All About Setho10
As their feet, weak and mostly silent, crossed the cobblestone walkway in Paris, as their voices rose in quiet desperation in Berlin, as the singing faded to silence in New York, as world over they dropped their eyes and shuddered, this is the blog of a phantom.
Some of you who are art lovers may have spent time over the past year exploring the work of Vivien Maier. This brilliant photographer is today considered one of the greatest who ever lived. Yet despite taking over 100,000 photos throughout the 1950's and 1960's she never developed a single negative. It wasn't until 2007, over half a century later, that her undeveloped work was purchased by an amatuer historian at a Chicago auction house. As he started developing the photos he realized that he had stumbled upon a work of great importance. Here were some of the greatest street photos of Chicago and New York ever taken yet he had no idea who took the photos or when. It wasn't until 2009 that he learned of Vivien Maier, and at that point she was already dead. Speaking to her friends and relatives, the historian learned that no one knew about her photographs. She never spoke of them, never showed them to anybody. In fact very few people knew anything about her. She was private and secretive. Her life remains mostly a mystery even today. Later this year a documentary will be released that does its best to piece together the life of Vivien Maier. Meanwhile you can look through some of her photos and find more info here.
I think the most interesting part of this story to me is imagining in today's society a person who never shared a single photo they took. Today's obsession with fame, fans, and followers means that most people put as much of themselves as possible out there for the world to see. People make art and post it online hours after it is done. You aren't an artist unless you have an online portfolio, and a Facebook Like page where all your friends and fans can openly admire your greatness. Who now makes art for the sake of art? Vivien took photos because it was her passion. She created art for the sake of creating art. Creativity was her drive and creation was her end goal. Fame and fortune were not in her mind. This was a woman who knew her skill and talent and didn't need or want anyone to tell her how great she was. Some of my friends on Facebook have well over 1,000 photos posted. Instagram lets people take and share a photo instantly across the web. Seeing something cool means sharing it with your friends. Making something cool means sharing it ith your friends. In our connected society the idea of a Vivien Maier is almost ridiculous. Yet here we are about to learn the story of one of the greatest photographers of all time who never shared a single photograph. It just makes me think about today's society and our obsession with celebrity. To be so great yet never admit it. Now that is truly an artist.
To The Moon is the most powerful game I have ever played. As I went through this incredibly affecting and stunningly powerful tale of love, loss, and redemption I found myself near to tears several times. That beats the previous record held by Mass Effect 2 of me being momentarily sad when Tali's father dies. To The Moon features outstanding writing and one of the greatest musical scores I have ever heard in any medium. To The Moon also was made in RPG Maker. It's simplisitic and often poorly drawn sprite graphics might turn away more visually minded gamers, but To The Moon is an incredible example of a game whose graphics don't make or break the experience. Unfortunately, the gameplay also is largely inessential to the experience. And herein lies my problem with To The Moon. The "game" part of To The Moon borders between boring and downright bad. The only real gameplay present outside of walking around the environment to progress the story, is a simple flip puzzle where you have to flip squares on a grid to create a picture. It's incredibly simple, easy, and boring. By the third or fourth puzzle I just wanted to finish the damn thing and get back to the story. And I began to question how big of a problem this was.
To The Moon doesn't even have the excuse of games like The Walking Dead that the interactivity comes from making story choices. To The Moon has a linear narrative. The question is, really, would To The Moon work better as a visual novel? If the gameplay does nothing to enhance the experience, and, in fact, hinders it in several situations, why have gameplay at all? It's an interesting question and one that many people will argue over. For my money, a good game narrative is one that works best as a game. It's the type of narrative that is either enhanced through gameplay, or makes some sort of commentary on the game you are playing. A great recent example is Spec Ops: The Line. The story in Spec Ops was linear, but it forced the player to question the nature of modern military shooters and their sense of bravado. It is a story that would be an average movie, but because it is a game it works incredibly well. To The Moon gains nothing from being a game.
All that said, I have to return to my original statement that To The Moon is the most powerful game I have ever played. It is something that makes me pause. The recently deceased Roger Ebert said that games couldn't be art because of their interactivity. He said that the author of a piece needs to be able to direct the experience of the person entirely for the piece of art to have its intended effect. Looking at many of the non-linear narratives in gaming, I can't say that the story itself has been enhanced by non-linearity. It gives the player greater agency, and a sense that he or she is truly having an effect on the world. But as far as telling a compelling story goes, most of these stories would be as good or better without the interactive element. At the end of To The Moon a character makes a choice. It was a choice that could have been left to the player. But in doing so, the developers would have had to forsake the powerful ending that was the perfect conclusion to this tale. In letting the character make their choice without player input, the game was able to keep their motivations hidden, and the result is something that makes this story as amazing as it is.
So I guess the question on my mind is, is it possible to create an interactive story that has the same effect on the player as a linear story does? Or, is the addition of player agency a compelling enough reason to ignore the lower quality narrative? It's a question I am curious to explore and I'm curious to hear what all of you think about this. Regardless of my feelings that this "game" is much less a game and more of a visual novel, I would highly recommend it to anyone who values story in their games. This is the most powerful story ever told in a game. It combines a great premise with realistic dialogue and a musical score that is worth listening to over and over long after the game has finished. In fact I am listening to it as I write this blog. If you need action, excitement, or challenge in your games then stay away. This game isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you are willing to put aside the weak gameplay to experience this incredible story then please do so. It is worth your time and your money and will affect you like few other games you have played.
So today I was in Wal-Mart and I stopped by the electronics section just to see if they had any good deals. As usual they didn't. As I was looking through the gaming section I passed by the 360 section, the Wii section, the Wii U section, the DS and 3DS section, and the PS3 section before arriving at the end of the row. I couldn't help but feel like I was missing something. Then it hit me. Where was the PSP and Vita section? I walked back along the row thinking I must have missed it among the PS3 section but it wasn't there. I searched the accessory section, the new releases section, the strategy guide section, and even the discount PC games section but couldn't find any trace of Sony's handhelds.
Then I happened to look at an odd angle at a glass cabinet that mostly contained big box stuff that no one wanted. Sitting on a shelf that was certainly not viewable when normally walking by were the Vita games thrown hapazardly in no order and with no prices on them. There were no accessories for the system, and I honestly didn't even see any traces of the system itself. Just a handful of games tossed out of sight and out of mind. The PSP meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. I knew the Vita was struggling but is it really doing so bad that Wal-Mart has more shelf space for discount DS games than it does for brand new Vita games? I've heard Wal-Mart has been having shelving issues across the US so maybe this is just a case of not having anyone to shelve the games properly. But it was kind of shocking to see a system that is only a year old shoved out of sight while the DS had half a row worth of shovelware that must have been sitting there for several years.
So I'm curious. Has anyone else experienced anything similar at their local Wal-Mart? How about other stores? Is the Vita really doing that bad or was this just a single case of a poorly run store?
My Recent Reviews
Apr 26, 2013 6:38 am GMTSetho10 posted a new blog entry entitled The Greatest Photographer To Never Share a Photograph
Apr 9, 2013 3:20 am GMTSetho10 posted a new blog entry entitled To The Moon and Interactive Narratives
Apr 5, 2013 12:53 am GMTSetho10 posted a new blog entry entitled Is The Vita Failing That Badly?
Mar 1, 2013 8:58 pm GMTSetho10 posted a new blog entry entitled Back To The Future of Gaming