XBonX

I wasn’t intending on commenting this year’s E3 at all. Why? Life’s busy when you’re working your ass off and doing favours for friends. Nevertheless, here I am, repeating the same song I’ve been singing about Microsoft year after year; they need to get their shit together and move away from pushing PC gaming to console platform.

Let’s start with the beginning, the Xbox One X. If there’s something Microsoft and other console companies should learn from Nintendo is that naming your console is important as hell. The 3DS and Wii U both caused confound consumer confusion. Wii U was mixed as an update add-on for the Wii at its first unveiling. 3DS went well in comparison, but there was a period of confusion as well with those who aren’t Red Ocean consumers. The name is absolutely retarded. XBox One was backwards as hell and the title Xbone was well deserved. Xbox One X is a step towards the worse. You know have Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X on sale and Microsoft is talking about a console family. If there’s one thing that most people seem to agree about consoles is that they’re meant to simplify and straighten the whole business of playing games. This is the same shit that Valve did with Steam Machines and that went so damn well. At least give it a proper name to make it stand apart, like Xbox Scorpio or something. Having multiple systems for one console (family even, if you will) sure worked great for Sega. Certainly, the game market is different, but so is the economy and people are more savvy, generally speaking.

Hell, even the people on stage had to correct themselves first not to say Xbone. That tells quite a lot about how much people are respecting the brand and name of their flagship gaming console. Furthermore, why did they live through There’s no greater power than X? X+1 is greater than X. If they wanted to keep this philosophy going, they should’ve started naming their consoles after powers, like Xbox². Shit would’ve made more sense. Microsoft now also has a console with three Xs in there. Have fun with even more XXX jokes in the future.

The whole hardware centric mentality is computer gaming culture. It’s the same old song. History rhymes with itself, this time with 4k gaming. Remember when HD gaming was the next thing after the Fourth Generation of consoles? People still had their non-HD LCD television sets everywhere in their living rooms, CRT televisions were still a very common thing. Many miss the point that television sets costs loads of money and people are resistant on purchasing new hardware. Consumers will go their way out not to purchase extra hardware until something breaks down, unless they’re the forerunner technophiles that need to have the latest shit right away.

How much Microsoft pushed 4k as the defining trait of their software (and how this represented how XbonX was the most powerful console ever) tells how affairs are in a sad state. 4k is just becoming a standard with consumers (it’ll still take beyond 2020 before they’re widespread enough to be called common) but standard HD is something that’s just set in. The transition period is longer than what either Microsoft or Sony expects. I’ll give them this, future proofing their console is a decent idea, but it doesn’t really help when all your showcase games are either something that people have been playing on PC for some time now, or don’t look any better than what’s out right now. Microsoft is chasing behind Sony, but at least they’ve realised that VR is dead and weren’t pushing that. There were no gimmicks.

However, XbonX is the antithesis of current Ninth Generation that is the Switch. While XBonX emphasizes on living room gaming, the Switch’s hybrid status is where consumers have already gone. 4k means very little when people have a HD screen in their pockets to consume their time with. Microsoft is targeting the very core of Red Ocean consumer with their line of products. Xbox probably will stay successful only in the US, Europe and Asia just don’t give a damn about the aims Microsoft has for it. It doesn’t help that most of its games showcased were either ports of PC games or timed exclusives, meaning that the XbonX basically has no exclusives. Costing at $499 (I can guarantee that it’ll cost more in Europe) and having about fifteen multiplayer games prevously seen on PC and backwards compatibility with the first Xbox’s games, the price is far too high, especially when we can already foresee both Nintendo and Sony dropping their consoles’ prices just to give Microsoft the middle finger. Well, Nintendo doesn’t even need to, they just need to roll out some good software. Sony on the other hand needs distance themselves with the VR.

If there was one thing that further cemented the fact that Microsoft has their priorities mixed. Ten minutes of showcasing a damn car in an electronic entertainment expo is like promoting a new television show during an opera play. The whole Porche showcase was aimed at the hardcore racing and car fans. Sure, it’s always nice to see companies have licenses for real life cars for racing games, but this sort of masturbatory self-congratulations over getting a damn car taking your time away from games nothing short of short sighted. They should’ve just showcased it on-screen, introduce the driver and tell the people to check the car out on the stage floor and have a separate event there with further emphasize on the whole real-fucking-sportcar aspect.

Let’s not forget that most, if not all of the demos shows, were scripted from the get-go and will not represent the finished version. This tendency is unethical, no matter how much develops and publishers want to cover their assess with labels stating Does not represent finalised product or some shit. There was clearly an emphasize on certain titles over other.

Somehow watching all this has made me very weary. From a general perspective, there was nothing new. Those who follow modern PC gaming even a little bit have no need for the console, and Microsoft didn’t introduce anything worthwhile. Their emphasize of supporting the creative people who work in the industry and wanting to create the most powerful console to let these people to realize their dreams doesn’t help jack shit if they’re not going to listen to the consumer wants and wishes and only concentrate on mediocre trophy products. Hardware does not make or guarantee a good game. They’re not missing this point (though this can be doubted), but their market spiel is just overriding everything else.

Nintendo itself is not the brand

Neither are their developers or any of the individuals we see on streams and in interviews. Nintendo’s value as a brand goes up and down according to what they do. While branding is often given to the visual design and flavour of a company or a product, everyone knows branding is a lot more. If not consciously, then through unconscious osmosis of simple consumption of products. Brand goes hand-in-hand with reputation and the perceived value of the product produced by the company. Naturally, the product’s perceived value colours the value of the company.

It is extremely easy to make your product to look bland, and once you’ve made that misstep, it’s hard to recovered. Mass Effect Andromeda is extremely bland bland game and thus its perceived value is low. Patches only help so much, and PR is what the publisher must do in order to recover from the failure. It’s even worse if the fans lose their perceived value on the game, and that takes some effort to do. Like making your characters hold guns in reverse and essentially making it inferior to the first title in the series. Much like other AAA video game titles, it’s a very bland, very grey product.

What brings colour into a product is disruption. Nintendo has a history of heating up the Blue Ocean and disrupt the market with coloured products, though they have a history doing very grey products that wallow in the Red Ocean as well. The Switch, as it is currently, is about disruption in the video game industry. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo went with what probably is the future of console gaming and created a hybrid system.

To use car industry as an example, Volvo’s brand is security and safety. Their cars are not the most exciting things in the world, but they are very trustworthy overall and suit the best for everyone. Until somewhat recently you couldn’t find a car that would move away from this branding from their main lineup. This is because Volvo has begun to change this somewhat bland yet trustworthy brand image of theirs with premium cars that offer more exciting cars. Their image is not safety, but the content with the car and the options you can have.

Nintendo’s brand has been perceived similarly as kid’s and family’s console to play. A Nintendo console usually has a good variety of games for everyone to play, whereas Xbox is a first-person shooting game wet dream in console form (though that has been severely diminished with the lacklustre recent Halo titles) while Sony is that black console cool kids who like hardcore games go for. The original PlayStation followed Nintendo’s branding as a whole family’s future generation console, but at the same time used Sega’s not-just-for-children approach. While the PlayStation had games that kids enjoyed, it also had titles like WipeOut that hit the cultural club scene if the latter 1990’s. The N64 on the other hand wasn’t everybody’s console due to the sheer shit tier library it had. Saturn was ever successful in Japan and was mostly staying within then-passed arcade port title. As much as it hurts Saturn and Dreamcast fans, arcade ports didn’t cut it any more at that point, and arcades themselves were starting to die out.

People don’t just buy what companies are selling. They buy the perceived product the company is selling. Shit in a can isn’t perceived valuable, but when an artist does it and sells it as art, the perceived value among certain crowd skyrockets.

Nintendo Switch currently has a highly regarded perceived value because of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. No other title is driving its sales as much. 1-2 Switch is a joke, though the new Bomberman seems to have gone through a rise in perceived value after the latest patch. The Switch is currently the prime example how game industry and the Red Ocean consumers don’t get the market worth jack shit. As I’ve mentioned before, the Switch was proclaim dead on arrival and that its weak hardware wouldn’t be able to do anything. Yet, BotW alone is driving Switch’s sales. This is what a Zelda game is capable of when it is allowed to be true to the series rather than just a puzzle-dungeon game. Less Aonuma there is with Zelda, the better it gets.

It doesn’t matter if you personally think that these people who bought Switch and are enjoying its games are normies or have shit taste. They are not the deviation of the form, but the rule. The AAA game industry might shove millions into a game production and barely make even with the Red Ocean consumer, who seems to be easier consumer to please and pull money from as the Red Ocean is filled with competition. Developing and releasing games and consoles is hard work, and while it can be understood why Red Ocean developers want to stick where they’re most comfortable at (of course, with no expanded life experiences outside games, how could you even imagine developing game for the Blue Ocean consumer? Shoving an agenda to the player’s view is the last thing they want) and this is why even 10% drop in sequel game’s sales will put alarms on. Despite millions being in play, even the slightest change will throw the finely tuned balance off.

While video game industry is creative, it is service industry. If you want to use this sort of comparison, video game developer is on the same level as a burger flipper. Developers’ job is to serve the consumer and their needs, it is the consumer who ultimately decides whether or not your product is good enough to be purchased. You can work your burger however well, but if the consumer doesn’t want it, the onus is on you. Not on the consumer.

Nintendo’s last three home consoles show how their disruption coloured their brand. The Wii , as much as the Red Ocean hates it, was a massive success because Nintendo didn’t stay with the comfortable Red Ocean market. The Wii U was made for the Red Ocean, and it succeeded worth jack shit. Hell, it was pulled from the stores to make room for the Switch, which again has disrupted the industry and hopefully will continue to do so with both low- and high-end software aimed for everybody.

Switch inherits Wii’s philosophy

Nintendo Everything has an interview up on regarding the inception and design of the Switch. We’ll take it at face value for now, all this sort of interviews are mix of hard facts and PR after all. It’s a bit on the long side, four pages in total, but a good read nevertheless.

The first thing they quote with big blue font is how the Switch was designed to bring everyone together and play. Remember Wii’s We’d like to play ads? The Switch encompasses the same idea, which incidentally is shared with the NES (which they specifically mention and want to go way back to the hanafuda cards) and to some extent with the SNES. Can’t forget the Game Boy and the DS. It’s sad to see Koizumi saying that playing together is core essence of Nintendo, when they’ve done so much do disregard this. It is also not the full extent of Nintendo’s core, but this is neither here or there. What Koizumi is saying with his little speech about getting strangers into gaming is expansion of the market, something that Nintendo’s successful consoles have done.

The idea of Nintendo’s home console being a device that could be turned into a sort of game-presentation/sharing device on its own probably shaped the console all the way through the development. The Switch is chock-full of technological things that aren’t really needed, like the HD Rumble that the upcoming Senran Kagura is probably going to use somehow to imitate the physics of female body. The split wireless controller would’ve been enough to allocate this, but Nintendo does have a history of obsessing with useless WOW!-factors, like the 3D screen on the 3DS or the tablet controller on the Wii U.

While the Wii wouldn’t fit into this console-presenter idea, it had much easier time penetrating the wall that modern controllers put up. The Wiimote is an easy contraption to handle and use, which made the Wii an excellent console to boot up and have people playing games without worrying much how to control a given game. The rest was up to how well the game itself was designed. There certainly was a WOW! factor in Wiimotes without a doubt, but at least they saw use.

I should note at this point that the Switch is mentioned began development about three years ago. This is about the same time Nintendo’s main support on the 3DS and Wii U started lacking in major releases (or on VC for the matter) and fits their modus operandi. Just like with the Wii and previous consoles, about half of the predecessor’s life cycle is dedicated for the development of the successor.

Both Takahashi and Koizumi mention how Iwata helped them with engineering challenges, as both of them have design backgrounds. While they paint designers’ life as a daydreamer, it’s much more closer to constantly trying to solve a puzzle but having jack shit idea how to proceed. You just gotta make things work, and it helps if there are people in your team who can tell you what’s possible and why. Giving a designer total freedom only asks trouble.

I’m also calling bullshit on the fact that single-player games saw a rise on the N64 because only one controller was included. Knowing how Nintendo has gone on the record how they don’t follow their competitors’ actions (which is probably bollocks as well), how can they determine whether or not N64 was the reason for this supposed rise in single-player games? If Nintendo is worried about lack of multiplayer games and support this view, they should’ve dropped the price of their controllers and adding multiplayer elements to games like Super Mario Sunshine rather than bitching how third party is doing the same. It could be also argued that a game that can be played both single- and multiplayer and can stand on its own in single-player mode is superior to a game that requires two or more players at any given time.

Naming your product something that could attract the consumer is no easy deal. Sometimes you find a perfect name that has nothing to do with the actual product, like how Uncle Ben’s has nothing to do with rice, yet it’s a good name due to branding and all that. A PlayStation does give some hint what done with it, as does GameCube. Switch on the other hand doesn’t, but with the marketing and branding Nintendo’s doing, the idea of switching things up on the fly seems be associated with the system. Whatever else they had as candidates would be interesting to see, but at least it’s something simple and memorable. Like GameBoy.

One thing that will make the Switch stand apart from its competitors… actually, I’m not sure if the Switch has any competition per se. Because it’s a hybrid console, it doesn’t compete in traditional game console field. It competes against whatever Sony and Microsoft will dish out next, but they’re on weaker legs due to decentralisation of home entertainment. On handheld markets it has absolutely no competition with Vita being dead in the water elsewhere but in Japan. I hope you like importing for that little bugger. What a load of wasted potential Vita was. Whatever it is the competition will offer probably won’t be a pure bred game console. Consoles as home media centres is a ruling paradigm Nintendo has mostly gone against, and the Switch continues to do so. It’s main thing is to play games and dammit it needs to do it fast.

Takahashi’s argument that they didn’t want to fight smartphones and wanted to make friends with them makes no sense. Nintendo’s games and smartphones are two different markets, but I guess this is where the whole DeNA thing steps in. The whole social media aspect is what they gunned for, and seems to be the reason online chat and numerous other aspects of their online seems to be less than screwed up. Now that their online will actually cost money, I really do hope they’ll up their game in every aspect. I know it’s a futile wish, but it’s good to live with hope.

Nintendo also knows VR is terrible but still claims to be researching in it.

What strikes hopeful in Switch’s development is that it took in young people, to an extent. While it is good to take in new blood in order to rejuvenate your company and get in some new ideas, this is a generation that has lived with game consoles their whole lives. Unlike with the first three or four console generations, there is a preconception with high-end consumers what a game console needs to be like nowadays. It’s like how Zelda fans who jumped unto the ship with Ocarina of Time tend to rewrite Link’s Adventure as some sort of terrible aberration from the form. That’s Majora’s Mask.

Perhaps the last bit that garners a mention in this post is how Takahashi agrees that Switch should have more software than what was on the Wii or Wii U. Wii might be a bit hard to overcome, but Wii U’s statistics aren’t anything to write home about. Bloomberg seems to think that the Switch will sell more than the Wii, which is a tall order. While the initial reaction to Switch was essentially the same as with any other successful Nintendo console, i.e. dead on arrival, its sales show otherwise. Because the Switch sits in the handheld console market, it has the possibility of selling higher numbers than the Wii without a doubt. If it hits both home console and handheld markets with equal force, it’ll outsell the Wii. If the devs have games half-assed, it’ll sell less.

The Switch had a similar launch to the DS. It was big, with big sales left and right. Then came about a year long slumber, after which it was revised as a portable SNES of sorts. The Switch could have a similar cycle, where after this big start it trails off, and when enough and certain kind of software is release, blows up in sales again. Most likely during a holiday.

A Necessary Higher Price?

Whenever you visit a craftsman’s workshop, be it an artisan, wood craftsman or whatever else, their shops usually have a decent range of items from something that may cost five to fifteen euros to the proper items costing from fifty euros up. It should not be any surprise that the most selling items are the little trinkets and jewellery, as their price most often are from the bottom up. The price is nevertheless higher compared to the production costs than on anything else in the workshop, and that is due to necessity.

Wait, isn’t this blog supposed to be pro-consumer? Is this a hundredth post? No, and this is pro-consumer. The more information the consumer has the better. Nevertheless, we must consider reality as well. The big item orders and their several hundred or thousand production costs and installation may not bring in large income in the end. Maximising profit is any business’ main goal, and an absolutely necessity for smaller companies or individual entrepreneurs. By minimising some production costs and maximising the price the consumers are willing to pay, a person can maybe gain a living.

For example, small full metal jewellery, like crosses and such, are of one or two millimetre thick steel. Their shape usually is either something slightly original or from the general consensus of what looks. When mass-produced, their production costs tend to me low, as you can get them laser or water cut at a very low price. Adding some of your own flavour, like hammering the surface and painting it black, often produces a look that looks like the jewellery was hand-made in a forge from a piece of steel. Production costs for an individual piece might be something like to two euros (perhaps five with modern cost of material, though I know cases laser cut jewellery has cost as low as 20 cents) and the final price tag on the item might be either fifteen or twenty euros.

An example of a hammered product with a failed paint application

The reason why small items of relatively high price in comparison to their production costs exists is because they sell the most. These trinkets are often gifts that fit in the pocket and might look a bit special, especially if they have some local flavour to them. They’re also great for impulse purchases, as the low-cost seems almost insignificant compared to a hundred euro candelabra next to it. If all the work is done locally, the price won’t even have big chunk of logistics in it.

Of course, the price wouldn’t be that high if people weren’t willing to pay. The consumer rarely considers the end-price their willing to pay in terms of logistics, raw materials and work put into the product. The perceived value of a product weighs more in the end over more practical and solid information. The fact is that we as consumers pay what we consider to be valuable to use (or to others depending how much you want to impression people with your new shit) and modify our purchasing behaviour accordingly. Trading card games are great example of this. While the cards themselves are practically worthless pieces of cardboard and ink, the perceived value of their rarity within their specific games or their usability in a given deck gives them a high market price. Rarely you see a card being high in price because it has exceptional artwork or the like. The value of these cards also tend to shift rather quick as formats change, something that yours truly is not keen on.

Another though a bit different example of maximising profits while cutting away production costs is the lack of headphone jack in smartphones. Even when some phones nowadays lack the jack for traditional headphone gear in favour of wireless pieces (that frankly tend to outright suck in utility), the end price of the phone is still the same. The Wirelesness doesn’t excuse the same price, as Bluetooth is a standard in modern phones across the board. In cases like this we can question whether or not it’s just or acceptable for big companies to keep the same sales price for their phones when their production costs have seen a cut. After all, we’re not talking about a trinket here, but a several hundreds of euros worth of money.

The question whether or not upping the price like this is ethical towards the consumer is somewhat a moot question. On one hand it is true that in an ideal world products wouldn’t cost much more than what their production costs, personnel salary included. In reality this doesn’t really work due to how life tends to kick us in the balls. Profit is also necessary in order to gather money for industry related projects, additional raw materials, new equipment and so on. Profit doesn’t magically end up in a bank account as a plus mark. I’m sure all of know the feeling of wanting, needing to expand on something that you directly need, but simply lack the budget for it.

This can turn into purchasing politics very easily. While voting with your wallet is essentially the best way to hurt a provider (even a 10-15% drop in sales with video game sequels sounds alarms in companies) but is also used as a way to show support for whatever reason. DLC, especially visual flavour DLC and the like, is like these trinkets. Producing them doesn’t cost much at all while their pricetag can be surprisingly high. Again, this is just minimising costs while maximising profits. A consumer may buy these trinkets just for such perceived values as they’re just cool to have within a game as options, or that the user has a “complete” game in their collection with all the extra stuff and thus feel satisfaction through this, or just because they happen to like the developers and wish to show some support by providing them with further sales. Not really sure how much I can personally encourage buying any DLC to a game,  but that’s something any and all individuals have to decide for themselves. It is a question of opinion in the end, and all of us have the right for our own.

Music of the Month; Roundabout

I had idea what music to use this month. I honestly did. Then I completely forgot what the song was supposed to be. Not even a single note in my head. That music was supposed to be theme for this month, and you guessed it, I forgot what the theme was supposed to be. Well, I better gather something together. Ah screw it, it’s Yes time.

So, the Mega Man 2017 is now 2018. I’m not going to retroactively change that in the previous posts, because that’s how the date was announced then. Now is now, and from now on I’ll be referring the sub-franchise as Mega Man 2018. Maybe it’s the main franchise, because it’s pretty much the only thing Mega Man has going for now. His design also went well with the whole transforming mecha thing we have this year. Y’know, weapon changing and all that. A bit of a stretch, but I needed a slight break from the whole thing due to the amount of hours I’ve been putting in the workshop. I should be sleeping buy in reality I’m typing this out for you.

As for this month’s design thing, I may discuss the design og A-6 Intruder from Muv-Luv Alternative. Why? Because it’s a shape changing mecha, of course. Now getting some of the linearts or general images is a bitch, so I’ll have to resort what I have. Which probably is most than what others have due to my own devices.

Speaking of âge related stuff, Evan from the official translation side of things has translated one of the crack-head funniest bit âge’s produced, True Lies. Check it on his webzone. True Lies is a story of aliens, humans and antennoids and all the truths and lies that surround their existence. There’s a lot of love in there, and a hero we all don’t want but probably will get in the end. It’s a good bit and will entertain a solid hour, even when it starts to drag towards the end. Melvina Maniax was also pushed out and there’s Kimi ga Nozomu Muv-Luv, a product that’s been coming out since forever. I guess good things are worth the wait, though personally I’ll have to wait for it myself a bit longer due to circumastances. Not that I have time to read anything currently, I still haven’t touched Schwarzesmarken properly.

As for reviews, this month will see release of new 8Bit Music Power Final, and because I love you marvelous bastards so much, I decided to go with the version that comes with an attachment that supposedly puts out higher quality music. Seeing their build quality got better with Kira Kira DX, I’m hoping that they’ll step up the quality once more with this one. I don’t expect any gameplay from them as this really is just a digital album released on a Famicom cartridge. If’ you’re a Touhou fan, you might want to pick it up as Zun has a piece in there. Not really sure what I should aim for the next review, but I guess I’ll find out later down the line this month. I’ll just need to dig up something a bit strange and game related, as that seems to be in-demand. Well, as in demand as anything can be relating to this blog.

I haven’t commented on game news recently much due to nothing too much of interest being out there. The Switch has sold over five million units, which is damn good number. Especially when you consider that we are not in holiday season. A console selling five million during Christmas or such season is nothing out of normal, but selling that well in March raises an eyebrow. The system launch library though is atrocious, but seems like it has found its spot in the niche. Now if the software would just keep rolling in.

That reminds that I should discuss the emphasize of game design over technological design now that it seems we’re in an era where each new generation doesn’t marvel with its leaps in technology. All consoles can output great graphics, but now it’s put to the design of the graphics and gameplay to make due. Graphics whoring is for PC side, after all. I don’t remember anyone going full gaga over a game in decades anymore due to its graphics, Crysis was the last one I remember having such an effect on people. Well, if you exclude Illusion’s titles, but I’m not here to talk about porn games. Not yet at least.

Perhaps discussing game collecting might be a topic worth visiting. That would be an anecdotal post, mostly form a personal point of view and as such I doubt that it would do well in grand scheme of things (though there isn’t one.) Perhaps something less serious for a change might be in place, though emphasizing on topics that get the most hits via search engines would be the logical things to do. As Spock noticed oh so many times, humans tend to be illogical beings.

Speaking of Star Trek, whenever we get to see stuff from Discovery in a more transparent way than just leaked shots, I’ll do a comment on the designs. I did so with Star Wars (and I’ve bitched about them quite a lot) and Trek will get the same treatment. However, the rumour mill has been saying that the behind-the-screen events have been pretty terrible and handled terribly. For example, despite the show being a prequel series to the original Star Trek series, the designers and showrunners were forced to make it look the most advanced series in the franchise due to executive meddling. Midnight’s Edge has a video on the whole thing. Honestly, I’m not terribly excited about Discovery, prequels tend to be terrible (just look at Enterprise) and apparently it’s going to have more sex, which is one to the things that killed Enterprise. Is it echoing here? It’s not looking good for the series, but maybe some series do require extended periods of staying away from the general view and stay within the fandom in order to renew themselves completely.

Censorship is not transformative

While it may seem at times that this blog is against art in some ways, the reality is that I am against the wild use of the term. Not everything needs or deserves to be art to be a highly valued cultural commodity. This blog largely defends the rights of creative industries and their aims to create works. However, I also come from the consumer perspective, where the creator often needs to take into account the market’s wants and needs in order to succeed. Needless to say, this entry is going to differ from the usual writer’s persona a bit.

Censorship is not that.

If an author intends his work to be in a certain way and releases said piece in its intended state, it is not the job of others to come and change that product to fit themselves afterwards. If we are to determine art as a way to express oneself, no one else should have a word how or what the creator wishes to express. Censoring or changing one’s work, but not transforming it, is essentially infringing a core element of art itself.

A product is transformative when an original piece is taken and given a new form. For example, Youtube is filled with videos that fall under transformative label, as they take existing videos and sounds, creating something new based on them. MADs fall under this same category. They do not infringe on the original author’s intent since the original is still there, unaltered. Hollywood seems to have hard time grasping this thing.

To argue that censorship would be transformative is nothing short of incorrect, as it is intentional suppression of any element of a work as seen by any faction or person for whatever reason, be it political or due to supposedly objectionable content. Censorship does not transform elements of a work into a new one, it simply removes pieces it doesn’t like. It doesn’t transform the work; it doesn’t derive anything new from a work.

While human history is short in the cosmic scale, we’ve still had numerous works that are significant to our world and cultural heritage. Many of these are under the gun of censorship, especially nowadays when bikini clad women in games are seen as worst sort of offending material there is. Some even argue that Shakespeare should be censored to be more timely.  What a terrible waste that would be. Even when we would remove the Immortal Bard from the equation, the fact is that his works are significant both culturally and historically. Understanding them is to understand the time they came from as well as modern English as a language.

Censoring the likes of Shakespeare for whatever reasons, or Mark Twain for the matter, is showing every sense of lack of belief and confidence in the people. Essentially, removing nigger from Twain’s books shows that the factions doing the censorship has no faith in the people to make the distinction between the era when the book was written in and now, or that the term is used in form that offers no offence. It is unfunny irony that Huckleberry Finn would see censorship in this way. Often the intent of censorship in cases like this is for a more positive and “fitting” release of the work for a given era, but as it always is, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

If one were to argue that Shakespeare’s King Lear is a copy of the legend of Leir of Britain with elements from the Holinshed’s Chronicles, I would argue back that it is not. To use something like Star Wars as an example, using existing works as a template to create your own work is not plagiarism, or in Star Wars‘ case, even transformative. The fact that George Lucas used classical literature, especially the concept of hero’s journey combined with elements inspired by Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, to create something that was essentially new and needed in the later 1970’s speaks volumes on itself. Creativity feeds back on itself, just like any field feeds back to itself. It wouldn’t be incorrect to say that all creative fields derive from each other and from themselves, but that doesn’t keep anyone from to taking elements, rearrange them and give them new approaches to create something original. Sure, some resort to blatant ripping off, but that’s another issue.

Of course, it is well known that Shakespeare’s works are inspired by existing tales, but we don’t exactly celebrate the plots of his works. They are celebrated because Shakespeare’s works broke down existing boundaries both socially and in language. Hamlet‘s plot is not why it’s so highly regarded, but because Hamlet himself is so well written as a character and how Shakespeare conveys his growth and anguish through and through. Act III, Scene I of Hamlet is not great because To be or not to be has become recognized as almost universal anguish, but how the whole line bears Hamlet to the audience. There is no actor who would not want to tackle this famous line and breathe his own life into it.

We do not have reverence for Shakespeare’s works because of him; it’s the opposite.

The question whether or not we should separate the creator from his work is something we all should consider. I would argue that as often as possible we need to separate the work from its author simply because our view on the piece would be coloured and become biased if we have strong opinions on the creator. It is very easy to veer into identity politics if we have something against a creator, as it is the case with Dana Schutz’s Open Casket. The case shows how anyone can interpret a painting how they see fit and disregard the author’s intent. While we can debate which one is more important, we should always remind ourselves that freedom of expression is a supposed tent pole with art, and as such should be respected over personal views. Calling for her painting to be burned is very reminiscent of book burnings from various eras, e.g. German Nazi party’s book burnings. While we can argue obout the painting itself, no subject should be banned from anyone within the proper limits of law.

If we were to ban certain people from subjects to create works based on, the opposite should the true as well. Otherwise we’d be discriminating a group and favouring another. However, such limitation would kill the change of thoughts and ideas as well as the discussion between and in these groups. Creativity would stifle to a standstill when nobody is allowed to wonder outside their own region, creating a sort of echo chamber. No outside aspects would be brought in to give new and fresh ideas. Some would certainly welcome this sort of approach, as long as it would be aligned with their own views.

The world already has a history with this sort of approach, at least a one sided example. The Socialist Realism was practices in the nations of Soviet Union, which essentially prescribed a canon in art and other creative fields. While creative fields are not political by their core nature, politics can be applied to them. Socialist Realism was nothing short of political propaganda and its core intent can’t be separated from politics, but we can sideline it.  However, not before it fell from favour around the 1960’s, no other idea or thought was allowed; it governed the creators.

The Chinese communist party did even worse by almost erasing their old culture and destroyed much of the Chinese heritage. Jump here to read a bit more on that. It’s interesting to notice both of these are communist and marxist examples.

In order for discussion and exchange of ideas to move forwards, we need to allow the creation of things we may object and view them outside our own selves. Nothing good comes from silencing the one we disagree and push him underground, when we can lift him up to the stage of ideas and allow all to see and wage these ideas ourselves.

The will and skill to express oneself has been around longer than the written word. If we’re to value art as we like to see it, it’d be great of we could stop fucking around with it and let people show their stuff. If one is ready to censor or ban someone’s freedom of expression, he’d better be ready to face censorship himself.

 

Experience and digital space

Short answer; No. Long answer; It’s a bit more complicated than that. With digital media, the ontology is often concentrated on viewing the relationship between the consumer, the media and the culture of the media. The digital part is significant. While there are now few generations that have grown up in a world that never lacked the digital component, it is still relatively new introduction in historical scale. Nevertheless, it is present everywhere nowadays and digital elements in out life most likely will keep growing as the time goes by.

Timothy Druckery, a theorist of contemporary media, even went so far to argue that it would not be possible to describe or experience the world without technologically digital devices. He argues further that the evolution from mechanical to technological computer  culture has been more than just a series of new techniques and technological advances, that it is more about the evolution between dynamics of culture, interpretation and experience. Much like Druckery’s collegues, he argues that representative works are based on experience, and it would be hard to argue against that.

Video and computer games are based on experiences people have. First computer RPGs had their roots in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns people had, and this applies to origins of Ultima as well.  Miyamoto has stated that The Legend of Zelda his goal with the game was to have the game feel the same way as if you were exploring a city you have never been in before. You can almost see the overworld map as a city layout in this sense, where certain paths are alleys, larger open areas are parks and numerous dead-ends permiate the game. Or maybe that’s just me. Satoshi Tajiri, the name behind the Pokémon franchise, based the game on his own experience with bug catching. Japan has a history with kids having bug catching as a hobby, and the latest big craze was during the 1990’s. When you consider how a kid has to cover creeks, run over rivers and search the forests for new bugs to catch, you begin to see the adventure and the excitement that Tajiri wanted to convey in Pokémon. You also begin to see where modern Pokémon has started to veer off, emphasizing plot over adventure. There was a good article how Yu Suzuki put Virtua Fighter’s developer through martial arts training each morning in order for his men to animate a punch or a kick right.

That is not to say a game can be created without any experience in subject itself. Hideo Kojima has never been a spy or a soldier on a battlefield, but he nevertheless put his experience from Western movies into use in Metal Gear. You can see the change in certain visual in Metal Gear Solid 2  when they got an actual military advisor on the team. For example, Snake no longer pointed his gun upwards and overall how characters began to handle weapons changed. Small, but rather significant change when you consider how much Metal Gear games depend on the whole experienced soldier schtick.

Nevertheless, all the above mentioned games are representative of some sort of experience and allow the player to experience a sort of simulation of it. With any new sort of media there has been the fear of losing something important to humanity, if you will. With digital media the question of the consumer’s identity has become a question through the fears of how any new media might (or rather will) change our way of thinking and the way we live.

Without a doubt we have both real and virtual spaces as well as the identities that go with them. We have a wear a different persona when we are with our parents or friends, and the same applies to the virtual space. Since the 1990’s virtual space has become more and more daily thing to the point of Facebook and other social media becoming almost essential. However, even in these spaces we have a persona on us that is different from others. Much like how when writing this blog I have a persona on you don’t see in other virtual spaces, though it is overlapping harshly with everything nowadays. While there is no physical aspect to virtual spaces (they are digital and non-physical by definition) they nevertheless are real and can carry to the “real” world. However, we can always the space we choose to interact with, though this has led to the birth of extreme comfort zones where one must feel safe all the time rather than challenging oneself and broaden horizons. After all, nobody wants to get stuck in place for all eternity. Unless they get hit by a car and fall into three years of coma.

Whether or not digital media and virtual identities change our selves in physical form is a topic for a different post (it does, but the extent in which way is expansive), but I can’t but mention that experiences the consumers gain from digital media affects us just as any other similar source. After all, electronic games are an active medium instead of passive like movies or music and require the consumer to learn in order to advance. This has led some to argue that games promote violence through teaching violent methods.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the two names responsible of the Columbine Shooting in 1999, and two years later Linda Sanders, whom lost his husband in the shooting, sued 25 different companies, like Id Software, Apogee Software and Interplay Productions, claiming that the event would not have happened if games with extreme violence like this wouldn’t exist. It was argued that certain games allowed the two assailants to train their shooting skills with precision and affected the two in a negative way. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over, games do not cause kids to go violent, and it would seem to be far more about the individual and their mental health than the media they consume.

However, it must be said that even when games are escapism from real world, they still are a product of real experiences. Playing may be just a game much like any other, but the more real world expands into virtual spaces thematically and ideologically, the less there is separation between the two. Ultimately, playing a game will affect the real world persona of the player, thought he question how much is very much up to the individual consumer. Games have been discussing censorship, violence and current topics for more than thirty years now, and for a medium that is about escapism to a large extent, that does not bode well. How much value we can put on a digital world that does not make use of its non-real capabilities and ties itself to the real?

Perhaps the digital personae we use has become less important as the melding of two worlds continues, and the identity we assume is an amalgamation.