Essay research, Understanding Video Games

Nielsen, S.E, Smith, J.H, Tosca, S.P, (2008), Understanding Video Games: Oxon; Routledge

-page 35 figure 3.4 Jesper Juul’s model of how standard game definitions work.

“classic game model”

Juul’s diagram depicts how much participation/effort the player has within various types of games.

page 38 -“Mechanics are the rules and basic code of a game…Dynamics is the way the game actually plays based on the mechanics.”

Essay research, Videogames.

Newman, J, (2004), Videogames: Oxon; Routledge

Chapter 2 Page 16-17 Why do players play?

A player wants: challenge, immersion and expects to do, not to watch from a game. “Players want to work for their rewards.”

Newman quotes a passage from Rouse on page 17

– “Once a player is into a game they don’t want to be snapped out of it.”

There are a few components of games that make the player lose immersion with the game, these are explored by Newman. The GUI(graphical user interface) makes the player lack immersion with the game; “If the GUI is not designed to be transparent and to fit in with the rest of the game art it will stick out”. This could be interesting to explore within the essay, as this is something that decreases the amount of immersion.

4 distinct form of games:

  • Agon – competition
  • Alea – chance and randomness
  • Ilinx – pleasure is derived from movement
  • Mimicry – simulation, RP

Page 26 – Video games and interactivity.

“Video game experience is in fact, the product of a complex interplay of elements each demanding and facilitating different degrees and types of participation and activity”.

Games encompass spatial challenges – space invaders, you are placed as the sole defense, you have to remove the enemy – clearing the space and making it habitable/safe.

Possible title: Videogames immersive value through the narrative development.

Target audience – ‘the majority of console game players are 18 years and older’ does this affect the structure of the narrative?

Chapter 5 – Videogame structure.

Non-interactivity in the interactive video game. – This chapter outlines some of the parts of games that lack full immersion of the player.

“Videogames are defined by its focus on player activity.”

Cut scenes remove the player from participating involvement which means you lose the immersion.

Breaks and intermissions between levels are a staple of videogames – why is this? Cut scenes aren’t always counter=productive.

Levels, stages and mini games etc offer “different types of setting, action, location and even representational styles”.


Subtle things are often important – the fact that “an enemy flashing white when hit by the player’s weapon is actually taking damage and not blocking or evading in some way.”, this is important because it shows tha the game mechanics and dynamics need to be clearly outlined for new players or similar to another game for existing players. Experience of games allows the player to know and expect key dynamics, i.e. visual clues that enemies are weak to specific weapons or have weak spots. Does this mean that games give experience that exists within reality and is transferable throughout games within a genre? The knowledge that a certain enemy is weak to a specific thing could refer to the reality that as human beings we have weak spots – vital organs etc.

Gameplay varieties – Super Mario is defined as a platform game yet it is varied with levels – you get a flying cap and now you can fly.

Immersion interface within games, controller is both uncomfortable yet a barrier to success.

Essay intro plan – Write about key immersion theory lead into how this works in games.

Is the non-consistent interactivity a good thing?

Page 77 – Level differentiation, Boss battles.

resilient foes that act as more of a challenge to the player. This is due to their ‘unique attack and defense patterns and their particular weaknesses.’

“The boss represents the controlled climax to a particular sequence of thematically and aesthetically related levels.” – this builds progression and development into a game.

Levels are the structure of a game – each one bringing a new set of enemies.

Page 82 – Between Levels

Cut scenes – why do they exist – they bring a lot of distraction to the immersion as the player is no longer in control. Seamlessness and continuous play are important to the immersion; “video games play must be about unbroken interaction”. Periods of ‘downtime’ and non-interaction inflict on the overall experience of the game.

Chapter 6 – Narrative and play. Audiences and players.

Rouse (2001) states that “video game engagement shifts from ‘interactive, participatory play’ to ‘passive, detached watching'”. It is players who breathe life into and sense of videogames.

Essay Plan

Essay Plan-

Introduction –

Outline the difference between console and mobile games.

State that games take toll on the physical side of the player, even though the game designer is only concerned with the imaginary.

State that I am looking solely at existing players and how this affects them.

Immersion –

How and why a player becomes immersed.

Console Games –

Idea of levels, development of characters etc

Barriers: controller, GUI

Target audience

Mobile games –

Idea of levels, development of characters etc

Barriers: controller, GUI

Target audience


Papa Sangre, an audio game.

Papa Sangre is a mobile game that utilises the sound sense to progress the player through the game. With the new uprising of motion control and touchscreens within games, Papa Sangre breathe new life into the industry with a fully audio based gameplay. It takes advantage of the use of headphones and surround sound, to direct the player through the levels. This is used to immerse the player in the game, allowing them to gain direction through the game. I think that Papa Sangre is a good example to use for my essay as it is a good example of a single sensory value being used to immerse the player.

I found a good article to use as reference that contains an interview with the developers:

Essay research, The Art of Game Design

Schell, J, (2008), The Art of Game Design; USA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.

Chapter 2 – The designer creates an experience.

“Game designers only care about what seems to exist. The player and the game are real. The experience is imaginary.” Schell states that a game designer needs to borrow approaches from psychology and design. These create the experience.

Four elements of games:

  • mechanics
  • story
  • aesthetics
  • technology

All of these need to work together in equal balance to create the game experience.


Essay research, More than a game.

Atkins, B, (2003), More Than A Game; Manchester: MAnchester University Press.

How do games claim varieties of realism?

Atkins states that computer games hold a different relationship with the real world than other forms of media, this could be because of the way that a game is constructed; it invites the player into the world. Immersive techniques allow the player to become fully attached to the game world. Atkins questions the form of the computer game – just how realistic is it? This links up with the idea of hyperealities and immersion as it is asking how far the world is pushed to make it believable to the player.

“We are confronted with a form of narrative storytelling where the production of story is the end result of play”, this statement backs up the idea of the narrative being only concerned with the subconscious immersion of the game, it is not what makes a player hooked. What do players find addictive in a game? Another view is that the statement fully links the idea of narrative immersion that requires the player to utilise the game mechanics. A player needs to feel content with the game mechanics to become immersed in the narrative. It is in its essence the mechanics and dynamics that are the key to the level of immersion; “A player needs to feel content with the game mechanics to become immersed in the narrative”(Atkins 2003). A good example of this is Katamari, you get addicted to the gameplay but the narrative is so bizarre that it takes a back seat. The whole concept seems a little weird – why are you collecting balls of objects that then get turned into stars and planets?

“The computer game takes its toll on the body even as it promises a disembodied and virtual experience.”, does this mean that the player still feels a sense of reality whilst playing the game, they are still aware of their emotions and surroundings and the game world is simply a temporary escape from this.

Idea of simulation within games – promoted through the marketing teams but the reality is that games fall short of this idea. The hype of a game is what sells it, the reality is that the player will always want more.

It is about becoming accustomed to what amounts as the visual style of the game. A player will become more immersed with something that is realistic and believable. This means that the mechanics and dynamics need to reflect a sense of reality. The level of reality depends on the player – psychological aspects that make us more susceptible to believe.

I am researching too broad an area, need to decide which one to do! Narrative? Concept? Visual? All? – could link to sensory values, theory.

“Convincing in their ‘illusion’ that the image presented could have been connected mechanically with a ‘real’ object because that ‘real’ object is actually located within the imagination and not the observed world.” – I should look into what makes our imagination work, the game reality lives within the imagination of the player – suggestive thoughts from the games mechanics.


I draw guns! has just sourced me with a rather interesting little company that specialises in designing the firearms for video games. Rmory Studios based in southern Germany, mainly designs the guns that feature in video games. This niche in the industry is not often heard of so you can see why I am so intrigued by it. The Rmory website gives an insight to the kind of clients that they have worked for alongside a showcase of their previous work. For me this find has opened my eyes to the reality of what a specialism within the games industry actually means. If a company solely works on perfecting a firearm, it proves that within even smaller companies a person can be very specialised. After looking at the work of Rmory studios I can see that they spend a hell of a lot of time on getting a weapon just right, and not simply visually but also realism. This is a main issue within the media of video games as you are trying to make a person believe in what you are creating, if a gun doesn’t fire in a correct manner there will be someone out there who recognises it. Video games are about trickery, making the player perceive the imagery as reality. This refers back to our last lesson in Critical and Contextual Studies where we looked at how film has progressed from the ideas of magicians and illusions. From this case study of Rmory Studios I can see that the industry is answering the players want for a realistic believable world, which in turn creates the immersion of the player.

Listen to the feedback.

Final Fantasy is a much-loved RPG game, one that most have grown up with over the years. I found an Edge online interview with Yoshinori Kitase(producer) on the reasons as to why FFXIII was badly received and what they have done within the sequel to regain the trust of the disappointed fans. This is a crucial part of a game’s success rate, you have to give the fans what they want.

Kitase recognised the linear issue with FFXIII and states that within FFXIII-2 they have rectified this by creating the Historia Crux system, a new interface which allows the player to travel between time periods seamlessly. He goes on to say that this element allows the player to ‘customise the story’ to create a more ‘individual experience’ of the game. This has always been an important factor within RPG games, as it is essential to the player feeling a connection with the game. You play an RPG to be able to experience a virtual reality that you have full control over. If the character you are playing is on a set path (within a linear game narrative) then you lose some of the connection to the game, because in a way you expect to be able to make the decisions for your character. I think this is where FFXIII was let down the most, as it featured a completely linear narrative.

Another area highlighted by Kitase is the use of side quests; in most RPG’s the side quests are found when you engage in conversation with a NPC, who then asks you to do something for them. FFXIII lacked this engagement of other in-game characters, the most you got was a random statement as you ran past the NPC. Now we have the live trigger, which allows you to respond to the NPC’s conversation in whichever way you find most appropriate (See the image to the left).

There is much more on the Edge online website here in this interview but for the sake of this analysis I am simply focusing on the two above areas.

As you can see within the video, they have really expanded the ideas of alternate things to do whilst in the game. This possibly stems from the critique, plus the fact that these were things that were done previously within the FF series.


Edge Staff, 2011, Yoshinori Kitase on Final Fantasy XIII-2. Edge Online, [article] 19 December. Available at: [Accessed 24 January 2012]

Fahey, M, 2012, There’s a Lot More to Do in Final Fantasy XIII-2 Than Save the World. Kotaku, [article] 25 January. Available at: [Accessed 26 January 2012]

Research for Essay

In this weeks session we were asked to have a think about an area that interests us within our chosen specialist area, this is so that we can continue this into an essay for our final part of this project. I have been looking for research and I am leaving it very open as to what I am looking at, so that I can refine the question down later. Currently I am looking at how a games gameplay effects its narrative. This will have a heavy relation to the concept of hypereality.

So far these are my current research references:

Miller, C, H (2004), Digital Storytelling, Oxford, UK: Elsevier. – This outlines narratives within various digital forms, it goes through all the necessary areas of concentration for a digital story i.e. target audience, success.

Co, P (2006) Level Design For Games, CA:New Riders. – This is an instructional guide on everything that needs to be considered for a game level.

Jones, S, E (2008) The meaning of video games, Oxom: Routledge. – Importance of games within culture, highlights humans relation to games, immersion and sensory involvement.

Ryan, M, L (2001) Narrative as Virtual Reality, Mayland: The John Hopkins University Press. – Also looks at immersion with games, hyperealities.

Castillo and Novak (2008) Game Level Design, New York: Delamr. – How to create effective levels, similar to Level Design For Games.

TedxYouth, (2011) TedxKids@Brussels-Gabe Zichermann-Gamification Available at: [Accessed 25 November 2011] – Outlines idea of gamification, its importance in current society. Also looks at the future of games in modern culture.

I will post more research up as and when I find it.

Week 7 – Essay writing

This week the session was designed to help us get used to essay writing.

We began by looking at Jean Baudrillard and Hypereality:

My attention was first brought to the Coca cola Christmas advertisement – The Holidays are Coming – this is a very good example of Baudrillard’s theory as it shows us an image of Father Xmas. If we look at the formation of Father Xmas we can see that he is a construction created by companies and the public alike. We know this because originally Santa was depicted wearing a green outfit, nowadays the Santa we know and love is wearing red. His appearance has been altered depending on the occasion. This can be done because Santa is a hypereality, he isn’t a real person that cannot be changed. The slogan for the coca cola adverts is “Even better than the real thing”, this further emphasizes the fact that the comapny is trying to make the public believe that it is within our reality, they are making it seem like it exists within the person’s reality. Advertising begins to try and convince people that everything is the ‘real’ thing.

Baudrillard found this interesting as it developed a culture with multiple realities, we live in a world where we relate to things that don’t exist. In a way this theory is quite worrying, as we don’t think twice about whether something we relate to exists or not.

Post-structuralist –

Roland Barthes  – interested in Myths

Sructuaralism –

Claude Levi Strauss – compared diff cultures

I made note of the above as I think that they will come in useful for what I have in mind for the essay.

On the other hand to Jean Baudrillard’s theory we also looked at Karl Marx. He devised that society no longer sees the production of consumer goods; this means that people in charge of the capital have much more control over the product. In effect what this means is that, the public has lost the control over the finer details of the product they are buying. We no longer have a choice where things are produced and in some cases to what standard, as we have been cut out of the production loop.

Quote: “all that is solid melts into air”, this is saying that he reality of the product dissapears. We don’t connect with the product until we see it in its final form, so consumers have no idea about the true reality of it.

Marx highlights the problem with capitalist society.

We then went on to look at Simulcra, these are merely copies of copies. This idea is saying that insteand of creating new things, within society currently we are simply creating copies of what we once had, this is what we relate to.We used to have a reflection that was the profound reality, now there is an absence of profound reality.

Going back to the idea of Father Xmas now, this character evolved out of The Wildmen. The Wildmen are wood spirit’s that roamed around clad in thick matted hair in Northern Europe during the middle ages. This could be considered a myth, but the resemblance to our current Father Xmas is uncanny. The spirits are said to have wandered through the forests with reindeer’s as company. Nowadays we see Santa Claus accompanied by his 12 reindeer’s. Another similar thing is the style of the two characters, Santa seems to have adopted the big bushy beard form the Wildmen.

We also have another vision of the original Santa, this is in the form of St Nicholas, who was accompanied by Krampus or Black Peter. This is a rather interesting idea to the story of Santa as, we all know that Santa is a very kind and loving character who rewarded the good children with presents. So, Black Peter was formed to be the punisher of bad children, by giving them a lump of coal instead of a present. It is kind of interesting that instead of making Santa do bad things they decided to invent another character. In conclusion to this, we now know that neither Xmas or coca cola are part of the profound reality anymore.

The last part of the session involved us watching a video by Charlie Brooker titled, Why Reality TV isn’t Real. It outlined all the things that go on without the public knowing within reality tv and basically outlined that what we consider to be truthful is actually often adjusted to make it seem like something much more interesting is going on.

We the went on to do two summaries of the session, as a practice exercise to start us getting used to essay writing. This is what I came up with:

Hypereality is the concept that as human beings we are able to detach from a sense of reality. It has been explored through various means, a good example is the Coca Cola xmas advertisements. In which we are posed with an image of Father Xmas. In our current society we are well aware of the constructed figure of St Nicholas so we associate with it. In actuality what we are doing is exploring a constructed reality, as Father Xmas isn’t real. He is the product of capitalism and our cultural needs. Hypereality depicts a variety of what we consider to be profound reality, alongside what we allow to be our reality at any given time.

We could also consider that phenomenology has some effect on our reality. In comparison to Baudrillard, the idea of phenomenology states that all terms of reality begin with our bodies. This theory relates to the idea that making something appear more realistic to how we see helps the person become much more involved in the reality; this is embodied thinking.

Depict1 by Kyle Pulver

I recently came across a clever little platform game by Kyle Pulver named Depict1. It has a rather interesting concept of mechanics, that enables the narration to become part of the game mechanics. You begin the game given the command “Click nothing to begin”, which being the only button available, you obviously click it. This proceeds onto another screen in which tell you not to press X and C, again the player obviously does the opposite of what it is saying. You then will be on the first level, in which the narrator appears to you and gives you several commands, that through trial and error you steadily learn to be the opposite of what you should be doing. The game is being the opposite of what we know games to begin like, usually we have a tutorial that will guide a player through some simple tasks to get them acquainted with the controls and aim of the game. Depict1 uses the idea of a tutorial and twists it so that it allows the player to realise that the main theme of the game is to be witty and read between the lines; it makes for an interesting game.

This screenshot shows a part of the game where the narrator tells you to stop playing the game as you can’t continue over the massive pit of spikes. This is a very clever use of a well-known video game reference, all gamers will know the dreaded pit of spikes=restart from checkpoint, so at this point it seems that the narrator is actually trying to help you. Although the pit of spikes is the only way to go, so you have no choice but to risk it, and as it turns out the “deadly” pit of spikes end up turning into a projectile that you can use to climb higher up walls.

Depict1 is a very good example of how the language can be further integrated into a games mechanics, it proves how much language plays within a game. To understand this though, it is probably best to have a go on the game so here is a link to it.

Communication Theory

Is That A Fish In Your Ear? is a new book about language translation by David Bellos. I recently became aware of this by finding an animation done by Matthew Young to promote the book. Even though the book itself is actually relevant to what we have recently been studying in critical and contextual studies, the actual animation does act as a good reference to the idea of communication theory.

The way that the animation is set up as a piece of motion graphics flows with the idea of the book. It generates the concept of communication following the theory of sociopsychological constitutive. We are shown the words that are being played during the animation. This concept is the basic form of motion graphics, thus the animation is communicating by both the visual and the verbal to express the idea of the book.

The video itself is interesting to watch, as you can start to imagine what the difference would be with just the sound or just  the visuals. I think that due to the nature of the animation, the sound alone communicates better than the visuals, simply because it is a narration of what is going on.

Week 5 and 6 – Communication Theory

Week 5

As I missed last weeks session of critical and theoretical studies due to helping out at Leeds Digital Festival, I am going to make some notes as best i can from the resources on moodle. At first I had a look at the handout on communication theory, and devised that I wasn’t going to be able to get a grasp of it without the lecture power-point presentation. So, here is what I came up with:

Communication theory can be divided into seven areas, cybernetic, semiotics, the Phenomenological Tradition, rhetorical, socio-psycological, socio-cultural and critical theory.

Cybernetic theory –

To a designer this is an important area as it encompasses how effective your work is at communicating an idea. This applies to various disciplines in art. It’s main limitation is that it is a linear process, which means that it isn’t ‘concerned with the production of meaning itself’, thus meaning that you need a final outcome to get a form of feedback. This makes the process of perfecting an idea time-consuming.

The power-point goes on to outline the idea of ‘Who are we communicating to?’, this of course for designers is the main hoop to jump through. In most cases you need a good knowledge of a target audience to be able to fulfill a brief, with a high level outcome. Maybe the power-point is suggesting that the better we know our target audience the better we are at communicating a specific idea to them; this would link to the idea of aiming an idea to an audience.

Semiotics –

The three basic concepts of semiotics are:

Semantics – addresses what a sign stands for, an example of this is a dictionary, it is a semantic reference book.

Syntactics – this is the relationship between signs.

Pragmatics – studies the practical use and effects of signs.

Week 6

We started the session with a recap of last week, it seems my notes above are pretty accurate. Onwards to more notes…

Phenomenological tradition is the idea of being in a body, it is what we associate with being a physical being. If we can’t touch it, we can’t understand it. This extends to the idea of the embodied mind, the idea that communication is seen as an extension of the nervous system. This starts with the awareness of the body.

Socio- Psychological tradition is split into three areas, behavioral, cognitive and biological. This is all about how we connect as human beings. Cognitive theory is about how the brain develops connections from experiences, therefore we are continually growing our awareness of communication and how it is used.This also relates to the idea of narrative, which refers directly to my practice. In terms of narrative, the social and cognitive psychology relates to the idea of a sequence. The verbal within a story allows us to understand the time-scale of the narrative.Within sociopsychological tradition there are two subsystems, the verbal and the visual, which are used to relay a message to the viewer.

Sociocultural tradition – ‘defining yourself in terms of your identity with terms such as father, student etc’. This defines a person as part of a group which frames them within a cultural identity. A well used example of this is within education, as a person life through education means that they are formed into the school/institute culture. Education aims to expand students knowledge – this needs to take into consideration the zone of proximal development. This is where the teacher makes sure that the level of information taught is above the current level of the class but not too far above as they wouldn’t understand it.

Finally we have critical communication theory, a synthesis of philosophy and social science. This applies to media and how it controls communication towards the viewers. A good example of this is within the news, where the government can use news stories to foreshadow what is going on, or to prepare people for something. Critical theory easily confuses facts and values as it imposes dogmatic ideology and questions rational validity.


Overall, all communication is dependent on the context, thus why there are seven different areas within it. I think to fully understand what has been shown in these two lectures, I will need to start applying this to actual mediums.

Video Games Language

As I was browsing the web, I managed to come across an article on Edge magazines website, It features Tadhg Kelly’s (Industry veteran and co-founder of Simple Lifeforms) opinion on why Video Games need to own their own language. Within the article he describes how over the years, people working in the industry have shyed away from bringing a definition to actually what is a video game. I found this concept rather interesting as know I come to think about it, the definition of video games is rather blurry, but why is this? The article makes us aware of how the industry currently portrays its products, and why this has a resounding effect on the actual language that is used to describe video games. It tells us of how they borrow little bits of legitimacy from various other art form, thus making a video game a mixed variation of lots of different things; it loses its independency.

Kelly begins the article by stating the known fact that the people who produce video games, often prefer to talk about them in terms of strategy, it is all about selling the game, and making it successful. Often this side of the industry overwrite the actual creative process, thus making a video game stand well within the borders of the word ‘art’. But as, Kelly states “It is difficult for many of us to say out loud that games are an art and game makers are artists. We feel foolish.”, he shows how even when people do associate video games as an art form, they tend to ‘deflect’. This shows how much video games lack an actual language, something that actually defines them as separate from other media.

I found this idea rather interesting, as we have been looking at how we as students will be entering into a transmedia industry. Which as far as I am aware, games is the only one that seems to lack a universal language. If, this is the case, does this mean that it is better or worse for a graduate? Currently in the industry it means that video games are floating around in an unknown area, this is often due to the fact that games have so many sub-divisions that having a universal language for them doesn’t work. I think this leaves the industry in a very good position, as they have alot more freedom, when designing a game you have constraints, but only ones like is this going to work as a game instead of sticking to a specific area.

I think that by being in the unknown area, video games have something that no other genre has, which is probably why it is a hub of transmedia. The thing that I am talking about is versatility. You can pick up a film, look at the genre, the actors, and director, and your mind will always be associating it with what all these aspects imply onto the film. Whereas with a game, you can know the genre, the type of game, even the development company, but with a game you pretty much always get a sense of surprise. The characters, the world and all the little bits that make up the game are created from someones brain, using various bits of inspiration of course, but what I am getting at is that the characters in a game generally don’t, and it’s probably best that they don’t, exist in real life. This means that you don’t get that preconceived vision of the character which you do in other media, especially film, i.e. even though as Batman Christian Bale throws on a hoarse voice doesn’t mean that as a viewer we don’t associate him with being the skinny, scrawny character in The Machinist. Within film we subconsciously view actors as all the different persona’s that they have portrayed to us public; this is something, that games often lack.

Kelly summarises his article by stating that “Games are an art built on portraiture in motion. You step into a game and you step into another place. We make something that takes players somewhere, and in the process we lighten their lives in a unique way. And, being unique, that art deserves new words.” I think that is a perfect way to finish, he is proving that it is not necessary for games to have their own language, but in doing so they would be able to express why games are so important.

The Seven Basic Plots – Booker, C

This is long overdue, it is the first piece of text that we got in our first critical and theoretical studies class. We took a look at the first chapter titled Overcoming The Monster in Booker’s book The Seven Basic Plots.

These are scans of the notes that I made on the text, I found it rather a hard piece to annotate, as I didn’t really know what area I was researching. The text was so vast in its entirety that it was hard to know which parts to pick out without having a direct subject. I did however find it fairly interesting, it summarises the changes through time of stories, but even saying this I kind of didn’t find how it was necessary to read.

Week 4 – Getting used to referencing

To get us used to finding relevant quotes from texts, we did an exercise in last weeks critical and theoretical studies class. We were each given a piece of text that we had to annotate. The process was fairly simple, and I managed to come up with some good stuff.

My piece of text was by Bela Belazs, titled Theory of Film: Sound. I found it rather interseting, it outlined how effective sound is within the film world. It describes how it is a universal language, we can all relate to sound as it encompasses the world in which we live. This is why film has partnered with it. Instead of us just seeing visuals, we get to hear the sound which match the visuals, and thus we better understand the scene. Possibly this is why we relate better to film, for instance you could be watching a horrific scene, but if it is companied with a soft soundtrack, we could think that it isn’t quite as bad as it seems. We not only question the visuals, but also the sound. A good example of this is shown in Koyaanisqatsi by Godfrey Reggio, in which there is a perfect balence between the sound and the visuals.

As part of the exercise we were asked to gather our notes in the form of a brain storm chart. After we had jotted all of ours down, we had to swap notes with others in the class who had differrent pieces of text. I found this method very useful, as it meant that we all could discuss, and formulate an idea of the text. It was a lot more efficent as well, as you didn’t necessarily need to read the whole text to get an idea of what it was about.

Week 3 – Comics

This week we looked at how transmedia effected the Comic book culture and history.

We started by having a reminder that throughout history cultures have re-used narratives and characters, this is where transmedia stems from.

WE looked at Scott McCloud’s book, Understanding Comics, as a main frame of reference, this is due to it being a comic book about how to understand a comic.

Comics use images, which hold subjective notions of what the character is thinking or doing. This allows the reader to instantly recognise/connect with the character’s emotions. This comes in many forms though as McCloud, shows a diagram that depicts the many different styles within the comic world and where they would sit within the matrix of comics. This shows us that depending on the style of a comic, the reader will read it differently. For instance, the photo-realistic artists, spend more time on detailed drawings, but these drawings are harder for a reader to instantly connect with. This is because a more accurate drawing of a human, opens up much more complex facial expressions, which makes it harder for the artist to get the exact right one, and harder for the reader to actually read the right one. On the other hand, visual-realism is alot easier for the reader to connect with and understand, this is due to a more simplistic design of the characters and set.

Another thing we moved on to look at is how comics influenced other media. TV took a big influence from the comic book style of using panels to lay things out. Tv shows started appearing with this comic style of panels being used to hold different information. I.e. MTV was set up with a stream along the bottem, a window that held the current music video and another that had the logo. Before this happened, TV was often straight on single frames, and nowadays all news channels have adopted this style not to mention other areas and shows.

During the session we had a brief overview of the history of comics.Here are some important dates I jotted down.

– 1842, the birth of the comic.

1930’s comic begin to hold transmedia characters, like Popeye.

-1933, modern comic began to take shape. “Funnies on Parade” was the start of the Eastern Colour print taking hold in the comic industry, this lead to bright primary colours being used to make the main character stand out. This eventually transcribed into the design of superheroes.

-1940’s, characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck transfer from animation into comic form.

Another area we enquired into was how the war effected comic book, they introduced patriotic characters into the mix, for example Captain America. After the war however the sales of superhero characters dropped dramatically, causing the industry to re-think its approach. New comics appeared that ventured into the sci-fi/horror genres, and they didn’t hold back on the gore. They saw it as a time where they could push comics to the limit. In this era it spawned comics like Tales From the Crypt. Comics became more sophisticated, and where aimed at adults more. EC Comics is a good place to look as it is the publishing house that pushed the gore levels to the extreme.

Upon realising that children were interested in these horrific comic books, the American government stepped in and began to control the media. They clamped down on what was allowed to be shown, this is when all comics had to have been approved. Ultimately this changed the types of characters that we began to see, as Marvel saw massive gap in the industry and leapt for it. They released Fantastic Four issue 1, which brought back the superheroes with a new edge. They played heavily on the perspective, to make the characters jump out the page. this re-invented the comic book.

Whilst this was going on the 60’s lead to an underground movement against the government’s publishing laws. It was the birth of Mickey Rat, a character based on Mickey Mouse, but instead of being child-friendly and fluffy, he is into sex, drugs and rock and roll. This shows how far people went to get a reaction out of people, they re-invented characters.

A key year in the comic and graphic novel industry was 1986, this year was when Watchmen, Maus and The Dark Knight Returns were published.

A source of stable transmedia characters is Dc Comics and Marvel, as they still account for 8 out of 10 comics produced in the USA.


Influential artists: Seth, Chris Ware, Julie Doucett, Daniel Clows.


In Europe the idea of a comic book is a lot different from what it is in America and England. This is because they limited how much influence they took from America.In France, comics are taken very seriously, it is banded in the ‘ninth art’.

Frans Masereel’s ‘The Passionate Journey’ and ‘The Sun’ are influenctial wordless comics/book.

In Europe, several artists are banded as on a similar level as some of the greatest artists. For instance, they could hold exhibitions of their work next to some of the greats like Picasso.

Week 2 – Marshall McLuhan

This week in Critical Studies we looked at Marshall McLuhan’s book The Medium Is The Massage. It is a book that encompasses the idea that media shapes our lives. The title of the book is actually a typo error, which worked out for McLuhan, instead of saying the medium is the message it said the medium is the massage. This in itself shows how technology was changing at the time.The fact that it is a book also has something to do with McLuhan’s ideas, on one of the pages there are two thumbs sticking onto the page, this is telling the reader that this is a book this is how it should be held to be read. It makes you aware that it has a purpose, and it is an object.

“The medium, or process, of our time – electronic technology – is reshaping and restructuring patterns of social interdependence.”

Another thing that was highlighted within the book was that TV media influences peoples thoughts. This can be seen when the TV came about, it focused the living room. By centralizing the focus to the TV, it meant that families moved from eating dinner at the table to eating them at in front of the TV; this in turn made fast food rise. This is a good example of how media changed the way people lived their lives.

All of this fed into the idea of technology democracising power. Which in turn fed into the birth of the teenager, this happened during the 60’s when pocket money came in. It meant that kids had time to grow up instead of just going to work.

The overall theme of McLuhan’s work was that this new technology made a global socialisation.

Week 1 – Transmedia and Media Hybridity

The term transmedia storytelling, means that stories and narratives are or can be told in many forms of media. This has come about due to the digital age that has advanced to allow multiple forms of media being able to sync a narrative. What is important about this is that we often see migratory characters forming.  In most cases this can be seen as a good thing, as viewers want to see more of a ‘good’ (well fleshed out) character. Although this doesn’t mean that transmedia is always for the best. In some context it is used to purely gain more money out of a one trick pony.

My mind is currently unbiased in relation to transmedia. I read an article not too long ago in Wired magazine titled ”Transmedia’ holds back storytelling’, and I believe that some important points were made within it, so I am going to outline them here. Paul Bennun describes how the term multi platform or transmedia implies that we ourselves don’t understand how to categorise content. He states that words like transmedia ‘don’t consider the true nature of our new “programmes” — the way in which their elements interoperate. Until we fix that, we can’t describe what we do; what we do won’t live up to its potential.’ (Bennun, 2011).

Media-specificty helps us define what traits determine the differences between technology. I suppose if something is transmedia, we should break it down into its separate areas and rate it on them individually, What would happen if you had a game that used live action sequences, would it be rated as a game?, a film?, or separately?


Bennun, Paul, 2011, ‘Transmedia’ holds back storytelling. Archives [website] 5 July, Available at: [Accessed 29 September 2011].