Monday, April 7, 2008

My studio is falling apart!

There's a little chaos in my game of The Movies, now in the year 2000. The buildings are all falling apart from disrepair. I think I've promoted too many janitors and builders (I do love a good gags to riches story!) and I can't turn talent back into staff so I'm short-staffed. I've got aging actors that are retiring left and right. The studio itself isn't looking too attractive or doing very well (ranked 8 out of 10) so I think that's why there aren't any new people lining up to replace them. I think I'm in a bit of trouble.

Some stats:
  • I've made 94 movies, but only three have gotten a 3 star rating. (BTW, it's out of five.) My movies consistently open somewhere in top 20, but have no staying power and quickly fall in the rankings. No blockbusters to speak of.
  • I've only gotten a handful of awards, and they've all gone to "best newcomer." I think that's mostly a result of me putting janitors into a starring roles!
  • Out of 46 actors/directors in all of the studios and 10 in mine, my highest ranked one is a director at 16. Ouch. No people magazine covers to speak of.
  • Well a huge quantity of bad movies does pay off. I've got $7.2 million, but there's not much I can really spend it on. I guess I could just build entirely new buildings to replace the aging ones that need repair, but who would take care of them? I guess I could pay my talent more and maybe they'd be happier, but they still aren't making good movies. But really, $7.2 million is a lot of dough... what good is all of this money if it can't really solve all my woes?

Sadly, I think I'm close to done with my current game... I think I'll play it until I can figure out what happens when I get to a little past the current time. (Are there features in the game that foreshadow the the future with things that haven't been invented in real life yet?) I'm not sure there's really an ending point, a point where I've "beat" the game, so I may just teeter out of this one... but I don't think I'm ready to quit playing The Movies. I think I'm actually nearing the point of starting anew with all the skills and knowledge I've collected. But I do like the game and it's pretty engrossing so I think I'll continue to play it... perhaps while basking in the glow of unemployment come June! Will listing "videogame blogger" on my resume get me a job anywhere?

A New View

It was a little funny to watch someone else play my game!

To start off my gamer interviews (I interviewed two people separately), I observed the participants playing a video game for about 10 minutes to actually "observe" learning while they played. Okay, well, that was the idea, but how much learning could I really observe? How much could I physically see? Not much. But at least it did give us a common gaming experience which we could refer to as the interview progressed.

But I digress. One of the participants played The Movies as a sample game. I started the participant off with a new game and she took it through to the completion of the first movie. She is a fan of SimCity and The Sims so she was pretty familiar with the concept of managing the building of buildings and managing the characters of the game. It was actually quite interesting to watch her play. Sometimes she listened to the prompts, but mostly she interrupted the prompts and went ahead with playing based on her experience with games similar to this. She eventually got moving pretty quickly and I'd say that her learning curve was quite quick in comparison to mine!

Perhaps what was most interesting (at least to me!!) was the progression of how I was feeling as I watched her. Before she clicked on "start game," after so many hours of playing The Movies I felt pretty confident that I was a good player. I felt a sense of pride in what I'd accomplished in the game and, with this new person playing, I was overcome with this sense of... hmm... entitlement? Was I lording my experience over her? I guess I was!

She started placing some buildings and I thought to myself, "Ha! That was really silly to place that building over there! She doesn't know the first thing about The Movies!" [Of course, in that moment, it didn't occur to me that, given that it was her first time playing, she literally didn't know much about The Movies.] But as the game progressed, I could see that she was getting it. She understood what she was doing and started to anticipate the next move--something that did not happen for me for quite a while. It soon became clear that I was outmatched and my arrogance was definitely unwarranted. This young woman, from the 10 minutes of gameplay, made it obvious that she got it and that I was not as great as I thought.

Were the competitive juices flowing? I guess they were. Did I delude myself to thinking that I had more skills than she did? Yeah, I did. Was I humbled? You better believe it. Did I tell her about the internal monologue going on in my head? I definitely did not.

Hmm... maybe it wasn't a fair fight. (Is it a fight if my opponent doesn't know it's a competition?) I started at age 8 on Nintendo and now don't play video games that much. She started at age 4 and mostly played on N64. I missed a few generations in between my Nintendo and Xbox, which I rarely played. Most of all, she's younger than me. She's supposed to get it!

Well, at least that's what I'm going to tell myself.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The French Democracy

Here's one of the more talked about movies made through The Movies: The French Democracy. It's well worth a watch! It's a story of racism in France, the power of "authority" (police and politicians), disaffected youth, and the riots in the French suburbs. Perhaps it's a bit caricatured, but it's great use of the medium to look at social issues. Thirteen minutes, using only the soundtrack effects in The Movies, subtitled, but it still is quite an effective narrative.

And here's one using the real movie 300 as inspiration for a parody film...

And another one using The Beatles as inspiration...

One of the features of The Movies (which I think is only available on the Mac version?), is that you can import music from your iTunes library to provide a soundtrack for your films. I'm not quite sure how this works with copyright laws, but in making movies without the option for spoken dialogue (you can use subtitles or do voiceovers with a mic), importing music with lyrics that provide some sort of storyline is a common feature that Movies-makers use.

A Sample Movie

I recently found this movie made on The Movies on YouTube. A great way of working with narrative structure in the relationship between two people. Also, it uses the lyrics of real music to move the story along. Take a look!

Also interesting is the discussion in the comments section in which the creator provides the commenter with a gameplay tip.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Just as I Feared/Fantisized...

Over the holiday weekend, I had the opportunity to purchase and install The Movies... and just as I feared/fantisized, I was instantly addicted. This will seriously impact my school work for the term... perhaps positively in this class and negatively in other classes? Perhaps negatively to both?

I spent most of the weekend at a retreat center in outside of Deerfield, MA with some Arts in Education program-mates. While most of them spent the first day exploring the area by foot or by snowshoe, I spent it indoors getting my first movie studio set up!

I started with the "Learn the Basics" tutorial and that took me through some basic screen navigation controls. It seemed pretty intuitive so I moved quickly through the tutorials and went on to gameplay and just jumped right on in!

The initial steps of the game were also peppered with thought bubbles and tips on what to do next. You've gotta build some buildings like a stage school, a crew facility, a casting office, and a production office. Once those buildings are built, people line up at them looking for jobs and you've got to hire talent (directors, actors, extras) and staff (builders, janitors, crew, scriptwriters). Then you've gotta give those people training and experience and then get to making movies.

As it was my first time, I was just exploring and seeing what would happen and how things work. It starts in 1920 and I'm now in 1959, ranked 5th out of 9 studios and I have an efficient operation that can put out a whole lot mediocre movies with middle-of-the-pack actors and directors. Basically, quantity is excellent, but quality is average at best...

We'll see what happens... In my projective self, I want my studio to be known for making better films. I may try to slow my whole process down and start concentrating on making quality films... see if I can change the image of the studio (just like I can makeover the image of my talent by giving them a new wardrobe and a fancy new haircut!). Or maybe I'll start over with a brand new game. It's been about six hours of gameplay (did I mention how addictive and immersive it is?!), and without "finishing the game" (by at least playing through the current date), I'm already recognizing what could've been done better and making plans for my next game!