Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pragmatic Paragon, 14 March: ABOR

"ABOR" stands for After-Bardic-Occasion Report. It's an assignment I use in my (Gaming) Homer course; it seems to get modern bards like my students to the heart of the performative side of digital practomime pretty directly. Here's mine for today's session.

Pragmatic Paragon really does feel like he’s my real character, because especially of his face, which I had to reconstruct due to the face importing glitch; Perfect Paragon is based on the same character, ultimately, from ME1, as this pragmatist, but I went with the default face at the start of ME3 when hit with the import glitch on Perfect's creation.

Spent some time with the new search and recover mechanic, and actually like it--the “real first” playthrough thing has merit; just as being lost on Hasty Renegade destroyed my appreciation of the landscape, having to figure out the changes in the exploration system on Hasty destroyed my engagement, and thus any pleasure in my performance, of those initial fumblings through the galaxy-map. Now on Pragmatic, though, it feels, well, pragmatic to recover some salvage.

ME3's search and recover mechanic is more straightforward than mining in ME2, which I grew to love but which was very time-consuming. The changes have an upside and a downside, I think (I miss the way my controller shook when I hit a rich vein), but the basic mechanic is the same, and something well worth thinking about especially in relation to my character-performances.

I took this note: cannot figure out the loadout screen for the life of me; then I put in some time and figured it out. Either it's horrendously-designed, or I'm getting old, but I even eventually was able to master the weight mechanic, which gave me a small "aha" moment at the very least about the fact that I had gone from a spammer of Singularity to a waiter-for-Singularity-to-recharge.

A final verdict for now on "real first" performances--that is, second performances in which you get things right for the first time: all in all, there is some value in encountering performance materials for the actually first time, just as there is some value in sight-reading music--or sight-reading homeric Greek, for that matter. 

The virtuosic peformances that nourish our souls, though, always come later.

And then there's Garrus being dead, through my obtuseness, in this career. “Where would Garrus have been?” asks Liara. “Right in the thick of it,” Pragmatic responds. Irrevocability. Does this moment exist this way if there are no performance materials where Garrus is alive? Not a chance.

Topics for analysis suggested by this session's peformance:

  • Narrative combat difficulty: most importantly, I think the friendly critics of this approach don't understand how bad I am at combat. Perhaps a very good example of the absolute essentiality of peformance in making rulesets legible--or, to put it another way, how it's the instanced performance of the player that we can and should read, rather than the ruleset itself.
  • Absence of dead characters: having Garrus just not be there, in a place where he "should" have been there, is really very jarring. I need to unpack that "should."
  • Different faces on my paragons: in what way does it matter what my character looks like, when that appearance mechanic is so completely isolated from the rest of the mechanics of the practomime? Is there a sense in which I myself, the player, constitute a link in the game's ruleset between the appearance mechanic and the rest of the ruleset?