Monday, April 12, 2010

how to play games with words

Emerging Poetry and Videogames from Carlos González Tardón on Vimeo.

My friend Narbeh works in the video gaming industry.

He visited our home this past weekend and brought with him several video games.

I haven't played video games since I was in college.

As a child, I was given video games to play at the recommendation of our family psychiatrist.

She told my parents that it would improve my hand-eye coordination and help me learn to focus.

This past weekend we played Heavy Rain, Metal Gear Solid 4, and Brutal Legend.

These games are far more advanced than the games I played in college and as a child.

They are certainly more visually advanced, owing to the evolution of technology.

They are also far more conceptually advanced, paying special attention to the possibilities of a character's capacity to choose given a variety of seemingly unstable contexts.

Playing these games prompted me to consider their relationship with the ever evolving state of information and information management.

I would like to use video games as a context for visual, performative, and performed language.

Because everyone is a welcome player within a game, the context provides a closed narrative system to operate comfortably within.

If language is visually and/or sonically juxtaposed with these contexts, the narrative system is reopened.

Aside from the juxtaposition or transposing of language, other devices may be used to redefine these systems parameters.

By virtue of their potential use or misuse, these devices suggest the possibility of opening up a closed system.

Once open, the implementation of one or more of these devices creates a new closed system, while continuing to suggest the possibility of an open system because the source system (closed narrative game) is recognizable as such, as are the devices attempting to open up and interface with the source system.

Devices and elements to consider when opening, interfacing with, and re-closing a closed narrative system (video game):

-language that is sonically and/or visually juxtaposed onto the screen or in the vicinity of the screen respectively

-other juxtaposed mediums such as the visuals and/or sounds of other games, the visuals and/or sounds of other video or flash media, still images, and live or recorded audio of any kind

-the presence of one or more live narrators, performers, or other mediators

-the presence of an audience

-the mode of presentation as it relates to the audience (flash on a web browser, projection on a screen, etc)

-the presence or lack thereof live gamers, whether present or on-line

-time and timing as it relates to duration and isolation (relevant in relation to pre-recording an excerpt of game action, or in relation to determining when to cut in and cut out of live game action)

-the number of gamers if given a multiplayer platform

-the scripted and/or live collaboration of the gamer(s) and the other interfacing/transposing practitioner(s) (narrators, performers, video makers, editors, etc)

This is an initial and partial list which relates exclusively to formalistic devices and elements. A more comprehensive list would be necessary once addressing thematic and topical considerations, which would often be generated by the already defined content of the closed narrative system (video game). Alternatively, a text could be generated by some other means and then applied to an appropriate video game.

In either case, the practitioner must decide how and why the video game is to be used. A text might be generated with the intent of "casting" it with game characters operating in a way that is possible but not essential to the closed narrative system of the game. For instance, in most any given multi-player first-person shooter, such as Metal Gear Solid or Halo, there is always the possibility of navigating all the players to one position (all on one screen) and assigning roles to the characters/players that can be fulfilled entirely in that one position (on one screen). In this case, the video game is being more referenced than played, though some games are largely defined by what their characters/players can do rather than where they can go. Despite this, I would still suggest that this multiplayer-on-one-screen scenario is more akin to a staged theatrical platform, wherein texts could even be generated without prior knowledge of the game, though, depending on the audience's ability to recognize the game or at least the scenario of the game (historical war, swat team, post-nuclear wasteland, etc), the plot is contextualized respectively.

This is just one example of interfacing with a closed narrative source (video game) in a way that is not largely dependent upon the closed narrative of the game itself. This is non-narrative-dependent-video-game-to-external-source-text interfacing.

A practitioner can also opt to create or use a video-game-narrative-dependent text source in an effort to confront, create and employ Relational Gaming Aesthetics.

This practice takes as its theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of character relations and their social context within a given closed narrative source (video game).

This dependency is defined by the practitioner's willingness to take for granted the general game player's desire to succeed within the game, as well as the advertised ambitions and capabilities of the player's character and that of the programmed characters within the game. This dependency does not negate the possibility of revising and/or appropriating the narrative of the video game, but rather, by virtue of the practitioner's foreknowledge of the narrative, invites interpretations of intentional misunderstanding and misuse. The transparent juxtaposition of one narrative over another allows them to exist simultaneously for both practitioner and audience. It is between and through this parallel narrative that critical friction can be asserted and observed.

I've just begun to seek out documented examples of these practices, such as the clip at the top of this post, but I have yet to see a live performance of anything like it. I am considering a performance of this nature for the Fall season of P||R||O||J||E||C||T||I||O||N||S. I'm looking for other practitioners to collaborate with.

Some Gaming experience required.

Note: Gamers are acquainted with poetry.

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