Facilitation: Bogost Persuasive Games: The Picnic Spoils the Rain

Ian Bogost first claims that video games cannot be “interactive film(s)” due to how the video game medium itself lacks the ability to use cinematic editing. He explains that what makes film unique as an art form is the ability to edit, or link seemingly unrelated images or clips together to form something that extends the scope of what those components can do by themselves. Video games however cannot fully utilize these techniques as there has to be a continuous sequence of what the player does from a gameplay point of view. I.e. it is impossible for a creator to edit the sequence of a player’s actions. Bogost also puts an emphasis on how the virtual camera that exists within the medium can be compared to the cameras used for film, claiming yet that the medium cannot maximize the same utility due to this lack of editing. Heavy Rain is the video game he uses as an example to support this argument as it was heavily advertised and referred by as an “interactive film”. While there are “jump cuts” in this game’s story Bogost explains that these cuts only correspond with changes in location, not changes in the player’s relationship to the spaces, actions, or themes of the narrative.

Outside of editing, Bogost explains that Heavy Rain is still an interactive narrative. How when compared to film, is similar in that each sequence of the game moves forward the story. Bogost explains that this could be a reason why video games that are heavily narrative based are being described as “interactive film(s)”. With this Bogost moves to his main claim that the video game medium should instead focus what he describes as prolonging. He starts with how the gameplay of Heavy Rain can create a distinct emotional contact to the audience that film doesn’t focus on due to editing techniques. In one of the “chase scenes” of the game where a boy gets separated from the protagonist, the players experience what Bogust claims as the “slow panic of confusion” that would relate to parents who have lost a child in a similar manner. He would continue with how film would use a bunch of quick cuts to achieve a similar sense of panic, but the interactiveness at the game gives that slower pace due to the time it takes for the players to continue the action. He then gives the example of a sequence where the protagonist stares at his child. The player has to continue by pressing a button but can choose to at any time. The prolonging of the action can help build the narrative by Bogost’s standards.

“Prolonging” in Heavy Rain along with mise-en-scène, the establishment of a scene in order to push players along the objective of the game, is emphasized as an important foci by Bogost by critiquing how mise-en-scène in film is dependent on editing. He claims that prolonging allows players interact with the scene itself. A game from the same generation of video game that uses this “prolonging” technique is Skyrim. Skyrim without Fast Travel, a gameplay mechanic that skips this important “prolonging” part of the game, invokes the long and tiring journey that Skyrim creates. The story is supposed to be a great adventure, and the prolonging of the players in their quest supports this feeling by creating a lull between events that is more realistic to the real world. A great adventure has a great long journey to accompany it. The video below shows how Skyrim has a whole sequence that carries this feeling and, to extend back to Bogost, this would not have been able to be executed in film as it would’ve been portrayed by many quick cuts.

Facilitation: Abbott- “Who needs winners?”

Micheal Abbott, in a blog post titled “Who needs winners?” writers how there is no crecct way to construct narratives for videogames, and there exist multiple successful approaches that various audeinces are drawn toward. Abbott begins this arugment with a comparison to both visual art and theather in the 1800s and the social upheaval these new art forms and narrative styles which met with both supporters and oppenenets. Abbott mentions that these debates can range from simple things like whether the character of Link should be able to speak to the much larger ideas of what a game is. “I’d say roughly a quarter of the sessions at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco could be classified as mini-manifestos, calling in one way or another for a chage in thinking, a reassessment of methods, a challenge to assumptions. GDC and similar gatherings continue to ask fundamental questions about the nature, form and purpose of games” (Abbott). This leads into his main point that audiences often assume that there exists only one correct method to game design that is superior in order to make a successful game. However, Abbott argues that in history, the concept that there is only one correct way to construct a medium has never been true. Especially in regards to videogames and its various different forms of narrative. Abbott narrows it down to four pillars that reflect different ways narrative is told in gaming.

The first pillar he describes is one that has repeated elements in both its story and gamplay over its series that seek to refine issues to create a fun game for audiences to enjoy. The next is the more movie-like games where the narrative feels like that of a movie with a cinematic style but a linear story that allows players to enjoy the thrill of adventure. The third is where the game has a central narrative but the player is allowed to explore the open world as the game lets the player’s imagination guide the adventure. The final pillar is the true sandbox in which Abbott describes a narrative that allows the player to create and do whatever they wish in an open world that has no central story for the player to follow unless the player wants to make one themselves. In Abbott’s final thoughts, he clarifies that these pillars are not to classify all narratively driven games but rather to help audiences understand where designers can draw inspiration from to create something new with the lessons learned from the old.

An example that that comes to my mind that helps show Abbott’s argument is in the differences between the successful series of games from Bioware’s “Dragon Age” and Nintendo’s “Pokémon”. The “Dragon Age “series allows the players to directly make changes that impact the central narrative of the story but  also provides a cinematic action style with you character fighting dragons and monsters in movie like story events. For example, the character of Ironbull in “Dragon Age Inquisition” can betray the party or not based upon the choices the player makes prior to these events. We see the player is given a cinematic narrative event at this moment with a betrayal of a party member, but the player has the freedom in how to approach this possible event.

While the “Pokémon” series is where the players follows similar narrative plots in each game but is given the freedom to customize their teams and create a narrative behind these teams. These can range from challenges the players can put on themselves, like the “nuzlocke” challenge, or merely choices based upon the aesthetic of the pokémon. While these decisions seem minor, it allows one to craft a story based upon the challenges one can face which are based upon how their team is formed. Some fights are harder for some teams while easier for others for example. While both series are very successful and popular, both are also very different in how they approach narrative structure. Abbott primarily argues the medium of videogames is one that allows multiple approaches to a narrative that players can enjoy, with new games coming out that challenged the notion that there is a “winner” in the creation of videogame narrative. Much like art, videogames as a medium continue to evolve based on past lessons and experiments for the future.

Facilitation: Flanagan

As we grow up, we begin to develop as people and develop new ideas and new thoughts. We learn new things by exploring different areas and topics by different forms and methods. One of the methods that Flanagan argues we learn from is through “play.” Flanagan states that “play is an integral and vital part of mental development and learning, and playful activities are essential aspects of learning and creative acts.”. (Flanagan 4) From this, Flanagan begins to explore what the impacts of games can have on the audience and its player. By playing a game you and immersing yourself in the art form that the creators have built for you to explore and reach an end goal, and we as the players can learn from the game by playing critically. Flanagan defines critical play as a “means to create or occupy play environments that represent one or more questions about aspects of human life.” (Flanagan 6) This is the key idea of the article as if a game can stimulate critical play from the player, then a message or argument can be claimed from said game. Before we take a look at an example, Flanagan establishes a set of parameters that a game must follow in order to stimulate play which are: “1. A game is a system 2. It is artificial 3. It has players 4. It has conflict 5. It has rules 6. It contains a quantifiable outcome/goal, an ending state in which players can either be considered the “winners” or the “losers.” (Flanagan 7)

I read this and the first game that I though of was Call of Duty: World at War, which was released in 2008 on various gaming systems. The game is based on World War II and takes the perspective of an unnamed soldier apart of the United States front lines, apart of the Allies. This world war is considered one of the most important events in human history, and so the game explores an aspect of human life, as Flanagan argued before. With this we can begin to breakdown if it fits the bill in Flanagans eyes.

1. Call of Duty World at War has a system in place. Although the player has some freedom into what actions he can take, there is a set plan of missions that you must go through and certain actions that are already planned.
2. Although the game is based on real events and real tragedies, it is an artificial game that explores the aspects of the war. It would be defined as Historical Fiction.
3. You are one of the players in the game, the CPU can be considered as one of the other players in the game. On top of the campaign mode that the game has, there is a multiplayer which places you in the battlefield against other people in real time.
4. The conflict in this game would be the Axis forces preventing you from stopping the war.
5. Although the player is free to chose what he does, the player has a lot of rules in place, for example, you cannot kill your teammates and you cannot roam the playfield because certain texts will tell you to return to the place of action.
6. The total end goal of the game is to win the war, ultimately, as the Allies did in 1943

Gameplay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_wqVGEI-j8

This game and many others are presenting ideas and telling stories, and as Flanagan argues at the end of the article, that these games are the new technology that pushes our development as humans. (Flanagan 9). Games are a type of play that stimulates the player to learn new things in a different way and “All art derives from play.” (Flanagan 8)