Way back in the day, years and years ago, I used to visit these tiny little blogs, always run by one person, that wrote small essays about anime episodes, video games, movies, or whatever else. While the works themselves weren’t all that great, what really enraptured me was the feeling of intimacy I had with someone I’ve never met. These people often loved to use casual language and share personal anecdotes to add to their points, and it created this cozy, “homey” feel to their sites that I loved.
Note: For this article, it’s assumed that you’ve played Persona 3, or at least have a cursory knowledge of the game’s plot, characters, and combat system. If not, you may find yourself a bit lost.
Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. Remember your death.
Riding the train on the way to a new city and new life, we suddenly experience a moment in time where everything twists. The city is bathed in reds and greens, and everyone around us now resides in a literal coffin. To everyone else, this moment in time doesn’t exist. To us, and a select few others, it has a name: The Dark Hour.
This, and the enormous, seemingly endless, tower that dominates the landscape during this time, make up the bulk of Persona 3’s narrative, themes, and play hours. I can’t honestly say that Persona 3 is better than any of the other games in the franchise, but I feel that some aspects of it are worth taking a closer look at.
I felt like I spent a lot of 2017 not doing much. While the Kingdom Hearts Primer rolled in and onward from the previous year, the sheer monotony of the editing process started to take its toll on me. At the same time, I also finally filmed one of my dream projects, LAST NIGHT, that I wrote back when I first started film school. Then I proceeded to barely work on the editing for it, even though I had to take off of school for a while do to financial reasons.
Whether for those reasons or not, not too many games seriously gripped me this past year, but even so, I deeply appreciate the level of storytelling, intimate or grandiose, through writing or gameplay, that video games are coming to consistently achieve.
Here’s a few of those.
VIRGINIA, created by a small handful of devs at Variable State, is a short, two hour, interactive film. With little to no ability to actually control the game most of the time, it’s about the furthest we have seen the bridge between video games and film tilt towards the latter side, yet it does little help guide the narrative or tone, and in places, actually works to its detriment.
The plot of Virginia takes place in 1992, with you playing FBI agent Anne Tarver alongside agent Maria Halperin, looking for a missing young boy. During its run over the course of a week or so, it liberally uses filmlike framing and editing to keep the player invested in the story, but this setup more often than not works against it. The problem is that we often don’t get to control Anne beyond a small frame to move the camera around, because our first instinct when we do is to explore the environment. Look behind us, check the corners of the rooms, explore every square inch before continuing on for tidbits of extra context to the plot. Yet almost every single time, all that’s waiting for the player who excitedly searches for more to learn about this world is a blank, desolate wall, and a now broken pace. At times, we can even miss plot points because we were in one of the few moments where we could actually move around in a full 3D space.
Virginia so desperately needs to played a specific way to be enjoyed completely, and that’s full steam ahead, no matter what. The further we get into the game and stop checking behind us, the quicker the game cuts, the less the music obviously loops.
While I can respect what Virginia is trying to do on some level as a filmmaker myself, it goes much too far in the direction of film that I wondered what I got from actively playing the game at all. The little bits of interactivity come down to a single button press, leaving me feeling like little more than a remote control consistently pressing play because the film wants to make sure I’m paying enough attention.
Author’s Note: I’m well aware that this particular topic has been talked to death at this point, but I think it’s endlessly important to reiterate since it continues to be a quiet but very painful problem in a modern male’s adult life.
I remember the afternoon I was seeing off my old friend Keegan, after he spent the previous night playing video games and watching anime with me. I must have been around 11 or 12 and, without giving any thought to it, I hugged him goodbye. Not some kind of nonchalant side hug, but a real loving one, because he was my best friend and I really cherished him and his friendship. Afterwards my mother took me aside and told me that she thought that was really strange, and that maybe I made Keegan or his mother uncomfortable because of that. While the memory receded quickly, it internally fucked me emotionally up for years.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working on the script and location scouting for a project called The After Party. It was our final for my film production class.
Austin Elliot and I wrote the script, and acted in it. Tim Rother wrote the storyboard, edited the script, and directed. I was the post production editor.
Pre-production took place in the two weeks coming up to the shoot, and the actual filming was all done in one night in roughly 6 hours.
The budget was non-existent, so I went and bought a set of camping lights that we used for just about every shot, and things like the shovel came from our houses.
The first track from from Kevin MacLeod, who graciously makes royalty free music for anyone who wants it, and the final piece was my personal favorite song from my best friend Taylor Burdette under the name The Fear of Being Lonely. You can purchase his album here:
I wouldn’t say that The After Party is anything incredible, and I could point out a myriad of small mistakes in the final cut, but I’m quite happy with how it turned out. For a couple of students only a few quarters in to film school, our professor and classmates absolutely loved it, and I hope you do too.
Thanks for all the support everyone gave us, and we’re looking to only get better from here.
Like the Glitch Kings 2K12 video before it, I went for a unified style for this (originally 5+ hours) night of Siege.
The idea behind it was a sort of “night on the town” aesthetic, hence the aggressive font choices and gradient flares on the thumbnails, but in the intermittent weeks since its completion I wish that it had made its way into the actual footage. Instead of a static noise and glitch transition, I would have gone for some quick flare flashes, and would’ve changed the somber sounding intro to something better for a party.
Regardless of that, I’m still quite proud of this little project. The animated transitions took a long time to get right, there are a few one-off jokes that are a couple seconds each, and it was easily the hardest I’ve pushed myself to edit out everything that wasn’t great.
The only downside was, because of the intensity of all this, I haven’t recorded any Siege since, and I’ve been playing a good bit less. Personally I’d love to take on a different game, but I haven’t played much else with friends on PC lately.
So what will be next? I dunno. Might be doing film projects for a while longer.