to look at, discuss, and hopefully provide some direction.
What I am considering is doing a socio-cultural look at Mass Effect 3, but I want to consider my focus more on the events that occurred around the artifact, rather than simply looking at the artifact itself. Perhaps it’s the journalist in me wanting to creep out, but I look at everything that’s happened and I know something’s there. The blockbuster game was highly anticipated, and it’s not usual for a game to receive as much media attention as it’s had. TV spots are hard to come by for games, and even games that do have them, often fall off the map shortly after.
But, it’s fairly uncommon for this much to be said about a game. The protestors in a number of different moves generated nearly 80,000 dollars for Child’s Play. They sent a mass of cupcakes to Bioware in protest that were donated to charity, and as a Forbes article puts it best, are setting a precedent by giving into the ruckus, opting to even change the ending to their game, which carries heavy aesthetic implications at worst. And this is just what I can think of in the most immediate moment.
What I hope to pull from this case study, would potentially be what the wants and needs of developers are versus what the consumer looks for. This comes just on tailwind of gaming sites hearing details about new gaming systems as well, though rumors at this point are too speculative.
I didn’t distribute my time fairly between capstone and this project over the weekend, so I’m just now at a point where I’m digging for more academic knowledge, though it’s been easy for me to find the heavy dose of media source that I need.
In the Corrigan reading for today, I came across a line of text that has come in discussion through a few readings, though I can’t recall where:
“Beware of assuming that any particular movie, even a documentary, gives an unmediated picture of a society and a historical period.”
The word unmediated is what I’m looking at here. I feel pretty comfortable with this notion. This is one of the largest things I was able to take away from my undergraduate degree in journalism: That despite trying to provide a theoretically unbiased truth, one must be aware that it’s impossible to entirely remove this bias. In Journalism, we do this by simply being aware about what the common bias is. But, when it comes to authors that publish, and especially in the case with Corrigan, finding his authority, and his bias is much harder.
In IC, we take theory from myriad places to push into what we want, so we often just have to trust in the knowledge of Jeff, that we wouldn’t be reading him, unless he was important in some way, or says something really well. All of this being said, I was entirely unable to find any real information about Corrigan, except that he’s a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania in English and Film Studies and he seems to focus a bit more heavily on German film. Yes, he’s published a laundry list of books, but as someone on the outside of film study, I still have to wonder, why him? I’m looking forward to finding out.
A quick scan through Hulu Plus (on my PS3) showed me that not only is the Criterion Collection being heavily advertised (I ran into the ad twice so far), but 400 Blows had made their front page. More interesting, one had caught one of my roommates watching it before I went out the door. While, he of course is a fan of classic and older movies, he hadn’t heard of the film prior. There’s something interesting to me here, just simply watching how a “home-page” can suggest what’s important or new to someone so easily.
This evening (much earlier than the 2:26 am write time) when I was looking over the Cupchik article, I came across a quote that really just stuck out to me as I took a rather late night walk. When the Author is describing Mikel Dufrenne’s Phenomenology of Aesthetic Experience. I’ll go ahead and drop that quote here:
“The object of use ‘is beautiful if it manifests the fullness of the being which has been imparted to it, if it answers to the use for which it was intended, and if it shows by its appearance that it does answer to it”
I’m drawn to this, because it reminds me of Jeff’s discussion that we design hunks of metal, and we’re culturally understand the appearance of say…a cheese grater, as he puts it. I think for some things, a cheese grater is much easier to understand. I find myself more curious though, about the evolution of our digital artifacts. And maybe, it’s because I’m thinking in a way that excludes the software that’s run on them, but I’m hard pressed to find that many of our digital artifacts ‘show by appearance’ an answer to its use.
Something that I spent a bit of time dwelling on on my ride to class was as part of the discussion of repertoire that came up in the Lowgren reading: “The way for a designer to construct an effective repertoire, however, is largely unknown… Unfortunately, there is no systematic knowledge on what constitutes a good example or format from a design ability point of view or how best to build a repertoire.”
This moved me to be almost immediately reflective, looking to my own background to find out not only what sorts of things constituted my repertoire, but how I also received them. In that way, isn’t any designer simply the sum of all of their experience, utilized through the lens of design thinking? What sorts of things do you pull from to make up your repertoire? What’s useful and where has it come from?
I’ve recently had the chance to play a fair chunk of the new Star Wars MMO, more so than I’d care to admit, less so than I care to like. But, reflexively, I look back at our readings about Aesthetics and the lack of definition and have found myself left with a bad taste in my mouth. For those unaware, the gaming community has always made a push for more, bigger, or better. And by this, I mean not only in the gameplay and interaction, but also in the image quality. As Leo mentioned in retro gaming, we very quickly moved from Atari games to 8-bit, to 16, to 32, to 64 bit. We went from simple 3D shapes on rendered backgrounds, to poorly made 3D, to the hyper-realistic high definition, photo-realistic qualities we have in games today. It’s a fair assessment to say games will one day give movies a run for their money as the new household activity as they converge in quality as well.
Yes, this ignores any deviation to this model so far, but it leads to my point.
Meanwhile, as this push to the HD moves forward, we’ve seen deviation. Games which say, might not push for graphical prowess, but rather for “aesthetic.” And by this, I say skeptically, because I feel as a whole that the market has pushed this word to a marketing sense (and assuming we keep aesthetic positive, suggesting something is beautiful). I feel as this push forward, in the gaming community, aesthetic has become synonymous for “lacking power.” It’s not high-definition, or realistic. It’s aesthetically pleasing. Like everyone should know what that means. And don’t get me wrong, I understand that they’re to invoke distinct styles. Styles that usually hang around longer than their realistic game counterparts.
We see this in World of Warcraft. We see this in Zelda. Okami, and Minecraft. Games that don’t push the limits of the technology that they’re using, at least in a graphical sense. And once again, we’ve added the new Star Wars MMO to the mix. One I’ve greatly enjoyed, usually due to this use of “aesthetic.”
Where I deviate is in the thinking that for the gaming community, aesthetics are not talked about in games like Heavy Rain, or dead space. We talk about how shockingly realistic they are, whether or not it outputs to 1080p, how bloom affects the overall settings, what settings on your graphics card will make the best experience for you. And by all accounts, these are all questions involving an aesthetic experience. But, we don’t talk about it in the same way. As I’ve worked towards, “aesthetics” in video games has become a buzz word, a marketing tool to key people to enjoy a game despite obvious shortcomings to the standard that has been created.