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Text Commentary

Self-Image in Video Games Portrayed in Non-Mainstream Film
by Simon Wiscombe `

It would not be an exaggeration to claim that video games follow in the footsteps of media before it in conveying the idea of misrecognition as postulated by Laura Mulvey (page 8, 9 of Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema). It is, in a way, even more direct in games than it is in films, as not only are we able to lose sense of self, but control this idealized version of our own egos. This is made completely evident in the attached Call of Duty commercial, which aims to show real people in a video game environment, but because they use actors and well-known celebrities, simply reinforce this idea of inflated self-image. What is fascinating about The Guild, however, is how it manages to both mock the notion of misrecognition while fully embracing it at the same time. 

This music video serves as a trailer for the show itself. In it, we see the characters of the web series playing their own characters within the video game realm. The characters they play, then, are not the idealized images of themselves. Due to the abilities of film to do so, they are able to correctly imagine themselves within the world they would otherwise fantasize about. They become their characters, dancing and singing about how amazing they are. In a way, however, this mocks the very notion of character idealization. By becoming their own character, they acknowledge the very human nature of their own existence. They acknowledge the idea that the avatar they've created is merely a projection of themselves, able to perform no greater action than what they are capable themselves. In this way, The Guild mocks the idea that we, as players in a game, subconsciously allow ourselves to become absorbed by an ego ideal by placing the players within the game itself.

But where The Guild manages to subvert their own recognition, they fail precisely because of the medium they choose to convey. By using film, the viewers fall into exactly the same trap that Laura Mulvey stipulates. They suspend themselves and become the characters in the show. The actors and characters are an idealized version of The Guild's exact target audience. While the actors in The Guild might be able to acknowledge the fruitlessness of losing oneself in a virtual avatar, they cannot escape the inevitability that their viewers will be unable to so long as they continue to be engaged by the show.

This clip brings to light an irony within the portrayal of games in film. While The Guild is able to circumvent their own projections of ideal ego, they are unable to convey this idea due to the limitations of the medium in which they inhabit. They're unable to step out in any way, else they lose the characters and the lessons apparent in them. In many ways, this reflects the futile effort to change the status quo within any media by using another layer of media to do so.

Source: Mulvey, Laura. Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen 16.3. 1975.

This Commentary is related to the following Clips:
The Guild - Do You Wanna Date My Avatar? by Felicia Day (2010) A music video promoting Season 3 of the webseries.
CoD: A Solider in All of Us by MachinimaTrailer (2010) The New Call of Duty: Black Ops Commercial