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.