CTS – Visual & Oral

Renes Descartes

Renes Descartes was a french philosopher who is widely considered to be the godfather of modern western philosophy. He was highly influential and for instance the Cartesian coordinate system was named after him.

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An example of Cartesian coordinates

The relation between Sound and Vision

Sound and Vision are obviously very important aspects of society and everything we do and consume as entertainment. For instant in video-games visual is unarguably the more important aspect because of the nature of the medium. However as games blend the line between movies and cinema sound becomes more important. Since games started to use voice acting, and especially since this became prevalent in bigger budget and higher profile games, the sound becomes more important.

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Promotional art for the latest Call of Duty

RPGS like Fallout 4 or games like Call of Duty or Deus Ex place importance on the sound. In Call of Duty’s case the story is almost completely told through audio as characters have conversations and although things happen visually or “physically” in the background of a level the games aren’t filled with cut-scenes and the story can be roughly told independently of the visual aspect. In Fallout 4 and Deus Ex they have a heavy mix with plenty of voice-acted dialogue but also lots of readable materials. In Fallout’s case retro-futuristic computers can be used to read diaries and scraps of information from years gone by.

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The box art for Fallout 4

In Deus Ex you can read newspapers and more that give a “fake” real-world view of events within the game as the experience adapts to your choices. Another example in Deus Ex are it’s themes of post-modern and trans-humanism. They are quite complex themes that can’t really be accurately or easily conveyed in one form and you can actually eavesdrop on conversations and discover information that only comes into relevance many hours later on in the game.

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A conversation between two cyborgs in Deus Ex 1.

Another game which makes great use of the visual and oral aspects of video games is Metal Gear Solid. In the second game in that series you play as a special ops agent sent in to defuse a terrorist incident. Through lots of cut scenes and dialogue you learn that the main character – introduced in this game – experienced the events of the first game in a virtual reality simulation as part of his training which calls into questions the events of the first game.

As the game progresses you learn of the presence of an AI which is being used to manipulate the flow of information in the 21st Century/digital age and as you converse with the AI it tries to persuade the player to turn off the game, insisting that you’ve been playing a long time and enough is enough.

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A screenshot of a conversation between the player (not the player character) and an Artificial Intelligence/AI in Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Ultimately you discover that while the events of the game definetley took place there is a large element of doubt as to whether you were experiencing them first hand or in another VR simulation as even the marketing of the game showed the main character of the first game, so the entire game was essentially manipulating you into believing one thing when the real case was something else entirely.

Although the game has many many hours of cut-scenes I quite enjoy it because it never takes itself too seriously so I don’t feel bogged down in anything but I think the oral and visual uses of storytelling and the idea of an unreliable narrator is used to great effect and the whole post-modern concept of identity and memetic history is something that could only have been done in games as the virtual reality aspect would have been impossible to do in another medium.

Oral & Visual Cultures

We fluctuate between being an Oral and Visual culture. You could argue nowadays that we are a Visually dominated culture as everywhere you look you may be bombarded with adverts or sexualized imagery, while before the advent of the printing press and that as a form of communication we may have been more of an oral culture however it fluctuates and is cyclical.

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Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.

With everyone having a mobile phone nowadays you could see that it helps further the idea we are a visual culture, but technology is such that it is almost interchangeable. I could have my laptop open and receive a Skype call from someone and talk to them with a microphone or also see them via a webcam. It is the same with most modern phones. Some people dislike the constant “invasion” of their lives with modern smartphones and get older phones that don’t link into your social media accounts just to feel a bit more free and less bombarded from a hundred notifications of a hundred things you only pretend to care about.

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A bus-side advert somewhere in London.

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An iPhone with too many notifcations.

Disembodied Voice

We also talked about the idea of the disembodied voice and how curious it is that people automatically seem to trust a disembodied voice more than they do if they can see the person talking. For instance a voice may sound authoritative if you cannot see them as you cannot judge their appearance or mannerisms. During an emergency you may automatically follow instructions you are given by a disembodied voice simply because there is no one for you to question.

Marshall McLuhan

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A picture of Marshall McLuhan.

Television & Radio

Television & Radio are two constants of oral and visual cultures. Although Television is probably the most popular medium in the world, or one of them at least, it and radio form a huge part of our culture and society. With radio you have the effect of a disembodied voice which leads it to be considered as more authoritative. Televisions and radios are incredibly cheap and are sometimes used all around the world and are the links that some people have to the wider world.

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