Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Videos in the Virtual World

My daughter showed me these fascinating videos on YouTube. The visuals (including the representation of the leader singer/rapper) are taken from action clips from within the game Runescape. Runescape is a vast interactive game set in an imaginary quasi-medieval virtual space. The hundreds of thousands of people who are playing at any time can interact with game elements as well as with each other. My daughter arranges to meet her friends (and their avatars) within the game. They can accomplish game tasks, talk freely with each other, and so on.

In order to create these videos, the directors of the game have to have their avatars say the lyrics (or the responses) to the songs. They need to coordinate groups of people to go along with them (the “back-up singers” need to be asked to walk beside them, sing, or otherwise play their video part.) The avatar ‘director’ has to direct from within the game in the virtual space. The avatars have to venture to all the different virtual locales which appear in the video. The videos aren’t real time though – they’ve had to be assembled from clips of the avatars movements within the game.

These videos are a fascinating mapping of one set of limits (the song) onto another (the restrictions of the Runescape game.) It’s an intriguing kind of specialized constraint-based art creation. Blue? I can’t paint the sea using blue. I don’t have blue. I’ve have to make it red.

This video is "Diary of Jane" by Breaking Benjamin.

Here's Eminem in Runscape:


happenin fish said...

Hi Gary,

yes, I've been fascinated by these kinds of responses to games/videos, etc. for the past little while. From the mash-up to machinima, increasingly, the "normal" response of young users to content is to take it, and use it as the basis of their own creations.

have you seen red vs. blue? it uses the same technical approach- video capture of players in a video game- to create a sit com. The first episode is still, to my mind, funnier than what follows, but it's still all pretty smart.

kinda reminds me of making up skits with my friends when we used to play the old-fashioned way.

is it enough to be just excited that the creative drive is alive and kicking out there? maybe it's just enough because it poses a strong counter-argument to Neil Postman's fear that we're "amusing ourselves to ( a passive somatic)death.

gary barwin said...

Thanks for the viewing suggestions -- I haven't seen them but will look out for them.

I know, would Shakespeare have chosen not to sample from the history, legends, and folktales of his time, and instead create plays though choppy-right -- through borrowing from the cultural artifacts of his day?

I do think that the practise (of assembling these cultural objects) from pre-existing forms is an anti-Postman argument. I guess the issue is whether the forms limit the imagination in a Sapir-Whorf kind of way, delimiting what is or can be imagined, having the tools to limit the result. Then again, a hammer doesn't necessarily make everything look like a nail. Sometimes it makes things look like power structures, salami, or cologne.

Which, come to think of it, are what my woodworking projects end up looking like.