“We even created our own definition: Narratives are collective stories and representations which are made of people´s memories of the past, experience of the present, and above all imagination of the future. Narratives underpin and bind communities; they make them move.”
Odile Chenal, Continent of Broken Dreams? in (2012) Remappings – The Making of European Narratives. European Cultural Foundation, AmsterdamShare on Facebook
As the stars sat down on a wooden bench
next to rustling corn,
a sqeaking sound
danced with the tired howling of the dogs,
a street where no car passes by for hours,
and leaves hanging deep,
close into silent yellow fields.
Flashes of a storm
in between dark distant wombs,
a friendly grumble,
as if over the border,
there is feast of fire reflected
through a giant hanging crystal,
turned by midsummer air,
for an unknown hungry god.
Lets forget to hope for a better past,
join the dogs
barking for a better morning.
10.07.2012Share on Facebook
Pierre Lévy, professor at the Department of Communications at the University of Ottawa is proposing an “universe of discourse” – a language of languages to understand what humans share…leading to something “looking like massive multiplayer online / real life games, or some sort of trans-platform smart social media”?
So, essentially his argument seems to be that if we help computers to understand (digest, work with, read, manipulate) the meaning of our discourses online, they will help us to understand the meaning of our discourses. A collective intelligence needs an intelligent collector to sort out what is being communicated in an intelligent way (quality?!) and what is not. I agree, any referential computational system cannot be neutral, but may be useful for aggregating human “mindwork” on specific topics and themes. But this is different from an approach like the gamification of real life, the coming HiveMind project of the reknowned creator of The Sims, Will Wright. People and their interests (huh, close to the concept of interesting interests accumulating in bank accounts) get aggregated through gadets, real world action and fun. I reckon, “the world” is more heading into that direction than a knowledge engineering attempt to form expert systems helping us being experts like in the AI research of the 70ies & 80ies.
Here is additionally a video interview (dubbed in Portugese) where he talks about collective education.
Fortunately, the majority of people providing a sustainable diversity of opinions and perspectives for young people are not Professors or researchers writing novels, tools for education, books for children in their spare time. And, let´s be honest, are these really able and willing to contribute their time, fantasy and effort to the world for free, because they already get (well?) paid by universities? I doubt that. It´s a nice thought but highly unrealistic in times of education budget cutbacks, where the most popular children´s stories are growing into media empires like the Harry Potter universe with books, games, myriads of fan contributions (check out the socially highly charitable Harry Potter Alliance founded by Andrew Slack) and an online portal conceived by the author like pottermore. “Every literature that is not for fun but just for the education should be free.” True and in need of more support where publishers all over the world who are capitalizing on scarce access to scientific material (journals, proceedings, etc.) and slow down that process. But this seems to rule out approaches which are fun AND educative – which is eventually where education is heading fueled by a majority of kids who grow up demanding specifically this…
I think, without fun and valuable content (however subjective that might be) you are gonna be doomed in the new world…Share on Facebook
Are YOU there, immersed, if you run through a fantastic real-time 3D World in first-person perspective like the beautifully crafted and balanced “BioShock” (Ken Levine, 2007)? Do you sink into it, into the secrets of an underwater city called Rapture because you are tricked to believe your ARE the protagonist or you want to find out WHO he actually is? Or do you identify more easily with a strong main character watching him from a second person perspective like a flying camera, eventually finding pleasure observing his/your performance through ardent action sequences or puzzles like the “Uncharted” or “Tomb Raider” series? Maybe developing visible changes while leveling up like in World of Warcraft is hooking the interest? Emotional attachment and empathy might not be synonymous but it is definitely clear that the depth of immersion might come hand in hand with stronger, deeper feelings and caring for what is going with YOU in a game. So a subconscious or conscious connection with the character you are steering or observing and the story he/you are immersed in might be powerful reasons why you are returning to play a game – or re-watch a movie.
How could you identify with a clumsy heap of colored pixels like in Jason Rohrer´s indie game “Passage” where through the course of the game the simple walking character will only get older until he irreversibly dies. What are the mechanisms which allow us to see one´s own life being mirrored by blocky graphics or a detailed, more complex gameworld? Some neuroscientists propose it is all because of mirror neurons in our brains which facilitate this kind of “resonance”. That brain cells which get activated when we observe somebody else carrying out action which is meaningful to us could be the base for mutual understanding. It suggest that we learn or strengthen learning through blending the borders between doing and observing. The neuroscientific findings may point to the underlying principles of a complex psychological and social behavior: we seem to be wired for learning through observation.
We want to see us reflected and project us in other human beings, otherwise social interaction becomes futile or at least very difficult. You simply have to assume that in general you are able to understand and anticipate the inner states and motivations of other members of society, might it be good or bad feelings. It still does not seem to self-evident that in Interactive systems like games and less interactive sequential media like film the empathy, the quality of storytelling and the level of immersion are key factors for engagement. As a consequence you would have to tell stories in a compelling way to interest audiences enough so that they return to your product or even recommend it. And this is not easy and not easily repeatable.
It might be the quality of story in combination with immersion which also might form the base of Returnable Elements. By the way, 3D as a technology might not do a lot of things but certainly enhances immersion and some people return to cinemas now exactly for that, even though, usually nothing much is added storywise with 3D technique. The incentive to come back to a certain story – “that thing that prompts us to return, that keeps us coming back. it might a plot cliff-hanger and a ‘what happens next?’ dramatic question; it might be a character that we come back to spend more time with; it might even just be an idea or a way of feeling” (Mike Jones) – is what may define the long-term success of a product or whole storyworld. Quality content is king, to be more precise, it is becoming king again, after it´s decapitation by cynical media dynamics, the “one-to-many revolution”, suggesting the content is just good for providing cheap, mediocre quantity you might capitalize on. Anyone doubting that trend should re-watch the film “Network” (Sidney Lumet, 1976) and compare it with our media landscape of 2011/2012 – the rants of Howard Beale (“I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”) are as fresh as they were then and even a lot more meaningful now. Look at the global news corporations which more and more favor a flow of marketable and advertising friendly quick clips over longer formats based on “cost-inefficient” quality journalism.
The network of networks is far too interesting for the quick traffic-buck than to waste effort on telling interesting, engaging and meaningful stories. The same might be implied for the games and the film industry but supposedly film makers, broadcasters and game designers nowadays realize that they need engaging well told stories to reach and expand their audiences beyond a sequel and a prequel.
ARE you engaged and immersed in a news feed so much that you dig deeper there, or just fed and distracted to consume more of the same elsewhere? Are you returning to a certain gameworld, filmplot, channel, brand or name, because you cannot relay yourself to what is shown? No, you return because it means something to you and cherish how it is told.
Youtube might defy that logic, but the Big Video Machine is the emperor of empathy, the Admiral General of offering legions of Returning Elements. People produce for people and people seem very much to be able to connect to that content, how ever badly produced it might be. You might not immerse well there, but you understand the feelings being evoked. And you are searching for quality to pass on to your friends. “All technology is a tool to tell a story” (Ken Levine) – the best graphics, the most prominent actors the biggest vault for video content do not sufficiently distract from the fact that a story might not well be written.
This is especially true for the more complex storyworlds of transmedia and crossmedia projects. Storyworlds and games do unfold their stories differently than films: you are free to choose more or less where to enter and how fast to progress in a world as opposed to the strict pacing of linear film and video. To engage an audience to interact with these multiple-platform worlds, games, movie franchises or episodic TV shows cries out for a focus on old methods and handicraft: tell an interesting story, spark fun, foster empathy and immerse the participant in a world, where he/she feels the urge to return and find out more.
Your neurons mirroring this are your tools, means to an end, relating you to the world, it´s inhabitants and the storyworlds they create and inhabit…
This post reflects partly and mirrors two blog posts:
* Anton Zhuk, Ivan Kapustin and Ivan Vasilenko: KEN LEVINE. IN THE GAME INDUSTRY WILL NOT BE A TARANTINO 07/07/2011
* Mike Jones: THE RISE AND APPEAL OF EPISODIC STORIES www.mikejones.tv 19/12/2011
How to add to the prophetic notion of this short overview of the potential of video games for storytelling other than affirming it? “From the powerful cinematic experiences of mainstream gaming, to the hyper-personal environments of indie games, we are in the midst of an explosion of gaming activity that, as some predict, will continue to define the way we live and interact with information, and each other, far into the future.” Three accomplished scholars and multiplicators of the interactive power of video games share their vision passionately.Share on Facebook
To be on the run can indeed be big fun. Sometimes it does not matter if you are the rabbit or the hunting dog. Sometimes it very much does. The scheme of “Catch Me If You Can” (see the movie with DiCaprio striking the same chord AND being based on a true story) gets already rehearsed in childhood times and is a very satisfying and simple joy for all the parties involved. Be dedicated to pursue and track down, have the thrill of escaping and outwitting the pursuant. As a game for adults it must not be confined in the playgroud of mating and seduction but may very well be acted out like in a movie. For example, this scheme of interaction might get molded into a real live street game like in 2.8hours later, a bloodthirsty zombie zone situation directed set up in streets of London eventually leading into party, cocktails & dancing after being an the run from Zombies for approx. 3h on coming Thurs 27th every night till Sat 29th. Blood, sweat and adrenaline and Zombie tunes as entertainment for the ones who do not move enough while nervously watching the latest Zombie flicks.
It is no surprise that the new realm of cross-platform storytelling or transmedia proves to be a fertile ground for such dynamics and is full of engaging projects which which involve tracking down and chasing things and persons, like in Perplex City (by Mind Candy), Hope is Missing (by Lance Weiler), The Truth about Marika (by Company P) or Conspiracy365 (by Hoodlum) among numerous others…
It could be chase like that envisioned by the Intel marketeers, a chase of characters through different programs on your desktop, making it not really “transmedia” in a strict sense, but multi-platform for the digital characters involved – and fun to watch. It still remains a video which plays with opening the borders between applications and usually separated visual aesthetics:
On the other hand, you could watch ex-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger being chased around by a brutal dystopian gamified society in “Running Man” (1987) based on the novel of Stephen King with the same title. Similar plots are the base of the German movie Das Millionenspiel (1970) or The Prize of Peril, a novel by Robert Sheckley, published in 1958. The prophecy of such Reality TV shows seems to resemble eerily what nowadays became “normal” in the still thriving international format of Reality TV shows and celebrity creation schemes eventually cristallyzing into the gamified building blocks of post-postmodern mainstream society. Arnold himself is now himself a chased man in the reality of the state of California, but out of different reasons than in his pre-political career: He got tracked down by resembling the offspring of his housekeeper in physiognomy a little too much. If you may go so far to speak of a child being something like a simulacrum in live flesh than this may point to the history of a man who was running away from his actions for years. A history which also includes the Los Angeles Times chasing that rumor after the couple´s separation (NYDaily News reflecting that two days later). A chase is hard work, but often the hunted is running into the arms of the hunters, so all you may do is wait and watch for trapping something successfully.
Chasing may be called the main charactaristic of action movies and is playing constantly on that tune, epitomizing the interplay of movement, action and reaction. Nevertheless, in taking a closer look on Captain Freedom´s workout in the dawn of such movies like Captain America now in 2011 the differences in the variations of “chase” in the context of “freedom” and “fitness” may become more evident:
The brutal and in some countries banned stealth horror game Manhunt 1 & 2 by Rockstar Games (well known for their Grand Auto Theft Series) is to be mentioned not only for its critique concerning the Film- and Mediabusiness, but also of causing a controversy about the depiction of violence in the game´s goal, chasing and executing street gang “hunters” following the instructions of a snuff movie director. It DOES matter In which context a chase is embedded in and with which degrees of freedom you may act. The kind of framework of rules you may play by is structuring who becomes chaser or chased, may it be in kindergarten in a street game or in politics. Social learning derives a lot from the setting and the kind of interaction which it allows – but nobody would be suspicious if kids are chasing each other in a backyard. If this chase involves chainsaws, the chaser is called “Cash” and the levels of the game “scenes” then one might not call this innocent anymore. But in general this might be a big part of our social reality.
Around 2000 there was the offer to do a real Manhunt for the winning prize of 10.000 USD called “Reality Runner”, which was planned to be carried out in several cities including Berlin (see chip.de (only german) or realityrun.com) The format emerged in Amsterdam and you had to search for Roger, who got casted out of 9000 applicants and had to remain uncaught for 24 days to win the money. The format did not seem to catch up and was quickly being overshadowed by very real manhunt – the chase after Osama Bin Laden following the events of 9/11 including two wars and a lot of media coverage till beginning of May 2011, when the chase ended with Bin Laden´s death through bullets of a US Special Ops Commando in Pakistan. Man down. File closed.
There is no reason to assume that this was the last example of a very common and widespread practice, sometimes played for fun, sometimes for feeding, mating, financial gain or reasons like “freedom” or “justice”. Media formats reflecting that tap into an universal theme which plays out strenghts of both the film and game genre. Sometimes it might be a wise choice to give it a shot and run away from “reality” – sometimes you might lie down and wait until reality reaches you. Like in Aesop´s “The Hare And The Tortoise”, to choose a character and it´s role might not predefine the outcome of a game…Share on Facebook
The co-author and editor of the renowned classics of Game Design literature “Rules of Play” and “The Game Design Reader” (both MIT Press) is dealing with a quite practical issue in this prototype middle grade school: How do pupils form a worldview through gaming as well as learn the tools to change and modify that worldview? – Through play…Share on Facebook
David Hon was Director of Play at Mind Candy where he directed one of the first commercially successful Alternate Reality Games called “Perplex City” and is now Co-Founder and CCO of SixToStart. He shortly outlines the perspective of transmedia storytelling citing his own work with Publisher Penguin and why transmedia might change from the “next big thing” in media evolution to an all-encompassing norm. But, we are still in the Wild West times of this new multifaceted “genre”…Share on Facebook
A year has gone. 2010 F.R.O.G. was a descent and inspiring place to share positive ideas about gaming – fully compatible with the organisers`s incentive (Positveprädikatisierung von Computer & Konsolenspielen) and something you did not want to miss if you are somehow connected to games – and happen to live in Vienna. This year´s conference is titled “Applied Playfullness. Competence, Media & Sociability of Play”, which sound quite promising.
“Vienna’s annual Games Conference, “Future and Reality of Gaming” (FROG), offers an open and international platform for leading game studies researchers and scholars, game designers, researchers and scholars from various other fields, education professionals, and gamers from around the world. The main objective of the FROG11 is to explore the phenomena of applied playfulness in regard to questions of media competence, media convergence, the sociability of play and the impacts of games on future and reality of our culture.”
The Call for Papers is open till May 15th.
If you ever thought about what Al Gore is producing besides saving the planet from becoming a CO2 Greenhouse then see the newest spawn “BAR KARMA”, a brave attempt to evolve TV with interactivity on his channel current.com.
“A guy walks into a bar…” – what may sound like a the beginning of a joke may evolve into a puzzling game with fate. Or a vaudeville show of history´s protagonists getting a quick whiskey for free before they continue their own chosen path – maybe without alterations. The story got kicked of in January and even the first Episode “Once Upon A Timeline” is more than a Teaser, but not enough for a Pilot. The crucial point and focus of innovation seems the story itself, which is the wise or courageous part of the concept. YOU as an audience have the chance to vote and write (!) storylines, plots, details which may end up quickly in the weekly show.
Will Wright, legendary video game designer (The Sims, Spore) delivered the story engine through which the community may assemble and reiterate the branching events. This goes as far as coming up with ideas for the drinks being served (by the way, it´s about a Bar…). You may call this massively crowdsourcing, you may call this a lack of ideas (except the compelling initial one) but the power of the concept my literally lay in the hands of the formerly passive “recipients” of a TV series. They may decide now. If the Bar Karma fanbase will become more creative than the best writers in the booming and innovative TV-Series business outperforming Hollywood is still written in the stars…
It will need a lot of good Karma to perform as an emotionally binding cast with all the “surprise guests” which will walk though the front door. Main character Doug Jones (Matthew Humphreyes) comes across convincingly and likeable, William Sanderson as James Aanon is more than a safe play as an anchor of atmosphere concerning his track as an actor – only Cassie Howarth will have to earn her spurs to avoid the trap of attractiveness. The quite blunt product placement of the sponsor Mazda might be unavoidable, but it could happen with more decency. I never liked Series which seemed to have the look of a commercial (even if that look just pops up temporarily) – I makes one feel uneasy about who is in charge for the story and this is most precarious if you have an open, innovative format.
But the overall atmosphere and rythm of “BAR KARMA” is electrifying as a short format and it could turn out as a gem stone in how the fate of entertainment can be altered by single minds hand in hand with jumps in technology, evoking the reaction of more minds. The Swedish participatory TV drama “The truth about Marika” which was awarded the International Interactive Emmy Award in 2008 descends from a similar spirit and is a precursor of formats which blend online and offline, truth and fiction. Current.com is appearantly also involved in Augmented Reality Game projects like “The Big Plot” (http://www.thebigplot.net)…so let´s see the things to come…
WATCH and WRITE @