Posts filed under ‘thinking’
PID is a newish indie platformer from a company with the amazing name Might and Delight. Two things I usually like together, however PID suffers a bit from the unity syndrome. The unity syndrome is when an indie game bears such similarity to another unity game that one simply feels one is playing the same game. In the case of PID it bears a resemblance to the equally excellent Rochard. Both are 2d platformers done in Unity only with remarkably different storylines, aesthetics, and play mechanics. PID involves a boy who over sleeps in an intergalactic school bus and finds himself immersed in the politics of an alien world. The game features co-op with both players using the same pc which is cool, but unlikely for someone like me.
PID is the story of various distractions, as the game begins our protagonist is looking for a bus back to his planet, only to be promised one in the first few minutes and then to discover that the old man in question is merely delusional, and a bus can only be caught from in town. From there PID grows into a gravity based platformer. Kurt, the plucky Pixar like protagonist of this surrealist epic, quickly acquires the ability to shoot two little gravity beams that will either send him up or to the side. These abilities aren’t terribly exciting, Rochard for features a gravity mechanic as well, but so far the game has made rather good use of them. You will flip plates, have to time throw to levitate boxes, and occasionally lob one into a tube to deal with an enemy.
And that might be where the game’s problems begin. PID has great surrealist design. It reminds of Windowsill:
But where Windowsill’s joy was the discovery of its surrealist mechanics PID is sadly more mundane in its play style. Kurt will be avoiding a surprisingly mundane group of machines in the castle level (confession I have not made it out of the castle yet). However the later parts of the castle introduce some creepy automatons that stalk Kurt through levels and have to be dealt with bombs, lasers, or other methods. These newer enemies suggest the game gets much more involved later. Truth be told I enjoyed the dining room levels quite a bit, because they reminded me of Mickey mouse in castle of illusion which was a major game for me when I was younger and the sitting room where I now reside is turning out to be wonderful as well. But PID initially in sound track and over all vibe is a bit of downer, propelled by jazz / surf rock bass lines the game’s opening levels seem almost sedate and the world around PID is often standing still.
Despite this, or maybe due to a love of platformers, I plundered through the first levels in a two hour binge arriving this morning at a really cool boss fight which involved smashing plates. I can only tentatively recommend PID, it’s design is fabulous, but the play mechanics are only now building to something truly exemplary. Might and Delight might have produced a gem, but nearing the end of the first section I am only now starting to get intrigued. The story, which in the trailer sounds awesome, is another problem, while an interesting idea it lacks execution and often falters in places, PID is a great could have been with story. The sound track only gets darker as one plays which is strange because PID is so much a game of surprise, it’s world is fairly original and it’s story book premise have great potential, but hey I haven’t even reached this guy yet: so who knows what is has in store. So to recap: it looks like a unity game, that same ethereal glow resounds around the game’s graphics. The world is greatly realized, but the enemies only become interesting towards the end of the first section. The game’s hook is gravity manipulation which works like lobbing a soft ball, it doesn’t quite have a fast pace to it, but it does lend to some ok puzzles.
Available from their website or Steam.
A long time ago in a Korean town far from the enticements of Soeul I discovered the pc bar and Korean pc bar culture. I lost (according to battle net) 350 games of Starcraft and won one. With such unescalating returns I decided to try the other games at the pc bar only to find a Korean I’d was required to get into the average kart game. However there was an exception. Guild Wars was everywhere, billboards advertised it on the sides of buildings, Korean newspapers reported on Nc Soft’s acquiring some of the original developers from Blizzard, The game was everywhere and unlike nexon’s cafe games it was open to all. I logged in as a woman and began to play. The server was derelict, a few npcs strolled around, some large town houses loomed in the fields, and worms were everywhere. I was supposed to kill the worms. I turned it off and sold my account. Mmos weren’t for me.
Desire is, in psychoanalytic theory, a creation. We learn to desire and it’s origins are often frivolous. A film might teach a girl how to desire as a woman, a role model might inspire a boy to a life in mathematics, but games (outside of their filmic parts) inspire desire in very different ways. We often don’t identify with games the way we identify with other art forms. If you watch a film you empathize, you hate, you love, characters in the film. Their behavior forms a fabricate that becomes the agent of desire and spreads wide ideas of how and what desire should be used, maintained, and sublimated. In games desire is often created by sensation or rewards. If you play chess and you win, you will probably want to play chess more. If you play a first person shooter, even if you detest the main character and story, the sheer spectacle of rocketing into combat might be enough to make the game stick and hence, to use the Deluezean term, a desiring machine is born. Games work in other ways too, and their cinematic elements can make the game stick too (I love the characters in hunted: the demon’s forge, but detest the game play), however I will maintain the three central ideas of sensation, rewards, and identification for the remainder of this review, even though final fantasy xiv has a strong social element to it, and that selfishness vs selflessness of the game is often not explored.
After Guild Wars I didn’t bother with mmos. I looked at them and just thought, that’s not for me. A friend however installed Skyrim on my pc and while I didn’t like it at first, the game quickly became an obsession, the thought of sending my Mage to Mage school, of developing npc control techniques, and just the general expansiveness of the world drew me in. What does Skyrim teach me? To desire character growth, branching skill trees, and to bear with repetive actions for a minor reward. The the results of these labor gave me a few valuable moments, such as when I learned I could take down trolls in a few hits, or casting an illusion spell that enraged guests at a wedding enough that they killed the bride (who I in turn took the dress off of and then enchanted with a 100% discount on destruction spells). Skyrim taught me that building a character can be rewarding and highly empowering… Perhaps a little bit to much so I took down the final boss with no problem. After Skyrim I fell in love with Spore which attenuated me to the click and wait tactics of many mmos, when I began to realize the strategy lies outside of the actions you are taking the game took on a new light, and well it gave me the fortitude to make it through my first few levels in ff xiv.
So that takes me to almost up to Final Fantasy xiv 1.2.3. I bought the game from amazon and downloaded it, then downloaded the patches from another server. I placed my bets on FF XIV because unlike every other mmo, it launched with an absolutely abysmal reputation, but as the game was patched and fixed YouTube videos led me to believe it was getting better, hence for 19.99 I would be entering into a game that come October would retail for 59.99 on the ps3 and a game where the developers seem to be in consistent communication with the fan base. If it turned out I didn’t like I just had to wait a month or so and then sell my key for more.
The first thing ff xiv did right was drop me into a storyline. The Gridania storyline opens with an absolutely beautiful cinematic backdrop and then introduces us to two fairly comical characters with British accents. I know that British accent = fantasy world, but somehow I always feels that final fantasy characters aren’t quite indebted to such Tolkein like lineages to require the Queen’s lisp. I would have preferred an American accent on some of the characters, but the voice acting is above average, and the humor pretty good. So score one ff xiv, you didn’t make me kill worms. Next the game went into a quick combat tutorial which my thaumaturge went through pretty quickly, then even more story and finally I was dropped off in the woods with a good sense of how to get home. I grinned a little and quickly leveled up to 5 in no time before hitting the adventurer’s guild and be introduced to Mom. Mom is an npc who gives you you’re initial quests. In Gridania people develop Woodsin, a kinda karmic retribution for harming the woods. In other words all those lingering doubts about litter, recycling, are made into game form and form a rather good impetus to continue the quest line and avoid being eaten by an elemental. However the game devolves a little here, instead of being given more story quests, it becomes centered around guidleves. Guidleves are simple quests that involve doing repetive things for exp. Battlecraft fieldleves produce orange hotspots on the map were you can battle enemies at levels you set at a crystal. The leves are based around camps and include crafting leves and battle leves. I found the grinding to be not overly hard, but just a little grueling. I really would have preferred more content and less battling for exp, but until you hit 50, the game requires a little grinding. The grinding however doesn’t take terribly long provided you get in a party, choose a leve that’s just a little above your parties’ level, and then manage to chew through your creeps in time to get a chain exp bonus. Chain bonuses are awarded by battle time, the faster you kill creeps above your level the faster your bonus grows. Chain bonuses can level up a class pretty quickly, but do slow a tad at times if your party is lower level than you. You can grind about 2 levels an hour after level 10. Before level 10 you can do more than 5 an hour. Parties have the advantage of leve sharing so your four leves plus the other party members leves quickly add up and because they’re adjustable as you level up you can make the enemies more difficult meaning exp doesn’t shrink as you get higher. The leve system is pretty good and is more efficient than using a macro bot to level you, but I still feel it needs more variety, a little more storyline tie in, and could give a slightly bigger exp bonus when you hit the dreaded mid levels where exp remains constant, but the amount needed to level grows. At first combat annoyed me, the click and wait method really got on my nerves, but around level 20 all these things dissipated and the reward of smack, kill, run away!! Begins to fall into place, mmos reveals the dissonance between a player’s first reaction and the developers over exposure to the game. The combat in ff xiv is really offsetting if you haven’t already played similar games. I will not even begin to discuss the crafting which is just an awful game mechanic that needs to be done away with as quickly as possible, combat has the incentive of being social: parties are fun, strategic: you have to make decisions about which enemies to take on, who to heal, and other questions, and your characters attributes factor highly into their damage output and input. Crafting on the other hand is just a set of menus. I actually just created an autohotkey script that presses enter once every 5 seconds and let it run for 3 hours, this usually nets me about 2 levels in crafting and 99 of whatever thing I am making.
The major lesson mmos teach us is that systems attract game players, the question one should be asking then is, what systems are worth it and why? What mechanics should input and export from the system and why? A lot of the design principles in ff xiv are based off ideas of the real and not so much on fun, using a menu is not fun regardless of how much worth a high level crafter might bring to the game, crafting needs to be a game in itself and not just a bunch of menus off setting to first timers. Addtionally crafting is complicated by necessary items, in gridania for instance a culinarian can create marmot steaks. Marmot steaks require marmot meat and gridania walnuts, two things the forest is full of, however the recipe also requires garlean garlic an item only found far from gridania, hence marmot steak, an item intended for low level culinarians and to buff low-level melee players can not be made until a player has reached the their 20s or 30s. This additionally complicated by an undesirable gathering system that while slightly more interactive and interesting than crafting is still sub-par. A botanist for instance is presented with a simple interface (not even mapped onto the in question) in which they set a notch in the tree and then have to time their button presses to swing as close to the notch as possible, the game breaks all sorts of video game logics, it rarely nets you wood (believe it or not you can get garlic by swinging an axe at a tree), but it also takes a possibly interesting part of the in game economy and boils it down to a mini-game that is less well developed than many prototypes on new grounds.
This brings me to one really nice part of ff xiv: the economy. Ff xiv has a huge crafting economy. All the little trinkets you collect from battles or gathering leves become items sellable at the market wards or craftable if you have the complimentary items. The market wards are still problematic, while asking an npc will search all available items in the wards, npc still compete for space in the wards, but talking to an npc in the main room bring up a search function which shows how much an item just sold for and quantities. I am not sure if it includes all the npcs In the wards, but I believe it does connect you to other npcs. This means that the game supports a rather impressive player driven economy. I find myself buying almost all my gear from the wards because someone high on virtual life just produced the exact staff my conjuror needs and is selling at half the price of npcs, other items though might not be as profitable, cotton for instance is priced at twice it’s npc price because apparently many players don’t know that cotton is sold by npcs at the weaver’s guild in ul’dah. The wards additionally are difficult to access and make little sense in the game’s world (I would prefer to have an npc at a shop that takes down what you’re selling at makes a big searchable list of all the items players are selling in game and let’s you stay in the city you’re in), but square should be complimented for creating a recipe for almost every in game item. The possibilities are amazing and it makes crafting a humanitarian gesture, another player on a quest with me crafted two diremite rings for my conjuror when she saw some of my spells slip. The ability to make items on the fly is cool, it’s just boring.
Crafting only creates desire with in social networks, not by the crafting game itself. Additionally motives of profit or sharing bear down on this menu based sub-game (hint if your item glows red wait, only use careful synthesis when you at 80% and have over 30 durability remaining). We learn to desire crafting by coercion outside of the game itself. I can think of few games I play regularly just to impress others.
Learning to desire with in the limits of an mmo is hard, but once there the space of availability is huge, the character builds diverse, etc. mmo are peculiar Once you get into the game enough to care about your character, the crafting becomes a minuscule, but necessary chore, but you may as well disable the option till you reach at least 20, the game simply isn’t any fun when all you’re doing is menus. Crafting bots for ff xiv exist on the net and can be downloaded easily, but I wrote one in autohotkey in about 10 minutes just using their API, but it does have the disadvantage of producing the same item over and over again something which the game punishes with diminishing exp for each serial item made.
Right now ff xiv is flush with players trying to grind to 30 and get a goobbue mount before the goobbue mount is removed in 1.2.3a because of this I might have come into the game during a grind heavy time instead of a story centric period, I have done two storyline quests with other players and both went the same way. For Imperial Devices you make your way to a remote location in gridania and then your party is granted one hour in the dungeon. The dungeon is beautiful. A swooping cinematic introduces it and then you the actual layout lacks inspiration, but is serviceable as a dungeon. My party included one level 42 gladiator who pummeled us through the mission in o time. I think it would have been more fun with just level 30s, but the final boss is quite hard and really takes a tank. Seeds of Initiative went similarly a level 50 killed the boss for me, however this added on job quest tied into the main storyline perfectly and made sense in the context of the game which furthers adds to my claim that the game is fairly well written. Square has over twenty years experience creating fantasy content, and their writing has improved remarkably since the NES days. However right after an elemental protesting killing in the name of the forest you are given a mission to “take down” an over grown bird in another land, hence non-lethal missions for the white Mage are necessary according to the story line, but chafe with the games combat mechanics. However support classes can definitely play non-lethally and in fact might prosper if you place your attribute points along such a line.
Ff xiv is one of the few games in which the support class is really important and necessary. Once one is attenuated to the game, the actual act of proceeding through dungeons becomes strategical and the conjuror becomes a fairly important class. Less then 28% percent of players choose support as their role hence a good white Mage is in demand. In the game the white Mage has to balance casting and cool down times with estimations of when party members will take damage, and who to prioritize. This is more demanding that it seems and I really loved my time healing other level 30s and sacred prisming into stone skin for my exp party. The game’s supporters will have their hands full mending every scrap, while managing a dwindling mp pool and enemies intelligent enough to go for the healer’s throat. That is once you get past that initial discomfort of click and wait, the oddness of the crafting system, the unfamiliar elements in recipes, the necessary linkshells never explained in a tutorial, the mending and repair systems, the sparse story line, the pressures to help your friends, and all the other desires you become attenuated to in the games initial hours.
Johanthan Blow at a talk at rice university gets into the idea of skinner boxes and creating desire. Desire is certainly created, the mechanisms of desiring machines are various, but the problem with skinner boxes is how they reveal how blatantly desire can be produced. The act of positively reinforcing something causes a subject to desire. Given such a blank state, the ethics of desire comes up. We can for instance create a desiring machine between a child and an interest or between a child and a commercial product. Capitalism often prefers addictions that lead back into consumption and production is often left on the sidelines. If the games that mmos make us play are actually beneficial is a question I struggle to answer. Currently I am incensed that my server is down , I had an entire to do list of crafts and quests to do, but to critique mmos purely off their skinner box like means of producing desire loses the fact that other games attenuate us to tasks that might not be beneficial either. Additionally mmos make their means of producing desire blatant, a player goes away knowing that they were in a way conned into liking something, but the result of all this clicking, waiting, and calculating is a game that’s surprisingly deep and varied. Players have built and rebuilt classes to discover the algorithms behind spells, the effects of leveling, the most efficient means to achieve 50 in a class and the diversity of builds is immense that for parts of the game one must become dependent on others, and that is where the game really shines: in dependency. On one of my linkshells a cat gives me all her food so I can level up my culinarian class, on another I am asking a blacksmith for cooking knives. All of this is so satisfying I don’t find myself wondering to other games, trying other things, yet I do not feel strongly enough to feel overwhelmed. These games crudely produce mechanics that are terribly offsetting to first timers, but grow into emotional worlds and kinships, they became minor tasks in a social order, mmos show us how far we’ll go for friends.
When I made the unfortunate, and rather stupid, decision of moving to Japan I crated all my stuff up in a big box, marked “magic dragon island” on it and then sent it off with my body a few days behind. My beneficiaries in Japan received it, made no mention of it and when I arrived and was promptly fired from my job I left it there to sick to pick it up along with the 80 kilos of luggage I was carrying at the time. In my time in Japan I was consistently told I liked anime. Now, there’s a problem with this comment. I grew up in Houston, home of the anime nerds. We had fan subs before there were fan subs, we had anime shops well probably like a decade after L.A. or something, but we had the internet and me and my younger brother somehow managed to get entire fansubbed libraries of things like Evangelion and Vision of Escaflowne. I loved ‘m. I watched them constantly and the stories of ennui with in, the suffering of these bug eyed folks touched me. I remember somewhere towards the end of an all night barrage of Vision of Escaflowne something snapped and that was it. I was no longer into anime. Haven’t watched a series or dug a single ova since then. That was it, no more anime.
Now humans are sadly complicated things. I love anime design, I really do. School girls, hyper-cute “kawaii” (I believe that is the word) shit is awesome. I love it, but I’m not into anime. The plots don’t grab, the stories don’t move me, I just don’t feel the connection. Convincing Japanese people of this proved impossible. A simple set of stereotypes guided their actions. They could not be swayed, possibly because aggravating someone like me is the whole point. But anyway, years pass by, things trickle under the bridge and along comes Fortune Summoners. A demo on steam of a Japanese bug eyed cutesy all girl, mega-girly game. It’s awesome. Is it as awesome as Princess Maker or the DS dating sims? I don’t know, but the game has ok-ish combat. You unsheathe your sword, up to parry, and take out some slimes. The girl has ambivalent physics, jumps soar you over gaps, but also leave long skids. The game doesn’t control quite right on a mouse and keyboard to my liking, but I have a wii-mote and will try that.
Now did a group of Japanese developers across the pacific have the same experience as me growing up? No, they didn’t. They continued to fascinate over girly books and school girls with magical powers. They continued to dream. Now they apparently make low budget fantasies for trans-gender obsessed geeks. Fortune Summoners reeks of indie production values. It is a niche game in a niche game in which women are not just unspokenly superior, but cram in the hallways of its magical school and venture out to taken on foolish quests by mischievous boys. Bilitis is not a sexual action here, it dictates the very fabric of society. Cuteness becomes a virtue, and our protagonist and her new found friend share an instantaneous bond so deep it might as well be out of an Agnis Varda film. Kawaii feminism runs deep, but is its unspoken pedophilia a notion to the audience’s own unspoken inability to grow up? Does the otaku dig the kids cuz he’s still a kid himself? Maturity requires experiences and geeks, dateless and often friendless, never grow with the same maturity as others. They never learn about tricks and traps as quickly, we’re condemned like Heidegger to always be stepping into fox holes. My point is initial relationships, friendships, the bonds of socializing are often denied to the fan base that makes up a great part of these games. If I’m understanding correctly there are women biologically and culturally assigned to that sex who dig these games, but I feel like for me this is a form of extimacy. The doll like girl is out, the Alice of my dreams she has never had a relationship, never blossomed into sexual maturity, never puked at a party after a guy roofied her, never felt violated by a man (possibly one like me), she is still pure in a way I see myself. Is kawaii for male fans there fore a means of storing femininity outside the self? Is it a wish for a self that missplaced in sexuality goes unfullfilled? And is the fan boys like myself behind forming a kinda kawaii feminism? A sisterhood of the girly things?
Madonna has recently decided to inaugurate two other divas to her stage. Miss Nicki Minaj and Ms M.I.A. are now sharing stage with the sophistication of the material girl. By sophistication, I mean look at the performance in this video. Madonna is well beyond the simple hunks that defend her. M.I.A. is able to command the stage with out sexuality… well for me at least. Her politics and imagination are enough to fill a song.
The lesson behind these two gender performances (Madonna and M.I.A. Miss Minaj I will leave for another day) is that a woman’s politics or self is primary and sexuality secondary. Despite all her prolific eroticism, Madonna always remains aloof from domination, even when she desires. What these women are passing between themselves are dialogues more complex than anything found in kawaii. Having been assigned to women, these three have found jubilation in gender messages that exert a surprisingly hefty weight on the patriarchy (especially in M.I.A.’s case). And what’s with those dancers in the Madonna video? Faded out anime cheerleaders, they exist faceless and slightly creepy especially in the light of three women so articulate and complex. And perhaps that’s the point, nothing in M.I.A.’s performance or Madonna’s suggests that such storehouses of the feminine have anything to do with being a woman.
The Lulz (iPad autocomplete already contains the phrase Lulz in capitals no less) have become the celebrity hackers that Hollywood will one day throw into our future as the past. They are at times an almost perfect imitation of what hackers from The Wachowskis would act like (google the dudes who made the matrix), in fact the fiction of the hacker, the past Hollywood imagined appears to have infiltrated the present, remember hackers? Remember all those 2600 kids and wanna be 2600 kids like me backorficing each other while over irc arguing on the merits of if or if not hackers actually dressed, acted, or even bore a similarity to the actors in that film?
I do. I also remember a little irc server, set up on the back of a bank’s mainframe, or what the dude claimed was a discarded unix server from a bank, to get on it you just had to know. I was kinda lucky at that time because I was in the rom scene so I had an fserve serving up rooms which i played in slow motion on an ancient Macintosh. It could manage super nes rooms with a little effort. I don’t think my teenage brain ever registered rom hacking as illegal, neither did it occur to me that flash rom carts were just now coming-out and folks were downloading game boy games to game boys, puerto rican sys ops were flirting with 14 year old girls, and we head no idea what the names on the channel that owned the server were up to. Joining the servers other channel was an experience in waiting as the seemingly always on nicks stood there in silence like the arbiters of a kafka story, working their way to some goal far away from the social scene. If you started joking you could stay. Those chatrooms disappeared for me after high school. Computers moved on, games became isos and burnable (I ruined a ps one with an ancient soldiering iron and a mod chip one summer while my mom lived with “friends” between houses) I got einhander to work with out a mod chip and was elated as was I by that square Enix fighting game that I absolutely loved for some reason. My mom’s temporary house came with a big tv and all those lights from square’s games still impress me. The world was abuzz with the dawn glow of the Internet age, anything was piratable, napster and gnutella were downloading music, my college Internet connection introduced me to high speed connections, content was free and piling down the internets like lemmings in the sea. I had video games up to my knees, sega Saturn, dreamcast, psx, neo geo Roms, I played darkstalkers alone in my dorm room, I got a slim sony viao and broke it in a matter of days. The iPod came, and I had music, never used iTunes, I left college, I moved in alone to an apartment. I went broke, I ended up in Asia. That’s when I found the chatrooms again.
Well that’s how I remember hackers ending.
I am sitting around again tonight solving some basic problems with programming and I was reading this interview with David Foster Wallace, so Mr. Wallace and i am chatting in my head, or more accurately he is giving me advice, “who does it have to be a video game?” he asks and quietly i am of course agreeing, silly me adding to this digital spectacle, but something in what Wallace says, my Wallace not the dead one, presents me with a kinda vision of society I hadn’t been privy to other wise, with out technophilia the u.s. Has no room to grow. If we weren’t in love with ipads, we wouldn’t be purchasing them. Modern literateis growing in spurts, imagine if we valued or saw progressions in language as we value modificstions in chip size, what would we think of colson whitehead’s calm acceptance of the creative life in apex hides the hurt? Would we find in jennifer egan’s recent writing a vertigo of emotion that uses time, subjective time not the type of clock cycles, to push meaning to its edge?
The third twave feminists present a unique vision of feminity (and one that often ignores gender dessent) but one of the things luce irigary argues is that genders can’t be equal, perfect equality just wouldn’t make the thing go. Adam Curtis’ recent documentary all watched over by machinesofi loving grace makes a similar point: our view of nature as balancedis flawed, ecosystem skitteri allover the equality spectrum, life outside of human societyis rarely even. We live in a culture though, or at least i livein a culture perhaps mostly a virtuality propped by my ignorance, that values technological consumption as a virtue, i won’t get into any devils and commodity fetishism, but this is a society very much so balanced on the idea of material goods as to ignore the cultural, immaterial goods such as software are somewhat well paid, while goods such ad maternity or teaching are fairly under valued. This brings me back to Wallace, in our little chat he seems to see no difference between a software engineer and a montessori teacher, and it makes mewonder. Teaching isn’t what those that can’t do as woody allen would have it, rather it is what those that expand empathy to degrees previously unseen, those who squinch and squelter to smplify and reduce ideas, those that try to advance understanding do. At that i see a value init higher than programming,t so much of software is just there to provide consumerism with an easy taget, so much of teaching is to provide people with the opportunities for production. Education grows in leaps and bounds it is merely that new platforms aren’t deployed withthe same vigor as our game consoles, american society should be more abreast on changes in teaching.
I think it was blonde on blonde on cassette tape, I have no idea where I got the tape, but the songs took me away, I understood them with a ferocity I’d never seen, the poet trampled closed to the knit innards of my heart, visions of johhana I found in London and get immersed in, apparently Richard Gere also likes this track. But what was touching about Dylan was his expansion of my malaise, the way a lonely teenager newly ensconed in a memphis attic first year in a new school could hear and experience a sense of mission so consoling. It was nice to know someone else out there had learned to believe.
Before there was a dictionary of birds there wasn’t an other rather there were idengious beliefs. What Audubon did was turn the owl from the moon’s twin into a scientfic object. He merely provided the languages of Artitotle and the gaze of math with preemient places in the wild kingdom.
Math, as everyone knows, is a fine hunter. It stuffs splints of certianity in all the wholes mother nature leaves. Math and science built nature a new house, one with circulating abstractions, but when exactly nature was unknown, other, was actually produced by this movement. Up to that point nature was simply a manifestation of divinity, afterwards a mirage of selves and intelligence logic never knows. To understand an owl in categories is to lose the owl in the spirits and sadly its not the mathematical owl that makes owls knowable.
Quite often when we talk about games we discuss the neurocognitive effects of them. The neurocognitive model is the idea that games let us learn with out necessarily being conscious of it. Bioshock for instance requires a lot preplanning for each mission, plasmids need to be swapped, environments take into consideration, things like that.
The neurocognitive everything bad is good for you has a minor problem. It’s called fruits ninja. The game is very simple, you swipe the screen and slice fruit. The game is wonderful, I have never played anything that so vividly makes smell part of the game. If we examine the game from the viewpoint of false consciousness, we are learning some rudimentary hand eye cordination for the reward of a second of that fruit feeling. But, and this is the problem interactive media faces, simulation can addict us to different things and in fruits ninja I don’t think I’m learning very much. Still its gonna stick around on the phone a little while.
Ars technica reports on a study of human languages (I’m assuming written not spoken) that treated certain grammatical functions as genetic traits. The anaylsis run showed no hereditary traits linking the 4,200 languages involved. The finding further the idea of language either list its origin or developing independently of each other. The later seems to be the case, the tendance of lips and social groups suggests languages evolved seperately got caught in pockets and bent to others’ will.
The report though wonders at the ability of children to learn so many languages in so short a time. Apparenty some Chomsky supporters proposed that a commonality in languages could explain this rapid development, but I’d like to think its more desire. Each word ingested gives the child more to ponder over, more to desire. The pecularly open desiring of childhood is a carnivore for words, by the time the adult approaches language enough socialization has adhered them to linguistic/cultural group, they perpetuate desire at the expense of others. Children learn a phrenia of cultures when they grow up multilingual and probably maintain such an openness in adulthood. Chomsky’s idea has appeal in its simplicity, and the way it makes structualism relevant, but if language’s share a commonality it’s the in the way they teach us to desire, the ethnic in thought, and not in grammar or other genomes.
There’s been a recent build up into destructibility in games. In Angry Birds it’s a constant, in the latest graphical engines it appears to be a feature. Remember blast corps? DIDN’T YOU JUST LOVE RUNNING YOUR TRUCK INTO BUILDINGS AND WATCHING THEM EXPLODE? Humans are gifted with a peculiar love of destruction. Trees, houses, toilets, we love making things not work. Anger comes out of us and we get that peculiar sensation the joy of destruction. But this is not a sexual destruction… well unless we read to much into that missile the blast corps are clearing the way for.
Destruction is that big fluffy marshmellow-ee stuff in the soul. We love it, it possibly loves us…. depends on if you’re in that building or not or if the destruction is physical. It differs from other pleasures, sexuality’s constructions are often overt destruction’s pleasures are a bit of a surprise, we don’t know what anger it stimulates what catharsis it cools.
Are my arguments like the shanties in angry birds? Brittle, influenced by physics, filled with pig breath? If you don’t knock ‘m down will the pigs walk through my thoughts? Will they haunt the argument scruffing down all my good ideas?
Destruction in these games is violent, but not directed at others. I have no quarrel with the pigs, my truck in Blast Corps isn’t an agent of malevolence, my enjoyment of explosions does not necessarily include sadism, my anger might not be personable. Rather it produces a slight vertigo, we feel the scaffold fall, the rocks break, and we’re glad for what we’ve done. Destruction is accomplishment on the easy side, an instant fix of satisfaction.
Above: Battlefield 3 – sniper
The immense power I feel when something blows up, is only magnified in these games, but why do we enjoy destruction? What possible vantage do we gain from preferring this over creation? Battlefield 3 at least returns us to angry birds, there’s a sniper in that nest. We have collapsed a building on someone, in hi-def no less. Was there a pig in the building too? Is my argument collapsing around the sniper? Is violence gaining is the architecture of battlefield a word of potential violence?
The arena is growing. The simulations of violence in quake or doom even the gombas you squashed as a youth, games are incredibly violent worlds, but the violence continues to escalate, the bullets rain down, the decapitations are gorier, and now even the buildings explode. I’m imagining a rube goldberg device of epicly violent proportions, a world in which even the smallest mistake escalates into gore. Why are we designing environments that stimulate such simulations of rage? Are we heading towards a hedonistic architecture of destruction?
Red Faction: Armageddon
In Red Faction (above) destruction becomes recursive, it becomes possible to reconstruct and destruct in one easy motion. Additionally this destruction jumps from violence to violence the magnet gun sweep creatures away with buildings, violence of the inanimate and violence physical converge. But is inanimate violence really a substitute for physical violence? Is the affectation I feel towards the buildings and empowerment of taking them away really just a link precursor to the physical? Red Faction seems to suggest no, empowerment is just empowerment and red faction’s ability to invert destruction make it play. We destroy and recreate just to see the effects as much as we replay angry birds. A certain type of joissance opens up here reconstruction and destruction moving at hyper violent speeds, inversion allows infinite recursion, the ability to reply these scenes beyond pleasure.
Mad World is perhaps the best example of the difference between inanimate and animate destruction. This is a game that’s in love with the mechanic of physical physical violence. People are impaled, severed, destroyed, playing it is strangely cathartic as you decide on the life of another in consistent real time, and that’s where the two destructions meet: physical and animate have a finality to them (except in red faction), you are rendering judgment on something. The satisfaction of destruction is the ability to put a matter to rest: the evil dictator is dead, the building is decimated, we’ve accomplished something. What’s disturbing though is how pervasive these modes of game play are. Assassin’s Creed is addicting because we have such an amazing ability to clamber over space, it simulates a fantasy of spatial empowerment, the fighting seems almost unnecessary in reflection, Madworld or Angry Birds rather salt us with the satisfaction of destroying things, the empowerment of the will to annihilate something. Such dreams ultimately boil down to the desire to impose a single view, to yoke the world with a fascist desire. If fascism can in reality be done away with I don’t know, but it’s telling that such tendencies prefer simulation to reality.
The actuality of killing or destroying is far less appealing than the fantasy of it in games. These games call back to a pre-adolescent state, one with out the liberties of cosmopolitanism or consideration. Angry Birds always reminds me of the cruelty of children, the way they can accuse, hurt, and even destroy things with little consideration for others. That we don’t get rid of these desires as our cosmopolitanism grows speaks to their fundamental nature, but arena of video games calls to them far more than the reality of everyday life. Destruction is like an argument, an attempt to impose a world view… and both have pigs inside them!