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Recently, the sequel to the Mega Man Legends series: Mega Man Legends 3 was cancelled by Capcom, it’s developer, for “unspecified criteria”. And this has a set off a chain of events that has the put future of Mega Man, and Capcom in danger. The first Mega Man Legends was one of the very first video games I ever played, and the cancellation of it’s sequel really attaches me emotionally to this topic. Capcom is a multinational corporation with many resources at their disposal, yet their business practices as of late have caused resounding outcries of anger and confusion from people around the globe. While the situation involving Capcom compounds around the cancellation of Legends 3, it is not the only event in a long series of bad business practices.
In my essay I would first need to give a history of events that I feel are relevant. I can go into detail with each event and ascertain the public’s opinion, Capcom’s stance, and place it in a larger historical context as well.
Capcom has made some very questionable decisions in their recent history, some of these decisions include: They have no plans to localize Ace Investigations 2, the sequel to the spin-off title of the Ace Attorney series, one of the most successful Nintendo DS titles of all time and a fan favorite. They have been charging money for demo-versions of video games on DLC, such as the case for Dead Rising 2. They made it so you must be online to play Bionic Commando and Final Fight, the latter of which they apologized for not mentioning. In Resident Evil 3D, the player is prohibited from deleting their own save file, this means that to start at an earlier part, you must buy a new copy of the game. They have cancelled two Mega Man games: Mega Man Universe, and Mega Man Legends 3. This came in the wake of Mega Man’s creator, Keiji Inafune leaving Capcom for reasons that continue to sully the company’s image. And finally, they announced they were making Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 2, a slightly upgraded version of a game they released only a few months prior, which will retail for $40, basically meaning that people payed for a $60 (or $80 for the collector’s edition) demo.
The true topic of discussion in relating to Capcom’s bad business decisions is the leaving of Keiji Inafune, and the cancellation of Mega Man Legends 3, hereafter referred to as Legends 3. The first game was a cult classic among fans, spawning a prequel and a sequel, that while not having the best sales, were considered technically and conceptually ahead of their time. It is also important to note that the Legends series was Inafune’s favorite, and he often said that if he had unlimited resources, it would be the game he would create. In the summer of 2010, Inafune was able to appeal to Capcom, and created a team to begin developing Legends 3, a few months later he left Capcom to start his own company called Comcept. Inafune went on record saying he was too tired to deal with Capcom any longer, saying that they no longer had much interest in new titles, deciding that 60-80% of all game’s made would be sequels to well-established series. Inafune had to use guerilla tactics to get games developed at times, such is the case with Dead Rising. Dead Rising was initially cancelled by Capcom in the early development stage, so Inafune continued developing it under the name Prototype. Eventually so many resources had be put into it that Capcom had no choice but release the game. It was a financial success, but such tactics give us a glimpse into what type of company Capcom is. After Inafune left Capcom, the first of his projects, Mega Man Universe was cancelled. And while many thought Legends 3 would go the same way, fans were reassured by the game’s development team, who stated the game would continue development, and they would start an interactive devroom, a blog where fans could read daily updates on the game’s development, as well as submit their own ideas and concept art which (if chosen) would become a part of the final game. It was truly unprecedented in it’s ambitiousness. It also served as a bridge between the community and the developers, a deep look into the process of creating a video game, and it went a long way in gaining fan support.
A few months into the new year, Japan faced a terrible disaster, yet it’s people continued to move forward, the devteam dedicated the game they were creating to the survivors of the disaster, to give them hope because it was something they could do in those times of darkness.
Shortly afterwards, the devteam announced that they were creating a Prototype version of the game that would retail for $2 on the Nintendo 3DS eshop on the day of its launch. The Prototype would feature many missions and be an enjoyable prequel to the final game. And then the devteam told fans that the sales of the Prototype would determine whether or not the final version of the game was greenlit by the higer ups. Many fans were confused by this, because there was no indication that the game wasn’t greenlit beforehand, and this is odd because the devroom has given a very in-depth look into the development process up until this point. Nevertheless the fans waited, ready to pay for the game to show their support. There was a delay, and then the entire project was cancelled by Capcom for “unspecified criteria”.
The aftermath of the cancellation has been incredibly fascinating and I will touch on it as much as I can in my essay. Fans around the world have united on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, the latter of which, a group called “100,000 Strong for Bringing Back Mega Man Legends 3” a peaceful activist group has nearly 50,000 Likes, with thousands more in their international branches, all of which have been amassed in a few short months. These groups have gained notable support from not only big names in video gaming, but Capcom employees and Keiji Inafune himself. I personally have contributed as much as I can to the cause, and this is notable on a personal level because for the first time, I truly understood what it meant to be part of something that you really care about, I got my first glimpse into what it would be like to have a career in a cause that you care for almost obsessively. It was, and is, a valuable insight.
Capcom continued their bad business practices even in the wake of the cancellation and amassing of fan outrage. Capcom of Europe Public Relations went on Twitter responding (quite sarcastically) to fans questions, and in more than one instance blaming fans for the cancellation. Saying “it’s a shame the fans didn’t want to get more involved 🙁 if we saw there was an audience for MML3 people might change minds”. The statements made regarding Capcom cancelling the project because they didn’t see enough support on the devroom flies in direct contradiction with a video they made earlier that stated that fans did not need to participate on the devroom for the game to be made, that they could “hang around in the back and watch,”
The fan movement continues to surge forward even today, with fans downloading bumper stickers, and putting up posters in their hometowns to spread awareness. Recently a game reviewer detailed his experience playing the Prototype version of Legends 3, he is possibly the only member of the general public to play the game. Many fans were afraid the game was cancelled because the game was just not fun to play, but this reviewer extinguished these fears in a detailed Q&A were he details his play experience as fun and true to the originals, as well as being a very complete experience with the game being nearly complete. And saying that even the small parts that were incomplete were saturated with love.
For references I have some options,
the North American devroom still remains even today, with all the developer’s posts over the past year intact.
This article is a Q&A with the only person to play the Legends 3 prototype.
I have also taken the liberty to save many images of the Tweets by Capcom of Europe. They all support my argument with their blatantly bad PR, their sarcastic tone that borders on insulting is not the way that a large company like Capcom should speak towards their fans.
The official Legends 3 Revival Facebook group.
I would also compare and contrast the business practices of companies like SEGA and Square Enix to Capcom’s.
Minecraft is a game whose immense success is puzzling to those who know nothing about it. One look at it reveals the underwhelming simple pixilated graphics, which stand in stark opposition to shiny high-resolution look of today’s most popular video games. And yet despite this Minecraft has already sold over 3,800,000 copies, with another 8000 being sold per day currently, and it hasn’t even been officially released. So what is it about this game that makes it so popular? What is it about it that transcends its aesthetics?
Minecraft is a game set in a vast world where everything is subdivided into blocks. At its most basic, it is like a virtual “Lego.” These blocks can be built and destroyed, allowing for huge structures set in the mountains, fields, forests, anywhere you want to build, of its randomly generated terrain. The terrain goes on for 12,000 km in each direction, 64 blocks above ground and 64 below, one block being a cubic meter. This free building is known as “creative mode”. However there is also survival mode. In this mode you are dropped into the world with absolutely nothing, left to survive in the lands. And survival isn’t easy, because when it gets dark, the monsters come out, and a Minecraft day is 7 minutes. Not to mention you need to eat, or starve to death. Luckily, there is an abundance of food sources, like animals and plants. But how do you acquire these things? That’s where crafting comes in. By combining different items in a grid you can create new items like tools, weapons and torches. Later on, you can make building materials, machines, and even potions. There are 200 crafting recipes currently. As for acquiring these items, some are dropped by animals or monsters when killed, some are ore like iron and diamonds, that are buried deep underground. This is where the mining comes in. Digging tunnels through rock, exploring through caves; the dark dangerous underground side of Minecraft is almost a whole other world in itself. Then there are the other worlds or ‘dimensions’, the “Nether”, a hell-like world and the “End”, a strange dark floating island littered with black towers, and Endermen. Building a portal of obsidian accesses the Nether. The End is reachable by finding and repairing an Ender portal, which are only found in the rare underground “strongholds’. Just describing everything within this game would take countless hours; the Minecraft “wiki” has over 1000 published pages covering the content.
Everything I just described is some of the compelling aspects that make Minecraft seem like another, very real world. These are perhaps some of the reasons why this game pulls you in, makes you feel afraid to die. I propose to look at the aspects of the World that houses Minecraft, and why it acts so well as a virtual reality. One of the main points will be how a randomly generated world can seem so realistic even despite its graphics, and why a game such as this can give hours upon hours of game play without there actually being any real objectives. Within context of the actual World, I will look at how the terrain emulates real terrain, how weather, day/night cycles create ambience and how the various animals and monsters (even NPCs) act to fill the world with life. I will also look at how the game play and survival, items and structure building add to the feeling of accomplishment that makes the living in this game-world exciting, and inherently creates motivation through self-made mini goals. Finally, I will also look at how the player mortality within the game, and in particular in ‘hardcore-mode’ creates an emotional attachment for the player to his/her avatar within the game.
To briefly go into detail about each subject: The terrain is generated to copy real life, and fantasy in some cases. It is vast, and more importantly, you will never see the exact same feature twice. This, and the fact that it is completely destructible; by the blocks acting like ‘Voxels’ gives the world a level of depth and realism that is never seen in other games. While in a game like “Call of duty” for instance, the detail is more realistic tenfold, but the maps all have borders, and you always know that beneath that amazingly realistic terrain is absolutely nothing. Or behind that un-openable door is a blank void. In this way, Minecraft is a model for future games, where eventually, what is now cubic meter blocks will some day be microscopic particles. Effectively this would create a world indistinguishable form reality, as seen in the movie “The Matrix”. On the subject of the weather and lighting, these are aspects that create ambience. The lighting specifically though simple, changes signaling a non-static world. Times passes. Even when you’ve been mining underground for a long time you could emerge not knowing whether it was day or night up there. The weather: rain is loud when you are in your house during a storm, snow physically blankets the terrain. Lightning bolts even start fires. The life within Minecraft: animals are persistent, meaning that a certain number spawn in an area, and once they are dead, they are dead. Of you want more you have to breed them, or travel to find more. This encourages farming. Strange squids populate the water. Despite being simple and blocky, they almost have personality in the way they look at you when you pass, or bounce around freely outside.
I will expand upon all these aspects greatly going into depth on their aesthetics and implementation in the game and how this adds to the feeling of an emulation of life, without the use of realistic visuals. I will also look at the philosophical aspect of a virtual reality, and how Minecraft has aspects of that which bring us closer to true imitation of real life, through making the player feel mortality within the game space.
Star Fox 64 was released in 1997 for Nintendo’s fifth generation console, the Nintendo 64. It was, very much like its contemporaries Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64, a huge commercial success destined to be considered a classic among its generations’ young people and gamers past and present. Though it itself was meant to be a reboot of the original Star Fox game for the Super Nintendo, it has since received a newer revamping in the form of the Nintendo 3DS’s redundantly titled Star Fox 64 3D.
Of the games’ many features, perhaps one of the easiest to overlook is the title’s use of Corridor or On-Rails gameplay alongside All-Range gameplay and how successful both were in making Star Fox 64 not only thoroughly enjoyable and memorable, but a title with a huge replay value as well.
In Corridor mode, the player can maneuver the Arwing, the Landmaster, and the Blue Marine about the screen freely with the joystick according to each vehicles limitations (i.e.: without creative hovering, the Landmaster could not navigate from one upper corner of the screen to the other as the Landmaster is essentially a tank and therefore not as capable of navigating airspace as the Arwing). Each level within this mode of gameplay is explored on a fixed path that allows very few divergences depending on the level (i.e.: On Corneria, the player can choose to go straight and face Granga or unlock a second path leading under a waterfall to battle the Attack Carrier instead). Using her upgradable laser canons and smart bombs against oncoming enemies, the player is encouraged to destroy as many of the enemy’s ships as possible as the navigate the course. The player must also avoid oncoming enemy fire and occasionally enemy ships throughout play if they want to keep their Arwing intact. Perhaps the most helpful maneuver in deflecting enemy fire is the “Barrel Roll”, in which the player spins her vehicle rapidly by tapping R to deflect lasers.
The vehicle the player pilots is trapped in a state of perpetual motion on said fixed path throughout each level. That is to say, the player cannot come to a full stop during gameplay at any time. She can, however, use a number of techniques to counter this handicap. For instance, while a full stop is impossible, the “Brakes” can be used to slow down the player’s vehicle temporarily. The player can also speed up for a short time by using the “Boost”, used most often to speed past falling obstacles or fast-closing doors that could damage the player’s ship. Another handicap associated with the single-directional motion of each Corridor-type stage is an inability to change direction (i.e.: opting to go backwards to retrieve some missed item). Fortunately, the player is capable of temporarily looping back around using a “Somersault” maneuver in order to avoid enemies attacking from the rear or collect multiple items that would go missed without the use of this technique.
The player’s wingmates (of which you have three) can become a nuisance by pleading for assistance with airborne enemies (usually three at a time) assaulting them from behind, but they can also provide valuable advice, interesting dialogue, and occasionally drop off health rings, smart bombs, and laser upgrades throughout play, making them much more helpful here than in All-Range mode. Falco is inevitably the most helpful in this form of gameplay as he provides hints and helps the player in seeking the correct routes leading to more difficult levels / planets which would be otherwise nearly impossible to know about without out-of-game assistance.
Bosses appearing in Corridor gameplay are the only things that may cause the player’s vehicle to lose its apparent state of perpetual forward motion. Instead of worrying so much about flying past objects as in course exploration, Boss battles encourage the player to navigate the screen in order to avoid the Boss’s oncoming onslaughts while using brief openings to barrage her opponents’ weak spots with laser fire and bombs. This style of Boss battle is fairly straightforward, although challenging in that the Boss’s attacks often correspond with the Boss’s exposure of his weak points.
In All-Range mode, many of the rules that applied in Corridor mode still apply here. For instance, the player is still stuck in a perpetual state of motion. She is still encouraged to use lasers and smart bombs to destroy as many enemies as possible. Maneuvering is accomplished using the joystick as well as a series of button-implemented special maneuvers such as the Somersault or braking, techniques now accompanied by the ever-useful U-Turn capability. This new technique allows the player to quickly reverse their flight path by flying up and rolling the body of the player’s vehicle.
While many similarities remain, unlike Corridor mode, All-Range mode is not set on a fixed path. The player instead experiences the course as a fully-navigable open plain. Invisible barriers box in the course setting the play area, though unlike other titles featuring such walls, Star Fox 64‘s invisible barriers cause the player to automatically perform the All-Range mode exclusive U-Turn maneuver, sending her flying in the opposite direction. The single exception to this is the secret final Boss battle with Andross, in which the player can move around endlessly in any direction, but will be technically transported to the opposite end of the map as if space has been bent. This same space-bending type of All-Range mode is also featured in multiplayer mode.
As mentioned before, any degree of usefulness that might have once been associated with your wingmates completely slips away the moment the player enters all-range mode. Aside from Slippy’s convenient analysis and on-screen display of the enemy’s health bar, your wingmates will seemingly do nothing but get in your way and demand your assistance at vital points in gameplay. They even stop dropping off supplies like health rings, laser upgrades, and smart bombs, leaving the once shared task entirely up to ROB64 (the pilot of the Star Fox team’s mothership, the Great Fox). However, though the player’s wingmates are a gigantic nuisance (and with repetitive dialogue, a very annoying one at that), they add another level of difficulty to the gameplay, which makes these maps more challenging, and more fulfilling upon completion.
Bosses appearing in All-Range mode are often more difficult to defeat thanks to the aforementioned wingmate handicap. There is also the added challenge of looping back around multiple times to get a good shot on enemies that can only be attacked at specific intervals, as is the case with Saucerer on Katina. It is extremely easy to be caught on the far reaches of an All-Range stage just as a Boss becomes vulnerable and miss an opportunity to wipe out said Boss quickly and efficiently. And because time limits are a frequently featured challenge applied to All-Range levels and Bosses, these small mishaps can become deadly.
It is the use of both these forms of gameplay that make Star Fox 64 the most successful and memorable Rail-shooter of its generation, and what makes it so much more than just another shoot ’em up game.
The Zelda games released on the NES present fascinating case studies of games presenting imaginary worlds. It can be said that the current Zelda identity was solidified in the SNES A Link to the Past. After this, Nintendo began to standardize the definition of Zelda. Zelda I & II however, had to establish itself as a newcomer in the early adventure genre.
The Adventure of Link has the most RPG genetics of any Zelda game, and is the only game in the series to feature enemy encounters in a top down overworld. However, most of the game is spent in a side scrolling view. It’s the only Zelda game where this view is prominent, and affords a more complex battle system, where the player control their shield not only in what direction they’re facing, but also hold it high or low. Defeating enemies will earn the player experience points, a mechanic that hasn’t been used in a Zelda game since. When they earn enough points the player can choose to level up their defence, magic consumption efficiency, and attack strength. On top of this, there are upgrades that can be found in the game then increase the maximum capacity for health and magic bars, which was used for most successive Zelda games. Like it’s predecessor, you gain items that help you get further in the game, however additional weapons such as arrows, are missing and you’re limited to a sword. To make up for that you unlock magic spells and new attacks to open up new battle possibilities.
Although The Adventure of Link is the most RPG heavy Zelda title to date, the game’s structure still illustrates Nintendo’s origins as an arcade video game company. Even this game is fairly light with it’s experience points system relative to it’s contemporaries, especially computer games such as Ultima IV. Zelda is Nintendo’s take on a fantasy RPG, and they imprint it with a fast arcade pace, and a unique japanese cartoon style.
Other RPGs of this time are far more complex than Zelda, featuring dozens of stats, static images of characters and haunting music, and elaborate story lines. Zelda simplified and made itself far more accessible to play, reducing stats to just health and magic, and establishing a story to a one page paragraph in the title screen. However it added animated enemies, a lush soundtrack, and bright graphics. The result is a smash hit game that set off a series that is recently celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. You could compare this to the “casual” phenomenon of Wii Sports, which enjoyed even larger success, beating out other sports games that are more complex with simple gameplay and casual appeal.
The Adventure of Link sold 4.3 million copies, just a bit less than A Link to the Past with 4.6 million, and is the fourth best selling Zelda game behind Ocarina of Time (7.6m) and the original Legend of Zelda (6.1m). Despite it’s performance, history paints The Adventure of Link as the “black sheep” of the series, however, it’s important to understand that at one point nobody knew what Zelda was, and the NES games created the phenomenon that many of us accept as the norm today.
What I am interested in is the Fighting Game Genre. Initially my direction was to Game Narrative but my knowledge in this subject is limited. I have played many types of games since the age of seven and ironically it presented a difficulty to narrow my topic. After a while of thinking, I narrowed down my topic.
To introduce the essay I want to very briefly discuss the history of these games. If I choose one game as my major focus, I will give a brief reference to where and when it was made, and who produced it. Readers who know little of fighting games can get a better understanding what these games are about.
The goal of my essay is to analyze the challenge of the fighting game genre. What I mean by challenge is the difficulty of mastering a character or even the game itself, and what pleasures arise from the experience of having that challenge. Challenge is complex because too much difficulty in a game or no challenge presents many problems for the player. According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow theory, challenge must be balanced between the abilities of the player and challenge of the game. This theory helps to understand why players need to fit between the ability and challenge. The questions I am still curious about are: what makes a game challenging and complex; and why would it be not challenging?
Fighting games I want to reference in my essay are: Streetfighter, Blazblue, and Super Smash Bros Brawl. I may come across more games to relate to my research paper. Comparing and contrasting everything from these games is not my intention. I only wish to include key differences that relate to the essay. I will give an example of one key difference: Blazblue’s characters all have different playing styles, each with their own unique ability. This ability is called the “Drive Ability”, their playing styles center around it. For instance, a character named Hazama has an extended, chain-like claw as his ability. He is not only able to use long range attacks but can also use it for close-range attacks. This knowledge is only accumulated after playing as the character many times. Knowledge is gained through experience. Players will avoid making the same mistake twice, strategizing their play practice through trial and error. “Repeat Play allows the player to reassess their abilities and consider their own style and ability” (Newman, 134).
I also wish to discuss in my essay on the pleasures of experiencing challenge in a fighting games. This I plan to have as one of my main arguments but if I don’t have enough time I may only briefly talk about it.
I intend to use these as my sources. I may use different sources based on research that is more specific to the essay.
Marc Prensky: From Digital Game-Based Learning (McGrawl-Hill, 2001)
Even thought the source is old, it still gives examples of how games can be challenging, and competitive. The challenge pumps adrenaline into the player which excites them. Also states reasons why games are fun and how games give us enjoyment and pleasure.
David Surman: Pleasure, spectacle and reward in Capcom’s Street Fighter Series
Good examples on methods to analyze character’s moves and players interaction in fighting games. Explains from the basic punches (by pressing one button), to special moves (requires more pressing more buttons in executed quickly), to complex combos that take more time and skill to learn. The essay mentions a term called the “reward spectacle”. When a player gains enough skill in an aspect in the game they are rewarded. In my own example, if a player completes a combo perfectly against an opponent they unlock a trophy. The player is more satisfied when earning a trophy and collects more trophies to show off with. I want to use this term in one of my arguments.
Flow in Games, A Jenova Chen MFA http://www.jenovachen.com/flowingames/introduction.htm
The theory of “flow” experience that is essential for gamers to experience. It is important to consider this theory when looking at the difficulty increase in video games.
James Newman: Video Games
Harper Todd: The Art of War: Fighting Games, Performativity, and Social Game Play
Explains why players consider Super Smash Bros Brawl as not a fighting game but a “party game”. Challenge can be different for every player. It explains the challenge of the fight itself is the pure enjoyment of the game for hardcore gamers. Casual gamers enjoy the experience of random items appearing in the arena causing disturbance (Todd, 152). I have played this game with many different people and have even argued our ideals of fun. This I will explain more in the essay.
Shaquille Nelson #2405066
Game studies is the practice of analyzing and studying games, their players, their subculture and impact on wider culture from a variety of academic viewpoints. Because this field is so new, methods of analysis have been imported from other fields such as sociology, anthropology, arts and literature and computer science.
The purpose of video game studies varies in scale and goal, from subjects as insular as simply analyzing development for the sake of understanding good design principles as applied to a game, to as broad as studying the social and psychological effects of playing games. Typically this latter category of sociological analysis take an empirical outside-in approach, studying specific aspects and their direct effects, and extrapolating their findings into a conclusion. Less has been written from a more subjective inside-out approach, such as how does the way we structure the experience of these games reflect on the structure of experience itself? What does the way we approach gaming say about the way we approach life?
Being a relatively new field, the practice of Game Studies often borrows methods of analysis from other fields such as sociology, anthropology, arts and literature and computer science. The purpose of the studies vary in scale and goal: they can be as insular as simply analyzing development in search of understanding good game design principles, or as broad as studying the social and psychological effects of playing games. This latter category of sociological analysis typically sees an empirical outside-in approach, studying specific aspects and their direct effects, and extrapolating their findings into a conclusion. . In my proposed essay, I intend to pursue a less common way of analyzing games by taking a subjective inside-out approach. This essay will investigate game design from an existential perspective, posing questions such as ‘how does the way we structure the game experience reflect on the way we frame our ‘real world’ experiences?’ By looking at games an existentialist perspective, we focus on the subjective experience of game playing and the co-authorship that is central to the medium.
All video games are, at their core, defined by their limitations. Even the most open world video games have boundaries and incentives that direct the player’s action. These boundaries are essentially the ‘rules’, which are necessary and definitive to all games. Rules provide the structure and objectives that dictate both the basic nature of the game as well as providing policy regarding smaller issues within this framework. These rules, establishing the nature and boundaries of play, must be agreed upon by all participating parties for the game to exist. The second necessary element for the game is for the player to have, to a degree dictated by the formative ruleset, a degree of control within these limitation, the potential outcome must be affected by his input. It’s through this balance of freedom and boundaries that transforms the ambiguous, frivolous “play” into the more directed and engaged “game”. Games possess a higher level of engagement than directionless play because by using rules, the pacing and tone of the game is controlled which imbues a sense a coherency and meaning to the activity. At its peak, this coherency results in a sense of importance that extends beyond the itself, such as in organized sports leagues. It is in this construction of meaning beyond itself that I will explore the parallels between game structure and existentialist writers such as Nietzche and Camus.
It is in this foundational definition of game playing as an expression of player control within a predefined framework, one that lends meaning to itself, that the first major parallel with the existentialist viewpoint appears. A major overarching theme of existentialism is the relationship between freedom and responsibility. Like the rules of a game, life has boundaries. We get sick, we die, we live by societal codes. The existentialist notion of freedom, which is different from the basic political definition of freedom and has similarities to what is modernly referred to as self-actualization, acknowledges the large degree to which our lives are not within our control. Contrary to rival philosophical schools using this lack of control, it is the rebellion against The Absurd, as Camus called it, that defines freedom. According to existentialism, freedom is the expression of our will, which is the control that we have within these limitations, and the construction of personal meaning within the framework of corporeal limitation. It is through this expression that, like game playing, that we create for life a meaning beyond itself.
In video games, there is no inherent, “real” meaning to the game, meaning that by definition that is no practical benefit for playing a game (excluding rare cases of monetary or social reward). These of course are the grounds on which video games have historically been dismissed as childish playthings, because they provide no physical benefit and presumably due to their interactive nature, are incapable of conveying a message meaningful enough to incite emotional or mental growth. Leisure time can be defined as the area of our lives that is left over after our responsibilities are fulfilled, where we pursue activities which have no connection to physical necessity. But if there is no immediately apparent benefit in an activity, whats the motivation behind it? What is it that makes these experiences stimulating? Most academic analysis will have you believe that it is simple escapism: that the appeal of the activity is to focus on something frivolous and relaxing and relieve oneself of the burdens of pursuing physical necessity. But if this were the case people would only play video games that were fun and relaxing, they would not value challenge, they would not keep playing games that can inspire anger or frustration in them. If the lack of necessity were it’s own reward than people would only play games, or engage in any leisure activity, in a way that reveled in it’s own uselessness. Goals and structure would be abandoned. I reject the idea of leisure escapism and intend to explore the underlying motivations behind what makes the exploration of a game’s boundaries and freedom such a stimulating experience, using the ideas put forward by such existentialist thinkers such as Camus and Nietzche.
Through this essay I intend to analyze the themes shared between good game design and the existentialist interpretation of freedom. This is not to be mistaken simply an account of chance correlations between the two, but a linking of causation between what people find engaging, stimulating and satisfying in the constructed experiences of a gameworld (here not just applying to just an open, 3D space but to all digital representations of which video games consist) and what creates a meaningful, actualized life from an existential perspective. I will do this by presenting several principles of an existentialist perspective of freedom, as expressed by the likes of Nietzche, Camus and Satre, and by then analyzing specifically how these are principles can be observed in the modern gaming experience.
With Japan being home to many horror films and stories as well as popular video games, it was almost a given that they would be just as successful in producing what is now commonly known as ‘survival horror games’; a combination of their expertise. Their treatment of fear fused with gameplay is interesting in that there is a certain quality to it that is so unique that it can be instantly distinguished from a Western produced horror game and ultimately, it is this unique ‘style’ that I wish to establish in order to show how their approach to survival horror has influenced games of the same genre on a worldwide scale and how survival horror games have altogether evolved drastically over the recent years.
This is not however, to say that the Japanese approach is necessarily better, but simply that there is something in its treatment that has allowed it to gain the level of attention that it has today, not just with the local Japanese audience, but having gradually expanded to the global audience as well. It has caught my attention that two of the most popular horror games in the North American game industry; Silent Hill and Resident Evil are both, whilst taken from European horror, produced by Japanese game companies, and there are so many implications of Japanese horror included in the designing of these games that this merging of North American and Japanese horror has taken survival horror games to a whole new level.
Throughout my research essay, I will be using a variety of survival horror games originated from both the West and East as examples and discuss them in terms of visual graphics, music and sound, storyline, and gameplay. I have also chosen to look into Rei: Shisei no Koe (or Fatal Frame III) in more depth as a more traditionally designed Japanese survival horror and to analyze it in comparison to a Western-based horror game; Dead Space, as they will provide more specific examples as to what each survival horror has to offer as well as what they each may lack. To do so, I am going to spend a day each playing each of the games so to gain enough play experience for a decent understanding of them. This will aid me in my close reading of the games so that the horror elements can be compared with each other through personal experience.
Japanese survival horrors significantly differ from their Western counterparts as they tend to focus more on psychological horror developed through the atmospheric and storytelling side of the game, whereas Western horror games tend to emphasize on throwing in graphical violence, gore and the occasional shock factor. This is the general difference between the two horror cultures that I wish to delve through and be able to demonstrate what it is about Japanese horror that is so succinct that it has captured the attention of North American gamers.
In order to understand why this gap between the Western and Eastern horror games exist, it is important to bear in mind that cultural differences play a huge role in the way in which these games have been designed as they must cater primarily to their respective target audiences. As such, I will look at not only the games themselves, but to trace back to the source materials that survival horror takes from (e.g. horror films and stories) and to see how much the Japanese differ to those of the Western culture. Eimi Ozawa from the University of Tokyo has written an article called the ‘U.S. Adaptations of Japanese Horror Films‘ where she thoroughly discusses in one of the sections, the differences in portrayal of Samara/Sadako from The Ring. This relates heavily to the discussion of Japanese and Western survival horror games as the two movie adaptations too, fall under the same genre but due to receiving very typical treatment of either Japanese horror or Western horror, they become different and distinguishable from one another. This method of study does have its limitations however, as it does not directly look into games and compare them, but only something of a similar nature, so the similarities and differences may only be applied to games to a certain extent. To ensure that the more game-specific aspects of cultural distinction are covered, I will also be looking at the article “The Anthropology of Fear: Learning About Japan Through Horror Games” written by Chris Pruett which will cover the intents and historical references of Japanese horror directly through the study of horror games.
Regardless of how successful their designing of horror games may be, it is also necessary to take note of the reception of the games in both Japan and North America. Silent Hill’s third installation (and onwards) is a very interesting example for this as it is designed by a Japanese company with the inclusion of psychological horror, but hasn’t been as well received locally as it should be in contrast to its big success in North America. This is largely due to the fact that Silent Hill’s gameplay doesn’t just stop at puzzle-solving and exploration, but also includes direct combat, which is not typical of or favored by the Japanese audience. So despite the fact that it is home to so many survival horror games that we would consider ‘successful’ in North America, these games are actually not as well-received in their local city and it is this cultural controversy between what the Japanese audience demands for and what the North American audience demands for that survival horror games can allow for so many new, innovative ideas and development to this date.
Horror of the Mundane
Methods of creating fear in survival horror games
Research Paper Proposal
Horror has been a staple element of focus in the world of art, ranging from paintings, literature, plays, and films. This genre of art seeks to bring out feelings of dread and horror in viewers by playing upon their most primal fears, and fans of this genre are drawn to them in an almost masochistic fascination. There is something very attractive about coming face to face with our fears, and is why horror is still a vastly popular genre in all forms of media.
Because the main point of horror in the art world is to create fear in the viewer, thereby requiring the participation of the viewer with the medium, this provided an interesting niche in entertainment for video games, a relatively new art form, to adapt to. Video games has a unique aspect in which player and viewer participation is an integral element in how it gets its message through; the story in video games cannot progress unless the players themselves progress through it. Therefore, the fear elicited is very much the fear of players themselves as they react to the game, rather than the fear of the characters reacting to their situations in literature or film. This becomes a vital focus for the survival horror genre of video games, where the entire point of the game is the survival of the player controlled character, so in essence the survival of the player himself/herself. Therefore, it is important to understand why this is important in distinguishing survival horror video games from horror in the traditional art mediums, and how developers are utilizing this unique aspect to create amazingly terrifying games.
Since the player reaction is such an important part of the experience in survival horror games, creating an environment in which the player can relate to on a personal level is crucial for tapping into our most primal fears. This is why the most successful and influential games in this genre are set in everyday environments, and have very normal everyday people as characters. Prominent examples of this include the early entries in this genre, Capcom’s “Sweet Home (1989)” and Infogames’ “Alone in the Dark (1992)”, and more recent titles like Konami’s Silent Hill series, Tecmo’s Project Zero/Fatal Frame series, Capcom’s Resident Evil series, and independent developer Frictional Games’ “Amnesia: The Dark Descent.” The setting and characters for these games taken straight out of the real world; normal everyday people trapped in locations that we are all familiar with in our own lives that are forced to deal with supernatural forces and situations that are entirely out of their control. This is a fascinating juxtaposition against narrative video games of other genre, such as fantasy and action adventure, where players assume roles of characters that possess super powers or are put in environments that are vastly different than and absolutely implausible to exist in the real world. The act of stripping away the powers of the player in game, combined with putting the players in a game world that they can relate to, creates a very real sense of fear of being helpless in trapped in an environment that is both familiar and alien.
The other integral aspect of successful survival horror games is how video games go about bringing out our fear in an interactive form. The most standard and staple method is the element of surprise, where monster and enemies jump out at the player as he or she traverses through the game, or the game environment changes in a sudden and unexpected way. The fear created using this method is abrupt, though mostly temporary and vanishes once the player is able to move past the initial panic. Disruptive gameplay is very effective if used correctly, but many veteran fans of the survival horror genre have criticized many games, like Capcom’s Dino Crisis series, of overusing it and responsible of it being degraded to more of a “cheap scare” tactic. The more subtle and difficult method is to create a sense of dread, to make a game environment where the character is at once scared to move on yet scared to stay put. Through a combination of lighting, sound and audio, visuals, and smart use of disruptive gameplay, survival horror games like Silent Hill and Electronic Art’s Dead Space series managed to instill player fear into the most mundane of objects. From the crackling static of a radio, an erratic light bulb, to even just the harrowing echo of a player character’s footsteps, something that is seemingly small and unimportant becomes that much more noticeable and unbearable. The player’s anticipation of horror becomes just as important in the game experience as the horror itself.
The research proposal is to delve into the aspects of the survival horror video game genre, how it is different than the horror genre in traditional mediums of art, as well as to go in depth to the history, influences, and tactics of this particular game genre. Particular examples to be looked at will be the early pioneers of this genre, such as Capcom’s “Sweet Home”, Inforgames’ “Alone in the Dark”, and Human Entertainment’s Clock Tower series, as well as later and more well known games including Konami’s Silent Hill series, Capcom’s Resident Evil series, Tecmo’s Project Zero/Fatal Frame series, Electronic Art’s Dead Space series, and various games from independent developers. The genre’s history and influences from both Japanese and Western horror film and culture will also be looked at because of their impact on this genre of video games. Specific literature to be used and cited for the essay will include: “Horror Video Games: Essays on the Fusion of Fear and Play” by Cliver Barker, “Replay: The History of Video Games” by Tristan Donovan, “Interactive Storytelling for Video Games: A Player-Centered Approach to Creating Memorable Characters and Stories” by Chris Klug and Josiah Lebowitz.
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