Winning Terms: How Goals Influence Players

On Thursday, January 31, 2013 1 comments

Welcome back to the rhetoric of video games! For these next couple of posts, we will explore how goals influence gamers. If you missed the first couple of posts, make sure to check them out.

What makes video games “games” is that they have goals. Without a goal, then it is just an interactive piece of software. Of course, some games have really loose goals, like Tetris wanting you to stack a bunch of boxes. Others have very specific goals, like defeating an evil sorcerer or escaping a testing facility. 

Why are you spending hours on end stacking boxes? Because you have no social life, that's why. 

No matter how lightly the game takes its primary objective, the goals still have rhetorical effect. By designating something as a goal, a game implies that it has worth. For example, if the goal of the game is to “save the princess,” then that implies that the princess is valuable enough to go through the effort of saving. “By stating a rule that defines a winning scenario, the simauthor is claiming that these goals are preferable to their opposite.”1 So the player will see the end goal as the right thing, and the opposite conditions, or losing, as something that is bad. When properly applied, goals and the methods to achieve those goals can motivate the player and convince them that something is worth their time.

The setting of Final Fantasy VII is a run down, dilapidated world. Big business has exhausted natural resources, and the whole planet is on a downward spiral to disaster. Despite this, the goal of the game is to save the world. This implies that the world, no matter how run-down and used-up it is, is still something worth fighting for. 

This image of FFVII's Midgar isn't in grayscale. It's naturally that dreary.

Many games force players into the role of a messiah, combating evil in an attempt to restore balance. However, “evil” can be anything the developer wants it to be. If the developer makes the enemy a bunch of cartoonish pigs, the player has to fight them to win. It doesn’t matter how the player personally feels; while ‘they are playing a game, gamers operate under the logic of the programmer. The designer’s goals become theirs.

1.     1.  Frasca, Gonzalo. "Simulation versus Narrative: Introduction to Ludology." The Video Game Theory Reader. Ed. Mark J.P. Wolf and Ed. Bernard Perron. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.


Read more ...»

Producer Spotlight: Iwashi-P

On Monday, January 28, 2013 1 comments

Welcome to producer spotlight! Here I’m going to highlight talented Vocaloid producers and their works. This week’s producer: Iwashi-P.

Iwashi is a fairly obscure producer, with only a few of his videos getting more than 10,000 hits. That’s a darn shame, because he (or she?) is an absolute god with KAITO. One of the best things about him is that he has a distinct, signature style to his tuning. In his hands, the normally shrill KAITO sounds husky and deep. Probably some mixture of gender factor and low clarity.

Kaito Vocaloid Wallpaper - vocaloids Wallpaper
Don't think KAITO can be hardcore? Just wait.

His songs have a dark, mournful feel. They are very atmospheric, with lots of pulsing rhythms. Not quite techno, not quite rock, but a sort of earthy-pop. KAITO appears to be the only Vocaloid he works with, but don’t let that turn you off if you don’t like the blue boy. Let’s take a closer look at some of his works.

His very first song was called “receive,” released back in 2008. I couldn’t find any uploads of it on Youtube, so if you want to check it out you’ll have to use niconico. Anyways, this is definitely an amateur work, more of a test run than anything. However, you can tell that the composer has talent. It sounds distinct and cohesive, albeit with only traces of the elements that would later define Iwashi.

Iwashi also draws the cover images for his songs.

Things improved immensely with “crow.” Once again, it’s not on Youtube. This song finds a nice balance between sounding like a dirge and a war chant. It’s face-paced without being sugary.

“Oni to Musume” (or ogre and the maiden) is probably his most popular work. It’s based on a Japanese folk-tale about a blind girl falling in love with a monster. The sounds fits very well, with a rustic, old-school Japan feel. There are a lot of traditional instruments, and the overall feel is that of a ballad. The mixing isn’t the greatest, but it is a beautiful song. And it comes with a cute PV!

From this point on, his songs are all awesome. My personal favorite is “Scissors.” I only understand a few words, but I would guess it’s some sort of bitter break-up song/ yandere thing. What’s great about it is that it sounds more angry than whiny. It’s filled with longing and resentment. And a pretty sick beat.

His latest song to date is “free word mind game.” It’s much more “pop” than a lot of his works, with a very bouncy, upbeat rhythm. However, the chorus has that cyber-punk element that makes Iwashi unique. Definitely worth a listen.

Iwashi only comes out with a couple songs a year. However, every one of his songs is a treat. He’s talented, and he deserves more views than he gets. So if you like KAITO or electronic music, check out his stuff. You won’t be disappointed. 

Do you have a producer you want spotlighted? Feel free to leave me a suggestion in the comments!
Read more ...»

Old vs New: A Lose-Lose Battle

On Sunday, January 27, 2013 0 comments

Woman-child that I am, I still love Saturday morning cartoons. This year was great, with awesome shows like Legend of Korra, MLP, Young Justice, and Adventure Time all putting out new episodes. And being an over exuberant nerd, I had to tell all my friends just how much I was enjoying the good variety of shows coming out. To which I often encountered the same dismissive response: Cartoons today aren’t as good as they were in the 90s.

My childhood in one picture

Is that true? Were the cartoons of the late 80s/early 90s really better, or is it just nostalgia? The people I talked to weren’t “cartoon connoisseurs” like mwah, but I hear the same thing even among animation aficionados. See, there was the golden period known as “the Animation Renaissance” back when I was young. It was a time when cartoons shifted away from being glorified toy commercials to original, quality stuff. You had amazing shows like Animaniacs, Batman: the Animated Series, Adventures of the Gummi Bears, on and on. Saturday mornings were an explosion of awesome shows. This lasted until the late 90s, when cartoons slipped back into the toy-driven model.

Anyways, the Animation Renaissance was the first time since the 1950s that high quality cartoons were made for artistic merit, not a quick buck. That time period paved the way for all my favorite cartoons now. But does it mean those cartoons are better?

I’m not the best person to judge. I have nostalgia for those shows, so it would be hard for me to objectively compare them to modern shows (I’ll probably do it anyways in future posts). However, I think that if people write off modern-day cartoons as inferior, then they’re cheating themselves. There comes a point where “respect for the classics” stops people from moving forward.

Don't be this person. Nobody likes this person.

Like the irate fanboy who only plays old-school Nintendo, or the retro-hipster who only listens to things on vinyl, there comes a point where you need to put aside old favorites in order to try something new. That doesn’t mean classics aren’t important, but people shouldn’t believe that the best humanity has to offer has already occurred. Who knows, your favorite work could still be a couple of years away. So don’t stick to what you know. Be willing to give new things a shot, even if you love the old.

And for goodness sake, stop saying everything was better when you were a kid!
Read more ...»

Abridgers Wanted

On Wednesday, January 23, 2013 1 comments

I realized something today. I don’t hear as much about abridged series as I used to. Do you remember when they were all the rage? Back in 2008, when you trawled Youtube for illegally uploaded anime, all you could find were these poorly dubbed, pop-culture saturated pieces of crap. Those were the days.

No, not "a bridge," ABRIDGE

If you don’t know what an abridged series is, here’s an (abridged) explanation. It’s when you remix a show, redubbing it for satirical purposes. Abridging aims to present a show in a humorous light, pointing out all the leaps in logic and bizarre happenings, while still retaining a strong love for the source material. Also, pop culture.

Behold, the crown jewel of self-referential satire

Littlekuriboh made the practice popular with his Yu-gi-oh Abridged, but the idea is probably older than the internet (although probably not much older, as the technology was more difficult to come by). One of the oldest examples I can track down is Evangelion: ReDeath.

Abridged series were a great way for fans to come together and celebrate a show they loved. They forced fans to be analytical, looking at both what makes a show great and what is absolutely ridiculous about it. In order to craft a successful series, you had to understand why the show worked, despite its flaws, and understand character roles and how they advanced the plot. Sure, some of the abridged series were downright awful, but enough were (and still are) worth every other painful viewing minute. When done right, they provide a smart insight into what made a series tick, all with a chocolaty-fudge coating of sarcasm. I love when people think deeply about what they like, and I would love to see the abridged series make a comeback.

However, interest in abridging has waned. As you can see from the graph, it experienced peak popularity in 2008-2009, but is slowly sinking back into obscurity. Why? The reasons are probably too complex for me to fathom, and definitely too long for this blog post. What I can say, though, is that abridging still has a lot to offer. I mean, come on, are you ever really done making fun of something? Don’t let this be a passing fad! Pick up you microphones, grab your equally nerdy friends, and go make your own abridged series!

Read more ...»