Chell’s Perfect Day

The interactivity of video games allows players to project their own imagined narrative on top of (or instead of) the game’s programmed story. This extends the idea of a multiform story as articulated by Murray, “when the writer expands the story to include multiple possibilities, the reader assumes a more active role.” (39) In the case of video games, when the designer includes interactivity, the narrative of the video game must expand to include multiple possibilities, which gives the player agency over how the story plays out. Much like a written narrative or choose-your-own adventure novel, video games give players a lot of freedom to choose, if not an ending, at least the path in which they reach their destination.

Our remix video will take scenes from Portal and Portal 2, and mash them up with “Perfect Day” by Hoku.  The goal is to create a video in a style that pulls elements from both the traditional “songvid” and the fake trailer that reimagines Portal’s Chell not as “Test Subject #1” trying to escape from Aperture Laboratories, but as a young, outgoing girl who is eager to take on a variety of challenges.  While the song suggests that there is literally “nothing standing in [Chell’s] way,” perhaps referring to the obstacles in each level of the game or more trivially as a carefree display of motivation, the lyrics also function as an analysis of the limitless nature of video games. By combining the song with repurposed visuals from the game, we will illustrate that although there are programmatic confines within a game, players are otherwise unrestricted from playing through the game however they please.

A similar approach was taken in “The Shining (happy version).”  By recutting the trailer and setting it to upbeat music, the creator comments on how a story can be reframed with a little viewer imagination. We will take this one step further by creating a remix video bordering on a fake music video in order to enhance the weight placed on the song itself. We believe this will be more effective rhetorically, as it will reframe the existing storyline of Portal by drawing upon imagery provided by the song, not just the tone.


Works Cited:

Murray, Janet Horowitz. “Harbingers of the Holodeck.” Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. Cambridge: MIT, 1999. 27-64.

 

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2 comments on “Chell’s Perfect Day

  1. Starting with connecting Murray’s multiform plot and “active” narrative development to video games is a good starting point. Because these games(s) you’ve selected offer comparatively limited potential for emergent narrative and fairly simple core mechanics, I think the question you need to ask yourselves is if the GAMEPLAY actually allows for these multiform narratives to emerge in this case, or if you’re just creating this “reimagined” version of Chell’s actions via the song selection. In other words, could you as a player actually rewrite Chell’s narrative? It seems, based on what you have here, that you’re making more of an argument about the power of remix, rather than the uniqueness of video game narrative and its potentialities. Perhaps picking a song that plays on this notion of “multiple possibilities,” and then showing clips that articulate the many different paths (or multiple perspectives) would make this clearer. Pulling in a songvid as your example would have been more effective here as a visual referent, particularly as the fake trailer form has affordances (text, voiceover) that it doesn’t sound like you will be utilizing here. I would also like to get a better sense of what it is you’re arguing about this interactive narrative development- this side note about “programmatic confines” is an important point, so are you making a broader claim about why it’s necessary/fruitful to loosen these constraints? Keep pushing on this point, you are right on the verge of making a more detailed argument.

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    • The argument that we have been getting at in our group discussions (which was not properly articulated in our blog post) is that while many games present a very structured narrative, a player ultimately has the ability to reject the narrative presented in the game to create a new experience. We were bogged down by our initial decision to explore the topic of games and play, and agree that this does fall under the category of remix more appropriately. After discussing how to revise our argument to encompass the point we actually wanted to make, we would like to reframe our video under remix. We would still like to use the combination of Portal (2) and “Perfect Day,” the original selection of which was influenced by the argument we had not yet fully articulated. Our premise is that once the game’s inherent replay value has been exhausted, the player can continue to “play” the game by remixing it with a new, invented narrative, thereby creating further “replay” value. Approached from another angle, if you play through Portal on mute, you will have an entirely different experience by eliminating the bulk of the storyline (which is presented through dialogue), and are then left with a blank-canvas, puzzle-based game. By actively remixing a video game and inserting a new narrative (as we will demonstrate in our video), a player is able to engage with the game more fully by moving beyond the preexisting narrative that they have already explored to reimagine a new story. Furthermore, a player must acknowledge the game’s programmatic boundaries and existing storyline as part of rejecting them and creating this new experience. Though we can reframe the game’s visuals by overlaying a song, there are limits set by what is possible within the game. For example, we would not be able to present it as a racing game. Thus, the remix must adhere to the identifying elements and technical boundaries of the original game.

      As an example of what our video might include, we would like to incorporate some quotes from GLaDOS and cut her off, to illustrate our rejection of the prescribed narrative. We would also like to show gameplay in which the testing chamber security cameras are destroyed to underscore our subversion of the “expected” game boundaries as Chell goes about a day unlike any provided for in the narrative.

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