Montageman: A dude who writes

September 22, 2006

War games

Filed under: Academic, videogames, war — montageman @ 3:21 am

I need to read this book.

Click on the arcade link and you’re able to play a series of flash games that are based on war, more precisely, the current war on terror. Playing these games recalls the event of 9/11. Not explicitly, of course, you’re not asked to subvert the planes from crashing in to the world trade center, but in one of the games involves the gamer choosing between “proper” detainee treatment or torture – in a nod to Mortal Kombat, the only way to end this game is to perform a “fatality” of sorts by shooting the prisioner. This can only happen once the prisoner has been properly neglected, beaten, or overfed. Torture has been in the news lately (through the President’s desire to use terror on prisoners and the mainstream media’s lack of outrage against this).

This game not only puts a humorous spin on terror – it also exposes the frightening extremes that this type of humor can lead to. Sure, it’s funny to overfeed the silly lookin’ aye-rab, but too many donuts and his stomach begins to bloat. Soon enough, a gun shows up in corner for you to put this pathetic prisoner out of his misery. How dare he not take his donuts like a man – shoot his ass!

Of course, I’m sitting in my basement force feeding digital carbohydrates down a virtual terrorist’s gullet – a virtual terrorist who ressurects whenever I feel the urge to torture – or just play around. Kill one and another pops up in his place.

September 12, 2006

Hermeneutic Code and Contextuality

Filed under: barthes — montageman @ 3:33 am

Last night on A&E an one hour special called Meth in the City aired. As the title so lucidly states, the hour was spent on enlightening the general population about meth and how it is no longer a primarily rural drug. Atlanta, in fact, is one of the central distribution hubs for meth. Ok, fine, meth is a problem in the city, but why? Throughout the program, former addict after former addict claims to have had a perfect life prior to meth, but after meth, his life turns to shambles. What caused the initial usage? Why meth? A girl claimed to have taken her 1st hit at 12 – how does a 12 year old find meth in the first place? Documentaries like the Meth in the City fail to contextualize the problem. Rather, it uses a rhetorical stance similar to the fear mongering the Bush administration uses to justify wire-tapping and the elimination of civil liberties. Instead of a historical examination of the problem, the concentration is on decontextualized events that distance the viewer rather than forcing the viewer to come to any sort of realization about the problem.

Working through Barthes’ 5 codes of S/Z, Elsaesser and Buckland define hermeneutic code as an enigma that the text establishes, holds in suspense, and the eventually discloses (153). Documentaries like Meth define the enigma but do not disclose enough information to bring the viewer closure.

September 7, 2006

We Stand as One and Folksonomy

Filed under: Academic, folksonomy, schlock — montageman @ 3:52 am

I came across this wonderful music video today:

Oddly enough, it was tagged as “schlock” on del.icio.us

I’ve recently taken an interest in schlock as a cultural phenomenon. More specifically, my decision to use Uwe Boll’s films as the focal point of my masters essay necessitates a genre beyond horror. Boll’s films are not good by conventional standards, in fact, they are poor – poorly reviewed, each of his last 3 films are in iMDB’s Bottom 100 list, and poorly made. Why then is there a need to examine his work?

The last 3 films were all based on videogames, not based the same way Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was, rather Boll has attempt to form a contextual basis for the games. For example, his treatment of House of the Dead is that of a prequel. The final shot has the hero & his damsel flying back into the city under ominous circumstances. This is where the game picks up.

Boll relies on horror/B-movie genre conventions and (unintentionally) becomes schlocky. Much in the same way We Stand as One is schlocky. There is a level of seriousness and an inability to be self-referential inherent in both of these examples. Schlock, then, becomes a tag that refers to subject matter of what is being watched. Maybe by referring to Boll’s films as schlock, it is giving too much credit to Boll and not enough to previous schlock films. However, the playfulness that is present in schlock films (i.e. Evil Dead 1 and 2) does lend itself well to videogames but the opposite is not necessarily true.

September 5, 2006

House of the Dead (2003)

Filed under: Film, schlock, Uweboll, videogames — montageman @ 4:00 am

When a gamer steps up to an arcade game and grabs the joystick or the light phazer, a feeling of empowerment, of agency, of control washes over him. Viewing a film, however, requires passivity – a surrendering of agnecy in lieu of narrative progression without participation. The gamer’s ability to work within a game world is essential to the experience of gaming – obviously, a game would not be a game without some semblence of playfulness. It is precisely this element of playfulness that Uwe Boll drains from House of the Dead (2003).

Part of what makes other videogame movies more effective is their insistence on not showing the gameplay in the context of the film. Boll’s insistence on using cut scenes from each of the three House of the Dead games works less as a homage and more as a mode of castration. What Boll fails to realize is that he is dealing with a new kind of viewer – a viewer whose agency shouldn’t be taken away and then used to taunt him, rather, the genre of game films should make no qualms about the removal of agency.

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