I thought that the different perspectives on all the different games was very interesting. If you look at PhoneStory, most of the actions you take as a player are as the villain. You are the one controlling the soldiers who enslave children, you are the one throwing phones as people, and you are the one catching people as they attempt to commit suicide. The perspective is incredibly important for the game’s procedural rhetoric. Because we are the consumers of these phones, the game is forcing us to take the positions of those who are helping us get those phones, and it creates an uneasy dissonance inside me as a consumer and as a player. Part of the procedure is making me do something horrible, similar to the torture version of Tetris. The perspective makes me the bad guy.
As for Darfur is Dying and games like it (Ayiti: the Cost of Life is another), the game forces me to take the perspective of an impoverished person or family and try to figure out a way to survive. Spent is another game that accomplishes something similar. It makes you thing about things in a way you normally wouldn’t just based on how the game is build and what it makes you do as a player. What the interesting about Unmanned and September 12th is that both of those games are from the standpoint of the American military, not from the Taliban or Osama bin Laden. It’s like how in most games the bad guys are Nazi or zombies. I can’t think of a single game where you try to help Hitler exterminate the Jews or help Stalin build a better Russia. People like to be the “good” guys, the protagonists of their games, but most of these really call into question not the natural protagonists of these games, but who we as players should feel about it. Killing someone with a drone feels weird when in most games you play with a variety of weapons in the field. Being powerless without any weapons to fight with other than searching for water feels weird. One of the strengths of games in that it gives their players a feeling of agency, but the way these games are build and the perspectives of these games gives the player a feeling of alienation and immobility. I think this created dissonance is in part used to try and spur the player into real life action, which I’m not sure it does. I’m already against wars overseas and I still haven’t donated a single dollar to Darfur. While these games all have a clear perspective and motive behind them, is it truly effective? Do people’s opinions change based on video games?
So, thisisnottomdotcom is essentially a series of really complex riddles that slowly reveals the pages to a novella. Both are written by author/youtube vlogger John Green and, as of this writing, is still unfinished. I wouldn’t classify it quite as an ARG because the story never quite bleeds into reality. However, it does have a lot of elements of an ARG in that it requires a group of people to crowdsource solutions to almost impossibly hard riddles in order to get a common goal, usually related to some common interest they have. In a lot of ways, where finding something in an ARG usually is a reward in and of itself, for thisisnottom the reward is another piece of a novel. It seems more forgiving and encouraging to its players/interactors than an ARG usually is. ARGs, as mentioned in class, have a high drop out rate, which thisisnottom shares, though I’m fairly certain not as high of one.
Another interesting aspect of thisisnottim is that like an ARG, the novella was written in real time as the riddles progressed. Of course, this screwed over the author when he stop writing, but the idea of readers directly influencing a novella as it is written due to online interference is definitely a new idea. ARGs also have this user/creater interactions, something that video games and interactive fiction traditionally lack. Really, I’m not sure how to classify thisisnottom. It’s definitely not an ARG, it’s definitely not a pure novella, and it’s definitely not interactive fiction. It seems to be a genre in and of itself. I would be interested in seeing if there is anything similar to it on the internet, but the closest thing I can find are the beginning stages of an ARG, before everything goes crazy hardcore.
Barthes seems to think of writing almost entirely as a product rather than as an experience or as a process. He completely discounts the author’s experiences and process of writing and skills to the end result of the reader consume the product and acts as though that is the only material that has value. He seems to be taking the mistaken idea of authorial intent and going to the exact opposite extreme. While I usually agree that the author is not vital to understanding the text, I am unwilling to go to Barthes idea that the author is dead and so is the idea of the godlike authority of the author over his creation.
I think that texts can and should be understood simply as the words on the page, but as the Borges essay tried to say, the context of the author is important. It’s one thing to write a novel in the 1800’s and quite another to write one set in the 1800’s. Barthes sets up the rhetoric of an author as this oppressive king or and dictatorial entity bent on destroying the intrinsic value of a piece, but that is a false understanding, a straw man set up to justify his own extreme position. I find it hard to believe that many authors have this kind of presence in their literary lives, especially considering that it is difficult to influence how their works are perceived after they are dead, such as how Ray Bradbury disagreed with the interpretation of his famous Fahrenheit 451 as stated repeatedly that his book was not about censorship. He could not control his work’s life, which is why Barthes argument is null and void. There is no Author/Deity creation to destroy. People read books how they want to read them and they always have, regardless of what the author says.
Really, how books are taught in classrooms has more influence. Teachers who claim that authors are all conclusive about a certain work are perpetuating a false train of thought that people do not naturally have. Of cause, there are substantiated and unsubstantiated reading of books, but I think that Barthes’ understanding of the author is unsubstantiated by fact (just as my opinion that he is wrong is mainly unsubstantiated). My point is, Barthes presented a theory and then stepped back. He did nothing to conclusively prove his point, and so I remain unconvinced. There is no author to kill. Authors can have their own opinions on their books just as I do. Both are valid (meaning, based on the text), but there is no need to metaphorically kill the author. The author is just another human. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Barthes attempted to make his point far too strongly and because of his harsh rhetoric, failed to convince me of anything other than that this man is presumptive and pretentious.
At first, I thought that Strings was a boring piece of kinetic typography, and in some ways it is. “youandme,” and both “flirt” pieces are rather unimaginative in their usage of kinetics, but others I found much more interesting, such as “arms” and “poidog.” The reason I think “arms” is better than “youandme” is not a difference quantified in the addition of five letters, it’s a matter of shape and movement. “youandme” doesn’t take and risks and just has the two words zoning around the screen. I understand that the point of the piece was personifying the two parties, showing that “me” if trying to get close to “you” and is whizzing all over the place to do so, but fails. “you” is more shy and slow moving and unresponsive. That’s all fine and dandy, he achieved his goal of making me think of an arrangement of letter in terms of a story, but I felt nothing as a experienced it, which to me says that he failed in to larger picture.
“arms” succeeded as a piece of kinetic typography because it made me feel something in the absence of more complex words. “youandme” set the stage for this piece and set the expectation of what he would do with the starting “your,” but then took it a different direction and abandoned the use of words at all in favor of shapes. “your” turns into “arms” and then arms turns into a circle that moves and shifts, which is much more evocative than the wibbly-wobbly blandness of “youandme.” That circle turns into “me,” and the experience of the piece evokes a positive feeling of comfort without every using the words embrace, comfort, or home. Yet those are the thoughts and feelings I had, while in “youandme” I had to search and create some small semblance of meaning.
As for “poidog,” I’m not really sure what the significance of the title is, but I thought the interconnection of the words make his statement that “words are like strings that push & pull out of my mouth” more meaningful that my typed up, unmoving transcription. By making the words appear one at a time, it forces me to consider the mean of each one a lot more than I would reading it in fast sequence. This is a much more pulled together idea than “haha,” which also makes the viewer think about sound in a different way.
The idea of the “infinite canvas” McCloud presents is an interesting one, not because I think that’s what the future of comics is, but because of how most online comics seem to entirely ignore that possibility. Most popular webcomics (XKCD, cyanide and happiness, scarygoround) stick to the more conventional format of comics. Really, most webcomics aren’t considered “successful” until they have an actual, physical version of their comics out in the world (Hark! A Vagrant, MegaTokyo, Scott Pilgrim). Really, the conundrum McCloud has about comics maintaining the status quo is in no way unique. I simply think he is looking at how he thinks comics should expand and experiment in the wrong way. More and more, comics are using methods that can only but utilized in the digital sphere in their writing. For instance, the popular Homestuck uses a more interactive way to telling its story. It includes multiple .gifs, which I still consider to be comics rather than cartoons. It’s still distinctly a comic, but it definitely is starting to blend the line of conventionality and technology.
Additionally, Homestuck is popular as all hell despite these new usages of .gifs and other interactive measures. What struck me about the the interactive media presents was first, I had never heard of them (minus Jason Nelson, to whom I was introduced to by Prof. Sample in a previous class). In other words, their style of interactivity is not attracting general readership. While this is not an indicator of style or value, it does make it clear that these risks are not paying off their creators, a serious concern if these creators want any sort of remunerations for their work and efforts. All of these interactive media projects seemed to lack any clear storyline, which more conventional comics definitely have, which easily draws the read in. There isn’t any sort of cohesive narrative, no matter how interesting and challenging the piece it. It simply will not have any larger commercial value unless it can be monetize,d which more conventional webcomics have been able to do.
Also, unlike McCloud suggestions of an unlimited canvas, these projects all have very clear limits. They work within a clearly defined space. While that space and those boundaries are a little weird, they aren’t so distressing that they become unnavigable. They follow certain conventional for internet sites, even as they break down storytelling conventions. Of course, this break down is exactly why they marketable to a larger commercial audience, unlike other topical webcomics.
While I was wandering though the first and second volumes of the electronic archive, I found a text based adventure game (interactive fiction) called Everybody Dies. Intrigued, I downloaded the game and began to play it. The differences between this game and other interactive fictions games (The Baron, Aisle, etc.) is how strongly characterized each person is. The perspective starts with one character who resists your commands and complains the entire time. After he dies (because everybody dies), the perspective shifts to another character, and so on as everyone dies off. Really, each of the characters illustrates how pointless life is and how each one is bogged down by petty concerns that become irrelevant in the light of their death. It also makes clear how easy it is (apparently) to die. All of the characters are focused on themselves and their own goals, and in a lot of the death circumstances, that self focus results in their deaths.
A lot of the death were incredibly detailed and interesting, but what interested me most was what happened after they died. Until in most interactive fiction where death means the game restarts at the beginning, death doesn’t end the game. The game continues on in a “void” before slowly transitioning to the next character’s thoughts. While death seems inevitable, by creating a void as a transition because characters, there is a sense of reincarnation and how all these people are truly interconnected, whether they see it within themselves or not.
The last thing that stood out to me about this game is how similar it is to an interactive fiction game I made two years ago for a different class. The game I built was called “Survive” and it focused on one character exploring an abandoned church and being forced to die again and again in increasingly bizarre circumstances. I had never heard of “Everybody Dies” at the time, but I can’t help but see how well the game is coded and how the structure of multiple characters makes the insane death much more tolerable for the game player. In a lot of ways, my game was punishing to the player, but this game is not. Even death isn’t the end. Life continues on. And I think that was the main thesis of this game.