Gohma Awakens

Video Games and You (and Me)

Nymphomaniac: Vol 1 and Sensation

2014 has been a year wrought with films on the structure of cinema.  The Lego Movie embarked to restate the purpose of the Hero’s Journey. The Wind Rises dealt with a great creator’s “Ten years in the sun” and the purpose of creating “art”.  The Grand Budapest Hotel was a statement from its director, Wes Anderson, on the individuality of an artist and in turn the way that nobody really CAN be an individual without an artistic idol or leader.  And now a new challenger enters the ring with Nymphomaniac: Vol. 1 which creates what, in my opinion, are the most interesting and dark observations out of all four of these films.  While these other films focus on the structure of cinema, Nymphomaniac discusses the way that the viewer interacts with narrative structure and questions the sensation that people receive from film.  

The structure of Nymphomaniac is a story within a story as Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character Joe retells the story of her life after being found beaten and unconscious in an alley.  Her savior, a man later to be known as Seligman, begins to ask her about her life and this is where the “plot” of the movie begins.  The moment this story starts the viewer of the film becomes the viewer of another story, a story that could be distorted by both Seligman or Joe but the reality of it remains unknown.  Seligman even goes so far as to question what seems to be obscene coincidence in Joe’s retelling of her life but it is very swiftly passed over and accepted.  This questioning from Seligman similar to what is the most emphasized and drawn out metaphor of the film.

The first chapter of Nymphomaniac not only begin the story of Young Joe but also create a metaphorical reference for the remainder of the film and in many ways outline part of the purpose of the film as a whole.  As Joe recounts the beginning of her youthful exploration of her sexuality, Seligman continually interrupts to point out similarities between her sexual encounters and the technique of fly fishing.  Though relatively simple, this metaphor serves a purpose higher than just to elaborate on Joe’s sex life.  It is at this point that Seligman’s purpose becomes clear.  He is the nurturer of a grand story, the guiding hand in the pathway of the film.  The audience is not watching Joe’s story, they are watching Seligman’s story or at least Seligman’s interpretation of Joe’s story.  In this way, Seligman is the mirror through which the audience is reflected.  Seligman provides metaphors to empathize Joe’s pain to his own life, just as a viewer of a film does towards any character. Through THIS lens Nymphomaniac becomes a really interesting study on interaction and experience.  Seligman’s fishing metaphor DOESN’T MATTER within the scope of the film, however it is hugely important to emphasize the point that the audience of the story will associate themselves within that story.  Joe sees this in Seligman but still understands that he will never truly experience her life and even remarks to Seligman multiple times throughout the film that he “won’t understand”.  As the movie progresses Young Joe’s excursions become more of a focus than Seligman’s apartment and guidance, at least until the last chapter of the film.  

The final chapter of Vol. 1 kind of states the obvious.  “I can’t feel anything” cries Young Joe.  The question is whether or not this is a surprise or is it just a lapse in Young Joe’s denial.  This statement, the admittance to a lack of sensation, is something that could only be described in such vivid detail through the erotic.  Von Trier’s purpose is not to arouse, but rather to slap the viewer in the face and wake them up.  The topic of the film is thus viewed in two extremes: those who despise the thought of what they perceive it to be and those who desire what they perceive it to be.  Ultimately the film satisfies neither as it is not the erotic shitshow that people expected but rather a kind of dark comedy that uses sexuality as a tactical device.  Nymphomaniac is about feelings, but more importantly the lack of feelings.  It is about the way that people wander into a theater and desire to feel and to experience but at some point that becomes dull and they must find other sources of experience.  Von Trier questions these boundaries: At what point did we become desensitized to the sex in this movie?  At what point did we get desensitized to the meaning of this movie?  At what point did we become desensitized to those around us, unable to feel or connect with anyone but ourselves?  As Joe states, “You won’t understand” and the Seligman’s in the world probably won’t.  The film challenges the way we feel more than it challenges the way we think.  The real question is if it is bad to be Seligman or if it is ok to guide and connect ourselves, perpetuating an existence subservient to the stories of others. 

The Biographical Nature of Fez

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DISCLAIMER:  This piece marks a new direction I am considering taking with my writing.  Whether or not this piece is like this, I am trying to incorporate these pieces as less formal criticism and more of a flow of thought I will record with my experience with the games I play.  That being said, I will still probably emulate a more critical style than an informal blog post.  Ideally I will be able to publish more on this without stressing about whether or not my shitty Freshman writing is equivalent to people who do this for a living.

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Phil Fish captured the attention of thousands of people.  Then he disappeared without a trace.  Last year the creator and designer of the game Fez released his game for PC, announced a sequel and then proceeded to leave the industry and stop production on his newly announced game.  Many people called and continue to call this a sham, just a cheap marketing stunt to build up anticipation for his return.  However, after finishing Fez, I believe the reality lies in the depths of his one great accomplishment, as well as a statement on the frustration, struggle and glory required to create that accomplishment.  

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Gone Home Bullet Points

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  • I was going to write up a piece about this Gone Home but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.  I just rambled about how I cried a lot and it was sad and happy and yeah.  I’m no game critic (obviously).  There really is so much to say about Gone Home that no one person can do it.
  • Many of these are just my thoughts on aspects of the game.  I may end up adding more to it if I think of any, I just wanted to put SOMETHING out there.
  • THERE ARE SPOILERS OK DON’T GET BUTTMAD.  Please play the game and if you don’t know how/can’t please contact me and I will enable you (I have a drm free copy but please support people).

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Silver Linings

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I don’t usually write about movies, but I was drawn to say something about Silver Linings Playbook.  The struggle in the movie was too real, too tangible to ignore.  I had seen others comment on the movie’s display of having a bipolar disorder and how it wasn’t perfectly representative of their thoughts, but was still a great portrayal of what somebody would have to face every day.  The beauty of Silver Linings Playbook comes through that.  The power of the movie is not in the fact that it very accurately portrays bipolar disorders, but through the way that it takes something that sets someone out as being “sick” or “crazy” and foils it against regular people.  The struggles of the every day individual pale in comparison to the main character, Pat Solitano.  However, the people who are supposed to be regular or stable all have another side to them.  For Pat’s counselor, the other side is an attentive Eagles fan.  For Pat’s friend Ronnie, the other side is a deep dread of his marriage and the stress of life in a family.  Silver Linings Playbook brings together these emotional divides by showing that it requires both in order to understand one’s purpose in life.  Seeing his counselor’s other side is what finally brings Pat to connect on a more emotional level with him.  Ronnie grows in his relationship with his wife by overcoming the problems he had in the past.  Overcoming being bipolar and displaying his control over his emotions and his choices by turning down Nikki is what shows how Pat had to conquer his problems in order to understand the correct path to take his life.  Nowhere in this movie does it say that these choices are easy, but instead it is made apparent that the hardest choices and the greatest burdens lead to the deepest happiness.  

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The video game Sleeping Dogs also deals with silver linings, though in a very different context.  Sleeping Dogs takes place in Hong Kong and tells the story of an undercover cop named Wei Shen.  As the story progresses Wei has to balance the duties of maintaining the guise of a triad member while also toting the moral duties of a member of law enforcement.  This dichotomy is present in not only the story, but also in the gameplay.  During missions experience is earned in both police and triad categories, based upon how you act during the mission. Police experience is lost as actions are taken that go against the law and triad experience is gained as more unlawful actions are taken.  This important balance displays the thin line that Wei treads.  Like Pat, the harmful parts of one’s life are often easy to commit while improving always seems miles away.  Wei experiences this through The police experience, which is especially easy to lose within the rules of the game. Due to the fact that Wei is an undercover member of the triad he has to act his part which requires breaking laws.  Though his original duty is to uphold the law, the nature of his position in life leads him to go against the morals he originally intended to defend.  Wei and Pat both have intentions to lead a better life and both don’t always follow through on what they hope to accomplish. Pat has outbursts and hurts those around him and Wei is forced to commit acts that go against the code that he was sent to uphold.  These extreme situations are put forward in order to further understand the complications of normal life.  Very few situations go as planned and the stories of Wei and Pat are good examples of this.  Just like it is said in Silver Linings Playbook: excelsior.  In order to push forever upwards, we must find a balance between the evils that we inevitably commit and find the silver linings that are made possible by those evils.  Though Wei is forced to break the law, he eventually is able to bring about justice to the triads, once again finding something good out of a past evil.  Life is filled with missed opportunities and failures, but from those problems arises a new and positive chance at success.  As it is pointed out in Sleeping Dogs, you cannot outrun the past and in many cases the best way to conquer it is to accept it and embrace it.    

Fall, Winter, Spring Last of Us Notes


These are the rest of my notes.  The last 5 hours of the game went by a bit faster than the first 5 and I spent more time…playing…the game…than taking notes.  Feel free to guess where I was in the game based on my notes hue.  

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  • Fall
  • I like Wyoming more
  • Horses enter frame, fps halves.  So I hope it turns into Red Dead.  pls.
  • Lets see:  Partner with similar mindset, person who owes you who lost partner, person with younger sibling,  brother with someone he cares for.   JUST LISTING COMPANIONS YAY.
  • I like all this traveling that I don’t have to worry about.  nice n’ easy
  • I see monkeys I think other animals.  I PREDICT LOTS OF WHALES EVERYWHERE
  • Well people seem to like falling on spikes
  • Winter
  • omg a rabbit.  Fall starts with a squirrel, winter with a rabbit.  
  • YES TOMB RAIDER. I was about to make a comparison.  
  • "how are you still alive"  she asks the deer.  oh dear what sweet metaphors art thou
  • I SMELL TRICKERY 
  • I would much rather play this on PC but it is a better game with the imprecision and uncertainty that comes with a controller
  • AND NOw this acts as another partner for Ellie.  A foil to Joel as a mentor/partner.  
  • All of the bandits have red eyes.  WAIT A SEC ARE THEY… I forget if that means they are Cannibals.
  • oh good, they left me all of my belongings -_-
  • Its a weird feeling to have enemies running away from you in a shooter.  
  • This “boss” scene must have taken so long to make 0_0
  • Oh and they did the  “do you know how many people you have killed!?!?!” thing.  Yeah.  its a video game.    
  • Spring
  • All of a sudden, Joel is the peppy one.
  • I bet they are dead.  
  • "after all I’ve done…It can’t be for nothing."
  • What do they even mean “try and wrap this up”  The harsh reality of life of nothing ever being over.  Maybe thats the point.  
  • Ellie says “asshole” but does she mean me.  
  • Its like Left 4 Dead except everything is a witch
  • flowers growing out of a corpse.  Poetic
  • What are you afraid of Ellie?  nothing?  no, she is afraid of water.  ok.  good.  
  • Maybe this is meant to be.
  • they said rape.
  • Back to the girl.  so cyclical amirite.  
  • SWEAR TO ME.
  • "we would be poetic and both lose our minds together."  I think that is intentionally reflected on Joel and Ellie.  Just like before, only one would lose their mind.  
  • I think the game does a really amazing job with setting/writing and understanding what it is trying to be. AAA games don’t usually have design that is in harmony with the themes and narrative put forward but The Last of Us does. 
  • HOWEVER, there is something lackluster about more post-apocalyptic stories.  I don’t care about zombies or the end of the world or destruction anymore, for better or for worse.  
  • As “original” as the story seems too, it takes an incredible amount from Children of Men and The Road and a lot of other things.  YES I GET IT, mankind is dark and mean and cares only for themselves, think of ways to solve that.  
  • All these developers started making games 3 or 4 years ago, i.e. Spec Ops, The Last of Us, Far Cry 3; so it will be cool when 3-4 years from now there are games about solving that.  pls.  I hope.  
  • I just wanted to spare that last doctor, please.  It was a sad game though and ambiguous and I loved that.  If there is one thing people should take away from this game it is the ambiguity.
  • Articles worth reading after the game:
  • http://bit.ly/14ySgWa  (Kotaku/Kirk Hamilton on developer decisions on major aspects of the game)
  • http://bit.ly/11MDz3w  (Kirk Hamilton again on why there doesn’t need to be a sequel)
  • http://bit.ly/11XldfH  (article comparing LoU to Children of Men/The Road.  The beauty of destruction)
  • http://bit.ly/13VG96K   (more comparisons to The Road/hope.)
  • http://bit.ly/19AtNXh  (Unwinnable article about the lack of frailty in the game)

The LoU is worth playing.  It has a strange way of turning into the same mindless sort of Uncharted-esque third person shooter that Naughty Dog has created in the past.  It isn’t exactly the same, but the tedium of a single task wears on you.  Honestly that is ok because life is tedious and that was Naughty Dog’s goal.  An emulation of life, which, in my opinion, they succeeded at.  

Summer (Chapter from The Last of Us) Notes

I figured I might as well take notes as I play this and then post them Brendan Keogh style.  Except I’m not as good at writing as him.  Either way, this is really rough and vaguely analytical but mostly kinda silly. And yes it is in the order that I wrote it down. I just copied what I typed in Textedit.

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  • I forgot that people drive on the right side of the road.  I’ve been playing too much Sleeping Dogs.
  • It is interesting how the narrative focuses control on the daughter.  It is like Joel doesn’t deserve the spotlight for whatever reason.  
  • That in turn raises the question:  what has he done.  So much ambiguity, so little time.  
  • The “20 Years Later”  kind of surprised me, not gonna lie.
  • "I love the smell of the fresh outdoors."  Man this game wants me to go outside and stop playing it.  Or to father a child idk yet.
  • The problem with games that push for realism is that the gameplay parts push against the level of realism that is attempted.  For example, walking into a room of chest high crates or being shot once in a cutscene and falling down and then later being peppered with bullets after a failed stealth attempt.  hmm didn’t Clint Hocking say something about this?
  • Am I the only one getting a City of Ember vibe from this?  Or is it just me being disillusioned about the fireflies.  (I mean the book, idk if there is a movie made of it yet. ugh)
  • I do like the “government remains” kind of post-apocalyptica that the game puts forward.  
  • The more I think about it, the more this resembles Bioshock Infinite in an incredible number of ways.  It irritates me more than excites me.
  • SATISFACTION LEVEL 3 HOURS IN:  SATISFIED
  • I do like the use of common zombie tropes to give a sense of safety…at least safety in play.  It adds to the “humanity” of it by making you feel comfortable.  
  • I do like how there isn’t a “kill the horde” mentality.  The Walking Dead and even Day Z are following this mentality more and more.\
  • Getting’ creepy revolutionary Coumbia-esque vibes from this museum 
  • Games need more pipes with scissors taped to them
  • BOOBY TRAPS!!!!! 
  • I like when Joel just puts a sharp nail bomb with scissors and shit sticking out of it into his pocket.  
  • I like how there isn’t an attempt to be like “oh look how innocent this little girl is.”  
  • It is an interesting narrative set up to start after a lot has already happened to the characters.  yeah. 
  • OH Good. hobos
  • oh yay there is the  “innocent young child” trope yay.  well idk if trope is the right word, but its in most of these games now
  • Yellow is to Last of Us as Red is to Mirror’s Edge.  I’m sure there is a reason.  or not idk. 
  • There is a weird disconnect that comes from Ellie giving you med kits.  Similar to health/salts/money in Bioshock Infinite
  • ITS MICHAEL AND WALT. ITS GONNA BE LOST. WITH A HATCH. AND MAH BOY
  • I just grabbed supplies through a house’s walls.  GG.
  • So much for Michael and Walt.  Can’t say it was unexpected tho.  Not that expecting it makes it better.
  • Well Last of Us has lived up to what I expected so far.  Desperation is found in every system of the game and I love it.  
  • The soundtrack/sound design is fantastic.  The soundtrack especially reminds me of The Walking Dead.  
  • Then again, a lot about this game reminds me of The Walking Dead.  So many zombie tropes, so little time.  
  • I feel like the game is going in a “even if you save the world, human nature sucks.” or something.  I’m totally prepared for people to say “omg you don’t even know bro it doesn’t end like you think it does.”   

Fez and Life

The future is scary. I’ve learned a lot over the 18 years of my life and most of that is completely useless.  Next year I will be going into uncharted territory with college.  The tension that arose from college decisions and plans led me to return to what I always found comfort in.  I’ve always found solace in video games, but that doesn’t mean every one is able to resonate with me.  Fez gave me visions of the future though, a hindered (as life commonly is) view of what is to come.  Fez encouraged me to look at life from new angles, a personal statement that not many games allow.  The simple characters, world and art style allow for a cohesive flowing of an individual into the space of the game and conveys a sense of belonging that enables inward thought.  Fez affected me in the best possible way. 

Fez has a strange feeling of foreboding and nostalgic terror associated with it.  The beginning of the game, as happy and bright as it seems, is equally strange as it is welcoming.  The protagonist, Gomez, is told that he is to go on an adventure just like others before him.  Gomez and the player unquestioningly agree and are granted a fez that grants the power to access a third dimension.  In the process of acquiring this power Gomez also destroys the source of this fez, the Hexahedron (it is a floating gold cube).  The game then reboots, the equivalent of breaking the fourth wall within the medium of a game, and puts you back into the world of Fez, except this time with the power to rotate the world that Gomez lives in. 

As simple as Fez’s life and world seem visually, the ordeal that the character just experienced is similar to the experience that any other person experiences in the realization of their calling in life.  The moment that we realize the potential of what is possible with our lives, everything comes crashing down and the world seems to be on the brink of disaster.  Gomez is no different than anybody else.  He is told that he has a new power and has to save the world, just as many other people are told that they have a gift and it is their duty to uphold that gift.  However, Gomez’s journey is not an easy one and after traveling and collecting what seems to be everything necessary to succeed, there is even more to discover and learn. The original goal becomes only a half-way point towards restoring Gomez’s world to order.  His journey looked like it was at an end but instead stretched farther into the distance, a feeling that I could connect with.

 

Going to college is a new beginning for me.  It will be the first time that I will be formally studying a topic that I actually care about.  Going into a game development program may end up being a terrible decision, but it is a decision that I am making and it is one that I see myself potentially doing something with.  I don’t expect to be the next great designer or programmer or producer.  I hope I can make an impact of some kind on the world but there is still so long until I reach that point.  Fez came out on PC a little more than two weeks ago, around the time that I was thinking a lot about where my life choices were taking me.  Gomez’s emergence into a questionable future hit me hard. 

There was something scary that I couldn’t put a finger on.  The deserted and raining city world made me question the existence of any helping hand in the game.  Who was I really saving from this supposed cataclysm if nobody was there?  The graveyard made me want to turn off my computer.  I was terrified of what might rise up out of the ground, even though that area was more filled with life than any other area up to that point.  Even if that life was deceased, it was still more present than other areas.  Gomez’s journey eerily reflected my own, though mine is filled with less raining graveyards and empty cities.  The world of Fez was similar to my own; seemingly empty but guided by an unseen force.  The emptiness gave me hope for something more, a hope that others had come before me and were guiding me, even if I could not see it.  I know others have walked the path I have, stumbling into the future of their lives.  Fez helped me to see that and reassured me that even in a world that seems so empty there may still be something waiting for me at the end.  Just like for Gomez, there are others that have passed through this struggle too and they left behind their knowledge, even if it is in the form of strange symbols that seem to have no meaning.  I don’t know where my future is headed exactly, it wouldn’t be normal if everything was laid out clearly in front of me.  Just as Gomez had a hat placed upon his head, I have set a task upon myself and I know that I will reach that one day. Gomez and I’s journey is not one that is physical or religious as much as it is mental.  All I hope is that when the fez is placed on my head the world doesn’t come crashing down.   

Ico as Life

Some days I want life to be like Ico:

I find a girl I love.  I save her from her caged life, but there is still so far to go until we reach freedom.  As I pull her behind me, I can feel the tug of her arm telling me she is still there.  Only when an outside force interferes do I question whether she wants to come with me or not.  But in the end, when I have faced my trials, I will still be there for her.  And she is still there for me, holding my hand.  At some point we become separated, time has a tendency to slip, but instead of weakness I find strength in that separation.  In the end, I find her and I know my true intentions.  As our world falls apart there is only an open sea.  The future is unknown, except that we will be together and that would be all I need.