Sunday, March 7, 2010

Games in Animation History

Animation has a long and varied history with many differing attitudes and styles, from art house to slapstick comedy. This semester, I'm supposed to take a class (Animation, Auteurs and Digital environments) that is all about analysing and critiquing Animation(and games) in it's historical context and comparing it with the precedent.

The gamers in the class are outraged, this doesn't have much to do with our degree, much less our preferred subject matter. Not to mention that the animators already have a leg up with having done a history course. (we think) Persevere we must.

So what's a gamer to do when the BIG assignment is all about, taking a film, game, studio, series of work and discussing how it fits into the context of Animation History? Try and work something out with as little information that you have.

(9/3/10) : I think my lack of understanding these categories is hindering the kind of essay ideas I am coming up with. I hope the lecturer will clear this up instead of leaving us in the dust.

Here's a great big list of the categories for the subject with some of my ideas on what I can do with it.

Animation as Optical Toy:
I'm pretty sure all games can be considered an optical toy or a use of optical illusions. Being digital in nature, there is a fine line between a game being an actual object and the experience of playing the game. The main question would be, is a game really just an elaborate optical toy?

Game products based on traditional optical toys:
- Eye Toy
- Project Natal
- XBox Live Vision

Animation as Comic:
My initial understanding of this was the use of comedy but instead it refers to the transition of comic books or strips to animation. I'm thinking of using it to compare or contrast on the following topics:
- how narrative is used
- influence on how story is told
- graphic styles
- influence on culture (comics on games or games on comics)

Find a franchise and see if a game has been made of it, there are just too many to name.

Here's some examples:
- Spiderman
- Batman
- Gundam
- Visual Novels

Animation as Theatre:
According to my course guide this is where the history of comedy is referenced. Not sure if it also refers to theatrical arts. Likely topics to cover would be the use of comedy in games, methods of characterisation (how characters are expressing themselves) or use of theatrical elements. Not sure of the exact requirements, hopefully it will cleared up soon.

Here's something that reads like work:
- how character animation impacts/enhance user response to either story or gameplay
- development of comedy in games
- use of comedy in game eg. in dialogue, character interaction

Some games to look at:
- Sam & Max
- Monkey Island Series
- Toonstruck
- Newgrounds

Animation as Live Action:
TV sitcoms, Disney and Games are all listed under this topic, so I guess an essay about the gameplay mechanics eg. immediate response of controller to screen. Not too sure, it's hard working in the dark.

Though Live Action Gaming does turn up LARP if you look. I don't think that's what the assignment is asking for.

Animation as Fine Art:
The most obvious choice is art games, the hardest task is finding enough examples and reference material to talk effectively about this genre.
Essay topics would include:
- How the art game (auteur game) is impacting on the gaming scene
- Why there is an increase of art games
- What is the role of an art game / How does a game without game play work

Games to look at:
- flOw
- Flower
- Today I Die
- Aether
- Braid
- Heavy Rain

Animation as Puppet:
Digital puppetry is the subject matter here, so things like machinima or avatars are a crucial element to crafting an essay.

Games/Items to look at:
- The Sims
- Second Life
- Red vs Blue
- World of Warcraft

Simular products:
- Populus
- Black & White

These are looking at using computer generated "people" and manlipulating them as their God.
Essay Topics:
- Use of video games as a film making technology
- Social factors in digital environments
- Use of avatar in playing games

Animation as Music:
Something about music videos so I guess music games may be covered in this section. Perhaps writing about the multiplayer/social group of these games.

Modern Music Games:
- Dance Dance Revolution
- Guitar Hero
- PaRappa the Rapper
- Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan or Elite Beat Agents
- Electroplankton

Animation as Science:
Early computer experimentation, edu-tainment (serious games) and virutal simulations are all linked in this topic. The obvious thing is to find a product and blab on about it, though I'm not sure how well you can link military simulations to the history of animation...

Topics to look at:
- Early computer programs eg. graphic user interfaces
- Virtual simulations eg. military training simulations, Sim City
- Educational games
- AI, Real Time Strategy units

Games to look at:
- Sim City
- Spore
- The Sims
- VBS1 & VBS2 (Training tool for the British Military and the USMC and other military forces around the world)

Non Games:
- Ghost in the Shell
- The Matrix
- Tron

The problem with this is I think I would keep going back to how graphics are needed to make this user friendly... I think I am missing the point of this essay.

Animation as Documentary:
Virtual realities, multi-player and games with ethical/political messages are the call here.

Stuff to look at:
- The Sims eg. Alice & Kev
- World of Warcraft
- Second Life
- Harpooned
- Dafur is Dying
- Escape from Woomera

Animation as Play:
I have no idea as to what this topic will be, I'm tossing up between stage play and "I'm going to play". If it's the later, there will be way too many things to think about since nearly all games are about play.

(11/3/10): Out lecturer doesn't even know what this is going to be. I think it is heading towards "gameplay" which will be a tricky path indeed.

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