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September 21, 2014, 04:07:07 AM
TIGSource ForumsDeveloperCreative (Moderator: John Sandoval)No Man's Land Between Symbolic Abstraction and Untouchable Reality
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Author Topic: No Man's Land Between Symbolic Abstraction and Untouchable Reality  (Read 2358 times)
sigfarter
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« on: February 19, 2012, 01:17:31 AM »

I have an obsessive fetish for antiquated computer and video game console aesthetics, charm and their relative candor. I am not simply highly enthusiastic about the widely general stylistics in question for their nostalgic and sentimental value, but for their frankness in communication, their fluid conveyance of concepts and ideas and the relative ease in which their manifest offspring can be given birth. The perceptible and malleable assets distinguishable yet not exclusive from recondite gameplay abstractions that give life to all video games are avatars of interactive symbolism; their virtual tangibility perpetuates the conductivity of feedback between the user and the interactive system essential to the spontaneous, imaginary expression of a subjective world that does not exist.

A recurring meme in many video games is the material of concrete. As a symbol, concrete can represent a seemingly indestructible obstacle, the essential identifying feature of urban environments, a weaker and lesser counterpart to apparently impervious materials or simply the building blocks of artificial structures. The symbolic nature of video game universe concrete for the most part remains constant, yet the visual and perceptible symbol (specifically, a graphical and textural representation of concrete that the player can see) that represents this super-symbol can range from a minimalistic, flat and grey flood fill that rests upon an effectively nil amount of information all the way to high-definition, photorealistic and multi-layered textures featuring normal, displacement and specular mapping rendered in combination with fractal-deep tessellation that seems so superfluously tactile that you vainly desire to touch and feel its meticulously manufactured roughness. The symbolic nature of concrete may seem to remain static between these differing representations of the material, yet the purity and intensity of this symbol's conceivability is gradually weathered away as its vector slides closer and faster towards the antapex of the uncanny valley.



It is in the very nature of symbolism to convey an association distinguishable and exclusive from what can be explained in explicit, matter-of-fact detail. Symbolic abstractions are communicatively pure and imaginatively perfect; conversely, the factual and incontrovertible representation of a dare I say objective entity brings to bare its inevitably glaring imperfections that do not contribute an essential aspect of a perfect symbol, and in some regards erodes away at its representative symbol's very symbolism entirely. A perfectly represented symbol immediately conveys its characteristic meaning and traits upon its encounter, and this representative representation must be carefully balanced on a knife's edge between unrecognizable, comparison-lacking abstraction and the mechanically assembled guts of an unconscious universe lest it become entrenched in a mire of meaningless matter or fall into a sea of evaporating thoughts.

Is all of this actually a clandestinely contrived rant against the futility of the pursuit for realism in the world of game development? Not really, I'm actually justifying my insistence on the easy way out of providing an adequate quantity of game assets and content.

You could record the impact of a dropped football helmet on an horizon-spanning plain of vinyl flooring within a carefully coordinated and positioned, feng shui aware 22.2 surround sound format microphone ensemble, yet the end results will never convey the sublimely simple tactile sensation of Commander Keen hitting his noggin on the ceiling.
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baconman
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2012, 01:53:10 AM »

Indeed.
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unsilentwill
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2012, 02:11:00 AM »

First off, people are going to hate you for over-complicating your topic with irritatingly accurate words.

Secondly, symbolic programmers don't know anything about concrete. Games start like this:



Concrete is an afterthought, it could be ice or sheet metal. It's pure abstraction.

The more realistic, the more specific the interaction with different objects, the more gameplay. I say it's worth looking into. Abstractions just label the infinite world with broad, predictable brushes. "Imperfections" make things interesting.
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« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2012, 03:38:14 AM »



Looks like sheet metal paneling to me. So your whole post is futile.
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« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2012, 03:49:09 AM »

Looks like sheet metal paneling to me. So your whole post is futile.

We can make another thread if you want to discuss the pros and cons of concrete and sheet metal panels in greater depth.
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Gabriel Verdon
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« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2012, 05:19:08 AM »

cool
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J-Snake
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« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2012, 02:59:35 PM »

Kommander Keen is a bad game, no matter how you look at it. 
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« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2012, 03:32:41 PM »

Your post makes me want to punch someone in the face. Probably you. But it isn't because of you being you (though the academic striptease doesn't help your cause re: your face not being damaged using fists), but because of you reminding me of the outside world. I locked myself into mom's basement a self-sustaining underground shelter for a reason, and that reason was to forget about the outside world and the people associated with it.

Your thesis brings to mind this post over in the Audio forum. To summarize, bitch be all like "HELLZ YEAH I THROW ALL THESE TROPES IN" then watch out 'cause everybody go "YOU DA MAN, THAT SHIT BE TAIIIIGHT!!" and at that precise instant the purpose and appeal of art is forgotten. Somewhere along the line somebody leapt from "use symbolism to convey meaning" to "use symbols that already convey meaning and call it a day", and now we praise the latter?

The beauty of art is that we can experience things that aren't things we'll get to experience otherwise. I ram face-first into concrete walls all the time (as most people do), so I have a fairly good grasp on the concept that, yes, concrete is hard. Why would I play a game to recreate that experience? Give me something else solid to ram my face into, please, something that cannot be found in this world. You have the medium, minds well actually do something unique with it.
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DavidCaruso
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« Reply #8 on: February 19, 2012, 05:12:14 PM »

I was bored so I translated your post into a human-readable form, for the benefit of others:

Quote
Old video game graphics are good and I like their expressiveness. It's not just nostalgia, I swear, it's totally this other thing about how clearly they communicate things, and also they have manifest offspring because pixels reproduce to follow their manifest destiny, such is the nature of LCD screens. Visuals are not game mechanics but they are still special because they let players interact with a nonexisting world that totally does not exist in any form and is 100% subjective.

Anyway, you know what's bitchin' as shit, bro? Concrete. Like real life, videogame concrete is hard and looks hard to break. And there's lots of different ways to draw concrete y'know, you can have a grey block or you can have a superrendered hypertexture realistic texture at 4096x4096 with mipmapping and specular highlighting. But when the concrete looks more real, I don't like it as much! Too unpure and fake, just like the crack I'm snorting as I write this post.

(PICTURE OF DITHERED CONCRETE)
(PICTURE OF A CRAPPY '90S PC PLATFORMER)

Symbolism is when you represent things using symbols instead of saying them clearly in detail. Symbolism is perfect, much more perfect than actually saying things clearly in detail. This is because if you say things in detail you risk not saying them perfectly, whereas if you use symbolism you can just bullshit whatever the hell up you want and tell everyone it says whatever you want it to say. Novelists do this all the time and win awards for it, and games should learn to do this too.

This is the approach I take to game graphics. I don't have enough time or energy to put effort into my work so I just bullshit something out and call it good, like I did with that one Muslim game.

In conclusion, Commander Keen was a hero. He wore a football helmet, but in reality, the helmet wore him. And no matter how hard you try to make the helmet be the Keen, it is only the Keen who can be the helmet. Try it sometime. Take a helmet and bump it against something. Did you get Commander Keen? I didn't think so. Because only Commander Keen can be Commander Keen.

I took some artistic liberties, because my forum posts are art and have cultural legitimacy in the eyes of my fellow forum posters, except the ones who don't like me.
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« Reply #9 on: February 19, 2012, 05:50:08 PM »

Your post makes me want to punch someone in the face. Probably you. But it isn't because of you being you (though the academic striptease doesn't help your cause re: your face not being damaged using fists), but because of you reminding me of the outside world. I locked myself into mom's basement a self-sustaining underground shelter for a reason, and that reason was to forget about the outside world and the people associated with it.
Just to go sure, do you refer to me or to the other guy?
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« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2012, 06:04:39 PM »

Your post makes me want to punch someone in the face. Probably you. But it isn't because of you being you (though the academic striptease doesn't help your cause re: your face not being damaged using fists), but because of you reminding me of the outside world. I locked myself into mom's basement a self-sustaining underground shelter for a reason, and that reason was to forget about the outside world and the people associated with it.
Just to go sure, do you refer to me or to the other guy?

OP, sorry. Also, to the OP, sorry. I may have exaggerated my feelings a bit.

Also, DavidCaruso, I find it interesting how we both have very similar tastes in games (or at least what we both gush about), yet I sorta disagree with the beliefs stated in your reinterpretation. Still an entertaining read, though. :-)
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« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2012, 06:15:43 PM »

Also, DavidCaruso, I find it interesting how we both have very similar tastes in games (or at least what we both gush about), yet I sorta disagree with the beliefs stated in your reinterpretation. Still an entertaining read, though. :-)

I don't think I really stated any of my beliefs in my reinterpretation (except maybe my belief that symbolism on the whole gets way more admiration than it should), but what did you disagree with? Just so this topic is actually about something interesting instead of (what I'm assuming is) an intentionally obscurantist troll thread.
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« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2012, 06:19:02 PM »

I was starting to think you'd never post, DavidCaruso.
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DavidCaruso
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« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2012, 06:43:28 PM »

I was starting to think you'd never post, DavidCaruso.

I have a masochistic attraction to bullshit topics and for the next few hours or so I'm stuck on a PC with none of my gamedev stuff (or games, or Skype), with no one to really talk to either. Combined these two things produce questionable chemical reactions in my brain. Sorry, I should reword that to fit in with this topic. The amalgamation of these aforementioned substance-force interactions actualizes truly dubious actions from my now-coerced persona (coerced, for I do not experience true carte blanche.)

Anyway might as well give a quick actual response to the OP's point (?) while I'm here: the appeal of these old 2D graphics (not Commander Keen, but better-looking games instead) isn't about abstraction nor imperfection, it's about stylization (related quality to abstraction, but not equivalent.) In general, 2D games tend to be more stylized because they're, well, not in 3 dimensions. Even the most "realistic" and "gritty" 2D games (e.g. Gunforce, which on the whole has even more brown and grey than those shooters which don't actually exist) seem more stylized just due to the constraints placed upon the visual style. There's absolutely no reason 3D visuals can't have the same effect however, to an even greater effect (see: Okami, Wind Waker.) Also, strides towards realism are not a bad thing (this isn't contradictory to anything I just said btw, in fact potential for stylization will increase in tandem with visual realism.)
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« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2012, 07:16:38 PM »

I don't think I really stated any of my beliefs in my reinterpretation (except maybe my belief that symbolism on the whole gets way more admiration than it should), but what did you disagree with?

I tried to write a response, but it turned out to be a three-paragraph rant on why I hate incidental music. So I canned it and now I'm in this state of limbo where I don't entirely agree with your viewpoint, yet don't disagree with it either. Normally I would attempt to build upon this, but after realizing where exactly I stand I'm aware that it's a fairly impractical (and not entirely logical) position that I wouldn't expect anyone to hold, or even acknowledge.

Just for reference, here's a sample of how the following conversation would go, had I clarified my position:

You: So...the best solution is to use what isn't to express what is, except when it isn't?
Me: Exactly!
You: That makes no sense. At all.
Me: Exactly!

...I'm not very good at this debate thing.
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« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2012, 09:59:08 AM »

I'm just proud to be somewhere where this inevitable twist will happen, and I don't have to concoct a 4-paragraph rant myself.

There's more important things to consider than stylizing, like my complete and utter lack thereof. Cheesy
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« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2012, 11:03:43 AM »

Deer
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1982
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« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2012, 11:12:45 AM »

three-paragraph rant on why I hate incidental music.

Sounds interesting, tell us more.
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« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2012, 12:18:02 PM »

i think the epistemological ideas of abstract vs the concrete applies to games in an interesting way; i wrote about this years ago in my lj but it's worth bringing up again now since it's related:

in real life, everything is concrete. abstractions are just how we organize and categorize things. whereas in videogames, everything is an instance of an abstraction (literally: individual instances of object "types"). so you'd have like 100 goblins in a game, but they'd all actually be instances of the same goblin. whereas in real life you have 100 cats, but they aren't "instances" of the idea of cat, they're individual animals that we categorize together as a species. so it works in inverse

i don't think this can really be changed, because of how videogames work. whether you're talking old retro games or modern 3d games, both of them are much more abstract than real life. health is essentialized as "hit points" for instance, we don't actually model blood and guns and damage to biological systems, we usually just use a number system, which is an abstract representation of actual health and damage
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« Reply #19 on: February 20, 2012, 12:58:21 PM »

duh
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