Discussion Supplemental 29 January

Clearly, I need to hire a stenographer in order to be sure I can keep track of all of the genuinely interesting, wildly varied insights that you bring with you to our weekly conversation.  For the time being, though, we’ll have to depend upon my ability to decipher my hasty scrawl.

Here, e.g., is what we’re up against, taken from last week’s notes:

S? --> bmb / @St (Lndn)

It may be that I was writing a reminder about when to bomb the British Parliament — or perhaps I was reminding myself NOT to bomb the Parliament.  It was more likely the latter.

Point ’n Click

We were speaking today about the newly-resurgent point-and-click genre, a UI likely popular among tablet programmers for many of the same reasons it was initially popular among PC game-makers:  It represents the interface at its most stripped-down, most essential level, and allows authors to devote more time to creating a compelling story and writing meaningful dialogue, rather than, say, ensuring that your hyper-realistic avatar is adequately lit from every conceivable angle.

Grim Fandango

A propos of that conversation, and with a nod too to the mention of Good Old Games, be sure to check out the newly-restored Grim Fandango Remastered, which just dropped yesterday.  Grim Fandango, a product of the legendary Lucas Arts studio (now defunct), from which Double Fine studios eventually emerged, is surely one of the most beloved digital games, point-and-click or otherwise, published during the 20th Century   There’s a lot to like about Fandango — I adored the weird pastische of Aztec mythos, Art Deco, and 50’s film noir, all mediated via digital 3D animation (an entirely new consumer technology prior to the publication of the title in 1998).

In a way, the whole thing recalled aspects of Orson Welle’s amazing proto-post-modern contribution to noir, Touch of Evil (make a point of watching it—the opening scene is a marvel, done in a single take, as we walk casually with the hero (Charlton Heston) from the US into Mexico, only to find that border-crossing isn’t as easy as we thought it would be.  Dozens of films have cited that shot — e.g., Polanski’s Chinatown, Tim Robbins’ The Player and the Coen Brothers’ No Country for Old Men.

 

The soundtrack of Fandango was marvelous, too — it draws on half a century of jazz history, with an emphasis on the big band sound and the hot jazz era, but with the occasional nod to Henry Mancini, Miles Davis, and so forth.  Apparently they’ve re-recorded the soundtrack for the re-release, but it doesn’t seem to be available separately.

More broadly, though, it might be interesting to reflect on the recent trend of “remasters” and “HD editions” at some point.  One the one hand, like the recording industry’s “Best Of” albums, and the film industry’s beloved “Director’s Cut” editions, the HD remaster of decades-old games is, first and foremost, a calculated money grab — but (based on the considerable financial support of the Kickstarter community, for example) it is clearly one that has been embraced by the gamer community.  Perhaps this is a reflection of the fact that we tend to regard games as a transmedial phenomenon:  The technology used to put the game in front of us is seen (for better or worse) as subsidiary to some “ideal” game experience itself.  “Improving” the resolution of the display, or re-writing the soundtrack, or even just eliminating bugs and rebalancing gameplay are thus frequently regarded as acts that leave the “truth” of the game unchanged.  I can certainly understand that sensibility, but I think it raises some challenging questions about our perceptions of truth and “the real” as mediated by these ostensibly interactive technosystems through which we float (and by which we are endlessly fashioned and re-fashioned).

I’ll continue to sift through my notes and post more material this weekend.  If you’ve anything to add, don’t hestiate to post it here or send it my way.

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