Posts Tagged Video Games

My Writing Quest: Part 1 of a Billion

I will start providing more information concerning my developing writing career. The HORROR.

I recently began a much-stronger push to develop my writing. I guess you could call it my 2010 Resolution, although I resolved to do it pretty much last summer when I started this blog. I got a few fun gigs – I write this one, I write for Destructoid’s Community Blogs, and I’ve been pegged to write for a brand new video game site, Damnlag. (It’s still being coded, so it’s not quite ready yet.) I am also doing reviews for Wildsound Filmmaking, an atrociously designed website that, at the very least, allows me to watch some classic horror films (and pays). Some rock (The Fly), some do not (The Black Scorpion). I’m putting together a portfolio and even made some business cards.

Also, screenplays are in the works. I suppose I should tell you what I have: technically, I have three full-length features “done”. Two I had to do in college (and I probably won’t touch them ever again), and one I recently did for Coverage Ink (more on that in a second). I also have written two full-length fan-scripts based on some video game properties. Why? Two reasons: one, I wanted to test my abilities at adaptations, and even though they won’t sell, it still pushes my skillset as a writer. Two, I wanted to see if it was really that hard and complex to scribe a decent screenplay from a game. (Conclusion: It is, but it helps being a fan of the game as well as understanding the nuances of storytelling. Also, taking the time to think about it.) That’s 5 nearly-120 pages scripts. Huh.

In addition, I wrote six episodes of an animated sitcom. Now, animated shows aren’t usually written so much as the ideas are tossed around until they’re defined enough for storyboarding. But some sources seem to suggest that the teleplay for cartoons are becoming more and more necessary. Given that this show is more attuned to Futurama (I’m actually pitching it as Johnny Bravo meets Futurama), it’s more about character-humor than the other types, although I do use a number of physical, timing, word, and cutaway gags. I wanna commission some concept art soon.

(An aside: one of my biggest revelations was how much I adore the animated/video game-y stories, with huge, creative worlds, wacky characters, and practically limitless borders. Once I got away from ideas of people doing stuff that people do, it really improved my drive and makes writing what it should always be: fun. I’d love to be able to write something with the heart of a Pixar film, but if only make it to the level of a high-valued Dreamworks film, hell, I’d take it. THIS site really solidified my drive.)

As for Coverage Ink: in the summer, I entered a contest called the CSOpen, a three-week adventure where you had to write 5-page scenes based on premises that were provided for you. The trick was, each round had a shortened time-frame. I made it to the final round, but failed to put together a decent submission with the required 3 hours. Yet, my second submission was really good, and I ended up pushing it out into a full length. Coverage Ink, the sponsor of the CSOpen, offered coverage service at a discount, so I went ahead and submitted it, JUST to see where it and I stack against the competition. I have a bit of faith in how it turned out, but I have to expect a PASS just to maintain some realism. I’ll know the results this weekend. I’m nervous as hell.

We will see. I’ll be heading out to LA for a week, getting a taste of the town and perhaps a bit of networking? We’ll see what happens.

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Citizen Kane is to Pac-Man as Rosebud is to Wakka Wakka Wakka

Kane, after dying on Quick Man's stage for the 90th time.

Kane, after dying on Quick Man's stage for the 90th time.

The term “Citizen Kane of gaming” needs to be buried, along with “totes,” “staycation,” and “sparkling vampires”.

Not because it’s an exaggerated phrase, the Godwin equivalent of any Internet argument invoking Hitler or the Holocaust. That, I don’t mind. The problem is that it’s trite. What’s a famous movie that critics like? Citizen Kane. What do I like doing in my spare time? Gaming. How can I combine the two to create a delicious sandwich of my favorite pastime and art/intellectualism? Say X is the video game’s Citizen Kane.

Beyond sounding like a hipster’s failed attempt at MadLibs, the main issue is that it shows a somewhat obvious misunderstanding of a movie like Citizen Kane and, perhaps, movies in general. It was on the top of AFI’s greatest movie list, but is by no means the most important movie to define cinema. Birth of a Nation defined the epic. Metropolis might be the first sci-fi/dystopian vision. Safety Last could be the first high-concept comedy.

Seeking the “Citizen Kane” of games is a silly endeavor because you should be seeking not one but several video games that redefined the genre in some manner. There are plenty games that do this, even if the use the same basic mechanics or style.

Below is an example. First is the final scene of Citizen Kane, which uses deep focus as a “larger than life” visual motif.

Now, below is a video from Jean Renoir’s Rules of the Game, a French film that– dare I say it– also used deep focus! In fact, this movie is pretty damn famous (outside the US) and, I believe, uses deep focus much more effectively, especially in relation to the overly-complex plot involving emotional portrayals and backstabbing and cheating and so-on (by the way– it’s not as melodramatic as it sounds; it’s actually pretty funny.)

I know that this makes me appear like some sort of hipster-film snob, but I’m not. Hell, I enjoyed Transformers!… when the robots were fighting. But I think the pursuit of a game that, as Destructoid’s Burch quotes, “[utilizes] a medium’s strength” is really nothing that you need to “find” so much as you have to explain in relation to the genre of video games as a whole. Citizen Kane’s reputation is not unlike many other films that have been released; On the Waterfront is a good example, and so is Chinatown. Nothing particular is unique about deep focus and good editing; hell, this is what films should have. And, as being a complex character study? I can’t count the number of good films focusing on one slightly-disturbed character.

As far as I’m concerned, Doom is a good contender is for such a title, in that it took the FPS and utilized it in a format that, at the time, was novel and seemed perfect for it. I personally wouldn’t argue it, but it’s a viable possibility. So is Goldeneye, Mario 64, Final Fantasy, and so on.

It’s telling that the Citizen Kane of gaming is being used; no one says “the Macbeth of gaming” or “the Mona Lisa of gaming” or “the The Death of a Salesman of gaming,” all of which are genre defining and game-changing in their own ways. Let’s be honest here– it’s not about genre-defining, since we have plenty of games that do– but it’s about games as art, as the game we’re “going to show to Ebert to convince him videogames are a legitimate art form”. There’s a pretty huge difference in games that utilize the medium to its most potent effect, and showing the world games can be art. The latter requires several games to do this, from the indie to the blockbuster to the foreign. It requires an avenue through which games can be studied and explored, returned to and debates, thought upon and analyzed. And while I truly admire sites like Destructoid trying to approach this issue, along with the active fanbase, I think that overall approach is flawed. I don’t want “a” game to showcase gaming as an artform. I want “lots” of games. I want the people, the fans, the game designers, and so on to explain their thinking and their flaws, the ins and outs, the interplay of gamer/game, the controversy (real controversy, not Sambo-watermelon crap), and nuances of gaming as a whole.

A critic would already “roll his eyes” at the debate of a single game that’s definitive of this.

The argument of Portal, Braid, Shadow of the Colossus, and Half-Life are starts. Hell, add in Pong, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Mario 64, Sonic 3/Sonic and Kunckles, Mortal Kombat and Metal Gear Solid. Even the defunct Dreamcast. Show how they started an idea, began a movement, instigated a social and cultural response, supported or subjugated a genre, and so on.

Stop looking for the Rosebud, people, and start looking at everything around it.

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BLACK MAN RAGE – “WHAT DA PROBLEM IS?” #2

It's not chilled.

It's not chilled.

Somebody call Al Sharpton up in this bitch.

As you may or may not have heard, 5th Cell’s hotly-anticipated (but mediocre-reviewed) game Scribblenauts apparently is purely and unabashedly racist. For you see, if you type in the word “sambo,” a watermelon pops up on the screen. I assume it’s not seedless and warm, and probably lacks vodka.

Of course, 5th Cell, who’s name I assume designates where they believe all black people should belong, denies that such a feature was intentional. Sambo, in Ecuadorian, refers to some fruit that only resembles a watermelon.

Oh, LIKELY story, 5th Cell. I assume they all saw this (absolutely hilarious) cartoon by Tex Avery:

… while masked and/or shaving their heads and thought this would be okay.

Well, I assure you, this is NOT.

The ‘sambo-leads-to-watermelon-and-perhaps-KoolAid’ picture, however, isn’t really the problem that black people have with it. As a black man, one who speaks for ALL OF THEM, I assure you that most of my brethren (kats? dogs? my ni**as? They keep changing out collective name) care little, if at all about this controversy, almost as much as they care about the controversy surrounding the African zombies in Resident Evil 5. (Wait– zombie-causing virus hits an African tribe, and the zombies they produce happen to be black?! Did they port Birth of a Nation to the Wii!? Can my grandmother play this?!)

Of course they don’t care. Black people only care about two video games:

1) Madden

2) The next Madden

No, we’re up in arms (you know, the ones that Obama took away, but didn’t take away, which inevitably led to a severe shortage of bullets) because sambo seems to be the only potentially racial gimmick in the game!

Now, sure, it you look at the 200-plus comments in that Destructoid link, a load of people didn’t seem to realize that sambo could be perceived as racist. Imagine! Kids today, running around as they stuff Big Macs and candy and Big-Macs-stuffed-with-candy into their mouths, playing a DS in one hand and a PSP in the other, blindly asking that sambo janitor to clean up their mess. Because, gosh darnit, they just didn’t know! We perverted their innocence, and thanks to 5th Cell, President Sambo is now a JOKE THEY WILL USE (presumably shouting this out at a town hall meeting, or Congressional session, or some other ill-advised political locale, along with socialist, communist, birth certificate, and other “way too big” words for them to be using).

“But,” they will say as they smear their greased-soaked digits on their keyboards when they finally realize how shitty Crysis really was, “if sambo is a word I can use now, safely and without harm, then what about the deliciously antagonizing vocabulary slang such as kike, wop, nip, spic, and so on? If I type in cracker, and a literal cracker pops up on screen, should I get angry and riot and/or flood my own city?

I say to you: YES. We blacks and whites have be represented (wut wut!) but my fellow minorities have been shafted their chance at video game recognition. So stand up, Scribblenauts in hand, and throw it away (after, of course, getting frustrated at its insane difficulty level) and instead, insert the race card! You know, that multi-player game of choice we all play when we get (or don’t get) what we want! It’s all or nothing, 5th Cell! You best think about that when you make the inevitable sequel, or we’ll try twice as hard to sit idly not caring as dollar bills rain down when you type “Kosher” or your character self-destructs when you type “Arab” or “Indian,” because, well, they just look so much alike!

Now, if you excuse me, I’m eagerly awaiting Madden 2011.

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