Making certain actions difficult in a game is a popular mechanic in many games in order to discourage the player from doing them, without actually preventing the player. Mirror’s Edge uses this technique with the gun mechanics in the game. In Mirror’s Edge these mechanics are very difficult to use, for example there is no reload button or a display showing how many bullets a player has left, also while it is possible to zoom in with some weapons the default button is an unusual one and the button most players associate with zoom in fact drops the weapon. Making a particular type of gameplay difficult by limiting it functionality like this is effective, however carries a risk of ruining a game. It can very easily seem as if the developers got lazy and didn’t finish a particular mechanic but left it in the game anyway instead of either fixing it or removing it. In Mirror’s Edge’s case I think that they succeeded in discouraging players from trying to rely on firearms, but it does feel that very little effort was put into it to begin with.
I think Dr. Laurel has a point. Actually she has several, the first being educational games suck. Why? I can tell you why. If it’s schoolwork like math why in god’s name would any child, want to play a game about math. For example Math Blaster. I loved it until I found out that hey, instead of simulating math, I could simulate beating the crap out some terrorist, or driving Formula One cars on a pro level. Fast forward to the present. and I can take these games sized down for phone usage, and play them to try to ignore the bum on the subway asking for money. You see what i’m getting at here. most people of my generation as children were tricked by parents to play games like Math Blaster to make math fun. Then they always have that one friend that’s like check this game out, it’s non educational and you can beat up cartoon characters, dude I’m skipping mandatory math blaster and coming to your house. There’s always going to be something that technology provides that humans don’t and that is the ability to provide something for the human with only the need to be plugged in. As she mentions it’s addictive. Were all addicted to lights and noises. Casinos have proven that. That’s all i have to say.
Thesis: Both Loss of Grasp and Underbelly uses the postmodernist idea to give the viewer, through parts of narrative dialogue and interactive visual display, a unique experience through visual literature allowing them to expand their knowledge of each interactive text.
I. Introduction to Postmodernism
A. What is Postmodernism
B. Limits of postmodern theory in electronic literature
II. Examples of postmodern elements in Loss of Grasp
A. The narrator explores the terrain of certainty as anxiety between the ‘grasp’ and its ‘loss’
B. It explores the relationship between the human and the computer
C. Visual effect punctuate the grasp is lost throughout the work.
III. Examples of postmodern elements in Underbelly
A. It is an objective way to explain the sculptor and women miner’s reality
B. The hyperreality relationship with the sculptor and the ghost helps to understand the sculptor’s choices.
C. Underbelly does not make a decision it just express an experience
IV. Conclusions from comparison
A. Authors allow the reader to experience their work through sound and images.
B. Both works use fragmented modernism so the reader can understand their personal realities.
The Postmodern Theory
Of Loss of Grasp and Underbelly
The poststructuralist approach that will be researched is postmodernism and it will be compared with Loss of Grasp, by Serge Bouchardon and Vincent Volckaert, and Underbelly, by Christine Wilks. “Loss of Grasp is a digital creation about the notions of grasp and control. Six scenes feature a character that is losing grasp. At the same time, this play on grasp and loss of grasp mirrors the reader’s experience of interactive digital work” (anthology.elmcip.net). “Underbelly is a playable media fiction about a woman sculptor, carving on the site of a former colliery in the north of England, now landscaped into a country park. As she carves, she is disturbed by a medley of voices and the player/reader plunges into the underworld of repressed fears and desire about the artist’s sexuality, potential maternity and worldly ambitions. It is mashed up with the disregarded histories of the 19th century women who once worked underground mining coal. Underbelly incorporates a rich and often grotesque mix of imagery, spoken word, video, animation and text within a traversable map-like narrative terrain” (anthology.elmcip.net). Both Loss of Grasp and Underbelly uses the postmodernist idea to give the viewer, through parts of narrative dialogue and interactive visual display, a unique experience through visual literature allowing them to expand their knowledge of each interactive text.
Postmodernism is a general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not only mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.(pbs.org)
When describing electronic literature as postmodern, while correct, it doesn’t sufficiently describe the visual and participation these works allow to the reader. If we look at the above definition of Postmodernism it can be assumed that a true experience can be understood by someone who has experienced it. An individual who understands the experience can make their own decision about its conclusion, there is no right or wrong. In today’s electronic literature and/or pop culture through artistic expression anyone can see and hear how the experience feels and the viewers able to have a more in-dept relationship to the experience. Postmodernism limits that ability to understand something that is never experienced. Michael McKinney’s essay on The Limits of Postmodern Theory (from a gaming perspective), and also be used to explain the limits of postmodernism in today’s electronic literature. He states, “the new forms of interactive narratives allow a certain amount of negotiated meaning creation through play and ludic (gaming) experimentation, yet within a predefined set of rules. Videogames can, therefore, be viewed as part of a wider movement prevalent in new media, slowly wearing down the old top-down monocratic systems of meaning production, yet from a familiar position that is easy to engage with analyzed the limits of postmodern theory.” Although, Mr. McKinney is talking about video games it can also be used to define the limits of postmodernism toward electronic literature.
In the first work, Loss of Grasp, the narrator explores the terrain of certainty as anxiety between the ‘grasp’ and its ‘loss.’ The work is divided into six fragmented modernism segments. Each segment has broken stanzas and sentences that open up the space of the grasp after its hold on things has slipped away, focusing the reader’s attention on the anxious desire experienced in loss. In each segment, the narrator has a concrete experience and the outcomes are all fallible. “My entire life, I believe I had infinite prospects before me. The whole universe belongs to me, I thought.” The visual effects of the dots are at first, controlled by the reader later the reader loose control of the dots at the same time the narrator realizes he has lost the grasp of his destiny. Pushing the limits of postmodern understand by allowing the reader to feel the loss of control by loosing control of the dots in the first segment. In the second segment things continue to be out of his control when meeting his soon to be wife. The reader experiences the writers ill-comfort feelings when presented with a series of statements and question, small talk, which slips into distorted, absurd, homonymous phrases. The third section of the segment is a poem that is both a love poem and a breakup note. In postmodern literature, it can be both rather than either love poem or breakup note. The Loss of Grasp continues with the fourth section where the narrator reads an essay from his son titled ‘I don’t have a hero’ which express a bit of resentment toward his father. The fifth section allows the viewer/reader to distort the narrator with the movement of the mouse. The hyperreality of the fifth segment shows a simulation of how the narrator feels about himself, “My own image seems to escape me.” The sixth segment begins with the narrator stating “Time to take control again.” While the narrator makes this declaration the visual part of the sequence shows that loss of grasp continues. (Heckman, David, Culture Machine).
Underbelly has a sculptor working on a monument dedicated to the women who worked in the mines. The postmodern theory is observed when the listener hears what the sculptor hears, the female ghost of the mines expressing their desires and statements made from women miners collected in 1842, which are in contrast with the sculptor’s views. All of the voices help the sculptor thinks about her life choices while recording why and how she is working on the sculpture. In Fleshly Data: E-lit and the Post-Human Illya Szilak interview with Christine Wilks, Wilks explains why she chose to make Underbelly in sound and image form, “I felt interactivity had much more expressive potential than mere digital page-turning and I wanted to exploit that. Also, when creating with digital media on the web, I felt released from the straightjacket of linear storytelling…. I wanted to try a more cinematic approach and see if it made the experience more immersive for the player/reader” (huffingtonpost.com). Underbelly does not decide who is right or wrong she just express the experience of the women to the listener. With the use of the mouse, the listener can hear the voice of the sculptor, ghost and women miners as they explain their reality. Hearing and visually interacting with them lets the listener recognize that their reality is not only mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.
Both Underbelly and Loss of Grasp are works of fragmented modernism letting the reader feel the emotion of the main characters in each work. They both do this by allowing the reader to see the anxiety in Loss of Grasp when he realized that there is a possibility that the whole universe does not belong to him. Also in Underbelly when she thinks she is pregnant. Both through explicit visual imagery we see and experience that reality is not only mirrored in human understanding of it but rather is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. Both Loss of Grasp and Underbelly uses the postmodernist idea to give the viewer, through parts of narrative dialogue and interactive visual display, a unique experience through visual literature allowing them to expand their knowledge of each interactive text.