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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Pacifist Grand Theft Auto

I found this YouTube series today, inspired by Professor Scott’s comments about peacefully playing through a game of Grand Theft Auto.  The narration in this is outstanding, and I highly recommend watching through the series, even if you’re unfamiliar with the game.

#sixseasonsandamovie

With one of the smallest, yet most loyal fanbases in modern television, Community is the little show that could.  It has overcome mid-season suspensions, abrupt departures of cast members, writers, and producers, and even a cancellation from its original network (NBC).  Throughout its history, from the pilot episode to the inception of its sixth season, Community has used webisodes as a form of transmedia to engage its audience.

In August 2009, a month before the airing of Community‘s pilot episode, a 5-part promotional video series (parts 1, 2, 3/4, 5) called “The Straight A’s of Greendale” appeared on NBC.com.[1]  Because these episodes were released before the actual show, they do not contain any sort of plot elements or character development.  Rather, they acted as a migratory cue—a prompt towards another form of media—redirecting viewers to visit greendalecommunitycollege.com, in order to start establishing an audience and building interest for the show.  As perhaps the most important consequence of these webisodes, Community established itself as quirky show, and quickly found its second home on the internet.  Henry Jenkins emphasizes the importance of transmedia in “spread[ing] its brand… across as many different media platforms as possible.”[2]  Indeed, the internet would become Community‘s most important source of publicity in the years to come.

Community would release numerous webisodes in the following years, but perhaps none were as crucial as “Abed’s Master Key,” a three-part animated webisode (parts 1, 2, 3) released on Hulu in early 2012.[1]  At this point in time, Community was put on temporary hiatus in the middle of its third season, as NBC made changes to its Thursday night lineup.  “Abed’s Master Key” was aired just prior to Community‘s return.  The strategic timing of this release served not just to promote the series’ return, but also to satiate the appetites of fans who had been missing their favorite characters in the show’s interim.  While it didn’t reveal any major points essential to the show’s plot, the miniseries served as a world-building device, letting fans know exactly what Abed and the rest of the gang had been up to during the show’s hiatus.  World-building, according to Jenkins, involves creating additional narratives for characters and the world in which they exist.  In this case, the series also offers a sort of meta-analysis.  Greendale’s “budget-cuts,” as referenced in the series, refers subtly to NBC’s growing concerns about the show’s profitability (hence the hiatus).  Meanwhile, Britta’s remark about the Dean disregarding his online students hints at Community‘s online fans as being widely disregarded towards its ratings.

Finally, earlier this month, Yahoo! Screen (who has adopted Community for its sixth season), began releasing personalized Valentine’s Day messages (parts 1, 2, 3, 4) for fans that interacted with their Facebook page.[3] Again, this series of promos was definitely intended as hype for the new season, but it is also a perfect example of a cultural attractor, which Jenkins defines as a device which amasses fans into a participatory environment.  In this case, the Facebook post encouraged users to “tag the one you love” in response to a promotional photo for season six.  The post has generated over 400 comments to date, many of which are references to the cast or to the new season.

Almost six years after Community first aired, the explosion of its online community has kept the show afloat.  From fans filling discussion forums to inundating Twitter with the hashtag #sixseasonsandamovie, Community’s creators have utilized transmedia to help bolster the show’s popularity, especially online.


Works Cited:

1. “Community Webisodes.” Community Wiki. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. <http://community-sitcom.wikia.com/wiki/Community_webisodes&gt;.

2. Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. N.p., 22 Mar. 2007. Web. 19 Feb. 2015. <http://henryjenkins.org/2007/03/transmedia_storytelling_101.html&gt;.

3.”A ValenDeans Day Message to Michael.” Reddit. N.p., 14 Feb. 2015. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. <https://www.reddit.com/r/community/comments/2vween/a_valendeans_day_message_to_michael/colmreh&gt;.

I must go. My people need me.

After a work’s protagonist has served his primary purpose, he commonly makes a graceful exit, announcing that it is time for him to leave.  TV Tropes refers to this as Mary Poppins Syndrome — “to add anywhere from a twinge of sentimentality to a whole extra Tear Jerker scene to the end of your movie: after helping out and saving the day, The Drifter character must leave forever.”[1]

Today, this long-standing trope has exploded into a plethora of image macros and animated GIFs, becoming prevalent enough that it a sort of media property that stands on its own. It has also become the sort of “shared social phenomenon” that Shifman describes in Memes In Digital Culture—so much so that most versions of this GIF can omit the text entirely, while the sentiment still remains.[2] 

 

A simple, unedited example with superimposed text

Many sources, such as Know Your Meme, suggest that the now-immortalized phrase, “I must go.  My people need me,” derives its origin as a misquote from a 1997 episode of The Simpsons (“The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show“).[3] However, the meme today is so widely adaptable (and relevant in so many situations), that it can be applied to almost anything.

 

One of the most prevalent examples of this meme, this time as part of a highly-edited (and surrealist) mashup

 

The reason behind this meme’s success lies in Richard Dawkins’ three basic properties of successfully spreading memes—longevity, fecundity, and fidelity—which Shifman outlines.[2]  This category of GIFs is certainly timeless: whether it be video from a TV show, a sports game, or home video, there is never a shortage of new content of people jumping dramatically or falling over, meaning the subject matter for these GIFs are both perpetually relevant as well as widespread.  This meme has been also widely proliferated among many internet forums. The subreddit /r/MyPeopleNeedMe, which boasts over 20,000 subscribers, is a testament to the meme’s fecundity.  Furthermore, the GIFs can be very simple for the amateur to make, as they do not necessarily require a high level of editing or special effects for their significance to be understood.  Nonetheless, even the heavily edited GIFs (and the GIFs without text), can be identified as part of this larger collective, and are faithful to the original sentiment.

         

Shifman talks about “sharing” as one of the most defining features of Web 2.0, as well as “repackaging” as one of the most essential qualities of successful memes.[2]  The fact that this meme takes something so simple (the mild humor and uncanny qualities of a subject suddenly flying away), and repackages it as something relatable and sharable, has unquestionably contributed to its wild popularity.  The superimposed text is also often reappropriated to achieve a specific reaction or reference (such as the above tumblr example), allowing the focus to be narrowed to a particular community.

I chose to contribute to this phenomenon by manipulating a video of Andy Dwyer (Chris Pratt’s character from Parks and Recreation), and making him appear to fly away upon stealing a briefcase.  This plays upon the absurdity of the scene itself (Andy leaping over a desk), and also acts as a reference to the original “drifting hero” from which this meme originates.  Andy has an alter-ego in the show: FBI Special Agent Burt Macklin. In this scene in particular, it is Burt who is stealing the briefcase, prior to fulfilling his special agent duties and “flying away.”

andy_gif

 


Works Cited:

1. “But Now I Must Go.” TV Tropes. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

2. Shifman, Limor. “When Memes Go Digital.” Memes in Digital Culture. Cambridge: MIT, 2014. 17-35. Print.

3. “I Must Go.” Know Your Meme. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2015.

 

GIFs:

1. Baby on the stairs

2. Dirt bike 

3. Airplane

4. Avatar the Last Airbender

5. Legend of Korra

 

 

 

ChatRoulette: The site that had millions of people pressing their luck

chatroulette_poster

Since the widespread adoption of the internet, an enormous amount of trends and crazes have seen popularity—some more fleeting than others. However, few websites have been as simplistic, controversial, and abruptly popular as ChatRoulette. Founded in late 2009 by Andrey Ternovskiy, then a seventeen-year-old programming enthusiast from Moscow, ChatRoulette had rather humble beginnings.[1]  Ternovskiy created the website after he and his friends got bored video-calling each other over Skype, and desired a video chat platform that “operated in a more random way.”[2] According to a February 2010 review by New York Times Columnist Nick Bilton, “Entering Chatroulette is akin to speed-dating tens of thousands of perfect strangers—some clothed, some not.”[3]

ChatRoulette utilizes a user’s webcam and microphone, and randomly pairs them with another user for short, casual, conversations. The interface itself is very minimalistic. Aside from the two video feeds, a user can chat in the provided text box, or click “next” to stop the conversation and engage a different user. Bilton continues his review of the website, stating, “I used the service for the first time a few weeks ago, and I found it both enthralling and distasteful, yet I kept going back for more.”[3] So what exactly was it about ChatRoulette that kept users so engaged?

In his 2003 essay, “Re-Newing Old Technologies,” Tom Gunning explores the idea of “the uncanny experience” of emergent technologies.[4] Every aspect of ChatRoulette was both strange and familiar for new users. Users had been video-calling on Skype for years—but never in this random, unpredictable manner. These “random” aspect was not inherently novel either. Users had long before, in the early days of the internet, been chatting with strangers textually in AOL chatrooms.[5]  But they had only ever done so with the security blanket of anonymity which screen names could provide. The uneasiness that accompanied showing your own face, the fear of rejection, and the ever-present fear that you would stumble upon individuals exploiting the website for sexual means—all of this was part of the thrill. ChatRoulette was able to take users just far enough out of their comfort zones, and they couldn’t get enough.

Google Trends analysis for the popularity of "ChatRoulette" over time

Google Trends analysis for the popularity of “ChatRoulette” over time

Today, the fervor surrounding ChatRoulette has quelled, as users have lost their initial fascination and moved on to a variety of other internet quirks. Yet the spirit of ChatRoulette lives on in many other trends. The sort of short-form and randomized interactions that made ChatRoulette such a novelty still live on via platforms like Snapchat and Tinder. While the website itself may have lost its userbase, consumers today still desire many of the same qualities that once made ChatRoulette so successful.


 

Works Cited

1. Ioffe, Julia. “Roulette Russian.” New Yorker 17 May 2010: n. pag. Web.

2. Kondakov, Yevgeny, and Benjamin Bidder. “17-Year-Old Chatroulette Founder: ‘Mom, Dad, the Site Is Expanding’ – SPIEGEL ONLINE.” Spiegel Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.

3. Bilton, Nick. “The Surreal World of Chatroulette.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Feb. 2010. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.

4. Gunning, Tom. “Re-Newing Old Technologies: Astonishment, Second Nature, and the Uncanny in Technology from the Previous Turn-of -the-Century.” Rethinking Media Change The Aesthetics of Transition. Cambridge: MIT, 2003. 39-59. Print.

5. Wortham, Jenna. “New Site Unmasks Chatroulette Players.” The New York Times Bits. The New York Times. N.p., 11 Mar. 2010. Web. 01 Feb. 2015.