Dark Hallways are Scarier in Video Games

Shot of the hallway in P.T.

Shot of the hallway in P.T.

Horror has been a prevalent movie genre since the beginning of film. Scary movies are oftentimes made when the director wants the viewer to be completely immersed in fear. In more recent times, directors have been looking for better ways to convey fear and have turned to video games to deliver their content.

Such is the story for P.T., a short horror game released in 2014 that captivated gamers all over the nation. The name P.T. stands for the “playable teaser” of the new Silent Hill game, a critically acclaimed and iconic horror series. The game is directed by Hideo Kojima (creator of the Metal Gear franchise) and film director Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Pacific Rim). Even as a “teaser,” P.T. is widely regarded as one of the scariest, realistic, and immerse horror video games to ever hit the market.

In the context of the remix project, our group is aiming to create a supercut video where we plan to match up scenes from iconic horror films like The ShiningThe Babadook, and Saw among others, to P.T.’s gameplay. We aim to compare and contrast the use of atmosphere and ideas between both the video game and the horror films. The goal is to show how much scary video games take away from horror cinema, while also highlighting what makes video games such an attractive and unique medium for scary storytellers to immerse their audience beyond what film allows.

Here is an example of a supercut of some shots from iconic Stanley Kubrick films (thank you Kyle). Our group plans to match up shots from horror movies to shots in the gameplay.

To make this remix video relevant to class, we are drawing a lot of inspiration from Alexander Galloway’s “Gamic Action, Four Moments” chapter in Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture where he states that, “computers and in particular video games…foundation is not in looking and reading, but in the instigation of material change through action” (Galloway 4). With the remix video, we plan to show how video games can work as a way to tell a story like a movie, but with an interactivity that immerses the consumer.

Advertisements

Facebook’s watching you Wazowski, ALWAYS watching.

Today, we live in a world where it takes seconds to connect with someone on the other side of the globe and this is in large part thanks to Facebook. Of course email and other forms of media were available for a time before the social media giant, however Facebook was the first to create a way to build relationships with strangers without ever meeting them in person. It would be difficult to find a person that doesn’t have a Facebook, even if they don’t use it often.

While Facebook still captivates the attention of billions (yes, billions) of people, most don’t know how much information the website holds on to. WIRED’s Mat Honen performed an experiment on the social networking site where he abused the “like” button on everything he saw on his feed throughout the span of 48 hours to see just how much Facebook tracks. After liking everything he saw for 2 days, except for things involving death or loss, Honen’s feed full of friends’ statuses was quickly replaced by what he calls the, “worst kind of tripe that [everyone] in the media is complicit in churning out yet should also be deeply ashamed of” (Honen I Liked Everything…I). Honen mentions that Facebook’s algorithm completely revolves around promoting things that you would “like” and tucking away things you rarely interact with.

In this way, Facebook can be described as a panopticon, which is the idea that a single individual or small group of individuals monitor the actions of the many. Of course, this may pose a problem for users who were not aware of the way Facebook sees everything they do. Facebook, however, presents their Terms of Service and Data Use Policy to every user and everybody is required to agree to their rules in order to use the site.

Snippet of Facebook's Terms of Service

Snippet of Facebook's Data Use Policy

Above are snippets of the rules everyone must agree to before they can use the website. It clearly states everything Facebook plans to do with the information you give them, tailoring ads and posts in order to personalize each user’s feed with things they may like. These rules perfectly embody Facebook as a digital enclosure, which can be described as a place where in order to use an interactive space like Facebook, users must agree to “freely” submit personal information that the owners of the space can use.

As a person who only uses Facebook as a backup emergency contact resource and a place to share notes and study guides with classmates, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I tried Mat Honen’s 48 hour “like” challenge. Mostly everything on my feed centered around college, showing me ads for other universities or showing me posts from friends who mentioned their school’s name in a status. So for 48 hours I liked every suggested page I saw and every status (mostly from people I haven’t seen in over 4 years). Much like Honen’s experiment, my feed devolved into chaos. Because of the content on my feed before my “liking” binge, Facebook seemed to believe that as a college student, I was looking for a new phone. Everything I saw was an ad for competing phone companies and statuses from people who just got new phones.

It seems as in both my case and Mat Honen’s, Facebook’s algorithm figured we needed to look at ads, even though we were being advertised completely different things. The truth of the fact is that by “liking” a specific thing, Facebook tried to help us find more things which would be interesting to us, which isn’t such a bad thing. People afraid of the fact that Facebook seems to be tracking every move they make have to realize that they are agreeing to the site’s rules and they have the free will to not use the social media page at all. In addition, Facebook’s policies are not as long and confusing as people make them out to be. I found all of the information for this assignment in only a few seconds because Facebook makes it easy to find out everything they plan on doing.

Sources:

Honan, Matt. “I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days. Here’s What It Did to Me | WIRED.”Wired. 2014. Web.

Super Wikipedia Brothers – Collective Intelligence in Melee’s Wiki

Wikipedia, an ever changing and updating online encyclopedia, is perhaps one of the internet’s most important resources. Oftentimes when you’re curious about a topic and you decide to “Google” it, the first result for that topic is almost always a link to its Wikipedia page. Wikipedia is often the topic of scrutiny by many teachers and professors who claim that the information found on the site is often false because literally anyone has the ability to edit these pages. However Henry Jenkins best describes the idea of Wikipedia as “collective intelligence,” which he defines as, “the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others towards a common goal” (Jenkins, What Wikipedia…Part 1). What Jenkins means by this is that, contrary to what many teachers believe, most “Wikipedians” edit and contribute to the site because they are actively sharing and acquiring new knowledge.

For the purpose of this assignment, I decided to research the Wikipedia page for Super Smash Bros. Melee, a popular fighting game on the Nintendo GameCube made by HAL Laboratories. The contents of the article include a brief summary of the idea of the game, which is a unique 3D beat-em-up style figher starring many of Nintendo’s most popular characters. The article then details most aspects of the game including the basic idea of gameplay, characters,stages, music, critical and commercial reception, and perhaps most importantly (in my interests) the legacy Melee created with its sequels and competitive scene.

While reading the page, it was apparent the Wikipedians tried to touch on every aspect of the game by giving short summaries or briefly describing important events in the history of Melee. If the reader wanted to learn more specifics, the editors linked to the Wikipedia pages devoted to those specific topics. In the example below, the editors decided it would be better to link to the article detailing each character in the game instead of cluttering the screen with stats only hardcore players would care about.

Example of how the editors of Melee's article included links to more in depth articles

Example of how the editors of Melee’s article included links to more in depth articles

No information seems to be incorrect, usually taking a scholarly and informative tone. Most of the citations used throughout the article are either from official statements made by Nintendo or from their website and also reliable and respected game reporters like IGN. Many of the more bold claims have more than two citations. There are no boxed warnings anywhere on the page and is categorized as a featured page by Wikipedia.

Both of these icons are at the top of the page

Both of these icons are at the top of the page

It’s evident by looking at the page history that Wikipedia provides that today, the majority of the Wikipedians and readers are interested in competitive Melee. Near the release of the game, most of the edits were made about in game content. As Melee became more competitive based (starting in 2006, otherwise regarded as the birth of competitive Melee), editors started to focus on updating the current accepted unbiased beliefs of a majority of competitive players

List of edits made at the start of the game's lifespan

List of edits made at the start of the game’s lifespan

The most current edits (more competitive/tournament based).

The most current edits (more competitive/tournament based).

Obviously, the community of Wikipedians that try to keep Melee’s page as factual, unbiased, and informative as possible. As Melee’s competitive history and influence expands, so does the Wikipedia page. The community of editors embody the idea of collective intelligence by condensing information that could be accessible to anyone, while providing options for people who want to go more in depth with Melee.

Source:

Jenkins, Henry. “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About the New Media Literacies (Part One and Two).” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. 26-27 Jun. 2007. Web.

Portal: The Cake is a Transmedia Storytelling Device

GLaDOS, the main villain in the Portal series

GLaDOS, the main villain of the Portal series

Portal and its sequel Portal 2 are among the most revered and influential titles in modern gaming and they are almost unanimously considered two of the best games of all time. The Portal series’ game play consists of using a special gun that creates two linking portals to solve several logic and physics based puzzles.

Along with its unique game play, Portal also stands out for its clever storytelling. Along with the story occurring on screen, Valve (the company that created the series) took special care to create a subplot that extends far beyond the physical game in the form of transmedia storytelling. In this way, Portal can be considered an Alternate Reality Game (ARG), which is a type of game that delivers a story that may be altered by players’ ideas or actions in the real world.

The first example of transmedia storytelling appears in the form of worldbuilding. Henry Jenkins describes worldbuilding as “…complex fictional worlds which can sustain multiple interrelated characters and their stories…” (“Transmedia Storytelling 101”) and this can be seen by the use of Easter eggs (a hidden reference) in their other critically acclaimed series Half LifeBelow is a screen shot from the game Half Life 2 that clearly shows the logo of Aperture Science, the name of the fictional testing facility in the Portal series.

Reference to Portal in Half Life 2

Reference to Portal in Half Life 2

This is supposed to imply that Half Life and Portal take place in the same universe which connects all of the characters and politics from both games. This is abundantly proven in the Portal series with Easter eggs that show Aperture Science and Black Mesa (the testing facility in Half Life) as competitors looking to create and perfect an invention that could revolutionize the world. It should also be noted that Portal originally came packaged as a bonus game to Half Life 2 in the collection disc called The Orange Box

Gravity Gun (left, from Half Life) and Portal Gun (right, from Portal)

Gravity Gun (left, from Half Life) and Portal Gun (right, from Portal)

The ending song of Portal contains a Black Mesa reference at around the 2:05 mark

For the next example of transmedia storytelling, Portal uses what’s called negative capability to create a mysterious subplot that is never actively addressed in the series. Negative capability, as described by Janet Murray, is a technique used to create gaps in the narrative that requires more information than presented to understand the full story (Hamlet on the Holodeck). Portal cleverly conveys this by introducing the character Doug Rattmann, a former employee of Aperture Science that escaped being killed by the main antagonist GLaDOS. When exploring a few test chambers, it’s possible to accidentally stumble into a Rat Man room. There is no mention of these rooms anywhere in the main plot, however it makes the player wonder what these creepy rooms could mean.

An example of a Rat Man room containing cryptic messages and warnings

An example of a Rat Man room containing cryptic messages and warnings

Perhaps the most famous and referenced phrase from the Portal series is “the cake is a lie,” which can be found in one of these mysterious Rat Man rooms warning the player of the plot twist at the end of the first game. As stated before, the series never addressed the presence of these rooms until Valve released a webcomic in 2011 called Portal 2: Lab Rat” on their website that finally explained the connection of this mysterious person Doug Rattmann and Chell, the silent protagonist of the series. If a player were to never stumble into one of these rooms, they would not have researched what these rooms meant and understood the separate subplot.

The Portal series, and Valve in general, is a behemoth when it comes to the amount of transmedia storytelling they offer. Using both worldbuilding and negative capability to achieve an extended interest in the plot of the game is why Portal and Portal 2 stand out among the expansive selection of video games. If you are interested in finding out more of the series’ secrets and transmedia storytelling, check out this article.

Sources:

Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling 101.” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. 2007. Web.

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