Well hello there! If you havenít already heard the news, or read Beccyís blog then let me tell you a juicy bit of European flavored gossip:
As of the 1st of November, Hollie Bennet is leaving Destructoid :í( to work at Namco Bandai and she is leaving the European community in the crazy hands of me Ė Becca Roberts and Beccy Caine!!
May god have mercy on your soulsÖ
I will be looking after the PR and press side of things, attending events and keeping up-to-date with all things new and exciting in EU gaming, as well as continuing BritToid Ė the awesome British gaming podcast. I'm a slightly crazy but happy person, so hopefully I will bring some of that to BritToid. Donít worry, Iíll look after it I promise!
Beccy will be looking after the community side of things and making sure everyone stays in line (she can be feisty so watch out).
As the European community has grown over the years Hollie wanted to make sure that it remained strong and continued to grow to develop into an Optimus Prime of a community; one that reaches out to places from all over Europe to assemble its parts. When we all come together we make a super-fantastic, and sometimes disturbing team.
Through my time at Destructoid I have made so many amazing friends. It really is such a welcoming community! In Europe we are quite a close bunch, which is demonstrated through the utterly strange conversations that take place in the emailer, to the amount of fun we have every time we meet up to attend events throughout the year. I really hope to make a positive contribution to this fantastic site and I wish the wonderful Hollie the best of luck in her new job catching Katamaris instead of babies (watch out, Iíve heard some of those stars can be quite sharp!).
If you want to get involved in our crazy-happy-fun-times then join the EU mailer. We talk about cocks and stuff. Also sometimes games, not too often though.
So my important details are:
Recently Iíve been finding it hard to concentrate on writing. Iím attempting to write a masters thesis and my mind easily wanders to other, more fun things. I have restricted the amount of time I spend playing games due to feelings of guilt, and once you have just a quick break [read Ė hours of playing] it is hard to get back into things.
That has not stopped me however from paying my controllers some needed love and attention by giving them a quick makeover! Who knew what some nail varnish and a surge of creative energy could produceÖ
So... what should I paint next.
Maybe I should do some work, but this is more fun!
As an avid Studio Ghibli admirer, I eagerly await new releases, longing to be thrown into beautifully strange worlds with enchanting storylines. But as cherished director Hayao Miyazaki seems to be stepping back from the production line, I question the future of Studio Ghibli productions. Can new releases live up to the highly respected reputation established by Hayao Miyazaki and his team?
These questions were put to Gorō Miyazaki (yes, Hayaoís son) in 2006 as he stepped forward with his directing debut of Tales From Earthsea, which despite having Hayao Miyazaki working on the production team (albeit from a distance), failed to impress audiences as much as earlier Ghibli releases.
It was an ok film, especially as it was his first, but in many respects lacked the quirkiness, charm and creative depth that is so very present in the films of Hayao Miyazaki and some of the early Ghibli directors. I think our expectations have been set so high by the success of previous releases that we donít take to new releases with different production teams lightly. I know that when I hear about a new Ghibli film the first thing I look for is: did Hayao Miyazaki direct it? Is Joe Hisaishi the composer of the music? If the answer is no to both, then Iím already judging the film slightly.
My focus has recently been turned therefore to the recent release (well I say recent, recent for the UK at least) of Arrietty. It is based on The Borrowers, a book by Mary Norton, and is directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi, who has not ever directed before but he has been working on the Ghilbi animation team since 1996, so at least he has a vast history behind him. As Studio Ghibliís now youngest director, he has taken on a mammoth task of creating a production that is unique, but still carries all the same characteristics of the franchise.
On the face of it the film has:
A young determined female lead
A sense of adventure
An innocent romance, or well a hint of it anyway
Stunningly beautiful artwork and animation
Typical Ghibli blobby/gloopy water
(strange characteristic to pick out I know, but I LOVE the gloopy water in Ghibli films)
I think one aspect of the film that really stood out for me was the music. Written by French composer Cťcile Corbel, it was a huge step away from the orchestral sounds of Joe Hisaishi. Corbel is a Celtic harpist, and this can clearly be seen from her work, which was a combination of Celtic and folk styles. The instrumentation consisted mainly of harp, accordion, guitar and flute, providing a soundtrack that sounded very western. It was a shame because I enjoy the Eastern elements Hisaishi brings to a soundtrack that he then combines with memorable melodic phrases. I found many sections of this film lacked incidental music, detaching the audience slightly from the narrative, but it could be argued that the silence was an intentional representation of loneliness.
Despite comparisons to the successful Ghibli films, I thought Arrietty was better than Tales From Earthsea because it had more of the emotional engagement and Japanese charm that you would expect. There are a few moments that didnt really work, but then there are others that really did, for example when she discovers the humanís kitchen for the first time and can visualize where all the mysterious sounds come from. I think if you expect this film to be as jaw-droppingly inspiring as Mononoke or Spirited Away then you will be disappointed, as the storyline simply does not go further than a familyís fight for survival and a young girlís self-discovery. But if you are looking for a light-hearted Ghibli film with charm and a deeper meaning then you will not be disappointed with Arrietty. I was pleased to see the inclusion of some strange animals like a grumpy overweight cat, cheeky crickets, loveable woodlice and a mental crow!
So the next installment coming our way will be From up on Poppy Hill or Kokuriko-zaka Kara. It was directed by Gorō Miyazaki, and I can imagine the pressure was on him after the cold reception his last production received. Hayao Miyazaki took more of a supportive role in this film however, helping to write the script and overlook the production process, so as with Arrietty I expect some of his trademark charm and creativity will shine through.
It has already been released in Japan and reached 3rd place in the box office behind Harry Potter DH 2 and Pokemon: Best Wishes. It probably wont reach western audiences until next summer at the earliest so we will have to wait to judge the film for ourselves. I hope that through his last production Gorō has adapted his style to better fit with the desires of Ghibli audiences, in order for the studio to grow as the master Hayao Miyazaki gradually steps back from the directorís chair.
I canít believe itís been over a year since my previous and only blog post. I thought it would be appropriate however, to reflect on the year Iíve had with the lovely people at Dtoid UK (& Europe) before continuing to possibly contribute more to the community blogs.
In this last year I have been whole-heartedly welcomed into the warm and friendly bosom of the lovely Dtoid UK crowd and have been lucky to attend several events such as MCM Expo, which was my first time meeting these weird internet people.
We had a lot of fun - admittedly more of it was outside of the Expo at the various drinking and eating destinations! I felt completely welcome and accepted into the already established group of people, which I was not expecting at all. They even felt comfortable enough to laugh at my embarrassing moments, which unfortunately happen a lot.
From then on I felt part of the group and went along to meals, birthdays, more drinking and more embarrassment, and Eurogamer of course, in October, which was a whole weekend of Dtoid madness.
The main point I am trying to make here is that destructoid is probably one of the only groups that I have joined recently that has such an overwhelming sense of community. It actively welcomes new people into the group, and the friends that I have made along the way are hopefully ones that I will hold onto for a long time.
The time and effort that goes into organizing such big groups of people is never an easy one, but it all seems to come together to enable great times with fantastic people, and for that I must thank our community manager Hollie, who makes it all work so well and devotes any time she has outside of catching babies to keeping us updated and organized in upcoming events. You are truly a superwoman!
So here is to a fantastic and truly memorable year at Dtoid, and I know that there will be many more to come <3
Before I start let me introduce myself, I am currently in my final year of university studying music, and I have written my dissertation on how music in survival horror video games is able to arouse a sense of fear in its players. In doing this project, it has been interesting to look into how certain games use music to manipulate the emotions of their players. So Iíve decided to share some of my thoughts with you lovely people.
I donít know whether itís the fact that Iím a music student, and so pay particular attention to soundtracks, or the stereotype of being a female gamer that enables me to become so consumed to the point that I can feel my heart pounding in my chest as Iím playing a particularly frightening game. Now I donít want to begin my first blog entry with pissing off the female gaming community by suggesting that women are wimps, I am simply musing as to whether women have gained this stereotype because men are too stubborn to admit that they too have come close to crapping their pants when something has suddenly jumped out at them, and women generally have no shame in admitting to being scared.
For my research project, I looked in detail into the manipulation techniques used in Resident Evil and Silent Hill, which in my opinion were the two most revolutionary survival horror games to be made. The main concept used in these games is the use of audio as a subconscious warning mechanism. The absence of music usually indicates a Ďsafetyí state by which the game is suggesting to the player that there is no real threat ahead (however this is sometimes used to lull the players into a false sense of security). The presence of music, as you may assume, indicates a Ďdangerí state to the player and it may start at the beginning of a sequence or be triggered by the player. In Resident Evil especially, there are crude trigger points that start musical events, which in turn warn the player of the dangers that are approaching. Now when you notice this use of music, I especially get excited, which can sometimes cause an adrenaline rush as I prepare myself for the horde of zombies that I will be required to kill with my depleting supply of ammo. This effect, as you could imagine, would be completely lost if it were not for the use of music to indicate the approaching danger.
The way Silent Hill uses audio is similar and different to Resident Evil. It is similar in the way it uses Ďsafetyí and Ďdangerí states but these points are very rare, only at save points where there is no apparent threat of danger. This is why, in my opinion, Silent Hill is such a scary game, because there are rarely points in the game where there is no music playing, and by music I am referring to the mechanical sound effects, static noise, pulsating bass drones and occasional use of musical instruments. Despite the fact that Akira Yamakoa (composer of SHís soundtrack) has said that he does not see his work as music, it still contains pitch, rhythm and tempo, and works to create an ambient atmosphere, which keeps the player constantly on edge as they walk through the pervasive fog. The only real way, of knowing that an enemy is approaching is to listen to a broken radio that your character carries on their person. This radio emits static noises whenever an enemy is approaching, so the player is given some sort of warning before being attacked, but in most cases this warning is sudden and not enough before the enemy begins to attack.
Resident Evilís interplay between music and silence allow for the player to feel a sense of release after a sequence is complete, however Silent Hill attempts to keep the player in a continuous state of tension and anxiety, which puts the player through emotional turmoil and can cause them to become so engaged with the game that they become blissfully unaware of their surroundings. I know that I have fallen victim to many pranks in the past where I have been concentrating so intently on trying to see through the darkness/fog and listen out for any signs of enemies when housemates or family members have successfully managed to make me jump out of my skin.
As games have progressed over the years, the use of 5.1 digital surround sound has infinitely improved gaming experiences. The concept of virtual audio space within a game world can be used to enhance the immersive qualities of a game, for example the use of sound effects coming from the relative space behind your avatar will instantly cause you to change the position of the camera in order to see where the noise came from. This creates a whole new dimension of fear. Older games have been using this idea of sounds occurring outside the visual frame, but the use of surround sound combined with exquisite audio in newer games makes for a really frightening experience. One example that immediately comes to mind is the entrance of a ĎBig Sisterí in the new Bioshock 2 game. For those of you that cannot relate to this horrific experience, a Big Sister usually comes after you have rescued, or harvested a Little Sister, but you can never be sure, however you can definitely tell when one is close due to the discordant, high-pitched shrill that she emits, you then have roughly 30 seconds to prepare yourself before she hurls her metal-clad body towards you.
This sound effect is generated by an enemy that is not shown on screen, which makes it even scarier than the sound itself because it arouses questions within the player like: What was that? Where is it coming from? Will it attack me? Oh shit Iím going to die because I donít have enough ammo or EVE for me to defeat this bitch!!
So what is it that makes us feel scared when playing games? Is it just the combination of visuals and audio? or is there a deeper psychological connection that we have with the game in terms of player confidence? Are you more likely to feel scared of shooting a horde of zombies if you don't think that you have the capability of successfully doing it without being eaten? I think that for me it is a combination of both - especially when games contain innovative uses of audio, but also in terms of player accuracy because I particularly hate dying, so I subconsciously load on the pressure, arousing a greater sense of tension and anxiety within me as I play particular sequences.
Whatever the reason I know that I love the feelings of fear and adrenaline that these games generate, and I look forward to the creation of more games that will leave my palms sweaty and me having to sleep with the lights on!