Postal Redux: Another Perspective

While Postal Redux is played in the third person perspective, I never have felt that the game lacks a sense of immersion. Some may argue that the sequel, Postal 2, is much more immersive because it is played in the first person perspective. In general, many gamers would argue that first person perspective games are more immersive than third person perspective games because you can play from “inside” the in game character. In his article “Why Can I See My Avatar? Embodied Visual Engagement in the Third-Person Video Game”, Daniel Black states that it is not the so much the perspective that creates immersion but how effectively the game can bridge the gap from physical reality to digital fantasy.

Black examines James Newman’s “The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame” in order to make a case for his claim. Newman is arguing against the immersiveness of third person perspectives and how it creates a division between the player and the in game character. Newman states that “the primary-player–character relationship is one of vehicular embodiment” (Newman). Black argues back that this vehicular metaphor acts as Cartesian dualism, “with the player taking the role of disembodied cogito using the game character to act upon the digital res extensa of the game world” (Black). To explain, Black is saying that players use in game characters in order to perform tasks that they would otherwise not perform, kind of like a puppet. He continues saying that if this were truly the case, games would not be as engaging as they are made out to be. I agree with this statement because I believe in game characters are more than just a tool to be used, they are a digital representation of one’s identity and behaviors. They encapsulate a secondary form of consciousness like no other medium can because they allow the player to perform whatever task said player wants to act upon.

Continuing on the vehicular metaphor, Newman describes a typical CoinOp racing game and how it is possible to be sitting in a physical representation of the in game car you are driving, yet view yourself driving from a third perspective (he suggests from a helicopter). He states that these type of games create “multiple and apparently contradictory presentations of the self”(Newman). Arguing against this claim, Black turns to how we view Hollywood car chase scenes:

“While we do not control the car in the Hollywood film, we identify with the driver, and perhaps flinch at a near collision as if we were physically located inside the car, even as we watch the chase largely from a viewpoint outside the car.” (Black)

These car chase scenes often have multiple perspectives of the singular main driver- a first person perspective of the driver, a perspective of the passenger, an outside of the car third person perspective, and sometimes even a perspective from another driver. And while the film creates multiple perspectives and angles that we view ourselves in, we often can still maintain singularity with the main driver in order to create consistency inside our heads. Black states that if we are able to create consistency with films, we should be able to create consistency in videogames, which have much less switching of perspectives. I agree with this statement because even if there is a visual “division” between me and the in game character,  be it the perspective or even the screen itself, I can still feel like I am inside the game. I am creating a mental connection to the character in order to create consistency for myself. Perspectives do not have to be one to one with the in game character, but they at least need to allow me to be able to create a simulated singularity.

Black finds problems Newman’s argument against the immersiveness of multiple perspectives/representations of the self in order to strengthen his own argument for the immersiveness of third person perspectives. Even if a game is in a third person view, it can still be immersive and can allow players to feel like they are truly inside the game. Postal is a perfect example of this claim, as its third person view does not hinder its immersiveness or its ability to envelope the player’s identity into a digital character.

Sources:

Newman James (2002). The Myth of the Ergodic Videogame. Game Studies, 2.

Black, Daniel. “Why Can I See My Avatar? Embodied Visual Engagement in the Third-Person Video Game.” Games and Culture, 13 June 2015, journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1555412015589175#articleCitationDownloadContainer.

 

Source: Postal Redux: Another Perspective

Postal Redux: Shooters and Society

Videogames are often a means to leave the real world and give your mind a time to relax. And as technology became more and more advanced, some studios decided to make them more and more realistic. As games became more and more realistic, mature videogames began to raise eyebrows as the line between real world and videogame world began to disintegrate. I argue that mature, violent videogames can be allowed in society but in the wrong hands, they can lead to horrible outcomes. Like DoomPostal was society’s scapegoat for the gun violence seen in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.

Postal was released in 1997 and was heavily criticized for its over the top violence. It is important to note that this was released in the same era as Doom and Grand Theft Auto, and society was getting nervous about the mature video games being released. Players take control of “Postal Dude” and are challenged to proceed through levels killing the required amount of people with various weapons. There is no story (only still frames with what could be called poetry…), you are just thrown into the world with a gun and an objective: rack up maximum points with maximum carnage.

One of the many still frames that are used between levels. Note the graphic text.

On the surface, the game is simple run and gun game that focuses merely on the violence and bloodshed of victims just for the sake of being violent. But if you dig a little deeper, you need to have a detailed strategy in order to stay alive and maintain your best weapons (ammo is limited). This includes hiding when necessary, taking out hostiles in the correct order, and looking for ways to take out large groups at once. Like Doom, there is a method to the madness and a well crafted method equals a better score. So if Postal is encouraging a strategy for mass murder, could someone argue that it is teaching players how to commit mass murder?

One of the first levels encountered. The goal is to kill hostiles (typically police and the army) and leave the civilians alone.

Though Postal is not what we would consider realistic by today’s standards, it was most certainly cutting edge for the time. The line between realistic world and “just a game” was definitely blurred which caused some people to think that this game would harm the minds of the players and cause them to be more violent.  Their thinking was justified, how could this be considered just a game? It was very much a part of real life. Remember, “going postal” was a term familiar in the 90’s. It was actually created due in part to this event. And this is only one of the few tragedies that happened in the 90’s. The United States Postal Service even tried to sue Postal developers, Running With Scissors, for defamation. Society had an argument against games like this, they obviously had negative relationships with real world events. But at what point does the suppression of what games are released become an issue with Free Speech?

You should be allowed to publish any type of videogame no matter the content. But, I think that mature videogames need to be monitored more effectively. You shouldn’t have minors owning violent/explicit games. If their parents want to buy them the videogame, they should be informed about the content in the game and be okay with their child playing said game. If you are of age to buy mature games, you should ask yourself if you are ready to see the explicit content and if you think you will be harmed by it, you should not buy the game. Mature videogames get bad press because people do not play them maturely. I have often seen grown adults act childish over GTA: Online and misrepresent the gaming culture. To play mature games, you need to act maturely and be aware about what it is you are actually doing in the game. It is important to know when videogames are just games and when they are real. As games become more realistic and virtual reality allows players to step inside the game world, we have to take a minute and remind ourselves that it is just a game.

A large explosion in Postal, not uncommon.

 

Source: Postal Redux: Shooters and Society