For my first game log (excluding the Portal game log), I decided to play Ico. What intrigues me about this game is that it came out before Shadow of the Colossus, a game that somehow comes up in virtually every discussion regarding “boss battles.” I found it odd that the predecessor to such a game … Continue reading Starting ICO: A Cinematic Opening with Little Dialogue→
For my first game log (excluding the Portal game log), I decided to play Ico. What intrigues me about this game is that it came out before Shadow of the Colossus, a game that somehow comes up in virtually every discussion regarding “boss battles.” I found it odd that the predecessor to such a game would seem so hidden, and I decided to play. Please keep in mind for this log and for the sequential posts regarding Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, I have been using the The ICO and Shadow of the Colossus Collection for the PlayStation 3.
First, allow me express how the beginning of this game does not feel like a game. It feels like an interactive movie. The player can control a camera, zooming in and out of focus. The lack of dialogue supports this sensation, providing details through imagery rather than excessive explanations. Also, seeing as how the control of the camera seems disconnected from Ico (the protagonist and player character), it made me wonder if I was going to enter his head space or relate to his struggle. It certainly provides a sense of helplessness as all you can do is watch what is happening.
Second, once Ico breaks out and the player assumes control of his body, the introduction to gaming mechanics confused me. I had no idea what I was doing. The button that made Ico call out (later revealed to be a call for Yorda) made me think, “Wow! There’s even a button to call for help. Should I use it if the bad guys can hear me?” But of course, I learned that the temple was abandoned… until the visions came.
I cannot emphasize enough how the lack of dialogue had me more invested in these characters than most games with dramatic cut scenes. The entire situation between Ico and Yorda (once freed) did its job in conveying a blossoming relationship between the two characters. The mechanic that allows for Ico to hold Yorda’s hand, holding R1, simulates the continuous gripping throughout the gameplay . And the couches that act as save points, items quite out of place compared to the rest of the environment, provided an excellent visual to the level of intimacy between these characters. I think Ico explores the complexities of these characters and their bond, and I would like to look further into their story.
In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (KKH), social media is an integral part of the game. In a game all about climbing the social ladder in pursuit of fame and commodities, it’s not surprising that the developers attempted to create a way to monetize the out-of-game social media of players. The game features it’s own in-game “social media” system; after the player completes modeling gigs or attends red carpet events, little alerts flash in the bottom corner of the page from fans…
In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (KKH), social media is an integral part of the game. In a game all about climbing the social ladder in pursuit of fame and commodities, it’s not surprising that the developers attempted to create a way to monetize the out-of-game social media of players.
The game features it’s own in-game “social media” system; after the player completes modeling gigs or attends red carpet events, little alerts flash in the bottom corner of the page from fans and other famous in-game characters about whatever event. It’s a little jolt of validation for each of the jobs completed and also serves as a benchmark for measuring progress — if the player didn’t talk to the “it-people” at the party, network effectively, or wear a cute new outfit, it will be reflected in the fake Twitter feed.
While other gaming platforms (notably Xbox, Playstation, and Steam) have made it possible to live chat in-game between active players, KKH did not take this approach. Instead, the intra-player social aspect is pushed to players out-of-game social media: the game prompts you every time you open it to connect to your Facebook and Twitter. As you progress through the game, unlock new items and complete jobs, the game will prompt you to share it on your real Twitter or Facebook — even offering KStars and money to sweeten the deal.
However, when examining how many people on Facebook are “talking about” #kimkardashiangame, it clocks in at about 80k. According to HashtagTracker, #kimkardashianhollywood has about 110k timeline deliveries. According to OpenForum, there were about 2.4 million active users in 2015; this means that of all the users, roughly 4.5% are tweeting and posting to Facebook. Likely, this percentage is even smaller because of the likelihood that people who do tweet or post are more likely to do it multiple times (eg. not every post represents a separate person).
I think the reason why in-game chat is so popular in established platform games is because it adds to the gaming experience and connects players in-game. It makes the experience feel more “translucent.” But since KKH is effectively “off-shoring” a social aspect of the game to “real” life, it failed. It breaks the “magic circle” of the game to tweet it out to followers that you know outside of the game and who are likely not players within the game.
Bioshock is often pointed to as an example of a game that turns the mirror back onto the player, making them question the very nature of the game following its major twist and conclusion. As Bioshock nears its final chapter, it is revealed to the player that the phrase “would you kindly” was used throughout the game to … Continue reading Game Log #2 (Bioshock) – Player Choice→
Bioshock is often pointed to as an example of a game that turns the mirror back onto the player, making them question the very nature of the game following its major twist and conclusion. As Bioshock nears its final chapter, it is revealed to the player that the phrase “would you kindly” was used throughout the game to get the player character to perform specific actions. Both the character and the player were subconsciously controlled throughout the entire game without realizing it, a revelation that functions as a reflection on games themselves. In most games the player is expected to obey the game’s instructions without question in order to complete a mission/task, and Bioshock highlights this specifically. How much choice does the player of a game like Bioshock really have? While the player has control over their weaponry, powers and approach to each mission, ultimately the phrase “would you kindly” draws each player of Bioshock to the same confrontation with Andrew Ryan.
It should be noted that Bioshock’sself-questioning nature is a well-covered topic, and the game is regularly pointed to as a “deep” or “thought-provoking” video game (for example, I’m sure several members of our class will be examining Bioshock in Game Logs this semester). The phrase “would you kindly” is a particularly well-recognized term in circles familiar with gaming, and it has become a sort of video game meme on the internet as a result. I have played Bioshock through once, and my play through this semester allowed me to view the game with new eyes. I was aware of the game’s twist and message from the beginning, and so this allowed me to observe the game’s functions from an alternative point of view. Ultimately, I realized that the game directs the player in many more ways than just with the “would you kindly” phrase. For instance, a large, yellow navigation arrow looms at the top of the screen, constantly directing players to the level’s end goal. While I chose to play Bioshock without the arrow because I enjoy exploring the entirety of each level, the arrow functions in the same way that “would you kindly” does, always pushing the player towards a singular goal and inhibiting exploration. The game’s on screen prompts also suggest a similar lack of player choice. Text phrases like “PICK UP EVE” can be read almost as commands, partially explaining why I tended to bound through levels picking up everything I could get my hands on. While it was almost always beneficial to do so, my compulsive collection of items may have been spurred on by the game constantly telling me what to do.
Bioshock’s “would you kindly” phrase works in conjunction with several game mechanics to guide each player of the game in a particular direction. While Bioshock does offer different endings and multiple ways to tackle each level, players are guided down a particular path that leads to the same levels in the same order. In more ways than one, Bioshock questions player choice and the very nature of games
“Games are a kind of theater in which the audience is an actor and takes on a role—and experiences the circumstances and consequences of that role.” (Anthropy 20) Throughout the semester, one aspect of videogames has struck me the most and really distinguishes games from any other medium: the power it gives the audience. In … Continue reading “On Games and Theatre”
“Games are a kind of theater in which the audience is an actor and takes on a role—and experiences the circumstances and consequences of that role.” (Anthropy 20)
Throughout the semester, one aspect of videogames has struck me the most and really distinguishes games from any other medium: the power it gives the audience. In other art forms like television, cinema, or painting, the audience never performs any action beyond observation, except for a certain kind of theater known as “interactive” or “immersive theatre.” It’s a type of theater that actually makes the audience participate actively in theatrical spaces. The most famous contemporary example of this theater is Sleep No More, a production of Macbeth by the UK’s Punchdrunk theater collective. This version of Shakespeare’s Scottish play takes place at New York City’s McKittrick Hotel, a six-story where audience members physically inhabit and interact with the same space the actors are in. Journalist Scott Brown writes of the audience’s involvement in Sleep No More, “Sleep allows its ‘guests’ great freedom. Presented with a bone-white Venetian beak mask (the kind favored by plague doctors in the Renaissance), you’re invited to gawk, shame-free, at whatever you see, to rifle through drawers, files, Rolodexes, and even coffins. You and your fellow voyeurs, enskulled in your morbid headgear, quickly become part of the creepy scenery. More to the point, you’re a ghost. (N.B.: This doesn’t exempt you from actor contact — in fact, you’re practically guaranteed to be interfered with at some point in the approximately three hours it takes to survey the space and absorb the long arc of the story.) Fending for yourself in the fictional “McKittrick Hotel” (a pointed Vertigo reference that dizzy or claustrophobic types should take to heart before booking), you’re given the run of six misty, intricately detailed floors, with more than 100 rooms” (Brown). These rooms include “‘situations’: a man who may or may not be Duncan, right king of Scotland, being murdered in a sheikh’s tent. A gelid blonde who may or may not be Mrs. Danvers from Hitchcock’s Rebecca — here in loyal service to Lady Macbeth — spooning milky poison down the gullet of a soused, super-pregnant woman who very well might be Lady Macduff” (Brown). Sleep No More builds a world that immerses people fully in an expansive place, where story unfolds through exploration. The audience is no longer assembled of passive spectators but active, investigative witnesses. This type of theater engages audience members to explore and connect with an old story through a completely new environment unlike any other medium, except for videogames. This immersive theater seems (to me) to be a kin to videogames, a medium that also allows for audience members to explore, play, and connect with an environment.
That is, videogames could be a medium like immersive theater that engages and makes the audience active. I say this because in order for an audience member to become another actor, the audience member must have choice. In Sleep No More, the audience can choose to go whatever place they want, try to talk to whomever they want, and do whatever they want. Like the actors who are also making choices to play characters and do certain things on a “stage,” the audience unwittingly does the same thing and is forced to make purposeful choices on what to do and not to do. To relate this to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, interactive theater does not take place in it nor a lot of other videogames. The games inhibit player’s choices to conform to a linear track on which to progress. Black Flag is more like a movie than a play in a hotel.
To be sure, the player does have freedom and can take action within the world. This is still a digital play space where players can fight anyone they want (except for citizens, which prompts a fail screen), can climb buildings (except for buildings that don’t have any obvious spots you can grab on to), and can spend digital money on whatever (no exceptions). Yet, the game does not offer a lot of freedom to the player, insisting on rigid paths and linear tasks to a linear storyline. After the opening scene of fighting pirate ships that all exploded, my character swam in the water and was essentially presented a path straight to a beach. However, I wanted to swim back to the ship’s wreckage and around the ocean because I could so why not? I swam to these places but nothing really happened until I got to the beach where I was “supposed” to be. So why does the game present options of swimming around pirate ships and climbing buildings but really only rewards players for swimming to the “right” spot where the cutscene kicks in or the “right” buildings that I somehow can climb versus all the other ones? I’m not saying that every choice should be rewarded, but if you have and market a game as being an expansive game world, shouldn’t this game world include more than one set of action for actors? Can’t we choose where we want to be in this world as players instead of being forced down one path of cutscene after cutscene? I might as well watch a movie, instead of being an offered an illusion of theatrical choice. Or I’ll go to a hotel where people are putting on Macbeth, where I can do more interesting fictional things.
Anthropy, Anna. Rise of the Videogame Zinesters. Seven Stories, 2012.
In theory, the concept of Pokemon seems dark and bloody. People roam and wander throughout the world to hunt and capture wild, cute creatures into storage devices (either portable spheres or files on a computer). These creatures are then used to fight other similar creatures against people who have nothing better to do and stand … Continue reading “Pokemon aren’t really real (Ryan Rotella)”
In theory, the concept of Pokemon seems dark and bloody. People roam and wander throughout the world to hunt and capture wild, cute creatures into storage devices (either portable spheres or files on a computer). These creatures are then used to fight other similar creatures against people who have nothing better to do and stand around all day looking to fight at anyone who walks through their gaze. It sounds pretty grim. Until you play the actual game, which has delightful graphics, a sunshine view of people and Pokemon in harmony, and fun. Pokemon’s really fun (a shocking take, I know). In my last post, I said that this game was essentially capturing and having animals fight for my personal glory; this game is still that but after further thinking, that doesn’t ruin the game. This is because Pokemon has no root in reality and never claims to simulate real life, only create a new world of Pokemon.
Galloway states for a game to be founded in realism (as opposed to realisticness), it must have “a true congruence between the real political reality of the gamer and the ability of the game to mimic and extend that political reality” (Galloway 83). Pokemon (before Pokemon X and Y, which features a story centered on the ethical dilemma of Pokemon fighting) does not attempt to match any sort of genuine political reality of the gamer. Sure, the human characters look like cartoon people but still human people. I have to walk to a store to buy products, and I make money off of winning competitions I strategize and train over (yay capitalism). The argument can even be made to critique the flawed Silicon Valley ideal implicit in being “the best like no one ever was” (Pokemon Theme Song lyrics). But that kind of theorizing comes off of as kind of ridiculous. No player ever goes into Pokemon with the expectation that it is depicting the “real world” or any circumstances relevant to the player. If anything, Pokemon, especially the remake Pokemon: Alpha Sapphire, is escapist entertainment, promising a clear fantasy world that gives the player more control than they do in real-life. In military simulators like America’s Army and Under Ash, these games are designed to be realistic simulations and stories of war and modern armed conflict. Both act as sites where player can take the roles of marginalized people in these conflicts (more convolutedly in America’s Army) and experience similar actions in the digital world that a player might experience in their real social reality. This is why Galloway examines military games in that chapter (“Social Realism”) of his book (Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture). Transplanting social realism to fantasy games is ineffective because these games have no reality rooted in the actions within the game world.
For this reason, the game PETA released to protest the animal fighting, Pokemon: Black and Blue, has gotten mainly negative responses (apparent in any comments on any review or mention of it) (Schreier). PETA tries to argue that the combat system that uses Pokemon in the whole Pokemon series is akin to real-life animal fighting. These games, therefore, numb people to real-life animal fighting and normalizes it. PETA, in its parody game, places players in the roles of Pokemon who try to liberate other Pokemon from their cruel and abusive human trainers. I will admit this concept would have been very poignant if it were applied to any real-world context, not Pokemon. PETA ruins their aim for a socially realistic game by attacking fantasy, satirizing a world that everyone recognizes as not tied to reality in any way other than the digital world. There has not been an increase of kids trying to capture wild animals and have them fight for sport to the death. Even 8 year olds know that Pokemon is not real. However, if their game placed players in a more realistic rooster about to fight for a group of digital people in a realistically-looking barn in rural Alabama, PETA would have an effective game. But Pokemon isn’t the grim bloody reality that is real animal-fighting. And we shouldn’t pretend it is when we talk about it. Don’t get me wrong. Using pocket monsters, some of which are based on real animals, to fight for sport is still weird and a little unsettling. Then again, there are three Pokemon based off of ice cream and one that is based on a chandelier. So, let’s not treat the former card game (turned digital game) as a pure work but let’s also not treat as the most insidious cultural artifact. I would rather focus on saving endangered turtles by the Great Barrier Reef (which is close to dying) than make sure my Blastoise is safe.
Kim Kardashian: Hollywood was released in 2014 to much fanfare, where it shot to #1 on the Apple App Store chart and grabbed #4 for top-grossing apps. The game developer, Glu Mobile, reported that it raked in $1.6 million in its first five days on the market. The Kardashians are a brand and a lifestyle that is largely consumed in a passive way — we watch Kim on TV and in photoshoots and on red carpets. Our pursuit of her content…
The Kardashians are a brand and a lifestyle that is largely consumed in a passive way — we watch Kim on TV and in photoshoots and on red carpets. Our pursuit of her content across Instagram and Snapchat could be construed as slightly more active consumption. But the basis of Kim’s fame is visual: we want to see what her life is like. This is likely why on Twitter she has 48 million followers but on Instagram 85 million.
So how does the Kardashian experience translate into a game? In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, players customize their avatars in either gender. The avatar works at a clothing boutique and immediately has a chance-encounter with Kim herself! You are destined for fame. Kim invites you to a party, gets you a modeling gig, and is a guiding hand through your ascent from the D-list to the A-list celebrity totem pole. This is the core goal of the game: attain fame, as much as you possibly can.
Megan Garber at the Atlantic described the landscape of KK: Hollywood as “ambient commercialism“: the more modeling jobs and event appearances you do, the more money, energy, and K-stars you get. Money can be used to buy new clothing, hair, accessories, make-up, pets, mansions, Range Rovers and more that get unlocked with each level up. Energy allows you do to more jobs but also extract more money out of each job (and better impress your fans). K-stars are the rarest and most valuable currency within the game — they translate to charm, as in, if you have enough K-stars you can literally charm your way through doors and climb that social ladder double time. Every action and reaction within the game is geared toward selling yourself so you can buy more things for yourself so that you can then better sell yourself, ad infinitum. (actually only until level 45).
The story-line of the game mimics Kim’s own early rise to fame; in-game, So Chic clothing boutique is a dupe for DASH, the clothing boutique operated by Kim and her sisters. In-game, you start with small modeling gigs, reminiscent of some of the shockingly small (and bad) modeling gigs Kris Jenner was booking Kim for on the first season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Miami becomes an unlocked destination where you can make club appearances to earn more K-stars, which is exactly what Kim did in her spin-off reality show set in Miami.
In “How to do Things With Video Games,” Ian Bogot dedicates a chapter to branding. Modern iconography in games adds a layer of “contemporary social values” in games. He gives the example of a re-skinned Monopoly game where the player tokens are updated to represent 21st century brands: a Toyota Prius, Mcdonald’s french fries, New Balance sneakers, and Starbucks coffee. (53). In Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, players experience a re-skinning of Kim’s own ascent to fame, layered with the “contemporary social values” the game points to: fame, materialism, social climbing, looks, travel…If the game lacked the contemporary context the Kardashian presence affords it, I don’t think it would have been nearly as popular.
I’m only on level 10 so it remains to be seen whether I’ll make it to that mythical A-list or not.