Blood in the Gutters


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Unlike moving image, where action and movement may take place in real time, comic authors are confined to still image. Here, the “perception of ‘reality’ is an act of faith.” It is the individual reader who constructs a reality through only one sense, sight.

In comics, the author relies on the gutter equally as the panels to convey changes in time and space to the reader. The gutter is the empty white space between each panel; this is where ‘closure’ happens or as Scott McCloud states, “observing the parts but perceiving the whole”. In the gutter, the reader is able to make their own connections and assumptions. Using different panel-to-panel transitions aids the author to influence or guide the conclusions met by the reader.

McCloud identifies 6 different panel-to-panel transitions, each with different connotations and meaning:

  1. Moment-to-moment: requires very little closureScreenshot (44)
  2. Action-to-action: progressions of a single subject

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3. Subject-to-subject: stays within a scene or idea

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4. Scene-to-scenetransports us across significant distances of time and space

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5.Aspect-to-aspectsame place, idea, mood – unknown time.

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6. Non-SequitarNo logical relationship between panels

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The indexicality of each still image (bar Non-Sequitar) and the inferences made by the reader through the gutter, creates a “mentally constructed” and “continuous, unified reality”. In comparison to moving image media, where closure is “continuous, largely involuntary and virtually imperceptible”, comics have more freedom creatively for the author and reader both.

Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud   

Cannon Fodder

Cannon Fodder

Kimble Justice’s review of the classic 1993 top down shooter Cannon Fodder [link here] developed by Sensible Software noted multiple points on how controversial Cannon Fodder was (and probably still is). The game consists of a “merry band of brothers” fighting enemies in various environments using a wide range of weapons.

Cannon Fodder‘s satirical take on war, insulted and outraged many; as the game sent an acute anti-war message. The cover art consists of a singular poppy; a symbol of remembrance world wide with the words Cannon Fodder (an expendable or exploitable person, group, or thing).


Other examples:

  • The theme song is provocative – a jaunty little tune called “War Has Never Been So Much Fun” [link here]
  • The main menu is a line of men waiting and willing to go into battle with you; behind them is a hill with a few crosses symbolizing the dead. As you continue playing the game and your soldiers die in battle, crosses are added to the hill, to remind the player of the lives lost.
  • During the play, both your soldiers and enemy soldiers can be killed in one hit.
  • The deaths are gruesome, soldiers from both sides bleeding out on the battle field after you shoot them.

This game reminds me of that brutal single player browser game One Chance by Awkward Silence Games in 2010, where you have one chance to save the world in six days. One Chance is a bit overly sentimental, but stirred up quite a lot of discussion online.

Fun Fact: Cannon Fodder was banned in Germany in 1994 [link here]


Play: Games as the Play of Pleasure

Pleasure is commonly understood as a fundamental feeling that is hard to define but that people desire to experience. Of course, pleasures opposites (pain, frustration, despair) are equally important in understanding the play of pleasure in a game.

To observe the rules of the play structure promises much greater pleasure from the game than the gratification of an immediate impulse.” – L.S Vygotsky

Continue reading “Play: Games as the Play of Pleasure”

Play: Designing Play

Katie Salen | Eric Zimmerman | Rules of Play | Game Design Fundamentals

How do the rules play out?

“Ultimately, game design is play design. The rules of a game are relevant because they facilitate the experience of players. Within this primary schema, we expand out understanding of games considerably, delving into topics like pleasure, narrative, and social interaction, in the movement from the primary schema of RULES and PLAY, we loosen our tight focus on rules as a formal system to examine the ways that rules become a meaningful experience for the players of a game.” ( page. 299)

Continue reading “Play: Designing Play”