The Wizarding World of Harry Potter Gaming

It is hard to find a child, teen, or adult who has not at least heard the name Harry Potter. Not only have the books and movies contributed to the successfully popular series, but also the array of video games and supplementary texts related to the Harry Potter ‘world’, the Pottermore website, and the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. I think in terms of Harry Potter, transmedia has done a tremendous justice to the books, the movies, and the fans, especially through the creation of the interactive computer games (Murray 51), specifically the PC version of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

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What might be considered blasphemous to some die-hard Harry fans, I actually watched all the movies before I even opened one of the books. The books obviously had much more information, characters, and details that the movies did not include. When I was growing up, my sister and I loved playing the third Harry Potter movie based computer game, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. This game was interesting because not only was it closely tied to the movie with its reference to movie images and character appearances, but it also tied in elements of the book as well as original elements by the makers of the game.

Buckbeak's Flight Challenge in 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' PC game. This is a scene from both the movies and books. The gamer tries to get a certain score by flying Buckbeak through the rings  with the use of the keyboard arrow keys and spacebar. The area the gamer flies Buckbeak is around the Hogwarts castle so they are able to see areas that are original to the game.

Movie Accurate-Buckbeak’s Flight Challenge in ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ PC game. This is a scene from both the movies and books. The gamer tries to get a certain score by flying Buckbeak through the rings with the use of the keyboard arrow keys and spacebar. The area the gamer flies Buckbeak is around the Hogwarts castle so they are able to see areas that are original to the game.

Movie scene of Buckbeak's Flight. Approximately 2 minute long scene.

Movie scene of Buckbeak’s Flight. Approximately 2 minutes long.

Book Accurate-Peeves is a character in the book but not in the movies. In the games, Harry needs to duel Peeves in order to get past him. The duels, however, are not events that happen in the books.

Book Accurate-Peeves is a character in the book but not in the movies. In the games, Harry needs to duel Peeves in order to get past him. The duels, however, are not events that happen in the books.

Game Only-The Bean Bonus Room is a room that the player can go once they have successfully completed a spell challenge. Beans are used as currency in the game world for the characters to buy things like chocolate frogs and trading cards. These beans and the bean bonus room is not something in the books or movies.

Game Only-The Bean Bonus Room is a room that the player can go once they have successfully completed a spell challenge. Beans are used as currency in the game world for the characters to buy things like chocolate frogs and trading cards. These beans and the bean bonus room is not something in the books or movies.

For someone such as me who had not yet read the books, the games provided a way to still know some of these characters and elements that had not been included in the movie, such as the character, Peeves (pictured above), whom is relevant in the books and not even alluded to within the movies.

What I think is the most amazing quality of this game, and computer/video games in general, is the interactive and exploring capability. In the movies, the audience is not able to see many of the rooms, hallways, and nooks and crannies that are mentioned and that are interesting details of the stories. With the interactive game, I am able to explore Harry’s school, Hogwarts, and see rooms in great detail that were only skimmed over during the movie. In addition, I am also able to explore areas not even mentioned in the movie, but rather specific to the book or even areas found solely in the computer game. I can take part in activities that were just mere scenes or clips of a scene such as the “Buckbeak’s flight” challenge (see “Buckbeak” image above for reference). I can also interact with characters based on dialogue I choose which adds a more personal component to the whole engagement (Murray 38).

I think computer games are a great way for fans to really immerse themselves into the world of their fandom. The games can provide insight, exploration, and even new information that one could not obtain from the original text. The Harry Potter game acted as transmedia storytelling for me especially because I had not yet read the books. Even if one had read the books, I think they would still enjoy the gaming experience because of the aspect of exploration and participation, as opposed to being an outside observer (Murray 48), that interactive games provide.

References:

EA Games, and Warner Brothers. Harry Potter and the Prison of Azkaban. Computer software. Vers. PC. N.p., 2004.

Murray, Janet H. Hamlet on the Holodeck. New York City: The Free Press, A Division of Simon and Schuster Inc., 1997. PDF.

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GIFs, Memes, and Everything in Between

In the world of digital media, words are becoming less significant while images are becoming more relevant in conveying one’s inner thoughts. GIFs, or graphic interchange format files, are short, soundless clips from a television show, movie, or some kind of video media. Many times, these are seen on websites like tumblr or imgur to convey some idea or reaction towards a certain subject. In my studies of this element, I took to tumblr to find the perfect Parks and Recreation GIFs specifically with Amy Poehler’s character, Leslie Knope. Some of these GIFs had captions from the show itself, others had originally made captions, and some had no captions at all. This made me wonder if the type of caption the GIF had would contribute to its overall meaning? For example, the below meme has a caption from the show itself. However, the caption typed into the “comments” section from the original poster said something along the lines of “every college student”.

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Even without seeing the show, I feel many people could relate to this GIF and comment, however, only watchers of the show would understand that Leslie Knope is an overachiever whom does not do well without structure. The semiotics to a non-watcher of the show might be in the context of staying up late one night doing homework and getting very little sleep. A watcher might direct it more towards someone who is normally well organized but slipped up and is in the midst of a panic attack, like Leslie Knope. While still very closely related, the two different backgrounds can lead to slightly different readings of the overall meaning of the GIF when used with captions from the show.

In contradiction, this next GIF used a caption not originally from the show. This was much easier to decipher because one could still have the same understanding even without knowing the character. The caption simply describes the image so the GIF would not lose meaning without the caption.

Based on this observation, I decided to create a GIF that had original relatable text because I knew there would be fewer questions as to whether or not non-watchers would understand the meaning increasing its chances of longevity in the competitive meme world.

My original GIF (Note: the caption is not from the show)

My original GIF (Note: the caption is not from the show)

The more relatable a GIF is, image and caption, the longer its span because the more willing people would be to use it in conversation and therefore “share it” (Shifman 17, 19). This “shared social phenomenon” relates to convergence culture because many times, when a GIF or any meme is shared frequently, new products can arise from their popularity. For example, this Ron Swanson merchandise is obviously based on the character and one of his more popular quotes which probably gained popularity through the repetition of a GIF from that moment.

https://www.etsy.com/market/ron_swanson

https://www.etsy.com/market/ron_swanson                      

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Granted, many of the products related to Parks and Recreation are probably from the show itself but the relationship between show to GIF to product is still there just not as linear of a relationship as, say, a product based solely on a GIF like these shirts based on the original dancing baby GIF.

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This shared social phenomenon that is a GIF can have such an impact on our digital culture. It emphasizes something that people would normally not put much thought into and can lead to new ideas or even products all based on the popularity contest that is the Internet (Shifman 22).

References:

Mercer, Alex. “Dancing Baby.” Know Your Meme News. N.p., 2010. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

Shifman, Limor. Memes In Digital Culture. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2014. PDF.

I Need a Hero

A popular trend I have noticed in the realm of the Instagram app is the high usage of GoPro cameras that so many people seem to have acquired. Suggested by the title, GoPro prides itself on its high quality videos and photographs accompanied by its affordable price. The mounting accessories, water proof capability, and overall easiness of use when performing actions in which holding a camera would seem illogical amazed me and therefore factored into my buying the product. However, when reading about John Onian’s “Four Stages of Amazement” (Gunning), I started to think that maybe the GoPro is losing its “amazement” factor because of its accessibility.

In 2006, the GoPro Hero was released and could record video and take stills all in HD (Wikipedia). This amazed people that all could be done while still performing activities such as surfing, skateboarding, and cliff-diving…yes cliff-diving because the camera was water proof! Water proof cameras can cost a fortune and these compact devices were able to achieve the impossible in just a few inches and couple hundred dollars.

“In terms of flexibility, the HD Hero is a piece of genius design. It’s tiny enough to take all over the world, and cheap enough for you to be more bothered about losing the footage than the camera, if you drop it into the ocean.”
-Ian Morris (November 2011)

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John Onian’s four stages of amazement are characterized in the following order: Striking visual or aural experience followed by physical paralysis (can be more or less metaphorically speaking), mental reaction leading to learning a new action, and lastly habit or automation (Gunning 41). The GoPro seemed to spark the “visual experience” and possibly physical paralysis for some. It seems as if the mental reaction to owning a GoPro was wanting to show and record how cool your life could be which might mean teaching yourself some new skill to record on the device. For many, this could result in the “learning a new action”, for example, learning to surf in order to make a really awesome GoPro surfing video or learning a new ski jump in order to record yourself doing it. The habit and automation comes into play right about now, in 2014, when the GoPro has become so popular and widely used that it is almost uncommon for the average video maker to not own one.

Whilst hiking to the top of the 360 bridge in Austin, TX, I thought to myself “what a great place to use my GoPro for a nice HD, panoramic type picture”. Well, apparently everyone else thought that too because I seemed to be the only one whom forget my GoPro. I think this is habit and automation because of the fact that these products are so widely used, it is hard to find the same amazement in them that I once saw a couple years ago just because of their commonplace.

References

“GoPro.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2015.

Gunning, Tom. Re-Knewing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of- the-Century. PDF.

Morris, Ian. “GoPro HD Hero.” Pocket-lint. Pocket-lint Ltd, 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 30 Jan. 2015.