Keyboard Geniuses

Zelda symphony orchestra

A Brief History Of Ocarina Of Time

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • December 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.

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.

Ehhh-pic Mickey
Epic Mickey: Power Of Illusion

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
L.A. Game Space

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
A Boy And His Blob

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!

Thanks again for reading and commenting. And don’t forget to check out our revamped Tumblr, and shower us with virtual hearts. We’ll see you all next week!

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  • stakkalee

    And so another week has passed, and the hectic holiday season looms ahead, threatening to engulf us all in an avalanche of crass consumerism, forced levity and foul eggnog; but hey, if we’re lucky we may even get a day or two off!
    The most-commented article this week was, say it with me, What Are You Playing This Weekend, which moved into the lead at approximately 1:30PM EST today, and currently stands at 115 comments.
    And the top 5 most liked (non-KG) comments:
    1) – The very first comment of the week, @WaxTom:disqus got 24 likes on this little piece of advice.
    2) – @DestroyHimMyRobots:disqus got 18 likes for this realistic achievement.
    3) – @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets 16 likes on this pun.  Schmoviously.
    4) – With 15 likes, @Fluka:disqus brings us this simple observation.
    5) – And at 14 likes, @Douchetoevsky:disqus shakes his fist.
    We’re welcoming two new members to the Plaid Jacket Club today, @Ardney:disqus and @SaintStryfe:disqus.  Welcome aboard folks!  We always appreciate having new voices here, and we hope you’ll stick around.
    And our returning members – His majesty @EmperorNortonI:disqus gets a second stud, @Moonside_Malcontent:disqus and Electric Dragon of Google+ each get a fourth stud, and @lokimotive:disqus and @Citric:disqus are each at 5 studs.  Congrats folks, and Citric, love the new icon!  And finally, the sci-fi chimp @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets his fourteenth stud, which is enough to catapult him into third place behind @Effigy_Power:disqus and @ParacletePizza:disqus.  And once again, Girard feels a cold sweat on the back of his neck…
    Now the link dump, game history edition!  This was originally going to only be a couple of links, but my feed kept blowing up with video-game related articles, so you folks get to reap the benefit of my short attention span!  First, an article on the story of Pong, how it was developed, and how it was marketed.  Then, a brief history of how the Monopoly player tokens came to have their shape.  Also, the weekly Comic Book Legends Revealed! article at Comics Should Be Good includes a story about Mario’s first appearance in a comic book.  Here’s the Museum of Soviet Arcade Games – unfortunately the English translation is pretty limited, but you can at least check out the game cases, and if you don’t mind not knowing what you’re doing you can hop on over to the Russian version of the page and even try to play a few of the machines.  And finally, a short animated video about Nintendo’s product development.  Some good stuff at all five links.
    So until next week, enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • Chum Joely

      Looks like @Fluka’s link at number 4 is wrong. It points to Fyodor’s comment that is lsited at number 5.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky
        • Fluka

          NOOOOOOOOOO!

      • stakkalee

        Well crap.  It’s fixed now.  My most humble apologies @Fluka:disqus ; how about I take one of @Douchetoevsky:disqus ’s points away to make up for it?  Kidding, kidding.

        • Electric Dragon

          Still seems to be wrong.

        • stakkalee

          DISQUS!!!

          I think we’ll just need to wait until Disqus refreshes the page or something.  I’ve changed it 3 times and each time it reverts back when I refresh.  Disqus always makes me want to break things.

    • Effigy_Power

      Have… to do… better… must… draw… cats…

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        Don’t do it.  I drew a cat once in search of fleeting internet fame.
           And now?  Now I’m living in an alley, eating old shoe leather roasted over a Sterno can and huffing spray paint out of a gym sock.
           Used to be I had a roof over my head, where I could cook shoe leather on a proper stove and huff spray paint out of a satin pillow case, but I threw it all away because of that damn cat.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        You could always just resort to shameless self-promotion. I’m debating doing that myself, given that I managed to plop out another blog post this week. (I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that; Gameological Society Commenter may come by and mock me.)

    • stakkalee

      So by the by, do the line breaks show up correctly in my comment?  Every once in a while Disqus seems to spaz out and eat line breaks but not other html tags.  Stupid Disqus…

  • GaryX

    AV CLUB AWARDS

    If you’re not one of the over 900 people who’ve voted in the AV Club Commie Awards yet, do so now! You can vote/edit votes until next Friday over at http://www.avclubawards.com!

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky

      Wow, 900 people participated? I guess I really have no clue how many people comment on the AVC. 900 seems pretty impressive to me.

      • GaryX

        It is way, way, way, way more than I anticipated.

    • stakkalee

      Holy crap, 900!  How is SurveyMonkey to work with?  Is it all pretty automated or do you have to do a lot by hand?  I remember you said you were checking names manually.

      • GaryX

        It’s not bad! Had one hiccup so far, but I don’t really know what caused that.

        The nominations were a little difficult because open answer questions (like the first one on the main poll) don’t tabulate unless you pay 300 bucks a year for their gold membership or whatever. If you pay, it’ll breakdown the most common answers or whatever. I’m only doing the 20 bucks a month thing for this, so I basically get everything but that. On the plus side, you can download PDFs/Spreadsheets/whatever of your answers, so it’s pretty easy to just do a phrase search in Adobe and see how many it picks up. I took all that and put it into a spreadsheet for the nominations, and it sorted it using that.

        All the other questions, though, it does automatically (making this round much easier), and even lets me make charts and graphs with the data which is pointless but kind of amusing. On the ranking ones, it automatically averages out each individual ranking to assign the average position for each item as well, so it gives me a list based off that.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          Since you were counting open-answer questions using ctrl+f…would it be possible for someone to game the system by, say, listing multiple titles, or listing  a title multiple times – or were there safeguards against that?

        • GaryX

          @paraclete_pizza:disqus Ha yeah. That was also kind of hands on in that I had to go through each individual voter’s ballot and make sure that didn’t happen. The only time it did was when Yee Yee was voting for himself in everything. I also had Survey Monkey strike all but one instance of duplicate text in a ballot, but because I didn’t totally trust that, I also checked it myself.

  • http://twitter.com/plashmaster Bryan Seitz

    With the introduction of the Wii U to the market, I’m increasingly wondering if Nintendo will ever break out of their comfort zone, despite their innovations in technology This article does a good job of delineating their reluctance to innovate.

     Very interesting read: http://ahorizontalmyth.wordpress.com/2012/12/06/the-game-remains-the-same-marios-2d-comfort-zone/

  • JohnnyLongtorso

    Dark Souls 2 Dark Souls 2 Dark Souls 2! http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/12/08/dark-souls-2-announced-at-vga-2012-coming-to-xbox-360-ps3-and-pc/

    Basically the one game that I will be buying full price, day one next year. (I’m assuming it’s coming out next year since it’s been announced for the current-gen consoles.)

    • Effigy_Power

      Why is the font-size on that Forbes article so huge? Looks really odd.

      • HobbesMkii

         People who read Forbes regularly are the type of people who carry around three sets of reading glasses.

  • caspiancomic

    Does anyone check these threads after Friday? Cos I’ve got word to spread about Kickstarters, y’all. SPORTSFRIENDS is almost at the end of its pledging period, and not funded yet! Check it out, the project looks crazy rad.

    • http://www.backloggery.com/colliewest Colliewest

      Pretty much just us slow readers, i.e. me. Sorry but the LA Game Space squeezed the very last cent out of me. Might have to Kickstart Ramen+ soon (stretch goal: real vegetables!).

  • http://twitter.com/TheJadedJames James Alexander

    So video games have their own version of Godwin’s Law now? You heard it here first.