Keyboard Geniuses

GenCon

Better Than The Virtual Boy

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • August 24, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Conan The Barista

Tasha Robinson attended Gen Con, a huge gaming convention that brings gamers together from all walks of life, and invited attendees to describe their favorite parts of the weekend. Spacemonkey Mafia attended every summer at its previous location, Milwaukee, and shared his own memories:

I visited Gen Con every summer I lived in Milwaukee. In fact, the last year Milwaukee held the convention was one month before I moved to Minneapolis. It’s entirely possible that concurrence artificially colored the event to make it seem much sadder and anemic than it really was, but it already felt as though everyone had moved on.

An old childhood friend with whom I shared my formative Dungeons & Dragons playing years was living in Chicago at the time. Every year for the Con, he’d commute up from the city, and I’d meet him at Milwaukee’s downtown Greyhound station—a truly Boschian hell-scape of cast offs, near-mutants and carb-thickened carnival expatriates. To clarify, I say this not to judge, but as a simple acknowledgment that I have been to no other place in my lifetime where the wall separating this world from another, stranger dimension is thinner. Gen Con itself is simple community theater, attempting in its earnest, amateur way what the old Milwaukee Greyhound station was for real.

From the station, it was a short, two-block walk up to the convention, dotted with one or two proselytizing street ministers hoping to provide a counterbalance to the rampant Tiamat worship that must be occurring inside.

In the four years I went, I never once played a single session of a game. I didn’t have much interest in sitting down in one place for the entirety of the afternoon when there was so much to see. I loved seeing tables and tables of war gaming. Massive groups of people all hunched over tiny armies, each a hobbyist Ares, coordinating their own miniature genocides.

I loved seeing a sports arena converted to a group of cubicles for role-playing session. It felt like the ultimate subversion to see the takeover of a basketball court by a bunch of happily sedentary nerds.

I loved walking the trade floor, where over the years I bought one Katana, one Conan-esque broad sword I have since given to a friend much more barbarian-worthy than myself, a German Road Warrior poster as well as a German poster for a Kung-Fu Spider-Man movie. Probably some other junk as well.

I can’t imagine I’ll ever make the trip to Indiana to visit, I’m just not that invested. But it was a pretty awesome thing to have within city bus distance.

Zelda Folk Tales
New Super Mario Bros. 2

This month saw the release of New Super Mario Bros. 2, and Scott Jones was not a fan. Some readers were also unhappy with the lackluster direction that parts of the Mario series has taken. One commenter attempted to liken the monotony of Mario to the Legend Of Zelda series, but frogandbanjo swooped in to Zelda’s defense:

The Zelda games manage to get more mileage out of the “rescue the princess” trope because they explicitly set up the idea of trinities as being incredibly important to the world they’ve created, and then plug The Hero, The Villain, and The Princess into that larger framework. It gives them a lot of wiggle room to change details while still remaining true to the general idea that Link, Zelda, and Ganondorf have a truly consequential and transcendent relationship to each other, and to the (tri!)forces that shaped their world.

It’s such a facepalm-obvious hook, but it works. Hell, we were taught during our litigation training seminars to make lists of three things as often as possible. Two’s not enough and four’s too many. Five is right out.

Personally I think the worst thing to ever happen to the Zelda franchise was the insistence of some rube in Japan that all the games could be organized into sensible timelines (the plural necessitated by time travel, which, ugh). I’ve always felt that the Zelda franchise represented a weird sort of Japanese mirror-image to one of the broad conceits of Irish myth and folklore. Whereas in Irish folklore we’re presented with the idea of stories being played out over and over again (with variations for different time periods, settings, etc.,) by different individuals who took on larger, high-concept roles, in Japan you have the idea of specific characters, who generally possess some immutable core traits—some of which are physical—being plugged into different stories, each of which can explore a different collection of applicable themes while still remaining true to any core relationships that exist between them.

Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Bowser never really had that type of mojo going on. Their deal is much more about innocent surreality and a childlike sense of play.

The Saddest Game Never Made

This week’s Q&A asked our staff and readers which works they would like to see adapted into a video game. While many commenters wished for playable versions of their favorite books or movies, Staggering Stew Bum dreamt up an entire game based off an all too real career as a cubicle dweller:

“What work would you most like to see adapted into a game…?”

I’d like to see my work made into a game. Simply titled The Engineer, the game gives the player a realistic look at the everyday soul-crushing tedium that is my office job.

The game will unfold in real time in order to realistically portray the ennui of my job and hence appeal to fans of games such as Dark Souls, who like to feel brutalized in their spare time for some reason. Apart from the Boss fights, the game will be made up of various mini-games and other inane features:

— Your co-workers are all armed with loud and shrill cellphones, which represent their utter disregard for anyone unlucky enough to be imprisoned in a work area anywhere near them.

— When co-workers bring their hideous offspring into the office for some reason, the player will be forced by societal conforms to feign interest, and if you manage to range your interaction between “clearly wouldn’t piss on these arseholes if they were on fire” and “possible pederast,” you get a bonus, though not enough to feel any long-lasting self esteem or sense of achievement.

—For all those Metal Gear Solid 4 fans out there, the game has hour long unskippable cutscenes of mandatory team meetings, where the player has to sit through some dipshit carry on about safety and “near misses.”

Click through to SSB’s original comment for much more. Retreating from the cold light of reality, FireEmblemIsAFunGame would like to see a game that pits unwilling participants against each other in an inescapable death match, à la Battle Royale or The Hunger Games:

I always thought Battle Royale would make for an interesting game, since it basically already is a game. I like the idea of being able to choose to form tenuous alliances with other people, whether they’re other players or AI characters.

Alternatively, you could pretty much adapt any of the many other books/movies with a similar premise, and it would still work. I don’t know much about The Hunger Games, but that seemed like it could also work (I know there was at least a mobile game based on it, made by Canabalt creator Adam Saltsman, but I haven’t played it).

The best variation of all, though, would be an adaptation of The Long Walk. I like to imagine it as a competitive version of Desert Bus, where you need to hold down a particular button to keep walking. Tthe “walk” button would need to change periodically to prevent someone from simply taping the button down—yes, I’ve thought about this too much.)

Dean’s Dust
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Despite the fact that it stars a blue anthropomorphic fox, Anthony John Agnello liked a lot about Dust: An Elysian Tale. Corey Norris found more to like in the end credits sequence:

Just finished this yesterday. When you see just how short the end credits are, it really drives home the fact that this is the vision of essentially one man. There are no coding, art, or animation credits. Just the music and voice work were outsourced, and all the writing is attributed to the director and one other person. It’s just phenomenal what this guy Dean Dodrill accomplished. Also it has a very satisfying ending, something that’s sorely lacking in today’s market.

Papo & No
Papo & Yo

Vander Caballero’s puzzle-platformer Papo & Yo tackles the creator’s troubled relationship growing up with his alcoholic father. While John Teti appreciated what it was trying to accomplish, he ultimately found the game too uninspired and the metaphor too heavy-handed. Marijn Lems offered a counterpoint:

I quite disagree. For me, the repetitive mechanics were no problem, because I was fully immersed in the world. The imagination of the developers is so completely evident in the visual payoff of the puzzles (the gas tanks with wings that John mentions form an enormous tower that you can then bend over the city to make a bridge, as if it was made from rubber) that the lack of imagination in the actual mechanics doesn’t matter. It’s helpful to look at Papo Y Yo as related to Dear Esther and Journey, much less dependent on traditional game mechanics than on a holistic atmosphere that transports you into a lived experience.

While it is true that the game stupidly literalizes its metaphors toward the end, the scene right before this misstep possesses more visual profundity than the entirety of most other releases, and the actual ending is genuinely heartbreaking and a far cry from the pat, uplifting ending that a less sincere, Americanized treatment of the subject would have received.

It depends on your artistic and emotional sensibilities whether you’ll be more inclined to feel that Papo Y Yo is obvious and clumsy, or that it’s moving and profound, and I’d hate for anyone who might admire the game to miss out because they only read John’s perspective.

Taking another tack, blue vodka lemonade used a perfectly acceptable Community reference to demonstrate the importance an audience plays in art:

On Kotaku there was an article with input by Magadly Caballero, the sister of Vander Caballero who made Papo Y Yo. She found it incredibly moving and reflective of their shared experience with an alcoholic father. Her hope is that the game will help others in a similar situation.

I haven’t played the game, but it reminds me a little of (cue groans) the Community episode “Introduction To Film” where Abed makes a bizarre, hokey movie about his relationship with his parents. Everyone watches it and has confused expressions on their faces, except for his father who starts crying and asks Abed if that’s how he really felt about his parents breaking up. It was poorly shot and edited and too pat and too direct, but for the people it impacted, it was just as profound as it needed to be.

Some art is personal in a way that makes it nearly inaccessible to others, but I think that if it has a positive effect on even a few people it was worth the effort.

Going Commando, Bionic-Style
Bionic Commando

On The Level featured Area 5 of Bionic Commando, which Anthony John Agnello considers to be indicative of Capcom’s aspirations toward more artful game production in the late ’80s. After a slew of monotonous levels, the fifth stage combines visually striking imagery with a score with its innovative, bionic gameplay mechanic that carried on for the rest of the game. Spacemonkey Mafia finished the level but was sadly unable to enjoy the rest of the glorious game, due to a missed item:

Bionic Commando, you magnificent son of a bitch. God help you if you did have the cyber-testes to enter Area 6 before getting that aforementioned Rocket Launcher. An impenetrable wall would prevent you from going any further. with no air support to come and rescue you from the level, and the way behind you presumably blocked as well (an under construction Carl Jr’s., perhaps?) you would have no recourse but to reset the whole damn game, losing all your progress, making you throw a couch cushion across the room in frustration, knocking over your buddy’s Coke, and he freaks out because it got all over the carpet his parents Just Bought and shut up, shut up, because if they come down here one more time, they’ll send you guys home, I know they will, they did it before!

But yeah, what a fantastic game.

Then came this from Zach Adams:

I’m almost a little afraid to tell you there was a button command to get back to the map screen.

D’oh.

Comment Cat Adventures

At the end of last week, Keyboard Geniuses gave credit to a slew of awesome original artwork created by Gameological commenters, but to our dismay, we missed out on a fantastic game screen for The Digest by Mooy. It features John and Steve standing at the edge of reality, peering into the expanse, beckoned forward by a bounding Soupy, surely toward adventure and more reprehensible food-like items. Click the image below to see the full image, because this smaller version doesn’t do it justice:

The Digest: The Game

As always, thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week.

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82 Responses to “Better Than The Virtual Boy”

  1. HobbesMkii says:

    *Gasp* @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus just got the coveted double mention. And since neither were an image (last week he got a mention & an image mention), I’m going to call it a Natural Double Mention.

    I’m also going to piggy-back on Mooy’s image mention here, because he was so unperturbed about not being in last week’s post that I had to complain for him.

  2. doyourealize says:

    There is no reason to groan at any Community reference.

  3. stakkalee says:

    Did anyone else feel like this was a slow week?  Apart from a couple minor political implosions it felt like not much newsworthy was going on, with one notable exception – the demise of the granddaddy of video game magazines, Nintendo Power.  I personally always preferred the live-action covers, where they’d dress someone up as whatever video game character.  Anyone remember that Castlevania II cover?  I may still have that in a box in storage somewhere; it’s probably being used as mouse-bedding as I type this.
    First things first: the most-commented upon article was the Q&A on dream adaptations, with 162 comments.  The most-liked comment (non-KG) came from @joelofarc:disqus, with 29 likes on this comment.  Interestingly, @JohnTeti:disqus also had a comment with 29 likes – this one, with some good-old-fashioned Lost-bashing.  So, congrats to Joel of Arc, and BOO!  BOO! on John Teti, for dissing that masterpiece of coherent storytelling, Lost.
    This week there were 9 Geniuses, 6 of them new!  We’re welcoming @frogandbanjo:disqus, @FireEmblemIsAFunGame:disqus, Corey Norris from Twitter, Marijn Lems from Facebook, Zach Adams from Google+, and @Mooy:disqus, so, welcome, folks!  Pick up your plaid jacket at the front, and come bask in the warm glow you can only get from having a cat approve of your intellectual contributions!  Also, @green_gin_rickey:disqus and @staggering_stew_bum:disqus both unlocked the “Three Times A Lady” achievement with 3 pins apiece!  Finally, @spacemonkey_mafia:disqus got a sixth and a seventh pin this week, moving him into a tie for 3rd place with @effigy_power:disqus.  Watch out SM, Eff has a mean-streak a mile wide, and you just may find yourself the the subject of some of the filthiest slash-fic this side of the Mississippi.  (Which side is that?  Who knows!)  SM’s comment was also the most-liked KG comment, with 20 likes this week, which is the fifth-highest-liked KG comment (the top most-liked KG comment came from @MattmanBegins:disqus, with 28 likes on this comment where he reminisces about just how awesome Dick Clark was, from the April 27th Keyboard Genius.)
    So that’s all for this week.  Everyone enjoy your weekend, and get some good gaming in.  And as always, keep it scintillating!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      The day I drop my guard around Effigy_Power is the day I grow tired of living.

      • caspiancomic says:

         If we had any sense the three of us would team up against Girard, all the while plotting to quietly stab each other in the back.

        • Girard says:

           Don’t think I don’t have my eye on you, CC.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          Right, and while we’re busy plotting our little plots, Girard is reading some Old Testament Liturgy written in Aramaic and cross-referencing it with the collected journals of a hermit, Croation programmer-wizard. He’ll have infinite 1-up’s while we’re still squabbling over our logo color.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Can’t a girl command an elite troop of half-demonic Orc space marines without being considered some sort of villain?
        -wipes single tear with clawed steel gauntlet-
        That hurts my feelings, you know?

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      (sung to the tune of “Shots”) 

      Stats, stats, stats, stats, stats, stats (everybody!)
      Stats, stats, stats, stats, stats, stats 

      Yeah…. that’s pretty bad.

  4. Merve says:

    For the Gameological Steam group’s weekly Team Fortress 2 night this Thursday, a bunch of us decided to try our hand at the new “Mann vs. Machine” co-op mode. Here are some screenshots of our adventures (under the heading Thursday, August 23, 2012). Verdict: shooting robots until they explode is way more fun than it has any business being.

  5. caspiancomic says:

    @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus is a real dark horse in this Keyboard Geniuses thing. I think Soupy’s making up for lost time: dood’s been on point for weeks.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Someone had to jump in as the usual top commenters sort of slacked off this week.
      All it does long term is make him another target for our Mexican standoff.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Aw, chee.  Thanks, man.

  6. Staggering Stew Bum says:

    Once again I go to my dark place and Soupy comes a knocking. 

    A minor nitpick – I don’t dwell in a cubicle. I actually fester in a large open-plan office that was devised by evil HR scientists in order to more efficiently distribute the influenza virus amongst the lab rats. I dream of one day working up to a real cubicle to call my own.

    • caspiancomic says:

       We’re all very worried about you Stewy.

    • Fluka says:

      I work in academia, but have been considering making a move to industry.

      Your postings have convinced me to stay in academia.

      That is impressive.

      • Staggering Stew Bum says:

        There are good office jobs, you just have to be lucky enough to find them. Unfortunately I live in a small city which I’m stuck in for a few years yet, and my engineering discipline is highly specialised, so the firm I’m working at is the only place I can practice my specialty. It’s this, or start again from the bottom in a different discipline and lose another 5 years. I’m just going to tough it out until my wife is in a position to be able to move to a different city with me, then I will have a range of different companies to consider and hopefully luck into something I like.

        Anyway, don’t let my comments scare you off from the Industrial world. My comments are actually intended to be humorous (but I get the feeling that I’m the only one laughing). Office work can be ok if the work is engaging and your co-workers are remotely bearable.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          Naw, I enjoy black, black humor.  …Not so much so that I want to prevent you from finding a better job, but please continue to mine the coal-black comedy for the duration of this one.

    • HobbesMkii says:

       I’ve worked in cubicles and open offices. Cubicles are better in the sense that you can goof off and no one can tell what you’re doing, but they’re worse in that no one can(/wants to) tell what you’re doing.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        And you can’t freely pass gas in either.  Which is why a private office, self-employment or outdoor work remains the gold standard.

        • HobbesMkii says:

           Oh, outdoor work is the best. You can just fart and walk away while the wind whisks it into the ether.

    • blue vodka lemonade says:

       My high school was built in some particular moment in about 1975 where everything was about being modular. It’s open-plan (which for us means the classrooms are essentially cubicles with doors, but no ceilings) with an exceedingly high ceiling and pretty much every surface is carpeted either blue or orange.

      Whenever there was a spill in the chemistry lab (which was at least twice a year) they’d evacuate that entire half of the building, because there was no way to direct fumes out without sending them into every other room.

      Other highlights included: the entire building had about 4 windows, most of them in teachers’ offices, so you could easily go an entire week without seeing daylight; the fact that only a handful of classrooms (the ones on the outside wall, which had ceilings and doors and everything) could turn the lights off, so if you watched a movie in class you probably couldn’t see the screen; and if another class was watching a movie, you could hear all of the dialogue.

      I did not have one single graph theory class that wasn’t punctuated by shouting in German.

      In short: open-plan workspaces are the devil, etc.

      • Merve says:

        What I took from this: Holy crap! You took graph theory in high school? I didn’t take it until my third year of undergrad.

        • blue vodka lemonade says:

           I went to a math-and-science-focused boarding magnet school. We had some kids coming in as sophomores, age 13, who tested out of calculus and went straight into differential equations. It’s a crazy place.

          It also totally burnt me out in terms of my will to do high-level math and science, so there’s that. Now I’m studying to be an elementary-school teacher.

  7. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody! My review of Bubble Bobble is now posted at http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com/. Take a look & let me know what you think.

    Due to time constraints, as well as general laziness, my review of Puzzle Bobble will have to wait. Also, my apologies for the rather lousy quality of the screen grabs in the review. I’m still working the kinks out of my video capture setup. 

    • caspiancomic says:

       I also particularly liked your NES surgery post. Reminded me of operating on my own self-resetting Dreamcast with nothing but a screwdriver and a Q-tip back in the day. I was terrified I was going to ruin the thing because the only instruction was to find a certain piece of the hardware and nudge it with the Q-tip until it sort of felt right. Which, I mean, how can you tell? Still, worst case scenario was that it would still be unplayable, so I figured I’d go for it. And now, I can play all the Crazy Taxi 2 I want.

      • Girard says:

         My closest friend in high school and I tried like HELL to get the good ending of Bubble Bobble. We got the ‘BAD END,’ then sussed out the secret door for the real boss, but despite countless attempts, could never defeat him with both of us inact at the end. It felt like the game was making some kind of tacit implication on the quality of our friendship every time we’d beat the boss with one dragon intact and get the message “TRY AGAIN, WITH A FRIEND!

        Also, Googling “Bubble Bobble bad end” with safe search of returns a horrific Rule 34 pic surprisingly high in the results. Good God.

      • HobbesMkii says:

         You two should be collaborating on some sort of gaming-related site.

      • Mr. Glitch says:

        Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. I’ve had to do a lot of work on these old game consoles over the last several months. Let me know when you post your next article.