Video Game Design and Improv

Discussion of the art and craft of improvisation.

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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 19th, 2011, 3:57 pm

VHS. DVD. laser disc. don't know if they're on BluRay, but i'd imagine so. the recent DVD release contains both Lucas' altered versions AND the originals.

as for content...well, i won't get into that argument, cuz this thread would go off on a WHOLE other tangent. ;)
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Postby Spots » March 21st, 2011, 10:17 am

"In aesthetics, the sublime (from the Latin sublīmis) is the quality of greatness or vast magnitude, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic. The term especially refers to a greatness with which nothing else can be compared and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation."

The sublime also hints at ecstasy.

Everything about the "sublime" is terribly subjective. I think my original statement stands. It's my sublime versus your sublime on a case by case basis. We can't argue sublime in universal terms.
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Postby arthursimone » March 21st, 2011, 11:40 am

Spots wrote:We can't argue sublime in universal terms.


I'd like to try!

Quality of greatness is as much about the things you can't control that put your own efforts and imprint into perspective. We have no dominion over the earth or birds or crazy audience members or the improviser who murders a pronunciation.

The chaos of the universe is sublime, absolutely positively sublime.



Which is already perfectly expressed in the art of Goldsworthy, but I'm guessing that's a different conversation. I will say that I'm finding myself increasingly drawn to the *sublime* mischief and mayhem of Banksy. How would he approach gaming, do you think?
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Postby Spots » March 21st, 2011, 11:46 am

Arthur, do you ever feel that the sublime is identical to a person's first crush in high school? She/he propels you into being, heightens your awareness, and refocuses your gaze in the universe? You feel alive, you are in awe.

And yet more often than not... the feeling is based on a delusion?
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Postby arthursimone » March 21st, 2011, 11:51 am

you're on to something there, spots

I think there's the importance of delusion and then there's the ability to recognize the delusion that helps us gain the perspective necessary for using art, music, and poetry to heighten or tear down what we feel we must.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 21st, 2011, 12:11 pm

my first crush in high school is now my best friend. somehow, this too reflects my view of art. ;)

sometimes the sublime is sublimated, and there's a deeper truth even in delusion. 8)
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Postby Spots » March 21st, 2011, 8:22 pm

Seconded. I've found myself admitting that I get addicted to the chemical imbalance of the delusional state because I get so much creative work done.

It's a strange factory indeed.
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Postby samples » March 22nd, 2011, 4:40 pm

Imagine following him for an hour or two and just observing him.


To speak to this, and sort of to what I think Moriarty is focusing on, you're not "just" observing him. You're also following him, which places you in a much more active role and relationship to the observation than other mediums. With paintings or films, the control you have on your observation is really limited to deciding to observe or deciding not to observe.

[...]you can act on impulse in a video game.


I think this is exactly why he's saying it can't be sublime. Because you are always free to act and fundamentally change what you are experiencing. You're not forced to just stand in place and observe. You are allowed and encouraged to act and do. Which is incredibly powerful. But is not beyond you, which I think would be another aspect of what the definition of the sublime you quoted hints at. The magnitude or greatness reaches only to your own borders.

And that leads well into a follow up question: What is the difference between sublimity and transcendence? Can they be considered the same thing?

The idea of chaos as the ultimate expression of the Sublime is interesting and I think might be the solution to the question originally posed. But I need to think more and I want to hear about transcendence first.
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Postby Spots » March 22nd, 2011, 7:46 pm

I don't think the interactivity argument holds much water. There are art installations that allow you to interact: (ie: certain sculptures, art installations, mirror installations, video installations, choreographed Arirang Mass Games)

We'll need to prove these are all not sublime experiences for individuals. And once we prove that... what's the difference? These installations and video games will be on equal footing.

The sublime argument has too many semantic generalizations & appears to be circular so I need to duck out of this one. The culprit is the use of a hazy word which I feel has not been properly addressed.
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Postby samples » March 23rd, 2011, 11:07 am

Let's properly address it! I'm more interested in figuring out what a sublime experience is and then working from there rather than simply defining through negation.

As I understand it, your concern is that the experience of something as sublime is always only subjective, right? And if the experience of sublimity is subjective, then what can be considered to inspire sublimity is subjective as well. So there can be no formal or objective dictates as to the reaches and limits of sublimity. Which, I suppose, is directly at odds with my statement above. I want to define a sublime experience and you're saying it can't be defined. Hmm. That's a hurdle. That I will attempt to jump regardless!
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At this point I would define a "sublime experience" as:

Anything which (momentarily) displaces an egocentric understanding of the universe.

To approach from a more figurative angle, I'm struggling to remember a metaphor I read once. It posed the idea of free will as a man pulling levers and pushing buttons, observing the lights flash and thinking, "Those are the results of my actions." But what if the levers and buttons aren't attached to the lights?

To me, sublimity is when you're shown that the levers and buttons that are so important to you aren't attached to anything. To use Arthur's phrasing, it's briefly understanding how truly chaotic and uncontrollable and big the universe is.

What I'm struggling with is that interaction with the art seems to allow you to filter it through your levers and buttons; or in other words, allows you to control the experience. But if you accept my definition of sublimity, then it would seem like that categorically denies the potentiality of sublimity.

Maybe the definition needs to be changed?

Or maybe the argument can be made that the interaction just further serves to heighten the truly uncontrollable nature of the experience (ie murdering a pronunciation)?

I'm still curious about transcendence.
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Postby samples » March 23rd, 2011, 11:12 am

I just realized a much simpler definition of the sublime is:

Shit happens.
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 23rd, 2011, 1:26 pm

samples wrote:I'm still curious about transcendence.


heh. i want to put that on a t-shirt and wear it all the time. :)

i'll get into a more in depth definition (at least as i see it) later...requires some thought (and more time than i have in between files at work right now, lol).
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Postby Rev. Jordan T. Maxwell » March 23rd, 2011, 3:50 pm

okay...any more serious student of Emerson and Whitman should feel free to refute me and tear this apart. ;) but transcendence to me is the opposite number of what we're defining as "sublime." rather than making you perceive your insignificance and detachment from the piece and the world around you, it heightens the audience's perspective to be aware of their own connection to the human experience, the world around them, the universe itself.

to borrow your metaphor, a transcendent experience would perceive that not only is the lever connected to the lights, but the man pulling the lever is connected to both, they are all connected to the craftsmen who built the device's components, to their families, to everyone who will ever see the lights, to light itself, to the stars, etc.

it simultaneously embraces the individual's significance while eschewing a sense of self. if i am connected to all things, then i am vital and important. if i am connected to all things, then so is everything else and i am just an aspect of the greater whole.

in regards to aesthetics...sublime art, as i'm understanding it, says the piece itself is most important, that it has value regardless of the viewer. transcendent art says the piece is meaningless without connection and interpretation. it is the EXPERIENCE that is paramount. rather than feeling diminished by a piece's history or the notion it will survive the viewer, the viewer has an experience that is both revelatory in that singular moment and also connected to the past and to the future through that "artifact."
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Postby Spots » March 23rd, 2011, 11:44 pm

Interactivity offers another intriguing facet of video games. Maybe a video game isn't itself a "piece of art". But it can definitely serve as a medium for someone's creativity. We're aware of machinema right?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lmWFq_W7Qk[/youtube]

This one rivals most action sequences in films these days. And since most films use CGI it's getting harder and harder to make a distinction between the two mediums.
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Postby Brad Hawkins » March 24th, 2011, 11:48 am

The question is valid as it relates to video games, but somewhat silly as it relates to improv. I echo Jordan's initial statement: Of course improv can (not necessarily does, but can) qualify as sublime art. To say otherwise would deny that distinction to scripted theater as well. Improv is nothing but theater with one of the steps in the process (the writing of the script beforehand) removed. If a classical painter applies his oil to the canvas without doing a sketch first, this does not change the fundamental nature of the art.

Now, it's important to note that what we're talking about is potential rather than actual merit. Of course improvisers who aspire to sublimity have a steep challenge ahead of them. Playwrights can labor over a phrase, edit and re-edit, rework their themes and approaches as they see fit before a line of dialogue is ever spoken on stage. Obviously, improvisers have no such luxury, and as such the vast majority of improvised theater will always remain in the realm of entertainment*.

But is it possible that the stars can align and a moment or a show can be elevated, by the combined efforts of the improvisers involved (and a talented tech director) to the realm of the sublime? Can five or six monkeys, banging away at a stage, produce Hamlet? Yes, I believe so.

Has such a thing been done? I have no idea, and no way of knowing. That's the final hurdle, which is that one definition of sublime art includes its ability to stand the test of time, a definition that locks out the vast majority of improv from the get go. No doubt many improvised performances might well stand the test of time, if only they were not ephemeral. We should give special thanks to Peter Rogers and the other camera-wielding obsessives in our midst for being the Robert Bridges to our Gerard Manley Hopkins**. There is a chance that sublime art could manifest itself on stage and thereafter exist only on Vimeo, which as a concept is profoundly weird.



*God willing
** Hopkins, upon entering the seminary, famously burned all his poems. Only through the efforts of his friend Bridges, to whom he had sent some of his work, does his poetry survive today.
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