1. Summarise the main points in the readings noting your agreement and disagreement with the ideas and opinions of the author/speaker.
Alternate Reality Gaming and convergence culture: The case of Alias.
Henrik Ornebring’s article sheds some light on the phenomena that is Alternate Reality Gaming. By using Alias the TV series and the three ARGs developed for the show, two by the ABC Network and fan produced Omnifam, he is able to establish the fact that these form part of a marketing campaign. After looking at games played either on the PC or game consoles, that are strictly virtual world only, ARGs are a surprising element which goes beyond that and actually work in the real world.
Taking a look at Lost as an example, audiences watch the show, but Jenkins’s ‘loyals’ will no doubt look beyond the show and try their hand at the mysteries supplied, that can be solved by going to specific websites. Gamers are urged to follow a trail head or rabbit hole to enter the game. Clues are then distributed and together the fans, in the multitudes, can piece these clues together to solve the puzzle. This ensures greater participation, as opposed to just sitting and watching TV. Media companies have designed ARGs to accompany the TV series for maximum effect.
Although ARGs are relatively new, by 2007 they were quite common and a lot of research had been done, particularly by Jane McGonigal (2003-2007). “McGonigal analyses ARGs using a frame work based on contemporary theories of performance and play, as well as work on collective intelligence and participatory culture.” (Ornebring, 2007, 447).
Ornebring critisises the idea that “ARGs are part of a wider context of media convergence… Convergence culture does not work to dissolve the boundaries between texts and create trans-media narratives as much as it creates new opportunities to market a specific text or set of texts (such as a feature film, a computer game or a TV series) through other texts.” (Ornebring, 2007, 448). Taking on Jenkins, and his idea of lost narratives through too many mediums, Ornebring explains that the narrative is simply stratified, all the better to market the TV series, in this instance, Alias.
Another point is made with regards to fans wanting to supplement their entertainment by adding their own spin on the story. As most fandom apt to do, issues are raised and concepts are questioned; different character’s points of views are sought, and in this instance, ARGs are utilised as a tie in to favourite shows and movies. Ornebring suggests that this is “a kind of cultural labour, producing texts that develop elements not covered by the original text that more often than not conform to producers’ basic intentions.” (Ornebring, 2007, 451). I wonder if this like wearing a T-shirt with a famous logo or image, which I bought. Am I paying for the right to advertise that logo or image? Should it not be the other way around?!
Ornebring points out that because ARGs are temporal in nature, he had to rely on archives and interviews to gather information on the Alias ARGs, particularly the ABC Network releases. He then described the games as complementary to the TV series, seasons one and two. The fan based Omnifam was released for season four although it was never completed. The Alias ARGs made direct connections with the show often using character’s names in the trail heads and clues. (In contrast with The Beast, the ARG made for the movie A.I. which was loosely connected to the movie). Unlike The Matrix, however, gamers were not given extra information about the show through the industry produced games. Omnifam, on the other hand, made use of the Rambaldi Mythology to construct puzzles, clues and riddles. The reason for that, Ornebring explains is because the show’s content is copyrighted.
While season one of Alias and the first industry produced ARG were quite consistent with one another with regards to story lines and clues, season two was less so due to the lack of funding. Ornebring explains that when season one ARG was released, the genre was in its infancy and upon further development, the tie in with the show would not be important. After all the ARG is simply a marketing tool, devised to grab audiences attention toward the show.
Omnifam had more involved story line, that although was not directly linked to the show because of copyright laws, still managed to remain consistent with the back story. This fan produced ARG “is based on a sense that this is ‘explorable’ territory and that fans have a right to expand their favourite fictional universe.” (Ornebring, 2007, 459). And so Ornebring concludes that even though the barriers are being broken down, between big media corporations and grass-roots facilitators, giving way to a more participatory culture (according to Jenkins, 2006), fan based productions including ARGs are still limited with regards to what they can use without infringing in copyright laws.
I tend to to agree with Ornebring with this because I was thinking the same thing when I summerised the Marco Cucco reading, The promise is great: the blockbuster and the Hollywood economy (2009). When one plays an ARG that is linked to a movie, or a TV series, they continue to watch to obtain more clues to solve the puzzle, what better way to promote a new movie or TV series. And even though an ARG made be made by fans, content is often owned by the corporations and so there are limits to what fans can do, without breaking any copyright laws.
Ornebring, H. (2007). Alternate Reality Gaming and convergence culture: The case of Alias. International Journal of Cultural Studies 10(4), 445-462. (electronic databases).
Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and constestation in videogame culture.
This article by Colman and Dyer-Witheford explores the rise of videogames as an “ideal commodity” and the rise of “a player culture” (Colman and Dyer-Witheford, 2007, 934), where games are downloaded for free and modified. They explain the difference between commons, where ideas can be borrowed but not owned; and commodities which is something of value and may be sold and how these differences impact on games and the way they are played.
Originally, war games were derived from young researchers mucking around on their computers as part of analysing data from the Cold War. Such games were frowned upon but never the less allowed to happen. From this, Spacewar was developed in 1972 and it “transformed computers from Cold War armaments to play devices.” (Colman and Dyer-Witheford, 2007, 936). Later this process would be used by Atari, the company transpiring games for arcades and consoles for TV sets, in the 1980’s. Atari was preceded by Nintendo and Sega, then Sony and finally Microsoft. The video game console brought about the popularity of games and with it the lawsuits, as content became copyrighted. Many gaming companies were sued for stealing ideas while others yet, took complicated measures to keep their concepts safe from competitors.
Selling games for profit outlawed the copying of games, and hackers were became out and out thieves. However, stealing games was also profitable, and the ways to achieve this became easier. Here, Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford explain MODs and EMUs and how they have been released (much like the games themselves) on the web for others to use. Piracy claims billions of dollars from gaming companies each year and its usually achieved by
- ” individuals burning occasional copies,
- small groups circulating copies on ‘darknets’ (Biddle et al., 2002 cited in Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 938),
- ‘softlifting’ by companies or employees obtaining games or authoring tools for use at work,
- shady retailers generating theirown stock
- black market operations
- ‘warez’ networks.” (Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 938).
As the internet is seen as a free for all, Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford explain that most people don’t not see anything wrong in sharing what they have already purchased, be it software, games or music. On the other hand, media companies see no difference between one type of theft from another and spend a lot of effort in trying to contain piracy of any from, with the use of
- “anti-piracy hardware,
- code obfuscation,
- digital watermarks,
- other forms of software surveillance (Myles, 2005 cited in Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 939).
- US Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998″ (Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 939).
While some might say that with sharing comes innovation, others disagree and because games haven’t been around long enough to bypass the copyright laws, then many game websites have subsequently been shut down. However, this causes a resistance and piracy thrives in most cases. Begging the question, has the updating of commons become obsolete?
Mods and machinima
“Modders aim to expand games: changing characters’ ‘skins’, adding weapons, creatingscenarios, levels or missions, building new games out of old engine.” (Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 941). Mods are freely distributed on the web and have become quite successful, so much so that outfits that create the mods are hired by gaming companies. Meanwhile machinnima are movies made from games. “A digital camera situated in the point of view of a character films in-game action:voice and music are dubbed in.” (Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 942). Gamers using both mods and machinima are participatory in nature, viewing games as changeable goods, and today most games are designed with that in mind, making this a commons over commodity matter.
Massively-Multiplayer Online Games (MMOGs) are games that behave differently to other games because they are played online by millions of gamers simultaneously, interacting with one another in cyberspace. To use World of Warcraft as an example, developed by Blizzard and released in 2004, a gamer must buy the software and then continue spending on monthly subscriptions as well as extension packs for the game. ” Worldwide MMOG revenues were over $1.5 billion (Schiesel, 2005; Woodcock, 2005 cited in Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 944). This seems no commons, but a game commodity par excellence.” (Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 944).
Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford explain that although players are free to do as they wish within the confinement of the game giving the illusion of actively using commons, in actual fact, they are paying for the privilege and such games have become commodities that earn big media and game companies a lot of money.
The fragile link between commons and commodities in gaming where gamers have the tools to modify and disseminate these games, are at the basis of said games. Without people like this, who take on big corporations to create something innovative and exciting, then games become stale and wrapped up in their self serving copyright laws. On the other hand, stealing should not be condoned, Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford conclude that “Game capital, robust but [b]y no means impervious to crisis, may bein the process of effectively squashing the game commons or of pioneering their inventive co-option within the commodity form – or of demonstrating contradictions that doom such an attempt.” (Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 948).
On the basis of the article, I think as a consumer that I should have the right to upload any content on the web, and I completely agree with Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford with regards to innovation, how else are we to produce more exiting content if not through collecting old ideas and making them better? “Commercial games, themselves children of hacking, generate the technological know-how and cultural excitement that fuels ‘do-it-yourself’ player activities, which companies often in turn re-market.” (Coleman and Dyer-Whitheford, 2007, 948).
Sarah Colman and Nick Dyer-Witheford (2007). Playing on the digital commons: collectivities, capital and contestation in videogame culture. Media, Culture and Society 29 (6), 934-953.
2. Outline your plan for your remediation that identifies the form, proposed content, technological tools and intended audience of your remediation project.
I have decided to take my chosen text from Bridget Jones’s Diary, written by Helen Fielding, and turn it into a short film. I was intrigued as to why this part did not make it into the film Bridget Jones’s Diary released in 2001, and wondered if I could recreate it my self.
The text is taken from diary entry Thursday 23rd of February:
“Midnight. Urg. Completely exhausted. Surely it is not normal to be revisiting for a date as if it were a job interview? Suspect Daniel’s enormously well read brain may turn out to be something of a nuisance if things develop. Maybe I should have fallen for someone younger and mindless who would cook for me, wash all my clothes and agree with everything I say. Since leaving work I have nearly slipped a disc, wheezing through a step aerobics class, scratched my naked body for seven minutes with stiff brush; cleaned the flat; filled the fridge, plucked my eyebrows, skimmed the papers and the Ultimate Sex Guide, put the washing in and waxed my own legs, since it was too late to book an appointment. Ended up kneeling on a towel trying to pull off wax strip firmly stuck to the back of my calf while watching Newsnight in an effort to drum up some interesting opinions about things. My back hurts, my head aches and my legs are bright red and covered in lumps of wax.
Wise people will say Daniel should like me just as I am, but I am a child of Cosmopolitan culture, have been traumatized by supermodels and too many quizzes and know that neither my personality nor my body is up to it if left to its own devices. I can’t stand the pressure. I am going to to cancel and spend th evening eating doughnuts in a cardigan with egg on it.” (Fielding, H. (1996). Bridget Jones’s Diary, London, Picador: 59)
I will be filming with my digital camera, editing the film on Windows Live Movie Maker. I’m hoping to bribe some family members into acting for me, so far I only have one yes, but I need two more. In my mind, I think the target audience, apart from Elaine, would be the same target audience as the original film. Or at the very least the same audience who enjoyed reading the book and were disappointed when some bits were left out of the film, for whatever reason.