Cursory Knoweldge

outlast-screenshot-01

Ian here—

If I had to sum up a significant portion of the writing I do on videogames, I would offer the following formulation as a précis: The establishment of character in videogames isn’t achieved solely through writing. It is also established through user interface design.

Sometimes, something as simple as how a cursor behaves can tell us a lot about a character. Be forewarned—the breezy tour through the issue below contains significant spoilers for Firewatch (Campo Santo, 2016).

Continue reading

Knowing More Than We Can Tell

knowing_more_than_we_can_tell_header_image

Ian here—

What follows are three quick case studies on a favorite topic of mine: the knowledge differential, or epistemic gap that can sometimes open up within the player-avatar relation. I find all three of them fascinating for the questions they raise about narration in videogames, as well as the alignment between player and player-character.

What follows does not yet qualify as analysis. This is simply a critical appreciation of a few moments that have made me think. Perhaps it will act as a prolegomena to further, more properly analytical, writing.

Continue reading

Lesson Plan: Film Scores Addendum

gravit_screenshot-01-for-second-post

Ian here—

This is just a quick addendum to my music-themed lesson on Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013) from my Intro to Film course, which I posted earlier. This bit doesn’t have as much to do with synesthesia, which is why I separated it out, but it is something that I incorporated into the same lesson.

Continue reading

Lesson Plan: Lying Narration in Cinema and Videogames

Heavy_Rain_Scott_Shelby_load_face.jpg

Ian here—

In my 2013 “Comparative Media Poetics: Cinema and Videogames” course, I devoted a week to the genres of mystery and suspense. In this first class of this week, we discussed theory. Students read a portion of David Bordwell’s Narration in the Fiction Film, in which he discusses the concept of communicativeness of narration, and the specific ways communicativeness is clamped down in the detective genre. We also discussed the ways in which mysteries play with time, using the formalist conceits of fabula and syuzhet that Bordwell draws from. This dovetailed with our second reading, Jesper Juul’s 2004 article “Introduction to Game Time,” in which he expresses skepticism that videogames could ever pull off a flashback-based story structure.

The screening for this week included the entirety of Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (1950), as well as selected chapters of Heavy Rain (Quantic Dream, 2010), which I had students play live, and discuss. We re-convened during the next class session for a discussion on unreliable narration and the relative “fairness” of twists. Readings included Kristin Thompson’s chapter on Stage Fright in Breaking the Glass Armor, and Emily Short’s writings on Heavy Rain. Spoilers on the (potentially unfair) twists of both texts below.

Continue reading

Lesson Plan: Horror, Paranoia, and Suspense in Cinema and Videogames

siren-blood_curse_screenshot-1Ian here—

The following is a lesson plan that I first used in my “Comparative Media Poetics: Cinema and Videogames” course taught at U Chicago in spring 2013. It didn’t really come into its own, however, until I re-taught some of the same material, with much greater success, in my course “The Moving and Interactive Image” at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the fall of 2015. I’m especially indebted to the students in my SAIC course for helping me direct this material into its current form.

Continue reading

Special Effectivities: On the Intersection of Spatial Knowledge and Bodily Skill

Special_Effectivities_header_image.jpg

Ian here—

The following is the spoken presentation version of my talk from the 2013 Philosophy of Computer Games conference in Bergen, Norway. The full paper, as drafted up for the conference’s proceedings, is available here. You can follow along with the visual presentation for this spoken version here.

Over the past decade, the term “affordances” has nestled itself into a firm and comfortable position within the vocabulary of videogame theory, having found widespread adoption among both academic videogame theorists and practicing videogame designers. Exact definitions of the term vary, but within a fairly predictable range. So, for a few examples, we have:

Continue reading