Thesis: Academic Research

I devoted a lot of my attention in the past two weeks to finding and documenting a lot of academic sources, looking specifically at:

Game Studies:

  • Perspective and space
  • Relating emotions, metaphors and mechanics

Film Studies:

  • Cuts and sequences
  • Disorientation and Subjectivity

There’s a lot written about subjectivity in game and film studies, and it’s important to define it before going forward. Usually in game studies, using subjectivity to refer to the unique experience of the player. I’m more interested in how the player is given a view of a world that is filtered through the mind of a character, and especially how abstractions of a game environment can communicate ideas about a character’s interpretation of what’s around them. (Relating to bias, unreliable narration and emotional perspective.) I’m focusing my written thesis more on visual/spatial perspective, but my project is about creating meaning through spatial perspective shifts, using subjectivity to create this meaning.

I have spun myself into a sticky web of concepts, but a surprising connection was a group of sources that are about both subjectivity in film and spatial disorientation. These sources are a bit more difficult to read about, because they deal with film theory.

Perspective needed to be a more important part of my project, and I’ve been thinking of different ideas that perspective can suggest in a story.

Close to far – the transition of time, forgetting

Far to close – inspection, understanding

Inside to outside – isolation or confinement to exclusion or freedom

Outside to inside – curiosity, being wrapped in something

One side to another side of a reflexion/photograph/painting -imagination, memory

Looking up to to looking down – hope to despair, a power dynamic shift between two people, the process of growing up, flying upward or moving beyond something

As was pointed out after my last presentation, I’ve been working on a lot of things in my project that relate to Russian director and screenwriter Vselvolod Pudovkin’s 5 methods of editing. These methods were really interesting to read about because they’re kind of common or at least relatable to similar concepts in art, music and literature, and I like connecting my somewhat diverse interests in different established rhetorics/forms of expression.

I read about Pudovkin’s ideas on editing and montage in Film Technique and Film Acting: The Cinema Writings of V.I. Pudovkin, in the chapter on Relational Editing. The main methods of editing (with the intention of creating impression) he listed are:

  • Contrast
  • Parallelism
  • Symbolism
  • Simultaneity
  • Leit-motif

Contrast

I’m using contrast by comparing the situations and reactions of two different characters. I also like to switch between drastically different scenes sometimes to create a sense of displacement and escape.

Parallelism

Pudovkin writes that parallelism this is similar to contrast. I see parallelism in the game as the player switches back and forth between the worlds of these two characters, and both of them are facing isolation and dissatisfaction in their own ways. The transitions that rely on 2 similar looking things may also be considered parallelistic.

Symbolism

Symbolism is another way of creating another level of meaning that can draw connections between drastically different environments. This game has the potential to feel really disjointed and disorientating, and I’m already interested overlaying different themes/patterns/emotional arcs into stories, so a lot of these methods are very relevant.

Simultaneity

Two things are happening at once! Pudovkin writes that this is over-used in the ends of movies to create a sense of tension. It may not be something I get to by the time I’ve finished my thesis, but I had imagined a series of rapid scene cuts where the player keeps looking around and finding themselves somewhere new, as the focal character is overwhelmed/confused/distressed. I’d like to test out what kind of effects the frequency of transitions can have on a player- whether frequent transitions make them nauseated, upset or confused or if this can be used to put forward a point while still keeping the player engaged. I don’t want to make the player stressed out. I also don’t want to rely on frequent transitions to create a sense of urgency- if I continue to make a linear narrative, each transition should say something about the character’s state in the story and be supported by other story telling methods and by context. (I have similar attitudes towards to the use of music)

Leit-motif

This is my favourite of Pudovkin’s methods. In music, leitmotifs are short musical phrases associated with certain people, places or ideas. Re-occuring themes with varied tempos, instruments and keys kind of blow my mind. Themes in film can be used as non-conventional methods of conveying meaning. In certain films and novels, you can follow a theme through the piece and think about everything that’s happening in relation to that theme, instead of thinking about the story in the traditional sense: according the the successes and failures of the main character in fulfilling their main goal.

The intentional and thoughtful creation of themes can help create a story that is well structured. I don’t think that’s the only key to a good story, but it adds strength /underlying logic.

Works Cited

Pudovkin, Vsevolod Illarionovich, Ivor Goldsmid Samuel Montagu, and Lewis Jacobs. Film Technique and Film Acting: The Cinema Writings of V.I. Pudovkin. New York: Bonanza, 1949. Print.
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  1. Pingback: Thesis: Perception and Story – Sophia Niergarth

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