Thursday, April 5, 2012

Final Project Proposal


Itoi, Shigesato. Nintendo, Brownie Brown, HAL Laborator. Mother 3. Nintendo, 2006. Game Boy Advance.

Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon, 1991. Print.

Ebert, Roger. "Video Games Can Never Be Art." Roger Ebert's Journal. Chicago Sun-Times, 16 Apr. 2010. Web. <>.

Lars, Konzack. "Philosophical Game Design." The Video Game Theory Reader 2. Ed. Bernard Perron and Mark J. P. Wolf. New York: Routledge, 2009. 33-44. Print.

McDougall, Julian, and Wayne O'Brien. Studying Videogames. Leighton Buzzard [England]: Auteur, 2008. Print.

Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. Frankenstein: The Lynd Ward Illustrated Edition. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2009. Print.

"Shigesato Itoi Tells All About Mother 3." Nintendo Dream. Web. 05 Apr. 2012. .

Possible additional sources:

García, Márquez Gabriel. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Trans. Gregory Rabassa. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.

Shinkle, Eugénie. "Corporealis Ergo Sun: Affective Response in Digital Games." Digital Gameplay: Essays On the Nexus of Game and Gamer. Ed. Nate Garrelts. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, 2005. Print.

Reign Over Me. Dir. Mike Binder. Perf. Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle. Columbia Pictures, 2007.

Argument: Mother 3 tells a story of the gradual corruption of a pure, utopian society into one increasingly reliant on technology and greed via exploiting the players’ emotional reactions to its various situations. And the fact that it does so by exploiting its elements as a video game is what allows it to act as support towards the notion that video games can be a legitimate storytelling medium, and thus a form of art.

Counterargument: Even though it may tell a compelling story, Mother 3’s highly linear nature, partial reliance on cutscenes, and the fact that it does not allow the player’s actions to change the direction of the game make it non-interactive, thus making its status as a “game” null and its ability to affect the player irrelevant.

Why should the reader care?: The reader should care because for a technology that has only maintained massive mainstream popularity for less than 30 years, video games have managed to evolve significantly to the point where they have finally been receiving some scholarly attention, most notably with the release of Shadow of the Colossus in 2005. Older critics, including Roger Ebert (whom I otherwise love), have maintained the mentality that video games cannot be a legitimate art form due to the medium lacking significant shortcomings. If video games are, in fact, art, then they do deserve the same academic attention as other forms of art taught in universities worldwide alongside films, architecture, paintings, music, theater, books, and dance and are thus not the childish “killing simulators” that the media and certain individuals claim them to be.

Role of Marcuse: There is a very specific passage I want to address in One-Dimensional Man that can be used to address a significant part of Mother 3, in that as the residents of Tazmily Village grow more and more accustomed to technology and capitalism, they get increasingly more corrupt and eventually move to a large city in which moral corruption reigns key. The passage in question is “These changes in the character of work and the instruments of production change the attitude and the consciousness of the laborer, which become manifest in the widely discussed ‘social and cultural integration’ of the laboring class with capitalist society”(29).

Expansion of Argument: Mother 3 allows you, the player to experience its events by putting you into the same position as the characters, and as a result allows you to experience various emotional reactions to the game’s story in a manner which would be impossible if it was presented in any other form. One noteworthy way in which it does this is through its default naming screen, which Mother series creator Shigesato Itoi claimed led to strong emotional reactions for those who named the characters after their immediate families. Other noteworthy ways include a significant portion of the game in which you are a weak, unleveled monkey who has to rely on a sadistic, corrupt owner to survive, forcing you into a final boss battle with your own brother where you cannot deal even a single point of damage, putting you into a hallucinogenic trance where the hallucinated spirits of your family and friends insult and mentally abuse you, and notably, by having the game’s virtual inhabitants thank you for saving their world at the end of the game. All of these contribute to the your perception of the game’s plot, which leads to the message that technology is a corrupting force in the world. And because this message is being told through the medium of video games, it supports the notion that video games are art.

Additional thoughts: I am currently in the process of finding sources that define art in various ways, but I may just choose to use Ebert’s and use them to counter his own argument. Additionally, as I have read it, I may incorporate a brief discussion or allusion to a few passages in One Hundred Years of Solitude, which involves a small town (Macondo) being corrupted in a manner very similar to the way in which Tazmily Village is corrupted in Mother 3. With regard to Frankenstein, I don’t think I want it to play a significant role in this paper because I don’t want to focus heavily on narrative differences between different mediums, but I picked it specifically because it deals with the dangers of man corrupting nature. I feel also think it is worth nothing that I will probably separate analysis of the video game itself and why it supports the notion that video games as a whole are art into two sections, as I want the paper to flow well.

1 comment:

Adam said...

The One Hundred Years of Solitude connection is clever. I'm not sure it's worthwhile, but it's clever.

For me, the critical starting point to this project is having a clear and worthy concept of what art is - what it's for. You probably know my point of view by now: I think that Marcuse's concept of art as the "Great Refusal" is the most important and useful model for our time. You could agree, or think that Marcuse is idiotic - whatever. What you need is a *worthwhile* definition of art, which provides an interesting test with Mother 3, and helps us to understand how Mother 3 is important.

For example: it would be very interesting (and may be in line with what Marcuse has to say about surrealist art) if Mother 3 engages in a "great refusal" of interactive, technological civilizaiton, which is created in a medium characteristic of interactive, technological civilization.

I think you've got enough to work with *given* a worthy definition of art - a definition which will clarify to us, rather than obscure, why Mother III might matter.