[-empyre-] lane play - rip gary gygax

Christian McCrea christian at wolvesevolve.com
Fri Mar 7 15:39:41 EST 2008


>  "There is no intimacy; it's not live," he said of online games. "It's
>  being translated through a computer, and your imagination is not there
>  the same way it is when you're actually together with a group of
>  people. It reminds me of one time where I saw some children talking
>  about whether they liked radio or television, and I asked one little
>  boy why he preferred radio, and he said, 'Because the pictures are so
>  much better.'  "

At some point, somebody else's art design has to come in and interrupt
the fantasy. If that person has grown up on a increasingly narrow
genre of design, then imagination putrefies under its weight. I can't
play World of Warcraft because something in me doesn't like the way
the characters look (and many many people far more artistic than I
love it, so I know it has to be an idiosyncrasy of mine.

This is all rooted in the concepts of a imagination being led by
another - but if the game is bigger, the polygons requiring more
labour, and the worlds then becoming more static, then art and design
matter more and more, not less and less.

Hironobu Sakaguchi talked about what Final Fantasy was producing as a
meta- narrative to contemporary culture. He said that it was right
there in the title; the foreshortening of imagination, generation by
generation - the sadness and grief buliding up and requiring anything
exciting to tunnel downward into history. This is why Final Fantasy
heroes follow on the Japanese narrative tradition of the  amnesiac.
Nothing is finalised, letting us flow into them first and then watch
as memories are regained. This was about the time that that awful film
The Spirits Within came out; a terrible waste of cultural time that
was more useful to game and film academics than anybody else. More
academic work has been written  on the film than all the games
combined, which is telling and embarrassing.

Sakaguchi's new game Lost Odyssey is his retelling of the story of
these generations of grief, building up over time, told outside the
Squaresoft corporate hierarchy he helped found. Working with new
company Feelplus+ and Cavia, they struggled in art design phase for a
year not knowing how to use the technology they had chosen (the Unreal
Engine). Like Rimbaud, without knowing how to speak without using the
pagan words of the new technology, they preferred to remain silent.

There is a funeral in Lost Odyssey and I'm not ashamed to say that I
cried. Even though the animation during the key moment; children
rushing to the casket of their parent - was drastically broken -
suspension of disbelief wasn't, This is all cinematics, though; games
don't produce intimacy through cutscenes usually. Segues from
cinematics to gameplay, starkly drawn, have the effect of kicking you
in the stomach. The phrase that dies on your lips, the spirit of the
staircase. You wanted to contribute then, but you couldn't. Now, try
to deal with that while we make you choose between your choices in
grief. "Attack", "Skills", "Spells", "Item", "Defend". I played a boy
lighting torches that would send his parent's body out to sea.
Partially grotesque to see it romanticised.....

The Unreal Engine is antithetical to what Gygax was expressing, I
think. Its got an accent. Games in different styles are formed with
the same technological grammar.

>  -i did say previously i like to watch, but last night i was out at 2am
>  in a laneway with the Graffit Research Lab + crew we have here,
>  http://www.anat.org.au/grl , throwing many socks full of crushed
>  colored chalk at a moving graphic projected onto a wall. the object of
>  the spontaneously set up game , which ran form a laptop and a
>  generator powered projector   was to hit a moving bouncing  head
>  projection which then turned into a different prize graphic.. and
>  leaving a beautiful pointalist chalk wall abstract for others to enjoy
>  in the morning.

Chalk is amazing. It always has more polygons per second and has
graphics more beautiful than the ocean.

>  i was chuffed as i thought i was really good at it..and super happy
>  that my useally keyboard still shoulder was getting some over arm
>  throwing action -- then i was told that in  fact the prize was being
>  manually delivered.. Evan Roth  was just changing the graphic when he
>  saw a direct hit. I felt cheated  - that my skill had not been
>  rewarded, that i had been judged by a fallible human, not an impartial
>  software program. I wanted the computer to run the game... it was the
>  safe fair option that made my imagined victory real.
>
>   Is that dulled imagination or delusion, or is that just how it is.. ?

No but even if its not in their plans, to have a exterior agent able
to run that program, like a computer, would be the next logical step.
Humans with dirty fingers and let the robot flip the switch.

-Christian


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