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Representation of atmosphere

Representation of atmosphere
« on: September 06, 2011, 11:52:38 am »

If painting and photography enabled the representation of still scenes, and film enabled the representation of moving scenes accompanied by sound, then maybe the medium of video-games enables the representation of atmosphere.

At least this is a very important goal for me. Many of my design decisions (whether they apply to graphics, animation, sound, interaction or autonomous processes) are guided by how well they contribute to the evocation of a certain atmosphere. It almost feels like making a portrait of a situation, evoking how it feels to be in a certain place, at a certain time, in certain conditions.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2011, 01:31:01 pm »

I think that paintings, photo, movies and even music is representation of atmosphere.
Atmosphere is the most important goal in my "Game Session" concept. You can describe gameplay, you can describe plot, but you cannot describe atmosphere.
Atmosphere is creating by both gameplay, plot and many more components.
In my concept "atmosphere" is a whole feeling of game.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2011, 03:53:54 pm »

As Nuprahtor said, most mediums have a sense of atmosphere. I would have said it's perhaps more that it enables a sense of being, since nothing really happens in them without your input. Though that isn't always the case such as in the path, given no input the girls wander around and interact with stuff. It seems obvious when I write it, but since computers are interactive, surely what they enable is a representation of doing?

I'd agree that when you're not relying on gameplay mechanics to hold your game up atmosphere becomes very important (it could be important even if you are relying on that), but it isn't really unique to the medium. I guess the atmosphere is more explicitly spelt out for the user in videogames though.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #3 on: September 07, 2011, 09:13:50 am »

I don't think interactivity justifies claiming that video-games represent "doing". Because, so far, the palette has been extremely limited in terms of which actions you can represent through computer interactivity -especially when it comes to subtlety (our medium's great weakness). And I don't see how they can be expanded much. The central component is the processing capacity of the computer. And this allows for a fusion between player and work of art as is impossible in any other medium. A fusion, not a one-directional stream of "doing".

Also, saying that games are about doing feels a bit like saying that paintings are about seeing. It doesn't cover the entire package. What matters is the effect of the seeing or the doing on the spectator, not the mere act.

Yes, other media do atmosphere too, of course. But I believe video-games can do it much better. There have been paintings that tried to evoke motion, and silent films that wanted to give an impression of sound. But it feels to me that for many things that artists tried to do in the past, we have a much more adequate medium now. We can actually do all those things (make a statue speak, allow the spectator to walk into the landscape, touch things and re-arrange them) that other media could only approximate by suggestion.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2011, 01:13:40 pm »

I don't have much to contribute except that I totally agree with Michaël. At the least, games can immerse and sustain atmosphere more deeply than any other medium, at least for myself.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2011, 02:24:05 pm »

Actually, lately i've been feeling that maybe the doing part is not THAT important for this medium. Of course it plays a central role to interact with the creation, but I feel that allot of things regarding "making meaningful choices" and to be able to interact with allot of stuff is somewhat overrated. So I would rather see that its about being rather then doing.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #6 on: September 07, 2011, 04:28:59 pm »

I can see what you mean when you say that doing isn't the whole picture (it's sometimes even a very small part) but I don't think that video games are necessarily more atmospheric that other mediums. I'd say that it's easier to find videogames atmospheric and that there's less room for misinterpretation of atmosphere since the author gives more about the piece away, but that other mediums can be just as atmospheric, though they require a bit more work on the player's part. This probably does make videogames the "best" at creating/representing atmosphere, but I don't think it really means it enables it. (Though perhaps I'm just being too pedantic with words here.)

Actually, lately i've been feeling that maybe the doing part is not THAT important for this medium. Of course it plays a central role to interact with the creation, but I feel that allot of things regarding "making meaningful choices" and to be able to interact with allot of stuff is somewhat overrated. So I would rather see that its about being rather then doing.
I don't know. There are games with minimal interaction that I like, but when there is lots of interaction, no matter how trivial, I tend to enjoy the interactivity. For example at the start of half-life 2 I found running around picking stuff up and throwing it as well as "talking" to people quite enjoyable, even though it had no effect on anything. And I can't really think of many games with "meaningful" choices, since generally there's a pretty rigid story to tell which means choices can't be big enough to cause deviation from that. I'm not sure it really matters if there are choices or interactivity, since it can work both ways.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2011, 10:54:21 am »

Video-games can create a situation.
Other media can only suggest it.

Other media can evoke an atmosphere.
Video-games can portray it.

From a spectator's perspective, the difference may be subtle or non-existent, since all that matters is the emotional effect -not how it was produced. But for a creator, there's a huge difference: in video-games, there is no aspect of a situation that cannot be directly represented. We may use stylization for technical or aesthetic reasons. But we do not need to suggest anything through a foreign medium (with the exception of touch, taste and smell -which would mean I'm talking about experiencing a situation through vision and hearing).

Painting and photography obviously lack sound and motion.
Architecture lacks motion -and often sound appropriate to the depicted elements too.
Film lacks spacial awareness, spacial navigation and control over view and time -all essential for experiencing atmosphere.
Video-games offer a sense of scale and the control of the spectator over their own gaze (properties in common with architecture), and to some extent even over time (as usually you are not fully obliged to follow the script). The latter allowing the spectator to take exactly as much time they personally require to take in the atmosphere (which is something video-games have in common with painting).
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #8 on: September 08, 2011, 06:37:55 pm »

Video-games can create a situation.
Other media can only suggest it.

I agree with this idea. It's definitely worth making a distinction between video games and other mediums here since the ability to experience a situation in a manner and way of your choosing makes a huge difference.

I'm not sure about the rest of it though. As far as I understand (I'm just trying to put it in a way that makes more sense to me), your point is along the lines of that with videogames:

Everything is defined so there exists an atmosphere that is in some way immuatable, it exists in the creation more so than the user.

But every aspect that is defined could, on their own, be part of some other medium which is merely evoking the atmosphere. Thus their conflation merely creates a stronger evokation of the atmosphere (assuming it's done right) rather than giving it some sense of existance.

Unless perhaps for existance it is both sufficient and necessary to have all the aspects that are present in videogames, but of which only some are present in other media.
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #9 on: September 09, 2011, 08:26:20 am »

I can't really think about this medium without thinking about the user. More so than any other medium I've used, this one forces me to create things around this presence of the spectator.

But I do have a feeling that this medium, and especially realtime 3D, allows us to really create things whereas in the past we could only fake them. In a practical sense, this is very real, it's a weakness, even: all objects in the fictional world need to be made. You can't simply capture things that you see, nor can you hope to suggest a volume through a rough brush stroke. In a very concrete sense: everything you see in the work was actually created. Only when this work is done, can we start playing with the spectator's imagination -a lot later than any other medium.

The atmosphere as such may not exist without the spectator (since it's emotional, and depends on memory, etc), but video-game technology gives us a lot more opportunity to shape this existence (not just in terms of raw assets, but also because we can program our work to respond to the presence of the player, so the experience becomes a process, shared by spectator and work).

It's not so much the fact that the video-games medium includes all aspects of all other media that makes the difference, but the fact that they can be used together. Clearly one can make a video-game that doesn't use some of these properties (a 2D game, a text-only game, a game without sound, etc) and it will still be different, as long as you don't reduce it to exact same properties as another medium (which is technically also possible: you can make a movie with a game engine).
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Re: Representation of atmosphere
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2011, 01:58:54 pm »

I'd definitely agree with this. You have to be much more aware of the user and what they may do, because they can (and probably will) do anything and everything that's allowed (and then some). Which means that everything has to be there, even that weird corner no one was ever supposed to look at, and all of this has to be consciously done by whoever creates it. I guess the fact that everything's there and we have most of the senses that we'd usually use to examine things in the real world (I'm assuming people generally don't go around smelling and tasting random objects) makes it close enough to real that we can believe it, even if only for a short while.
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