Thursday, April 8, 2010

S03 - The Lively Art

In this post I will bring up two questions that I hope we will be able to discuss in section tomorrow.

First, as I read through Henry Jenkins' "Games, the New Lively Art," I wondered what how he would respond to Nintendo's Wii console. According to Jenkins, the kinetic nature of gameplay is important. He quotes Steven Poole, who writes that "a beautifully designed videogame invokes wonder as the fine arts do only in a uniquely kinetic way." The videogame must and can move. With Wii games such as Wii Sports, the player must move as well. Jenkins notes that the early iterations of these "contemporary games", such as Frequency and Rez, which I understood as earlier version of the popular Guitar Hero and Rock Band games, were unique and appealing because they "sought to expand the sensory experience available to players", who became performers as well. As performers, they received the pleasure of "intense and immediate feedback". I am interested in how many of the arcade-style games (the early WarioWare Smooth Moves comes to mind), the sports and fitness games, and the performance-style games popular on the Wii not only signify a rise of casual games (as Soderman writes) but also move video games back towards the early arcade forms in which the kinetic nature of the game (both of the character in the environment of the game and of the player) was highlighted over the aesthetic and more purely visual part of the game. Designers of the early games such as Tetris and Pong didn't have the kinds of technologies for cinema-quality graphics, which can explain the primitive nature of the graphics. But why is it that the games I mentioned above have similarly "primitive" graphics? Compare the personal trainer on Wii Fit or the Miis to the characters of Mass Effect, for example. Why the choice of somewhat kitschy graphics in Smooth Moves? Is it a throwback to the old arcade-style?

My second question came to mind during my conversation with Matt, who essentially asked "what is the pleasure in playing games that emulate real life?" Why play Diner Dash when you can go out and be a waiter? If games present an escape from the real world and an ability to explore what Branch Davidian called "alternative utopias and apocalyptic moments," then why the intense desire to play at real life? Games like The Sims, for example, are wildly popular. I have some ideas on this and would like to discuss further with everyone in our section tomorrow.

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