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Explanation for Multimedia Project

2009 April 24
by Solomon Lutze

So, my multimedia project, Excerpts from a Tamriel Journal, requires a bit of explanation. I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to go and read it as-is. You don’t need to read through its entirety to get the point,; just grabbing scraps of it should be sufficient. I recommend reading the project itself before this explanation.

Essentially, my purpose was to use the single-player Role-Playing Game Oblivion to make a character (named Mezzo) with a very clearly-delineated personality, and attempt to play through the game as this character, making her choices, and keep a journal from her perspective. The idea of trying to treat a non-real person as a real one, distinct from myself, was interesting. I tried to make her similar enough to the characters I normally play that I wouldn’t get bored, and different enough that it would be a challenge keeping things in perspective. I wanted her to be violent, a physical fighter, prideful, zealous, practical, and judgmental, and to have a very firm view of how the world should work and to be willing to uphold that even at her own expense. Her fear of water and racism (underrepresented in her journal) were mostly thrown in for flavor.

As I worked on this I encoutnered a few interesting pulls. I kept finding myself torn between:

-The personality I’d created for her. I wanted to play to her personality, and tried to make this my biggest conscious motivator.

-My own desires for how to play the game. I would happily have the character wade through water to shorten a trip by five minutes, but Mezzo wouldn’t. I would also happily steal things out of someone’s house if given the option, but Mezzo wouldn’t. When I was conscious of her personality, it was easier to maintain these boundaries.

-What I thought would work well in the presentation. For example, there were times where I’d avoid certain quests, thinking they’d be bad or too weird for the journal (my decision to leave the main quest aside for the journal was largely a result of this), and so sometimes I found myself doing things that were interesting to neither Mezzo nor myself.

Basically, I felt really bad when I realized that I was doing something for my sake or for the project’s sake.

I tried to make this as accessible to people unfamiliar with the The Elder Scrolls world as possible. However, for the sake of making things a little clearer, I did link to some pages from the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages, a TES wiki, when I felt that some background information might be useful. I hope it’s legible without those links, but I wanted them present just in case. Essentially, I tried to link those things that I thought would be familiar to anyone likely to stumble upon Mezzo’s journal – for example, most of them would know what the Imperial Legion was. I tried to avoid listing anything that I thought wasn’t common knowledge in-game (so I didn’t link to Mezzo’s hometown, Seyda Neen, since it’s a backwater port town). I also didn’t list anything that would have been more annoying information than anything else for you guys to read (so I didn’t link to major cities in Cyrodiil, since the information is all a list of services and royalty and other boring crap).

I’m not sure if I think this experiment was a success or not. I didn’t get as into the character as I would have liked, to be sure. I didn’t feel like I gave her a distinct enough voice, either. But it was really cool seeing something that would have been insignificant in normal play get turned into something big for the character; the entries for Heartfire 2 and Heartfire 5 are the ones that spring to mind. It did, to a great degree, make me feel like I was in a new world, and certainly made the game world seem more real to me. We’ve been talking about the extent to which our in-game characters are like us, and it was really cool making one that was deliberately not like me. In a world where I’m not interacting with real people and have no need to protect my identity, I’m just not sure what the implications of having a character like that are.

Anyway. I hope you enjoy, or are at least pleasently confused by, my project.

Thank-Yous:

To Bethesda for making this awesome game (copyright 2006, Bethesda website accessed April 24, 2009);

To the Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages for wrting about this awesome game (all pages linked accessed on April 23, 2009);

And to Christopher C. Livingston, who wrote “Livin’ in Oblivion,” a blog about his adventures in Oblivion as a Non-Player Character. Though he occasionally breaks character, the journal format for my post was at least partially inspired by Mr. Livingston. He is also responsible for a wonderful comic called “Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordan Froman,” using only screen captures from Half-Life 2 that he set up with a user-generated mod. His innovative use of video games for entertainment purposes is pretty fantastic. (all pages linked accessed on April 24, 2009).

Awesome, guys. Awesome.

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