[January 25th, 2013]
Stepping back from character
Posted by micnit
Matteo Bittanti sent me a pointer to the work of Marco Mendeni, whom he interviewed for Gamescenes some time ago. One quote stuck with me:
I Am Niko Bellic, one of my first machinima, was the result of my wild, random meanderings in Liberty City. I would often stop and use the camera to rotate around the character, creating an almost hypnotic element, a loop of some sort. That allowed me to decontextualize the avatar from the game. It also forced me to look at him closely.
While it is fair to say that some of the more experimental video game art seems to live at times more in the gallery than in the living room, that statement reflects one reason why we need these approaches. Not that they need defending, I am sure Mendini, JoDI and related artists do just fine. But it highlights the different perspective that the critical artist’s eye brings to the game.
Instead of totally immersing himself in the game world and “becoming” the character under control, Mendeni looks through the lens of machinima film-making and gets detached from the hero. This is almost reversing what we see in many of the popular machinima series. GTA IV has given rise to some outstanding machinima – like Mathieu Weschler’s The Trashmaster. And here, cinematography and story telling pull every stop to draws us into the character.
But that impression of distance still is a valid point that made the abstraction of his game performances/ machinima much more accessible.
As one player who is currently trapped in the Modern Warfare world himself, the sudden distance from the hero is something that is something that bothers me a lot in this rollercoaster-only-for-the-hectic-of-the-moment game. It does everything in the book to mediate war as a visual spectacle, but the virtual “me” is utterly irrelevant. Even in the set death moments I cannot bring myself to even remotely connect – instead I feel more than mildly annoyed.
It remains a curious moment when players stopped to look “through the eyes” of their Quake grunts and “at” their avatars as virtual puppets. At some point they have to step back, and that is probably why Mendeni’s quote stuck with me as it captured exactly that moment and describes the pre-condition for machinima.