Tag Archive for Entertainment

Game Review: Wayward Manor

the manorFrom the moment I saw @neilhimself post the Kickstarter of this game on Twitter, I was stoked. Neil Gaiman was making his first game?! Yeah.. I signed up as a backer immediately. With the darkness and imagination inherent in everything he touches, I couldn’t wait. But I did. The game was delayed something like 6 months. I was disappointed, but I was confident it was well worth the wait. Let me tell you that I was not disappointed.

The Look

I’d seen a few pictures on the website *cough* click here *cough* for the art, and it quickly became a motivating factor for me in backing the game. For me, one of Neil Gaiman’s hallmarks is the distinctive look of every world he creates. This was no different. His collaboration with The Odd Gentlemen and Moonshark is a no brainer; it works well.

While it isn’t grown up, per se, it is just disturbing enough to make me hesitate about how old a player might want to be before they play. My 10 year old daughter wouldn’t be afraid of the err… I won’t ruin it for you… but some of her friends would. The game is, after all, told from the perspective of a haunted house desperate for you (his spectral best friend) to rid him of the current inhabitants. People facing their darkest fears is the name of the game which makes the colors, shapes, and clarity very important. In this case, the colors are brilliant and well used, giving the objects a crispness that makes them distinctive, even in very full rooms. It isvery obvious what everything is and where everything is in relation to everything else. This is particularly important when completing levels.

neil himselfThe Play

The game is a storytelling puzzler. You are given a masterfully crafted story (because Neil… duh…) and there are levels in which you (the spectre) must scare various characters using their darkest fears (usually turning their vices against them). They have only so much resilience before they’re scare out of the room. You are given hints, if you need them, by clicking on the stationary “beings” in the room (e.g., ravens, gargoyles, cats, etc.), but the hints aren’t dead giveaways (which I definitely appreciated). No level is overly difficult, but no level is overly easy, either. This makes it worth the mulligans with no pesky raging to ruin the fun. That being said, there was one bug I found that necessitated restarting the level. Once I did (a half a dozen times), I figured out what I was doing wrong (skipping steps, of course) and fixed it. In general, if you can make a move, it is something that is immediately helpful.The game doesn’t let you mess up because it always provides a way out.

As far as controls go, there is nothing other than the mouse to use so it’s more or less intuitive. In order to get the text to move, just click the mouse anywhere (I tried the arrow key as there was an arrow, but no.. just click the mouse). If you can click on something in game, it will have a green essence. The more you scare the characters, the more green objects you have to continue scaring them with. There is nothing tricky about the game except the puzzles. Hallelujah!

paralax6The Sound

As part of the Kickstarter, I opted for the level that included a copy of the soundtrack. SO glad I did. The music is well done, the sounds are appropriate for the game play, and they rarely get annoying (the twins made me want to kick, well, a twin (which is okay, as my brothers happen to be 31 year old twins… I have options). Each character and/or haunt has its own set of ambient and direct sounds but nothing is too abrasive.

Replayability

Here’s the ONLY catch I see to this game. It’s short. I finished it in a few hours (Maybe 3 or 4). That being said, there are 3 achievements called “secret scares” that are available for each level. Once you get the feel of the game, going back through to try to get those wouldn’t be too bad, and the reactions of the characters are entertaining enough to make it worth your time and energy. Undoubtedly, you’ll get some inadvertently during your first run through, but if you’re into achievements at least you have options. Once you open the levels, you can jump right to them, so you don’t have to go ALL the way through the game to get to the desired level if you do decide to give it a go. You can also hold the mouse button to skip cut scenes, so there’s that. Overall, I would say it’s definitely worth the $9.99 on Steam regardless of how many times you obsessively pour over the achievement lists.

The Short Of It

This game is GORGEOUS. The sound is soothing, creepy, and rarely (if ever) grating. The story is a masterfully developed transmedia story, complete with story arc and hero’s journey (I loved the line about the hero’s journey in the game… you’ll see… it’s cute) spanning the website, the game, and YouTube videos done by none other than Neil himself (get it?! @neilhimself … I’m killin’ it today!). This game is worth picking up and telling your friends about. It’s not often you get a well made, engaging, puzzle game by a collection of gifted collaborators. And come on… It’s only $9.99. Preludes and Nocturnes costs more than that!theCast

Two Knights in Rep (And SO Much More)

SeeAlsoI FINALLY GOT TO SEE IT!!!

I know I have had this banner on my front page for a while now, but I was determined to leave it up until I finally got to see the show. Yesterday, I finally did it! I made my way over 3000 miles to see Waiting For Godot in rep at the Cort Theatre in Manhattan starring Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Shuler Hensley, and Billy Crudup. It was… phenomenal.

I’ve been a fan of Samuel Beckett since I studied the history of theatre in undergrad. I chose to do my final report on a playwright from Ireland who I didn’t know. As I’d taken Irish literature the year before, I knew what the typical component of Irish writing included, and was excited to see how that might translate into theatre. I was not disappointed.

Beckett, well known for his Theatre of the Absurd, is astounding. Doing the report, and being a psychology major, I decided to write the paper from a psychological analysis perspective, looking at Beckett’s history for clues as to what elements of his shows might mean. There are quite the number of pre-existing guesses about elements of Waiting. I digress.

When I watched the full version on YouTube, I fell in love with the show even more than just for my love of Beckett. Every time you watch it, there is more to notice. Beckett fills the dialog with connotations and insinuations, sarcasm, irony, and blatant honesty. It’s a utopia for semioticians.

That being said, McKellen and Stewart brought the characters an amount of depth that I hadn’t thought possible (even considering the playwright and his history of perspectives). Gogo was broken. Properly beaten down and only able to function when distractions took him away from his pain and aching. Didi was resilient. You could see his defiance; his determination to endure and make the best of everything, despite the glaring realities. Or were they? The thing that this version made very clear to me at the end was Didi’s desperate attempt to hold on to his reality. It made me think. It made me wonder what in Didi’s life could make him construct this reality, if it were his creation.

Hensley was phenomenal as Pozzo. After the first version I watched, I’d loathed the character. After Hensley breathed life into him, taking on a Southern American accent, I felt bad for him. I felt as though he was living a lie and covering it with a false confidence that oozed like Gogo’s wound. Lucky was also insanely amazing. The mannerisms, the energy while still being broken and weary, the way he brought his “thinking” to life… I was in awe. It was my favorite part of the show. Every actor was “on” and the words were done justice. A beautiful mind, indeed.

I could go on and on about it all. The set was brilliant and used fully. The sounds, the lighting… all of it was spot on and I am SO glad they gave us a little dance at the end. Everything about this show made it an experience I will never forget, and one that will keep Waiting For Godot at the top of my list of favorite plays forever. It ends in March. Make sure you see it; even if you have to travel 3000 miles to do so.

Understanding Media Psychology… err…

understandng comicsUnderstanding Comics (McCloud, 1994) presents comic readers with a comparatively comprehensive look at comics (e.g., how they’re formatted, what cognitive processes they depend on, reality vs. abstract, etc.). A variety of these principles can be generalized and applied to other forms of media (McCloud, 1994). Understanding these principles lays a foundation for understand the field of media psychology.

EgocentricThe Story– McCloud (1994) points out the more iconic the face, drawn in the comic, the more we as the audience are able to see ourselves in the story. Robert McKee (1997) explains that stories are powerful because they carry universal truths. We connect with stories (and media) that help us to make sense of the world (Jenkins, Li, Drasuskopf, & Green, 2009). We enjoy stories more if they carry a personal meaning to us; something of significance that helps us identify with the situation or the characters (Green, Brock, & Kaufman, 2004). Additionally, media, such as social media, virtual communities, and role-playing games, allow users to uncover, verify, and even try on identities (Bessière, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007; Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria, 2008). The story and universality of comics are true for any medium carrying a story, facilitating immersion, whether for enjoyment, emotional response, or seeking to convey a message.

The GutterThe Message– Comics, as well as mediums such as books, films, games, and television, allow concepts and feelings to be understood in personal ways even though they are iconic and representative delivery methods (McCloud, 1994). We experience things using senses that are not required for consumption of the message. For example, in a video game, you may be looking at a computer screen and physically touching a mouse and/or keyboard, but the content may remind you of smells and sounds that are not presented in the book. Our minds fill in blanks based on experiences we’ve had. These blanks are in the blank space in comics, in the scenes we don’t see in movies, and in the events that are eluded to but never described in books, just to name a few. Memories, actions, thoughts, and physical responses are often conditioned to be triggered by a variety of stimuli (e.g., media) (Anderson, 2000).

The Conclusion– There are many ways in which the theories behind comics may be generalized into theories about other media and mediums. Here, we briefly explored message content, the universality of stories, and identity. However, concepts such as transmedia storytelling, branding, the influence of graphic design, persuasion and marketing, and global media are all presented to us by Scott McCloud (1994), but are concepts which are transferable to a great deal of the media used today and in the past. These concepts are all components of media psychology. When we understand these concepts and how they affect us, we can use positive media psychology to facilitate educational, social, and global advancements.

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References

Anderson, J. R. (2000). Learning and memory : an integrated approach. New York: Wiley.

Bessière, K., Seay, A. F., & Kiesler, S. (2007). The Ideal Elf: Identity Exploration in World of Warcraft. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 530–535. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9994

Green, M., Brock, T., & Kaufman, G. (2004). Understanding media enjoyment: The role of transportation into narrative worlds. Communication Theory, 14(4), 311-327.

Jenkins, H., Li, X., Krauskopf, A., & Green, J. (2009). If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead (part one):

Media viruses and memes. Retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2009/02/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead_p.html

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: the invisible art. New York: William Morrow.

McKee, R. (1997). Story : substance, structure, style, and the principles of screenwriting. New York: Regan Books.

Real Life + Virtual Life = One life by Dr. Jonathan Cabiria. (2008). Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3qwdQLSt2I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 

RPDR as Transmedia Storytelling

RuPaul’s Drag Race (RPDR) is a reality television show in which the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul, seeks out the next generation of drag queens who are able to use their charisma, uniqueness, nerve, and talent to champion the art and its rich history. The intended market for this brand is anyone over the age of 21; their biggest sponsor being Absolut Vodka.

The protagonist in this story is the winner of the drag race. That being said, every competitor undergoes the hero’s journey to one extent or another as they all endure a transformation due to trials within the competition which result in their either winning or being told to “sashay away”. Competitors start by going through a series of trials (i.e., application process, mini challenges, main challenges, and runway walks) designed to test their drag related skills as well as their personal development (e.g., social skills, personal conflicts, etc.). By the end of the competition, regardless of the outcome for the competitor, they have likely learned something about themselves and their skills. However, the only true hero’s journey, based on a real and tangible outcome, resolution, or change that is definitive is the winner of the competition; they have the crown.

The archetype of this story is that of the magician. Competitors learn the art of transformation and are motivated by achievement. There are other archetypes which, in one way or another, are also represented within RPDR (e.g., Jester or Outlaw), but the competition is about transformation in all its forms and masteries within the art of drag.

A variety of media are used to bring the journey of the drag queens, as well as their art, to life for consumers. RPDR itself is the flagship of Logo.tv. All episodes of the competition, as well as a show called Untucked, and one called Drag U, are located on the site/channel. Untucked allows consumers a glimpse of the behind the scenes of the competition; a way to connect more personally with the competitors. Drag U is a spin off which allows women to participate with RPDR competitors to undergo their own version of a hero’s journey using the principles and art of drag. Both Untucked and Drag U allow resonance with the brand, as consumers are able to identify with competitors as well as picture themselves in their shoes.

Another way in which consumers can see themselves in drag stilettos is through the Dragulator. This is an online application which allows consumers to upload a photo of themselves and make themselves up in drag. They can then share the result via a variety of social media sharing options. In addition to the Dragulator, consumers can participate in live chat with competitors and fellow fans during the broadcast via LogoTalk. In addition to discussing the show as it airs, consumers are able to converse with and direct questions to the latest competitor to be eliminated via Elimination Lunch with Michelle Visage, also on LogoTalk. LogoTalk is a convenient way to participate in Twitter conversations which follow the given hashtags during the show, allow for stickers to be gathered on GetGlue (another achievement driven social media). One of the most prominent features of RPDR is the ability for consumers to participate.

While the hub of RPDR remains on Logo.tv, and links to all branches of the transmedia network, Facebook remains a more easily navigated and immersive place for participants to explore. Social media are used heavily within the network. While Facebook is an easy place to share photos, ask questions to promote conversation, and link to other elements within the network, Twitter is used heavily to connect consumers during the shows. Hashtags are given at random times during various segments of the show to promote consist discussion between viewers. Twitter is also used as a way for competitors to connect to their fans and promote their personal performances throughout the country.

Other media are used successfully to immerse consumers as well. An online game called Ru-Dunnit, allows consumers to play a choose-your-own-adventure mystery game with the fierce Michelle Visage as the gumshoe (or “gumstilleto”, as she says in the game). The goal of the game is to determine who stole Sharon Needles’s crown. The game includes product placement by Absolut Vodka, and clothing worn by suspects are consistent with drinks featured in the video. Another example of a game used in the story of the ‘Next drag superstar’ is the Best Friend Race. This is a game hosted by SocialToaster.com which allows for the collection of points which are earned by sharing elements of the network via social media, how many likes and retweets you obtain, and how many of your friends sign up to play the game. This allows those who are achievement driven (consistent with the goals of the Magician archetype) a goal related to the brand with inadvertently further promotes the brand and takes advantage of social networks.

RPDR uses transmedia storytelling to tell a variety of stories about what it’s like to be a drag queen, but also promotes an art form which tends to be, in and of itself, at the forefront of the acceptance of LGBT individuals and culture. By expanding the in-group inherent in RPDR supporters, a social cause is promoted as well.

References:

Mark, M., & Pearson, C. (2001). The hero and the outlaw building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=63620

**The trading cards in the slideshow came from The LogoTV Tumblr page. Thanks guys! Great pics!**