“#DontStarve” #game: #Pathos over human survival instincts.

{Posted as #rgmooc week 7 co-op}

Appealing to one’s soft side is every creator’s ultimate goal, when it comes to entertainment. Hollywood may boast on gross revenues from major blockbusters; a movie that is critically acclaimed and considered to be a “great” film, however is an entirely different business. Just like in all things entertainment, the same applies to songs, works of art and even games. As Joseph Butler-Hartley eloquently describes this,

…the greatest feature a piece of art can have is the ability to provoke emotions” (zero1gaming.com).

The moment one transcends the boundaries of game mechanics and play, the instant when feelings blend in and influence game choices is when pathos holds the reign. It’s then and there that the game designer has achieved greatness.

Experiencing the game “Don’t Starve” is actually true to its title. The survival genre calls for decisions that ultimately simulate tough choices, cold logic and strategic planning. Personally , according to my “green” environmental credo, guilt plagued a lot of my actions. Although I didn’t hesitate to make my – otherwise perfect – gentleman torch a couple of trees, in order to be able to see, when darkness fell, I soon feared I might start a fire (also that trees are extremely flammable when approached by fire, but that insinuates I should recheck my brain functions). I also realised that my first and foremost priority was to eat anything my avatar could get its hands on: from seeds and petals to butterfly wings. I felt happy that Willson could fill up its stomach depositories (a clever illustration of game feedback, to be honest) and yet I really pitied every creature that I laid my hands on, so I could prove I was top of the food chain. Birdies in particular were too cute to become prey (and annoyingly evasive I might add).

Playing the fifteen minute demo is hardly time enough to assess the majestic Tim Burtonish atmosphere of “Don’t Starve“. Nevertheless, I managed to dwell in a compelling storyline within those minutes. Still my emotional responses weren’t enough to keep me from sacrificing my basic survival instincts. Scientist Wilson eventually killed that pretty little butterfly; I felt remorseful, of course, and yet I chose to comply with the game rules. I didn’t “feel” a certain bond reflected in my avatar. I just knew I had to do certain things to beat the game, no matter how they would seem in real life circumstances. I did sympathize with my struggling little human; does sympathy qualify for pathos? Hardly.

That is where the plot thickens. Violence in-game leaves the player with a strange gut feeling but in the end it’s overshadowed by the ultimate game goals – you need to kill lots of enemies / zombies, etc. in FPS and similar genres in order to survive. Does anyone regret that? Did anyone stop to think how cruel our characters are or how many critters we have killed in MMOs? Until we discover a way to create

…interactive dramas where it’s possible to form deep, friendships with virtual characters” (Loftus)

we have a long way from achieving Pathos in the game entertainment industry (with the exception of Lady Croft, perhaps…).

Works cited:

Butler-Hartley, Joseph. “Art, Gaming and First-Person Emotions.” Www.Zero1Gaming.com. Zero1Gaming, 27 Mar. 2013. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://www.zero1gaming.com/2013/03/27/art-gaming-first-person-emotions/&gt;.

Don’t Starve. PC game. Vers. Demo. Kle

Entertainment, n.d. Web. 14 July 2013. .

Loftus, Tom. “Bringing Emotions to Video Games.” Msnbc.com. Nbcnews.com, 10 Nov. 2005. Web. 14 July 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/4038606/ns/technology_and_science-games/t/bringing-emotions-video-games/&gt;

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#CLOUD: presenting persuasive #rhetoric in a #game

 A rhetorical situation occurs when an author, an audience, and a context come together

and a persuasive message is communicated through some medium.

(OWL purdue)

{posted as #rgmooc week 3 co-op}

Introduction

The game CLOUD features a dreamy landscape, where a boy, flying through the air, manages to collect clouds and then use them to create various shapes or induce rain upon a heavily polluted city (puzzle / adventure free-to-play PC game).  The game was created by students at the University of Southern California in 2005 and by 2006 this indie game amassed huge admiration and a considerable amount of downloads.  Journey‘s Jenova (Xinghan) Chen is credited as the lead designer of CLOUD, which was inspired by the creator’s childhood memories; as a child he suffered from asthma and spent a lot of his days in a hospital daydreaming, much like the boy in the game (Wikipedia “Cloud“).

Audience

Thatgamecompany“, which was created by the founders of CLOUD shortly after their graduation, made it clear that their target player body are the so-called “core” gamers, meaning that CLOUD is not intended for the average hardcore or casual gamer alone; preferably even a non gamer would appreciate its artistic concept and serene minimalistic design. It doesn’t take too much of your time to grasp the basics – the first stage is perceived as a tutorial –  and the actual focus is rather on creating emotion and a “powerful interactive experience” (Thatgamecompany, “About” section). Chen himself quoted the necessity of creating “mature” games (gamesindustry.biz) that have little to do with short-term lasting, basic instincts, such as enthusiasm or rage, which mostly apply to teen gamers; instead, the game industry ought to seek enhancing its emotional rhetoric to adults by fortifying game elements accordingly . A game can become a work of art and have similar impact as a good film or an exceptional painting. That, according to Chen is not only art but also entertainment in its purest, most long-lasting form:

“what I realized during the development of Cloud was that entertainment is about feelings”. (Gamasutra)

Game mechanics and elements

To achieve attracting primarily a non gamer, adult audience, CLOUD employs several game elements that contribute to structuring a beautiful, escapism dreamland. Music ought to be mentioned first, since the exquisite sound of Vincent Diamante achieves supreme levels of eliciting feelings. Flying through the air becomes something more than a childhood fantasy; it literally relocates the player to a domain free of angst and hardships.  Despite the simplicity of in-game graphics – it was after all a student project – the design is up to par, with a clever exploitation of light and dark shades to symbolise “friendly” clouds vs rainbringers. Nevertheless the strongest advantage of this endeavor is the narrative itself. The boy is held up in a tedious, depressing hospital room much like we are trapped in a daily routine; his only wish is to fly, something to which any child or adult can easily relate. The touching connotation of the boy’s illness, clouds being presented as “friends” and the original motto of the game – “Let’s make more friends” – raise expectations for a social message, larger than life. Chen and his team prove that constructing a successful narrative can make games tell a story in a most artistic – dramatic even – way. Thus, narrative aimed at arousing human emotions becomes a core game mechanic, rendering CLOUD an “art game” to be emulated.  As Brice puts it:

If game mechanics are meant to provide players with experiences such as fun and anxiety,

then narrative actually is a game mechanic, as much as game mechanics can also be narrative elements. (popmatters.com)

Consequently, it would seem that mature or non gamer audiences deem persuasive narratology and rhetoric as key to opt for a well designed gaming experience. CLOUD is definetely one of those.

Works cited:

“About.” Thatgamecompany. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20100723142221/http://thatgamecompany.com/about/&gt;.

Brice, Mattie. “Narrative Is a Game Mechanic.” Web Blog post. PopMatters.com PopMatters Media, Inc., 31 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://www.popmatters.com/pm/post/153895-narrative-is-a-game-mechanic/&gt;.

“Cloud Game.” Cloud Game. The Division of Interactive Media at the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television, 2005. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://interactive.usc.edu/projects/cloud/game.htm&gt;.

“Cloud (video Game).” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Apr. 2013. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_(video_game)&gt;

Irwin, Mary Jane. “The Beautiful Game.” GamesIndustry International. Eurogamer Network Ltd, 19 Feb. 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20090429105251/http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/the-beautiful-game&gt;.

Kumar, Mathew. “Thatgamecompany’s Chen On How Emotion Can Evolve Games.”Gamasutra.com. UBM TechWeb, 15 July 2009. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://web.archive.org/web/20100810013800/http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/24442/Develop_2009_Thatgamecompanys_Chen_On_How_Emotion_Can_Evolve_Games.php&gt;.

Pepper, Mark, Allen Brizee, and Elizabeth Angeli. “Elements of Analysis.” OWL Purdue Online Writing Lab. Purdue University, 30 Sept. 2010. Web. 15 Aug. 2013. <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/725/02/&gt;.

Retrieved 15th August 2013 from http://interactive.usc.edu/projects/cloud/

#Consoles and the future of video #games: Op-Ed final project 4:English Composition I – Achieving Expertise {Duke / Coursera}

For the purposes of the final assignment for English Composition I: Achieving Expertise MOOc on Coursera, offered by Duke University we were given the chance to write our own op-ed, regarding a trending headline in the news. My chosen field of expertise was gaming and video games in particular so I am actually dishing on Microsoft’s latest product. I have always felt that PC gaming is superior so here’s my op ed on the matter. As always feedback would be most welcome – The paper is due on Monday!!!!!

Back to the loving arms of a gaming PC

Expert gaming revolves around two things: passion and appropriate equipment. You spend a lot of time battling the forces of Evil but if the pixels are all wrong, this passionate gaming experience ceases to exist. Revealing her newest product, XBOX one, Microsoft recently conveyed the future trend in gaming devices, leaving hints that pure gaming was no longer a part of their plans.

XBOX ONE footage retrieved 30 May 2013 from http://www.enternity.gr

The over hyped, over advertised next generation gaming console took a turn for NFL streams and live television. The device itself looks like a damn VCR from the 80s. Of course, there is nothing wrong with Microsoft’s corporate decision; smart television market shares have sky rocketed so it’s only reasonable they want their fair share of the pie.  The basic problem however is that Xbox was originally meant for gaming, not reality shows and Netflix. It used to be a simple plug-in, plug –and – play process with occasional friendly co-ops.

Even worse, if you happen to live outside the United States, the whole hourly presentation was absolutely pointless. Xbox 360 owners and potential Xbox one buyers were waiting for a torrent of the latest graphic breakthroughs and posh exclusive titles. Instead, they got Call of duty’s German Shepherds (Seriously, CoD will feature dogs now; they went full Sims or something. Never go full Sims.) There was in fact a second game title preview, a car racing title (Forza Motorsport 5), which I will not bother to comment any further.

Indie games and used games lived in a state of symbiosis with the platforms up until recent blurry claims about additional fees concerning them. Again this is seen as a perfectly logical market share move on behalf of the console manufacturers, but not to the best interest of the gamer community (or Gamestop for that matter). I saved the best for last: always –on DRM. Consumer policies and rights went down the drain with this one, I am afraid. To be exact this lovely piece of machinery will supposedly need a 24-hour check in (Big Brother much?) and through state –of-the art biometrics Kinect will be able to sense how many people are in the room watching Oprah.  To refute the ongoing surge of complaints, Microsoft stated that you don’t really have to be online all the time. Nevertheless, of you are not online, game and TV content will not be “strong” enough, as the system won’t exploit the full power of social media and “other” add-ons. Baffling words and a severe case of double standard semantics are paving the way for the much awaited E3 2013 Expo in Los Angeles, where gamers will learn the gory details first hand.

Sony on the other hand is lurking in the shadows having recently exhibited a teaser trailer for the upcoming Playstation 4. Rumors of seizure incidents afterwards have yet to be confirmed. Their next gen gaming console now reaps the benefits of Microsoft’s customer body target turn – and the average gamer’s ongoing rage – but they too need to prove themselves. Nintendo’s Wii U was the first new gen console to take the heat of the increasingly demanding gamers. It did with the Super Mario franchise and the return of Sonic and Donkey Kong. Alas, the average gamer is now an adult. (Zelda still rules though, that much I have to admit).

So, fellow gamers, what’s left for us upon this wretched planet of corporate conglomerate decisions and Kardashian saga overdose?  Well, if you like first / third person shooters and MMO RPGs you most likely skimmed through this text with a sardonic smile. You see there has been a gamer crowd out there who is not the least bit interested in consoles: the PC gamers. Building a gaming PC requires more financial resources than owning a console, yet the processing power and overall value for money will compensate your initial investment. As far as visual quality goes, the  Crytek’s Crysis titles offered a benchmarking challenge for gaming PCs but nothing that couldn’t be rectified with a mere upgrade in the system’s graphic card.

Expert gaming needs by definition state of the art equipment. I do not doubt for a second that XBOX One will be able to accommodate their loyal gamer fanboys. I just don’t find the reason to opt for a console when my gaming PC practically does the same job – even better I might add.