BurchcoverI am fascinated by beginnings. I think this has always been the case, but it has certainly amplified since I began teaching. In part because they’re important, obviously; in part because they’re easy to teach. Middles, endings: those take context. It’s harder, if not impossible, to look at a large selection of endings, side-by-side, and analyze what works, and why. They work because of everything that came before. Conversely, beginnings work because of everything that comes after, but you don’t know that yet at their time of presentation. A good beginning should pique your interest, it should make you want to read more. It should make you start asking some questions—once your brain starts inventing questions, you’re involved, you have an interest, and now you want to keep reading, because questions need answers. A good beginning gives you all that and, too, in the parlance of creative writing classroom, it teaches you how to read the piece itself

This is why Louis C.K.’s Live At The Beacon Theater is important:  he listened to the market and responded accordingly.

C.K. is a comedian. His popular, culty stand-up is known for pushing boundaries while also being incredibly approachable. His cameos in TV comedies bring the giggles. He directed Pootie Tang.

His latest stand-up special was self-produced and self-financed. He released the video online, but did so in a fashion antithetical to the status quo. In his own words:

Video games are better than movies because you can smash a head against a wall instead of passively watching a head get smashed.

I’ve been running through all three Gods of War. The opening sequence and level was insanely epic. Cut through a swathe of undead, ride a titan to the top of Mount Olympus, rip Greek god Poseidon out of a giant water horse crab’s heart, then twist his neck, causing an atomic explosion that raises the ocean.

Epic.

The visual style of the above sequence is similar to Zack Snyder’s 300. Slow motion violence set on Greek battlefields. I love both. I love both film and video games. Recently, however, video games have mounted a serious assault on my free time, leaving DVDs and BluRays in the dust collecting around my TV stand.

I first noticed how involving and cinematic games have become playing the Metal Gear series. By Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3, cut-scenes were the reward for difficult game play. Thirty minute sequences weren’t uncommon, and I relished every minute of them. Top tier games are becoming a hybrid of inventive gameplay and high-end animation – animation that, cut together, forms a film I’d watch even without the interaction.

But I get to interact with it! When Snake, Kratos or Kirby slices the throat of an enemy, I’m the one that chose the exact moment to strike. I’m not going to bother getting into the violence-is-ruining-our-kids debate. Boys are going to enjoy violent books, movies, games and inter-cranial virtual reality holovids forever. What’s exciting is that we’re creating newer, more immersive ways to be entertained, and the previous technologies are informing the new.

Movies got awesome based on their creators’ love of books. Video games are clearly influenced by movies. David Jaffe, creator of God of War, admitted as much in the special features of the game, speaking about the skeletal goons they ripped from claymation Sinbad and Evil Dead films.

It’s nice to know that in the year 3153, when kids are shooting aliens, their entertainment will be linked through inspiration and influence to the games I’m playing now, the books read of old and the cave paintings our ancient ancestors drew of Space Invaders.