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Posts Tagged ‘Fatal Frame’

I had the displeasure to stumble upon this article “Opinion: Looking for Meaning in Games” by Chris Remo on Gamasutra.

Having spent the better part of a few years writing my MA thesis on gaming, as well as being a former videogame critic and a member of the Canadian Gaming Studies Association, I was provoked by this mis-informed opinion. Here is what I wrote in the comments.

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I am not entirely sure what kind of meaning you are looking for, since you seem to dance around what it is exactly you are looking for. This article deals with ‘meaning’ in games on an entirely superficial level. I am frustrated that little critical thought went into writing this article, you make assumptions and do not actually try to think about gaming on any sort of level. You could have deconstructed a game either based on its design, its narrative or how it functions to find ‘meaning’. Instead you simply name drop, without explanations as to why or how these films, novels or pieces of music cause a different intellectual response in you. You simply affirm that they do create a unique response, but not why and how do they do it differently or better than a videogame.

You cite Umberto Eco as an author that you would consider more intellectually stimulating than gaming. If you read his scholarship you can easily draw parallels to gaming from his texts The Open Work and ‘Innovation and Repetition: Between Modern and Post-Modern Aesthetics’. World of Warcraft easily idealizes Eco’s notion of an open work. Actually, the majority of my MA thesis uses Eco to examine videogames.

Also, you make the assumption that a spectator media, such as reading a book or watching a movie is the same as the interactive media of a videogame. When interactivity and spectator ship are two very different things. Games need to be fun in order to be played, but being ‘fun’ does not make them vacant of meaning. In addition, I find it odd that you scorn indy games that do have meaning, but you find too challenging to decipher. If you want ‘meaning’ you actually have to put some effort into thinking, not expecting it to hit you on the head. Actually reading what people write who work in Game studies would have informed your opinion.

The field of Game Studies uses film theory, ludology, narratology, comparative literature, etc to examine games. I use an Art Historical context to examine videogames. All of these forms of examination on videogames have a vast amount of critical writing dating back to at least 90s (Sherry Turkle comes to mind) on videogames. You could have looked up Ian Bogost (who has written for Gamasutra), Alexander Galloway, http://www.gamestudies.com, or even Henry Jenkins to help investigate ‘meaning’ in games. Instead, you completely disregard all of the scholarship on videogames and create an over all misinformed opinion.

I’ll find ‘meaning’ in for you in Koudelka and the Fatal Frame series while referencing “I Lose, Therefore I Think” by Shuen-shing Lee ( Gamestudies. 3.2 Decemeber 2003).

Koudelka (2000, PlayStation, Sacnoth) is the first game in the Shadow Hearts series. This game appears to be the stereotypical RPG, winner takes all and everyone lives happily ever after. It is not. During a drunken discussion near the end of the game Edward praises Koudelka for her powers and for her freedom. Edward arrogantly wishes that he could be like her and be free of bourgeois college life. Koudelka snaps at him. She drunkenly and almost in tears (Koudelka is a fully voiced videogame) admits that she foresaw her own father’s death, and was exiled from the gypsy community when she was nine. She was forced to sell her body for food and warmth and has never been accepted or loved because of her unique talents. She criticizes Edward for his easy life and for being a dreamer because he has no sense of what reality is since he lives in a bourgeois fantasy.

Koudelka is not only criticizing Edward, but the player of the game as well. Videogames function as a form of escapism and often players will imagine themselves as heroes of the game, not realizing that being the hero may not be as great as it appears to be. At the end of the day, Edward and the player, can go home and be with their families and not have to worry about the horrors of ‘real life’. Koudelka, who is envied for her power, is shunned as an outsider and has no home, but is romanticized by Edward and the player as having an ideal and exciting life. There is a moment when listening to conversation between Edward and Koudelka, that the player feels ashamed for playing the game, because they are imagining what it is like to be Koudelka without knowing anything about her. The player also feels sadness for the character they admire in the game. The player is shifted from the role of Koudelka, the main protagonist, to the side kick, Edward, who has come along for the ride only wanting to experience adventure that he had about read in books. However, that being said it is very likely that there are players who will relate to Koudelka more than Edward because they have also suffered the injustices of the real world.

Another way that Koudelka is different for other games is that you have to lose to win. There are three different endings for Koudelka. In order to get the true ending you have to lose the battle against the final boss, which Elain’s homunculus transformed into a giant monstrous spider-like creature.

The player has to choose not to attack during the entire battle. When the player is defeated, Bishop James sacrifices himself by throwing himself toward Elain’s monstrous giant spider form. He professes that he has always loved her and that his life in the church was a complete waste. He begs Elain’s homunculus for forgiveness. The clouds part from the sky and a pillar of light shines from the heavens and Elain is transformed back into her human form and her and the Bishop disappear together

In order to achieve this ending the gamer must go against gaming conventions and lose the final battle. In order to lose the game the player must not fight back. Since games are made of actions it is difficult to go against what is a normal gaming convention. Even when the player receives the true ending it is not a completely happy one. James is dead, and Koudelka and Edward do not stay together.

Sacrifice is not entirely new or unique in videogames. It is a very common theme in Japanese horror games and films. The most famous of these is the Fatal Frame series where in each game the player cannot truly win. In the end of each Fatal Frame game the player loses the person the main character loves most.  In Fatal Frame, unlike Koudelka,the player can gain other endings that are happy. However, in Fatal Frame III, which ties all sequent Fatal Frame games together, the player learns that none of the happy endings are true, only the sad ones. This teaches the player that situations are bigger than a single person, and that one cannot escape strife without losing something you value most.

In losing a game you are taught a moral lesson, the player is cheated from pure victory but is given something memorable in exchange. Typically and logically in videogames you have to win, if you are only meant to loose the videogame becomes more than just about being victorious. Losing can reveal a truth, for the most part real life is not about winning but about surviving, which is sometimes all we can expect from life.

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linken5. Linken Quest line in World of Warcraft (Videogame)

The Linken Quest line serves a strange commentary on the familiarity of Role Playing Game narratives.  It illuminates the similarity of many RPG narratives in a single quest line in WofW. Using the Legend of Zelda narrative, the player must collect objects to help Linken (the WofW version of Link) regain his memory. Players are rewarded with the Sword of Mastery and Linken’s Boomerang which are WofW versions of the iconic Master Sword and Boomerang.

4. Fatal Frame 3 manga collection

Though entirely in Japanese, the fan fiction manga for Fatal Frame 3 (as well as the manga collections for the previous two Fatal Frame games), adds an extra dimension to the narrative. It is beautifully illustrated with a wide variety of drawing styles. From the images alone, you get the sense of what these authors are adding to the FF3 narrative.

3. Tin Man (TV Series)

I’ve always enjoyed the animated versions as well as graphic novels of the Wizard of Oz. Honestly, I’ve never been keen on the musical version. Tin Man is the first filmed and acted version of the Wizard of Oz that I have enjoyed. It is simply a darker and interesting take on the Wizard of Oz. However, I wish they had gone further with it.

1165641897_Ealice2. American McGee’s Alice (videogame)

American McGee’s re-imaging of Wonderland after Alice’s family died tragically in a  fire, causing her to go mad and spend the rest of her life in an Asylum. She re-visits Wonderland, however Wonderland is  dark and twisted to reflect her now insane mind. Alice is no longer a lost little girl, but it is at home and is as frightening as the residents of Wonderland.

1. Teacher  by Loten (Fan Fiction)

Teacher is Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic told from the perspective of Numair Salmalín. Loten is one of few fan fiction authors that I felt profoundly understood Numair’s character. The Immortals series by Tamora Pierce is easily one of my favourite reads. Numair is a character that I have always wanted to read more about.  Loten’s version of the first book in series fills in blanks and satisfied my curiosity about Tortall’s greatest mage . Loten’s re-telling of the entire Immortal series is helping me await Tamora Pierce’s own duo on Numair.

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