The questionable integrity of big-name game reviewers

This week in class we talked about critics, reviewers and our art, as well as what role they play in our creative work life and how we will have to interact with them. This got me thinking about what reviewers I may face if I were to break into the video games industry, and who I would personally trust with an early copy of my work for reviewing purposes. I personally believe that the current system for video game reviews is inherently flawed and needs to change, as people are losing faith in big video game outlets to provide accurate reviews after being burned by them so many times.

0_1yGJPwNHuhDZLyLq

As an avid gamer I have encountered the disappointment of being lured into buying a crappy game, purely because some game reviewer stuck a sticker on the game box rating it nine out of ten. Through online searching I discovered that I am definitely not the only one who has encountered this issue, as a quick google search of “video game reviewers losing trust”, will yield a search result of hundreds of game message boards filled with angry gamer’s, all questioning the integrity of big game outlets such as IGN, Kotaku and Gamespot. A critics power lies in the consistency of their voice, and if they are constantly wrong, the audience will begin to lose faith.

mtifuy2fwgtoagvwxmll

Game outlets such as IGN, Kotaku and Gamespot, each have dozens of separate journalists writing their game reviews, this can be confusing and leads to each of these companies having overall decentralised opinion’s about the games they are reviewing. This is why I now prefer the opinions of smaller reviewers that can be found on sites such as youtube or tumblr, as you know exactly who the opinion is coming from, and after you see enough of their reviews an understanding is formed between yourself and the critic. Each of their reviews should feel like an extension of their last until you as the audience understands what games that reviewer responds to.

“all the “hype” gamers feel about a game has come from journalists. Now, not all of these journalists (and “influencers”) are paid to hype games, but the biggest ones are in a convoluted, indirect way. A publisher will sign a content exclusivity deal with IGN, for example. They may pay IGN money, which is eventually used to pay IGN staff writers. And that’s where clickbait and hype come in.”(Muddle, 2017)

This quote is from an article written by Ty Muddle, a journalist who had worked in the industry for Nintendo for over ten years. The article details how big game outlets will often be paid off or given exclusivity deals, in exchange for giving the game a higher score than it deserves. These exclusivity deals are a big thing for these game outlets, as the earliest one to release a review of a new game will receive the most clicks on there website and therefore more revenue. Another problem with these reviewers trying to release their articles as quick as possible, is that often they barely get a chance to play through the full game before giving there opinion on it to the rest of the world. (Gault, 2018)

video-game-review

I believe that our current system of reviewing games is wrong and needs to change. People are losing faith in big video game outlets such as IGN, Kotaku and Gamespot to give an honest review when a new game is released. They are obviously only concerned about their bottom dollar and will do whatever it takes to keep getting paid off, and pump out the earliest reviews possible, with little regard to how accurately it represents the full game that they are reviewing. I believe the only way to fix the way things are is to have less people reading corporate reviews, and to have more smaller websites that don’t care about the games release date, and will only release the review when its ready.

References

Gault, M. (2018). Video Game Reviews Are Broken – Defiant – Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/defiant/video-game-reviews-are-broken-af05335f9b57

Muddle, t. (2017). The Problem with Video Game Reviews – Mode B – Medium. Retrieved from https://medium.com/mode-b/the-problem-with-video-game-reviews-838933f94224

 

Social media – the pro’s and con’s

The lecture this week mainly covered how to meet contacts in the industry and generate a fan base through the use of social media. I have used social media to promote my artwork before and I believe it is a great way to get yourself and your art out there, but I also think that caution should be used in the way you represent yourself online, as once something is on the internet it usually lasts forever and if you do something regrettable online it can very easily come back to haunt you some day.  In this blog I want to examine the pro’s and con’s of managing a social media presence.

instagram

As I mentioned earlier, I have experience using social media to promote my art online. A couple of years ago I created an Instagram account called Sketchy_Sama, from this account I posted and shared my personal drawings and artwork, and managed to gain over two thousand followers within a few months. However, after becoming inactive on the account for a while I noticed a sizeable decline in follower numbers. This is likely due to the lack of engagement I had with my followers over those few months, as I was reminded in the lecture that fans like to engage with a real person, not a voiceless robot. I can say from my personal experiences that this is true as I am generally a lot more invested in creators who bother to engage with their audience.

12552493_714014382032306_975654031_n
One of my sketches

 

In the short time that I was active on Instagram I received multiple requests from people asking if I could draw them something in exchange for money. So I can definitely see how putting yourself out there on social media can greatly boost your chances of selling your art, and getting noticed by potential employers. A paper written by the Sheffield Hallam University titled Using social media to enhance your employability even states:

“Used effectively for activities such as research and self-promotion, social media can dramatically enhance your employability. However, if used carelessly, social media can significantly damage your chances in the job market.”(“Using social media to enhance your employability”, 2014)

The paper also brings up another good point, as being careless with what you post on social media can significantly damage your career and future job prospects. A good recent example of this happened to the directer of both Guardians of the Galaxy movies, James Gunn, as tweets he posted over a decade ago came back to haunt him, resulting in Disney firing him from all future Marvel projects. Some of the tweets he made included, “The best thing about being raped is when you’re done being raped and it’s like, ‘whew this feels good not being raped!” and “I like when little boys touch me in my silly place,”. These tweets were obviously inappropriate, yet they were mostly unknown to the public until they were recently discovered. Upon hearing about the tweets Disney instantly dismissed James Gunn with no chance of him returning to work on future projects. James Gunn has since provided a formal apology, stating that he has changed and grown a lot in the years since those tweets, and that they no longer reflect the person he is today. (Duncan, 2018)

james-gunn-guardians-of-the-galaxy-vol-3-comicbookcom-1124204-1280x0.jpeg
James Gunn, former director of guardians

This shows that there are both pro’s and con’s when it comes to managing your social media presence. Social media has the power to grow and promote your brand and your work, but if its not well managed and you don’t present yourself in a good light, it has the ability to destroy your career. So great care should be taken as new creatives embark on their own journeys establishing themselves on social media.

References

Duncan, A. (2018). Why was James Gunn fired from Guardians Of The Galaxy? | Metro News. Retrieved from https://metro.co.uk/2018/07/31/james-gunn-fired-guardians-galaxy-7780681

Using social media to enhance your employability. (2014). Retrieved from https://students.shu.ac.uk/lits/it/documents/pdf/SocialMediaEmployability.pdf

 

Diversity Vs. Competence

In this weeks lecture we were informed about the topic of inclusive design in the creative industries. This is a topic I have thought on before and so I already have a few of my own opinions on the mater, that I will discuss at length in this blog post. Although I do agree that diversifying a creative team can increase the chances of the end product being a success, I do not believe that we should be hiring people purely based on what they look like or where they come from. Instead, talent and the ability to produce fine work should always be considered first and foremost when hiring somebody for any kind of job.

diversity_tetiana_savaryn_sstock.jpg

I have had a think about the future of the creative industries, and some possible negative outcomes for companies that are putting to much of an emphasis on diversifying in their hiring process. One of these negative outcomes would be that some talented creators could be turned down for job interviews in favour of someone less qualified in the future, all because companies will feel obligated to match some kind of diversity quota in order to avoid offending anyone. I have personally been turned down for jobs before because I either didn’t have the experience or because there was someone more qualified than me applying for the same job. This obviously wasn’t surprising and as much as I wanted the job I could understand fully why the company would choose to hire someone more qualified. Just imagine finally getting an interview for that dream job that you had worked years trying to secure, only to be turned down because the company was looking to diversify and you did not meet the requirements.

“I remember a journalist colleague in a position to know telling me that his newspaper was constantly hiring under-qualified minorities for reporting slots, and depending on editors to clean up their mistakes. It wasn’t that minorities were inherently less capable of doing competent journalism; it was that those in charge of hiring were so eager to get minorities into positions that they hired and promoted on the basis of ethnicity, not experience and skill.” (Dreher, 2012) 

This is a quote from Rod Dreher, who is a senior editor at The American Conservative. In an article about the disadvantages of hiring people for the sake of diversity, over hiring employees that are more competent and suited to the job. I believe this quote and this article perfectly sum up my feelings about hiring purely based on a candidates diversity, as it states that it wasn’t as if minorities were inherently less capable at doing a job; it was that those who were in charge of hiring were so eager to diversify that they ended up hiring inexperienced and overall less capable staff.

animators-to-watch.jpg

Diversity in the work place is a complicated issue, however I do not believe that employee competence and quality of work should be sacrificed in favour of a more diverse work force. In my opinion, the best person for the job should be hired every time, regardless of their gender, race or sexuality. I believe my opinion may be the less popular one, as there were far more articles supporting diversity hiring online, compared to articles against it. However, people are becoming more aware of this trend of hiring for diversity’s sake as the years go on. I just hope that when I go to get a job in the animation industry in a few years time, that I will be judged fairly based on what I can do, not whether I belong to group of minorities or not.

 

References

Dreher, R. (2012). Diversity Vs. Competence. Retrieved from https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/diversity-competence/

CIU110- Creative Media Essay “The Influence of Adventure Time”

By Harry Coleman

Introduction

Adventure Time is one of the most influential cartoons in recent years, it has not only captivated its target younger audience, but has also managed to garner an impressive adult following. The show has also won several Emmy’s and other awards over the years, and will no doubt influence many future cartoons in the years to come. Adventure Time at its simplest is a story about two best friends going on absurd adventures together, saving princesses and fighting evil, but in reality its so much more complex. The show relies heavily on the use of fantasy elements such as swords, monsters and princesses in a fantasy setting, and often includes many tropes consistent with the genres of Fairy tales and High fantasy. However, it also often subverts expectations, as many of the characters are twists on generic fantasy archetypes. The fantasy element is still prevalent and the show’s love for adventure is present in most of its episodes. Although Adventure Time is a strongly fantasy based cartoon, it is not afraid to inject some reality, and bring consequences to the seemingly innocent fantasy setting that the characters inhabit. Because of this, rather amusing things portrayed on screen are often revealed to have deeper, more serious implications. All of these things add up to give the show weight and substance. Which is probably why Adventure Time is so universally popular, because its world and its central characters have a surprising amount of depth, with most of the characters being relate-able to most people on some level, the core characters are also all developed well throughout the shows many seasons.

Body

Adventure Time as a show contains many happy contradictions: it is silly but profound; it’s mature, but also kind of innocent. When asked to describe the universe he created Pendleton Ward stated, “It’s candyland on the surface and dark underneath, and that’s why it’s compelling, I think.”(Kleber, 2018). Adventure Time’s narrative can be initially seen as very episodic and non-linear, similar to shows like the Simpsons and South Park (Hartley, 2018). However, after enough episodes it becomes evident that the plot is actually fairly intricate and the overall story told throughout the series is actually a coming of age story for the main protagonists Finn and Jake (Kleber, 2018). Many animated shows don’t invest enough time on character development. This is not the case with Adventure Time, since over the years fans have got to witness Finn mature into a young man especially in regards to his relationships and his feelings, and Jake becomes a father and is more responsible as a result, however he didn’t lose the fun and goofy essence that made him great as a character to begin with (Mills, 2018). Because of this, the show satisfies both the casual viewer and the devoted fans alike, as each of its short episodes can be watched completely out of order and still feel like its own little satisfying self contained story with a beginning, a conflict, a resolution and a satisfying end. Adventure Time has become a pop culture icon. It may have taken some time to gain traction initially but once it did, it hasn’t stopped. One of the biggest reasons for this has to be the characters on the show. While Finn and Jake are the main protagonists, there story is just one of many told throughout the shows many episodes, and there are lots of interesting side characters who have become equally beloved by the fan-base (Mills, 2018). People could relate to the characters including Princess Bubblegum, Ice King, Lemongrab, Lumpy Space Princess and Marceline to name a few. There are plenty more but nearly every character on the show gained devoted followings such as cosplayers and Tumblrs dedicated to them or even articles just based solely on them (Mills, 2018). Adventure Time’s land of Ooo in which the shows characters reside even has a rich and interesting backstory, as it was actually the aftermath of a nuclear war that wiped out civilisation but unleashed magic back into the world (Kleber, 2018). This story is mostly told without the plot needing to explain what happened, the audience instead gets an idea of the backstory through hints presented on screen (Hartley, 2018). Adventure time has cemented its loyal adult audience through these longer-term narrative constructs, and world building.

It can be seen that Adventure Time takes place in a fantasy setting, and gets many of its inspirations from the Fantasy genre. Andrew Rayment wrote a book about what defines the genre of fantasy, he explains that any text which has elements that would usually be considered outside the bounds of ‘normal’ experience, in other words, any text with fantastic elements could fall under the category of ‘fantasy’ (Rayment, 2014). Adventure Time fits this description fairly well and is similar to classic fairy tales such as Hercules and Beauty and the Beast. However it pushes the boundaries of what defines fantasy and often parodies the genre as a whole, as it tackles many of the genres tropes in an offbeat way (Rayment, 2014). With many of the characters and situations on the show being unique twists on already established genre rules. For example, Instead of a brave and strong knight, the show features a “twelve year old boy with strong morals”. Instead of a brave steed sidekick, Finn is escorted by his best friend Jake (who happens to be a magic dog). Instead of battling an evil wizard, the Ice King usually comes off as crazy and confused in an almost sympathetic way (“Adventure Time / Analysis – TV Tropes”, 2018). As a result of this Adventure Time can be seen as a sort of “parody” of the fantasy genre as a whole, with an abundance of humour and its simplistic, colourful style (Rugnetta, 2018). By doing this the show has the ability to subvert the audiences expectations, and consistently delivers new and refreshing experiences that keeps them interested and wanting more (“Adventure Time / Analysis – TV Tropes”, 2018).

For kids Adventure Time is most likely appealing as it probably looks a lot like what they imagine the world to be like in there heads, as its filled with exciting sights, magical objects and impossibly terrifying things. For many adults the core appeal of Adventure Time is it’s nostalgia, as watching Adventure Time can feel like remembering parts of your childhood (Rugnetta, 2018). Although Finn can be characterised as a bit of a silly protagonist, he is also quite relate-able as watching him struggle to be taken seriously and facing new and unfamiliar challenges reminds us what growing up was like (Vanderwerff, 2018). This feeling of nostalgia is a powerful mix of good and bad, as it is essentially the feeling of fondly remembering something only to realise its now unattainable (Niemeyer, 2014). In “Nostalgia of the future”, Svetlana Boym writes. “The object of romantic nostalgia must be beyond the present space of our experience, somewhere in the twilight of the past or an island of utopia where time has happily stopped.”(Boym, 2001). Adventure Time evokes this romantic nostalgia perfectly. Well written and likeable characters that have lots of depth is what allows audiences to fully identify and relate with them on a more personal level, making it easier to put oneself in the position of the character onscreen and evoke this feeling of romantic nostalgia for the long past days of childhood (Rugnetta, 2018).

Conclusion

 

While I may be biased by my love of the show, I really believe that Adventure Time is one of the most influential cartoons in recent years, as it has successfully managed to captivate its target younger audiences, as well as establish a large presence in popular culture and garner an impressive adult following. Adventure Time achieved this feat by pushing the boundaries of what defines fantasy, as it often parodies the genre as a whole and tackles many of the genres tropes in an offbeat way, giving the show the ability to subvert the audiences expectations, and consistently deliver new and refreshing experiences to keep them interested and wanting more. Adventure Time also puts great care into the way it tells its narrative as it not only tries to satisfy the casual viewer with each episode serving as a self contained story, but also tries to build overarching story’s in order to develop its characters and world, all of the world building and relate-able characters are more appealing to a more grown up audience. Finally, Nostalgia also plays a big role in the shows success, as the core appeal of Adventure Time to most adults is the nostalgia it evokes, as watching Adventure Time can feel like remembering bittersweet parts of your childhood. Adventure Time ushered in a new era of original programming and animated shows representing more. Shows such as Steven Universe, Regular Show and The Amazing World Of Gumball are all fine examples of this. Adventure Time forever raised the bar for all future cartoons to produce content that isn’t just “random for the sake of being random.” It breathed new life into the genre and started a new age of cartoons.

 

 

References

Adventure Time / Analysis – TV Tropes. (2018). Retrieved from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Analysis/AdventureTime

Boym, S. (2001). The future of nostalgia. New York: Basic Books.

Ewalt, D. (2018). It’s Adventure Time! Pendleton Ward Talks About His Hit Cartoon. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidewalt/2011/11/15/its-adventure-time-pendleton-ward-talks-about-his-hit-cartoon/#56bde3015c69

Hartley, J. (2018). Communication, Cultural and Media Studies: The Key Concepts (3rd ed., p. 154).

Kleber, J. (2018). The Progressive, Grown-Up Appeal of Adventure Time. Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/140225/progressive-grown-up-appeal-adventure-time

Mills, R. (2018). The Impact Of ‘Adventure Time’ Is Immeasurable. Retrieved from https://hiddenremote.com/2016/10/02/the-impact-of-adventure-time-is-immeasurable/

Niemeyer, K. (2014). Media and nostalgia.

Rayment, A. (2014). Fantasy, politics, postmodernity.

Rugnetta, M. (2018). Is Nostalgia the Reason for Adventure Time’s Amazing Awesomeness? | Idea Channel | PBS. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/7MVvkqbXiws

Vanderwerff, T. (2018). Adventure Time has become this era’s finest coming-of-age story. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/culture/2015/11/22/9779088/adventure-time-stakes-review

 

 

CIU110 Assignment 1 – Blog Responses

What is Intertextuality?

I define Intertextuality as the point where two pieces of media overlap. In terms of film, its where movies overlap with previous work, which can be in the form of another film, another art form, a work of literature or even things from the real world such as people, places or events. Since it is near impossible for creators to make art without being influenced by an outside source that inspires them, intertextuality occurs throughout most types of art and not just in films. Therefore, another way to look at intertextuality is the way in which films and other forms of art purposely or accidentally intersect and reference each-other.

A professional definition of intertextuality by John Hartley is, that it is best understood as the textual equivalent of cross-referencing, and that at a semiotic level intertextuality refers to the use of a given sign in other textual contexts (HARTLEY, 2018). Intertextual properties of text can include generic characteristics of the genre, characters and the actors who play them, and pastiche and parody either pay homage to a source material or make fun of it. The movie I have chosen to relate intertextuality to for this blog post is Deadpool, as it makes use of all of these intertextual properties in some form.

Deadpool

zigjxvw4cg3xbabifaet.png
The merc with a mouth

Deadpool is about a Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him horribly disfigured and with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

Deadpool-Easter-Egg-Superhero-Landing
“superhero landing”

The synopsis of Deadpool mentions the titular character’s dark and twisted sense of humour, what it does not mention however is just how self aware the character and the rest of the movie is. Deadpool is absolutely packed with a bunch of in jokes and references. Some refer to and parody generic characteristics of superhero movies as a whole. An example of this can be seen towards the end of the movie in a scene where Deadpool sarcastically commentates one of his foes jumping from a great height and doing a “superhero landing”, which entails Descending quickly, and landing on a knee, a foot, and a fist. This pays homage to many super hero movies and comic books that came before, as it is about the coolest way a superhero can keep themselves from hitting the ground (apparently).

giphy.gif
A gratuitous Stan Lee cameo

Being a Marvel movie of course also meant having Stan Lee, one of the original creators of Marvel comics, do a gratuitous cameo as it has been tradition for him to appear in every Marvel film since X-men in the year 2000. Lee’s cameo is put to great comedic effect as he appears as a DJ in a strip club that Deadpool briefly visits. Deadpool makes many snide and hilarious remarks throughout the film, Some referencing Ryan Reynolds, the actor who plays Deadpool himself, as well as some of his less popular films. An example of this is when he exclaims “don’t make the super suit green, or animated!” just before he gets experimented on. This is a reference to the poorly recieved Green Lantern movie that came out in 2011, in which Reynolds also had a starring role. These are just a few of the many examples of all the intertextuality at play in the Deadpool movie.

Intertextuality can be pretty much universally found in all films and other forms of art, since creators are unavoidably influenced by outside sources and other media they have previously consumed. They can use what they have been inspired by in other media to expand upon previous ideas, or use it to try something new, or even just use it for the purpose of parodying something for comedic effect.

 

References

Deadpool: Easter Eggs, References & X-Men Connections. (2018). Screen Rant. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://screenrant.com/deadpool-easter-eggs-movie/?view=all

HARTLEY, J. (2018). COMMUNICATION, CULTURAL AND MEDIA STUDIES. [S.l.]: ROUTLEDGE.

Intertextuality in Film & TV.mp4. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3vpFGbudpw

Intertextuality in Film: Definition & Examples | Study.com. (2018). Study.com. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://study.com/academy/lesson/intertextuality-in-film-definition-examples.html

 

 

 

Genre and Alien

Today I want to talk about Genre. What it is and how it is used in the context of feature films, and more specifically in one of my all time favourite movies Alien (1979). All films and media are made up of key qualities that come together to form a certain style, which we can then place in a category with other pieces that share a lot of the same qualities, these categories are otherwise known as different Genres. A few examples of different genres in film are; Action, comedy, romance, horror, fantasy, science fiction and so on. All these genres are designed to evoke different reactions and specific emotional responses from the viewer, and by grouping films into genres that have a predictable range of features and expectations audiences are able to quickly determine whether or not a film suits there personal preferences.

alien_blue.jpg

A more professional definition of genre comes from philosopher Steve Neale, as he argues that genres can be understood as “systems of orientations, expectations and conventions that circulate between industry, text and subject” (HARTLEY, 2018). The industry uses these genre expectations established between the producers, the film director and the audience, as a means of creating a more appealing and identifiable product for sale (HARTLEY, 2018). Some negative effects of this can sometimes be seen in Hollywood where it is argued that films forgo incorporating any creativity or new ideas in favour of just following the formulas already established in a specific genre.

The_Alien_reaching_for_Dallas.jpg
Jump Scare!

Some films however can deviate from already established genre tropes and rules and do something new or different. Steve Neal also suggests that “each new genre film tends to extend [its]repertoire, either by adding a new element or by transgressing one of the old ones’ (HARTLEY, 2018). A way that films can deviate from others in a specific genre is to take influence from and combine with a different type of genre altogether. A good example of an influential film that has progressed and reinvented its genre, is one of my all time favourite movies Alien (1979). Ridley Scott’s Alien is primarily Science fiction, but has a tonne of horror/thriller elements mixed in to create a movie that was undoubtedly a lot different from all that had come before in the scifi genre. Most Scifi movies that preceded Alien had noticeably similar tones of lighthearted adventure and campy fun, which can be seen in TV shows and movies from the 60’s and 70’s, such as Flash Gordon, Star Trek and Star Wars. As they are all filled with colourful characters and exciting new worlds to explore. Films of this time often celebrated scientific achievement and a sense of wonder as to what the future holds.

download
Flash Gordon promo art, features noticeably light and campy tone

While being different from most scifi films that came before, Alien still shares common traits. As one of the defining traits of Science Fiction is that there is technology that doesn’t exist in the time period the story is written in. The technology and setting always play into a “what if?” scenario. Alien for example revolves around the scenario of “what if several people were isolated in a claustrophobic space station, with an unknown and dangerous alien threat”. Just from this premise alone it can be seen that Alien has taken its science fiction setting and filled it with themes and elements typical to films in the horror genre. Themes such as fear, suspense, surprise and mystery; these themes are conveyed with the overall dark tone of the narrative, as well as the dark, isolated and claustrophobic setting. Alien also utilises traditional horror film techniques such as; jump scares, dark Lighting, scary/ unsettling imagery and the killer being a seemingly unstoppable creature from another world.

In conclusion genre can be defined as categories of films that share many similarities. These genres are designed to evoke different reactions and specific emotional responses from the viewer, while also allowing them to quickly determine whether or not a film suits there personal preferences, due to having a predictable range of features and expectations. The industry uses genre to create an appealing and identifiable product for sale, which can lead to films being very cliche. There are however movies like Alien that can slightly re-invent how a genre is defined, by trying something new and incorporating elements from other genres to deliver a refreshing new experience for audiences to enjoy, progressive movies like this go on to inspire future films in the genre to try a different direction.

References

HARTLEY, J. (2018). COMMUNICATION, CULTURAL AND MEDIA STUDIES. [S.l.]: ROUTLEDGE.

Science Fiction – TV Tropes. (2018). TV Tropes. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ScienceFiction

What is Genre? – Definition & Types – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. (2018). Study.com. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-genre-definition-types-quiz.html

 

 

 

The Narrative of Dark Souls

Hey everybody, today I would like to discuss narrative in the Dark Souls video game franchise, how it uses unconventional and non-linear storytelling to convey the games overall story and message. But first I would like to define what narrative even means.

hbqiS6U4Jtvc2pVzpFj4ck.jpg
Praise the sun!

I always thought of the narrative as just the story, or an account of events and how the overall plot unfolds from the beginning to the end. Another more professional definition of narrative comes from John Hartley and his book on media studies, where he describes the narrative as being a continuous story that has two facets. The first being the plot, which tends to move between an opening stability that gets disrupted, triggering the action that leads towards facing adversity, in order to restore stability or create a new equilibrium (HARTLEY, 2018). The second facet of narrative comes from the presentation and a choice in the way that the overall story is told and realised. This facet, and the different storytelling devices used are often the main focus of textual analysis (HARTLEY, 2018).

Narrative is different from the story in various media such as TV shows, movies or video-games. Although story is a part of the overall narrative and provides a series of events arranged in some logical progression or plot, narrative is a broad term and can be seen as the way in which a story is presented to the viewer, and refers to the overall format and style of the piece, through which the story develops. In this blog post I will be discussing the narrative of the Dark Souls video-game franchise.

Dark Souls

Chosen_undead_artwork.jpg
concept art for Dark Souls

Dark souls overall narrative is about cycles, about how kingdoms rise and fall, ages come and go, and even time can end and restart as the flame fades and is renewed. It is the players choice to either extend the cycle unnaturally, by sacrificing and linking themselves with the first flame to continue the age of fire for a time, or they can let the flame die naturally and let a new cycle begin. That being said, it is also a game with a very minimalistic plot. As a lot of the events that took place in the game world and their significance are often just implied and left for the player to interpret on their own, rather than being fully shown and explained. The storytelling can be considered non-linear, as none of the information given to the player is in a specific chronological order, and usually comes down to player choice a lot of the time. Most of the story is given to the player through dialogue from NPC’s and boss fights, item descriptions, and the world design itself. The narrative of Dark Souls can therefore be considered as an emergent narrative as its story is not authored by just the games creators, or by any single person really. The story instead emerges from the interaction between the players and the games systems.

It is clear that narrative is a distinct concept from the story and plot of a piece, and although narrative encompasses the plot as part of telling a story, it is still a broad term and can be seen as the way in which a story is presented to the viewer, and refers to the overall format and style of the piece, through which the story develops.

 

References

HARTLEY, J. (2018). COMMUNICATION, CULTURAL AND MEDIA STUDIES. [S.l.]: ROUTLEDGE.

Narrative Design in Dark Souls. (2018). Gamasutra.com. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TomBattey/20140425/216262/Narrative_Design_in_Dark_Souls.php

The Problem with Emergent Stories in Video Games. (2018). PopMatters. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://www.popmatters.com/173580-the-problem-with-emergent-stories-in-video-games-2495740343.html

 

 

Understanding media- Thor Ragnarok

Hey everyone. Today I want to talk about the aesthetic of the movie Thor Ragnarok, and how it greatly distanced itself from the previous movies of the Thor franchise and changed for the better. But in order to do that, I first have to define aesthetic and explain what that word actually means in the context of a blockbuster movie franchise.

thor-ragnarok-end-credits-avengers-infinity-war-870508.jpg
Thor Ragnarok Promo

In my opinion the word aesthetic can be used to describe the way something, like a piece of media for example, looks and feels to its audience and how it can be universally seen as being beautiful in a way, Aesthetic can be used in ways by the creator of an art piece or a piece of media to evoke specific emotions and get the audience to feel a certain way about the subject they are viewing.

Philosophers defined the term aesthetic as referring to insight, beauty and expressiveness in creativity. The term can be used as a way to distinguish actual art from simple crafts, the phrase provided a way to describe many very different forms of media as still being a form of art and by extension, an expression of the artists feelings (HARTLEY, 2018).

Asgardians.jpg
Jack Kirby era Thor

Thor Ragnarok had a very different aesthetic when compared to the previous two entries in the franchise. Where the first two gave off the feel of generic superhero flicks, about a good guy with godlike powers dealing with the forces of evil in order to protect the earth and the ones they love from certain peril. Ragnarok ditched this premise entirely and was completely cosmic in scale, and was set on many different alien planets that were previously unseen by the audience. The aesthetics of these worlds and their inhabitants mirrored a lot of the early artwork that was done by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the creators of Marvel comics and the character of Thor himself. By doing this the film evoked a sense of wonder and fun from the audience, along with a hint of nostalgia for longtime marvel fans. This change in setting really improved the overall aesthetic of this film and made it into something very unique and filled with excitement, especially when compared to a lot of recent superhero movies that just seem to be falling into a rut and follow the same conventions. Thor Ragnarok also makes use of a lot of humour and improvisation to good effect in certain scenes, as the film director Taika Waititi is a huge fan of comedy, which can be seen in his previous works and his comedy/horror film What We Do in the Shadows. The added layer of humour really worked to increase the fun aesthetic of the movie, as well as make the characters seem more human and relate-able (even though most of the main characters are either aliens or gods).

humpreys-What-We-Do-in-the-Shadows.jpg
Taika Waititi’s previous film, What We Do in the Shadows

So in conclusion, aesthetics can be described as the way a piece of media looks and feels to its audience. If a film can succeed in creating an aesthetic that is perceived as being appealing to its audience overall, then it can very well influence how an audience thinks and feels, it can also be a tool used in film to help convey a message. Having an understanding of aesthetics is important when trying to create entertainment, and Thor: Ragnarok succeeded in creating something stimulating that was able to reach a broader audience.

 

References

HARTLEY, J. (2018). COMMUNICATION, CULTURAL AND MEDIA STUDIES. [S.l.]: ROUTLEDGE.

Jacobs, V. (2018). The Basics of Film AestheticsPlot and Theme. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://plotandtheme.com/2015/04/24/the-basics-of-film-aesthetics/

Thor: Ragnarok Is An ‘Unabashed Love Letter’ to Jack Kirby. (2018). CBR. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://www.cbr.com/taika-waititi-thor-ragnarok-jack-kirby/

 

 

 

What is Intertextuality?

I define Intertextuality as the point where two pieces of media overlap. In terms of film, its where movies overlap with previous work, which can be in the form of another film, another art form, a work of literature or even things from the real world such as people, places or events. Since it is near impossible for creators to make art without being influenced by an outside source that inspires them, intertextuality occurs throughout most types of art and not just in films. Therefore, another way to look at intertextuality is the way in which films and other forms of art purposely or accidentally intersect and reference each-other.

A professional definition of intertextuality by John Hartley is, that it is best understood as the textual equivalent of cross-referencing, and that at a semiotic level intertextuality refers to the use of a given sign in other textual contexts (HARTLEY, 2018). Intertextual properties of text can include generic characteristics of the genre, characters and the actors who play them, and pastiche and parody either pay homage to a source material or make fun of it. The movie I have chosen to relate intertextuality to for this blog post is Deadpool, as it makes use of all of these intertextual properties in some form.

Deadpool

zigjxvw4cg3xbabifaet.png
The merc with a mouth

Deadpool is about a Special Forces operative turned mercenary Wade Wilson, who after being subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him horribly disfigured and with accelerated healing powers, adopts the alter ego Deadpool. Armed with new abilities and a dark, twisted sense of humor, Deadpool hunts down the man who nearly destroyed his life.

Deadpool-Easter-Egg-Superhero-Landing
“superhero landing”

The synopsis of Deadpool mentions the titular character’s dark and twisted sense of humour, what it does not mention however is just how self aware the character and the rest of the movie is. Deadpool is absolutely packed with a bunch of in jokes and references. Some refer to and parody generic characteristics of superhero movies as a whole. An example of this can be seen towards the end of the movie in a scene where Deadpool sarcastically commentates one of his foes jumping from a great height and doing a “superhero landing”, which entails Descending quickly, and landing on a knee, a foot, and a fist. This pays homage to many super hero movies and comic books that came before, as it is about the coolest way a superhero can keep themselves from hitting the ground (apparently).

giphy.gif
A gratuitous Stan Lee cameo

Being a Marvel movie of course also meant having Stan Lee, one of the original creators of Marvel comics, do a gratuitous cameo as it has been tradition for him to appear in every Marvel film since X-men in the year 2000. Lee’s cameo is put to great comedic effect as he appears as a DJ in a strip club that Deadpool briefly visits. Deadpool makes many snide and hilarious remarks throughout the film, Some referencing Ryan Reynolds, the actor who plays Deadpool himself, as well as some of his less popular films. An example of this is when he exclaims “don’t make the super suit green, or animated!” just before he gets experimented on. This is a reference to the poorly recieved Green Lantern movie that came out in 2011, in which Reynolds also had a starring role. These are just a few of the many examples of all the intertextuality at play in the Deadpool movie.

Intertextuality can be pretty much universally found in all films and other forms of art, since creators are unavoidably influenced by outside sources and other media they have previously consumed. They can use what they have been inspired by in other media to expand upon previous ideas, or use it to try something new, or even just use it for the purpose of parodying something for comedic effect.

 

References

Deadpool: Easter Eggs, References & X-Men Connections. (2018). Screen Rant. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://screenrant.com/deadpool-easter-eggs-movie/?view=all

HARTLEY, J. (2018). COMMUNICATION, CULTURAL AND MEDIA STUDIES. [S.l.]: ROUTLEDGE.

Intertextuality in Film & TV.mp4. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3vpFGbudpw

Intertextuality in Film: Definition & Examples | Study.com. (2018). Study.com. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://study.com/academy/lesson/intertextuality-in-film-definition-examples.html

 

 

Genre and Alien

Today I want to talk about Genre. What it is and how it is used in the context of feature films, and more specifically in one of my all time favourite movies Alien (1979). All films and media are made up of key qualities that come together to form a certain style, which we can then place in a category with other pieces that share a lot of the same qualities, these categories are otherwise known as different Genres. A few examples of different genres in film are; Action, comedy, romance, horror, fantasy, science fiction and so on. All these genres are designed to evoke different reactions and specific emotional responses from the viewer, and by grouping films into genres that have a predictable range of features and expectations audiences are able to quickly determine whether or not a film suits there personal preferences.

alien_blue.jpg

A more professional definition of genre comes from philosopher Steve Neale, as he argues that genres can be understood as “systems of orientations, expectations and conventions that circulate between industry, text and subject” (HARTLEY, 2018). The industry uses these genre expectations established between the producers, the film director and the audience, as a means of creating a more appealing and identifiable product for sale (HARTLEY, 2018). Some negative effects of this can sometimes be seen in Hollywood where it is argued that films forgo incorporating any creativity or new ideas in favour of just following the formulas already established in a specific genre.

The_Alien_reaching_for_Dallas.jpg
Jump Scare!

Some films however can deviate from already established genre tropes and rules and do something new or different. Steve Neal also suggests that “each new genre film tends to extend [its]repertoire, either by adding a new element or by transgressing one of the old ones’ (HARTLEY, 2018). A way that films can deviate from others in a specific genre is to take influence from and combine with a different type of genre altogether. A good example of an influential film that has progressed and reinvented its genre, is one of my all time favourite movies Alien (1979). Ridley Scott’s Alien is primarily Science fiction, but has a tonne of horror/thriller elements mixed in to create a movie that was undoubtedly a lot different from all that had come before in the scifi genre. Most Scifi movies that preceded Alien had noticeably similar tones of lighthearted adventure and campy fun, which can be seen in TV shows and movies from the 60’s and 70’s, such as Flash Gordon, Star Trek and Star Wars. As they are all filled with colourful characters and exciting new worlds to explore. Films of this time often celebrated scientific achievement and a sense of wonder as to what the future holds.

download
Flash Gordon promo art, features noticeably light and campy tone

While being different from most scifi films that came before, Alien still shares common traits. As one of the defining traits of Science Fiction is that there is technology that doesn’t exist in the time period the story is written in. The technology and setting always play into a “what if?” scenario. Alien for example revolves around the scenario of “what if several people were isolated in a claustrophobic space station, with an unknown and dangerous alien threat”. Just from this premise alone it can be seen that Alien has taken its science fiction setting and filled it with themes and elements typical to films in the horror genre. Themes such as fear, suspense, surprise and mystery; these themes are conveyed with the overall dark tone of the narrative, as well as the dark, isolated and claustrophobic setting. Alien also utilises traditional horror film techniques such as; jump scares, dark Lighting, scary/ unsettling imagery and the killer being a seemingly unstoppable creature from another world.

In conclusion genre can be defined as categories of films that share many similarities. These genres are designed to evoke different reactions and specific emotional responses from the viewer, while also allowing them to quickly determine whether or not a film suits there personal preferences, due to having a predictable range of features and expectations. The industry uses genre to create an appealing and identifiable product for sale, which can lead to films being very cliche. There are however movies like Alien that can slightly re-invent how a genre is defined, by trying something new and incorporating elements from other genres to deliver a refreshing new experience for audiences to enjoy, progressive movies like this go on to inspire future films in the genre to try a different direction.

References

HARTLEY, J. (2018). COMMUNICATION, CULTURAL AND MEDIA STUDIES. [S.l.]: ROUTLEDGE.

Science Fiction – TV Tropes. (2018). TV Tropes. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ScienceFiction

What is Genre? – Definition & Types – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. (2018). Study.com. Retrieved 16 March 2018, from https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-genre-definition-types-quiz.html