For most of the semester we were playing different games and would reflect on our thoughts during the game and how it made us feel. Wolf in White Van at times is like Sean’s reflection on his time playing/creating Trace Italian. Trace Italian was Sean’s escape from the real world and it was interesting to investigate that claim further while writing this essay. Prior to writing the essay I did not pick up on the connection between the structure of Trace Italian and Sean’s own life. For the essay I examined the book much more carefully in order to collect meaningful quotes to support my argument. Through doing this I picked up on much more than I would have by just reading the book. Really at times this book was confusing to read because of its lack of a clear timeline but going back helped to show the differences between Sean’s mindset before the accident, right after the accident and at the current time. I was able to see how his relationship with Trace Italian changed throughout these periods of time. It began as a fun idea while he was in a dark place, then became a tool to help him cope with his recent trauma and lastly he was so involved with the game that he lost contact with the real world except for through contact with his players.
Take a look at my final draft here!
As Sean begins the long journey to recovery, he uses Trace Italian as an escape from the real world. Sean doesn’t want to recover and reach normalcy after the “accident”, rather he prefers to remain isolated in his escape.
I didn’t really see any cohesive connection between the two acts which was very confusing when I first started act II because I couldn’t quite figure out how we got to that office building/cathedral. I like the mystery aspects of the game like that Shannon’s cousin I think is a ghost and the museum that is supposed to be where the doctors house is, what’s that all about? Something else I thought was interesting about the game was that no matter what response you chose to say, the outcome was always the same. For example, if you chose not to disclose that your leg was pinned it would still somehow end up that Shannon would mention your leg being pinned anyways. Also why does no one know how to explain how to drive on the Zero? They all live or work along that road but can’t seem to give clear directions to anywhere along it. I honestly thought the game was a little confusing but maybe that’s because we took such a long break in between acts that I forgot the purpose of the game or maybe there isn’t a purpose. I’m into the mystery of the game but don’t really get the point.
The part of playing fiasco that I was looking forward to the most was picking a playset. I didn’t read through them fully before we sat down to play so I was excited to see what they looked like. We picked the suburban community. You would think most people would want to pick something that allows them to live out a fantasy life but I have lived my entire life in a suburban community. The suburban community our characters lived in was far from normal though. My relationship with Kiara’s character was crime and the detail was thieves. My relationship with Ian’s character was family and the detail was distant relatives. As we started act one and each of us created scenes sometimes what we originally said had potential to maybe cause issues later or not ensue enough action. As an experienced gamer, Ian felt the need to bring up issues with the scenes we can up with so we would step back and revise them a bit. I’m not exactly sure if this is technically allowed but it helped to make sure as we continued on with the game we would not reach road blocks. It was very frustrating to keep having to edit the scenes. Though if we had not done this the stories would not have been connected so, it was necessary to the success of our game play. Act one and the tilt seemed to take significantly longer than act two and the aftermath. It took a bit for us to get the hang of the game and figure out where we were trying to go but once that was established the game had much more flow. The most important things to keep in mind when building scenes is your relationships to the other characters. I think playing with three players maybe made it more difficult to keep the stories of each character more separate at first with the intention to eventually have them converge more. But with three characters each of them is connected to the others so when a scene mainly affects one character it at least must include one of the other two in order to remain logical. I made most of my decisions while role playing my character from an outside perspective. I think its harder to get into character, as an actor would, without knowing the full story line you are playing out. I wouldn’t describe the way I chose to play the game as role-playing the character, rather I was an author of the narrative. This role playing game gave me more freedom to choose the path that the game took, maybe too much freedom in my opinion. In some of the video games we played this semester we had choices to make as the main character but we were generally given options which I prefer. I was the first to create a scene in act one and I really had no idea where to begin. The amount of freedom we were given almost hinders the game play in my opinion because the scene that one player creates may not work with the scene another player created so that it was led to us having to revise people’s original ideas for a scene. Overall I was happy with the story we had in the end but the game did not go as smoothly as I had anticipated it would.
It seems very clear to me that Sean and many other characters in the book use games as a way to escape from reality. Sean sustained a terrible disfiguration from a bullet through his face. While in the hospital he used Trace Italian to distance his mind from what was actually happening, “Lying in my bed, I would think: I have been wounded en route to the Trace Italian.” (Darnielle, 25) When the line between what is real and what is a game becomes too blurred, problems occur. Sean used his game as a positive force to forget about the tragedy he had suffered. Another player, Chris Haynes, recognized when the line between reality and the game was starting to disappear. He makes the logical decision to stop playing Trace Italian to maintain his own sanity. Carrie and Lance were clearly obsessed with playing Trace Italian. They truly believed that Trace Italian existed and took it too far, they decided to dig for it in Kansas. Their skewed view of reality because of this obsession is what lead to Carrie’s death and Lance’s injury. Even after the accident, Lance wrote to Sean that he was going to continuing playing Trace Italian. Using games as a way to escape from reality is a helpful tool to cope with the stresses of life if you remember that the game is not real life. This novel is about using games as an outlet and this quote displays this message very well and ties in many different, significant parts of the novel so far.
Darnielle, John. Wolf in White Van. New York: Picador, 2014. Print.
This week for class we were asked to play old Atari games and then we discussed them thoroughly during class on Thursday. Unfortunately I couldn’t get any of the Atari games to work on my computer so I was unable to play. I have played many of these games before though such as Pac Man, Frogger and Space Invaders. Even though these games don’t have as much substance as some of the other games we have played during the semester, there is really plenty to analyze about them. While looking at the graphics and mechanics of these games on my computer they seem fairly simple and boring. During class we discussed whether this simplicity is what makes these games so addicting to some people.
At first I couldn’t understand why anyone would have trouble stepping away from one of these games, that was until Professor Morgen brought up Candy Crush by King. I am an avid Candy Crush player and I have been for years. I am currently on level 347 on my phone (yes, I know its impressive). Candy Crush is a very simplistic game about patterns similar to these Atari games. It was then that I realized what makes these games so addictive is figuring out that winning pattern and being able to recreate it over and over till you know it perfectly. I constantly have trouble stopping playing the same level in candy crush over and over again until I can beat it (or I run out of lives). The Atari games will always be popular because of their simplistic, addictive characteristics and for the feelings of nostalgia that they incite within many older gamers.
This assignment was unlike any other that I have done throughout my years at school. The best way for me to describe this podcast is an essay in the form of audio that was way more enjoyable to produce than writing an essay. Cibele is a game that neither me nor Laura had played before. I think most people plan to produce podcasts about games they know fairly well which makes our situation a little more unique. In Rohan and Zach’s podcast they didn’t really give much background on how GTA works because its such a well known game. Since our game was very obscure the first thing I made sure to do was write a brief synopsis to read at the start of the podcast to give our listeners a better understanding of our overall analysis. So obviously to start this process Laura and I had the play the game through completely. Based on our knowledge of Nina Freeman’s other game, Freshman Year, and our meeting with Professor Morgen prior to recording, we thought it would be interesting to examine the difference between male and female perspective of this game. We specifically wanted to examine the difference between which character male players felt empathetic towards in comparison to who female players felt empathetic towards.
After playing through the game ourselves, Laura and I felt bad for the main character Nina aka Cibele because she has her heart broken. In order to assess the male reaction, Laura enlisted her friend Willi to play the game and interviewed him during game play and asked him pre prepared questions afterward. These questions were aimed to help us get a sense of which character, Blake or Nina, he felt empathetic too while playing and why. One major decision we had to make was to determine which parts of the interview we wanted to use and which would be most beneficial to our argument. I think Willi’s interview was extremely important part of our podcast, it effectively displayed the difference in empathy between male and female players of Cibele. After Willi’s interview, Laura and I spoke about our opinions while playing to show the direct contrast between the views.
Making this podcast allowed me to be able to better understand video games as a piece of literature. In most freshmen english classes my friends are reading novels or excerpts and then writing a response about them. Our english class has a similar process to this but instead we are playing games instead of reading. In order to write valuable responses to these games I realized I needed to learn to think of them as pieces of literature rather than just a animation on a screen. Applying the concept of empathy from Bogost’s book encouraged me to see video games in a new way. I look forward to using this new mindset when writing reflections for games we play in the future of this class.
I completed my podcast assignment on Friday and I examined the empathy chapter in Bogost’s book. In the chapter he discusses the use of vignettes. Vignettes are meant to give the audience a glimpse into a real life experience rather than to expand a narrative. Dys4ia definitely fits this description because the creator wanted to show her audience her struggles on the road to gender reassignment, Its a very personal journey. I don’t think If I was to pin point a moment within the game where I felt the strongest pang of empathy for her struggle was when she talks about people still calling her sir and she didn’t have the nerve to speak up and correct them. I think the creators decision to design the game to look like many of the first video games gave her a way to connect the players to the game. This format is probably similar to gamers and non gamers so even if they cannot relate to her story, they will not feel alienated from the game. Depression quest is not a vignette because it is not relaying someones personal story with depression its purpose is to create a story about a man suffering from depression. The game gives u the choice of which option you would like to chose to continue the narrative. In this game you feel much more connected to the character because you are making their life choices for them. Because I was more connected to this man I felt empathetic to his struggle for a majority of the game. I had the ability to steer him in a more positive direction and chose for him to receive support. It made me feel better that I could make a difference for him because I definitely empathized with his situation.
Screenshot from gamesforchange.org Dys4ia page
I want to start this post by expressing my opinion on each game. I thought Her Story had a way of drawing you in very quickly towards the beginning of the game. Once you understand the task at hand and start to come up with more terms to search for the story begins to piece itself together and it is quite intriguing. I had trouble getting myself to stop playing after a long period of time because I was so eager to try to piece together the whole story. On the other hand I found Beginners Guide painfully boring. The commentary was annoying to listen to and I felt completely unengaged. I don’t quite understand why this game is referred to as a story telling game because I felt like there was no story. Maybe I didn’t play enough into the game to see what people enjoy about it but I really was not drawn in at all.
The only real similarity I saw between the two games is the use of evidence to piece together a story or main point. In Her Story, each video helps the player get closer to finding out what really happened to Simon and who this woman is. In Beginners Guide Wreden’s presentation of Coda’s game designs tries to explain to the player the mentality of a game designer while he creates his games. Mainly there are many more differences between these two games than there are similarities.
I have a hard time viewing video games such as these as pieces of art. In my mind to think of a video game as a piece of art the first thing I would be considering would be the visuals. The visuals in both of these games don’t appear to be so advanced or important to the meaning of the games. But the visuals aren’t what Bogost is talking about during his chapter on art in video games. Based on this chapter I do think these games would be considered art. I feel that the definition of abstraction can fit well to each of these games. As I stated before there are no striking features that contribute to the visual effects of these games. Rather what the creators want you to focus on is the narrations. In both Her Story and Beginners Guide the narration is what ties together the main points of the games and gives them meaning.
Check out my Unpacking Manuel’s Tavern write up! This was a really cool assignment and I hope you enjoy the information that I found