Black Mirror Season 5 Episode 1: Striking Vipers
Over the past years, the digital communication infrastructure that is provided by the internet has become extensive to touch all parts of the world. These developments have transformed the World Wide Web into a reality. Technology, together with the internet, has brought both negative and positive impacts on the world. Computers have brought in other things like movies and games that have also brought an effect of the people's way of living. When it comes to games and movies, there is a relationship between the two that has been delivered by borrowing and exchanging contexts. One of the similarities between games and films is that both of them have stories in which the characters are supposed to unfold as the game or movie develops. However, the relationship between games and stories has become a topic of discussion among game fans, designers, as well as scholars. This paper is set to explore the ways in which computer has blurred the boundary between the real and the visual based on the movie Black Mirror Season 5 Episode 1: Striking Vipers.
Striking Vipers is the first episode in the fifth series of the series ‘Black Mirror’ that was written and directed by Charlie Brooker and Owen Harris, respectively. At the beginning of the episode, Danny and Karl, two young men, are playing with what appears to be a regular fighting video game at the first sight. In the game, Karl is playing as a female character that is named Roxette, while Danny is playing a male role known as Ryu-like Lance. After the first game, which they played until the early morning, the movie moves forward up to 11 years later. During that time, the boys changed, and Danny got married and started his family, which made the two friends fall out, but they reconnected years later. The two got to play the newest version of the game, which currently has an immersive virtual reality component.
The virtual reality component of the game gives them the ability to feel every punch, hit, and kick they throw physically. As the two old friends continue playing, they also realize that the improved version of the game allows them to physically feel pleasure (King, 64). Although Danny and Karl play as Pom Klementieff and Ludi Lin that are indicated in the game that they are not actual human bodies, the two friends have chosen two very attractive bodies that made them end up having sex with one another after the game while still embracing the virtual bodies of the game. However, after having sex, the two realized that the experience did not feel the same way it had felt while they were playing the game.
The experience of the two old friends in the film clearly shows that the way computers have blurred the boundary between the virtual and reality. While Danny and Karl were playing the game, they got carried away in the virtual world that they forgot that there was a difference between the virtual world and the reality. The fact the game got them engaged to the point that they assumed that whatever they were feeling in the game was real. The game also made them ignore their real lives in order to explore their virtual experience. For instance, Danny, who already had a wife and a five-year-old kid, started pulling away from those who loved them in the real world.
The set up of the 'Striking Viper' episode is fascinating since it takes something that most people have thought of doing then dares to introduce human sexuality into it. This set up brings out the question of how sexuality would look like if people were given the freedom to experiment with whatever they wanted without any human judgment or boundaries. As for the two friends in the series, taking the bodies, other people gave them the freedom to explore what they would not get the opportunity of exploring in real life (King, 62). However, Danny and Karl got too carried away by the computer games that they lost touch with reality. That is why they decided to try having sex in real life to check if they could have an opportunity of experiencing the same thing.
The introduction of films in games has influenced the impact that computer games have had on blurring the boundary between the realities and virtual. When videogames were introduced for the first time, they did not spend a lot of time on the story or developing the character, but instead, they were designed to be played for a short period of time (Cameron, 18). However, as computers made their entry into the mainstream, television advertising became more prominent. In most cases, it was the polished graphics of a pre-rendered computer graphics that ended up in the commercial. As the game started, the first thing that impressed the player is the flashy graphics of movies. The introduction of film into the field of video games began making video games to appear more real due to improved types of graphics that were being used. Another that made the introduction of film into the field of videogames appear more authentic was the inclusion of a story that made the designers spend more time developing the characters of the movie rather than just getting directly into the film (Kallay, 46).
Another way in which film has played a critical role in influencing how computer video games have blurred the boundary between the realities and virtual is through the introduction of cut-scene as a narrative segment. In an investigation David Bordwell (1986) conducted on classical Hollywood cinema, the scholar stated, "that opening sequences in the classical film give motivation and casual connection and missions and giving closure to the characters a kind of emotional reward and a visual reward." Together with the intro movie, the end movie is typically considered as the most exciting and most lavish of the game's visual sequences. According to Bordwell, intermittent cut-scenes reward the skills and persistence of the player for overcoming specific obstacles of the game while the end movie rewards the player for managing to get through all several barriers that make up the entire game. It is through these rewards that are being awarded to the player for getting through some specific obstacles and also a dozen of obstacles that make the players to be more determined to get through the challenges of the game to the extent that they forget that the rewards they are chasing are just virtual and not real (Henry, 64). For instance, in a game where players are supposed to overcome both specific and overall obstacles to be rewarded with money, you find the players working too hard to the point of playing video games the whole night to earn money.
The third role that movies play in video games is its utilization as a medium of passing the message of the game. In the mid-1990s, videogame designers utilized three methods of incorporating film into videogames, which are full-motion video (FMV), pre-rendered computer-graphic (CG) animation, and in-game (or 'engine') cut-scenes. According to various scholars, the three methods portray something different to the players of the game. Out of the three methods, it is the full-motion video that has blurred the boundaries between realities and virtual in more ways (Henry, 67). The FMV or 'live-action' was introduced when movie studios experimented with the videogames whereby they were able to bring along their established practices and preconceptions about the definition of 'entertainment.'
As explained by Cameron, full-motion video or ‘live-action’ cut-scenes portray live actors who are playing the roles of game characters, where are often combined with computer-rendered exteriors and effects (Cameron, 9). Therefore, whenever players are engaged in the game, the live motion of characters in the videogame brings the impression that all the events that are going on in the game appear to be real. That is why more often than not, you find players who are addicted to videogames pretending to be the heroes they are used to being in their video games. For the case of 'Striking Vipers' in the 'Black Mirror', Danny and Karl spent a lot of time playing computer video games and after assuming various the place of attractive characters and engaging in intimate actions in the game, they started feeling the pleasure they could not think in the real world.
Computers have also started blurring the boundaries between reality and virtual because it gives people a chance to live some fantasy life that appears to be real due to the moving images. Another factor that makes computer videogames appear to be more real is the fact that computer videogames have obstacles that a player is supposed to overcome in order to earn a given reward. This makes the game appear like real life where someone is supposed to go through many challenges for him or her to get a given bonus (Howells, 110). However, most players prefer to go through the challenges or obstacles in the videogame rather than facing them in real life because they seem comfortable and one often given a second chance if he or she fails. Also, just like in real life, computer videogames have missions that a player is supposed to accomplish.
The fact that computer videogames have blurred the boundaries between realities and virtual in various ways because the more one plays the game, he or she gains experience, and it makes it easy for the individual to accomplish the mission with little effort the next time he or she plays the game. This can be proved in instances where an individual engages in street fights or organizes to rob a bank or a food store since he or she is convinced that the experience he or she has gained after completing various missions in-game several times is going to apply in the real world. However, there are instances where an individual has successfully used the experience gained from playing videogames for some period of time.
Video games have also developed in complexity and flexibility to the point that they are providing new kinds of social interactions. This is perhaps clearest when games are compared to physical sports. Most of the abstract reasons for involvement in sports things like teamwork, problem-solving, and leadership are also reasons to play video games that allow online team interaction. Sports are often portrayed as a social platform where people can learn new skills. Amateur sports teams provide an essential means of socialization and communication for many people, allowing individuals from different gender, ethnic, and class backgrounds to find a common forum for communication. Video games have similar capacities; players who engage in online team battles must communicate with one another effectively and learn to solve problems (Howells, 113) collectively. In fact, video games could arguably provide a more inclusive platform for socializing because they do not exclude most socially or physically challenged individuals. The social platform of online games is certainly no utopia, as competitive endeavors of any sort inevitably create opportunities for negative communication, but it allows people of different genders, races, and nationalities to play on equal footing, a feat that is difficult, if not impossible, in the physical realm.
This is seen in the way Danny and Karl started concentrating more on video games to the point that began neglecting their real lives. Danny, who reconnected with his old friend after a decade, had already started his own family, and him and his wife already had a five-year-old child. But when he started playing their old game with his friend, he started drifting away from his family to the point his wife felt like she was being ignored. The two old friends experienced this because they were so much engaged in the game to the point they started confusing the difference between reality and virtual. Such cases have also been seen by the way some players end up being so much antisocial because they are too engaged in playing computer videogames that they fail to note that there is a difference between having physical interaction and having virtual interaction. Danny and Karl also got so much engaged in the intimacy they had they had with one another while assuming the characters of the videogame that they forgot that there is a difference between that the interaction they had while playing the game and the one they had with one another.
Videogames have undergone through various processes from the simple ones that spent little time on the story and development of characters to the current videogames that have specific story and cut-scenes that show live actors playing the role of characters of the game. These improvements have contributed a lot in blurring the boundaries between reality and virtual. Basing on the way the two old friends, Danny and Karl, in the episode Striking Vipers ended up having sex physically points out how computers have influenced people into thinking that what they experienced virtually reflects the reality. Spending much time playing computer video games have made people not only lose touch with reality but also to start enjoying what they experience in the virtual more than of the real world.
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Cameron, Allan. "Modular narratives in contemporary cinema." Modular Narratives in Contemporary Cinema. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2008. 1-19.
Kallay, Jasmina. "Narrative Architecture: Databases, Labyrinths and Stories that Won’t End." Gaming Film. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2013. 32-65.
King, Geoff. "Unraveling the puzzle of inception." Hollywood puzzle Films, 1st ed. Routledge (2014): 57-71.