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just_nonplussed Blog

games can construct consciousness

I just want to do a blog on this because it's my service to you as people who play video games and consume entertainment and artworks. I know most of you are not bothered, but this is the point of this blog and I think it always has been, and so I will write anyway simply for posterity. I have nothing to prove, and I don't need to do this to gain acceptance. It's just a matter of personally 'wrapping things up'; bringing this blog 360 degrees and being conscious of the game as a kind of tool or power (Like music, art, and anything else).

Before I start, this has nothing to do with entertainment/art. It not a blog about art vs. entertainment, or "are games art?". This transcends all of that. And it's not about some kind of perceived battle between the 'correct' way to do or play, and the 'incorrect' or bad way to play or do. It's not about any of that, and it's not about what you prefer or do not prefer.

I'm simply understanding very well, from experience, that our consciousness; our thoughts, behaviors, identity, and who we essentially are can be modified and shaped like a kind of clay. Even if we're unaware, and all of our experiences fall into the unconscious experience (instincts, habits, past memories, emotions) we're constructing realities inside - unwittingly. If you could tip the contents of your self out onto the table and turn yourself inside out, you would see it.

Take destruction for an example. I was having a discussion with someone about music and its potential to create self. At the time this was new to me, but now I understand (At least better than I did) how sound vibration is like another dimension in the mind and body; it's like a space of itself that influences us. I was thinking about the relatively recent tortures at guantanamo bay in the U.S. they used lots of very loud music - rock and metal, and distortion to break the spirit and essentially destroy the minds of the prisoners. That kind of music as I understand dismantles mind structures. It's like if you build a grand cathedral out of bricks, and then get a wreaking ball to knock it to the ground. Sound has the same properties on mind and spirit. Similarly a video game where you're a person shooting realistic people from a first-person perspective already has an underlying connotation that war is acceptable and permissible; without you necessarily even being conscious of it. You've accepted it before you even begin pressing buttons.

Now I'm not saying that people who play shooters, turn into murderers. That's not correct. People who are already psychologically disturbed are the ones who generally have the capacity to murder. Games do not create killers (Society and the family take care of that ;-)). I'm saying that everything has a message to impart, whether we take it on consciously or subconsciously. We're building ourselves each day through what we do, say and consume.

It's my responsibility to do a blog on this as most of you play a lot of video games. I just want to say, hey, this is happening. You can notice it, or not.

All of our consciousness is at different levels of evolution. While it's all part of the same big network, we have individual experience. Some people are essentially still animals, and others are possibly not even a standard human anymore. We have a lot more capacity to evolve than you think. Games are just one source (A very powerful source) of constructing identity. Well... maybe 'constructing' is not the best term. We are who we are already (It's just that some of us know more about themselves than others), and art and entertainment allow us to peek inside. I believe we subconsciously pick the correct things to consume. If we can change to being aware of what we play then we have power to change and create reality rather than being slaves.

Try to take away the borders of 'game'/'reality'. After that you notice how you can bridge between everything and that it all has a unifying effect on your own consciousness. It doesn't matter if it's on the physical or the virtual dimension, or the sound dimension. Reality is a relative concept, not limited to the physical plane. When I play some victorious music I become victory and I become the winner. When I play domination-based shooters I become the aggressive dominator. If you're conscious of it (If you know it), you can destroy all your weakness and indecision. That's just one example of how your consciousness can be altered. I personally became a much stronger problem-solver through years of playing games, and I was able to develop the tendency to always remove obstacles from my life. Over the years, they've had some other effects like moving me away from being an emotionally-affected being to relying more on sensory awareness and reasoning. Because a lot of games don't invoke many powerful or deep emotions, my behavior has changed to be less emotional. This is happening to you as well. For better or worse.

This is by no means a comprehensive essay. It's just a small shout. Choose to hear it and be curious to personally investigate, or choose not to.

Everyone is creative and creating reality every day. It would be wise not to just accept what has been created for you...For the sake of everyone.

a good article

is reality really broken?

article on edge.com.

hey, just dropping an article here. i've always argued that learning from video games is applicable in the world, and also that it moulds consciousness in particular directions. you're literally, not just 'playing a game'.

'The first thing for people who already spend time playing games to do is recognise that the skills they're tapping into – to be resilient and cooperative – are real powers that they have even when they're not playing.'

a perfect example of how the immediacy and engagement of the rules and structure invoke latent or stored capablities in players.

:-)

x

don't call it a game

Sony: "Don't call the PS3 a games machine"

link to the article here.

you might recall a blog i did a while back, when i was reporting back from gamecity 2010. in one of the conferences i learned that sony didn't like the term 'game' or 'play' (despite having a console called the 'play-station'). they didn't want to take part in the festival because it had 'game' in the title. because it was called 'gamecity' they didn't show anything. it's all about the blu ray and the cutting edge blah blah. they want to get rid of the consciousness of 'game' in the mind of the consumer. in fact, it is more about a relationship between 'content' and 'users' today (in the minds of a corporation such as sony).

i don't really understand. the PS3 is one of the best consoles for high quality games. no one uses it just for watching DVDs surely.

in the article the marketing guy raises some decent points. you can play music and films as well, not just games. but i wanted to raise this issue because of sony's power in the market place and how they can form and change consumer consciousness. is it okay to lose 'game'?

personally i'm done with the term 'gamer'. i use 'player' now... maybe i fit in with sony's consumer identity, but maybe i also think it's not good to lose consciousness of 'game'. i don't like uncharted 2, i don't like god of war 3, i don't like sony turning the medium into flashy interactive films. there should be a starting point - a seed point, and 'game' is still a useful reference when taken loosely. i don't think it's useful as a seed point, but i think it's more important than using film/generic entertainment as a reference of where to go.

great games for 2011

some games i think will matter this year. :-)

el shaddai: ascension of the metatron

a very simple but brutal action game, along the lines of ninja gaiden. art direction by the okami art director. plus ex devil may cry developers. :-) sounds great! i just saw the quick look on giant bomb - it'll tell you everything you need to know.

child of eden

rez is back! i can't wait for this game. but i wonder if it will be better on kinect, or PS3? will it support the move? i don't want to have to buy an extra console for this. it's going to be amazing though - i think, shooter of the year.

dark souls

ready for more demon's souls!!? i am! ;-)

shadows of the damned

mikami, suda51, and yamaoka (sp?), the composer of the silent hill series. this looks like a really cool gothic resident evil probably with some crazy twists. i'm getting a feeling of killer7 mixed with demon's souls. should be very good.

devil's third

the new action game by itagaki of ninja gaiden fame. not many details yet. but looks promising.

anarchy reigns

from the developers of bayonetta, vanquish, and mad world. sounds really innovative; an online fighting/brawling game kind of similar to power stone on the dreamcast. i look forward to platinum's latest offering.

legend of zelda: skyward sword

i really, really hope zelda ships this year in all terratories. i am holding out that this will shake up the series formula in some new ways as i was quite dissapointed with twilight princess. i'm ready for zelda again.

---

as for the last guardian, i'm not sure it will be a 2011 release. :-/

but still, that's a lot of games to take in for a year. and no doubt most of them will be crammed in at the end of the year.

reggie clarifies

from joystiq:

As Nintendo did with WiiWare standouts 2D Boy and Gaijin Games, Reggie also hopes to court "independent developers who understand this business" for the 3DS. After his quotes on the matter last week, though, I asked Fils-Aime to explain where his company draws the line -- what separates an "indie" studio from a "garage" one? "We've been clear that we want to work with independent developers who understand this business, who have experience in this business," Fils-Aime said, citing the two aforementioned indies. "These are people who spent time working with larger publishers and larger developers, but had that idea in the back of their head that they needed to bring to life ... and so that's the type of entity that we want to work with."

this story follows on from this.

so, what he means is ex-industry; small company. he doesn't want to work with people who don't have industry experience. i'm pretty sure the guy who made cave story wasn't ex-industry..

i still think reggie is talking about polish and production values - not great game design or interesting concepts. there's tons of bland rubbish out there that might look good and might play okay, but that doesn't mean it's good. that's what i read between the lines. worth reading the whole article though. maybe 'bob's game' is what is going through reggie's mind. if it is, i don't blame him! but surely that is an isolated case.

epic review

hey, i did a review for epic yarn.

i'm going through it again to get the gold medals and secret levels. it's strange, because the game isn't very intense and doesn't have much tension or depth...some things that i always look for in games. yet it's compelling. a game doesn't need to be difficult to enjoy.

after playing the game, i would be much more excited if it was a kind of 'open world platformer'. they should make another one with much bigger maps, or at least a toybox mode where you can go crazy and pull everything to bits. however, it probably wouldn't be possible unless they make it 3D, where it's more physics based. that would be amazing! like a woolly noby noby boy! yarn, exploding everywhere. and you have these knitting needles... and..

the truth

a story from joystiq (my favourite video game news site now).

'Reggie: Nintendo not interested in 'the garage developer,' still likes indies (just don't mention the garage)'

it's an interesting article, reporting on iwata's GDC keynote concerning the rise of the 'app store' business and its perceived threat to larger, traditional games. you can read a summary in the actual article (and probably find a link to the original report - if not, check eurogamer).

i just wanted to draw your attention to reggie's (president of nintendo of america) phrasing in the article. he uses the term 'garage developer' to suggest a lone ranger type, working on a game on their own in some kind of 'unbecoming' environment. but apparently he's still interested in independent developers. so he attempts to make some kind of distinction between a lower set of developers and a higher set.

'Fils-Aime suggested that these so-called "hobbyist" developers are akin to amateur musicians in the music industry'

i interpret this as...he's seen all the mediocre and somewhat shabby indie games on xbox live (of which there are many, but i'll come back to this later) and drawn a line in the metaphorical sand between them and higher-production or slicker pieces of work such as cave story and world of goo (the latter coming from ex-industry 'vets'). however, why is reggie apparently so concerned about quality over quantity when wiiware and DSiware (and the wii and DS themselves) are flooded with mediocre rubbish put out by anonymous and generic developers that seem to have sprung up over night, but also by massive publishers like ubisoft (babiez or petz anyone?) of assassin's creed fame (such a reputable franchise).

so in the context of the article what it seems like he's saying is that it's okay for established publishers to put out lazy, half-hearted crap for a quick buck, but it isn't okay for individuals to offer earnest attempts at making a game with heart, in hope of building a career and getting better at designing. yes, most XBL indie games are kind of generic and of low-production value, but at least a chunk of those guys are the game designers of the future and therefore have much more creative potential and passion for games than 'soulless brand company X' who is cynically copying (wholesale) popular ideas and concepts for a petty few dollars until the market bursts.

but you know, it's probably because all that shiny-looking crap makes nintendo quite a bit of money in royalty fees and whatnot. so i think he should be a little bit more honest and just say - "we do stuff that gets us money to make our shareholders richer, and to support our in-house R&D and development".

the other side of things is perhaps a little more personal to nintendo. it concerns their reputation and their mission statement. nintendo can't be seen to have these 'garage' developers on their shiny new hardware. it's partly to maintain their image as number 1 publisher in the world and a family-oriented image (but not necessarily quality), but also i think it's about creative control. nintendo are quite conservative. most of their designers are very isolated and traditional craftsman that don't pay attention to trends or fashions in game design. they do it their way; it's the nintendo difference (difference pertaining to staying the same, so everyone else changes therefore maintaining a strong identity). this is fine. i'm not making a moral argument here, i'm just saying that when was the last nintendo game with a sandbox mode..? that's one example of a threat to their highly-composed works of art. now if you let a bunch of free radicals onto their turf, the balance may be upset and that would seem to threaten the nintendo establishment. instead, and this is what i think reggie really means, nintendo carefully cherry-pick well-polished and generally high-profile games that suit their particular portfolio. this is why i think there is generally a lack of the 'art game' on nintendo platforms, or of games that 'go too far' on the spectrum of originality. nintendo need to keep their reputation as artists and their own definition of the kind of art that video games are.

nintendo isn't the only one though. sony also take the same attitude, instead cramming PSN with slick and generic arcade-type games and in-house pretentious flights of fancy such as flower and the over-rated pixel junk series ('eden' being one of the worst offenders).

personally i'd rather play cheap and cheerful attempts at game design, than funding over-paid designers who sit in their shiny studios on their shiny chairs thinking they're making great art. a middle-ground is 'user-made content', which i guess nintendo is at least supporting in games like wario ware DIY.

anyway, whatever. this isn't a moral argument. i just wanted to expose the inherent contradictions.

x

virtual visits

it's weird how memories of games mesh with memories of life.

the virtual places we visit in game programs are constructed by people like you and me, but in long-time and passionate players they leave strong impressions and they tend to become just like another place we visited in the physical world. i've had these feelings come to me quite strongly lately. memories of particular virtual places arise from my subconscious when passing through places in the physical world that somehow relate to the game. vagrant story is one such example. i only played it once at a friend's house (he didn't really like it), but the world of lea monde is there in that area where i used to visit my friend. it is there on some level as a dimension of my consciousness.

the weather too has a very strong emotional pull. places i visited in metroid prime, such as chozo ruins where it felt like a cold autumn day, are etched into my mind and arise in autumn or in similar weather conditions. animal crossing is another game that i visited daily and also has a strong focus on weather (some days it rains, other days it's foggy etc.), and it must have really made a strong impression because i find the weather to be very nostalgic, and often it reminds me of the time spent in the game and not the other way around. is there actually any difference in the end..? they both end up as memories. from a physical memory (the mind), an artificial one is constructed to then evoke the original collective or generic memory; and this also might stimulate a more specific event to the individual player. but on the so-called artificial nature of the virtual memory... is it not as valid as a memory of the physical world?

i think that for this generation, we've grown up to appreciate the aesthetics in video games in a similar way to how older generations would have primarily spent the day observing paintings or reading a book. i'm not saying that people don't do that now, but for the younger generations growing up in urban areas video games have been a more dominant popular entertainment in the past 20 years or so.

anyone else have these memory associations?

3DS impressions

sorry to cut the last blog short. i'll still read and reply to anymore messages from that.

i just wanted to quickly type some impressions of the 3DS. a demo pod came to town, and i was able to play some of the games. any of these coming to your cities?

the first game i played was SF4. it was okay. the fighting felt really tight - it felt like street fighter, but i think the 3DS struggles a bit with the cel-shading and detailed graphics of that game. i would much rather play it on a console. but also, the 3D effect wasn't very pronounced in that game, so it didn't really feel strong, or necessary.

then i played some kid icarus. the 3D is amazing on that game. it feels kind of magical. there's a strong sense of depth in the screen, and the foreground and background are very clearly seperate. enemies in the midground also felt like they were on their own plane. it felt like a very simplistic shooter, but very exciting and gorgeous to look at. the main character, pit, felt as if he was literally inside the screen, like a small scale model.

the main problem with the screen is that if you even tilt it a little bit to either side, you lose the 3D effect.

also played some ocarina of time 3D. looks wonderful, but that game is much more complex and incorporates touch screen controls, 3D movement, camera, and motion. it was a lot to take in. but it's zelda. the 3D is very well implemented, but i came away with a nagging feeling that it was unecessary for that game. maybe if i played it a bit more i would get used to it. but i love how the 3D makes the gameplay have more 'impact' by its visual association/transformation - it's nice and chunky and tangible.

nintendogs was great. i played with a 'nintencat'. it's very cute if you're into that kind of thing. it's well constructed and the fur effects are well done.

the best thing about the 3DS was all the free stuff actually. the AR games, and built-in software that comes with the console. you have these 'magic' cards that you put down on the table, and it transmits some kind of code to the camera, and the 3D graphics meld with the area on the desk where the card is. so i was shooting polygon targets on a desk in 'real life'. it was a very tangible feeling, and great fun. then a boss monster came out of the card and i could move the 3DS around the desk to shoot at it. some clever people (at an exhibit i went to in liverpool last year) were doing this kind of stuff before the 3DS (and before invizimals), so it's nice to see it come to the mainstream.

the other AR game i played was 'face raiders'. it's so cool. you take a photo of someone or yourself, and then your photo gets stamped onto a moving head target, and you shoot yourself as it's moving about the screen. but your head also animates, which is hilarious.

however, i personally came away from the event with the impression that 3D is a kind of gimmick or flashy toy. it's a bit too annoying to bother with, and can get in the way of enjoying the actual game. but.. maybe if i sat down with kid icarus in a comfortable and quiet room (not in a stuffy and crowded demo pod), i would warm to it much more.

to me, it's not necessary just yet. i wonder if 3D will ever be necessary to the experience, or whether it will just be this 'extra enhancement' thing that kind of floats around for a bit and then goes away..

Ten/Ten

under what conditions do you award a game 10/10?

i've noticed that a lot of players only reserve the score for perfect experiences. however, is any game (or anything for that matter) perfect? you'll notice that GS no longer correlates '10' with 'perfect', instead replacing it with 'prime'.

another thing players tend to do is compare game scores between games that have nothing in common or are completely different experiences. an ocarina of time '10' is a bit different from a bayonetta '10' for example. the former was a landmark work in game design, and the latter is simply an excellent action game (the best yet, for me). both deserve that score, but for different reasons.

so when i was playing epic yarn at some point i decided to give it 9.5, because it was wonderful and unique, but it just kept on being consistantly good and i couldn't fault the way it was designed, so i gave it a 10. that doesn't mean it's perfect, and it also doesn't mean i wouldn't change some things about it here and there if i had the power to (i personally think there's lots of scope for a deeper experience there). but 'for what it is', it's very good.

edit:

i also think that there's a lot of bias going on in the game writers' business. i'm talking about the so-called 'best games'. often, these games get the top score due to their harmonious balance and slick production or audio-visual polish; almost always, it's a combination of harmonious gameplay balance (a kind of 'golden ratio' if you will) and production values. however, i would argue that there is an aesthetic dimension. playing those kinds of 'best games' is a particular aesthetic experience that is often very similar (tight gameplay, gradual progression, not too difficult/not too easy etc.), so it should be compared aesthetically to other games that are differently balanced but equally as good. there is a strong tendency in the gaming press to award perfect scores to 'extrovert' or 'epic' experience, simply due to the 'epicness' or harmonious balance. and i think this is short-sighted. but one could argue that the games industry just doesn't yet produce the aesthetic variety necessary to trigger a widespread change in perception.

anyway, there's my logic. what about yours?