October 26, 2011
If anyone who reads this is on friends with me on Facebook, I apologize. I’ve been bitten by the Sims Social bug, and I don’t have any plans to stop anytime soon. I went through the trouble of learning the new Facebook interface enough to create a group just for my Sims updates, but every once in a while, they slip through. So for that I apologize.
I ask myself how in the world I would get so drawn into something like that. I played Farmville once, but it was a short lived affair. I ignore all the other game requests. I don’t have time to play these games, and yet somehow Sims has become something that invades my psyche when I’m sitting alone and bored, and anytime I’m on Facebook.
In Media Virus, Douglas Rushkoff argues about the viral nature of the media object: rather than being a metaphor, media events are viruses. He argues:
“We live in an age when the value of data, images, and ideologies has surpassed that of material acquisitions and physical territory…the only place left for our civilization to expand – our only real frontier – is the ether itself: the media (4).”
Once, many eons ago, I used to play the “real” Sims on a PC. I would recreate my own world with all of my childhood friends in their own houses. I made hypothetical children with my hypothetical husband. I went shopping with my hypothetical girlfriends. I took care of my hypothetical pets after getting home from my hypothetical job. When in a particularly bad mood, or just feeling silly, I hypothetically killed my Sims off in horrendous ways, like drowning in a pool with no ladder, or catching the kitchen on fire.
I say these with a sense of macabre humor because I know I’m not the only one that did these things. But eventually, the majority of us grew out of it. We went onto more productive things like Myspace, and then Facebook, and now Google Plus. If you were a gamer, you leveled up to more violent endeavors like Street Fighter and Halo (of course, speaking from experience).
So why are so many of us guilty of jumping so readily into Sims Social? It is, in Rushkoff’s own words, the Trojan horse (7). We adopt it quickly because of it’s familiarity, it is a gameplay that we understand well, both from pervious experience with the brand, and it’s reflection of our own lives. Once we are inside, we see the symbols of commercialism: how they entice you to buy points, the quests that keep you more and more, and those nagging reminders that you have not paid enough attention to Friend A, who in this instance is played by the actual Friend A.
Sims Social plays on our desire for more human interaction on the web. The datasphere according to Rushkoff is “the new territory for human interaction, economic expansion, and especially social and political machination” (4).
Human interaction. Check. Economic expansion, you bet (my currency may be low, but my house value is great!). Social and political machination? You bet (Sorry friend J. I constantly put spiders in your toilet.)
Now back to me gaining skills on my Haunted Typing Machine-Thing.
October 4, 2011
1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, adapted from the Ring novel by Koji Suzuki follows a divorced family who attempt to track down a cursed videotape. The videotape when watched, will cause the viewer to die 1 week later.
The main character, reporter Rekio Asakawa starts researching the popularity of the curse after finding out her niece Tomoko and three of her friends died after seeing the tape.
Though heralded as being one of the most frightening horror films in Japan, there were many incongruencies in the film that created an air of disbelief for me, thus negating the scare-effect.
- When Reiko tracks the tape down to the cottage on Izu Island, her first action is to watch it. The whole film up to this point she is acting less like a reporter and more like a scared child, so the concept of then taking this video and watching it, greatly reduces the credibility of Reiko as a character.
- Realizing she’s cursed, she calls her ex husband, makes a copy of the film, and shows it to him. Come on now. Seriously? Because if I thought I was cursed, the first thing I would do is show the father of my child, so we can die together and leave our child without parents
- Even more valiantly, she leaves the tape in her home. So of course her eerie child picks it up and watches it, saying “Tomoko made me do it”. I wish I was ingenious enough to blame things on ghosts of relatives as a kid. Well, at least they can all be one happy, cursed family together.
- Rather than spending time with her now cursed family (all thanks to her, mind you), she goes on a manhunt for spirits. Time to go spelunking in a well, and cradle a dead body of the girl who cursed the tape. Congratulations, you’re alive, but enjoy whatever diseases you picked up down there. (It should be noted that throughout all of this, there are random flashbacks. First, we think it’s the husband after he admits to being a psychic. Then she starts getting them – I think? Either way, great way to explain everything really fast.
- Except, she’s wrong. Ex-husband dies anyways. But at least she gets to keep her kid.
As much as I razz on the actual plot line and the lack of believability of the characters, I realize that this is both from a different time period and a different culture, where there is less desensitization thanks to special effect blood, guts, and gore. Japan is also a culture that has a lot more belief in spirits and curses than our own.
What I did like about Ringu, was the actual history behind the curse, though it isn’t made totally clear how it ended up on a video tape. The concept of the female psychic in history has always been persecuted, so bringing that to light is very historically accurate. The tension created by never showing the daughter, but implying heavily that she is to blame for the deaths is very effective in creating fear.
Similarly, the ultimate resolution to the tape is what I think makes the story so perfect. This curse, which deforms people’s faces so grotesquely in fear when they die, has such a simplistic cure: it just wants to live, in the sense that any virus wants to live. It passes from host to host to host via people watching the tape, and showing it to others.
The story is simple and poignant, with great cinematography and and a successfully eerie and creepy vibe. Though I criticize the actions of the main character, the story still remains solid.