Make sure you respond to the Canvas prompt for tonight.
Hyperreality and “Realism” in Video Games
There’s no class tonight, but I have a reading for you and a Canvas Prompt, so much sure you check that out. Also, I added readings to the “Files” section on your class’s Canvas page. These aren’t required, but they may help some of you with your research:
- Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal 40.4 (Dec. 1988): 519-531.
- Eco, Umberto. “Travels in Hyperreality.” Travels in Hyperreality. New York: Harcourt, 1986: 1-58.
***This is a long one and will show up if you take ENGL 6166 “Rhetorical Theory” with me.
- McLuhan, Marshall. “The Medium is the Message.” Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. New York: Signet, 1964. 7-21.
- Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen 16.3 (1975): 6-18.
- Rich, Adrienne. “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Experience.” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 5.4 (1980): 631-660.
- Wolf, Naomi. “The Beauty Myth.” The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women. New York: William Morrow, 1991. 9-19.
Please read Cowlishaw, Brian. “Playing War: The Emerging Trend of Real Virtual Combat in Video Games.” American Popular Culture Online Magazine. January 2005 for tonight. Then, respond to the Canvas prompt.
Besides immediately pointing out that the video game industry makes more money than the motion picture industry, Cowlishaw critiques the idea of “realism” in video games. Many people point out (gamers, designers, critics) that certain games are “realistic,” but, when it comes to war games, that simply isn’t true:
- Respawning: “Death tends to be final–but not in war video games” (para. 8).
- “Like wartime press reports, war video games carefully elide this most basic fact of wartime: bodily damage” (para. 11).
- Gamers are in “no actual danger of being killed, or physically harmed beyond getting stiff and fat from playing video games too long” (para. 12).
- Newer video games only seem realistic or real because “the genealogical relationship makes newer war games seem more realistic than they are” (para. 15).
Excerpt from an article on a video gamer:
Below are some further reading sections to get your minds going. It isn’t required, but it might be helpful for future discussions.
Eco’s “Travels in Hyperreality”
Umberto Eco’s essay “Travels in Hyperreality” has lots of discussion of American entertainment. If this were a different class, we’d read the piece, but his basic thesis is that Americans have an obsession for the fake over the real. This could be a huge discussion, but consider the places/ideas in the context of fake experience:
- Concord Mills
- Olive Garden
- Busch Gardens (“It’s like being back in the old country”–exact words of someone I used to know)
- What else?
Here are two important terms to consider is for this discussion:
- simulacrum: the replication (upon replication) of a subject without being able to find the concrete beginning. In postmodern theory it refers to a copy or simulation of an item, event, or idea for which the original referent (the reality or real thing) does not exist.
- hyperreality: More real than real!?! Or, as White Zombie would say, “More Human than Human.” The idea of “hyperreality” is often associated with a viewer (an audience in general) believing the media-generated simulation is real or more real than an actual event, personality, condition, or, ultimately, an experience.
Brent on his experience as a helicopter gunner while playing Battlefield Vietnam (Electronic Arts). (Toscano, p. 17, 2011)
Brent’s penchant for first-person shooters suggests that he enjoys embodying the avatar’s persona: As the helicopter “gunner” in Battlefield Vietnam (Electronic Arts), Brent is in an Army attack chopper firing on the Vietcong listening to Creedance Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” and the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”—two popular songs from the Vietnam Era. Brent was never in Vietnam, but the music and his sense of attacking the VC from a software-engineered helicopter helps him better incorporate the soldier’s persona from representations he has seen in films such as Platoon (1986) and Full Metal Jacket (1987), popular war movies he watches. The video game is a synecdoche of experience and a simulacrum at best. Unlike real war, Brent’s only risk is temporary eye strain and not serious injury or death—he is engaged in a fictional world. Juul (2005) points out that “games project fictional worlds through a variety of different means, but the fictional worlds are imagined by the player, and the player fills in any gaps in the fictional world” (p. 121). What makes the video game a figured world is that the world of the helicopter gunner is simulated via the video game’s programming and accepted by gamers who enter the “text” for this virtual experience. Like Brent’s situation above regarding what it feels like to be in Vietnam, a gamer’s interpretations come from other sources—culture. Video games (and gamers) are products of the culture(s) from which they come, and we can read the culture—its values, fears, and “history”—in video games.
Acting and Realism
In February, Bradley Cooper was interviewd on NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross. He discusses his role in the indie movie Silver Linings Playbook. Interestingly, and this isn’t odd to hear from an actor, he talks about how he and David O. Russell (the director) wanted him to “play as real and authentic as [h]e could.”
What does it mean for an actor to be real, authentic, raw, etc.? What’s behind the idea of believability in acting?
- Check out the transcript and scroll down to the line “Jacki Weaver, yeah.”
- How is he maintaining “authenticity” of his character when the film is edited?
Keep up with the syllabus. You should have read Understanding Video Games Ch. 7 and Introducing Cultural Studies pp. 1-55. Make sure you respond to the Canvas prompt for tonight.