Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Visceral Reaction

Earlier, I linked this video as a resource for writing essays about how to improve the game.  Having had some time to think about it, there's a few other things I'd like to break down about the video's opening and why it annoys me so much.

As of late I've had a number of discussions with my players about filming a game session.  It isn't as easy as it sounds.  Sound is definitely a big problem.  I know that when I watch junk like I Hit It With My Axe (yes, I know there are worshippers), I'm annoyed by random ambient noise, crap sounds that the players make, mumbling, dramatic changes in sound levels from one cut to the next, comments of general insignificance and the need for players to echo each other (if one says 'your turn' another one has to say 'your turn' too) and so on.

Editing is necessary, to keep the speed of the event flowing, but it is woefully easy to overcut the material in an attempt to make it look like a rock video, destroying any of the pacing that is actually experienced in the game - and reality of pacing is definitely something I'd want to preserve.

The reasons for editing come from the reality that four or five different angles are necessary to tell the viewer who's speaking or rolling dice; role-playing is 360-degree event that takes place in a very small space, so that every possible single or dual camera attempt to catch the action will invariably leave someone with their back to the camera or giving a poor profile that captures none of their involvement. The alternative, a moving camera, is shaky, annoying, and frankly not fast enough to catch the pace of change or involvement that is part of the game.

In short, I've come to the conclusion that I don't know enough to properly film a game.  I'm looking into finding an expert; and sorry to say, as much as people love I Hit It With My Axe, I'm really hoping I can find a director that will look at that and say, "Wow, that looks like shit."  For that is how I feel when I look at it.

The linked video above, however, is a completely different issue. It is based on the recent skype concept, where everyone has their own camera on their own computer, so we get a good face shot of five people.  However, please note that throughout the entire video, the DM is the STAR.  All we get of the other players is a tiny facial view stuffed together in the bottom corner of the picture.

I cannot begin to explain just how infuriated that makes me.  The action, and therefore all the emotion and interplay, happens between the players!  The only emotional response we get from the DM is his big smug superior mug, depicted as a MASSIVE IMAGE compared to the lowly, diminuative players.

Really?  I mean, fucking really?

This bothers no one else.  Because the representation, the "I am so Holy that I shalt be the center of attention for the whole two hours," really makes me want to hunt this guy up and punch him in the face.  I wouldn't do that, obviously - but that is the visceral reaction that I experience.  It just makes me HATE him.

It is a game played by everyone.  The DM is not the star, the DM is the facilitator - and deserving of as much camera time as a referee at a football game.  That is, if the ref has a judgement call to make, we'll watch him wave his arms for three seconds - and then it is time to show the players again!

No one, absolutely no one, deserves top billing.


14 comments:

VeronaKid said...

This post very adequately summarizes one of the biggest issues I have had with the hobby since re-discovering it a few years ago. Namely, that as good as the internet is at providing ample ideas for RPG's in general, and lots of ground for debate, no one seems to be able to provide a single good example of what a good game should look and sound like. The video you've linked here, as bad as it is (and I agree, Alexis, this is definitely not a good game) pales in comparison to other videos you find on YouTube featuring supposed "celebrity" DMs. I have spent hours trying to find examples of a good game, or even just some sound advice on the specific techniques to use while DMing. I have always come up empty handed.

"How to Run" is a first step in the right direction, and I honestly appreciate your work on the book. Now, let's figure out a way to get it properly illustrated. In color, with movies and stuff.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Verona,

You can find my visceral reaction to Chris Perkins and other 'celebrities' (term used VERY loosely) on this linked post here.

The problem with depiction is that SO much of the game is the chemical cocktail I speak about in chapter seven. Seeing games on the internet should give you an idea why your girlfriend in Grade 10 was not that impressed.

Eric said...

This is a G+ hangout video, not Skype; I've had much better luck with the former. The "focus on one guy" isn't the default for G+ hangouts. Unless you click on one screen to focus on that person, it'll show the video stream for whoever's loudest at any given point in time. In my opinion, this works surprisingly well for RPGs and I don't know why they opted to do otherwise here.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Eric, you have to learn to let people be wrong about things on the internet (heh heh, me too!).

Fine. G+ hangout. Changes nothing.

Jomo Rising said...

That's one of the things I like about I Hit It With My Axe is that the camera is very seldom on Zak. You are right, the emotions and the action come from the players. Shaky cam does suck, does nothing for tension as it might in a horror film.

Carl Nash said...

It being a G+ hangout doesn't change anything for this particular video because they chose to change the settings to focus on the DM, but it does present an easy solution to your dilemma of how to film a session. The default G+ mode of focusing on whichever screen is making the most noise is perfect for a turn based game like D&D. It is not quite the same as having a dedicated camera on each participant because you don't get the up close reactions to what other people are saying, but at least you always have a good view of the person talking. No profiles or back shots when a PC is taking a turn.

Alexis Smolensk said...

The fact that the DM COULD HAVE reduced his footprint in the video only shows that he is a douche.

Maxwell Joslyn said...

"Seeing games on the internet should give you an idea why your girlfriend in Grade 10 was not that impressed."

Spot-on.

VeronaKid said...

Just to throw out an idea here, Alexis- I understand why you would be hesitant to film yourself running a game (too many tenth grade girls out there to not-impress and all). But, what if you were to direct the film rather than starring in it? I gather that you are fairly well-connected with a group of acting friends- why not direct them in a scripted running of your design? Then you could focus your efforts on the difficult bits you mention, such as camera angles, creating tension, etc. without having to be behind the camera.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I do think I have to act the part, Verona, for a number of reasons. I just don't think the camera needs to bathe me in the light of the sacred. As far as direction, I've done it, I'm not - and this will make some people laugh - cruel enough. I can make myself work like a horse, but I have trouble forcing others to stay one more run through.

Besides, I've been out of that game for many years. I'm digging a bit to see who I can find; getting advice, etc. It's on the back burner right now.

JB said...

I'm just surprised you can sit through an episode of "Axe." I can't.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Research. I sat through a Shechita once for a cow - which, I'll admit, was marginally better.

Thiles Targon said...

The big center image is whoever is talking, it does not stay on him.

Eric said...

Ha, you're absolutely right Thiles! It is in the default mode for G+ chat. The GM just doesn't let *anyone* get a word in edgewise for the first 12 minutes......