I don’t know why… but… this literally had me in tears. I couldn’t even help it. I’m actually crying. My God.

I really think I just need to go back to Calarts again.

Oh man this looks like tonikop’s work! 

Oh man it is!! ;~;

He was one of my animation inspirations—lovely lovely atmospheric work and camera angles.

Watch this. Watch this now! ;_____;

Uhhh… it may also be because it’s late and I’m tired but… oh god, I really did cry. This is fantastic. Please watch and be inspired in your turn. *snirfles*

oh wow, that’s some disney-level cuteness. wow, I mean, this is all perfect and all this stuff on tumblr now that apparently classes are done and all, but …all I can see when I see this stuff is like, boy I wish I could’ve gone to Calarts? :(


“Avatar: The Last Airbender” 2005-2008

From either the first or second episodes, can’t remember offhand.

All hail Miyazaki!



Whining about Mass Effect

I was watching some videos yesterday on what was terrible about Mass Effect 3’s ending, and also reading reviews on what made the story and characters so successful. It made me think about what really struck me about the story; the moments or situations I remember. It wasn’t anything anyone had mentioned; it was the rigidity of the romance.

The original Mass Effect had only three romance options, one for a male player, one for a female player and one for either. You could potentially romance two of these options until the very end, when you would need to state to one of these romances if the other really meant anything to you. By saying no, the other option instantly seemed to know and clicked out of romance mode without a word. This was a bit clunky and, in my opinion, wasted potential. If you could romance two characters at once, get to see both their intimate dialogue options, and have no negative side-affects or even an acknowledgement, then why wouldn’t you? Players want to romance all the characters. They want to do everything; that’s just gamer mentality. Definitely a case of ludonarrative dissonance: players want to see as much of the game as they can, so they’ll make different decisions then they would in real life. It’s great that players are allowed the chance to see all the romances, but it would have been nice to see actual character development stemming from these decisions; things that would affect the narrative.

Mass Effect 2 took a step in the right direction. The number of romance options surged from 3 to 9 and this led to a greater sense of choice and divergence, which was good. Of course, the player could once again romance up to five of these options at a time, which was also good. The greatest improvement came from the final romance choice. Instead of telling your chosen romance you felt nothing for the rest, your love interests would ask you to break off your other relationships. This was just what I had wanted. So yes, you get to romance them all at the same time, but you then have to break the hearts of all those you led on, leading to more interesting narrative events. This of course increased the weight of the choices and led to that final choice meaning so much more. 

Sadly, Mass Effect 3 took a step backward. I was looking forward to an upgrade of Mass Effect 2’s formula, maybe involving actual confrontations or serious conversations. Instead, Mass Effect 3 went back to Mass Effect 1’s method. Half way through the game, a subtle conversation choice would ‘lock’ you into a relationship with one of the characters. So where the past two games had encouraged you to romance as many characters as you’d like, this one, in an obscure and unexplained way, suddenly forced you to stick with one. After making this choice, other romance options would snap out of romance mode, sometimes recognising your locked-in relationship during conversations. This was good, an improvement over Mass Effect 1’s lack of acknowledgement. But essentially, you had lost all sense of choice, particularly that final, romantic choice and effect that had made Mass Effect 2 so affective. In my instance, I had been locked into a relationship with a character I wasn’t intending to end up with, seeing my other choice recognise the relationship and dismissing any chance of a romance between us. To make matters worse, Mass Effect 3 had in fact decreased the amount of personal dialogue between the player character and his crew members. Mass Effect 2 would make interesting, character-developing conversations available regularly, making visiting your crew on the ship very exciting. Mass Effect 3, however, rarely did this, so I would almost always find myself dismissed by these characters with a simple ‘Hello’; a rather heartbreaking response to get from the supposed love of your life.  

The existence of relationships in roleplaying games is interesting, in and of itself. They’re highly appealing and have become more and more prevalent over the years, being thought of less as a nerd’s work around for socialisation and more of a useful narrative tool. Mass Effect has indeed employed this tool more successfully than any game before it, but sadly gave up so much potential in the last chapter. It’s odd that games have developed so much as narrative and emotional devices, though character interaction still feels old and clunky; it still feels mechanical. Surely there’s smoother ways to create a realistic connection in roleplaying games?


In Media Cultures on Tuesday we devoted some time to fan cultures. I’d been reading some papers on fans lately, each one giving unique insight into the remarkable effect of a fictional world on an eager audience. 

To recap, my goal for this year and the career (fingers-crossed) that follows is to develop an understanding of emotional affect in games and truly utilize that understanding. I look to narrative and character design as I believe them to be two of the most potent tools in developing emotion and attachment. 

The beauty of fan cultures is that they are, in essence, the embodiment of this emotional connection. They are a vast section of the audience that are affected by a work of fiction to an extreme. By investigating the extreme, I believe it is much more likely to understand the deeper workings of these connections. I fully intend to continue research into fan cultures, hopefully I may be able to find some works related to games. 

Of particular note from the class was the talk on the ‘otherkin’, a religious group believing they are not humans, but creatures or characters from fiction trapped in a human body. A subsection of the otherkin are the otakukin, a group believing themselves to be characters from games or Japanese anime. This struck me pretty hard. I’d heard of die-hard fans, but for people to feel themselves so connected to a character they convince themselves they ARE that character – it’s astounding. 

Though I do not doubt that a great deal of this excessive reaction comes from the mental or emotional state of the person themselves, it is clear that the connection to the character plays an equally large role. How is it then, that a person can feel so connected to one character? 

There’s no doubt in my mind that characters can drastically affect an audience and change their view of a game or its narrative, it some ways it may even change their view of life. Deep, I know. Now back to figuring out how I can use that to make awesome games…. 



Game of Thrones - Sandor ”the Hound” and Joffrey (I hope it’s a right names >__<)
Pastels. I love pastels….


Game of Thrones - Sandor ”the Hound” and Joffrey (I hope it’s a right names >__<)

Pastels. I love pastels….


I played through the game Journey last week as part of my research at ACMI. The game was only 2 hours long; a short, relaxing ride. I’ve enjoyed past games from the studio (thatgamecompany) such as Flow (2006) and Flower (2009). The studio seems to value the same qualities in game design as I do, crafting enjoyable experiences, awe-inspiring events and deep, subtle narrative. It’s a powerful reference for my study in character and narrative.

It’s clear, even just from looking at the player character, the goal for the game was seeded in simplicity. The robed figure has few discerning features and little need for complex animation, yet personality undeniable seeps from what little movements it makes. I’ve always found that simple designs are far more effective at portraying emotion than complex ones; I’m very much hoping to explore that theory this year.  

The character has a very distinct silhouette. The designers contrast this silhouette against enormous open spaces, ensuring every scene has a strong impact. In this way, the designers almost approach Journey more as an artwork and less as a game. Is this a good way to approach game narrative? Journey is a testament to just how much can be conveyed within subtleties of what is seen, so much so that the game’s barren and empty levels can invoke a strong emotional response.

Mystery and curiosity play an important role, though admittedly these elements play a large part in most other video games. It seems as though the most powerful motivator for a player is their pursuit of what happens next. Journey uses its simplicity to fuel that curiosity, planting a clueless player in an empty wasteland, giving them strong goals to move toward. The most apparent example is the glowing mountain that towers over the landscape. Without a word spoken to them, players know to move toward the mountain. It’s enormous, it’s mystifying and it’s distant, and that’s all a player needs to know. The character themselves is intrinsically mysterious: wrapped in a cloak, a face made up only of two unchanging eyes, never truly speaking. The player doesn’t even know who they are and that is a truly powerful mystery.

Through careful planning of elements the game pushes narrative forward. In order to ensure curiosity doesn’t fade the game slowly reveals parts of its interpretive, wordless tale and regularly and drastically alters the environment.

My one disappointment is the game ending never really lends any importance to the eponymous journey you just undertook, nor to the underlying narrative. The game ends and nothing seems to come from what you’ve just accomplished. I feel as though the game inflates your expectations, creating a sense of importance to the journey and promising there’s so much to be found if you keep on looking, but then drops you down at the end with no reward and, worse still, starts everything again without changing or explaining a thing; restarting your character through a ‘rebirth’. The illusion of a deep and beautiful world is lost at that moment. That’s one thing I think game designers can’t escape, players need to feel like they’ve accomplished something, that the character has grown or changed for better or worse.

The multiplayer aspect of the game gave me interesting insight into how a player can themselves lend personality to a character. The game creates anonymous interaction, preventing players from communicating conventionally or naming themselves in any way. Though all the player characters look identical, they portray the personality of their player. Without any way to link the characters back to the player, they appear as far more natural avatar, part of a game world rather than some sort of vessel. I feel this drastically changes the way we see and interact with these other player characters and, almost more importantly, the way the narrative and the game world are affected.   


Questions the game has brought forward:

Are simple character designs more effective at expressing emotion? What do they lack when compared to more complex designs?

Is speech important for characters? When is it best for them to talk? When is best they remain silent?

To what extent does simplicity help the progression of narrative? How can it hinder it?

What can be done to encourage curiosity in a player?

How can a player character grow or change in a satisfying way?

How do players respond differently to non-human player characters?

How do completely anonymous player avatars influence a game narrative, atmosphere and sense of world? Are they better than fine-tuned NPCs?