Thursday, May 28, 2009


One day this will be a book.

I know, it's very presumptuous for me to say that but look at it this way: welcome to the ground floor.

And since you're probably stuck, barely in the lobby without even knowing what the hell is going on, please allow me to explain:

I believe in the idea of video games as an art form.

However, I do not believe that video games are solely an art form. I see video games as a form of cultural literature reaching par with film and graphic novels. I certainly believe they are not the dumbing down imagination killers presented in Tim Burton's remake of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. I also believe that they are the unjust scapegoats in a society that will look to newfound entertainments as dangerous, without any sort of merit and certainly not to be trusted. It is that merit that I wish to explore here in this collection.

The bulk of games explored will be from the 8 and 16 bit Nintendo eras, moving on to later generations as it seems appropriate. The reason I am focusing first on the early Nintendo systems is that they are my frame of reference. I will do my best to examine Sega and TG16 games as I come into contact with them, but the house that Miyamoto-San built will get the initial glut.

As time and development go by, my sincerest hope is to develop a glossary of terms relative to examining video games as literature. In order to do this, I will have to appropriate industry terms as well as terms from alternate literary disciplines.

First there is the term "mechanics" that will come up often. This refers both to the gameplay controls as well as well as the basic framework and limitations of the game as placed by the designers. The inability to go backward in Super Mario Brothers 1 is a basic and fundamental example of a mechanic.

Another term that will be used often is composition. In art, composition usually refers to the overall look of a picture, taking into account balance, contrast and technique. For the purposes of Bit Literate, composition will encompass the mechanics, story, plot devices and use of music. Unless otherwise noted, all music in video games may as well be considered non-diagetic... not counting guitar hero, rock band, dance dance revolution or the opera sequence of Final Fantasy VI.

It would be a complete disservice, of course, if we were to completely ignore the literary aspects of a game's storyline. I am going to let you know right now there will be spoilers.
Let me say that again.


As the games I will begin with are somewhere between 15 and 30 years old, I doubt the idea of spoilers for these is particularly shocking. Still, if you get upset at the fact that I said Protoman is Megaman's brother because you couldn't finish Megaman 3 or that Metroid's Samus Aran is, in fact, a woman then you may as well be angry at the film studies teacher who discusses the significance of Rosebud, the sled belonging to Charles Foster Kane.

Actually, it may well be argued that Samus's gender is the "Rosebud" of the video game world. Justin Bailey gave us the first big reveal in a space leotard with a gun.

Now, I won't be discussing if a game is any "good" or not. If it is an excellent game I will say so but my purpose is not to provide a rated review. The goal here is a literate interpretation. This means even the most unabashedly horrendous games (I'm looking at you, Hydlide) may receive discussion.

Absurdities will be pointed out, plotholes will be uncovered, characters will be discussed at length. These are the ideas behind Bit Literate.

So yes, welcome to the ground floor.

Continue? (Y/N)

No comments:

Post a Comment