Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Wednesday Section, Space

Right before the start of the semester, I finished my very first videogame, Dragon Age: Origins. It was, in a word, awesome. I was completely taken with the intricacy of it—the strategy used to win fights, the careful diplomacy used to coerce other characters. My exposure to videogames (RPG or otherwise) before this was basically none. Instead, playing DAO was a journey in which I had to teach myself a completely new technology, or, to reference Daniel’s post, a set of “tools” by which I could navigate this completely fictional world (mainly, learning how to manipulate the game controller).

My experience with this ridiculously cool RPG reminds me of Manovich’s argument that computer games “return us to ancient forms of narrative in which the plot is driven by the spatial movement of the main hero [me].” This is entertainment, I’d be quite happy playing a game exactly like this for an indefinite amount of time. The storyline was derivative, yet I still was hooked. I didn’t feel the need for any expansion of the space the game gave me, in terms of story or in terms of the “virtual world” is presented—there was so much there already.

Yet, it seems that Manovich seeks to push the possibility of navigable space in new media; he sees we are “not moving any closer toward systematic space; instead, we are embracing aggregate space as a new norm.” Do we need to try harder, then, not settle for the default on computers? The reversion to older narrative, the quest, seems well-suited to the enjoyment of a videogame—it works. So, drawing that out to the Web, which is what Manovich discusses, the lack of "perspective", is it a function of immaturity, or does it simply just work, which is why it hasn’t changed? To briefly reference Jameson, who charts 3 different stages of political development, says “urgent political dilemmas are all immediately functions of the enormously complex new international space” (351). If one is a function of the other, does that leave room for the reverse to be true? I suppose in short I’d like to see to what extent society informs (the conceptions of) space/space informs society.

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