PCA / ACA 2011 Conference: Best Talks Countdown


Ranking # 10: Under Construction: Memory and Amnesia in the Neo-Noir City

Jennifer Chamberlain,UniversityofTexasatArlington

 In her talk about memory and amnesia in the Neo-Noir city, Jennifer Chamberlain explored how memory and amnesia affects identity in three films. I must admit that I can’t recall one of the films, the other two were Fight Club andDarkCity. Her very instructive talk explored how space and societal expectations caused the nameless narrator from Fight Club to become Tyler Durden, and explained how the split identity has an effect in memory. She made an argument that narrative is rooted in memory, and – as far as Fight Club is concerned – she defended her argument well. She then went on to explore memory inDarkCityand explained how, because memory is fickle and subjective, all narratives are variable and based on perception. Once again, she did a fair job of defending her point within the context of that film. The way that she readDallas,TXas a Neo-Noir space devoid of a permanent memory was specially interesting.

 The visuals she used helped further her argument and keep the viewer engaged, and the conversational way in which she shared her paper helped keep the listener interested.

 Delivery:                        8

Visuals:                          9

Argument:                    8

Reasoning:                    9

Q&A Session:               8

Subjective rating:     7

Total:                            8.3

 

Tied for Ranking # 8 and 9: Would You Kindly? Bioshock and the Question of Free Will

Matthew Wysocki,FlaglerCollege

In his talk about Bioshock, Matthew Wysocki made the argument that Bioshock makes the player question not only free will, but the reason for play, and by extension the reason for life. Although this is not a new way of looking at Bioshock, the perspective that he offered was certainly an innovative one. While most articles I have read and presentations I have seen on the topic focus either on Bioshock’s utopian world as the catalyst for questioning life or on Bioshock’s implementation of choice in the questioning of self, Matthew focused on the game’s narrative and cut scenes. He focused specially on the ending scene, where the computer takes control of the player and the player can only look on in disdain as he unwittingly commits murder. This moment, Matthew argues, makes the player ask “why is my character doing this?”, which is the start for a chain of questioning that takes the player to question why did he kill all the other characters, why is he following orders, and why is he leading life in a certain way. The answer Matthew proposed is “because someone asked nicely”.

The visuals presented were complementary to the argument, and the delivery of the presentation was flawless. However, the originality of the topic and some of the Q&A answers took away from the overall presentation.

Delivery:                     10

Visuals:                        9

Argument:                  7

Reasoning:                  9

Q&A Session:              7

Subjective rating:     8

Total:                            8.3

 

Tied for Ranking # 8 and 9: The Early Genealogy of Neon-Noir: From Vertigo to La Jetée to 12 Monkeys

KendallStephenson,UTArlington

In her talk about the genealogy of Neo-Noir, Kendall Stephenson explored the historical roots of Neo-Noir film as a genre. She began exploring cinematographic elements used by Hitchcock in Vertigo and described how the film fits into a borderline Noir / Neo-Noir space. She then moved to La Jetee, which she explored as the first “true” Neo-Noir film. Although I was not entirely moved by her argument because of personal abstract arbitrary ideals of what Neo-Noir should be, she did make a solid case for her claim. If I had no preformed notions of Neo-Noir being set in futuristic environments, I would have been persuaded. She then engages in the same analysis of 12 Monkeys, which I found to be the best analysis of the three. She discussed not only how the film conforms to and redefines Neo-Noir paradigms, but also how the temporal shifts in the film narrative affect the individual memory of the characters.

The visuals she used were solid, and the way she arranged her “Prezi” presentation in a spiral seemed to fit the paper’s argument. Her delivery, tone, and pacing was almost perfect.

Delivery:                    10

Visuals:                        9

Argument:                  8

Reasoning:                   9

Q&A Session:               7

Subjective rating:     7

Total:                            8.3

 

Ranking # 7: A “strange, primitive feeling of lust”: Heteronormative Rigidity in

Herendeen’s Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander

Meredith Faust,DePaulUniversity

In a stimulating talk on primitive lust in Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philanderer, Meredith explored how Philander’s sexual identity and Phyllida’s sexual desires play off each other. She talked about the ambiguous nature of Phylander’s sexuality and offered examples of how in the spectrum of sexual identity his degree of bisexuality is roughly 60% heterosexual 40% homosexual. Meredith also explained how the true drive of Philander’s sexuality was the stereotypical patriarchal power rush, and gave examples from the text where Phyllida felt like she wanted to be ravaged but felt disappointed when Philander told her that he would be gentle, but would afterwards be turned on when Phyllida began screaming and crying.

It was a well-delivered talk, and although there were no visuals the way that Meredith attenuated her voice and used her body language more than made up for a lack of visuals. This talk was a true showcase of classic rhetorical skill.

Delivery:                      9

Visuals:                      N/A

Argument:                  9

Reasoning:                  9

Q&A Session:              7

Subjective rating:   10

Total:                            8.8

 

Tied for Ranking # 4, 5, and 6: The Rapist Hero and the Female Imagination

Sarah Frantz, FayettevilleStateUniversity

In her talk on the evolution of the romantic hero, Sarah Frantz revealed a genealogy of the evolution of the hero, ranging from the “rapetastic hero” of the 60s and 70s to the modern romance hero of the 21st century. In order to support her claim, Sarah went to the 6 most popular romance novels and engaged with the text and with fan perceptions of the text .

Although it was a complex talk with mixed research methods involving closed reading and statistical analyses, Sarah made her case flawlessly. The visuals, although not fancy, were the most relevant possible and helped further her claim. The way she integrated statistics and charts into her talk was priceless.

Delivery:                    10

Visuals:                        8

Argument:                 10

Reasoning:                 10

Q&A Session:               9

Subjective rating:     8

Total:                            9.1

 

Tied for Ranking # 4, 5, and 6: For Those about to Rock: Gender as Instrument in Rock Band

Elisa Melendez,FloridaInternationalUniversity

In her talk about gender bias and sexuality in Rock Band, Elisa Melendez explored various aspects of the game in order to support the argument that Rock Band is a sexist game. Going off the premise that most games are made by guys for guys, she explored the avatars and the motions of play to show how they depict gender. Most of her talk, however, focused on the Rock Band Network, the music uploaded, the inclusion of females by percentage in the music uploaded, the difficulty level of the instrument played by the female, and the attitudes of players when faced with a female gamer. Her findings that only 17% of the uploaded music has females in the band, and that males react to female players in a negative way, indeed support her claim.

Although her oral delivery was a bit lacking and there were too many “ummm”s for my taste, her body language and her command of the audience more than made up for the few shortcomings. The fact that she included a prop guitar controller as part as the presentation and represented the “sexist play moves” to demonstrate the sexual behavior certainly helped her delivery.

Delivery:                     9

Visuals:                       9

Argument:                 9

Reasoning:                 10

Q&A Session:             10

Subjective rating:    8

Total:                            9.1

 

Tied for Ranking # 4, 5, and 6: Romance Evolved: An Exploration of Romance in the Digital Narratives of Lunar and Final Fantasy

Johansen Quijano,UniversityofTexasatArlington

In my talk regarding romance and videogames, I explored notions of romance and how the romance story paradigms shape videogame narratives and, in turn, the medium of the videogame affects the reader and the romantic story. I talked about how Final Fantasy 8 fits romance narrative paradigms and how the hero from Lunar: the Silver Star conforms to the stereotypical 17th century romance hero in order to show how videogame narratives are valid texts for analysis, then I made the argument that the videogame medium can “evolve” the romantic text through interaction and reader identification with the character.

Although my visuals were lacking – I didn’t have any videos – I felt that my visuals were adequate. My delivery was, I think, near perfect, and the way I reasoned my argument were excellent. The audience response was overwhelmingly positive, but I admit that I flopped in the Q&A session when the session moderator, Sarah Frantz, began taking questions through Twitter and someone asked about dating sims – a type of romance narrative that I am almost completely ignorant of. Overall, it was an extremely solid talkl.

Delivery:                    10

Visuals:                         8

Argument:                 10

Reasoning:                 10

Q&A Session:              8

Subjective rating:     9

Total:                            9.1

 

Ranking # 3: Fighting the Good Fight: Fundamentalism and Fallout 3

James Coon,WingateUniversity

In his talk about religion in Fallout III, James Coon made the argument that Fallout III is a representation of extremist religious cults. In order to support his claim, Coon showed photographs of instances of religious references in the game, and made the connection between Free Dog and a charismatic religious leader, the Brotherhood as the religious army, and their motto, “keep fighting the good fight”, to the biblical reference it alludes to. I specially enjoyed this talk because it offers an entirely new perspective to Fallout III. When previous analyses of the games have focused on “the hero as self” and “the world as structure”, this one focuses on narrative, rather than ludic, elements. I admit that my reading of the game involved representations of societal fears and concerns, but the way that James supported his argument proved that his reading was just as accurate.

His delivery was flawless, and his visuals lacked only because rather than videos with audio he used photographs.

Delivery:                     10

Visuals:                        9

Argument:                  9

Reasoning:                  8

Q&A Session:             10

Subjective rating:    10

Total:                            9.3

 

Tied for Ranking # 1 and 2: “The Price You Pay may be Heavy Indeed”: Shadow of the Colossus and Player Interaction/Implication

Sean Kennedy, Texas A&M University-Commerce

In his talk regarding Shadow of the Colossus and player interaction and implication, Sean Kennedy made the argument that players can, in fact, identify with “non-self” characters whose being is represented in a narrative of linear structure. Shadow of the Colossus and the feeling of regret and remorse that the player experiences through the character was the example that he used to support his claim. The only complaint that I might have with his talk is that he could have more explicitly stated the argument and framed the talk through character identification using the game as an example rather than start with the game and show how the player identifies with that one specific character.

The delivery was flawless, the visuals were flawless, and his logic was flawless. Without a doubt, it was one of the two best talks of the entire conference.

Delivery:                   10

Visuals:                      10

Argument:                 9

Reasoning:                10

Q&A Session:            10

Subjective rating:    9

Total:                            9.6

 

Tied for Ranking # 1 and 2: Gamers in the Hands of an Angry God: Purgatory, Deicide, and Religious Critique in Video Games

Ben Villarreal,New MexicoHighlandsUniversity

In his talk regarding images of diocide Ben explored how the videogame Demon’s Souls represents the ideas of killing God and how it is an allegorical narrative of how we as a society are killing God through science. Although I can’t fully agree with the claim that it represents how society kills God, I felt that his exploration of the motif in the game itself was perfectly done. The visuals not only helped him make his claim valid, but also made it resonate in the mind of the viewer / listener. My only problem with his paper is that he didn’t mention Xenogears, the original God Slayer title, but that is me projecting my desires unto someone else. Certainly, at some point in the future I will work on diocide in Xenogears, and I will be taking pointers from Ben’s talk to inform my scholarship on the topic.

Delivery:                     10

Visuals:                       10

Argument:                   9

Reasoning:                   9

Q&A Session:              10

Subjective rating:    10

Total:                            9.6

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About Quijano

Johansen Quijano is a professor of English in The University of Texas at Arlington, where he is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in English. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL), a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Development focusing on TESOL, and a Master’s Degree in English Literature. He has published and presented on a variety of topics including video game studies, popular culture studies, education, teaching methodology, language acquisition, romantic poetry, and victorian literature. His research interests include the above-mentioned topics, narrative, interactivity, simulation, new media in general, and 18th century literature. He also enjoys creative writing (fiction, historical fiction, and poetry), and reading all kinds of epic literary works - from the Epic Poem of Gilgamesh to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Posted on April 26, 2011, in Literature Commentary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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