s THE SAME OLD GAME ? - Swarm mag

THE SAME OLD GAME ?

We interviewed Melichar Oravec, known to the world as a YouTuber, letsplayer, streamer and video-game content creator FlyGunCZ, about material and immaterial recyclation in the gaming environment. The interview is accompanied by eye-candy gifs and videos by German designer Franz Impler.
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We’re currently seeing that some studios are remastering their original flagship titles, such as 2K and their legendary Mafia. Do you think it could be attributed to gamers‘ nostalgia or the lack of new, groundbreaking ideas? 

There are several different terms to this. We need to distinguish between a remake and a remaster. A remake means going to the very beginning. They don’t have, for example, the source code of the original game so it has to be completely remade, which means a lot of work. Then we have remasters where you take the game and polish it up a bit graphics-wise and the final look depends a lot on how many years separate the original from the remaster. If a remaster is released after two years, that means there wasn’t much work to speak of. In such a case, the studios often provide this improved version for free to gamers who purchased the original as you can sometimes barely notice the changes. 

Of course, people love nostalgia and are willing to pay for it but as I said, it depends on the work invested and the time period passed. 

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So, do you think that gamers coming back to Mafia expect it to be “just” facelifted or do they anticipate major plot changes or added episodes?

Well, there’s no clear answer because, namely with the Mafia, people don’t really want anybody touching their Czech gem. It’s kind of an idol around these parts, right. So there are dialogue lines and motorcycle models added but people don’t really want it to change fundamentally. Some want the extra content and some want it preserved. For example, with Crash Bandicoot, there were absolute remakes from scratch but a certain, let’s say, bugs were intentionally left in to enhance the true nostalgia experience. I would like to add that these remakes or remasters often come in a gift bundle of additional features such as the enhanced graphics, plus they throw in some DLCs (Downloadable Content) you would normally pay extra for. That happens a lot lately. 

Do serial games such as Grand Theft Auto or Elder Scrolls always need to have plot continuity to satisfy their audience? Do gamers expect to always meet a familiar story?

It’s not always the case. It can be a brand-new storyline, taking place in the same universe or featuring small hints at previous episodes so the players could realize they’re playing the same world but the story and the main character is completely new.

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Recycling means putting materials back into their raw form and then into the production cycle again. Is this process happening also in the gaming industry? Are some new titles just revamped old games at their core, with different characters and names?

Certainly. Most of them. A unique piece turns up from time to time, even a whole new gaming genre. From what I can remember, we now have the “Soulslike” genre that didn’t exist until recently. So, a genre comes to life and games start surfing on its wave, with minor changes. As I said, a rarity appears occasionally, mostly from indie studios that come up with a brand new idea such as Papers, please, which is a rather inconspicuous little feat but with a never-seen-before concept. But most AAA game titles of today always get likened to something else in the reviews. Original ideas and new genres and gaming mechanics are popping up at bigger speed (Death Stranding) but still at a smaller percentage.  

According to a book by Alfie Bown, “video games are not lyrics that we read, but dreams that we dream,” in which one can experience desires and affections. Can a game enhance your emotional perception or can we fall in love with a character?

That’s one of the indicators of a great game for me, and also a great movie, when what I’ve seen resonates with me for a  few days after I’m finished with it. There’s nothing to add to this quote, it’s how it should be. Online games are a social platform that brings people together – it’s not unheard of gamers meeting in real life and getting married, for example. It’s a new lonely-hearts thing. A substantial number of people are in my life only thanks to video games but I don’t meet strangers I play with that often.

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Can games help us to discover the principles of the real world (such as the simulators of life, construction, agriculture etc.)

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Undoubtedly. Nowadays, there’s a lot of things you can learn through simulations or popular AAA titles. You have the Assassin’s Creed series with games wrapped in history. They’re not hundred per cent accurate but, for example, the Origins episode had an educational mode where they’ve shown you the Egyptian statues, etc, and that’s how you learn and remember things better than at school as the form is less forced and more friendly. I’ve seen Minecraft used in schools to boost the kids‘ creativity. There are simulators of anything that might be of interest to you today. Quality is another thing. Sometimes, it’s more of a practical joke, just look at my channel. I’ve tried cleaning, lumbering, farming, sports simulations… You can’t learn those things, really, without the physical practice but it can outline the basics or it can motivate you to try it in real life. I’ve met a guy who’s unable to drive but “drives” on a EuroTrack simulator with a physical steering wheel every night.

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Do game studios focus on recycling or ecology as such, for example, within the game plot or through the studio’s attitude? 

The attitude of the developers could be ecologic but this topic is not really talked about in the gaming world. On the contrary, the gaming industry is said to pollute quite the bit as both the game developers and players need increasingly more demanding gear which leads to more energy being used and more things ending up in the landfill. Digitalization of games can help a bit but the computers will still need a source of energy and increasingly so. Of course, things move online a lot (such as buying games on Steam) but some people still like to own a physical copy due to nostalgia, wanting to have a limited or a collector’s edition, and similar. Cloud gaming could solve this in the future but I don’t think that’s the solution, the source computer and related servers would still need a massive amount of energy. 

We have indie studios such as the Czech Amanita Design and their games such as Botanicula that touch on the topics of the plant world and ecology but the themes of environmentalism and global warming are not really present in AAA games because most people turn to games as an escape from such a cruel news and see them as a form of relax. The „heavy“ topics are, again, more of the indie studios‘ cup of tea. There’s one indie game showing a father raising a child with cancer because the developer lived through it but ecology isn’t really the topic. I guess the studios need to at least try to pay attention to sustainability and ecology as people, in turn, pay attention to them doing it.

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How about the popular post-apocalyptic theme, do you think that such games could be pointing to the state of our warming planet and our possible bleak future, environmentally-wise?

I don’t think so. We see it in movies but as I said, we don’t see that in games. Post-apo is a popular genre, everyone can showcase yet another great novelty idea about our world’s end. If I’m not mistaken, Far Cry 5 (spoiler alert) was about the U.S. dropping an A-bomb on Russia and Russia retaliating but it doesn’t go anywhere deep on the topic of what we have done to the planet. Maybe the games end in a cliché about love solving everything, someone finding the ultimate cure to zombification, I don’t know, but like I said, the developers don’t usually want you to get all philosophical about it.

BIO / Melichar Oravec aka FlyGunCZ, comes from Ostrava, the Czech Republic, graduated from the International Grammar School in English language. Besides his self.made streaming and YouTuber career, he worked as an editor for the Re-Play TV show by TV Prima and the New Game stream for Seznam.cz, a prominent Czech web search engine. He launched his YouTube channel in 2010 and amassed 555k followers to date. FlyGunCZ also streams on Twitch.

BIO / Franz Impler is 3D artist and animation filmmaker based in Leipzig, Germany. He grew up in a small village in Bavaria and moved to Leipzig where he studied illustration and graphic-design. During his studies he started teaching himself 3D animation. Since he grew up in the 90s, his work is still influenced by the old-school-video-game-aesthetics and pop culture. His animations take place in very digital and artificial worlds and often deal with ambiguity, intricacy, absurdity and inner conflicts with their own identity. For his graduation project he made a short film called Out of Bounds. It’s about a video game character that is drifting out of his own game into an out-of-bounds world. The film will be screened on some festivals and then be published online at the end of 2020 or beginning of 2021.

CREDITS
Interview / Markéta Kosinová @__maarketa__
Interview with / Melichar Oravec @flyguncz
Artworks / Franz Impler @franzimpler
Translation / Františka Blažková @st.feral

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