Clash of the literacies: Making a “ludocinematic future”

Recently, a top Hollywood special effects company — Digital Domain announced that they will be investing 25 million into making “creating a video game that matches the quality of a feature film”. Well, as you can imagine, the gaming community found this claim pretty insulting. Well respected game designer Clint Hocking rants at his blog. He is understandably miffed by the implication that games are not up to the quality of feature films and then tries to unpack the often quoted claim that the line between games and movies is blurring:

[W]hat the hell does it mean ‘the line between videogames and movies in blurring’?

Do they think that 10 years from now I won’t be sure whether I just watched a movie or played a game? Again, I have to make some assumptions about what they mean to have this kind of crap make any sense at all… I can only assume they mean ‘the production methodologies and business models are increasingly similar and it is becoming more and more practical to look at doing feature film development and game development simultaneously as part of a multi-media production that increases efficiency’. In other words, they mean convergence in the purest business sense.

Beyond the battle of the rhetoric, there is also the question of whether filmmakers are actually able to create videogames. This is touched on in the original LATimes article:

“It’s going to be very difficult” for Digital Domain, said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Morgan Securities. “The skill set of a game maker is very different from the skill set of a graphic artist.”

Nonetheless, company executives say they have a competitive advantage: a network of A-list directors that includes David Fincher (“Fight Club”), Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious”) and, of course, Bay, whose latest movie, “Transformers,” is one of the summer’s most anticipated releases.

Most film-based games are developed through third parties, and filmmakers often have little or no creative control. By contrast, Digital would let filmmakers direct their own games.

Now what we see here is an example of the difference between tie-ins of the past and a writing transliteracy . In the past, ‘worlds’ or ‘brands’ were extended across media platforms by third-parties. They were not creatively controlled by the original creator and they were not intended to be part of the primary narrative experience. Now creators are wanting to have creative control (either by doing it themselves or specially commissioning people) and they are making each extension and important part of the primary narrative.

I can completely understand, therefore, this drive towards wanting to be involved in the game making process. Hey, I try and learn as much as I can about lots of different artforms. But what I don’t like is an attitude that filmmakers will learn what they need pretty quickly without any game designers help. By gosh, there are some absolutely brilliant game designers out there. I would be really impressed if I saw top game designers working with top film makers (and there have been). But the catch is: they would both have to be interested in learning a bit about the other artform. If someone wipes off an entire genre saying that there is no skill in it, it is sure a sign that they have only a superficial knowledge of the form. The truth is, what I’m really looking forward to is not seeing more top mono-media, mono-artform practitioners reskilling, but seeing those naturally transliterate creating transmedia/multi-platfor/cross-media/… artforms. They are the ones we should be pumping the big bucks to.

Trent Reznor on Year Zero

An interview with Trent Reznor (the man behind NiN and the ARG Year Zero) reveals that the only way forward for the music industry is for the industry to step aside and let the artists do their thing, and pay them for it:

When your US label, Interscope, discovered the web-based alternate reality game (ARG) you’d built around Year Zero, were they happy for the free marketing or angry you hadn’t let them in on it?

I chose to do this on my own, at great financial expense to myself, because I knew they wouldn’t understand what it is, for one. And secondly, I didn’t want it coming from a place of marketing, I wanted it coming from a place that was pure to the project. It’s a way to present the story and the backdrop, something I would be excited to find as a fan. I knew the minute I talked to someone at the record label about it, they would be looking at it in terms of “How can we tie this in with a mobile provider?” That’s what they do. If something lent itself to that, OK, I’m not opposed to the idea of not losing a lot of money (laughs). But it would only be if it made sense. I’ve had to position myself as the irrational, stubborn, crazy artist. At the end of the day, I’m not out to sabotage my career, but quality matters, and integrity matters. Jumping through any hoop or taking advantage of any desperate situation that comes up just to sell a product is harmful. It is.

Is the Year Zero ARG something labels will copy now?

Well, their response, when they saw that it did catch on like wildfire, was “Look how smart we are the way we marketed this record”. That’s the feedback I’ve gotten — other artists who’ve met with that label ask ’em about it: “Yeah, you like what we did for Trent? Look what we did for Trent”. They’ve then gone on to try to buy the company that did it to apply it to all their other acts. So, glad I could help them out. I’m sure they still don’t understand what it is that we did or why it worked. But I will look forward to the Black Eyed Peas ARG, that should be amazing.

Black Eyed Peas ARG?!!! I really look forward to this next wave of transliterate artists. It is time the employment of multiple platforms became an artform and not just a marketing strategy.

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Go Aussie Entrepeneurs! Top 60 Web 2.0 Companies in Australia

Read Write Web has published an article on the top 60 Web 2.0 companies in Australia:

aussieAt Future Exploration Network‘s Web 2.0 in Australia event on June 6, we are including a showcase of the top five examples of Web 2.0 coming out of this glorious country. Identifying who we wanted to invite to the showcase proved a marvelous opportunity to take a good look at what’s out there in the world of Web 2.0. The result is the following list of Australia’s Top 60 Web 2.0 applications.

At the Web 2.0 in Australia event we are showcasing five companies (written up in more detail here) – Atlassian, Gnoos, Omnidrive, Scouta, and Tangler. These fascinating and innovative companies have been chosen for our showcase because they are particularly effective in showing the diversity of the field to our senior executive audience, which gave slightly different results to the Top 60 list.

I’m thrilled to see Tangler (who my co-unorganiser Mick from BarCampSydney is with) and one of the ace companies that sponsored BarCampSydney: Atlassian. Also pleased to see Outback Online (an Australian Second Life — hope they have cleared the rights to use the likeness of Australian landmarks); Perth Norg in there (an aussie citizen journalism site); The Australian Index in there (they recently added my blog!); and the Podcast Network. Go aussies!

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