Future Cinema

Course Site for Future Cinema 1 and Future Cinema 2: Applied Theory at York University, Canada

4 questions Patrick Jagoda – Network Aesthetics

A lot to talk about in this book! Some questions I’m working through.

1.
After being defeated by Deep Blue, Gary Kasparov, former World Chess Champion, played a far lesser known game, now known as Kasparov Versus the World (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasparov_versus_the_World), in which Kasparov played a crowd-sourced team comprised of the world, via the Internet. This is in many ways similar to Twitch plays Pokemon that Jagoda mentions on page 24. Are these “Democracy Mode” games a ways in which we escape and/or resist the sort of toxic networks that Jagoda imagines on page 18, based in surveillance, capitalism and terror? I am thinking through how every network device I use enabled my own surveillance and contributes to capitalism in no small way, and so I’m curious if there are ways to be within these networks while also resisting them, and/or using their tools to reveal and exploit ruptures within the notion of games as “monolithic structures” (146).

2.
In “AIDS and its Metaphors” (1988), Sontag dedicates space to paralleling the perception and metaphoric treatment of AIDS, and illness at large, to the proliferation of computer viruses just beginning to take hold; in fact, this conflation of illness and cyberspace was also present in one of the earliest email scams was wherein users were sent an email informing them that they had AIDS infecting the computer with fake invoices to be paid to companies in Panama. Why do you think the idea of the viral, and the fear of the virus was, and continues to be such a persistent metaphor in our contemporary networked world? How is a virus different than a glitch or accident (page 78, 100) or the types of productive disruption Jagoda sees in games like Between (164)? What is it about a virus’s characteristics that lends it this power and how might we identify and resist the, often false and inflammatory alarms, that metaphors of virus raise (thinking of foreigners “infecting” homelands, for example)

3.
On page 146, Jadoga quotes Mackenzie Wark in explaining that the single-player stand-alone game may eventually be an “orphaned form” similar to silent cinema. The most obvious difference then between silent cinema and contemporary cinema is the absence of sound, and while we know that silent cinema was never truly silent, Wark’s comparison seems to imply that it is an entirely different sensory experience to play alone versus playing together. If this is true (and it might not be!), what are the “senses” that a player “gains” access to by playing in a network as opposed to alone? Is it that certain senses are heightened? Do we expand our sensoriums to gain access to senses, or sensations, we can’t have alone?

4.
Whereas Vivian Sobchack discusses the positive “non-knowing” that the body makes sense with (i.e. generates its own knowledge of the world through sensory reactions), Proctor is pointed to as highlighting “Agnotology” (the study of ignorance) on page 58 wherein networks create a “layered ignorance”. Similarly, Jagoda points to “dark play” wherein players in games don’t know that they are playing, as an exciting and essential component to ARGs (192); as well, Jagoda also points to the not-knowing that arrises from playing Between, wherein the two players work collaboratively without knowing what the other is doing or saying. When designing or making, what role does “not-knowing” play, in terms of sensual experience, willfully and unwillfull ignorance, miscommunication etc? If mastery and skill is essential to “flow” as discussed previously in other texts, what does ignorance and not-knowing do to and for an audience, player, user?

Tue, November 13 2018 » Future Cinema, Future Cinema 2, McLuhan, distributed networks, surveillance » No Comments » Author: Aaron

Dun Dun Dun…

First smart glasses retail store!

https://venturebeat.com/2018/11/13/north-formerly-thalmic-labs-opens-its-first-focals-smart-glasses-retail-stores/

Tue, November 13 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Choi

More Anthropy Questions

Hi all,

Had a great time at Brakhage last night. Was really eye opening, as it was the first time I’d seen his films. What a unique experience.

1. Anthropy’s analysis of game distribution raises many interesting issues. How do economics influence the creative aspects of games and their reception? Do the economics of games deserve more academic attention?

2. Anthropy discusses hardware in her book. Do we interpret and interact with games differently when we play them on different platforms (i.e. console versus PC versus mobile)? If so, do you have any examples of experiences where this was the case?

3. What about versions or game ports? For example, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed has a staggering eleven (!) different versions (PC, Mac, cell phone, N-Gage, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, PS2, Nintendo DS, iOS, PSP), all of which are different in varying degrees. Does the fact that some games have many versions make them less stable as texts? How might playing different versions affect how we receive certain games?

4. Anthropy dislikes commercial games because she feels they do not relate to her person experiences, which is why she believes more people should make games. For you personally, do games need to reflect your experiences to be enjoyed? Might this tension be more intense in games because of their interactivity?

Thu, November 8 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Andre

Thoughts on Brakhage and Anthropy Questions

Hello Everyone,

I really enjoyed the Stan Brakhage film last night.  It was definitely a unique experience in terms of aesthetic experience.  As I was mentioning last night, I found the first five or ten minutes somewhat jarring in an auditory sense due to the silence and my physical relationship to it, but I actually felt that the lack of sound proved to make the visuals more effective as a soundtrack would have possibly inadvertently shaped the experience in unintended ways, and additionally, it would have also resigned the work significantly to given period.   I often cite Cage, but could help doing so once again last night, comparing the silence and visuals to his description of a visit to Harvard’s anachoric chamber, where the soundproof nature of the room led him to hear certain bodily functions.  I felt that the ambient nature sonically and the Brakhage visuals definitely complemented each other in an almost mesmerizing fashion.

  1. I was rather impressed that Anthropy mentioned my favourite game as a child, Another World, which was essentially conceived, designed, and programmed by Eric Chahi.  I felt that even though this game was originally released in 1992, it was perhaps a perfect example of why individual creative efforts can be much more impactful than large-scale impersonal ones.  When Chahi designed the game, he stated that his aim was to move away from interactions based on merely attaining numerical scores, and engage the player to actually ‘feel.’  As a visual artist, he tried to evoke his own personal feelings of loneliness and isolation through mysterious surreal settings in a dark dystopian world that little is known about to the player.  With this stated, his use of rotoscoping produced realism in movement, but he wanted the limited detail in polygon visuals to invoke inner imagination.

Another item that impressed me about this game was the amount of effort put into the soundtrack and sound effects which utilized everything from synthesized elements to samples of dot matrix printers.  For anyone interested, here is a mini documentary featuring Chahi and the game’s music composer, Jean-François Freitas, discussing how they developed the project together (If you go to YouTube’s settings, you can also translate the commentary into English).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0gv2bV9ok4

Eric Chahi and Jean-François Freitas Documentary

With my description above, are successes such as Chahi’s a one-off, notably in our modern context?  Can a single developer still work such as Chachi did and create something this personal that will have wide-ranging success, or is such individuality now an attribute relegated to small niche markets?

2. Anthropy described how greater diversity is needed in the development of gaming, which is commendable, but what is the best avenue to implement such a shift in very old entrenched practices?  A number of years back when I wrote for an LGBTQ e-zine, I remember interviewing an artist that had been part of Girls Rock Camp, which is a program designed to empower young female musicians to engage in the male-dominated genre of rock music.  She spoke quite positively of the experience.  Would similar initiatives be effective in the world or programming to bring greater diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity?

3. Anthropy praises the ability of platforms such as YouTube to open the floodgates of artistic expression, which reminds me of Shirkey’s comparison I mentioned earlier which equates social media as a modern type of Gutenberg press.  Some would argue that in any instance ‘voices and choices’ is a positive notion, but navigating through masses of low-quality content can also potentially dilute the ability of great projects to surface to their intended audiences.  Is the modern ease of project distribution an inherently positive development, or should we have certain reservations about this unfettered ease of dissemination?

4. I like Anthropy’s emphasis on games telling stories, but I also question how much certain mass audiences value the art of storytelling, especially less generic narratives.   At the risk of certain projects becoming incredibly esoteric in nature, should programmers attempt to strike a balance between individualism and accessibility, or is this a compromise which should be avoided in the ultimate pursuit of artistic integrity.

Thu, November 8 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Casey

Anthropy Questions

Hey All,

I really enjoyed seeing the Painted Films last night! My questions are relatively similar to the discussion points brought up during our discussion before the screening.

1. Anthropy emphasizes the importance of having spaces and platforms where the creation of games is solely an endeavor of expression and a journey of process, rather than products for financial gain. This could be challenged by her later acceptance of modding/extensions of other games as being valuable to a creative process as part of the work has been already completed and is ready to be used. Is the idea of free and untethered creation and expression of personal experience contradicted by the employment of these systems that have been developed through the lens of another’s world-view/experience?

2. There have been considerable improvements in distribution, creation tech and tools, and development hubs for indie games since Anthropy’s book was released in 2012, including greater use of engines like Unity and Unreal. In what ways does this mirror the proliferation of capable and portable equipment within the film industry?

3. Is Anthropy’s goal of having an environment in gaming where anyone has a chance to express their story achievable? At what point does the ability to create without prior learning change from meaningful expression within a medium to ignorance of procedure and function of the medium? Is it necessary for one to obtain an element of literacy prior to experimentation and at what granularity is it deemed satisfactory?

4. Is there an area within future cinema for zine-like creation and distribution? Are the toolkits allowing for quick VR or AR experiences accessible financially and able to be understood without instruction?

Thu, November 8 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Rory Hoy

Questions inspired by Anthropy’s “Rise of the Videogame Zinesters”

  1. Anthropy argues against “artistic legitimacy” for videogames stating that all creations “[do not] need validation beyond [being art].” In the age of unlimited access and floods of content, shouldn’t we advocate for a team of gatekeepers (I actually prefer the term, “caretakers”) who will monitor what is produced and circulated? She mentions YouTube as an ideal platform, but even YouTube has its police and gatekeepers. If games are indeed ways for creators to “communicate [their] values,” then we are dealing with and sorting through a vast array of them in the spectrum of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ What would be an ideal way to protect and nurture the art form of digital games moving forward?
  2. I am not convinced that We the Giants is a “compelling way to explore themes of sacrifice.” When I first read about it in the book, I was rather concerned with how the game might diminish the value of life, and de-sensitize the users when it comes to suicide. Am I being overly sensitive, or are there others out there who share similar thoughts on this?
  3. Anthropy draws a distinct line between videogames and film, while drawing on more similarities between videogames and theatre. With the ever-evolving landscape of technology and cinema in mind, I wonder if she would argue differently on this comparison today. I personally see the line becoming blurry as virtual and augmented reality ‘elevating’ both forms to new heights. Both film and videogames are morphing into new creatures as films are becoming more interactive while games are continuously pursuing cinematic styles of storytelling. What are your thoughts?
  4. I applaud Anthropy’s call to reinvent the videogame industry as zinesters “explore different stories to tell.” As someone who has recently attended a zine expo, however, I am not so positive that this is the ideal route we should embark on. As much as I appreciated each and every precious zine I encountered there and all of the efforts that went into creating them, it was such a small event that only appealed to a tiny, niche group of Asian artists. Creating a network that Anthropy envisions will require uprooting of the current sociopolitical and commercial foundations of this industry, and I am just having a hard time envisioning this new paradigm being actualized. Am I the only one?

Wed, November 7 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Choi

Rise of the Videogame Zinesters Questions

Hello friends,

I have to say that I am quite excited for our journey to the Lightbox this evening. Somehow I’ve never seen a Brakhage film, and thus, I find myself eagerly anticipating this evening’s screening.

I also quite enjoyed this week’s reading. I truly found Anthropy’s argument compelling, as I felt like her intervention was more grounded in the circumstances that have most affected her as a game designer who may not conform to the traditional occupants of a game designing space. What follows is a list of quandaries I had from reading her piece.

1.) Throughout reading Rise of the Videogame Zinesters I found myself drawing multitudinous comparisons between the videogame industry and the cinematic one. A large number of the issues that Anthropy brings forward, particularly in the introductory stages of the book,  reminded me of problematic elements found in mainstream cinematic production. To name a few: overly masculine spaces, decisions being made by corporate entities with little actual attachment to the production processes, overworked hands, among others. Those who have worked in cinematic industries in some capacity can attest to the long hours required at pretty much all of the levels of making a movie, from on set to the editing table.

In a semi-related consideration, I have seemed to notice a bit of a distaste for comparisons between video games and cinema amongst those who actively work with digital games on a day-to-day basis. Not unfairly I might add, as they seem to be drastically different mediums in many capacities. However, to what extent does similarities within production contexts lead to proliferation of this comparison? Is it possible that because cinema and digital games are produced in similar manners we have a tendency to evaluate them on similar terms?

1a.) Considering the above assertions, I am curious about the extent to which we consider video games in relation to cinema in the underground forms of digital games. I found myself very excited by the section heading “Crap Games,” on page 109, only to realize that the section was designed to propagate an argument for freedom to create without the weight of failure. I would therefore like to pose the following question: in what ways can we see similarities in relation to the gaming community’s reaction to “trash” art versions of video games, such as Air Control and QWOP and the cinematic elevation of films such as John Waters Pink Flamingos? In what ways is are reactions dissimilar.

2.) In the spirit of deeply interrogating arguments in what we read, I would like to discuss the concepts of moding as raised by Anthropy. While I wholeheartedly agree with Anthropy’s assertions that simple modifications have immense possibility of subversiveness, I also find myself wondering if it is possible that some modifications merely provide the illusion of subversiveness. To what extent should a modification challenge the initial premises to be considered truly subversive?

3.) From reading the many examples provided by Anthropy in Chapter Six, I was struck by a realization. Many of the truly subversive games that she mentions (the Box Making Game in particular) seemed to be based off  pre-existing video games and game tropes. I personally had to look up what Sokoban was to get a better understanding of what the intended purpose. To what extent would the subversiveness of a game with a strong grounding video game traditions be lost on those with little prior knowledge of video games and their history? Likewise, to what extent would this limit the capacity of someone fully appreciate the art they’re interacting with in this situation?

4.) Anthropy’s piece seems to heavily advocate for the freedom to test one’s own limits within the creation of digital games. To what extent would you say that a rigorous following of her own step-by-step process outlined in Chapter 7 provide a burgeoning game designer with that freedom? To what extent would it possibly limit one’s ability to recognize their own game making potential?

Hope to see everyone this evening!

Wed, November 7 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Thomas

Isbister Questions + Game Suggestions

Hey All,

Sorry for forgetting to post my questions earlier! Also as brought up in class – a few game suggestions that came to my mind were:

1. To the Moon – a really beautiful and powerful story game that can be played through in a few hours that has an indie 2D style.

2. Portal – a first person puzzle game that has a great difficulty curve and will truly make you think differently.

3. Undertale – unconventional, hilarious, and your actions have consequences. This one may be hard if you have no gaming experience but it is definitely an amazing experience!

Questions:

1. What steps must be taken by games media, developers, and consumers in order for games to be better understood as an artistic medium analogous to cinema? Are there ways in which game literacy could be achieved/attained without extensive time with experiential hands-on learning?

2. Incorporating aspects of game and immersive worlds design into cinema could allow for a deeper evocative and emotional experiences. Is there room or the possibility for flow states within cinematic experiences that are enhanced by these techniques?

3. To what extent should developers limit the scope of actions available to the player in games and the worlds they create? Are cases of censorship justified in games like Postal 2 which was banned in New Zealand? The game contains extensive and controversial racial stereotyping, and gives the player the ability to take part in extremely violent acts or avoid them altogether.

4. Logistically what are the ramifications of interactive choice based film? How can the extra strain be accommodated for in production?

Mon, November 5 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Rory Hoy

Anthropy Questions + Lanier and Brackage links

Hi everyone!

Excited for our journey to TIFF this week. I wanted to also pass along some links detailed the, at-times, troubled relationship between Stan Brackage and Carolee Schneemann – https://lux.org.uk/writing/revisiting-brakhage-3-containing-carolee-schneemann ; https://www.artpractical.com/column/interview_with_carolee_schneemann/ . I thought these would give a bit of context for some of Brackage’s work; it also gives Schneeman’s truly amazing “Fuses” more clarity – https://vimeo.com/12606342

Plus! Lanier interview: https://www.wired.com/story/interview-with-jaron-lanier/ . Very interesting talk about what we should be doing with our data, how it circulates, the issues with a “free” Internet.

And, please do not start playing this game if you have something to do (I lost two days to it). The interface is a bit cryptic (which I think is part of the fun), but I loved it: http://www.decisionproblem.com/paperclips/

Questions!

One of the strengths of Anthropy’s book, in my opinion, is the scope it takes in considering all the cultural and industrial (capitalistic) factors that go into producing and consuming digital games. What can be gained by considering the larger facts of game production when generating games (and cinema)? What do you think is the most encouraging factor in the current moment of game design and distribution? What do you think is the most discouraging factor in the current moment of game design and distribution?

On page 27, there is a long reflection on the value of “magic,” and, throughout the book, there is also a stress on not necessarily having to know the back-end of a tool in order to use it. While such tools (and WYSIWYG tools in general) grant wider access to complicated actions than more opaque ones, what might be some of the larger concerns with casting “magic” and having systems be “black boxes” to their front-end users? As makers, why might it be essential to know as much about the “magic” behind the end results (spells) that a maker constructs. Building this slightly on Lee’s question from the previous class about educating users, but also the discussion on page 53 about the hidden rules of games.

Page 53 discusses the roles of limits and rules in creativity – these are further explored in challenges that require makers to generate games in a set time limit. What are the benefits of giving yourself limits and constraints when making a creative document? What is the value in making “crap” games (as Anthropy later calls certain experiments, with affection)? One-off experiments? To not finishing, or polishing, a work?

The repeated insistence that games be a persona experience is exciting and a very interesting way to think through game design in the face of AAA games and larger game companies. Still, how can the “personal” game designer step outside their own solipsism to create games that empathetically consider their audience (the player)? What might be some useful strategies for imaging the “other” that is a piece of art’s audience and their reactions that that art? This question springs from my own fears (and experiences teaching creative writing at the university level) wherein makers use the “personal” as a bit of shield against critique or engagement beyond simply personal expression.

Mon, November 5 2018 » Future Cinema, Web 2.0, digital cinema, emerging technologies, games, iPhone, projects » No Comments » Author: Aaron

More Isbister Questions

1. Isbister claims that games are “more fun” when played with others. Do you prefer playing alone or socially? What might be some benefits to playing alone?

2. Isbister argues that designers purposefully design their games to accommodate a feeling of “flow”. But what are some interruptions to flow that you can think of? How do these interruptions affect the way we play?

3. Isbister cites LittleBigPlanet as a game that “delimits” the player. This raises another question: do games limit us when we play? If so, how and why?

4. How Games Move Us is mostly concerned with the ways in which games evoke emotional responses from players. By the same token, can games stimulate us intellectually? That is, what is the capacity for games to communicate complex ideas?

Wed, October 31 2018 » Future Cinema » No Comments » Author: Andre