Sun. Oct 2nd, 2022

There’s an important backstory to Gordon Freeman’s motivations, we promise.

For many years, the general public has had a misconception about the nature of Shakespeare. His collective works are generally seen as a pastime of the upper class and intellectual elite, comparable to opera.

As many know, the truth is that Shakespeare’s plays in their day were basically an everyday form of entertainment, akin to going to the movies or going to a musical these days. His productions often tackled humorous or tragic concepts with which everyone could identify – love, everyday life, sex, rivalry and conflict – and presented them in ways that were captivating and at times absurd to the general population.

But Shakespeare’s funny accents and sweeter words eventually began to seem incomprehensible to modern audiences. The timeless plays gradually fell out of favor as people grew accustomed to the casual pulp-noir tone of radio plays and the action-packed police procedures that followed the advent of television. Just as community theater itself replaced wise elders by the campfire and entertained their families with nighttime stories, this was just another step in a long line of narrative traditions.

So…what does this have to do with it? half-life

The evolution of in-game improv

The title card for the infamous series <em>Freeman’s Mind</em> from Accursed Farm.” src=”×358.png” width=”640″ height=”358″ srcset=”https:/ / 2x”/><figcaption class=
enlarge The title card for Accursed Farm’s infamous Freeman’s Mind series.

The main distinction between “performance arts” and “role-playing” is that the prior is set on a stage with an audience, while the latter is for the entertainment of the actors themselves (or, at best, vain voyeurs and enthusiasts). Over time, the popular role-playing platforms have changed dramatically: from the limitations of a table game; to text-based MUDs (Multi-User Dungeons, a primitive form of MMORPG) and MUSHes (Multi-User Shared Hallucinations, an MMO specifically designed for role-playing); to just about any kind of online chat room. Over time, role-players began to re-enact stories in classic 3D MMORPGs and “the metaverse,” further eroding the distinction between role-playing and theater.

A MUD running in a telnet client.  These were often free to play and ran easily on even the worst 56k connections prior to the widespread adoption of broadband.

A MUD running in a telnet client. These were often free to play and ran easily on even the worst 56k connections prior to the widespread adoption of broadband.

Then, oddly enough, the pastime started to make the switch to first-person shooters and real-time strategy games.

In these genres, many early server-based multiplayer titles offered a lot of downtime between skirmishes. Bored youngsters everywhere were happy to fill that era with vivid interpretations of in-universe lore spun from their imaginations. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact origin of this phenomenon, but it’s easy to find firsthand accounts of it in games like warcraftJedi Knight/Outcasthalf-lifeand many others.

The true Cambrian explosion of online modding communities would eventually provide these player-actors with as many or more means of self-expression as can be found in contemporary MMORPGs. With violent props, fantastic environments and stocks of world-building at their disposal, there was no limit to the kind of stories kids from the late 90s and early 00s could unfold in a then-modern first-person shooter.

A very normal pizza place.
enlarge A very normal pizza place.

2004, Garry’s Mod would change the scene dramatically. the extensive half-life The customization tool allowed anyone who could afford the hosting costs (and had the knowledge of scripts) to build dynamic rule sets and enforce new game mechanics that would foster more immersive storytelling: ownership of property, electable officials, emote systems, and a speech engine that limits your words. to those within earshot, just to name a few examples. Many readers probably have fond memories of the late night, absurdly hysterical antics found in these user-created role-playing add-ons.

Some of the most memorable gigs now find a less volatile home in YouTube comedy compilations. Recorded performances created explicitly for the sake of machinima have also become more popular. A notable example is the giggling longplay of Half-Life: Freeman’s Mind by Ross Scott.

Send in the streamers

With the arrival of charismatic Twitch streamers – who sometimes create entire personas for themselves – the convergence of artist and digital achievement is around. Perhaps the pinnacle of the trend is WayneRadioTV’s exceptionally hilarious Half-Life VR, but the AI ​​is self-aware

Wayne takes the mantle of the lovable yet quiet anti-hero Gordon Freeman and imbues him with the now-common “neurotic panicky narcissist” persona made popular by Freeman’s Mind† He’s joined by a mysterious cast of supposedly “self-aware” NPCs, played with eerily accurate impressions of the original voice talent.

He doesn't have his passport.
enlarge He doesn’t have his passport.

Wayne’s version of Freeman trumpets through the corridors of Black Mesa with his cavalcade of fools, bringing the whole self-serious story of half-life upside down. Once considered a top horror experience with few peers, Valve’s shooter masterpiece has now become a vehicle for the wackiest of memes and sublime comedic timing. Who knows half-life‘s setting and characters could serve as the basis for a new type of sitcom?

As more people work from home and turn to digital media in their spare time, it may have been inevitable that the performing arts would adapt to the times in this way. While actors of the past stepped out of the auditorium in favor of movies and TV performances, we now see a new era of actors and playwrights breaking with the institutional baggage of the old forms of the trade. In half-lifethey are free from the baggage of trained acting (remembering rules, rehearsals, etc.), for better or for worse.

Where we were once in awe of charismatic personalities on stage, we are now quietly fixated by our screens, cackling over unscripted jokes and recurring improv jokes. It’s a golden age for those who grew up adoring such TV shows as Whose line is it anyway?

So sit down, send the clowns and laugh your worries away. I hear it’s the best medicine.

Listing image by Half-Life VR: Self-aware AI

By akfire1

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