I sometimes write words that people read. I also sometimes learn words that have already been written and then say them while standing in front people who clap when I'm done.
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Ok to start with I’d like to say that I live in the UK and as far I know right now, the age rating on video-games are now legally binding, just as they are for movies, so a shop can’t sell an 18 rated game to someone who cannot when asked prove their age. I think this is a good idea on balance and I don’t have an issue with it at all.
I do have an issue with your conflation in your article with exposure to violent media desensitising children to violence, and the specific sentence “a number of frightening stories in more recent years involving young children taking weapons into their school, to emulate the actions of their favourite video game characters.”
There is absolutely no conclusive proof that any of the school shooters you mentioned did so in response to playing violent video-games, and certainly none of them explicitly were attempting to emulate the characters on sceen. This argument is raised by the pro-gun lobby in the U.S. every time one of these incidents happens and every time it is seriously contested by most legitimate members of the scientific community. Almost every study into child exposure to violent media, both films, music and games has come to a conclusion that exposure to violent media does not increase a child’s aggressivess or propensity to violence. In fact a couple of years ago the British government commissioned a study specifically into the effects of violent videogames on child development which came to exactly this conclusiosn, much to the chargrin of some of our politicians who were hoping to use violent videogames as a scapegoat for much deeper sociological and institutional issues regarding mental health, the place of youth in communities, bullying etc.
Wong Kar Wai is an excellent choice! I’ve always thought he and Tarantino had something similar about them and couldn’t put my finger on it but you articulated it perfectly here. Also I would never have figure The Graduate to be one of Tarantino’s reference points, I might have to finally getting around to checking that one out.
Having heard an awful lot about shows like The Killing and Borgan but not yet taking the plunge, this has definitely given me the kick I needed! It’s great to see how different cultures tackle genres that some might’ve considered to be stagnating a bit. And it’s always great to see the BBC find cool things to put on our screens.
Very good stuff! I was actually thinking just the other day that the “indie darlings” released in recent years have had uniformly insane scores! Often times, it seems to me, filling in for the lack of meticulous graphical fidelity in terms of creating atmosphere. Braid, Super Meat Boy, Bastion, Swords&Sworcery, FTL, Thomas Was Alone, Hotline Miami….like, how many amazing musicians are there?
Also I think there was an extra credits episode awhile ago about the changing styles of video-game music, basically looking at the idea of central, memorable motifs ala The Megaman/Zelda Theme, and why that became deemphasised but was now coming back into vogue. Great thoughts/memories came out of reading this so thanks.
In weird way I feel like it affords film an even greater power. The idea that it still contains an inherent impermanence and ability to be lost/decay. I find it astonishingly easy to buy a film and then go almost a year before I watch it because I feel like my copy is always going to be there. There’s something magic in making film feel ephemeral again so thanks for this.
There’s also an interesting question in there about whether or not an artist has a right to destroy his/her own work. If a film maker/author wants destroy all copies of something they’ve created do they have the right to do so? (I mean philosophically, obviously if Woody Allen destroyed a film he worked on he’d probably be in breach of contract to the studio who paid him etc. but hopefully you get what I mean)
I like this a lot. It’s really precisely detailed and rigorous which is always great to see. The stuff about a setting being constructed not only physically or through its historical events but also through its mysteries, urban-legends and hidden knowledge (Recess and Hey Arnold) was really great.
Also incidentally I’d never heard of Motor City before but it sound exactly like something I’d love! I’ll check that out pronto so thanks for the tip.
This article is very cool and has lots of food for though. I sort of agree and I sort of don’t agree with what you say here. John Marsden, Booker DeWitt etc. are great – and that’s one way of doing narrative for video-games. But I think you’re missing something by putting a huge focus on what characters say. One of the first things they tell you when you start writing fiction is that character is mainly constructed not through what they say but what they DO, and the decisions they make when faced with choices. That’s why the Persona protagonist are so strong, even though they say nothing. You’re given a lot of decisions about how you spend your time in those games, and so you’re constantly constructing the protagonist through what he does. Master Chief doesn’t say anything but he does do a lot, mostly he shoots loads of aliens. We don’t think of this – the fact that he’s an experienced soldier – as a significant character trait in videogames because it’s such a common one, but it is a hugely defining aspect of a person.
Another thing is that in videogames we understand the physicality of a character in a much more nuanced way than in any other medium. A significant part of Master Chief’s character is the way he ‘feels’ to play. When I play Halo it ‘feels’ like Master Chief. When we boot up Devil May Cry there’s a way that we expect Dante to control, and if he didn’t control in that way we’d say “this isn’t Dante.” Even when he appears in a game like Marvel Vs. Capcom we expect him to play in a certain way. The way in which we engage with Master Chief mechanically is one of the biggest parts of his character and I don’t think it makes sense to discount that in a discussion of his relative merits as a protagonist for a video-game. Interestingly that was something a lot of people said back when Metroid Prime was released and people worried about putting Samus in a First-Person Shooter. Quite tellingly I remember someone asking, “Will it feel like I’m playing as Samus, or will it feel like I’m playing as Master Chief?” Like you said I think characters with dialogue and fleshed out dramatic/narrative arcs are great and I hope there are more and more of them. But I think the silent protagonist is a VERY interesting, and very uniquely ‘video-gameic’ method of constructing character and it’d be a real shame if we ended up losing them.