September 30, 2005

Other: Well... Maybe Not Everything

Having just read Steven Johnson's Everything Bad Is Good For You, I was quite impressed by his arguement that not only are popular entertainments becoming more sophisticated, but they are actually improving the minds of the general population. At least in the one respect of maintaining complex thought for an extended period of time.

Movies like Momento, for instance, would likely never have found an audience outside of art house theatre, never mind making $50 million. And that's a good thing: the intricate plot demands attention, leading to more cognition than a straight forward shoot-'em-up or simple romance. Comparing plots between Dragnet, Starsky and Hutch, and 24 revealy not only hightened complexity, but also extended plotlines and character development far beyond a single episode. Even the comedies that are out have "hidden" depths that reward multiple viewings: greater knowledge of the story or the references to the world at large reward the viewer with a laugh and the little thrill of getting the joke that others might miss.

The greatest part of what's driven this quality is simple: VCRs and DVDs. A series can appear on any television network, and if the quality is there, then there is a chance for home sales: just ask UPN, or HBO, or Fox, or...

Even (or especially) computer games have become more sophisticated. They are the real reason processing power has escalated to the degree it has. Yes, the military has had a great influence, but profit margin had had more so. I bought a new computer specifically to be able to play Myst, and I'm not the only one. If computer games are directed at violent, atrophying brains, why is one of the biggest sellers of all time based on urban management? Is there anything more boring than fiscal responsibility?

That being said...

The only important question regarding the new DOOM movie is: Does the main character get to use a chainsaw?

I've got a special place in my heart for DOOM. It wasn't the original FPS (First Person Shooter), that was Castle Wolfenstien. But it was so much better! The enviroment was more detailed than anything we'd seen to that point, the perspective was more realistic, the layered sounds were subtle and accurate, the shadows were... well... there (which was a new thing).

Plus, there was (heh heh) a chainsaw!

But there was more than that: the code was released, so anyone could make more levels to the game, or apply modifications so that the demons became giant Barney the Dinosaurs, singing that hideous, twisted song. Or you were in the Star Wars universe. Or used the sound clips from the movie Evil Dead, parts one, two or three. Players became creators or judges of the work of others, and the variety became endless. There are hundreds of sites around the world dedicated to this game, and it's still fun to play, though more for the creativity of the modfiers than the actual gameplay at this point. After all, they still hadn't figured out how to look up or down yet.

But the movie looks like it was done right: without using the gimmick of "3-D", they are going with the first-person perspective, just like the game. This is good: it's a case of admitting that the audience can take care of the immersive nature of the film themselves, thank you very much. After all, their target audience has been doing exactly that with their games for decades now, but never with a screen that could be measured in meters.

I'm going to go see this movie. Will it be any good? Sure, it could be, but it's all about perspective: like Jurassic Park, this is going to be a ride, not a film. They might have screwed it up, but I'm willing to give them the benifit of the doubt (and ten bucks). There's a big, devoted fan base out there wanting them to get it right, so I hope they've been paying attention to it.

For me, it will all come down to the chainsaw.


I have been rewarded for my faith - there is, indeed, a chainsaw.



posted by Thursday at 10:51 am


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