Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Work in Progress: Nitsche's Video Game Spaces

I haven't done a Work in Progress post in a while.  Since they're basically copying and pasting notes I already have, they're pretty easy to do. So I figured I'd do one.  This particular one is from chapter 9 of Michael Nitsche's Video Game Spaces, "Effects of Narrative Filters." It's fairly brief, in comparison to a lot of these note summaries. And it mentions Sands of Time, God of War, and American McGee's Alice, if that entices you.

Nitsche follows the subject of focalization, the way a game directs attention to a particular element as means of advancing the narrative, looking at Alice, God of War, and Max Payne in particular. He defines the focalization as a term coined by Mieke Bal, which in turn elaborates on the distinction between seeing and telling that Genette makes. In practice, this means defining focalization as the relationship between what is seen and who is seeing. // In Sands of Time, The Prince is so firmly the narrator that what is seen can be classified as an event that doesn’t happen if it fails to confirm to his vision. Max Payne does something similar, balancing his narrating voice with an external camera focalizer, where we experience the environment through his eyes, without literally looking through them. We see the same in Alice, where she battles the inner manifestation of her guilt, and in God of War, where Kratos fights his personalized encounter with his family. And in all cases, we have powerful attractors that function through a minimalized environment. He briefly discusses how that works in DOOM 3. Essentially, his point is that presentation is closely bound with interaction to produce narration.

There’s not a lot to say here; basically, it’s a combination of what’s been said on presentation and camera and what’s been said on narrative. The examples are fine enough, though the focus on internal mindscapes is kind of interesting. Entering a person’s mind seems a common game trope; it also happened in a Skyrim mission, in Dragon’s Age: Origins (which was more a manifestation of general sins and fears), and in Phoenix Wright: Attorney at Law. That’s a diverse bunch of things. The notion of attractors in minimalized backgrounds strikes me as something that can be applied to a lot of situations. That’s what I like most about Nitsche’s book; he’s offering a lot of new perspectives ripe for analysis. Still, there’s a focus on the connection between games and dreams here that I think points to an issue just under the surface that I can’t quite get at. There’s more going on here than just a bunch of similar examples. What do dreams as portrayed in games say about the nature of games? Or the nature of the exploration of dreams? Focalization seems a bit too broad to be applied just by itself, though; narration + camera is a bit too wide a target.

No comments: