Stop Making Sense.

Posted September 28, 2009 by Scott Reed
Categories: Nerd Culture

Tags: , ,

My demotivational poster kick ends (mercifully) today.

But, to commemorate last weekend’s epic downloading of the Rock Band Talking Heads pack, the following:

Special thanks, as always, to my buddy Dave at Geek Lee Tist:
dork aggregation machine par excellence.

Because you demanded more Batman (apparently)

Posted September 28, 2009 by Scott Reed
Categories: Nerd Culture

Tags: ,

Procedurality and the Meme-work of Arkham Asylum

Posted September 28, 2009 by Scott Reed
Categories: Gaming, Rhetoric

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Arkham Asylum, most folks have it, is a more-or-less flawless work of procedural mimesis.  You get to do like Batman: to detect, to fight, to Batarang your foes into submission.  The game finds methods, rich and subtle, to affirm the basic goodness of its own gameplay:  The tools of detection double as the skills needed to solve the mountingly complex Riddler puzzles.  Skill in stealth and combat are rewarded (and thus reaffirmed) through the economy of extra-narrative challenges (esp. with the tantalizing reward of Xbox Achievements).

In a sense, it’s how the game institutes a kind of “fungibility” (to borrow a term from Ian Bogost’s Unit Operations) for its own processes, how they function as a sort of common currency that can be exchanged into different kinds of pleasures, nearly at will.

The co-equal trick of the game is to read the gameplay alongside the game’s well-known “narrative” content, not to insist on their Platonic or formal distinctness, but to get at how they inform one another.  I myself have an odd relationship with this approach to criticism: having to play the tactical move of always keeping narrative and ludology separate, if only to allow them to collide later.  That tension is part of my long-standing interest in Bogost’s work – he gets at the inherent messiness of the medium in a way that I think is irresitible.

But back to Batman.  There’s another economy in play here: an economy of images.  These images are irredicibly “felt” on some level.  It explains the underlying thirst for this game, one that borders (but does not become, I think) a version of Marx’s commodity fetish.  The game plays towards this thirst for iconic form: constructing a Batman who is a transcendent composite of the characters various versions from the past: armored like the post-Burton films, dark and physically imposing like Miller’s, gadget-happy like Adam West, stealthy like Bale, yet with a classical design and moral compass.  It plays out in the familiar voice casting.  It plays out, perhaps most noticeably, in the restrained-yet-expressive cavalcade of familiar Rogues Gallery faces.  That many of these “images” are garnered only through the side-quest of Riddler trophies, a mechanic with its own clear iconic weight within the franchise, further affirms my sticky, emergent sense of an “imalgorithmic” structure.

In other words, to escape the gravity of my sloppy portmanteau of image and algorithm, I found my experience of the game to be faceless, frontless.  There’s a vertigo to this kind of play, in Caillois’s sense of the word, where rules meet the “free-play” of imagistic meaning, where images meet the corporate complex behind Batman.  I’m trying to work out the critical use-value of this vertigo.  Is this what it means to play a good game?   Or, is this a selective state available to members of the audience (like myself), who have already participated in a rich iconic economy prior to the game?  Once we’re here, what do we do?

IMPORTANTE.

Posted September 16, 2009 by Scott Reed
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: , , ,

Gone, but not forgotten.

Simply bitchin.

Simply bitchin'.

Simply bitchin'.

Aww.

Posted September 16, 2009 by Scott Reed
Categories: Nerd Culture

The Eloquence of Procedurality

Posted September 16, 2009 by Scott Reed
Categories: Gaming

Tags: , ,

Not my eloquence, but that of the nigh haiku-like Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade.

The Unvarnished Truth

This represents, to my mind, perhaps the single greatest piece of writing on video gaming ever.

Admiral Ackbar Cereal!

Posted September 16, 2009 by Scott Reed
Categories: Nerd Culture