Critical Analysis – What the hell am I doing?

It’s now been almost two weeks since the first Critical Analysis session, and I don’t feel like I’ve done enough work. Scratch that, I definitely needed to do more with my time. But I had no idea what to do, how to begin, and was in general nervous that I will somehow pick something not related to the course and I will be ridiculed for it (I know that’s a stupid thing to be worried about, but old habits die hard). It also didn’t help that I managed to myself in a corner by the end of the first meeting.

The task was to gather some words based on our interests, then talk to other people, and refine each others word-clusters. That’s all fine and good, but it’s also very vague, so I tried using the seminar text as a starting point. This is what I ended up with:

2016_10_03-first-attempt

I tried too hard to relate back to the keywords in the seminar text, and in the end I wrote down words that, while definitely linked to some of my interests, I didn’t feel like I could write or do research about. As much as I like the idea of ARGs, they are more of a side interest for me. So, desperately trying to get some words that I can build upon, I tried refining:

2016_10_03-second-attempt

Once again, this didn’t feel good. These are all just tangentially related to me, and I used too many buzzword-esque phrasing in the process, which made the whole thing feel ingenuine. (Looking back now, I actually have some references to things that ended up in my current iteration of this “flowchart”, but at the time I wasn’t happy with it).

I got stuck here. With no idea of what to do, I started procrastinating, putting off the task repeatedly. “I’ll do it once I have some idea of what to do” I told myself. Of course, that moment never came, because I wasn’t focusing on it. This is where seeing the research boards and having a talk with Chris last Thursday helped. I started from scratch, and thought about the issue again.

2016_10_14-third-attemp-from-scratch

I started writing down very basic things, and if I felt like I didn’t want to do something, I just crossed them out. (On a side note, I have no idea why I started listing band names.) I ended up with video games, a subject which always fascinated me. I read articles, blogs, and watch analysis videos about games and the game industry on a regular basis, so I already have some knowledge in the field.

I narrowed things down to two main branches. On one side I had level design, and how to correctly use it to aid the player instead of it being an obstacle. I remember a lot of things about this from a few years ago when I played through a bunch of Valve games with developer commentary, and there were a lot of great explanations on how levels are designed around player interactions.

On the other branch I had the relation between gameplay and story, a topic which has piqued my interest after recently playing through Spec Ops: The Line and The Beginner’s Guide, and starting a playthrough of Undertale, all of which utilise gameplay to strengthen the story they are telling. I also recently read a long series of blog posts (essentially an essay) by Shamus Young about the Mass Effect trilogy and how the series losing thematic consistency for the sake of gameplay systems hurt the overall product and resulted in the infamous ending controversy. This made me start thinking about how a lot of games fail at linking the two core aspects (narrative and gameplay) together in a sensible way, and how it can be done well.

I ended up picking the latter, mostly because my experiences with it were more recent. So now I’m in the process of gathering examples, categorizing them based on how they handle the connections of story and gameplay, and looking for books and articles to read based on the subject. To end this post, here’s where I’m at: I have a short list of things, that are not yet supported by any actual research, but are mostly games I recall playing (or have heard about), and how they handled things.

2016_10_15-getting-somewhere

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