Because, video games.
That's the answer I give to my kids when they ask me how any of these weird, inconsistent events could have just occurred on the screen in front of them. Why does this thing start on fire and this thing not? Why did that character just warp through the geometry of the floor? Why can I fly in this game but not in this other one?
Because, video games.
To someone who doesn't play these games, I think it can probably appear arbitrary. Anyone who has been playing games for a while will negotiate the internal logic of each imaginary world, almost by feel. It may be slightly chaotic, but there is a language internal to video games. Like all languages, it is living and plastic. The etymology is strange and meandering. The current syntax is unfinished and shows no signs of logical design.
Similarly, the language of modern sport is internally consistent, but complete nonsense. I regularly strap sharpened metal blades to my feet, and clothed in plastic and foam armour, collide at 20km an hour with other grown men. When witnessed by an outsider this has to seem completely bonkers. It is. But it's also a lot of fun.
I just finished playing Bioshock Infinite. The characters in the game are exceptionally well written and performed. The story is decent, not withstanding a few unrealized plot threads and a few holes patched over with "handwavium", it's on the level of your better, high concept sci-fi films. Better, but not best. Inception, not Bladerunner. Then there is the shooting.
Bioshock Infinite is the latest in a series of excellent first person shooter games. The language of the first person shooter is fairly well defined, but it grows and changes with each successive title. It's a living language. It carries the baggage of its evolution, like a language does. Crates and barrels populate the first person shooter in numbers unmatched by the busier port cities of history. More combatants fall in battle, than the worst military massacres. Usually at the hands of the protagonist. These are the phonetics of the first person shooter. Because, video games.
Film carries, in its language, methods of expressing compression of time, rapid traversal of space, and connecting characters with concepts using editing, lighting, and sound. None of this is realistic in any way, but it is a language spoken and understood by pretty much everyone. You will get that occasional viewer who constantly asks what just happened, not realizing that there are no extra scenes contained between the cuts. The story is being told deliberately, as the filmmakers intended. They have the same information as everyone else. The stories are told this way, because, movies.
Because, books. Because, music. Because, poetry. Because, movies. Because, video games.
The language of the medium informs it's structure. I often have problems with the disjointed way storytelling is handled in games. How heightened violence and action step on character development and narrative, and vice versa. I’m probably one of the only people with a Y chromosome that didn’t enjoy Heat for the same reason. I like me some violent movies and games, to be sure. Saints Row the Third is one of my favorite games in recent memory. It’s unapologetically violent and ridiculous at every turn. Because, video games. It understands the language of the medium better than some of it’s higher minded counterparts, and succeeds based solely on that.
Bioshock Infinite uses the language of games impeccably to tell an interactive story, and to create an interesting, theme park style action shooter. Where it stumbles is in combining the two.
It took decades for filmmakers to even begin to grasp the nuances of the language of film. That language is still evolving steadily today. Video games have only been in homes for a few decades, and the technology of the medium has only started to settle out very recently. understanding and speaking in the language of video games is far from a mastered art. Still, sometimes things happen on that screen that aren’t weird and inconsistent. Sometimes things happen on that screen that are amazing, wonderful, affecting, and profound. Because, video games.
Tiny update this week.
I’ve been modelling more assets for the game. Most of the work is making sure that everything fits into the games grid, and each asset looks like it comes from the same world. Making sure that they work as a set. It’s tricky, but it’s a fun sort of tricky.
I'll write something much longer next week.
Best Games - Toy Pop
Step right up and try your hand. A true test of skill. This contest is not for the weak hearted or soft minded among you fine folks. What on outward presentation may seem to be a mere child's toy, actually hides a challenge of such intense cranial agility and digital subtlety, that it can cause strong men to weep and women to swoon. You sir. Yes you. You appear hearty. I measure you to be of ample will and temerity. Of course I could be mistaken. Am I? Tell me folks, does this gentleman seem of sufficient fortitude to you? Can he weather a true examination of his mental and physical faculty? Step right up and try your hand at Toy Pop.
I went and got an Ouya. I meant for it to be a replacement for our current media streaming device, a wdtv. I was going to do a writeup on how that went and what I thought of the system.
It turns out that our TV is really dumb. It’s one of those old “HD ready jobbers”. It can display a 720p signal pretty well and, aside from some minor overscan issues, does a respectable job with all the current game consoles. It doesn’t have any hdmi ports, but it does have a DVI port and I have an adapter. All good. Nope.
It will not play nice with the Ouya. The Ouya doesn’t output analog audio at all. Not even through a headphone jack. My fault really, I’m usually very good at sniffing out these weird hardware incompatibilities. I was blinded by the cheap price and potential for fiddling.
So, to make up for this shortcoming, I purchased an hdmi to component converter. It works fantastically with every device I connect it too, except the Ouya.
I feel like this is the point where most folks would pack it in and figure this junk just can’t work together, because either it is broken, or the people who made said junk, are bad, vindictive, people.
I have an uncommon tolerance to hardware jank. I will mess with something to get it running properly, or at least acceptably, far longer than I really should. Sometimes this pays off, sometimes it doesn’t.
At this point I have a small grey box that will send out picture or sound, but never both together. I have come up with a plan that involves an hdmi splitter and some RCA Y adapters.
wish me luck.
Our home has been afflicted with a devastating case of minecraft. It came on quickly and it has persisted longer than anyone expected. The children have been severely affected, but it's hard to say who suffers most.
The desire to plunder the deeps is all consuming. Children well versed in the height of technological achievement are putting unprecedented thought into the gathering, smelting, and forging of base ores into crude excavation tools.
I hear them sometimes, digging in the loose soil of the back yard with tiny plastic shovels. Discussion of minerals mundane and exotic, their uses, accretion depth, and relative rarity, floats aloft on warm evening air. Plans are made for future expeditions into the bowels of a fictional world. The coveting of iron and diamond armours full in their thoughts.
Untold horrors lurking in the darkness carry great weight here. Scenarios and stratagems involving zombies, creepers, endermen, and the all powerful “End Dragon” are fodder for conversation at any time during waking hours. Even in the bathroom.
Getting ready for bed, our youngest was banging vacantly on a wooden nightstand. When we asked him why, he could only answer that he was mining.
He. Was. Mining.
I know that is my fault. I brought the minecraft into our home. I'm the only one to blame.
What have I done.