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Here, the simple videogame actions of leaping, tumbling and ducking become codified, containing their abstracted meaning if not their literal fact. To someone new to the game, it would seem like meaningless scribbles across the screen. But to the trained eye, they serve as something else: a notation.
So glad you picked up on this. I love music and really enjoyed games like Vib-Ribbon and Lammy, but I have some kind of brain-block when it comes to actually understanding musicality. I have nothing but admiration for musical people, but left to myself I struggle to judge which of two similar notes is higher, or even to tap a beat. Is there a music dyslexia?
What games like those, and Guitar Hero and the ilk do is take music and translate into something familiar, something I can partake of. It can be revelatory. I realise, of course, that playing these games is a long way distant from playing an instrument, but what they provide is a way of perceiving something I couldn't previously comprehend.
I take an interest in languages and etymology. What these games remind me of is when you track an unfamilar word's history and find relationships between it and its counterpart in your own language. Its a way of looking past the surface of a signal and exploring its meaning.
I learned about Vib-Ribbon from a Cinematech spot back in the G4 days. I'm a bit ashamed to say that despite my love of music, the game's visual aesthetic looked so much like something out of my nightmares that it still frightens me, to this day.
A very cool game and well worth a cult classic status, but I admit I can't bear to look at it. Something about the way the avatar is designed and the weird sounds it produces just freaks me out (dsepite my usual love of minimalism and retrogaming).
In response to "Shooting for the Sky" from The Escapist Forum: I found BioShock almost aggressively uninteresting, with bland writing, unbalanced gameplay and an art style which only redeeming quality was all the stuff it shamelessly stole from Fallout - mediocre across the board. And yet, it was made by the same guy who was behind System Shock 2, one of my all-time favourite games.
To me, it seems as though the same people who liked Fallout 3 are the ones who liked BioShock - those who missed out on the infinitely better titles that these two games blatantly fail at superseding.
If Ken Levine really wants to show his skill then he should be making a new, original title instead of extending BioShock's story in the same way that BioShock 2 tried to do it. But alas, he's only interested in the money.
The Random One:
The other day I was thinking about how Bioshock is good because it criticizes a liberal viewpoint. Games, and most art forms I guess, as well as those who enjoy them, are usually liberal, as far as they're willing to articulate their political beliefs anyway. If Bioshock had based its gameplay on a conservative scenario it would be essentially preaching to the core. Of course Rand's Objectivism of 'if I'm paying for these roads I don't want those poor freeloading bastards to use it' is essentially the strawman of the left wing, but it's still more appealing than if it had just echoed the 'following tradition and limiting freedoms is bad bad bad!' the genre as a whole already has.
Well the thing is that if you look in-depth into Bioshock's overarching themes, it actually comes across as supporting elements of Objectivist philosophy. Rapture only really goes to hell once Ryan starts to surrender his principles and slowly go mad. Ryan's final cries of "A MAN CHOOSES, A SLAVE OBEYS" is pretty much a founding principle of Randian logic. Although early on, Ryan's philosophy is seen negatively, the second half of the game pretty much reflects this concept. Fontaine controlled you, forced you to obey, and now, you have a choice in what you will do. The second half of the game doesn't really have anyone ordering you around like Atlas did, more just telling you what to do. If anything this seems to be based off of Objectivist liberty, where you control your destiny and no one else does.
At least that's what I got from Bioshock, I noticed a really big tonal change after Fontaine reveals himself.
In response to "Enjoy the Silence" from The Escapist Forum: Great article. Spot on, too. Not just games but films use music incorrectly, especially mainstream horror films. What should be a scary scene can be easily ruined by tense strings, etc signifying the approach of the killer/monster.
However it was expertly used in Jaws, leading the audience to believe an attack was imminent, when in fact, it was throwing us off completely. That is when soundtracks can be used to toy with emotions and expectations properly.
I'd love to make a horror film of some kind relying purely on the action to deliver an emotional response.
I also know that "Enjoy the Silence" is an awesome song by Depeche Mode:)
And also amazingly covered by Lacuna Coil.
I totally agree about silence. Music or audio in general need to be used more (well, less) depending on the situation and the dynamic. For instance, look at what happened to Alan Wake. Whenever enemies spawned onscreen they started the music to either startle the player or just say "Oh hey guys! I just thought you might want to know that a bunch of ghouls have been spawned and are coming to eat your face." So from the first time on from that, all we have to do is walk around practically knowing we're safe until that music starts up again. It also serves to tell us when we defeat the last enemy so we can relax again...though in some cases it gets freaky when you're running around and the music is still going, so you know that there's one more out there lurking for you.
In relation to movies, Hitchcock's "The Rear Window" and "The Birds" had the most suspenseful moments when there was hardly any sound at all. I mean for sure no music, but no dialogue, and sometimes no other sounds either. And it worked really well!