Pages: [1]

VideoGames as a spatial medium

VideoGames as a spatial medium
« on: March 18, 2012, 10:44:04 am »

This video give s good overview on why videogames are so much about spatial movement:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSBn77_h_6Q&feature=uploademail

I think we have brought up this before, but never really discussed in a topic like this. Most of us all make games about moving in a space, only game that I can come up with now is Dinner Date. Actually, revecent high profile not games (Dear Esther, Journey?) are all about moving in space, that is there 100% focus. So question is if this is something to embrace or if it is something that we should try and move away from.

For my part I think that I am more on the side of embracing it, at least judging from the output I have been involved in so far Smiley The problem then becomes how to make this spatial movement deeper (in terms of theme) and how to do it in more interesting ways. But at the same time, I do not feel really contend with this, it feels like there should be some other way to go, but then I feel one is moving toward what Chris Crawford is doing, something I am unsure will ever be possible.
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2012, 11:16:45 am »

Our biggest inspiration has always been architecture. Especially gothic and baroque architecture. But not only because they are spaces, also because they are filled with narrative elements.

I think we often forget how magical it is to have living characters moving in a threedimensional virtual environment. We're so used to it that we don't see that it is exactly there that the medium shines. We often think of it as just a skin for a system underneath. But that is so wrong. Or at least, it can be so much more. Realtime 3D is an amazing technology!

And I think spatiality is vital to Dinner Date as well, even if it is mostly static. I really remember my experience with that game as being in a room, in an apartment.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 10:19:48 am by Michaël Samyn »
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2012, 01:48:12 pm »

Hi Thomas et al .,
Thanks for the link  --


[ X ]

However perhaps focusing on spatial movement { & violence } is somewhat a case of not seeing the wood for the trees? Whether it's movement / shooting / or the paucity of gestures in general these are fundamentally just different ways of encapsulating the mechanics of collision or "hit detection". I hazard that it's something that came to the fore: first as the most basic of interactions that can be computationally performed in 3D space by drawing a line to a point, then checking for whether it intersects. Perhaps somebody more versed in game history can come up with the origins of "hit detection" but I my rough guess that those techniques came from WW2 missile guidance systems.

Quite remarkable then that the last 30 years of video game culture has come from this small grain. Re -worked again & again from "Spacewar" through to "Night Driver" and then contemporary FPS games. You see collision in game space creates the rules, form and the "direction" of play much like how sports have fields with demarcations and timed periods to establish the structure for interesting things to happen. Put up 2 -walls and you have a race game, 2 -more and you have a maze game. Now extrude that into 3D space and do some hit -scanning and you essentially have the core mechanics of MW3.

As game developers much mileage comes from factoring in movement speed x collision. This seems to be enough as we can express tone or emotion running the gamut from "Desert Bus" to "Burnout Paradise" which are the same basic construct but running at different speeds. However I feel this can only work to increase or reduce the players perception of "intensity" as it borrows from ideas of cinematic montage that have already been internalised by the audience. That game space -time maps somehow onto real -time cause & effect with a kind of integrity, or enough so that we can "extrapolate" consequences of our actions.



[ Y ]

How to make spatial movement more interesting? Well the first thing is to delve into the phenomenology { or perception } of motion. Namely: time _ that wonderful stuff which begets memory, which begets forgetting. Possibly the most notable thing about "Dear Esther" is how it affords players the spacing in between events through the mechanic of traversal; which in turn becomes the cadence of the narrative as it's assimilated. Replete with gaps _ and stops. Once again though it's Eisenstein's theory of "montage" or Bruce Lee's "broken rhythm" at work. Both share the same essential idea that you can manipulate people's apprehension or interpretation of motion to great effect. And that should be exciting because it considers perception + cognition to be as important as the event!

However modern game design, for lack of understanding forgoes the cognitive side of the equation for mapping emotion through an intensity graph as the thread to which a player's experience should hew. It's an odd decision though and one which is worth questioning as one of the inherent pleasures is in the exploration. From a narrative perspective it might be plausible but when you explore it with any depth the concept of "intensity" itself is narrow and one -dimensional much like the choices in games which seek to have strong resolution on those terms. There's literally a fork in the road ahead with one direction being an enormous rollercoaster of epic proportions and the other somewhat leading to the house with the mailbox.

Spatial movement in most games is used to corral players into progression. What this neglects however is a complete sense of being, because you are always seeking out the other { re: checkpoint or narrative continuity }. It's a bloody good way to keep bums on seats I suppose as proven from Greek antiquity onwards. If we're to get a bit meta as well I think the movement of knowledge and awareness of the various techniques and devices to portray it in game are also interesting to think about.

Go visit some gameplay or engine programmers in a studio it's most likely that they have a volume of Mark De Loura's "Game Programming Gems" sitting beside their monitor. And if you get an early version of this book from around '00 you will see the guts of contemporary gaming laid bare. Splatiomancy of a sort -- early attempts at 3D camera frustrums, convex hull collisions and more. It's a bit sad to me that we don't have the same "computer science" approach to making game experiences that the pioneers did, or even just the time & intent to think things through from 1st principles.



[ Z ]

The genius & tragedy of Chris Crawford is that like Cassandra he was able to see all of this in the early 90s and it's what he tried so hard to impart to his fellow developers with the now infamous "GDC Dragon Speech". That there was no future for just iterating games on simple mechanics like "hit detection" and that other systems needed to be invented to assimilate other mental processes into the form. "Storytron" was the attempt to open up n -space and a sense of internal dialogue and I think what we might be able to take from that is the idea of the spatial not only in a cartesian fashion { after Descartes } but also from cognition and psychology. To consider the "being" in space -time and things about human nature which might resonate in a non -literal sense.

It's what people like Resnais, Robbe-Grillet and of course Godard were trying to achieve with film and literature last century where those forms already had an established structure or expectations. Disruption of the flow with a view to mindful -ness or breaking the vase to see the flowers. Personally, I've starting to look more at dance and how it's pretty much cinema but without the elements of manipulation and what we might learn from such focused feeling and constraints. For a more direct and hands -on experience I recommend you check out Alex Bruce's "Hazard / Anti -Chamber" as it's a brilliant take on the mental conditioning of FPS space and how to present motion as integrated w/ philosophy.



-- CH

Twitter: chuan_l
« Last Edit: March 18, 2012, 02:25:30 pm by chuan_l »
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2012, 10:48:14 pm »

That was an interesting video. I've been drawn to video games because of a fascination with moving through 3d environments (and 2d too), but I never really realized its link to violence (which makes sense now)
I still think spatial interaction has a lot of possibility. I agree with Michaël, that there's something really wonderful about moving around in virtual environment. Actually, I'm working on a game that focuses primarily on the player's relationship with their environment. I'm using architecture as a staring point, and exploring how it could behave in a interactive space. I want to make a game where people are more conscious of the world they're inhabiting (like noticing corners and shadows and sunbeams) I don't know if that would make for a deeper experience, though...
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2012, 10:16:40 am »

I just watched the video. I think explaining the ubiquity of violence as a result of the spatial simulation in videogames makes a lot of sense. If all games are about moving forward, then the only interaction that can happen is with something that stops that movement, an obstacle which you then subsequently remove. So in a way, it's not spatiality itself that is the problem but the insistence on linearity.

I do find the explanation that violence is ubiquitous because it is the easiest to implement a bit weak, or at least not strong enough to actually forgive creators for making this choice. People who make videogames tend to be very intelligent, which makes them capable of invention. And such people also tend to really love games, which makes them sensitive to challenges. As a result, these are not the sorts of people who would choose the easy problem to solve. These are people who take pride in solving difficult problems.

I recognize the fear of the speaker that anything other than statistics and violence would be extremely complicated to implement. It is an engineer's point of view, or a nerd's point of view. They tend to think in terms of facts, objects, and systems that imitate real world systems. But if you give an artist access to this medium, they will approach it from a completely different angle. And what they might come up with is not necessarily complicated. Art is very often about reduction, about stylization, etc. Art is about making choices, about focus. The lack of willingness of engineers to let go of their medium and allow artists to solve these problems, testifies of something other than engineers simply choosing the easiest path.
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2012, 10:18:44 am »

I think it's really dumb to think "we're stuck with spatiality, let's add some meaning to moving". That's completely backwards reasoning! The creative process is never straightforward of course, but the general direction should always be from content to expression, not vice versa.
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2012, 11:15:05 am »

Quote
I think it's really dumb to think "we're stuck with spatiality, let's add some meaning to moving".
I agree, but yet is that not what Dear Ester, Journey and The Path are all about Wink But then, the dumb thing is (and I guess what you mean) is to just think of this in a strict rigid sense.

Still, cannot shake the feel that there might some kind of insight to gain by focusing on the spatial interaction. I have never thought of it so directly before, but it has come more as a consequence. But perhaps it just meaning giving your self tunnel vision.

As can be seen, I am not sure what to think Smiley

Quote
But if you give an artist access to this medium, they will approach it from a completely different angle. And what they might come up with is not necessarily complicated. Art is very often about reduction, about stylization, etc. Art is about making choices, about focus.
A thinking that I have grown more affected to is to simply acknowledge that out underlying systems are simplistic. Your goal with design is then to make sure that players interact in such away that they never notice this but can believe there is a rich world behind it all. I mean painters do not calculate scattered light or whatnot, they just do tricks to make you think there is a lot going on.
That also takes us away from the Crawfordian tasks of sort of formalizing human interaction on the atomic level (which is what storytron is). Better is to take Crawfords very early designs for interaction (that he implemented in the 80s) and to dress it up with art.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 11:22:21 am by Thomas »
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2012, 12:59:15 pm »

There's a lot of value in the merging the linearity of a story with the linearity of spatial navigation. But even Dear Esther uses this in a playful way: it offers a meandering path, not a straight one and the order and timing is always different. Journey is a lot more rigid. But its story is very general. The Path teases with linear spatial navigation but really wants you to get lost instead. The narrative elements of The Path are more to be found in the  details and less so in the overall structure.

But you are right: all three are examples of using game conventions for the purpose of expression. And while this may explain their relative success, I must admit that I find this unsatisfying. Maybe videogames are doomed to this compromise but I'm not ready to accept that yet.

If only because one really does not need to look at art games to find this pattern. Wolfenstein, Tomb Raider, Bioshock and Uncharted also couple spatial progress with narrative development.


I completely agree with your assessment of artistic tricks vs atomic formulation. Our canvas is the player's imagination. It is more important that we know how people work, than how the world works. Even Crawford said art should be about people, not objects. But then he turned people into objects and forgot that his audience consisted of people too. We need to focus on the "willing" aspect of "willing suspension of disbelief".
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2012, 06:52:43 pm »

I am not sold on this idea that violence is the easiest thing to do in a natively spacial system.  I'm not even sure I'm sold on the idea that video games systems are inherently spacial, though it is a useful way to look at them, especially as they tend to be configured today.  I would argue that temporality is just as native to the current structures as spaciality.  Despite a few examples he gives in the video, temporality is a far less explored and developed structure (not counting "As Slow As Possible" of course  Wink ).  Why is this?  I think maybe we are confusing the native structure of us with the native structure of the computer's systems.  Humans are primarily visual, so we have used this technology to simulate visual systems and environments.  The computer, however, is natively 1-dimensional - just a string of binary that we are able to bend into a 3-dimensional system just because it works so damn much faster than our brains.  I suppose you could argue that the advent of multi-threading starts to add a second dimension, but I'm not sure that's significant (yet).  I'm not sure where I'm headed with that idea, except perhaps to say that I fully expect that once creative people are empowered enough that they will not feel restricted these current systems and interesting new systems will result.
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #9 on: March 20, 2012, 08:28:41 am »

The computer, however, is natively 1-dimensional

Isn't that like saying oil-on-canvas is natively minerals, squirrel hairs and flax fibers?

Shouldn't we make a distinction between technology and medium?
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2012, 05:27:24 pm »

Too reductionist?  What really is the medium then?  I guess I see the canvas as the defining factor for painting more than the paint, so maybe it's the output devices that are really in control of the form of video games -  and of course the flat monitor is pretty much a souped up canvas.  I dunno, I feel like there is something significant about the nature of the underlying system itself, but I can't really put my finger on it.  Maybe it's just a passing delusion brought on by too much absinthe and Indian food  Tongue
Logged
Re: VideoGames as a spatial medium
« Reply #11 on: March 20, 2012, 06:48:36 pm »

I'm not sure one can draw a distinction between the tech and the medium. One depends on the other. The difference between canvas/paint and interactive computer art is that painting reached maturity both technologically and technique-wise nearly 200 years ago. Interactive computer art is still evolving with the computer and the end isn't in sight. The tech is being pushed further and further. I'm not sure "games" will ever reach the same sort of equilibrium.
Logged

Irony is for cowards.
Pages: [1]
Jump to: