The Killing Game: Three Seasons Of Interactive Friction

It’s a little hard for me to believe that not only did I complete a video series, but that I’ve done so three times now without giving out. Truth be told, it’s quite an incredible feeling to look back at a piece that you’ve worked on for so long finally be finished. While I can’t say the content is wholly my own as I don’t own any of these IPs or Brandon Carey, I still poured more hours of labor into this than I ever imagined I would.

I suppose it’s funny to remember then that Interactive Friction started as an incredibly low budget production. By the time it started up Brandon had already gotten me deeply interested in the world of game’s criticism and more recently so “Critical Let’s Plays”, a la Spoiler Warning. So one day, because Brandon’s not one to simply daydream about ideas all day, he got me to start a new game of Far Cry 3 with the idea of discussing the game’s narrative themes and gameplay mechanics with him. At the time I had only a Blue Snowball microphone, a pair of headphones, Skype, and a cursory knowledge of Sony Vegas and general video editing.

In retrospect the first season really doesn’t hold up all that well from a production standpoint, but at the time I considered it a major achievement. Of course, as Brandon and our audience found out eventually, “good enough” is never enough for me.

As this season concludes I’ve gotten a new motherboard and CPU with water cooling to keep the fan noise down, a new monitor with a much bigger screen and higher resolution to help with editing, and a monthly subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite for photoshopping Thumbnails, creating bumpers, and of course editing the audio and video of each recording.

Editing as much as I do wasn’t the original intention however. At the beginning it was supposed to be just raw footage so it would be easy to simply render out and upload immediately. No audio work, no bumpers. Nothing. That all changed with the advent of season 2. No real editing work took place until about halfway through, but as I would die repeatedly I told Brandon that I wanted to start cutting down what we had to keep it interesting.

This means every video went from simply “record it, upload it, never look at it again” to “test record for audio, record episode, fix audio with hard limiters, carefully scrub footage for dull moments to cut, add in corrections through title text, toss bumpers in, render, and upload”. It’s a lot more work that I ever thought I would do, but it also made me realize that I rather like editing and design, and have since started going to school for it.

The only bothersome point that the editing brings with it is the dramatic change in the flow of the episodes. Much as I don’t like showing my deaths over and over, they, and similarly traveling from one location to another, are part of the game. Even barring missing incidental dialogue from the game or us, it takes a takes away the aspects of a video game that make them wholly unique. If I were to edit the footage to show only the missions or firefights and not the travel in between them it would feel as though the open world structure need not exist. In an effort to keep our viewers interested by creating a more cinematic experience I feel as though there’s a tangible loss in the more “game-like” aspects of the design, and I’m not quite sure how to reconcile that.

As we move forward Brandon and I have already discussed a number of changes that will begin with the next season, big and small.

For right now though, we’re 62 videos in since starting this January, and I’m ready to take a break.

See you in Season 4!

Published by

Sam Callahan

Filmmaker by day, writer by night.

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