Monday, December 10, 2007

I got into an argument on the internet awhile ago, over the nature of videogames. In this conversation, I came off as a philistine, because the argument I was making runs counter to standard party lines. I thought where I was coming from was completely understandable, but the person I was arguing with thought I was just talking crazy talk. My argument will be reiterated here.

Games don't work as storytelling mediums. They can't do what a movie does, no matter how cinematic their creators try to be. The whole nature of there being something that someone else controls works against the natural storytelling impulse, and specifically, the ability to have an ending reinforce themes.

This isn't to dismiss them as their own thing, or to say that they're useless because they can't tell a story. I think their strength is this weird meditative aspect, of doing something over and over again to get further and further. I like them as reverse Buddha Machines, designed for the eyes and hands, as opposed to being listened to. World exploration also fits into this.

The idea that as technology improves, games will become more cinematic is an awful one, completely opposed to what I find useful or interesting. Most games I like are over ten years old at this point, but that doesn't mean that the technology is a dead-end. I keep on imagining bigger worlds.

I bring this up because I had further aesthetic differences with the person I was arguing with: He wrote a thing about comics where he stated that the drawing doesn't always matter, but the writing always does. I don't know if I can get into arguing against that without parroting other people's opinions, so I'll just let it suffice to say we had different ideas of what constituted good drawing- which is a completely different argument.

On the other side of things, I had a conversation in real life with another writer. I asked her what sort of literary influences she had, and she responded by just saying that she tried to capture the way her favorite music made her feel. Which at the time, I took to mean that she didn't read very much, and a dodge of the question, but to angle for that sort of transendence is altogether admirable. I've sinced learned that she mostly writes music criticism and features, so it's not quite the same thing, but still.

This post doesn't quite work. It exists largely because I am putting off writing a post about Taiyo Matsumoto's Tekkon Kinkreet. I feel obligated to do it at some point because comics bloggers started linking to me, so I should up the comics-content accordingly, but I don't want this to be about comics exclusively, or predominantly, and actually I don't even read enough for this to be updated regularly were that to become the case. I think my goal is to try to talk about all sorts of different artistic mediums, like it's all some sort of vague toolkit, for people trying to take one medium and bend it towards being like another, to achieve some sense of transcendence. The only issue is talking about everything like that, angling towards transcendence without a really emphatic focus, will probably end up with a lot of kind of vague and inarticulate writing. (My Tekkon Kinkreet review, for instance, will be focused on the drawing, but I am without the aid of a scanner to actually make my points lucid.)

So, okay, let's talk about Steven Millhauser. Which I've done before. Bill Boichtel, proprietor of a comics store in Pittsburgh, said that "In the literature, film and-- perhaps especially-- the comics of the last few decades, we can’t help but notice faint hints of flavor, subtle aromas, and distant echoes which seem, now, after becoming familiar with it, to have somehow emanated from [Edwin Mullhouse]." (He also recommended another book of prose I'm reading right now.) I can only vaguely understand where he's coming from with that, but it's still more sensible than this quote, from I think The Washington Post, that shows up on a lot of his books, saying that his writing doesn't "just aspire to the condition of music, but actually achieves it," which is completely insane for all but the most synaesthetic of us. That said, I kind of think Millhauser's stuff works like visual art- Partly because of the way he talks about art, but mainly due to how the nature of the ideas of fantastic world building that form the basis for the majority of his stories would make sense worked out in an installation context.

No comments: