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Repurposed Entertainment

posted in College, Events, Media on March 28th, 2007

Ever so often, a group of teachers at my college organize a day-long
event that’s supposed to be all about gaining theoretical knowledge. Few people are looking forward to these days and quite a few students actually “opt-out” of even attending the sessions.

A week ago, we had another one of these events, this one, geared towards Serious Gaming and all the things related to creating serious games.

I’ll be honest about this, up front, I didn’t feel like the event would provide much interesting stuff, if any at all. We had one of these “Theory Events” back in the first quarter of this year and the general consensus was that it was a waste of time.

People didn’t dislike the event based on the idea of the event, but rather on the actual execution of the event. When I attend a class, hearing, discussion panel or anything, I am there for a reason, I want to expand my knowledge. Other than talking about a few Dutch Blogs and trying to explain the concept of Dot Walking to a couple hundred students, the speaker didn’t do much at all.

Most of us had never heard of Dot Walking and normally, this would have been enough to spark an interesting discussion, however, the whole idea didn’t offer anything related to our project at all. For my part, a flash mob would have carried more educational value but alas.

So, with the bad taste from the first even still clinging to the back of my mouth, I went to attend the second Theory Event of my sophomore year:

The day was split into three (or four) parts. First, we’d get to hear a keynote from Annet Dekker, who works at Montevideo, an organization that specializes in creating time based arts.

The whole speech was more or less a showcase of her own work, mixed with work that her company created. Ever so often, a short video clip would be used to make it easier for us to visualize her creations. While she did offer some valid points, I found it a tad annoying that she limited her presentation by only selecting stuff she created.

It is natural for people to be proud of what they achieved, however, if your whole keynote only relates to your own products, you’re lacking perspective and that makes you appear a lot more biased than you probably are.

After a short break, we were treated to a movie called eXistenZ. Released in the same year as The Matrix, the movie tells a similar but not identical story.

In both movies, people use ports in their bodies to link themselves to a system that operates solely on a metaphysical level, but that’s where the similarities end.

eXistenZ is about a game, a game that is so real that players can’t tell if they are still playing it or not. Playing might actually not be the right word in this case, it’s more of an experience than pure entertainment.

The participants don’t just passively enjoy the offerings of the system, they actually are part of the (mostly linear) story.

The movie was great and I certainly enjoyed watching it, mostly because the ideas portrayed within the movie become less and less of a probability and more and more of a reality.

The ideas also kinda remind me of “Counter-Struck“, a parody of the well known game Counter-Strike. The director of the movie, a fellow crossmedia engineering student, tells the story of a player who immerses himself that much in the game, that the game starts happening around the player.

After another short break, Daniƫl van Gils, chief-creative-guy at KamerBlauwLicht showcased a few great Machinima movies (some even unknown to me) and tried to riddle us with the following questions:

Is gaming art?” and “can games be used to create art“.

This was probably the most memorable part of the whole day, most certainly because I’m working on my own movie and have a strong opinion about this:

Van Gils appears to be a strong supporter of Machinima and he seems to be fascinated by it. He went as far as creating a mod for the Doom III engine that would allow him to create a live performance that was inspired by the music playing around him.

This really shows how committed this person really is towards Machinima and I have to applaud him for embracing such a new form of art in such an extensive way. Especially since most people don’t even know what Machinima really is and what it can be used for.

Tens of thousands of years ago, cave paintings were the first form of art that humans created. Today, if you’re able to acquire a piece with a real cave painting on it, you probably would be holding not only a piece of history, but also a piece of significant monetary value in your hands.

What I’m trying to say is that, over the millenia, art has evolved. From the cave paintings to the Mona Lisa, from the first sketches of Aristoteles to the Wrapped Reichstag, art has been evolving and still is.

A few decades ago, graffitti wasn’t considered art, but today it is. Sure, it hasn’t yet reached the same level of acceptance oil paintings have, but that is mostly because oil paintings have been around much longer.

A few years from now, Machinima will have gained a much larger following. In recent months, the barrier for entering this genre has been lowered quite a bit. Editing tools, for both video and audio, have become a lot more accessible and many different kinds are available, catering to novice users as well as professionals alike.

More and more companies are embracing Machinima as valid forms of marketing. Not just because it offers a low-cost alternative to expensive CG graphics, but also because it has more of an amateuristic factor to it, something that can often work in favor of the director.

All in all, this event was a lot more interesting than the first one and provided me with the questions I was looking for. The sessions made me think, made me discuss and made me talk about the ideas that were presented to us and that’s all I want.

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