Rhys Thomas, Games Designer and digital smithy. Portfolio available here: www.rhygthomas.co.uk Interested in furthering the reach of interactive media.

Report RSS Essay on the Mundane in the Fantastical

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"Although our contemporary media frequently fling themselves into the far future or fantastically imagined alternative spaces their essential concerns are still with the mundane world of today." Discuss.

The contemporary creative industries have risen and developed from our changing contemporary lifestyle. Current lifestyle focus is very much on consumer culture, the disposable and the convenient. Things are only designed to last a certain time then be replaced and technology is evolving so quickly that new computers are often out of date within a few months.

Creative industries dubbed ‘New Media' are very much the culmination of technology, contemporary living and today's basic expectations. For example the increasing spread and popularity of the internet requires web design that should be interesting, intuitive and secure. Likewise, increasing popularity and accessibility to video games means there's more questions being asked of it; its requirement to develop a set of bench marks, agendas and conventions. Within cinema there is a shift towards depicting the imagined:

There are of course, a variety of explanations for the current switch of interest from the aesthetic rationality of realism to popular genres like science fiction, horror... One which has some weight to it is that it indicates a new theoretical scepticism, a greater wariness of pat formulae about the relationship between aesthetics and politics, and a renewed sensitivity to both the tackiness and sublimity of cinema.
(Donald, 1989, pg7)(1)

With the increased availability of the internet and more sources of knowledge, feelings of self importance and identity through what we consume have come to the fore. The developing medias have similar properties to the developing consumer culture; in games you're completing levels, passing through the environment, consuming them in search of a goal. Often the context or richness of the world in which a game is played has little bearing on the experience of the moment. The forefront of concentration is on the play mechanic and executing the required operations as successfully as possible to advance. Even the environment you have just passed thru may be erased instantly behind you and your recollection of what you have encountered will only stem back to the major events during play. A similar process of discarding obsolete information is prevalent in animation. In principle, the previous frame is being discarded to see the next; the focus is on the conveyance of movement rather than the detail of each individual still image.

(1) ‘Fantasy and the Cinema'

The changeable nature and flexibility of these media forms allows us to mould current human and social curiosities onto them, to be frivolous, to explore the impossible which was only previously possible with still image. I shall be concentrating on video games in my efforts to explain why humans seek the mundane amongst the fantastical. This media focuses entirely in creating virtual worlds without limitations yet oft limits the players to mundane every day actions.

Why do we choose to explore fantastically imagined worlds in the first place? What is the appeal? I think this needs answering before we can understand why we encounter the normal and do the mundane in these spaces. This can link to the fast paced, high media exposure lifestyle of today. Adverts, TV programs and film trailers create non-realistic worlds but we can go back further, to historical events, when space flight was in its infancy and arcade machines attempted to recreate the fantasy of space exploration.



Cool essay; I'd like to see where your going with this theoretically. Have you heard of the 'mundane sci-fi' movement? En.wikipedia.org
- Henry Swanson

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