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Friday, January 27, 2006

And so it begins...

Check this out.

Did you check? Seriously, watch it, then come back here.

It's been a very long time since a game trailer excited me this much. You could argue that it's not a game, but that's sort of the point. The PSP has already been used for movies and recorded music in addition to various interactive Forms, all with the same interface and the same disc format. That in itself is already the first step toward the convergence revolution. Here's the second. I don't know what to say, mainly because this project in itself is so exciting that any words would seem redundant. But I'll try to explain why this comic book is the best thing to ever happen to gamism.

Since the invention of videogames, their place in the larger realm of art was clear to the world: movies are one art form, novels are one art form, dance is one art form, sculpture is one art form, and videogames are a silly form of time-killing. Games have nothing to do with all those other Forms, and should be kept as far from them as possible. Sadly, I have seen this division promoted most by the supporters of videogames: whenever a game fails to be sufficiently interactive, they dismiss it as "not good as a game", or at best "not really a game".

Now, my views on what constitutes a game are considerably broader. I see this comic as a usage of gamism to push an old Form in a new direction- exactly the sort of game that gamism itself was created for. The purpose of gamism is to broaden the potential for art, and that is precisely what this does. It may not be true sequential art (or it may be; all I'm going by is this trailer), but it takes the experience of reading a comic book, adds the potential of gamism, and comes out with something much stronger. 3D shots, animation, sound effects, and all while giving the player control over the reading. This is something that no medium but gamism could allow. And so here is a game which pushes past the boundaries, which goes back to ground very often tread upon before and finds that there is an entire world there never noticed before.

There are still questions- of course there are still questions. Can the player reread a section several times? (It would be unwise to fail to inherit all the Form's strengths before moving on.) More importantly, will the public appreciate what they are getting? I still feel that it is premature for convergence. Not everyone has a gaming system; the market is splintered; these systems are made for obsolescence. But it appears that Kojima is ahead of his time. It figures- Metal Gear Solid itself was a large step toward convergence, in its treatment of stealth, film, and audio drama as equals under gamism. But this is truly revolutionary. I am pretty sure the public isn't ready. They'll see it as one of Kojima's little quirks, not a valid and even necessary step forward.

But let's ignore all that for a moment. Let's say that the convergence aspect of the great revolution is achievable today. Even if the public is ready, gamists aren't. With our current terminology, comics must be distinguished from games simply because there's no other way to put it! We don't even know how to classify the game Metal Gear Solid yet! (Stealth is only a third of it.) And what will happen when a comic book comes along with branching paths? Will comic connoisseurs have any idea what's going on? Our methods of thinking about art and entertainment are obsolete. We need new ideas to replace them which revolve around gamism. And if visionaries like Kojima are going to push forward so soon, we need them fast.



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