Keyboard Geniuses

Moriarty and Barclay on the holodeck

Wonder No More

Highlights from the week’s comment threads

By Matt Kodner • September 7, 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.

Don’t Touch That Tab
Handheld Video Game

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.

Plumber Plop
The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!

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
Nels Anderson

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
Transformers: Fall Of Cybertron

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!

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2,452 Responses to “Wonder No More”

  1. Effigy_Power says:

    Girard, you handsome devil… You have dirt on Soupy, don’t you? Naked pictures? Fake birth certificates? Clumps of fur found at a murder scene?

    -squints- This isn’t over.

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Pshaw, you guys and your silly little fight.  Neither of you can best MY record of never being featured at all!

      What’s that, you say?  I just don’t have any observations worth highlighting?  Well, yeah, maybe…but still!  Nobody thinks my astute observations about how this game is “awesome” or that game is “awesome”?

      I use “awesome” a lot.  I need a thesaurus apparently.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        So awesome is your ‘smurf’, a catchall verb, adjective and noun.  Even an adverb if you’re feeling spicy.
           Nothing wrong with some good, straightforward enthusiasm.
           Besides, you think Girard is sleeping at night?  Knowing all these Young Turks are gunning for his title?  
           Heavy is the avatar that wears the commenting crown. 

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          Oh, there we go.  I just need to speak all in character-isms.

          “Meow feeling smurfy meowday, schnarf schnarf!  Scooby-dabba-doo!”

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Now I want to kill you too, just for that.

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus I hoped it hurt you as much to write that as it did for me to read it.

        • Girard says:

          I think Kodner put my quote down at the bottom because he knew it would result in my scrolling down the page with a constantly rising sense of panic.

      • George_Liquor says:

        It’s OK. Soupy may not say it, but he loves you too.

      • John Teti says:

        I was shocked to learn that you hadn’t been featured. It just points out how hard it is to put this thing together each week, because there’s usually a lot to choose from. In any case, what George Liquor says is correct. I am—that is to say, Soupy is always happy to see your glowing green avatar grace our pages.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          John also accepts Visa and Mastercard.
          But not Discover.

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          Haha, thanks.  I was being party facetious, but at the same time acknowledge that the others, especially Spacemonkey, Effigy and Girard, have written much better comments than I have.  And I lost my Top 5 Liked/Commented positions when I went on vacation in May.

          Also, to avoid any attempt at reconciliation next week, for the next seven days my comments will be nothing but inane stupidity.

        • Staggering Stew Bum says:

          @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus My comments are always nothing but inane stupidity yet somehow have been Comment Cat’d twice, so that seems like a good approach.

          Also, I went to a party facetious once. The people there were complete arseholes.

          While I’m indirectly replying to @JohnTeti:disqus here, John do you think there’s a way we could fit in even more Borderlands 2 ads on the site because I occasionally scroll down and don’t have them searing my eyeballs.

        • George_Liquor says:

           @AuroraBoreanaz:disqus no need to sink to my level.

        • John Teti says:

          @Staggering_Stew_Bum:disqus — Ha, I actually have a soft spot for those Borderlands 2 ads because their sponsorship has paid for a fun feature that will run over the next two weeks — a feature that will not only offer ample opportunity for pleasingly pointless debate but will mark the return of Pete Strackmeier and Arthur Gameological! So hooray for Borderlands ads!

        • caspiancomic says:

           I would watch ten thousand ads to see the return of Pete Strackmeier

        • Staggering Stew Bum says:

          Return of Pete Strackmeier you say?

          *frantically calls attorney to stop legal action against Gearbox software marketing department*

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

          I had missed the Pete Strackmeier video when originally posted, so I went to watch it tonight.
             I was enjoying it, but thinking “The sound is awfully muddled” when I realized the headphones I was wearing weren’t plugged in and they were simply acting as mufflers against the sound blaring out of my computer speakers.
             That anecdote just felt apropos to the segment is all.

      • Asinus says:

        You don’t need a thesaurus, you just need to awesome up your posts a bit more!

  2. stakkalee says:

    I hope the shorter week brought you all joy, but I suspect those of you now back at school are lamenting that things like “writing papers” and “not failing” are taking time away from what you really want to be doing, which is playing video games drunk in your underwear (What?  How do you play video games?)  Might I suggest a switch to a job as a professional video gamer?  There are plenty of openings available – Personal Bodyguard.  Military Logistics.  Space Raider.  What’s that?  You aren’t skilled enough to rob and murder your way across a harsh and unforgiving electronic landscape?  You never will be with that attitude, mister!
    The most-commented article this week was What Are You Playing? with 150 comments (as of 3:45PM.  I’m sure there will be more before the day is out.)  @spacemonkey_mafia:disqus had the most-liked comment (non-KG) with 13 likes on his idea for a psychoanalyticly-themed shooter. Well done SM!  I’d play the hell out of that game.
    @tflamson:disqus and David Dalrymple (who’s Twitterpated) both get their plaid jackets today!  Welcome to the club, guys!  @effigy_power:disqus will be around shortly to conduct the “initiation”.  I believe Tom is new to the site, but I recognize David’s kindly visage from previous threads – we all hope you both continue sticking around!
    @BarbleBapkins:disqus gets a second pin, as does @Mercenary_Security_Number_4:disqus, who’s coming on strong, getting featured in a second Keyboard Geniuses in a row.  I’m still trying to get my formulas correct, but so far I don’t think anyone’s gotten a Three-peat yet, but if that’s incorrect I’ll let you all know.
    Also, @spacemonkey_mafia:disqus gets an eighth pin, which ties him for third place with @hobbesmkii:disqus.  It’s a funnyman face-off!  Fight!  Fight!  Fight!  Or should I say, Quip!  Quip!  Quip!
    And finally, @paraclete_pizza:disqus continues his dominance, unlocking the “Dirty Dozen” acheivement with his twelfth pin!  Can no one stop this powerhouse of a schoolteacher?
    That’s all for this week.  Let’s all go kill some orcs, or solve some puzzles, or whatever suits your fancy!  But remember, keep it scintillating!

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I seriously had to scramble to find out who Paraclete_Pizza is and why he has more mentions than me…
      He’ll always be @Girard to me, no matter who he actually is.
      Ah great… didn’t tag… whatever.

      • stakkalee says:

        Maybe that’s how Girard does it – he has multiple personalities!  He’s Girard, he’s Bakana42, he’s Paraclete Pizza, he’s anything you need him to be!

      • Girard says:

        The proper answer, as it so often is, is simply that Disqus be cray cray. I would love to just be Girard across the board, and you’d think that would be easy since I really only use Disqus on two sites, where that is my handle.

        Instead, no, I’ve got all manner of nonsense. At least I think now the fake tag name it insists on giving me (paraclete_pizza) is my Steam name, so there’s some utility to that. (Note: I just tried typing ‘[at]paraclete_pizza’, and the little Disqus autocomplete brought up ‘Girard.’ This is so confusing.)

        • Aurora Boreanaz says:

          If you have so many alter egos that you start forgetting all of them, it will likely result in a breakdown and some murders.  I saw it on Criminal Minds.  So be careful, “Girard”.

        • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

           at the other end of the spectrum, I purposefully choose to be a different name on every single community because I’m a paranoid weirdo.

    • Merve says:

      For the record, I’ve gotten the hat trick. But it was near the time this site started, when around 5 people used to post in the comments section.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I’m legitimately worried about how the new school year will affect my presence at Gameological. I’m getting up at 6 am at least twice a week and I don’t get home until after 5. Already I’ve had to just straight up not read certain articles out of sheer time constraints, and I gotta tell ya, it’s breaking my heart! But I’m going to keep reading and commenting AND staying up to date with my classes and assignments if it kills me. In the mean time, though, I suspect my coveted… secondish? thirdish? place in Soupy’s heart is going to get outclassed before long.

  3. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody, my review of the rootinest, tootinest, shootinest Genesis game, Lethal Enforcers II: Gun Fighters is now posted. Mosey on down to and stay a spell. And other Old West clichés.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Ha! This was great. Reading your description I was taken aback by how much the mechanics of this game have in common with the House of the Dead series- unless those are just the tropes of lightgun shooters across the board? Losing health for shooting civilians, signposts and closets being shot open to reveal prizes, that sort of thing. I used to love HotD2 on the Dreamcast, although I didn’t have a lightgun for it, so I had to use the controller like an idiot. One advantage though: You could hammer the right trigger and the A button simultaneously so that you reloaded with every shot. It turned your hand into an arthritic claw, but it was functionally an infinite ammo machine gun if you could do it fast enough.

      Also: you mention the Genesis having 64 colours, with I believe, but I never really understood what people mean when they say stuff like that. Is there literally a palette of 64 colours the Genesis can draw from, or does it support 64 colours on screen at once, or what? Does every game draw from a standardized palette, or does each game have its own unique 64 colour palette? One of my upcoming articles is related to this topic, so I’d love to know about what this means in more detail.

      And I can’t wait to hear about DOOM. There’s a lot to say about that bad boy.

      • Mr. Glitch says:

        Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. LE2 and HotD2 definitely have similar gameplay and are pretty representative of arcade light gun shooters in general. 

        Yeah, here ’64 colors’ refers to the maximum number of unique colors the Genesis can display at once. It selects those colors from a palette of 512. That’s a lot compared to the competition at the time, namely the NES which could only show 16 from a palette of 52. However the SNES blows them both out of the water with 256 on-screen colors from a palette of 32,768. 

        The number of colors a game console or a computer can display at once is dictated by the video hardware on board, and isn’t generally something that can be overcome through software. However, clever game designers could exploit peculiarities of the hardware to coax more from the console than specified, for example racing the beam on the 2600. But typically, these programming tricks would come at the expense of performance or stability or graphical glitches. (Like me!)

        Now interestingly, a few game carts have come with specialized hardware to augment the consoles they ran on. For example, the Super FX chip inside Starfox really is a separate processor, similar to a 3D graphics card in a modern computer. Sega followed suit with a 3D chip for Virtua Racer on Genesis. They also released the 32X add-on for the Genesis, but the less said about that monstrosity the better.

  4. Somehow, I always knew it would be a Transformers thread. 

  5. chifan305 says:

  6. Electric Dragon says:

    That alt-text gives me a definite “Darmok” vibe. Soupy, his laptop open. Teti and Heisler, eating cereal bars.