torsdag, november 15, 2018

Games and Culture, november 16th 2018

Ecenbarger, C. 2016. "Comic Books, Video Games and Transmedia Storytelling: A Case Study of The Walking Dead." International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, vol. 8, Issue 2, April - June 2016.

This article is about transmedia storytelling using The Walking Dead as an example. Transmedia storytelling is about telling a story over several different platforms. The Walking Dead is a comic series from 2003, a game by Telltale from 2012, and a series on HBO. According to Ecenbarger, Telltale uses transmedia storytelling. Henry Jenkins claims that transmedia storytelling (TS) creates additional markets by spreading a franchise over different platforms and modalities, defining it as a narrative where each new modality adds to the story, rather than repeat it.

To explain TS, Ecenbarger starts with intertextuality, which is the connection between different texts - the meaning of a text is constantly based on our knowledge of other texts, and based on our cultural position and knowledge, which Ecenbarger explains by referencing Bakhtin, Marx and Kristeva. Then he moves on the Genette's concept paratext, explained by Gray. A paratext is an item used to assist the reception of a text by the audience. Gray points out that this can include other media, and objects such as toys. Further, they have different uses in the digital age, such as controlling entry to the text, policing reading strategies, flowing between gaps in the text.

The game uses a particular technology, cel shading, to make it look like a comic, creating coherence and connection from the comic, supporting worldness. It also uses logos, typefaces and stylistic liknesses to create association between the different media. Telltale is visually reminding the player that this is a world in a comic book. The characters cross over, and they add new knowledge to the canon of this world, created in the comics. By breaking away from the comics and adding to the story, it is not important whether or not the player has read the comic, they can still enjoy this new part of the world. The experienced reader learns something new, the inexperienced is not left feeling like this is a story they should have known.

In this manner the game creates a bridge into an unknown storyworld. As the game progresses, the connections are made obvious both through association, but also through opposition. Where the hero of the comics is an officer of the law, the hero of the game is a convicted criminal. Telltale uses different types of characters and events to expand the storyworld and create a new understanding of The Walking Dead universe.

Henry Jenkins Transmedia storytelling 101.
Lisbeth Klastrup on Worldness.

Written fan fiction of The Walking Dead
Fan video of The Walking Dead

Nicolle Lamerichs, 2011. "Stranger than fiction: Fan identity in cosplay." Transformative Works and Cultures, vol 7.

Like fan fiction, fan movies, and fan art, cosplay motivates fans to closely interpret existing texts, perform them, and extend them with their own narratives and ideas. Lamerichs analyses cosplay as performativity.

Cosplaying was coined by Japanese game designer Takahashi Nobuyuki in the 1980ies, and it has become very prominent in Japan.  Lamerichs studies this as a performance, and cites Bial as she defines it as a tangible, bounded event that involves the presentation of rehearsed artistic actions. Cosplay is often performed for the audience, but as much as an expression of the enthusiasm of the cosplayer, or of connection between different participants, including audience and photographers. To understand how this is an expression of identity, Lamerichs discusses Buther's understanding of identity as not invented, but as a temporary result of imitation. The performativity of identity is an uncertain subject without a core, and is not a voluntary act, but confined to the discursive practices of society. Still, butler claims it is possible to play with identity, even subvert it, and points to drag.

According to Butler, drag confirms heteronormativity, as she discusses it as lived expression. Lamerichs points out that drag can also be carnivalesque (Bakhtin), theatre or protest. Further, Butler does not look at the intent of the performer. Instead, Lamerichs points of the conbination of identity and playfulness in both drag and cosplay, and points to Stuart Hall's work, where dientity is seen as twofold, determined both by the discursive practices, and by the performers' use of culture, as the identity is constructed through articulation.

Cosplay is an embodied play form, where cosplayers use their bodies to display affection for certain narratives. It is impossible to draw the line between cosplayers and non-players, it is not just about dress, but is also embodied through behaviour, often judged both according to features of the body and behaviour, while the goal of most cosplayers is to express their own identity through a costume.

Cosplaying is an example of how fans rework a text, and it leans on identification with narrative content.

Harajuku Bridge - cosplay central in Tokyo.

Geralt of Rivia cosplay in 12 steps.
Klaus Pichler's beautiful pictures of Cosplayers in Austria.
Festival of colours - holi

torsdag, november 08, 2018

Games and Culture, Nov. 9th 2018

Brown, D. and Kryzywinska, T.: "Following in the footsteps of the fellowship".

The authors play Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), and discuss how the game "tolkienise" the MMORPG format, looking at the game as text. They go through the features of the game and show where the game is different from the books, and what this means to the player, starting with the first parts of book and game - either a map or a character creation screen. They point out the importance of the players' knowledge of the storyline from other media, and how maps, with the possibility to explore, comes as the player gains experience, as a reward for completing the first quests. The maps can be used during play, and change with the explorations by the player, which underlines the difference between the static paper maps of the books, and the flexible, dynamic game map, which actively invites and rewards player exploration.

Maps are important to the first part of the article, and the authors show how they are both referencing physical maps from paper or parchment, while being digital, dynamic and useful while exploring the game. They also underline the importance of the original map drawn by Tolkien for The Hobbit. This maps is also important in the movies. The authors use the maps to talk about the value of the hand made, and citing Tom Conley claim that maps both authenticate (through craft) and distance the viewer (through special effects.) The authors, however, find that players seek out the carefully crafted illusion of the game, and appreciate it's careful creative work as well done craftmanship, rather than a distancing middle man between player and somehow authentic real of the fantasy object.

Beautiful and distinct places makes traversing the game landscape bearable and even interesting, despite the predictable nature of quests. But the landscape and colour schemes also work to communicate theme, associations and meaning, from the summer innocence of hobbit and human lands, to the autumn sadness of the elven lands. This is an example of the geo-metaphor (pp 24), also mirrored in language (harsh sounding names), where colour and atmosphere is used to make the player uncomfortable.

In pg 26 the authors address a specific problem for MMORPGs made from epic tales. Not all players can be the main characters. They cite Jenkins talking about Star Wars, and the problem of every player wanting to be a Jedi. In LOTRO this is solved by letting the players explore the areas not explored in the books, and the quests function as tour guides. The epic quest chain moves players away from the familiar storyline. The characters from the original fellowship show up as NPCs and trainers of different classes, and allow the players to fight along side them or interact in specially designed quests. The author demonstrate a simple form of phasing that lets the game change gently through play, and point out that the game draws on the rich lore of Lord of the Rings to create a fictional space that leaves room for the players to fill in the story, whether they already know it or not.

In a discussion of how LOTRO renames player stats we see how the fiction merges with the play mechanic as players don't lose health, but hope, a further example of tolkienisation (pg 36).  Other named spells, threats and supports adhere to the lore of the narrative universe. This is expressed through the fellowship play, where there is less emphasis on min/maxing damage, and more on staggered output with support and healing being as important as steady damage (pg 40).

LOTRO World map
Dynamic map Bree-Land.
National Geographic on maps.
Finding a map of Middle Earth with notes by Tolkien.

Majkowski, T. Z. : "Geralt of Poland: The Witcher 3 between epistemic disobedience and imperial nostalgia."

Epistemic - relating to knowledge.

Majkowski starts out with the kind of discussion which has become painfully familiar in gamer forums, the question of whether or not a game is racist. He quickly summarises the most commonly seen online discussions, where there are two groups stand against each other in a discussion concerning the political correctness of the game: Those who feel that a Polish "medieval" game should remain "true" to the ethnicity of the area, and those who feel that the moment there are dragons and magic in the game, "true" has left the building anyway. This article leaves both positions behind, and points out that there is definitely inherent racism and cultural appropriation in the game, but it is not the same as as we find in the Anglo-American debate of what racism is. The problem is not as much whitewashing as marginalisation in relation to an ideal European center of civilisation.

This is where Majkowski questions if the game design is an act of epistemic disobedience - a rejection of an English-language dominated discourse, where the nuances of a culture based in a different language sphere builds in a different knowledge and history. Disobedience because the designers created the game for a global marked, but the expressions of conflict are rooted in a very specific European history and center/periphery conflict.

Sapkowski, the author of the Witcher novels, created a European fantasy, not a slavic one, and this is visible in the stupidity and cruelty of the local people. Poland has been overrun and colonised repeatedly, and what might have existed of original culture and folklore is all but lost. This is expressed in The Witcher through the civilising influence of the outsider, The Witcher, and the contrast to the mediterrenean lands of the norse.

There is clearly racism in The Witcher, and we see it in the treatment of the non-human races. But the racism that connects to the real world history of Poland is expressed in the contrast between the superstition, cruelty and stupidity of local rulers and the enlightenment of the southern Europe or respectful, honourable co-existence of the northern Europe. At the same time the stories they draw on are part of a universe of folklore built as a reaction to centuries of imperialism, colonalisation and persecution, in a nationalist drive for nation building by the Polish Romantics around 1820.

In Majkowski's reading of the game, Geralt is the modernizer, and the people of Velen, despite their rich tradition and culture, need to be elevated. Geralt brings with him a disregard of social st
anding that is part of the French-inspired enlightenment. This allows the designers to fit the slavic culture into a world view that suits a western European and American market: one where the enlightened European champion of equality saves the people of Velen from themselves. This fits well with the game mechanics, where the protagonist can be the agent of modernity.

tirsdag, november 06, 2018

Transmedial storytelling 7 november 2018

Why understanding the medium is so important: Know your lemons.


"The Hanging Tree" from Hunger Games, performed in Vienna.
"The Hanging Tree" from Hunger Games, as used in the movie.
Hanging Tree lyrics.

The Hanging Tree remix used for the 2015 CONCACAF U-20 Championship in Jamaica.

About "The Hanging Tree", and its roots.

Other music transmediation
Star Wars
World of Warcraft

The Gauntlet - role playing blog with podcasts and community.

Make-up and fashion blogs: Misswhoeveryouare (text, image, video), thebeautylookbook (text and image).

Danish bloggers - Danske bloggere i Dansk journalistforbund, Copenhagenbyme - med podcast, Acie - Christine Engholm, med youtubekanal.

BoingBoing - one of the older blogs out there.

Fragmented storytelling: the beauty inside

Art curated through sms - Send Me SFMOMA.

IKEA place: Virtual reality app.

Between art and advertising: Fearless Girl.

Be the guy - video campaign for sharing on Twitter and Reddit - Be the Match.

tirsdag, oktober 30, 2018

fredag, oktober 05, 2018

mandag, oktober 01, 2018

Brugere i kontekst, 2 og 3 oktober 2018

Melania moment nr 78. Saturday Night Live.
The Melania Robot. From Tracey Breaks the News.
Why Gandalf never married - Talk by Terry Pratchett.
Ceiling Cat: Watching you, makes things work, is our Lord and Saviour.
Trump wiretap scandal scenes. SNL

Victor Turner article (Needs Jstor account).

fredag, september 28, 2018

Games and Culture 28th of September 2018

Shaw, Adrienne (2014). Gaming at the Edge; sexuality and gender at the margins of gamer culture. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. Pages 147-199.

Adrienne Shaw has written about the importance of representation in games, and she starts with talking about recognition and identity politics. She underlines that representation in popular media does not correct lived experience, and it will not reorganise lived experience. Her example of this is from the game Diner Dash, which has black and asian characters in independent roles, but where the only character with real agency and ability to act is white. She also points out that the conventional approach to media representation is an assumption that all girls/women or all boys/men will have similar approaches to a medium under similar conditions.

Further, shaw points out that representation and identity does not live in texts alone, but is performance and action. Gamer identity is mutable, and has shifted over time. It has a complex relationship with media representation, consumption and identification. People playing and enjoying games may not self-identify as gamers in all contexts, and so will be missed by research on self-identified gamers. Media consumption also ebbs and flows, and the gamer identity may be more fitting in some periods than in others.

Two examples from Shaw's research: Rusty, while, plays to escape his boring self and does not wish for self-like characters. Gregory, black, sees himself as visible, acknowledge and present when he sees self-like representations. Straight Kat is troubled by the lack of represented diversity, queer and black Julia is not. Julia is troubled by the limitations in the assumed representations of people like her.

What this shows is how designers shape the potential for identification. This is a potential often cropped by marketing logic. In marketing there are no pluralist versions, as it is important to reduce large segments to their most general markers, in order to appeal to as many as possible without being offensive. And so representations is important for social reasons, not individualistic market logic.

A common argument in representations is realism vs fantasy. Recognition requires a reference to reality, but many assume that fiction is immune to recognition requirements. Also, games are systems of virtual representations, so the question of "real" becomes very complex indeed. But in such systems it is increasingly clear that the choice of which "real" the designers choose to follow and represent is a choice, often presented as aesthetic, but inherently politic.

At some points the subjects of Shaw's research also pointed out that representation did not matter. Among these were the lack of a strong sense of being ”different”: Ex. black queer women do not miss women in general, as their sense of being marginalised is so overwhelming, they do not think of themselves in large categories like black, queer or woman. Ex. south asians grown up in Asia do not consider themselves marginalised, and think of whiteness as American, not something that excludes them.

Other topics was how the market logic of targeting through clichés is not representation - offering girls pink games does not represent women in games. This reveals a significant difference in ways to think about representation: the consumer as a set of selected data points from market studies, or the player as individual sets of experiences, knowledge, desire and circumstances, the information that creates our identities.

This also adresses tokenism, how some particular characters are added in for representation rather than for any particular function, much like when boards add one single woman in order to meet accusations of discrimination.

Disabilities and gaming: The secret world of disabled gamers.

The Ablegamers Charity