Tragedy

So I’ve been happily going about my Honours research and preparation, talking about catharsis, games, films, plays, etc etc etc, and suddenly, today, it hits me. I talk to my supervisor and then to one of my tutors, and they both say the same thing, “It sounds like you’re more interested in Tragedy than Catharsis.”

They’re right!  I feel like I’ve taken the longest route to get there, and I’m not throwing out any of my ideas.

But now, instead of thinking, “What causes Catharsis, specifically Aristolean Katharsis?”  I am thinking, “How can I make Tragedy playable?”

What is even more exciting for me is reading the transcript for the Friday 27th March morning panel at GDC 2009, focusing on The Role of Games in Personal and Social Change.

It seems like my research is going to be very timely, and hopefully very relevant.  No pressure or anything! 🙂

There are just a couple quotes I’d like to pull out of this:

Will: what’s counter intuitive about this, when we think about games and positive change… what’s happened in history is cautionary tales. Frankenstein. Jurassic park sequel. Brave new world. These are powerful in changing the course of history. Bladerunner is a cautionary tale. These negative experiences… and we look at game players; by and large people enjoy failure in games more than success. They want interesting failure. We might want to focus on representing states on what we want society to avoid: if players can play with that in a positive fashion, they can avoid it in real life.

I love this.  I want to have brain sex with Will Wright, I really do.  Every time I read something that he says or thinks of, I just find it marvellous.  But this… this is something that I think I’m trying to hit on (that sounds weird…).  The purpose of Tragedy was to evoke catharsis, which is fear, pity, and englightenment combined.  This would create a sort of social conditioning, I believe.  Audiences would watch and note that if someone makes a wrong choice (Hamartia), then everything goes completely wrong.  They see it coming (fear), then it happens and they hate it (pity), and then they make a mental note that doing that themselves would probably be a bad idea (englightenment).  Thus, society is slowly shaped through cautionary tales.

My main concern with what might be the traditional approach is touched on by Lorne Lanning, of Oddworld Inhabitants:

Lorne: I think a lot of us are so full of shit. Most action gaming is really sociopathic. What we do we do, we love blowing shit away, that’s sociopathic. But at the same time, I’m really into homeopathy. So I’m focusing on sociohomeopathic games, haha!. When we first created the Abe games, there was infighting as to whether or not we could let gamers fail. Let’s break some paradigms and not have a happy ending, I said. But when people got to the end of the game and that they’d doomed the character they’d played throughout, we got tons of messages about how bad players felt. It was profound. We’d get hand-written letters from mothers, and every time my 8 year old kills the muddakens, the 5 year old unplugs the Playstation from the wall. We felt righteous about that.

This seems to be the same thing that is attempted in Bioshock, and even Host Master and The Conquest of Humor (link is to my previous, short post, which links to the Doublefine Blog).  This is where I hope I can do well.

Well, it’s 3am and I’ve somehow managed to stay up this late -again- so I’m going to go to bed, already.  I was going to go to bed at about 11pm… surprise, 4 hours have disappeared while I got distracted reading.

2 thoughts on “Tragedy

  1. Pingback: Tragedy for Social Change « Kathartic Journey

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