Playing Vids, quarterlife, In Treatment

In the process of preparing my lecture on videogames, I have been watching lots of videos of people playing games. These would make for an interesting study, I think, as a form of digital folk culture. They combine boastful, look-ma-no-hands virtuosity with the lo-fi authenticity and Vaudevillian exhibitionism of the YouTube aesthetic. They have certainly been enabled by the developments in gaming interfaces that make play more than just a matter of moving a joystick and hitting buttons, the same developments that are turning on the casual gamers who have been so important in driving up the industry's profits.

Gamers would seem to make these videos to satisfy various passions. The player who records his or her mastery of the expert level on Rock Band wants glory and posterity. One can imagine the fierce pride of the parents of the eight year-old sensations who shred out on Guitar Hero 2 and stomp in perfect rhythm playing Dance Dance Revolution. The angry players of Halo and its sequels are all over the tubes, screaming at their screens, validating the rage of anyone who ever got so invested in their own play.

In a related vein, there are the funniest-home-video qualities of flailing Wii Sports players whacking their imaginary tennis balls and rolling their virtual strikes and spares. And then there are the snapshot mementos of friends who gathered to sing along to American Idol Karaoke and to watch Grandma and Grandpa Wii boxing (searching YouTube for old and Wii turns up more than you can handle). We can picture ourselves twenty years on turning wistfully to these documents of the late oughts, laughing at the crummy Wii graphics no less than the overstuffed sectionals and 4X3 televisions and longing to play again.


Will we be watching quarterlife on NBC? You betcha. Although we have been "tuning in" online since the start, occasionally satisfied but more often kind of disappointed by the show (the best satisfaction comes in what will be the fourth TV episode, when the Angela Chase character hooks up with the Brian Krakow character--those who understand will understand), the question remains of how the show will look and feel as a weekly, hour-long NBC drama rather than a snack-sized web video series. I think it will play better as a TV show, and that it was supposed to be a TV show all along--that the internet was a gimmick for this show from the start. But the first few episodes are a rough beginning for the series and it might take a few months for it to find a good direction. I don't know that NBC will afford it that kind of patience.


In Treatment continues to impress, especially in its ability to shift so quickly from boring me to being captivating entertainment. I'm also impressed that every episode changes the show's look in some very subtle way, by giving us a new hairstyle or camera angle. If I get around to it I will make to framegrabs to illustrate what I mean. Last night's episode with Laura and Paul was intense at the end. The show has set up a fantastic pair of alternatives for these main characters: go for it, which would be wrong, or part ways, which would, in a way, be wronger. That's the kind of soapy plotting I was hoping for. Now HBO has a YouTube channel where they are streaming episodes, but only the first few for now.

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