When writing my first draft of my Wolf in White Vanassignment, I was extremely lost– there were so many things I wanted to say, so many arguments I could make, and thus my first draft ended up being disastrous. But after reading Brian’s first draft and having Kiara read mine, I had a better sense of what to write about. There was some comfort in writing a “normal” intro-body-conclusion essay, but somehow after all the crazy writing assignments we’ve done, I found this to be less enjoyable. Approaching a complex book filled with metaphors and plot holes with a basic high school essay outline didn’t seem to do it justice.
To me, there doesn’t seem to be a specific theme in Kentucky Route Zero. The whole purpose of the game is to get something delivered to 5 Dogwood Drive, and in order to get to this address, you need to ask so many people who don’t really give you useful advice. Why is getting to this address so important? What package is so important that you need to deliver a TV, enter a mine shaft, and get your leg broken??? It’s so frustrating how there are some parts where you’re on the right path to finding out more about 5 Dogwood Drive, but it always leads to a dead end. Managed to find Lula who lived on Dogwood Drive at one point in her life? There were many Dogwood Drives and the Dogwood Drive she lived on, along with the other Dogwood Drives (except for Conway’s) were renamed. Went with Shannon to look in the bureau’s records? Nothing on the one remaining Dogwood Drive. It doesn’t seem like you’re progressing at all in this game.
When first playing this game, my group members and I were extremely confused. None of us had a clear idea of how the game worked (as the game is very free-willed based on the players).
Some issues that came up:
The rules said 4 dice per player while we only had 8 total.
After looking through other groups’ playthroughs, some had more than one tilt.
A little confusing about the needs, wants, and location (didn’t know if people shared those or everyone had their own).
Looking back at our crafted story, it had the key elements of every action movie: suspense, romance, violence, a bag of weed, and the inevitable death of all players. Of course there were a lot of plot holes that we never thought to fill in (Why were we in the Arctic on top of an iceberg in the first place? Why did Deerboom even have the kilo of marijuana to begin with? How did Deerboom and Badass Bandito meet and why did they break up?) Although our individual characters did not possess all the literary vocabulary, the combination of the needs and motivations of former lovers, crime partners, and tour guides somehow meshed together very well and helped build a story that could truly be termed “Fiasco.”
Our scenario played like a movie scene in my head. It starts in a cave atop an iceberg, the least likely place you’d expect a shady deal to be taking place, progresses into learning the motivation behind each character, initiates the climax (aka the tilt where fear is so present in Deerboom that she decides to kill herself) and actually ends in everyone dying in the aftermath. I’ve always enjoyed storytelling and making up a variety of stories, so this game was right down my alley. Although a little confusing at first, I think Fiasco does a great job helping to develop characters, their relationships, and their motives because this is a role-playing game where YOU, the player, get to decide everything. Often when I play and RPG on a computer, I’m left figuring out who my character really is. I don’t hate it, but being able to directly control my character’s motives and actions makes the storyline so much more interesting. In many ways, I feel like Sean in Wolf in White Van when he got Chris Haynes and Lance’s written decisions on what to do rather than follow his set of choices. When my fellow players threw unexpected Resolves at me (such as having me run into the mafia where I get killed), I became a little pissed off, but also more intrigued in the game, as I wanted to repay the favor in the form of revenge.
In addition to having to collaborate with each other by contributing ideas to the story, playing Fiasco resulted in using creative juices that have been idle for quite some time. After middle school, teachers rarely asked for a creative writing piece. It was mainly just “Here’s a book. Write an essay on it.” Creating a story with others really felt more engaging rather than reading a story as a class.
When my co-producer (Eric) and I first thought about our podcast episode, we were pretty lost. We knew we wanted to focus our discussion on Ian Bogost’s term “art” (because of the controversy surrounding if video games could be considered art), but didn’t really know what game would be best to showcase the term “art.” We considered choosing an “ugly” game to argue how it could be considered art. But that brought up the question, “What is an ugly game? What do we consider ‘ugly’?”
After meeting with Professor Morgen, we decided to go for Minecraft, a classic sandbox game that has a direct goal in mind, but also allows players freedom to do whatever they want. Although Minecraft itself doesn’t have much aesthetic appeal, there are so many possibilities for people to be creative, and to build “works of art.” (Some examples are shown below).
To us, a podcast meant doing improv, bouncing ideas off of each other in order to create a more natural conversation that would hopefully captivate the audience. We had an outline of what we planned on saying and what questions we wanted to address, but after that, we just said whatever was in our minds. It’s not easy to do a podcast by yourself, and definitely required a lot of collaboration. Being willing to meet up and spend perhaps 2 hours in a quiet room enthusiastically talking about games is something that requires effort for both people. By editing the podcast itself, I realized how hard is it to find a song that isn’t copyrighted. Thankfully, Professor Morgen provided us with an excellent website filled with free-to-use music. With the advancement of media comes responsibility, and you do not want to be caught up in a copyright infringement lawsuit.
In the middle of midterm season and our 10 minute time limit for the podcast, there were many things that I wish we could have added into our podcast. For example, Professor Morgen suggested finding an art historian and asking him/her about what art is. If we had more time, I would have liked to take a poll across campus to find out whether the general student population thinks of games (especially Minecraft) as a form of art. For the next three groups who need to record their episodes, I suggest booking a study room in the library EARLY so you’re not left trying to find a place to record yourselves. Also, don’t worry about whether you should choose your word or game first because it will all work out in the end.
Have you ever been hospitalized? I have, but not for more than a night. It felt like a sleepover, the most obvious differences being that none of my friends were there, I was stuck in a cramped, white room, and had to fall asleep to the sound of several heart monitors beeping slightly off sync to each other. I don’t think I would be able to handle being hospitalized for months like Sean Philips was, the main character in John Darnielle’s book Wolf in White Van. Yes, it’s tragic that he was involved in an accident where he shot himself in the face (and, miraculously, was able to survive), but what I found more impressive was that despite being stuck in one position in a hospital with nothing to do, he was able to make a whole game.
The concept of his game called Trace Italian, is nothing like I’ve ever seen or read about before (maybe because I was born in an age where computers were vastly popular). Something like a choose-your-own-adventure game, Sean’s game took way longer because players would have to potentially wait days before they knew what their choices led to, as this game was played through mailing scenarios and choices back and forth to each other. Sean had to compensate for every choice players could make, write scenarios for all of them, create a map, and interpret what they write back to him, turning long cryptic responses into choices that were less than ten words. Perhaps it’s because he was hospitalized and had nothing to do that made him create Trace Italian, but it’s something I wish I could have also played something like it.
Seeing as how there was no information on my specific picture, the controlling idea for my analysis was the history and meaning behind the sad clown archetype. Surprisingly, there are many articles on the sad clown that relate to present-day comedians, specifically because it was such a huge topic after the death of Robert Williams. In my first draft, I was really lost: I had no leads that connected to Manuel’s Tavern so I ended up writing a lot of random things. However, once the class tried to sort their piece into larger categories in attempt to connect everything together, I realized that I wasn’t the only one lost and that it was okay that I didn’t have an answer to everything. I was able to condense my essay and try to put my own theory as to why my piece belongs on the wall of Manuel’s Tavern.
I really enjoyed this project. Usually for reading assignments, the professor goes over significant parts of the book and has a topic already laid out for the students to write about, which gives them similar ideas in their heads, leading to similarly written essays. However, starting this assignment with no real plan really made me extremely curious about my piece, which highlights how this was writing as a process. Researching the meaning behind the sad clown, analyzing how it relates to Manuel’s Tavern (if it does at all), and critiquing what worked and what didn’t work in my draft. These were all essential steps in order to make this assignment work. I also found collaborating with each other really enjoyable. Although I still don’t really have a concrete answer as to how each piece relates to each other, how it can be turned into a game, or why some are on the wall of Manuel’s Tavern, I found it really interesting how our tactic was to analyze our own piece, then branch out to other pieces. This specific-to-general process was foreign to me, as I’m more accustomed going from general to specific.
So what did I learn from writing this essay? It definitely helped peak my curiosity and helped me pay attention to details (and helped with distinguishing the difference between URLs and links). Why was this drawn? How did it get here? Why is it crooked? I couldn’t answer any of these questions with 100% confidence, but I think it’s important to ask yourself questions when looking at something or reading something in order to understand it better.
I’ve never played on an Atari. The first gaming system I was introduced to was the Super Nintendo and when I compare the two, it’s clear how 13 years can make a big difference in gaming. Everything about Atari games (specifically the one we had to play, Space Invaders) seems inferior to my childhood Super Nintendo games: the pixelated art, the use of less than five colors, the confusion on how to start the game and the game mechanics.
Yet it brought a sense of nostalgia I never thought I had in me (perhaps from the programming I did in high school). The simplicity of the game was rather refreshing and easy on the eyes compared to our modern-day games filled with guns and the minuscule details of cliffs (probably why I really like games with minimalist art). But what really captivated me was the sound of your shooting. The pew pew sounds remind me of the stereotypical sound of shooting you often hear in cartoons or arcade games. And honestly, not being able to shoot every time you slam the spacebar made me really focused and absorbed in the game because every bullet you shoot matters; you can’t just spam the spacebar and win that way.
Dys4ia is unlike any game I’ve played. It’s art style and incorporation of many different types of game play are all different from what I’m used to. And even though it takes less than 15 minutes to get through the entire game, her story resonates throughout. One of the biggest forms of empathy I was drawn to was in Level 1 where she’s walking down a road and everyone calls her “sir” instead of “ma’am.” To have your gender be mistaken at such an obvious level really hurts. (I, myself, get extremely upset when someone pronounces my last name wrong). People will say rude things to your face, and in the beginning, the narrator can do nothing but absorb their comments (thankfully she’s able to make a comeback in Level 4 and throw their insults right back at them). Although this game was short and I would have liked some more background on the character herself, I think this game was excellent in inducing empathy from the player.
When I reach the epitome of boredom, I do something a little peculiar: I go on Wikipedia and click the random button multiple times until I find something interesting to read. From there on, I continue to click on random links on the chosen Wikipedia page and learn more and more about something I would have never even cared about in the beginning. That’s exactly what Her Story does. There’s nothing in front of you except a computer screen with “MURDER” already typed into the search bar. By watching the four videos provided, it slowly piques your interest in something you never would have watched before. Each video provides key words to help you find more clues about exactly what happened with Simon Smith. There were times where it felt like a horror game: you can hear police sirens, the lights flicker, piano music plays randomly, and while you’re absorbed and focused in the storyline itself, Hannah (or Eve) might come at any time and murder you. (I was scared to death when your face is briefly shown on the computer screen. I guess this really is the same work as the creator of Silent Hill). And that’s exactly what makes this game almost the complete opposite of The Beginner’s Guide.
In The Beginner’s Guide, you immediately side with Davey. He tries to portray a sense of trust, that he was showing you all these games to help his friend Coda and that if the player liked these games, then Coda might start making games again. This only leads to disaster since you learn that Davey is a douchebag who changed all of Coda’s games. This is significantly different from Her Story since, for me at least, I didn’t have to watch any videos to suspect that the woman I was watching might have been a murderer. Maybe it’s just a stigma of society, all the mystery novels, and episodes of Dateline I’ve watched, to immediately suspect a family member of murder because of an argument or for monetary reasons. Once I found out that there were two Hannahs (rather, she had a long lost twin), I immediately felt regret. I couldn’t really suspect her anymore. My heart was confused. Guitar playing Hannah might not be Hannah. Pregnant Hannah might not be Hannah. Speeding ticket Hannah might not be Hannah. Who was Hannah? And this is was where I stopped. I was too freaked out to learn anymore, to see flickers of my face flash before the screen, possibly seeing flickers of a blood thirsty murderer behind me.
But I still love the concept of this game, and especially want to learn more about the story itself, to become the detective I’ve always dreamed of since reading my first Encyclopedia Brown book. I fully intend to revisit this game, just maybe not at 4AM in the dark.