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.
Legend Of Zelda: Toal-light Princess
Drew Toal went to see The Legend Of Zelda: Symphony Of The Goddesses, a traveling orchestral homage that recently came to Manhattan. Ravenous Zelda fans mixed with equally ravenous Justin Bieberites at Madison Square Garden. Drew compared the iconic pop star with the unchanging hero of Zelda lore, Link. Spacemonkey Mafia ran with it and considered a world where Link grew past his prime:
Bieber’s transience is almost completely identical to Link’s. You talk about his music, and cursorily mention his place in the endless rotation of manufactured pop template; but that’s the heart of it. Sure, Bieber will fade, but the next iteration to come out of the dispenser is still going to experience the corporate musical career in the same prescribed steps. Boomerang, bombs, then Master Sword.
If Zelda games didn’t end immediately upon defeating Ganon, who’s to say you wouldn’t see Link grow fat, lose recognition in the kingdom he saved all those forgotten years ago, and try one last self-deprecating stab at relevance by going on a poorly produced reality show where he’s partnered with an alcoholic Deku Scrub? Then the execs at Triforce Inc. scout out the next fresh-faced kid to put on the green tights.
Bieber may make insipid music. But it’s worthless to be upset about him or his songs. He is the current placeholder in a much larger system that honors repetition. In that regard, he very much is like Link. Or Ganon, I guess.
Taking a classical approach, Lokimotive looked back to the classical era to explain why Nintendo’s repetitive storytelling works as well as it does:
We understand the scenario of a Mario game just like the Greeks understood the scenario of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex before they saw it, or the French understood the scenario of a Harlequinade.
It occurred to me that those people attempting to map a chronology of the Mario games or the Zelda games on one narrative continuum have it fundamentally wrong. At least in terms of how the games are probably conceived. These games are not really concerned with telling the epic tale of the adventures of one or two protagonists, or even a world. Indeed they’re just really the same game over and over again.
Which really isn’t that unusual in the grand scheme of things. The way stories were told for the longest time assumed that the audience was vaguely familiar with the conventions of the story, and the tension came from filling in the details.
Drew noted that the boisterous Zelda fans incorporated more audience participation into the show than your typical symphony crowd. Electric Dragon dug into the mores of symphony attendance with an in-depth history of the topic:
There’s been a lot of debate in classical circles about when to applaud. It was actually common before the 20th century for audiences to applaud during a work—usually at breaks between movements. Even applause during movements was not unknown at moments of high drama. A really interesting article by Alex Ross discusses the history of concert etiquette, including a description by Mozart of audiences cheering and applauding in the middle of a movement: “Right in the middle of the First Allegro came a Passage I knew would please, and the entire audience was sent into raptures—there was a big applaudißement.”
Apparently it was in the 1920s when conductors like Leopold Stokowski, Otto Klemperer and Wilhelm Furtwangler began to insist on silence. Ross quotes a biography of Stokowski in which he says to a meeting of women concert-goers, “When you see a beautiful painting you do not applaud. When you stand before a statue, whether you like it or not, you neither applaud nor hiss.”
There was a lot of opposition to this. That meeting voted overwhelmingly to continue applauding during the performance, and other composers and conductors spoke out against it. It seems to have only been post-World War II that “no applause until the end” became the widespread rule—possibly under the influence of audience-less studio recordings.
Confusingly, the new handheld game Epic Mickey: Power Of Illusion is a follow-up to not one but two separate Mickey Mouse games, one of which came out 22 years ago. Anthony John Agnello cleared this up—and more!—in his review, which delved into the game’s roots on the Sega Game Gear, one of the earliest full-color handheld systems. Power Of Illusion touts purposefully low-rent graphics in the style of its predecessor, Castle Of Illusion, a choice many found questionable, as Ardney articulated amid a discussion of another modern sequel with retro graphics, Mega Man 9,:
For the Mega Man 9 release, I remember Capcom did some faux box art in the style of the (notoriously awful) original U.S. Mega Man cover. It conveyed the sense that they were saying “Hey, what if you could go back in time and buy another Mega Man game? Here’s what it’d probably look and play like.” Because for that period of time, that sprite WAS Mega Man. He didn’t change at all over his many NES iterations. And sure, that had plenty to do with hardware limitations but at the same time, since Mega Man was “born” directly from that tech and that time, his look and feel was established by those same design limitations and decisions. It’s exactly what Mega Man was and was trying to be.
Contrast that with the case of Mickey, where you have a fairly defined look for a character in cartoons and other media. It can be argued that the original Castle Of Illusion was trying as hard as it could visually to BE Mickey. And it succeeded as well as it could for that time. But if the tech constraints weren’t there, would the game have looked the same? Or would it have looked more like a playable cartoon?
So to now go and re-adopt those constraints [in Power Of Illusion] when we know the technology is capable of supporting much better-looking sprites feels…odd. Maybe it would have helped if they released it with faux ’90s box art, faded as if it’d just been found in a bargain bin?
In Game Space, No One Can Hear You Dream
Drew Toal chronicled the successful crowdsourced campaign for L.A. Game Space, an upcoming venue intended to foster innovation and research in game design. Emperor Norton I posted a cheeky list of suggestions for the future researchers to explore, and a conversation about the mechanics of open-world games opened up. Eventually, His Excellence himself wrote about the importance of considering in-game time as a genuine commodity for future games:
The way that I can imagine properly open worlds working is by using the element of time properly. In most games, it is a worthless, unlimited quantity, and thus players are able to, say, goof around for hours on random things and places while their boyfriend is waiting to be rescued from ninjas, or whatever. On the one hand, it’s nice to give the player a bit of freedom. On the other hand, it’s obviously artificial, AND it leads to monstrous situations for the designer—the player has unlimited time to poke all the holes in their design.
Tying realistic consequences to the use of player time would cut dramatically into the amount of random wandering the player is likely to do—they’re not going to go to Cancun just for the heck of it if it means they lose automatically. Majora’s Mask had a system somewhat like this.
More Than A Feeling
On occasion, we Gameologisticians fancy ourselves a nice, fancy list of interesting tropes in gaming. Like our A.V. Club kinfolk, we dub these lists Inventories, and this week’s entry (another brainchild of the aforementioned Emperor Norton I) focused on gestures of affection. Commenters were, as ever, quick to fill out the list with more examples. Among them was Citric, who looked to a hug of paramount importance in Persona 4—a game I do not and will never understand:
All right, so I don’t know if this counts, but in Persona 4, if you’re trying to pick up a girl, you often seal the deal with a hug. I was trying to get my bone zone on with the long-haired party member, and then being monogamous, but given the nature of the game, I was being super-friendly with others too. One was this girl who did this move of turning her back on me and saying I could either hug her or leave. And I couldn’t bring myself to leave—it just seemed like I’d destroy her, even though she was totally fictional.
After that, I never talked to her again, so I wasn’t exactly a good boyfriend, but she was on the side anyway, and it’s not like our friendship rating went down, so whatever.
With considerably less passion, Saint Stryfe suggested the humorous gyrations of World Of Warcraft:
Don’t forget the dance moves of World Of Warcraft—the inter-factional symbol for “I’m here for a good time” is an Orc Male breaking out into MC Hammer-style jamming, or a Draenei female’s scintillating version of “Hips Don’t Lie,” or—going newer—the Pandaren female’s cute interpretation of “Carameldancen.”
Aww, look at that drunk panda go! Similarly, Moonside Malcontent brought up a very politically incorrect, but still kinda funny dance move from another online multiplayer game:
My personal favorite was from City Of Heroes. Typing “/drumdance” made your character powwow around like a Navajo extra from a mildly insensitive Western flick. And then when you were done, everyone’s character defaulted to the standard “hands on hips” heroic stance, adamantly refusing to make eye contact or have a frank discussion about indigenous rights. Not when there’s a city to save, citizen!
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