For some reason, remediation hit me as a far more interesting blog topic than an epic battle between the titans of Donkey Kong. Remediation, this idea that we want to eliminate all interface in media in the name of immediacy, while at same time improve and play with the interface itself as almost an art form in the name of hypermediacy, sounded to me like a load of garbage that a guy (or I guess in this case two guys) just decided they would write a hundred or so pages about. At least, that’s what I thought when I read the first paragraph about remediation. Then I read two more. Then I spaced out and thought about…I don’t even know, and then I glanced down at the paper, and then I thought about it.
And then I realized it made a lot of sense.
And then I realized almost nothing portrayed the “double logic” of remediation better than the Wii, XBox 360, and Play Station 3.
Now maybe one could say that I got a little carried away with periodic sentences just then, but let’s keep focused on the consoles. Each system portrays this paradox by focusing certain aspects of itself in one direction and others in the entirely opposite direction. Let’s start with immediacy. The XBox and the PS3 have upgraded the realm of graphics rendering to a never-before seen level, at least in the public sphere. They are the newest additions in the long road beginning with atari, the system famous for simple arcade games such as pac-man and frogger, 2-dimensional games with a distinct lack of color, texture, and resolution, at least by today’s standards.
Now today’s standards, set by the Xbox and PS3, is the amazing textures and graphics of games such as Fifa and Resident Evil 5, where the people and buildings rendered in the game look almost like the real thing. Sure, faces and crowds in the stands and other finite details look a little off, but if you give the screen nothing but a cursory look, it’s pretty hard to tell. Now for the Wii: the Wii decided to go for a different route and revolutionize the way players interface with the game by changing the controller. Separate accelerometers within the Wiimote and its smaller connecting cousin the nunchuck allow for players to feel like they’re boxing, or throwing a bowling ball, or (in the case of metroid prime 3) aiming a gun, pulling a trigger, and pulling out, twisting, and reinserting memory matrices. Just as the 360 and PS3 allow for players to feel the immediacy in a visual sense, the Wii allows a player to feel the immediacy in a tactile sense.
So, if these systems are striving so much to attain the affect of immediacy, how do they complete the paradox of remediation? The truth is that the Xbox and PS3 achieve hypermediacy in just the way that the Wii achieves immediacy, and visa versa. The PS3 and Xbox have maintained almost the same controllers as their previous versions. While the graphics are very real, buttons and thumb-controlled joysticks still control everything. To throw the football, you press a button, hardly a real experience. Now with the Wii, while it does have the interesting tactile interface, it still has it’s cartoony fantasy characters. Monkeys with ties, and plumbers with ridiculous mustaches have worked for Nintendo for a long time, and they do provide reoccurring characters that fans have become attached to, but they aren’t very realistic. On top of this, Nintendo has concentrated more on the Wii’s controller interface than upgrading the computing power of it’s graphics rendering capabilities. That is, even on games such as sports games where there is no unrealistic concept to take away from the reality of the game, the Wii does not look nearly as realistic as the Xbox 360 or PS3.
But here’s the kicker: I don’t think that Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo really made an error in judgment. I think they are perfectly fine with how their systems turned out. And that is because, when it comes to media, we want to have our cake and eat it too. The immediacy adds a nice touch that we enjoy, but at the same time we like to play around with completely artificial interfaces such as the controller or monkeys with ties. There is something intriguing about learning and mastering a human creation rather than just doing things intuitively, but at the same time we do love realism to a certain extent. Maybe the console companies realized this facet of human existence, or perhaps they just lucked out, but either way, they have created a line of systems that epitomizes the paradox of remediation.
P.S. The reason the character name has changed is because I have given up my burglar for a minstrel.