Archive for April 16, 2011

Video Games: Destrucibility or Fascist Violence

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

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!

April 16, 2011 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

OPB: New China Meiville, lost Kubrick Film, dating A.I. on facebook

China Meiville’s new novel involves an alien race with a language with peculair linguistic properties. On another note, io9’s plot description goes a little to spoilerish for my tastes,  although apparently the plot pointed spoiled is just a speck in what’s apparently an even more surreal story.

Kottke.org finds Stanley’s Kubrick’s Fear and Desire on google video. Fear and Desire is Kubirck’s first film. Of course google video is shutting down soon so watch it soon. Kottke credits this blog with first calling it to their attention. Who also found this list of artists in Documenta 13.

It’s been pointed out that A.I. in video games is primarily there to facilitate male fantasies, we can apparently successfully emulate the intelligence required for an action movie goon squad to take out your team in a warzone… but said Goon squad would not be able to tell who to make friends with in the POW camp or how to date the girls from dance dance revolution. UC Santa Cruz has posted details of a game called Prom Date in which you have to successfully socially solve various puzzles.  The game is set for a facebook launch, and is part of a recent wave of a.i. based story telling games that challenge the traditional idea of narrative. It seems as the spectacle of CGI’s conquest walks out of the uncanny valley, video gamia’s Academia has moved on to teaching the computer to put down verse.

April 16, 2011 at 4:22 am Leave a comment


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