Keyboard Geniuses

PlayStation 2

In Memoriam

Highlights from the week’s comments threads.

By Matt Gerardi • January 11, 2013

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.

Long Live The PS2

Sadly, Sony shut down all production of the PlayStation 2 at the end of 2012. Father Anthony John Agnello provided a lovely eulogy for Sony’s prolific gaming machine. Commenter Joshua Saietz reminded us of the fate this news holds for the system’s many classic titles and compares the lack of game preservation to that of early films:

Equally depressing is that, with the PS2 gone and the PS3 no longer backwards compatible, a wide variety of classic PS2 games will eventually be unplayable. For a while you’ll still be able to find a used PS2 (perhaps as long as 10 years before the newest ones simply break down), but after that, you’ll be limited to illegal emulation and the handful of digital titles and HD remakes that Sony sees fit to produce. We have no real libraries for games, no real curation, and lot of the history of the medium is simply vanishing before our eyes. In analogy, games are where film was in the 1910s when, once sold, movies were discarded, burned, or sold for scrap, leaving only a tiny fraction of these important works available to future generations.

Taking us on a not-so-frequent-for-Gameological trip to the business side of games, Unexpected Dave broke down why the PlayStation 2 marked a major change for the way “successful” games were defined:

Prior to the PS2 generation, there was almost* no notion of a game “selling poorly”. If you released a game, there was a guaranteed demand of some sort. A publisher’s only task was to estimate (or manufacture) that demand, and plan accordingly. Now, higher development costs coupled with a more fragmented market (and the increasing divergence between critics and consumers) have made it increasingly necessary for every retail game to be a huge hit. What was once called a modest success is now a failure. There’s no longer such thing as the “AAA Niche Game.”

In the NES days, there was such a hunger for new games, and no real reviews available, that pretty much anything was guaranteed to sell.

Once magazines such as Electronic Gaming Monthly started providing some consumer advocacy, the cheap stuff started to get weeded out, genres had become more defined, and game developers were being recognized. In the ’90s, some games sold a million copies, most games sold a fraction of that, but sales generally conformed to expectations. Poorly reviewed games from unknown developers sold poorly. Well-reviewed action games with a marketing push sold well. RPGs were marketed to a niche market and performed accordingly.

This business model was all well and good when Square could put out a Final Fantasy game every year. But as games increased in size and resolution, the staff and development times increased. Obviously, you can’t spend 10 times as much on a sequel that will only sell as well as the original.

Elswehere, Jackbert322 explored the dynamics of the dysfunctional PlayStation family—specifically the much-ignored PlayStation Vita portable:

I’d say, what with the impressive hardware prowess yet total lack of successful marketing, the Vita is like a prodigy on the spectrum. Any attempts at acclimation are misguided and just worsen its social situation (Black Ops Declassified), while its academic achievements are ignored due to inherent prejudices (Persona 4 Golden). It also must deal with unsupportive parents who refuse to adjust to its skills and weaknesses (lower the memory card prices) and instead hold it to a standard set by its older siblings (PS1, PS2).

Aaand I’m extensively anthropomorphizing video games consoles on the internet…how Vita-ish of me.

I’d recommend checking out the full comment thread where you can pay your respects alongside the many affectionate memories and top-10 lists.

Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Snide
Jekyll And Hyde

Jason Reich relived the horrors that plagued the 1988 NES adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. In the comments, PaganPoet kicked off a string of absurd hypothetical book-to-game adaptations:

You just have to shake your head at some of adaptations people somehow were thought were good ideas. Is there also an NES adaptation of Wuthering Heights? You play Heathcliff, hurling insults and obscenities at Catherine’s ghost to keep her from trying to enter the manor.

You should probably go read the whole thing. One of our favorite contributions came from caspiancomic:

Waiting For Godot: a Streets Of Rage/Final Fight style beat-em-up with no enemies. Periodically the little “Go! Go! Go!” arrow appears—but they do not move.

This Is Your Brain On Collectibles
Star Trek: The Next Generation

Our current Special Topics In Gameology series continued with John Teti’s look at a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that dabbled in our societal fears of addiction through the use of a very strange video game. Enkidum brought the conversation back into reality by pointing out the ways games tap into our brains’ reward systems, making them something easy for us to get hooked on:

I’ve never seen this episode, but until the last few paragraphs I was thinking the show was not entirely out to lunch. The precise definition of addiction varies, but a lot of researchers say that what’s really going on is a malfunction in the reward-seeking circuits. So you do some activity (say, inject heroin, or play another 8 hours of World Of Warcraft) with the purpose of getting pleasure (this purpose need not be terribly conscious). So the idea of goal-oriented behavior is critical. Junkies aren’t necessarily addicted to being high, but rather to getting high. There’s a compulsive need to pursue the behaviors that lead to pleasure (or once led to pleasure—there’s plenty of alcoholics who are miserable drunks).

All games exploit reward circuitry. With something like, say, chess, the rewards of a good move are pretty much internal. When you start getting to Assassin’s Creed III-style collectibles and achievements, the game is broken down into hundreds of instances of a dozen or so different kinds of tasks, and each instance is rewarded. I think most of us who have played these kind of games will agree that after a while, there is nothing at all enjoyable about the process of trying to 100-percent [complete] them. Finding another frigging pigeon in Grand Theft Auto IV, getting another Templar flag [in Assassin’s Creed]—these tasks are just annoying after a while. But we still do them. And I’d argue that the reasons why we do them have a certain amount of overlap with the reasons why meth addicts get another hit—again, hijacked reward circuits.

Prompted by the mere mention of Grand Theft Auto IV’s pigeons, Staggering Stew Bum gave us a look into his struggle to clean the streets of the game’s 200 flying rats:

Oh, don’t talk to me about those GTA4 pigeons. To the guy at Rockstar who decided that finding and shooting 200 pigeons would be a nifty achievement: FUCK YOU.

I wanted “100 percent” [completion] in the game because my life has no meaning or purpose, so printed out a copy of the map showing the pigeon locations and systematically knocked them off. Paranoia set in frequently because I’d taken out about a quarter of the bastards as I came across them while playing through the game, and I couldn’t remember which ones I’d already eliminated. I would end up searching longer for the ones that I’d already removed. For the ones I did (eventually) find, most of the time it went like this:

1. Finally find pigeon
2. Shoot pigeon
3. Get two-star wanted rating that quickly escalates to four stars
4. Drive around for 10 minutes trying to shake the cops, eventually giving up and reloading last save and trying to go to happy place
5. Back to step 1.

My wife still gives me shit for wasting several evenings tracking down those bloody pigeons, and I don’t blame her. No sane individual would waste their time on something like that. I’d like to say that this experience was my moment of clarity, but no, I still put myself through all this sort of shit for meaningless trophies. It’s not addiction, I don’t think. I don’t know what it means. So, who’s totally pumped for GTA5?

Operation Enduring Pylons
Obama/StarCraft

This week Drew Toal retold the history of modern American warfare through ’90s strategy games. Effigy Power provided us with a complex and all-too realistic cheat for Total Annihilation:

There’s also this cheat in Total Annihilation where you can sell weapons to future enemies, supply your “allies” with enough money to push dope and train a small cadre of insane fanatics to fight wars in buttfuck nowhere for you (and all they ask in return is the complete suspension of human rights in “their” country and plenty of future-stock in drugs and terrorism).

Then, when the game-masters find out you cheated, you blame the weakest dude in your team while dashing out of the way. It’s fine, though, he won’t get charged really. Instead they lose all the evidence, and the guy you pawned off becomes the new opinions guy on G4. And the guy who was partially responsible for the whole disaster, because he played your rogue in the team, later becomes team leader himself, but only for a single game.

No wait, that’s not in the game, that’s in the actual Reagan administration.

Silly me. ^_^

That’s all, folks. As always, thank you for reading and commenting. We’ll see you next week.

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  • caspiancomic

    Wooo! Back on the horse! I was also really happy to see Jackie’s clinical diagnosis of the Sony family receive accolades from Soupy, since that was one of my favourite comments this week- insightful, accurate, and funny besides, and creatively delivered.

    Also, for anyone still polite and patient enough to tolerate my interminable self-promotion, my newest Game Theory article is available for your perusal. Returning to the topic of my pipe dream TWEWY sequel, I’ve this time outlines the game’s various brands, threads, and pins. I’ve got one more TWEWY article in the works (a more general rundown of some changes I would make to the game’s mechanics), and then I intend to move on to something less indulgent. This whole TWEWY thing really was supposed to be a one-off palette cleanser to take me from The Void to Sonic the Hedgehog, and I do intend for the tone of the blog to be academic, rather than creative. But, as I tend to do, I bit off a bit more than I could chew with this topic. I’d like to publish the last article in my TWEWY series by the end of the month, but February is also a possibility. After that, I’ll be moving on to a couple of essays on the Blue Blur.

    Thanks as ever for indulging me, both the commentariat here at Gameological, and Soupy for his attention.

    • PaganPoet

      Hi five, brother! Soupy has been benevolent to both of us this week, for the same topic! We’re the prettiest girls in the whole middle school!

    • Jackbert322

      Whoo, cool article! Very detailed and interesting. I liked the Persona 3 reference in the Koi Pond brand ;)

      Thanks for the praise about my Vita comment! I missed your Waiting for Godot comment, but it’s really funny. There’s actually a question on an application I’m doing about my favorite book in the last year and I’m writing about WfG; wish I could use your analogy.

      • PaganPoet

        I’m a fan of “Natural Double” myself. Wool skinny ties, green blazers and status debuffs? J. Crew Who? 

        And you know what? Dressing like a 90 year old IS in. At least I’ll be warm in my knit sweater.

        • Jackbert322

          I’m more of a “Work Horse” / “Heavy Weight” man myself; it gets cold up here, flannel shirts and baggy pants are welcome.

    • caspiancomic

       Hahaha, WAT. This comment was eaten by Disqus, so I posted a quickie replacement comment, which was then eaten by Disqus, and now the original has returned from beyond the grave. Also, I have two spectral comments from my boys Jack and Pagan that have been lost to the aether.

      DISQUUUUS!!

    • Cloks

      I’d play Waiting For Godot but only if you got to be Zero Mostel.

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

      Good, God, man, that is an impressive amount of thought and work. I think this project will become your “Mentaculus.”

  • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

    Thank heavens Soupy escaped the Shredder.

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    Are illegal ROMs the closest thing we have to actual game archives?  That’s kind of sad.  But at the same time, almost inspiring, as there is no official institution out there, keeping games alive, but a dedicated group of technophiles on the internet, making sure that there’s a working ROM of ActRaiser out there and that the newest build of PSX is the most stable.

    But their sites are littered with ads for Russian women who want to meet YOU! so….

    • PaganPoet

      I’d be delighted to meet Russian women. Preferably old little babushkas with names like Liudmila and Yekaterina who can cook up a great cabbage roll.

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

        Babushkas MEAN BUSINESS. They are the un-fuck-with-able badasses of the Russian Federation. I’ve seen the little babushkas who man all the turnstile security kiosks in the Moscow metro chase down and totally break the spirit of towering hooligans who tried to get a free ride by jumping the turnstile. I’ve been shouted down by irate docent babushkas for merely looking in the direction of a gallery that was closed for renovation at the Treytyakov museum. They are a force of nature.

        However, if you meet them out of uniform at their apartment, you will in fact be delighted, and they will be delightful, and you will leave their home with a belly swollen with all the borscht and little teacakes they foisted upon you.

        • stakkalee

          Russian museum ladies.  ‘Nuff said.

        • PaganPoet

          @stakkalee:disqus That article is the reason the internet was invented. We’re done now.

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

          @stakkalee:disqus Holy crap, you are on point with the relevant links today, dude. This is making me seriously nostalgic.

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

      The illicit and/or pseudo-licit world of emulation is, yeah, pretty much the only thing ensuring that digital culture will be appropriately archived, not just in terms of ripping and distributing ROMs and disk images, but in terms of ensuring that those programs remain playable on contemporary hardware.

      Console emulators as well as emulators for old PC OSes and engines came out of the hobbyist/emulation scene, and their hard work is often at the core of most sanctioned ‘archival’ efforts – like GOG games that run because of and embedded DOSBox wrapper, or LucasArts/Humongous Entertainment games that are ported to modern systems using ScummVM.

      There’s also amazing investigative archival work going on with projects like Frank Cifaldi’s Lost Levels, and part of that work is ripping and distributing ROMs of the unreleased games.

      On one hand, it’s great that the brunt of this effort exists in a sphere where it’s not beholden to increasingly restrictive intellectual property rights and corporate desires/needs to maintain control of trademarks – basically cutting the gordian knot of rights issues when so many different platforms and companies (many since vanished or absorbed into others) are involved. On the other, it’s kind of unnerving that there’s no established, library-of-congress-style archive for this stuff.

      There’s a move in that direction, though. MoMA’s design department is cultivating a collection of games which will (hopefully) be maintained indefinitely by their curatorial staff in the same way that, say, archivists keep Rothko’s unprimed paintings from eating their own canvases. And the Library of Congress itself has started archiving games, too.

      These centralized efforts are important for legitimizing this work, but I suspect that the complexity and diversity of the artform, coupled with the litigious IP atmosphere of new media in pop culture will probably mean that crowdsourced, hobbyist-driven, barely-legal ripping and emulation will still likely be the most robust and thorough archival effort.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp Unexpected Dave

      I hope that the next time Congress revisists IP laws, it carves out a fair dealing exception for the purposes of archiving. Eventually, all these games will belong to the public domain, and it would be a tragedy if they were all gone by then.

      As long as ROMs remain “illicit”, the market will always be unreliable. There are dozens of sites with good collections of ROMs, but there’s no one “perfect” ROM site. A definitive ROM site would be targeted almost immediately, just as Napster was in its initial incarnation. As you’ve stated, many ROM sites are the digital equivalent of a common bawdy house, complete with the digital equivalent of VD.

  • Enkidum

    Another victory for Team Enkidum! Although I gotta say I love SSB’s post more, just for the level of detail he goes into. Every one of his confessions proves that somewhere, somehow, there is someone who’s at least as screwed up – possibly even more so – than I am. And yeah, fuck those pigeons.

    • HobbesMkii

       Do you really think there’s a Team Enkidum?

      • Enkidum

        Well, there’s me, and this homeless guy down the street who I pay to say hi to me. That’s a team, surely?

  • stakkalee

    I just want to say, it’s so great to have Gameological back.  I was seriously at a loss, folks; didn’t know what to do with my time.  Who else is going to listen to me ramble about video games – my family?  As if!  No, I’ll take this group of weirdos, defectives and malcontents any day of the week.  Enough, I’m tearing up; let’s get to it!The most-commented article this week was, as usual, What Are You Playing This Weekend? with 226 comments; it just beat Anthony John Agnello’s earnest tribute to the Playstation 2, which had 215 comments.  Now for the top 5 most-liked non-KG comments:1) @Paraclete_Pizza:disqus gets 19 likes for some reasonable disagreement.2) @caspiancomic:disqus gets 11 likes for this tender reminiscence.2) @unicyclistperiscopes:disqus also gets 11 likes for sharing a little too much information.2) And for the 3-way tie for second, @Citric:disqus gives Zynga a great idea!5) Finally, @PaganPoet:disqus gets 10 likes for a Simpsons reference. A Simpsons reference from an AV Clubber?  No way!We only have one new inductee today, Joshua Saiewitz!  Welcome aboard, Joshua!  He’s a GooglePlusser, so let’s see if Disqus freaks out (@google-a2dffa265602ebcea7347d07a72c2bb9:disqus.)  Well, as The American Gentleman’s Guide to Politeness and Fashion says, “A well-dressed man will never be the first to set a new fashion; he will allow others to hazard the innovation, and decline the questionable honor of being the first to advertise a novelty.”, so Mr. Saiewitz, as the newest member of the Plaid Jacket Society it’s your duty to be the first to try the wooden bowtie.  Let us know if you get any splinters!And our returning members: @Jackbert322:disqus and @UnexpectedDave:disqus each repeat from the last Keyboard Geniuses, with their 2nd and 3rd stud respectively.  @PaganPoet:disqus gets a fourth stud, and @Enkidum:disqus and @Staggering_Stew_Bum:disqus each get their fifth.  @caspiancomic:disqus is at 15, and @Effigy_Power:disqus moves into second place with a seventeenth stud, leaving @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus in third.And finally, Linkdump – Maker Edition!  Lots of cool stuff this week.  First, a gorgeous replica of the dagger Keening from Skyrim.  Then, an equally stunning replica of the Zer0 Sword from
    Borderlands 2, complete with light-up action!  Also, someone modded their external hard drive to look like Quadratus from Shadow of the Colossus.  Finally,
    papercraft!  The artist Destro2K has created a series of folded paper models of various videogame characters.  There are some very intricate models, plus plenty more at his DeviantArt
    page.So that’s it for the first week back in Soupy’s golden glow!  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

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

      I may not have turned Soupy’s eye this week, but it’s nice to know that I AM THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION.

      I WILL GO TO THE MATT FOR YOU, GAMEOLOGISTS.

      • Effigy_Power

        Don’t worry about Matt, worry about Effigy.

        • PaganPoet

          I’ll NOT worry about Effigy! 17 studs, indeed!

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

          Rather than worrying about you specifically, I tend to worry about anyone who is in arm’s length of you. I’m sure you understand.

          (You are TERRIFYING.)

        • Effigy_Power

          I am so not terrifying…
          -slowly turns back to massive screen depicting world map and unlabelled dots in strategic locations around the globe while quietly chuckling-
          …not that it will matter for much longer.

      • stakkalee

        I found a link specifically for you Girard – I don’t know if you follow the Fake Science blog but they did Choose Your Own Adventure book called My Blind Date…With Science!  Knowing your, shall we say, predilections, I thought it would be right up your alley.

        Man, that sounds even dirtier than I intended it to.

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

          I have done the impossible and seduced the asexual Nikolai Tesla! To the dulcet tones of dubstep, even.

        • Effigy_Power

          Cleaning beakers sounds phallic. And yet every fiber of my body told me not to follow the strange man to a date.

  • http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com/ Mr. Glitch

    Hi everybody, Mr. Glitch here. I’m ringin’ in the New Year Sega-style with a brand-new how-to guide on adding s-video support to a model 1 Genesis. Check it out at http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com. And stay tuned for a full review of the Genesis run-and-gun classic, Gunstar Heroes to be posted soon!

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

      I like the easy-to-follow hardware-hacking tutorials on your site (well, I guess just this and the NES red-light thing). The reviews are swell, too, but I think it adds a little something special to the blog to have something that has practical utility in addition to being well-written and interesting.

      • http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com/ Mr. Glitch

        Thanks, I appreciate that! I get a kick out of writing these articles, and it’s very gratifying to know people also enjoy reading them.

    • caspiancomic

       Holy Cow dood, Gunstar Heroes is The Best Thing. I can’t wait for your write up!

      • http://mathmanmustdie.blogspot.com/ Mr. Glitch

        Well wait no longer, it’s up! I fired it up again to get the screenshots and ended up playing through the whole thing again. 

  • The_Misanthrope

    I would say, while the video game market was not as fragmented back then, there was quite a lot of shovelware published at the end of the PS1′s lifespan.

    • Citric

      Wasn’t there some game about ET gardening?

  • Joshua Saiewitz

    Whoah, I’m a Keyboard Genius! This is more exciting than it should be, even with my name misspelled. Thanks for the wooden bow-tie.

    • Enkidum

      Dude, I’m sorry to say this, but I think your name is misspelled even when it’s spelled correctly.

      And welcome to the team. Nothing will ever be the same.

  • Effigy_Power

    Picked for an Iran-Contra joke.
    I feel so topical.

    • PaganPoet

      You’re a veritable Murphy Brown.

      • Effigy_Power

        -Something something Desmond Tutu-

  • stakkalee

    So true story: I’m settling in to enjoy some Friday night gaming, I’ve got a nice glass of scotch, just a few ice cubes to chill it, I fire up a copy of Assassin’s Creed 3 I borrowed from my gaming buddy.  I get about 2 hours in – I’m enjoying it so far; I know Haytham isn’t the main main character, but I’m digging him, he’s rocking a red bow in his ponytail, gravelly voice, badass, world-weary.  The swordfight onboard the ship goes well, a simple counter-stab that leaves my adversary dead after just a second or two.  We get to Boston, rent a room, and I start wandering around, meet Ben Franklin for the first time, then after the first sequence I see a map icon saying “Interactive conversation” so I head towards it, and right in the middle of Ben extolling the virtues of banging an older woman my wife walks into the room and asks “What are you playing?”  Thanks, Ubisoft, for making Ben Franklin, and by extension me, into a disgusting lech.

    • Effigy_Power

      I don’t know about you, but if I remember my apocryphal history of the American Revolution, that’s exactly what Franklin was.

      • stakkalee

        No, I know that’s the truth, but there’s a difference between “he was a lech” and someone walking in while Ben Franklin is basically telling you “And reason 7 is, if you put a bag over her head you won’t even know you’re banging an older chick!”