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.
Don’t Touch That Tab
Derrick Sanskrit praised Handheld Video Game in his Sawbuck Gamer review for its self-aware hero, who believes that he achieves freedom from his video game world. BarbleBapkins got metaphysical and took the game’s premise to its logical conclusion, making us think twice about closing that browser tab:
Much like Professor Moriarty on Star Trek: The Next Generation, this poor little fellow thinks he has escaped the artificial construct that is his existence, his life being nothing more than part of a game designed for the entertainment of others, into the larger world he has seen beyond the edges of his confines.
Sadly, like Moriarty, his escape is nothing more than an illusion, and just as he turns off the “game” he was trapped in, so too do I close the tab on his new reality, revealing it for the facade that it was.
Perhaps our lives, too, are merely in a tab open on some super-intelligent being’s browser, about to be closed to free up space as it moves on to its society’s version of TV Tropes.
With a surplus of time and a Netflix account, Drew Toal looked back at a few episodes of that strange game/TV tie-in, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. Similarly, Tom has been working through the show, unfortunately at the behest of his young daughter. The one thing keeping him entertained throughout is an ever-present goof during “Captain” Lou Albano’s infamous “Do The Mario!” dance at the end of the credits:
My daughter recently got into this show, as she enjoys Princess Peach on the DS, and isn’t yet old enough to recognize horrid production values. I fondly remembered watching it when I was a kid, and was completely unprepared for how awful it is. But I do look forward to one part every time, and not just because it means the show is finally over: At the very end of the credits, Captain Lou tries to make some kind of jazz-hands pose, but he stumbles a bit and steps forward. This show was so cheap they wouldn’t even re-shoot the five seconds to not have the lead falling down as he tries to stop dancing!
This observation has prompted much “play it again!” mirth around Gameological H.Q. The video evidence:
Ours Is Not To Wonder
John Teti was joined by Scott Jones in the latest episode of our podcast Gameological In Stereo to talk about the lessening sense of wonder in modern games, in regard to Mario games and others. Spacemonkey Mafia felt that same loss but thought we might be more jaded by our adult worldview, especially compared to that of a child’s:
I suspect we might be the wrong group of people to ask about the sense of wonder in gaming.
Certainly, there are external circumstances that contribute to the sense of diminishing returns. We were younger with less exposure to the [Mario] franchise, making every iteration exponentially more exciting. And as we’ve grown, the franchise grows and continues metastasizing into myriad fractured titles. We’ve seen so much of Mario that the games no longer bear that rarefied energy it would when we were kids.
But in a more fundamental, emotional sense, I don’t believe we carry the same capacity for wonder into adulthood that accompanied us so regularly as children.
I don’t mean to posit my own neuroses as universal, but I have this feeling as I get older that my immediate exposure to the world is increasingly calcified under a barrier. I feel the same feelings, but whatever triggers them has to work harder to break through a crust that refracts and dissipates the experience so that ultimately it doesn’t hit as hard emotionally, nor go as deep.
Compared to my toddler, who is so fresh to the world, all of her senses are completely raw and exposed to input. She completely loses her mind in a frenzy of exultation when given a sugar cookie or weeps inconsolably when told she can’t watch another ad for a Play-Doh play set posted on YouTube.
I don’t see this as a negative. While the electricity of youth is wonderful, I’ve traded it for a deeper understanding of the things I like. I understand more of the context, history, references, and significance of the media I consume.
There are some thought-provoking responses in the ensuing thread. Check it out!
Turn On The Bright Lights
Drew Toal spoke with Nels Anderson, lead designer of the newly released Mark Of The Ninja. Among other things, Ninja’s use of environmental darkness came up. Mercenary Security Number 4 has never been of a fan of darkness in games:
Here’s the thing about dark games: they usually get annoying. I always start off thinking “I’m gonna play this one right and really keep the atmosphere!” But after a couple of hours, I always end up saying, “Screw it, this is getting old—time to max out the video settings.” It really depends on whether the game is successful at giving me other forms of input.
If I’m really walking around in the dark, I can use touch and other subtle sensory inputs (like the way you can tell even with your eyes closed if you are outside, in a big room, or in a stuffy closet) to help me keep my bearings. In a game, “touch” sensation is still only binary (controller either vibrates or it doesn’t) and there is no way to sense the light movement of a breeze, or the dryness of the air, or the way the ground feels, or a million other things that humans (especially ninjas) would use to give them information. So just making a game dark can actually decrease my immersion.
Once An Ad, Always An Ad
Anthony John Agnello liked when Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron let him play as a destructive robot that’s also a plane, because being a robot that’s also a plane is awesome. However true this may be, internet commentators have often complained that Michael Bay “raped their childhood” with his horrible trio of film adaptations, as Girard pointed out:
I have a hard time sympathizing when people complain about stuff like the Bay Transformers movies “raping” their childhoods or whatever, as if some sacrosanct heartfelt bit of children’s entertainment has been violated and transformed into something crass and commercial. The original cartoons were 30-minute toy commercials for kids, and the movies, as aesthetically abhorrent as they may be, are still well in that tradition.
I think this kind of relates to our discussion yesterday about children’s properties that retain genuine wonder. The “wonder” of the Transformers premise wears thin pretty quick if you’re not a boy with an age in the single digits. But for kids (especially probably boys), there seems to be something entrancing there.
In the same thread, David Dalrymple offered an astute breakdown of the original Transformers series to back up his assertion that the cartoon had, dare I say it, more than meets the eye:
Episodes of the original Transformers fall into three general categories:
1) Surprisingly smart if you can get past the cheap animation and gratuitous padding (e.g. “Secret Of Omega Supreme”)
2) Enjoyable on a camp level (e.g. “Sea Change”)
3) Unbearable on any level, sincere or ironic (e.g. “Roll For It”)
Thanks for your always-scintillating comments. We’ll see you all next week!