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Offline TheFly22284

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Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« on: January 19, 2017, 07:31:08 AM »
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So, I'm an English professor and have been allowed to teach a course on Narrative and Gaming. We're playing six games (Brothers, Jade Empire, Gone Home, Valiant Hearts, The Walking Dead: Season One, and Undertale), but I'm supplementing with gameplay videos.

After a brief history of narratology and ludology, we're looking at elements of fiction and plot structures in games before moving on to film studies approaches and finally the thing that makes games so different - identification and player co-authorship (as well as the moral implications thereof).

For the first unit, I'm using videos of LoS 1 and Mirror of Fate and portions of LoS 2. While the games are not everyone's favorite, I do think this will be a great way of using one character to study hero, villian, and anti-hero as well as archetypes. Should be fun.

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2017, 09:36:54 AM »
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Welcome aboard TheFly22284  :)

Actually I would find using the LoS games to be very insightful about games. In general; 'How not to make games 101', lol.
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Offline TheFly22284

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2017, 12:07:29 PM »
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I have mixed feelings about them as games. I loved the first one, I won't lie, but the other two were definitely flawed. I had a lot of fun with them, but I won't pretend that they're than mediocre. That's one of the core tenets of analysis, though; any text can make for a productive and interesting close-reading. We're not really evaluating quality, but studying the choices that game developers make that help to create meaning.

The reason I went with LoS is because the characters are fairly broadly written, I know it very well, and we're talking about the monomyth and its influence on gaming early on. The beginning of the semester really is focused on narratives as a whole; we're doing conflict and plot tomorrow and Monday, and I'm using the whole of Rise of the Tomb Raider. After that, though, we'll be looking at narrower-scope stuff. I'm using a few sections of Bioshock to talk about level design and its relationship to story, for example, and the first levels of a few earlier games (including Castlevania) to talk about extradiegetic sound (soundtrack) vs. diagetic sound (sound effects and music coming from in-game sources, etc.)

As I said, Lords of Shadow just works well because Gabriel takes on a distinctive role in each game, and it allows me to bring in Alucard's arc as a foil, etc. It's in no way an original story, but the familiar beats are what make it accessible.

Offline TheFly22284

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2017, 12:08:37 PM »
+1
Thanks for the welcome - I've been on the board for years and years, but graduate school and now professorship and fatherhood keep me from being consistently active.

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2017, 07:24:24 PM »
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Very cool.  I wish a course like this had been offered when I was in college.  Then again, I wouldn't have time to play through all those games in one semester.

Tomb Raider: Legend deals with the monomyth in an interesting way.  It ties the Arthur story in with myths from other cultures and tries to argue that they're all derivatives of one original event.  It also has a heavily dialogue-based story, and it's fairly short, so it might make for good material in future courses, if you're interested.

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2017, 07:32:19 PM »
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I do think this will be a great way of using one character to study hero, villian, and anti-hero as well as archetypes. Should be fun.
That's actually pretty clever

Good luck.

Lords of Shadow may be polarizing, but I think it's narrative, (at least for the first 2 games) is actually really good.
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Offline Dracula9

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2017, 08:07:50 PM »
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You certainly have all the "Zobek was the bad guy all along if you paid attention" aspects that can be broken down, to say nothing of deconstructing and analyzing Gabe's mental states throughout.

Game might not be perfect and it might piss off a lot of people, but there's definitely a lot of stuff there, for better or worse, so I think this is a really neat idea (wish I'd had something like it in college) and I commend you for the efforts.

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2017, 09:00:15 PM »
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Hopefully you'll spend a class or two going over how schizophrenic Gabriel's characterization is from game to game.  He really is a distinctly different character in each game, and not in an interestingly developed dynamic way.  But in a completely disjointed/conflicting way that really is chalked up to inconsistent writing, and poor character continuity.
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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2017, 11:17:50 PM »
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I must admit, I'm a little jealous that someone beat me to the punch on using a Castlevania game as a teaching tool in an educational setting. lol ;3 But I'm not even attending graduate school until 2018, so the sooner someone gets it out there, the better I think. Keep us updated on how things progress, if you can! I've focused heavily on the work of C.G. Jung during the course of obtaining my bachelor's in psychology, so I was even more onboard when you brought up Gabriel & crew's role as archetypes.
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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2017, 12:40:20 AM »
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It would have been so cool to have that class as an undergrad, but then again I wouldn't have time to play everything.

I agree with Laina, keep us updated on the class. :)
If only I could use video games in my classes....  :'(

Offline TheFly22284

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2017, 07:36:32 AM »
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Hopefully you'll spend a class or two going over how schizophrenic Gabriel's characterization is from game to game.  He really is a distinctly different character in each game, and not in an interestingly developed dynamic way.  But in a completely disjointed/conflicting way that really is chalked up to inconsistent writing, and poor character continuity.

I know you're being flippant, but I probably will address this to some extent. I almost think it would work better if Mirror of Fate were not in the picture and there was more mystery between installments. I can accept significant change over 1,000 years. Unfortunately, I also think Mirror of Fate has the best narrative of the three, because it's focused so tightly.

Truthfully, for me, the biggest thing I have issue with is Gabriel's remorse. Literally every "evil" thing he does before becoming a vampire - including becoming a vampire - is because he is made to do so by external forces or because there are no other options. It's kind of like Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love the show and character, but Liam (the human soul of Angel) should not feel remorse for the actions of the demon who set up shop in his body when his soul vacated.

Offline TheFly22284

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2017, 07:38:58 AM »
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Since several people have brought up time playing - the games we are playing are mostly in the four hour range, and I've given two or so weeks on each of those. The others are around 10-12, and they have longer. If students lack access to the tech or the skills to play, I'm fine with them watching walkthroughs as long as they give some consideration to gameplay.

The rest of the game discussion will be drawn from all material posted on Youtube or online elsewhere. 1-2 hours of viewing a week is significantly less than the time one would spend reading for a literature course, even if you add in 2-3 hours of playing.

Offline TheFly22284

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2017, 07:41:03 AM »
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I must admit, I'm a little jealous that someone beat me to the punch on using a Castlevania game as a teaching tool in an educational setting. lol ;3 But I'm not even attending graduate school until 2018, so the sooner someone gets it out there, the better I think. Keep us updated on how things progress, if you can! I've focused heavily on the work of C.G. Jung during the course of obtaining my bachelor's in psychology, so I was even more onboard when you brought up Gabriel & crew's role as archetypes.

The interesting thing about LoS is that, like most narratives, it doesn't follow the hero's quest exactly nor does it have a perfect 1:1 correlation between character and archetype. They shift quite a bit. Evan Skolnick's book Video Game Storytelling lays out the slightly complicated relationship between games and the monomyth (not to mention traditional 3 act narratives) really well.

Offline zangetsu468

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2017, 08:42:53 AM »
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I don't think MoF's narrative elements were particularly strong at all. However, I will say that I find comparing it to previous CV games which featured Simon and Trevor in particular, interesting. In CoD, Trevor is quite arrogant the first time he encounters Hector. His temperament is firey, as it is in MoF, when the MoF told him that he would not succeed, he slung his combat cross directly at it and exclaimed that it was "quite enough" (something to this effect). I actually thought that out of all the cutscenes in MoF, that was by far my favourite. This is coming from someone who played the game, thought it was average and wouldn't bother playing it again. I suppose my point with all of this is, what was Trevor's part, what was he to the story and why was his narrative played out the way that it was?

Although I haven't played LOS2, I know a fair bit about it and I can understand what AlexCalvo is saying. For a period of time that long, things are bound to have changed, particularly when someone has been "dormant" for that time. It's kind of like putting an interquel between CVI and Simon's Quest. The two are games with similar fundamentally, but both are such different games which play out differently, that even if two such games involved character development, then it may be more forgiving.
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Offline Flame

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Re: Teaching Lords of Shadow in a college course
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2017, 10:32:12 AM »
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LoS2 is also an example at poor storytelling. it sets everything up for a redemption narrative. Gabriel as the anti-hero evil vampire is tired of his immortal existence and sets out to finish the job he started when he was a knight of the order, which is defeat satan.

there's the stuff with his family in 2, which really makes for compelling redemption stuff, but the shift between modern day and castle segments is so dramatic, and in the end, the plot has no resolution.
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