Rationale and Production
25 January 2006 edition- revised from 1999.


Rationale
My rationale for the student work was a proposal to produce three projects which challenged people's expectations of multimedia and computer gaming, not just in the game play process, but also in designing a highly stylised aesthetic.

Multimedia and computer games product have the capability for audience interactivity.

Popular contemporary computer multimedia and games product is in either of two forms:-


  1. 1. It is an extremely slick product that reflects the successes, or, corporate ideology of the commercial organisations that fund it. For example, the NMEC 3D Dome experience which internet users were able to visit a 3D rendered virtual reality set of The Millennium Experience (otherwise know as the Dome) in London.

  2. 2. It has been in the form of fast, violent, competitive and aggressive games, like the shoot-it-up Quake series. Other popular computer games are escapist Dungeon and Dragon type role-playing games, 'god' games like Sim City, or Star Wars Episode I Gungan Frontier. Other popular computer games include sports simulations like FIFA '98, or, products like the pocket virtual reality Tamagotchi Pets.

 

I personally question the commercial and political concerns of contemporary interactive multimedia and computer games, and what it implicitly or explicitly represents.

For example, many contemporary computer games, like the Tomb Raider series, have fetish or aspirational images of their characters. For example, Lara Croft is the body perfect, English archaeology aristocrat, and is designed using 3D CGI technology.

In terms of aesthetic, graphic design, or, content, computer games have received criticism. The Daily Telegraph newspaper described Tamagotchi Pets as:

 

"eye catching, sometimes bizarre, but ultimately vacant" (1).

 

In terms of the content, aesthetic, graphics, or, representation of genre, many computer game producers are just as questionable as another major media or communication form: Hollywood film studios.

In terms of the student work presented here, I was designing work counter to these highly commercial (and successful) established forms.

The three projects differed in design aesthetics. The visual and audio design have been deliberately developed to be different from contemporary popular computer CD-ROM games, which either have 3D screen model design, like Tomb Raider III, or, Star Wars Episode I Racer.

In terms of content I was hoping to communicate a theme of satire in these projects. This theme has been evident in only one popular commercial computer game, Star Ship Titanic.

Satire is defined by theorist S. Neale in the 1990 text Film and Television Comedy as a mode of comedy which:

 

"...uses the norms within its province to measure deviations from social conventions. In satire the deviations themselves are attacked, particularly if those who deviate profess to adhere to those norms most strongly." (2)

 

The three student projects I worked are discussed in detail below.

 

Fairground 2000
My student project Fairground 2000 was a satire of The Millennium Experience exhibition in London.

On 1 January 2001, The Millennium Experience 'Dome' was closed. However, most UK residents will know that the 'Dome' had it's share a troubles while it was open.

Ironically, these troubles were far more damaging to the Government than any satirical comment that I was making in my student project. These troubles are well documented by the BBCi News web site:-


Britain reopens bidding for Millennium Dome
Millennium Dome receives another cash injection
Dome chief Resigns
Dome dogged by loan crisis
Great Dome robbery foiled

 

All that said, my student project, Fairground 2000, was a an interactive exhibition which offered the user a somewhat different view of the United Kingdom at the dawn of the third Millennium. It was counter to the official Government and corporate image presented in their exhibition.

The user can visit one of five exhibitions, The Body, New Labour, Mobility, Work, or, the Peace exhibit, all which made reference to real exhibits which were open to the public at The Millennium Experience. The fun fair design aesthetic of Fairground 2000 is to highlight the fact that The Millennium Experience was a theme park experience, much like the traveling fair, which is also is a non-permanent experience.

Fairground 2000 is a multimedia piece particularly influenced by photomontage artists Peter Kennard and John Heartfield.

I believe that the issue of object orientated interaction creating a sense of satire revolves around two components. Firstly, the significance of the objects on screen (i.e. signifier/signified). This can be an aesthetic of visual or audio. And secondly, the interaction which occurs when these objects interact. When these two concepts collide (as the objects do on the screen), then a third meaning (satire) is created. My analysis is taken directly from the theories relating to meaning communicated in photomontage. As artist Peter Kennard states about the single photographic print in his text Images for the End of the Century:

 

"The single click of the camera shutter cannot picture this connection, cannot equate one with the other. But in a photomontage two clicks can be brought together to create a third meaning" (3).

 

Other visual influences on Fairground 2000 would include Retroactive II (1964) by Robert Rauschenberg, in particular, the American flag sequences.

The famous music present in Fairground 2000 (brief sections from The Star Spangled Banner, EastEnders, Four Seasons, and the Big Ben chime) are all recorded on guitar.

 

Kamikaze Kitten
My second student project, Kamikaze Kitten
, was a computer game influenced by the 1980s video arcade game, Frogger.

The player has to keep a young Kitten alive and get it home, which is lost in a forest, full of hostile dogs and hazards, like flowing rivers.

Although a platform game, the visual and audio aesthetics are heavily stylised. These are completely different from the usual computer game representations of animals. For example, commercial computer games have characters which are small, colourful, cute and cartoon like. Additionally, animals in these games frequently have human behaviours and personalities.

The deliberately dark graphics and audio are to highlight a marked difference to the virtual pet games, like PC Pup (a PC CD-ROM virtual reality dog), and, Koi Koi (a PC CD-ROM virtual reality fish). The visual and audio are also a break from the games like Spyro (a Playstation game where the user plays a dragon in a platform adventure game).

In Kamikaze Kitten, dogs bark, fish swim and birds sing; they do not start talking or break into a song and dance number, as often seen in Disney animated films, like The Jungle Book.

Whether players are endeared or not to the animal characters is not as important as realising the marked difference in aesthetic, which is in opposition to the clean, cute living vision of virtual pet computer games.

The multi-tracked sound effects, vocals, harmonies, and chorus guitar sounds of Kamikaze Kitten was influenced by the experimental recording techniques of popular music artists like Jimi Hendrix, Queen and Stevie Wonder.

 

Higgledy Piggledy
My third student project, Higgledy Piggledy, was an experimental interactive media piece, and was incomplete. It draws inspiration from cinema, art, and, literary sources. It's influences included 1984, Brazil, THX-1138, Metropolis, and the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti.
Other visual influences on Higgledy Piggledy are Ascending and Descending (1960) and Relativity (1953) by graphic artist Maurits Cornelis Escher.

The on screen characters in the project are images of little 'gingerbread' style men (the lower orders of society ) moving around the taller thinner men (the higher orders of society, the press, as in the newspaper men). Alberto Giacometti's sculptures like Man Pointing (1947) are described as:-

 

"realistic single figures, extremely emaciated form." (4)

 

This Giacometti design was influential on Higgledy Piggledy, and I chose this aesthetic as it was different from computer game and multimedia screen design I had seen.

The music is also abstract, and heavily influenced by the 1983 sound version of Metropolis (but inferior to the 1926 silent directed by Fritz Lang). The multi-tracked sound effects, vocals, harmonies, and chorus guitar sounds of Higgledy Piggledy was influenced by the experimental recording techniques of popular music artists like Jimi Hendrix, Queen and Stevie Wonder.

Back to Top

 

Production
The production of my student work was completed as degree course work, assessed in modules Project 1 and Project 2.

It must be stated that modules Project 1 and Project 2 (i.e. the work showcased here) were only part of the required degree course work. To complete my degree, I did submit two theoretical papers, which were not related in form or content. Additionally, I also submitted a critical reviews of Project 1 and Project 2.

My student work was subject to several formal panel reviews from University staff and other MA degree students, during the one year production period.

Process
The production process I used for these projects is different from conventional multimedia or computer games production, which is heavily team based.

For the benefit of my own software training and education, and for the development of the unique aesthete design style of these CD-ROM projects, I completed these projects alone.

Supervision and Tutoring
I was under close supervision from my University tutors Angela Medhurst and Nigel Power.

Other University lecturers offered their advice in tutorials including Stephanie Bezencenet, Margaret Huscroft, Peter Kavanagh and Peter Dunn.

Librarian Peter Clarke was helpful in showing me how to construct a test web site, first published in April 1999. Lecturer Edward Welch helped me to publish the original web site on the MAD media server (from summer 1999 to April 2003).

Production
For these three projects, I completed all the artwork, photography, design, illustration, music, sound effects, and the Lingo and HTML/JavaScript coding (after workshop tuition). The decision to produce my own artwork (instead of using others) is due to copyright issues.

The music sound loops and dialogue audio were completed by myself using Sound Edit 16 version 2. There are no outside samples, I only use material recorded by myself for copyright reasons. The multi-tracked layering of sounds built in short two or four second sections is then looped, to create a sense of a long music section.

The CD-ROM productions and web site were completed during the degree course time table; September 1998-September 1999.

Technical
Software and hardware used in the CD-ROM and the original web site student projects:-

Apple Macintosh G3, 7500, 7100 and 8500 PCs.
Director 7 and 6.0.2. (with Lingo).
Canon Canonet QL17 35mm camera.
Apple Quick Take Digital camera.
Photoshop 5.0.
Sound Edit 16 version 2.
Squire Fender Stratocaster guitar, Boss effect pedals and vocals (my own).
HTML handcoded in SimpleText.
Dreamweaver 2.0 (for JavaScript).
UNIX server systems.
Fetch 3.0.3 to publish the site on the University's server.
Netscape Communicator 4.5.

Software and hardware used in this revised web site 2003:-

Photoshop 7.0.
Fireworks MX.
Dreamweaver UltraDev 4.0.
Director 8.0, for Shockwave Movie updates.
IE 5.0 and Netscape Communicator 7.0.
AuthenticAMD AMD-K6(tm) PC.
Notepad, for HTML/JavaScript handcoding.
HiSoftware Simple FTP Utility, to publish the site on my web site hosting service.

Review and Examination
My projects were formally reviewed and examined at two presentations, Project 1 in January 1999, and, Project 2 in September 1999. The work was also reviewed and marked by an external moderator.

Lecturer's assessing my student course work included Stephanie Bezencenet, Peter Kavanagh, Angela Medhurst, and, Nigel Power.

The two theoretical papers and critical reviews I also completed, as part of my degree course work, were assessed by other staff.

Evaluation and Results
In September 1999, I received confirmation that I had passed all the necessary units, and, my qualification was Master of Arts Degree in Design and Media Arts with Merit.

Feedback
If you would like to contact me, and/or comment:- philipjameswallace@hotmail.com.

Philip James Wallace MA BA(Hons)

Back to Top

 

Sources
(1) p.8, Connected, The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 1998, (London, The Daily Telegraph Newpaper Limited., 1998).
(2) p.25, NEALE, S and KRUTNIK, Film and Television Comedy, (London, Routledge, 1990).
(3) Afterword, KENNARD, Peter, Images for the End of the Century, (London, Journeyman Press, 1990).
(4) p.271, MURRAY, Peter and Linda, The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists, (London, Penguin,1991).

Back to Top


Home