[COMICS][PREORDERS] Is this what's happening to our toys?

Posted by asterphage 
Ginrai Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Marvel is owned by Disney and DC is owned by
> Warner. Believe me, they could easily afford to
> buy a rack in every drug store and grocery store
> in America if they wanted to.

You're right. They could.

Note that not only haven't they, Disney keeps wanting to pull the plug on their digests.

If it doesn't promise million copy sales INSTANTLY and CONSTANTLY, they just don't want to consider it.
Gcrush Wrote:
>
> > This is already happening. Andrew Hussie's
> > webcomic "Homestuck”…
>
> I will have to check that out! Sounds
> interesting.

It probably won't make sense unless you're a fan of old-school graphical adventure video games and also of the disposable mass culture of the last couple of decades.

> I don’t mean to sound like I’m the only person
> dreaming this stuff up, nor that they’re new
> ideas. I think that there are some really elegant
> ways to streamline serialized picture-stories for
> a digital format while using crowd-sourcing to
> both drive the narrative in a controlled manner
> and seriate the good-shit from the bad-shit.

I think, though, this type of format will invariably conflict with the necessity of a strong authorial voice. Even in Hollywood, even in television, at some level there needs to be a guiding, steadying force. I don't look forward to experiencing creative works where the guidance is supplied by the readers, and the "creator" is just using their talent and skill to produce the final piece.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
gingaio Wrote:
>
> I don't think I've ever actually mentioned the
> phrase "literary value," unless it was referencing
> something you were saying. I think you're sort of
> putting words in my mouth.

What is "literary fiction" to you? Is it something different from "fiction with literary value"?

The idea you credited to Bissell earlier is:
"the complexity (technologically and narratively) of some of the better examples of current games have allowed them to virtually usurp literary fiction itself by doing what literary fiction has traditionally done--allowing the player to become an active participant in a rich and complex story with a fully realized world."

This is the sentiment I am arguing against - that all something needs accomplish to be literature is to immerse the reader/player in a fully realized world. There is more to literature than that - that sounds more like genre fiction to me.


> Point taken. I actually wrote this in my last post
> that you quoted, which sort of agrees with what
> you're saying: That said, because games are by
> nature pleasurable experiences built around
> Pavlovian reward systems of varying degrees of
> complexity, they are limited in their narrative
> reach, which is a good point.

Indeed, reward systems are a major part of the problem, but it's also the sense that, to be a game, some movement must occur. It's something more primal than rewards for unit actions (or sub-series of actions that build to a goal) within the course of play - it's similar to the sense that a story must open with a conflict and build to a resolution. It's very difficult to produce an anticlimactic video game where the anticlimax is the point, and which properly moves the player by its lack of resolution, except by aping the techniques used by literature and film to achieve the same goal. If a game lacks resolution within its gameplay, it almost always feels like a failure of design, not a literary statement.

> Can you present, for example, a movie about the
> grittiness and horror of war without
> aestheticizing it, making it pleasurable or
> cathartic for the viewer in some way? It's
> possible and I can't say it's never been done, but
> that tension exists in both literature and film.

I was actually discussing this with (by which I mean "ranting about this to") VF5SS the other day, when he messaged me to challenge my example regarding Hideo Kojima. Literature and film about war which treat their subject seriously must often avoid many other things associated with the glorification and justification of war - stereotypical notions of glory, allowing the viewer to take pleasure in the death of an enemy, etc. But I think it's far less difficult for noninteractive media to avoid making the act of violence itself enjoyable. Cathartic, emotionally stirring, perhaps pleasurably shocking, yes - but I don't think media other than games have the inherent difficulty that the violence they depict is fun (and is often fun in direct proportion to a game creators' skill). It can't be solved merely by making violence a grueling, taxing experience - that just grants the player greater satisfaction for every successful attack or kill. In the end, I think the particular problem video games have with the war/action genre is that the market will not support a "realistic" game that has avoiding violence, survival and ensuring one's safety (instead of victory, domination and destroying one's enemies) as a primary theme.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
Paul, I think you're quibbling a bit.

> The idea you credited to Bissell earlier is:
> "the complexity (technologically and narratively)
> of some of the better examples of current games
> have allowed them to virtually usurp literary
> fiction itself by doing what literary fiction has
> traditionally done--allowing the player to become
> an active participant in a rich and complex story
> with a fully realized world."
>
> This is the sentiment I am arguing against
>
>There is more to literature than that - that sounds more like genre fiction to
>me.

Again, I've never attempted to give a comprehensive definition to literary value. Yes, I mentioned that literary fiction has traditionally had an important function of immersing readers in an alternate reality. In what I quoted, Bissell himself mentions this as an important function of literature, this ability to connect him to "another consciousness."

But I never said that that was all that literature does. I didn't say that in the quote above, and I didn't say that anywhere else. Going back to my analogy, if I say that both an orange and a Coke share a function of satiating hunger, I'm not saying that an orange has equivalent value to a Coke, or that satiating hunger is all that an orange does for the body (other things would be providing vitamin C, helping to maintain vital bodily functions, etc.). But that may not stop a kid from picking a Coke over an orange if he has to choose.

Where I overreached was in assuming that video games offered Bissell that same pleasure (of immersion in another consciousness/reality). Maybe it did for him, maybe it didn't. But I did say:

I may be overreaching in assuming that the pleasure [Bissell] found in games was the same as that he found in books...

You keep saying that I'm defining literary value and equating it with video game value. We can agree that both have a function of immersion into another reality. Where you're consistently misreading me is assuming that I think that literature is defined only by that one function.
>
> Indeed, reward systems are a major part of the
> problem, but it's also the sense that, to be a
> game, some movement must occur. It's something
> more primal than rewards for unit actions (or
> sub-series of actions that build to a goal) within
> the course of play - it's similar to the sense
> that a story must open with a conflict and build
> to a resolution. It's very difficult to produce an
> anticlimactic video game where the anticlimax is
> the point, and which properly moves the player by
> its lack of resolution, except by aping the
> techniques used by literature and film to achieve
> the same goal. If a game lacks resolution within
> its gameplay, it almost always feels like a
> failure of design, not a literary statement.
>
Good points. I like the way you separate the mini-rewards from the narrative movement of a game. Isn't this "movement" toward climax and resolution part of what makes a game fun, though? To me, this funness (of moving through a game, plus the rewards along the way) is part of the reward system, was why I mentioned it.
>
> But I think it's far less difficult for
> noninteractive media to avoid making the act of
> violence itself enjoyable. Cathartic, emotionally
> stirring, perhaps pleasurably shocking, yes - but
> I don't think media other than games have the
> inherent difficulty that the violence they depict
> is fun (and is often fun in direct proportion to a
> game creators' skill).


Right, and this is what I wrote in my last post:
That said, this kind of paraodox involving the demands of form vs. content (message or theme) exists, albeit to a less extreme degree, elsewhere.

Note that we're not actually disagreeing about this.

This is an interesting conversation, Paul, and I've learned quite a bit, too, about a subject that I'm not intimately familiar with (video games). My difficulty in talking with you, though, is that I sometimes get the sense that you're more focused on making sure I'm wrong than on discussing the subject at hand. I may be wrong about that, but it's just that if I have to spend half the posts defending something I said (or didn't say), or defending why I'm not totally wrong about something, then the whole endeavor starts to become futile.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2012 04:26PM by gingaio.
gingaio Wrote:
> Paul, I think you're quibbling a bit.

Yes, I definitely am, but I think it's an important qualification to make, particularly with regards to the supposed merits of video game storytelling.

> You keep saying that I'm defining literary value
> and equating it with video game value. We can
> agree that both have a function of immersion into
> another reality. Where you're consistently
> misreading me is assuming that I think that
> literature is defined only by that one function.

I think that's a function of all fiction, even the most shallow and escapist. When we say "literature" we generally mean something loftier, more meaningful, than mere entertainment.

I find it actually kind of baffling that you're equivocating video games with other forms of fiction in terms of value, but you don't really provide concrete support for that. I am generally frustrated with the blithe assertions frequently offered regarding games as art. It seems that the claim that games can have the artistic and literary merit of other media supersedes any acknowledgement that even the most artistic works of video gaming currently available are artistically flawed.

Hardly any games meet the most basic bar of competence in writing that we expect from mediocre television or film. Almost none attempt to reinforce through gameplay the themes of their story. Hyperbole is characteristic of assessments of writing within the game community - praise is heaped on any game which manages to trot out its cliched stock characters in an amusing way and use them consistently. The "Uncharted" series is held up as superior to anything Hollywood could give us, because it's just as hackneyed and ridiculous as a National Treasure movie, AND it lets you shoot hundreds of people!

So: If video games really are usurping literary fiction now, how are they doing it? What games are displaying the full range of artistry that we expect from literature? This is the kind of answer I expect when I see claims like the ones you attribute to Bissell. I've read Extra Lives (and thought it was excellent), I know what he thinks... but I can't totally get behind his POV independent of further discussion. This is a guy who spent months doing cocaine and playing Grand Theft Auto 4 every day - his relationship with games is not the same as ours.

> Good points. I like the way you separate the
> mini-rewards from the narrative movement of a
> game. Isn't this "movement" toward climax and
> resolution part of what makes a game fun, though?
> To me, this funness (of moving through a game,
> plus the rewards along the way) is part of the
> reward system, was why I mentioned it.

Progress measured against the entire scope of a game isn't enough by itself, though. In most games, environment designs and physical progress, even combined with dialogue and story, can't carry a game without some constant incremental challenge. There are some recent exceptions, though, which integrate these elements so closely that they're inextricable.

"Journey" is entirely about travel. Every element of the gameplay is concentrated toward getting the player (and their internet-linked partner, should they find one) to their destination. To that end, the world they're traveling through and their ways of movement are designed to be compelling, and to provide the player's motivation without story or combat or item-collecting or any trappings which would distract from the purity of its titular concept.

"Heavy Rain" makes the player responsible (either in terms of success/failure, or path-choice) for every single action that its protagonists perform, and builds all its larger parts out of tiny cinematic elements like conversation and gesture and observation. Every action taken is part of the story, and while survival is a motivator, it is possible to fail (or to make a non-optimal choice) and survive, and even to not survive and still be given more of the story.

In those cases, one part of the motivation (physical progress in Journey's case, story in Heavy Rain's) is paramount and colonizes the rest of the game. The other traditional elements of game design become subservient to this aspect. In most games, though, overall progress (driven by setting and plot) and moment-to-moment progress (driven by gameplay) are independent and must provide their motivation separately, so when one is used to compensate for the other's shortcomings, it creates an imbalance. There are a few narrative game genres that can survive without the "macro" motivation of story being necessary - usually the most technical games, such as fighting and FPSes, ones most suited to persistent skill-based multiplayer. But even games that primarily motivate the player by means of story and character, like the old graphical adventures, generally use puzzles as the moment-to-moment challenge, that is both motivator to continue and gatekeeper of the next segment of the game.

> This is an interesting conversation, Paul, and
> I've learned quite a bit, too, about a subject
> that I'm not intimately familiar with (video
> games). My difficulty in talking with you, though,
> is that I sometimes get the sense that you're more
> focused on making sure I'm wrong than on
> discussing the subject at hand. I may be wrong
> about that, but it's just that if I have to spend
> half the posts defending something I said (or
> didn't say), or defending why I'm not totally
> wrong about something, then the whole endeavor
> starts to become futile.

I'm not arguing with you for the sake of arguing. I'm arguing because I feel the things you say represent ideas (at least semantically, even if they're not the ideas you intended to communicated) that are off the mark or oversimplified.

I may have been misreading you, but a lot of my disagreement here comes from the following impression: It seems like a lot of what you've said is equivocating the challenges and limitations of video game storytelling with those found in other media. I think this is fallacious, because it diminishes the importance of the very characteristics of video games their storytelling from reaching greater heights than it has.

I care a lot about video games. I want them to get better. And I want to be exposed to the best and most innovative material being put out in the medium. So when I see the common attitude of "video games are art, they're just as good as every other medium", as if the battle was won, as if it was already proven and as if the monuments of artistic achievement in the medium were standing there for all to see... I take exception, because generally the person making that statement is pointing to a big empty field of potential, not an actual monument.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
Andrew tells me that I still sound pretty mad here so I would like to add that I'm not mad about this discussion! More about the general state of art and media criticism in the world today and about video games' place in that larger context. Also I am not feeling angry when I type these posts, if I sound angry from my language it's from the struggle of trying to work out these ideas onto the page/screen.

EDIT: i guess my signature isn't helping much either

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2012 06:42PM by asterphage.
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think that's a function of all fiction, even the
>
Exactly. Including literary fiction. The loftier notion of literature to me is outdated and vague. Personally, I'm not a fan of drawing hard lines about artistic value, which is why I'm confused that you think I am.

> I find it actually kind of baffling that you're
> equivocating video games with other forms of
> fiction in terms of value, but you don't really
> provide concrete support for that. I am generally
> frustrated with the blithe assertions frequently
> offered regarding games as art. It seems that the

I never claimed games to be art. I'm saying they serve to provide an immersive experience. When I played Resident Evil, I was immersed in that world to such a degree that it scared me at times. When I read a book, I'm immersed in that fictional world to such a degree that it can break my heart. I'm not saying a game has the value of art. Function does not equal value. This is a necessary distinction and the foundation of our discussion. But if we can't get over this, then there's no point continuing.

EDIT: Also, Paul, it's not that you sound pissed to me. It's just that you have an axe to grind, but you've confused me with your straw man. :)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2012 07:25PM by gingaio.
This "games as art" thing is pretty far off the original topic of a post-scarcity culture. I'd kinda like to get back to that.

But anyway, for video games as art, there's a lot of art video games that have NO PLOT and are not about plot and books or movies can never BE like that. Example: Flower. [www.youtube.com]

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]
gingaio Wrote:
>>
> Exactly. Including literary fiction. The loftier
> notion of literature to me is outdated and vague.
> Personally, I'm not a fan of drawing hard lines
> about artistic value, which is why I'm confused
> that you think I am.

So what does it mean when you use the phrase "literary fiction"? I've never seen that term used to mean ANYTHING other than prose fiction possessing some merit greater than that possessed by pure entertainment fiction.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
I haven't exactly followed the fiction/game discussion very closely. So let me see if I can manage to disagree with everyone by misrepresenting what’s been said.

Video games and books are both fiction in that they can create alternate realities. We can apply the concepts of text and narrative to both mediums in order to understand them, but we cannot use those concepts to draw meaningful comparisons. Like, we can use concepts of physics and vehicles to talk about both subways and rollerblades, but comparing the two is fairly pointless.

The psychological mechanics of video games are books are very different – incomparable, even. The internal action/rewards cycles in video games masturbate different parts of your brain than a book does because the ways the fictions are processed are as fundamentally distinct as pictures are from words. You cannot think book in a game any more than you can think game in a book. For example, consider how awkward efforts to ameliorate that distance have been: Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Books and Zork are interesting to ponder, but horrible to play.

The behavioral differences between video games and books means that games will probably supplant books. The contrivances in interface, time, and reward mechanisms in games are intentionally there to promote addiction, not escapism. You can’t program a book the same way. The diffusion of working parts in the creation and consumption between the two mediums is incomparable.

Also, and this is mostly for Paul, I would avoid talking about loftier fiction (stuff more than “mere entertainment”) because, frankly, many of the things that presently occupy that space were, in their own time, just really good pop-culture that has survived based on the socioeconomic minimum standards for participation. If we say that something is transcendent fiction then we really mean that, “This rich people’s pop shit is badass.” Note that “rich” in this case means, “People with the luxury to attend school, who learned how to read, and had disposable money for paper with words on it,” which excludes the vast majority of the history of human fiction. Talking about class distinctions in entertainment is important, but there is no "mere" in entertainment.

I guess I'm saying that while I would take My Life in the Bush of Ghosts over Skyrim any day, I wouldn’t try to compare them.
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Andrew tells me that I still sound pretty mad here
> so I would like to add that I'm not mad about this
> discussion! More about the general state of art
> and media criticism in the world today and about
> video games' place in that larger context. Also I
> am not feeling angry when I type these posts, if I
> sound angry from my language it's from the
> struggle of trying to work out these ideas onto
> the page/screen.
>
> EDIT: i guess my signature isn't helping much
> either

And this is the limitation imposed by the written word. I believe the discussion would be at once faster, and maybe more heated, in face to face (or, I guess F2F is the way we express that now, right?)

Note also how impossible this would be to deal with on Twitter. :)

Now, Videogames. Something strikes me, and yes it does touch on post-scarcity thought (which, I'm sorry, that's a meaningless feel-good term. There is ALWAYS scarcity of SOMETHING)

Seems to me around 20-some years ago all the buzz was "Movies will be dead because videogames will replace movies. The immersion and ability to actually control or affect the story will overshadow mere filmed entertainment". I believe it was around the time of Myst this action line was put forward.

Then it was "we're not there yet but as game consoles get better soon it'll be obvious that movies are dead"

Then it was "Online gaming, the ability to interact with people around the world, will completely replace movies as our main entertainment" (note the elitism built into that, as it takes a pretty beefy infrastructure to make realtime interactive online gaming work. Sorry, Kashim in Botswana, as well as Frank in the nasty part of Southside Chicago)

And then came the iPhone and someone made Angry Birds and kinda shifted the paradigm. :)

Games aren't the New Movies. I don't think they can be. If the player has complete, total freedom of movement and action, there's just no way to create a coherent story, because if there's a fixed ending there's no actual freedom, just branching logic trees meant to lead to that ending.

And of course "what man creates, man corrupts" and someone will try to 'play' the movie by shooting everyone and humping their skulls.

The point of storytelling is, SOMEONE is telling the story. Cloak it in dominance theory if you must, but it's not really a story if it gets sidetracked to endless nothing.

Like this is becoming, so I'm cutting out while there's still some vague semblance of coherent thought. :)
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So what does it mean when you use the phrase
> "literary fiction"?

I think Gingy is using the "literary" part to mean "writing", not "merit".

But, you're right, too, in that literary is popularly slopped about to mean "seriously better than average shit that has/will stand the test of time". It's just that following the post-modern intellectual movement in various critical analyses, a lot of these older class-based vagaries were tossed out for being bullshit. If you run into somebody that talks about the subjectivity of “merit” in fiction like it is an objective or measureable thing, just remember that what they’re saying is, “I’m an elitist asshole who’s going to use the idea of merit to try to choke you with my opinions because I don't have a more accurate way to support what I'm about to say.”
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> It probably won't make sense unless you're a fan
> of old-school graphical adventure video games and
> also of the disposable mass culture of the last
> couple of decades.

Thanks for the warning!


> I think, though, this type of format will
> invariably conflict with the necessity of a strong
> authorial voice. Even in Hollywood, even in
> television, at some level there needs to be a
> guiding, steadying force. I don't look forward to
> experiencing creative works where the guidance is
> supplied by the readers, and the "creator" is just
> using their talent and skill to produce the final
> piece.

Yeah, that's not exactly what I meant. I'm not talking about a totally crowd-driven fiction, but a system where crowd participation is critical to driving carefully controlled parts of narrative junctures. Like, they can decide how to bridge two parts of the story without them knowing what the second part is. Asking the crowd, "How should Toby react?" is different than letting then decide what Toby should do next. It's a little slight of hand that lets the author gauge the audience, take their input, and make them feel involved without turning control over to them.
SteveH Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Now, Videogames. Something strikes me, and yes it
> does touch on post-scarcity thought (which, I'm
> sorry, that's a meaningless feel-good term. There
> is ALWAYS scarcity of SOMETHING)

Steve, it was very insightful to mention how certain mediums have socioeconomic prerequisites for participation. But you’re missing the point about post-scarcity.

Neither human wants nor needs are infinite. Wants like entertainment are conditioned, something peripheral to our existence. Needs are essential and, interestingly, increasingly measurable. At certain levels of population needs will always present us with scarcity. But many of the things we want have already moved well past any manifest scarcity in infrastructure.

For example, do you want porn? Sure. I mean, why not. And here, at your fingertips, is more free porn than you could conceivable want or even consume in your lifetime. And the volume of it is still growing. Oh, cool! Good news for porn lovers.

Except the same thing applies to books, music, movies, and so forth. It has for a long time now. And it’s also true of material entertainment like clothes and toys – the capacity to satisfy wants has been in place or a long time. The difference is that an economic system has been built around the manipulation and control of wants and production. The issue is how to condition people out of this mode of thinking. At the moment, there is little incentive because of how much rapid and massive destabilization it represents to existing interests. Until companies can find profitable ways of capitalizing on post-scarcity material production consumers will continue to face planned obsolescence and other sophisticated attempts at behavioral conditioning that will perpetuate the present cycle of economic growth through increased consumption.
Gcrush Wrote:
>
> Also, and this is mostly for Paul, I would avoid
> talking about loftier fiction (stuff more than
> “mere entertainment”) because, frankly, many of
> the things that presently occupy that space were,
> in their own time, just really good pop-culture
> that has survived based on the socioeconomic
> minimum standards for participation. If we say
> that something is transcendent fiction then we
> really mean that, “This rich people’s pop shit is
> badass.” Note that “rich” in this case means,
> “People with the luxury to attend school, who
> learned how to read, and had disposable money for
> paper with words on it,” which excludes the vast
> majority of the history of human fiction. Talking
> about class distinctions in entertainment is
> important, but there is no "mere" in
> entertainment.

Gcrush Wrote:
>
> But, you're right, too, in that literary is
> popularly slopped about to mean "seriously better
> than average shit that has/will stand the test of
> time". It's just that following the post-modern
> intellectual movement in various critical
> analyses, a lot of these older class-based
> vagaries were tossed out for being bullshit. If
> you run into somebody that talks about the
> subjectivity of “merit” in fiction like it is an
> objective or measureable thing, just remember that
> what they’re saying is, “I’m an elitist asshole
> who’s going to use the idea of merit to try to
> choke you with my opinions because I don't have a
> more accurate way to support what I'm about to
> say.”

On one hand, I mostly agree with you. On the other hand, there are definitely tiers of intent in the creation of fiction. There is fiction that is intended to provide only visceral thrills, or intended to support a moral lesson, or to examine human existence in an unflinchingly realistic fashion, or to explore conceptual or spiritual truths perceived by the author, or to express their feelings in the most direct fashion, or to challenge the reader's understanding and sensibilities, or so on. Which of these intents qualifies for the loftier labels of "literary" or "artistic" or "meritorious" is certainly in the fashion of the times. For instance, I'd say that in general moralism would've once qualified as a high-minded purpose for a work of fiction to aspire to, but today openly moralizing in fiction is seen as juvenile or puerile.

Regardless of the actual intent of a work, or how well that intent is esteemed by the critics of its time, I think one can appreciate when a creator exercises such control of their work that it clearly has some purpose; that it is, at the very least "about something".

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
Gcrush wrote:
>I think Gingy is using the "literary" part to mean "writing", not "merit".

Yes.

>It's just that following the post-modern intellectual movement in various
>critical analyses, a lot of these older class-based vagaries were tossed out
>for being bullshit.

Yes.

Asterphage wrote:
>On the other hand, there are definitely tiers of intent in the creation of
>fiction. There is fiction that is intended to provide only visceral thrills, or
>intended to support a moral lesson, or to examine human existence in an
>unflinchingly realistic fashion, or to explore conceptual or spiritual truths
>perceived by the author, or to express their feelings in the most direct >fashion, or to challenge the reader's understanding and sensibilities, or so
>on. Which of these intents qualifies for the loftier labels of "literary" or
>"artistic" or "meritorious" is certainly in the fashion of the times. For
>instance, I'd say that in general moralism would've once qualified as a
>high-minded purpose for a work of fiction to aspire to, but today openly
>moralizing in fiction is seen as juvenile or puerile.

Personally, I wouldn't use tiers, as it implies a hierarchy. Speaking as someone who's published literary fiction, who's gone to school for creative writing with other writers who've also published literary fiction, I would say quite a few of us don't approach literary fiction from the perspective of it being blessed with a value higher than that of genre fiction. In fact, a lot of us don't even have a handy list for what lit fiction is exactly. Ask a writer and there's a good chance she'll say it's just fiction that's not easily classifiable into a particular genre. Ask another writer and she'll say it's the genre that doesn't pay. Ask a writer what the intent is and a lot of the times, it's to tell an interesting story in (maybe) an interesting way, and to write the next Harry Potter so she can get paid.

Or if you don't believe me, look at interviews with Michael Chabon and Jonathan Lethem and what they have to say about genre vs. lit.

Some writers certainly do hold snobbish views regarding the 'craft.' The coded understanding of lit fiction as being more valuable is a leftover from a less-enlightened time. One of my former classmates wrote that first-person plural-perspective book about layoffs at the ad agency, which went on to become a huge success. He was of the mind that he was serving a higher purpose through his work, and certainly he's a very talented writer, but then we also thought he was sort of a douche. Maybe he's cooler now.

The canon of acceptable literature, as Mr. Crush mentions, is a construct of class and racial divisions, and outside of the academy and what it requires of me when it comes to text selections for classes and so forth, is fairly useless. If you look at what's considered the highest of brow of lit fiction, as established by the usual review organs (NY Times, New Yorker, etc.), you'll notice some recurring trends that still reflect class and racial divisions: Book about Upper-Middle-Class White (often) New Yorker Male or Female Having Existential Personal Drama of Some Sort (divorce, watching 9/11 happen or thinking about 9/11, general malaise); Book about Said Person Lost in a Foreign Locale; Book by INSERT EXCITING NEW ETHNIC WRITER WRITING ABOUT ETHNICITY, THE IMMIGRATION EXPERIENCE, or EXOTIC LOCALE; Book about Quaint Midwesterner Doing Something Old-Fashioned and Quaint in the Midst of an Existential Crisis. If he were alive, I would add Book By John Updike, as he comprised about 50% of the modern canon all by himself. These are gross exaggerations, sure, and there are lots of good and interesting books that find their way out there that defy these nets. But there you go.

But should I have ventured to talk about lit fiction and video games in the same sentence? Looking back at this. Ugh.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 05/10/2012 11:08PM by gingaio.
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> On one hand, I mostly agree with you. On the other
> hand, there are definitely tiers of intent in the
> creation of fiction.

You’re absolutely right about the importance of considering authorial intent and its role in the analysis of a work. But it’s only part of the picture, and all-too-frequently it involves “getting paid”. (Like Gingy, I’d avoid the use of “tiers” because it’s too hierarchical and doesn’t encompass the ability of these things to overlap.)

As for “being about something”… Almost everything fits that bill and it leaves us with an analysis that says, “I like stuff that’s about stuff that I like.” Which, of course, isn’t very useful as people tend to argue that the stuff they like is more significant than the stuff they don’t. Ergo, we end up with Gingy’s highly pithy deconstruction of the NY Times and New Yorker best seller lists.

But we shouldn’t throw the idea out completely. As the best seller lists demonstrate, if we amend the idea by saying, “Significant work is about something that people value,” we can learn some cool shit. Like, there seems to be a lot of value placed on the clichés that Gingy listed. So while people might not say, “We love books about white people from New York having problems,” their behavior says, “We sure as fuck love books about white people from New York having problems.” It’s that community standard about a work that gives us the juiciest shit, especially when some of those works are themselves utterly devoid of moisture.

Before anyone can poo-poo this “I know pornography when I see it”-esque definition, there’s actually scientific value in examining community standards. Linguistics makes ingenious use of this concept. You can hardly find a linguist who endorses prescriptivism, otherwise known as the bullshit your school teachers tried to feed you – the idea that there is a right way to use a language. Linguists know that any use of language that makes sense to another speaker is grammatical. This inevitably bunches up the panties of English teachers the world over who respond with righteous indignation, “Well if any use of language that makes sense is grammatical then you’re saying that anything is okay and we’ll find ourselves neck-deep is communicative chaos of Babelian proportions!” But that type of unconstrained relativism is not what linguists are saying. Whatever language is being exchanged must satisfy the intelligibility of the community (n > 1) in order for it to be grammatical; if something in the exchange doesn’t make this cut (n = 1 or n < 1) it is nonsensical. The huge advantage of this method is that once the role of the community (n) has been established (that being the arbiter of mutual intelligibility) we can dig into the guts of the correlations that appear when the demographics of the community become independent variables. When you set your community a certain way, “y’all, youse, you-uns,” and, “you guys” becomes perfectly standard communication and therefor grammatical forms of second-person plural in English; the fact that nearly all varieties of “non-standard” English create these second-person plurals tells us that “standard” English’s intent (avoiding them) is totally misguided. In other words, a similar correlation across different populations indicates a pretty strong rule regardless of any percceived intent; in this case, English needs a unique form of second-person plural no matter what your high school teacher taught you.

To take this back to the best seller lists, it means that different authors, styles, and intents in works of fiction can coexist under the banner of “good” works because they satisfy the same rule among different populations. In this case, the desire of people to read about white people from New York having problems, and the startling diversity of works that appears to satisfy this desire. It also means that when we see a waning in the number of works about white people from New York having problems the community standards have shifted; going back to using communities as independent variables we can find out more about these needs – for whom have they changed, when, and why?

Which is a very long way of saying that we shouldn’t pay attention to the things people say to justify “high-brow” fiction and instead we should focus on patterns in how they apply various standards when consuming any fiction.

Which is a very, very long way of saying that in a post-scarcity economy of entertainment consumption, the movement of these patterns will be easier to isolate and we will be able to learn so much more about the values embedded in our choices. When our only investment in the entertainment we consume is time, it will reveal our deepest nature as a species. Probably something dark and stupid.

For example, we really like humanoid robots because they trick our brains into thinking they’re cool with their one head, two arms, and two legs. And, as a result, you will never see a realistic or functionally designed robot in a work of fiction. Ever.
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> For example, we really like humanoid robots
> because they trick our brains into thinking
> they’re cool with their one head, two arms, and
> two legs. And, as a result, you will never see a
> realistic or functionally designed robot in a work
> of fiction. Ever.


[www.sorakake.net]

He's pretty functional and realistic aside from his karate skills
R2D2 is shaped like a trashcan. Everyone ignored this and I will say it again: artistic video games are often not about story. Games have the ability to do something entirely different than movies or books. Yes, a lot of games are trying to be movies, but a lot of early movies were trying to be plays. Games have unique strengths and plot doesn't really play well to those strengths, if you ask me. Seriously, play Flower. The plot is "the wind blows flower petals around". That's basically it, but its fascinating.

-Ginrai
Golden Gate Riot on dead trees at: [www.destroyallcomics.com]



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/12/2012 04:42PM by Ginrai.


gunpla sales

must be true



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/12/2012 05:42AM by VF5SS.
Attachments:
open | download - truth.png (33.5 KB)
If that is a real chart, I completely understand what's going on.

The edict imposed in 1992, that "Everything is Gundam, all robots are Gundam" fails, because it completely ignores the reality of how consumers choose to purchase a thing.

I would posit that people don't buy a Gundam because it's called Gundam, but because it's the ride of the main protagonist. Whatever the main protagonist uses will be the most important seller in the line. But the beancounters at Bandai looked at sales and figured that it was the name. "If Gundam outsells other robots 10-1, then all robots must be Gundam"

(Zakus are a kind of exception to the rule because it's such an iconic grunt mech.)
Well that's great

because SEED had like ten Gundams in it

i think some of this is because the toys stopped sucking

at least that's Hidetaka Tenjin's idea

but what does he know
But see how sales peaked with Seed and just fell off like crazy?
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Stop taking about retailers and start
> becoming a producer. This is the new Renaissance.
> We don’t need retailers.


Yeah, this is a big part of it.

Also Bandai won't *die* die. Companies aren't time-frozen monoliths that don't respond to changing conditions. They could shrink, take losses, even break up, but they'll produce *something* for *someone*.

Regarding comics, they are ripe for reinvention. Real reinvention. Disney could do it. They have momentum on many fronts, some that people aren't watching closely (see the Disney Touche project). I foresee more independent artists producing deeply-crafted monumental works with licensing potential.

Look: broadcast networks wondered why people weren't watching TV. They blamed the internet, video games, and analog signal. Then cable started cranking out Sopranos, Mad Men, Colbert & Stewart, Deadwood, BSG, etc.

Turns out their shows were just bad.
[www.zaikei.co.jp]

[www.kabutocho.net]

maybe bandai isn't doing all that bad
Star Wars is a good example of what I mean by people's brains tricking them into wanting anthropomorphic robots. The only "real" robots we ever see are in the background on Tatooine when Luke is buying Three Pee-Pee Holes and R2-D2 - both of whom speak and emote, and possess symmetrical limbs and body plans with clearly defined legs, arms, heads, and eyes.

R2-D2 is at the far end of that, but he still manages to be close enough that we forget how ridiculous his role in the story is. There is no logical reason for a wizard-robot like R2-D2 to exist. R2-D2 is a navigation robot, a portable GPS for spaceships. But, unlike cars, you can't fly a spaceship without a computer and expect to either reach your destination or live very long. Even the plot makes a point of showing how superfluous R2 units are when C-3PO needs to talk to the Falcon's computer; it's like saying, "Look, this spaceship's designer was smart enough to include a computer as part of the fucking ship so the ship can actually do its job." Remember, this is a universe where people are smart enough to build laser swords but somehow can't remember to include computers in all of their spaceships...

So every spaceship with an R2 in it through the rest of the film is an exercise in utter absurdity that exists only so the gay robot will have a buddy to get pissy with.

Also, why don't robots like Transformers use wireless to communicate with each other and use speakers/microphones in their legs to communicate with people? Because you talk with your mouth, your mouth is part of your face, your face is part of your head, and so robots need heads if they are going to talk.
but the robots in the TF movies are totally alien

right?
VF5SS Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> but the robots in the TF movies are totally alien

Totally alien humanoid robots that are the product of blatant anthropomorphism and a penchant for physical comedy.

Just like the aeroplanes that sprout arms and legs and heads in that animated metaphor for the intergalactic cultural superiority of capitalism made possible by the taming of industrial production through The Will of Man. What was it called? Morecash? I can't remember.

Anyway.

People's brains are susceptible to all kinds of garbage tendencies that will automatically work to foil our most logically engineered efforts. In the case of humanoid looking robots, mechs, and aliens, it probably has something to do with facial perception and pareidolia. This innate disposition is often articulated by designers or directors as, “The robot/mech/alien needed to be more emotive so the audience could identify with it.” Think about it. Why in the world would robots need fingers and eyes instead of manipulators and sensors?

As for examples of “real” robots… I think the Tachikomas come close in design, but their function in the story is so unapologetically humanized that it undermines any sense of realism. The EVAs are an interesting counterpoint in that they’re giant humanoids and not robots, but… They’re still humanoids. Some of the Angels in Evangelion and the aliens in Gunbuster do a good job of capturing the existential shock of sentient beings without bilateral symmetry, but they’re always antagonists.

So here’s a proposition – the only important difference between a robot/mech and a vehicle is that the latter are not immediately anthropomorphic.

Also… Post-scarcity, comics, toys.
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> Just like the aeroplanes that sprout arms and legs
> and heads in that animated metaphor for the
> intergalactic cultural superiority of capitalism
> made possible by the taming of industrial
> production through The Will of Man.


if you go to the big anniversary events you can get your nails painted for free

of there's also a $100 press on nail set if you're more into that

i think they're metal or something
VF5SS Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> if you go to the big anniversary events you can
> get your nails painted for free
>
> of there's also a $100 press on nail set if you're
> more into that
>
> i think they're metal or something


I want diamond crustings, so's I can glue them to my junk. Just like the Rev'rnd.

Speaking of diamonds, there's a classic example of long-standing artificial scarcity.
Haha wow I was going to come back today after gathering my thoughts and make an argument that there are certain objective standards underlying our subjective opinions that certain works have greater "literary value". (For instance, a lot of genre fiction thoughtlessly recycles whatever's been recently successful in its genre - the lack of any attempt to distinguish one's work or provide even the slightest novelty or challenge readers whatsoever could be considered an objective mark which other work can be measured against.)

but hey wow we're talking about robots again that's cool too :y

So, I would love to hear anyone's crackpot theories about why 00 couldn't replicate that Seed magic. It actually gave a wider spotlight to the supporting characters, like Graham, Patrick, Sergei and Soma, which means that if Steve's protagonist theory is correct, the Flags and Enacts and Tierens should've sold about as well as the peripheral Gundams from Seed, which had a LOT more Gundam-headed mecha than 00.

Personally, I think Seed sold better because its simple protagonists appealed to the ingenuous idealism of the fanboy. 00 made every man an antihero, and then tried to pretend like they were still totally admirable figures.


Gcrush Wrote:
>
> So every spaceship with an R2 in it through the
> rest of the film is an exercise in utter absurdity
> that exists only so the gay robot will have a
> buddy to get pissy with.

WHAT. R2-D2 is a co-pilot, a best friend, and a walking data storage device all in one. Can you just imagine how useful that would be in real life? You wouldn't have to drive your car, carry around a flash drive, or talk to your friends anymore.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
Sanjeev (Admin)
Gcrush Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I want diamond crustings, so's I can glue them to
> my junk. Just like the Rev'rnd.


My secret wish is for sentient alien robots in the form of platinum fronts.


Here's your cutting edge, line-blurring sentient talking vehicle, for which to find a preorder for. Now shaddap and git outta da way!:
[www.youtube.com]



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/2012 07:16PM by repairtechjon.
that's not KITT

or KARR

or KITT vs KARR
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Haha wow I was going to come back today after
> gathering my thoughts and make an argument that
> there are certain objective standards underlying
> our subjective opinions that certain works have
> greater "literary value". (For instance, a lot of
> genre fiction thoughtlessly recycles whatever's
> been recently successful in its genre - the lack
> of any attempt to distinguish one's work or
> provide even the slightest novelty or challenge
> readers whatsoever could be considered an
> objective mark which other work can be measured
> against.)

I'm interested to hear what you've got in mind for objective criteria, but that's almost an impossible beast to kill. For example, the recycling of material isn't always a bad thing; style can trump novelty, and people usually respond most favorably to constrained variation anyway. Give them the same shit over and over, just inconsequentially different each time. The thematic analysis of fictional narratives basically makes the case that, deep down, there are no new stories anyway.


> WHAT. R2-D2 is a co-pilot, a best friend, and a
> walking data storage device all in one. Can you
> just imagine how useful that would be in real
> life? You wouldn't have to drive your car, carry
> around a flash drive, or talk to your friends
> anymore.

I would rather my car not be a death machine in the absence of my GPS, that my flash drive fit in my pocket, and that my friends have nice breasts. But, that's just me...


Sanjeev Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> My secret wish is for sentient alien robots in the
> form of platinum fronts.
>
>

"My god. It's full of stars."



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/14/2012 08:21PM by Gcrush.
Attachments:
open | download - stars.gif (81.5 KB)
A large part of your brain is devoted to recognition of faces and other people. No matter the shape of the thing, if it appears to be self animate, your mind immediately templates it to a human, just to see if it will match.

Apparently your brain is always actively trying to see people?

Interesting thing about R2 - when I picked up the big interactive R2 I was completely taken aback when I recognized its accurate portrayal of his mannerisms. I hadn't consciously realized he had mannerisms until I saw how well they were duplicated.
leMel42 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Apparently your brain is always actively trying to
> see people?

Yep. It's such an innate mechanism that it also presents a huge constraint on our imaginations. This presents real-world problems, but I'm mostly interested in how it plays out in fiction. As soon as you alter the face/head and bilateral symmetry of a thing it starts to take on really alien qualities. And there appears to be a sweet-spot between "just human enough to be relatable" and "so inhuman that we can't understand it". The creature in Alien is a excellent example of the kind of existential terror fiction can inspire by thwarting the patterns our brains are wired to expect. The eyeless super-noggin of the creature alone would be sufficient to make someone puke if they saw it in real life. Dress it up with all that other freaky jazz and you get something that is sublimely horrific.

Until you turn it into a " action figure. Because that shit is totally cool.


> Interesting thing about R2 - when I picked up the
> big interactive R2 I was completely taken aback
> when I recognized its accurate portrayal of his
> mannerisms. I hadn't consciously realized he had
> mannerisms until I saw how well they were
> duplicated.

Yeah, that's the other part of the design process. Non-human forms in fiction still need to emote behavior in order to connect with our brains.

Think about how "cool" a Gundam would be if it couldn't emote a threatening posture. What if all its ranged weaponry were embedded in a way that emphasized radial symmetry. It wouldn't need to point a gun at a bad guy to shoot. One minute it is just standing there, the next minute it is shooting and making other robots explode - but all without changing position or brandishing a weapon. The "danger" mode and "safe" mode would look the same and, man, that would mess with our heads.

Same reason R2-D2 needs mannerisms. We need behavioral cues to signal that it is a "safe" and "friendly" robot. At the opposite end we get the Terminator - a machine that needs a menacing human face and posture to convey how dangerous it is. Crazy.
Gcrush Wrote:
>
> Think about how "cool" a Gundam would be if it
> couldn't emote a threatening posture. What if all
> its ranged weaponry were embedded in a way that
> emphasized radial symmetry. It wouldn't need to
> point a gun at a bad guy to shoot. One minute it
> is just standing there, the next minute it is
> shooting and making other robots explode - but all
> without changing position or brandishing a weapon.

Well, Psyco Gundam does that :3 but it still looks like an evil humanoid for some reason.

> The "danger" mode and "safe" mode would look the
> same and, man, that would mess with our heads.
>
> Same reason R2-D2 needs mannerisms. We need
> behavioral cues to signal that it is a "safe" and
> "friendly" robot. At the opposite end we get the
> Terminator - a machine that needs a menacing human
> face and posture to convey how dangerous it is.
> Crazy.

Star Wars itself does avoid that cliche at times, though. The interrogator droid they bring in to threaten Leia with in the first movie is frightening simply because its functions and abilities are unidentifiable.

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
asterphage Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Star Wars itself does avoid that cliche at times,
> though. The interrogator droid they bring in to
> threaten Leia with in the first movie is
> frightening simply because its functions and
> abilities are unidentifiable.

I remember the scene. Don't they show it with a loaded syringe or something?

Anyway, you're rightt about the background robots like that in Star Wars. The little roller skate robots zooming around the Death Star and the probe-robot on Hoth are inspired, functional designs. They're just not main characters.

I'm personally guitly of appreciating IG-88 as an unconventoinal, psychotic humanoid robot design. That's the type of monstrocity that would instill physical revulsion in someone if it were real. I also think IG-88 is the subliminal inspiration behind many of the World War Robot designs - faceless cylindar head, awkward proportions, wearing an ammo belt...
Gcrush Wrote:
>
> I remember the scene. Don't they show it with a
> loaded syringe or something?

Yeah, but a syringe is not really all that scary compared to its weird anonymous prongs and protrusions. What the hell are those things for?!

-Paul Segal

"Oh, the anger is never far, never far." -SteveH
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