Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Game as Literature

            Narratives told through interactive or newly emerging media have the potential to immerse people more so than any medium in the past. Reading and watching a character’s narrative can be a very captivating experience, but video games give you the ability to become the character. I own a PS3 and I get immersed in the games I play because I put myself in the characters shoes. Many games give you the ability to make your own choices. In massive role playing games like Skyrim, you create your own character and through playing the game you flesh out your persona. The world the game creates is so massive that you can take your character on countless adventures. You have the ability to make your character an outlaw or a hero. You can choose to raise your defense skills to become a powerful warrior, or  raise your ability to pick pocket and become a notorious thief. This kind of “choose-your-own-adventure” narrative is  almost impossible to create through any other medium. Narratives in games can also play out in a very cinematic fashion. Games like the Uncharted series give the player very limited options on where you can go and what you can do in the world of the game. It replaces the freedom with an epic Indiana Jones like story told through engaging characters and some of the industry’s most jaw dropping graphics. The difference between playing an action game and watching an action movie though, is the fact that you are the one wielding the sword or firing at the enemy. The story only continues if you are successful and that's an entirely different experience from passively watching a story play out in a movie theater. 

              I tried a few of the games posted on the blogspot, but the one that I found most intriguing was Spectre. The story is one that could be told in any medium: An old man is looking back on his life and trying to find some sort of purpose to his memories and experiences. In a movie or book this would be a fairly straight forward story. Memories would probably be told chronologically with a set story arch already written in to the plot. The game allows you to walk through the different ages of Joseph and pick and choose which memories you want him to tell. The memories have color cues that reveal whether they are positive or negetive. You play through his memories in a mini-game like fashion as Joseph unravels the tales of his past. Which memories you play are entirely up to you. You can either play them chronologically or skip entire decades of his life if you so choose. Depending on which memories you play effects the out come of each 15 minute game. Some games give Joseph a more deeper meaning to his life and other’s just leave him sad and confused. Every time you play it’s a new experience. The new narrative outcome of each play is something mediums from the past can’t provide. Books will always tell the same story no matter how many times you read them. The same goes for movies and television shows. Video games allow you to explore the narrative. You can test the boundaries through trail and error. Sometimes the style of game play adds to the theme the game is trying to convey. For instance, during happy memories in Spectre, you are flying up into the sky trying to catch stars. During the bad memories you fall down into a dark pit. These games give you a chance to play through how the character is feeling. It’s thought provoking and made even more engaging because you have control of the character. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot is the undwelming story of two men, Vladimir and Estragon who are waiting for someone named Godot who ends up never showing up. The play is very minimalist with a sparce single location and only two other characters that show up briefly in each act. It’s a very long piece of work that ultimately goes no where with it’s characters. And that is precisely the point of the play. Waiting for Godot was created with the intention of subverting the traditional construction of story. 

Waiting for Godot is still a relevant piece of entertainment in our modern day. This is mostly due to the fact that it has never been a part of mainstream culture. Things that are popular at any given time period tend to end up dated because they appeal to the popular culture of the time they originated. They are seeped in the trends of ideas that populated their designated time period. Works of media on the outskirts of culture tend to be so because they try to break the boundaries of what people deem normal. Waiting for Godot will forever be an obscure piece of art because it doesn’t follow any traditional story telling techniques. It forgoes a traditional three act story structure to tell the story of two men who don’t change, go anywhere, or learn anything over the course of the play. It also separates itself with it’s minimal approach to staging. Instead of lavish sets, costumes and choreography that are found in popular mainstream plays, Godot puts it’s characters in a setting that is really nothing more than a tree. The characters are never shown in any other location. There are no costume or scenery changes. We are left to assume at the end that Godot never arrives and the two men’s lives continue their monotony. It’s got a dry sense of humor throughout the piece that comes from the dialogue between the two men. The story will forever be relevant as an act of avant-garde.  It also remains relevant in the sense that the play is so non-specific that it can literally be about anything. It could be a comment on the nature of religion and how people put their total faith in something that can’t see or know actually exists. It could be a comment on how the little tasks, daily routines, and acquaintances in our lives mean nothing in the long run.

The parodies of the play are also very entertaining. The Sesame Street version was clever. It poked fun not only on the play’s mundane plot but also audiences’ quick response to right it off as meaningless. I loved that the Sesame Street parody personifies the tree since the play’s scenery is so sparse it might as well be a supporting character. Little parodies like this in our pop culture show that this play has affected the collective culture’s consciousness. 

Graphic Novel

Octopus Pie is an online web comic series that was printed into several graphic novels. The story is about two friends, Eve and Hanna who are in their 20's and sharing an apartment in Brooklyn. The novel deals with problems any person our age can relate two: shitty jobs, relationship drama and wasting time with your friends. The novel addresses the whole spectrum of emotions that comes from graduating college and not knowing where to go in your life. You are no longer a child but barely feel like an adult and that is what the comics express with humor and heart. The graphic novel is drawn in a very fun, simple and expressive style. The comic is single tone, in the case of the first novel “There are No Stars in Brooklyn” various shades of green. The characters and situations are all very relatable. The novel begins with Eve being reunited with Hanna, a girl from her childhood that she is now going to room with. The comic deals with that awkwardness that comes from reuniting with someone from your past. The novel could be classified as slice of life. While the comic is drawn in a very cute, simplified style, the characters are very much dealing with real adult issues. The comic involves frequent drug use and the characters are sexually active and swear like real people. To me, it feels like the style of the comic is drawn in a way that makes the reader feel nostalgic for a more simple time. It looks like a cartoon from childhood. But the content is made for kids who grew up on cartoons and are now adults trying to make it in the real world. The novel is filled with details that reveal the fact that this is a very personal work from the author, Meredith Gran. It’s clear she has taken a lot of her personal experiences and incorporated them in this novel. The graphic novel is one of the most accessible art forms to tell your life’s story. A lot of comic artists take advantage of the multi-panel format to let you take a peak into their lives in a way where they have total control of the content and style. The drawings even give you a chance to embellish life in a way that only cartoons can do. Another example that I can think of that displays this fact is Persepolis. While Octopus Pie is about the present, Persepolis is a coming of Age tale that tells the story of its author’s entire life. From her childhood in Iran to her more rebellious teenage and college years. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wes Anderson

           This week I chose to watch 3 film by Wes Anderson, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom. All three films have strong similarities both thematically and through execution. There is a clear theme of neglected and misunderstood children in all 3 of these movies. The siblings in The Royal Tenenbaums are all fairly neurotic in their own ways because they grew up without their father. Sam and Suzy in Moonrise Kingdom both come from homes where their parents (or foster parents) don’t understand them. And Ash in Fantastic Mr. Fox is constantly doubting himself because he feels he is living in the shadows of his cousin Kristofferson. Again, he is a son of a father who doesn’t spend enough time with him to understand him. These neglectful parents, specifically father figures pop up in each of these films, leading the viewer to believe that maybe Wes Anderson has had his own familial issues in the past. His movies also tend to feel like a throwback to simpler times. His movies, from what I’ve seen, tend to be set either in the past or during a time before our digital age. This focus on time periods when social interactions were more personal and people actually spent time outdoors give his films a very nostalgic feel.

There is no doubt that Wes Anderson has a strong directing style. You could take a still from any of his movies and imidiately identify his signature approach. All of his films are shot using primarily flat staging. He uses what seems to be a very simplistic compositional technique and constantly finds way to turn the staging on it’s head by playing with forced perspective and camera movement.  At the beginning of Moonrise Kingdom this staging is used to give the sets a very nostalgic look. The camera passes through the rooms of a house as if it were an old dollhouse and the illusion is broken when actors begin to enter the rooms. Anderson also has fun with the fact that you have no sense of perspective with flat staging. There is one shot in Moonrise Kingdom where you initially think a phone is very large in the forground until a girl walks up to it and makes the phone look miniscule in comparison. The flat compositions also work well with his subject matter since flat staging is used primarily for comedic effect. Fantastic Mr. Fox has a lot of fast paced action and dialogue and the quick cuts with characters essentially looking directly into the camera back and forth are very amusing. His directing style gives his films a signature quirky feel that sets them apart from mainstream Hollywood films that tend to focus on sweeping, epic camera moves and effects.  His films, at times, feel like living story books. This is partially because he is very practical in his directing style. He doesn’t rely on many CGI effects to make his films. One example that comes to mind is the use of cotton balls to create smoke in Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s clear a lot of his visuals are just practical effects and it’s the kind of traditional technique that you don’t see a lot of in films today.  

Political Ad

Dominant Framework: The Obama campaign’s biggest push is always to go after younger voters. Through the use of social media he has been able to attract our generation in a way that Romney hasn’t bothered with. Because the campaign is so youth savvy, it’s aware the easiest way to get people to pay attention to videos on the Internet is to make something short and funny. That is where this ad succeeds. This ad stars Lena Dunham who is a rising star who’s work appeals to our generation. Her work on the HBO show “Girls” makes her a voice for our generation. The joke is a double entendre about voting that sounds like losing your virginity. It’s cute and clever and she brings up the hot button social issues that people my age are most interested in. Topics like gay marriage and birth control are brought up.  Lena also makes politics more accessible by talking directly to the camera as if she’s talking to a friend. It feels like any other popular youtube video only it’s one that is actually sponsored by the Obama campaign. The ad relies heavily on emotional appeal instead of political facts and that makes it more accessible to anyone watching it. You don’t have to keep up with politics to understand this video and that makes it appeal to a wider demographic. It’s a smart move on Obama’s part to create many different ads all trying to appeal to different kinds of people. This one is clearly made for the college age to early 30’s age bracket. The video is done in one of the most popular mediums of our time (online video) and it succeeds in peaking the interest of it’s intended demographic.

Oppositional Framework: Ever since the advent of television, political campaigns has become less about the actual issues and ideas a candidate supports and more about how hip their personality is or how attractive they are to the nation. Candidates are more interested in appealing to voters on an emotional level than on a serious intellectual level. What kind of political credentials does Lena Dunham have to endorse the Obama campaign? She is a celebrity and her opinions should not be what is driving people’s notions on who to vote for. This ad is frivolous and silly. It doesn’t really address any solid facts or present any of Obama’s plans on how to fix the economy or what to do about the environment. Instead it makes a bunch of dumb jokes about losing your virginity. It’s trivial and quite honestly it makes one believe that maybe Obama isn’t taking this campaign very seriously at all. This ad is just a mixture of elements that are deemed as “cool” for this generation. It involves a risqué joke, a celebrity endorsement, and a hand held interview style.  Most of this ad is just fluff with Lena talking about her previous voting experience. This ad should be showing Obama and it should be filled with actual facts. It shouldn’t be an elaborate joke. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Medium is the Message

Medium is any extension of ourselves. In that case, there is no more prominent medium in our generation than social media. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


          The main relationship in Lolita, while incredibly unsettling, is a fascinating contradiction. The love that Humbert has for Lolita is all encompassing and so strong that he still thinks about the girl longingly years after the fact. His attraction is also incredibly fleeting. Throughout the novel Humbert talks about the appeal of the nymphet and how their allure only lasts for a short period of time. When first describing nymphets Humbert says “the idea of time plays such a magic part in the matter.” He brings up puberty constantly as if it’s a ticking time bomb always looming in the distance. Humbert is only attracted to a certain kind of girl at a very particular age. Once they grow out of that bracket he looses interest. In Lolita, Humbert finds the epitome of every nymphet quality he is looking for. Her mere presence makes him weak in the knees and he spends the first half of the novel pining over her. The attraction he has towards her is intense. One of the reasons he is so fervent with his desire for her is because she is just on the cusp of growing up. The novel progresses at a rapid pace that is partially created by Humbert updating how much Lolita has grown over periods of time. The more Lolita grows into womanhood the more resentment starts to grow within Humbert towards her. This is shown most clearly during their 2nd road trip in the novel. At this point Lolita is going through a growth spurt and Humbert describes in inches and pounds. This is the trip where Lolita is becoming increasingly more independent as she grows into being a teenager. She starts running off with boys, which makes Humbert furious.

 His budding resentment for her and her actions is very much so in the same vain as his feelings towards grown women. The way Humbert describes adult women in the novel is with complete distain. In his wives he only sees every feature that proves their age. He is almost to a point of being totally repulsed by the mature female figure. While working at a university in America he mentions is distain for the female coeds. It’s the aging process that gives his love for Lolita a time limit.

Despite this, the fleeting nature of Humbert’s physical attraction to Lolita is far outshined by his powerful love for the idea of her. He is infatuated with this perfect nymphet image he puts upon Lolita. Lolita isn’t even her real name; just a pet name he latches onto when fantasizing about the young Dolores. It’s clear that his initial attraction is all based on fantasy because Dolores does nothing more with Humbert then act like the child she is. She walks around aimlessly and reads comics. To Humbert she is something glorious to behold. The initially love Humbert has for Lolita is so strong that even during the time of “writing” the dissertation that the book is claiming to be he still writes about his Little Lo pensively. The love with the ideal outlives the physical attraction. This constant back and forth between his passionate feelings towards this fabricated romance with the harsh realities of the real world create the main conflicts and tension in the book. Humbert takes Lolita on a year long road trip after her mother dies in an effort to spend as much time as possible with his soon to be outgrown nymphet. While he attempts to make this excursion one of romance and excitement, the reality is it’s a trip filled with paranoia. Lolita is actually Dolores, a pre-teenage girl who is constantly trying to push Humbert’s buttons by getting him into trouble. There relationship brings up the question of whether or not what Humbert feels for Lolita is lust or love. When you truly love someone, you want the best for them. Humbert could care less about Lolita. He takes her out of school so he can spend more time with her. He brings her into his life on the run. These are all selfish acts.  So as many times he writes about his love for Lolita in the novel it must be taken lightly.