Future Cinema

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

Thought on Frank Rose and a personal story…

Rose does a fine job of systematically discussing narrative function along side game mechanics through a variety of media platforms including the serial novel, the novel, film, and videogames. From Dickens to James Cameron to Mark Zuckerberg, Rose compiles a comprehensive look at how immersion helps forge an intricate relationship between participant (reader/viewer/player) and the media immersing its audience.

The first few chapters almost appear as an initiation for storytellers (both of an older generation and those representing the new “digital generation”) to recognize the importance of digital media and the effect interaction has had on storytelling and the audience. Rose discusses some successful ARGs my favorite example of which involves Nine Inch Nails’ transmedia/ARG effort “Year Zero” (which attained high attention on the web and involved fans at an integral level).

Following his initial thoughts, Rose talks about otaku culture within Japan, a slang term used to describe a movement in Japan that saw an entire generation of youth become obsessively immersed within an anime and videogame culture.

Next Rose discusses 3D technology and its use in some blockbuster hits, his main focus of which is James Cameron’s “Avatar” (within which Cameron’s
main goal, as purported by Cameron, was to “immerse” the audience in a world, like Tolkien or Lucas had in the past).

Following this discussion, Rose continues to talk about film and then television in light of the concept of “hyperlinks” which he uses to analyze nonlinear storytelling from Jorge Luis Borges to the likes of David Lynch, Tarantino, and even Bob Bejan’s failed “Interfilm” project (which put plot choices in the hands of viewers under a binary voting system).

Using the failed Interfilm project as a final thought in the previous chapter, Rose next relishes on immersive qualities of videogames, connecting his ideas on immersive world creation (such as with “Avatar”) to
the likes of “Myst” and “The Sims” claiming through examples and quotes (such as from Will Wright, “The Sims” creator) that videogames should aim to put storytelling into the hands of the user.

Rose continues by transitioning into an analysis on fan culture (as connected to his earlier thoughts on otaku) for use in discussion of TV mega hits like “Lost” and “Heroes” which sparked creation for countless forums and wiki’s revolving around logistics and facts within these TV fantasy worlds. User generated content had marketing rethinking strategies that the public was laying ground for (my favorite example of which is the user generated campaign involved in stopping the cancellation of “Chuck” by pleading to one of its major sponsors rather than the network).

Discussion on the interconnectedness of the internet gives way for Rose to talk about social media websites (Facebook, Twitter) and their importance to an overall change within communication (i.e. having a Twitter account becomes not only a process to encourage empathetic behavior, but also allows one to be conveniently connected to important information sources).

The final chapters of the book involve Rose’s scientific research regarding emoting and interactive media/videogames for which both Rose and a few
others he quotes agree, videogames thus far are still a ways away from being capable of allowing someone to emote fully (whether it be through narrative or
gameplay).

On the whole, Rose’s thoughts on immersion heavily connect to McGonigal’s thoughts despite lacking the lexicon of a game developer (several times Rose touches upon the four elements of game that McGonigal discusses as well as concepts of flow and ARG). However, sometimes Rose contradicts his facts
(like when he claims that videogame storytelling didn’t really take off until PS2 and XBOX yet Final Fantasy 7, one of the best games of all time according to Gamespot, with an immensely dense narrative containing depth, complex characters, and interesting allegory, was released for PS1 in 1997 before PS2/XBOX was released. Also, Rose discusses Metal Gear Solid and praises it for its narrative qualities despite it also being a PS1 title).

But Rose’s neglect of these simple facts is not what I find troubling. What worries me is the inability for the videogame industry to admit that they have the capability to emote already. This idea that the videogame industry has defaulted for the most part to FPS games is rather ridiculous. Especially when games have been making me “feel” for years (and surprisingly, I’m not the only one; several of my friends have admitted to crying while playing videogames) through multiple genres/categories the
most potent being RPG, single player, offline.

But don’t take my word for it. Google “saddest game events of all time” and you’ll get 80 000 000 results for pages like “The Top 7… Saddest Video Games That Will Make You Cry” or “Top 5 Saddest Games of All Time” or “Top 10 – Saddest Moments in Gaming”. Rather than thinking about what we are missing within game design, perhaps game designers should be looking at those games that players have felt have allowed them to emote.

Here’s my own experience with emoting during gameplay…

I’m twelve years old. It’s not an easy life. I didn’t grow up in a normal household. In fact, some of the abuse that I have incurred would make your head spin. And I’ve got two younger brothers, both of which I love more than I could ever describe. I always felt that it was my duty to protect them at whatever cost, even if that meant self sacrifice (which happened on more than one occasion).

Part of the way in which I dealt with the abuse that took place in my home until I was sixteen was to play videogames and let me tell you, 1 player Campbellian RPG’s was (and still is) my poison of choice.

Final Fantasy IV, released in North America as Final Fantasy II for Super Nintendo has a fantastic storyline that deals with an oppressed solider calling into question the militarism of his country which leads to him becoming a rebel and opposing the kingdom. Along the road to success, as protagonist/player you befriend several characters with their own backstory
and complex inner conflicts, two of which are a pair of young boys who happen to be gifted in magic.

After a crucial boss fight, and what appears to be the end of the game, the evil king calls you (protag/player) and your party members to the castle
for peace talks. Upon entering the castle, your party is trapped in a room with stone walls closing in on you from either side. As the walls get closer and closer, the two young boys, Palom and Porom, separate from your party, tell your character “It’s okay, we know what to do,” and turn themselves into stone to stop the walls from crushing you… This moment of self sacrifice brings tears to my eyes even to this day because of how much I associated their actions with my own as protector of my younger brothers.

Perhaps this story is very situation specific. And allegory has been a narrative tool which can create (as in Fable II) a moment of “guilt” or “empathy” that can feign emoting within the player. But I didn’t choose to do the sacrificing (like Fable II) these NPC did instead.

In conclusion, I believe that my cognitive processing for emoting during gameplay must have involved elements of the psychological affect of both
narrative and interactivity. These two NPC boys sacrificed themselves in the narrative right after a moment of extreme fieros (gameplay concept).
Followed by a climax (narrative concept) I feel as though my catharsis was tightly connected to my moment of fieros. Therefore, I propose that to
create immersion is to blend, systematically, both structures of narrative and game and perhaps, having structural narrative elements take place after fieros moments leaves us as players more susceptible to emoting from narrative within videogames. But I’m not a neuropsychologist, so who knows…

2 Questions:

1) Can we translate game structure into narrative film structure? The elements of game structure entice immersion so what would be the outcome of hybridizing the structures into a particular hierarchy?

2) Why do film adaptations of videogames fail so miserably to adapt their source content if immersion within film is possible?

Thu, January 31 2013 » futurecinema2_2012

One Response

  1. AdonayGC February 5 2013 @ 1:27 am

    Hey, the same has happened to me before. Some videogames have made me feel different emotions beyond excitement, more in the line of how films or stories make you feel. In that sense I share much of the way you feel about certain videogames stories, identifying myself with some characters or situations, according to a specific moment in my life; and this goes back in time, to times of the first Nintendo.
    But still in videogames immersion logic a believe works differently as it works in movies, because the main aspect of involvement in videogames is the fact that you are playing and interacting in the universe of the game, moving forward in the missions and accomplishing goals. The cinematic aspect of the videogames is something that completes and enhances the experience. And I believe that is one of the main reason why we have the feeling that movies fail to adapt videogames. I believe that gamers who know the game are expecting to have a similar experience to the one they find in the videogame, when they are two different forms of storytelling and experiences. I believe is a matter of expectations.

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