Keyboard Geniuses

Injustice: Gods Among Us

Wrath Of The Glitch King

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • April 26, 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.

The Many Guises Of Evil Superman

Drew Toal punched, kicked, and bashed his way through the new DC Comics fighting game Injustice: Gods Among Us. In order to justify its Mortal Kombat-esque set-up, the game conveniently dips into the multiverse to cherry-pick a roster of heroes and villains who can whale on a fascist Superman. Stakkalee delved into the tradition of “reimagining” a villainous Superman:

In 1991, Dan Jurgens wrote Superman Annual #3, part of the Armageddon 2001 crossover, in which we see a “possible future” where Batman has to take down a grief-stricken Superman who’s disarming the world’s nuclear arsenals by force in response to the death of Lois Lane—killed in a nuclear explosion along with a chunk of Metropolis.

Mark Waid wrote Kingdom Come, a seminal Elseworlds story in which, following the death of Lois Lane by the Joker, Superman retreats from the world but then returns in a bid to enforce peace through violence and internment camps. It doesn’t end well.

Then in 1997, an episode of Superman: The Animated Series titled “Brave New Metropolis” (with writing by Stan Berkowitz) showed us an alternate timeline in which Lois’s death causes Superman to go over the edge and team up with Lex Luthor to rule Metropolis as a brutal police state.

In 2003, we got not one but two examples of despot Superman, though neither story quite fits the trope. In the Elseworlds story Superman: Red Son (by Mark Millar) an alternate universe Superman fights for the Soviets, though Lois Lane is alive. In the Justice League Unlimited episode “A Better World” (another one by Stan Berkowitz) a parallel universe Superman, along with the rest of the Justice League, turns totalitarian after Lex Luthor murders The Flash.

Virtual Landscapers
Starseed Pilgrim

John Teti wrapped his head around Starseed Pilgrim, a satisfying game about cosmic gardening. Going off on a tangent, Spacemonkey Mafia reported back from a trip to an art exhibit drawing from virtual landscapes:

My father was in town this weekend, and at his request, we went to see the MO/RE/AL exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Not surprisingly for an exhibition concerned with the ease by which reality and perception can be manipulated, there were a few items dealing specifically with video games and digital landscapes.

Specifically, there were a few large prints from Joel Lederer’s The Metaverse Is Beautiful series consisting of capturing and creating collages from Second Life landscapes.

These weren’t direct snapshots. The images were all manipulated in some way. Sometimes to mimic classic Hudson River School style landscapes, others as a foliage-heavy pop-collage kaleidoscope. They were printed on a matte, cold-pressed paper to further distance the images from their digital origins.

It felt to me that Lederer relies on the viewer to have no substantive relationship with gaming in order to imbue the era-specific and genre-specific world of Second Life some transgressive startle.

All of this verbal bolus is just to say, it appears that video games may actually remain the best medium to explore video games.

I love seeing a medium I enjoy that has been long absent from broader discussion finding some integration into the fine arts. My own lack of enthusiasm for Lederer’s work is no reflection on games being explored in other mediums.

But the pastoral, abstract simplicity described here strikes me as a more…efficacious application of the ideas of fabricated spatial and chronological growth than those prints.

Roswulf expanded on the concept of exploring video games through other media:

My knowledge of art criticism approaches zero, so I may be missing something very basic, but I’m wondering if it is something unique about games that makes “video games…remain the best medium to explore video games.” Does the same not apply to other media? Are not movies typically the best way to explore the nature of movies, music the best way to explore the nature of music, etc.?

Obviously it is possible to create an effective cross-media examination of a type of art; my go-to example is Sunday In The Park With George, musical theater examining Seurat’s painting. But this strikes me as the exception rather than the rule (also my favorite thing ever, but that’s not really on point).

Generally speaking, cross-media translation seems more valuable either to explore the differences between various forms of expression—a game example would be the Great Gatsby side-scroller—or to explore a specific, integral element of a piece that exists in some sense independent of its current medium in a new form—a game example would be The Walking Dead.

Star Trekkasaurus
Star Trek: The Video Game

In our Out This Week roundup, Drew Toal yet again fulfilled his sage duty and poked fun at a bevy of upcoming games. The presence of a new Star Trek game sparked a larger discussion about the latest entry in the rebooted film series. Amid it all, Mercenary Security Number 4 chronicled what really went wrong for the Star Trek flicks:

The downfall of Trek is not J.J. Abrams fault. The last Trek movie to really be about alien species coming together and able to work out their differences was Star Trek VI. And I know this is blasphemy, but the seeds for Trek’s downfall were laid in Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Kahn. Why? Because it told movie makers that a Trek movie was about the captain defeating a villain in space, not about finding new understanding. In “Space Seed” and even in the ultimate Kirk vs. Alien episode, “Arena,” Kirk (mistakenly thought of as being a cowboy in modern opinion of the show) never lost sight of the possibility for reconciliation with his enemy. But then Star Trek: The Motion Picture was disappointing, and Khan was cool, so more and more the movies after that took the vengeance-lust of movie-Kahn while leaving out the nuances.

So go poo-poo Abrams all you want. He certainly deserves it for not righting the ship. But he didn’t breach the hull. That was a crack that grew slowly over a time from over-copying of what by itself was a great single Trek story that should have never been made into a template.

Speaking of Star Trek, we’re giving away five Xbox 360 copies of the upcoming game! What are you waiting for? Here are the details!

Shining Farce
Shining Force

Drew Toal also revisited Shining Force, an old role-playing game that sports a sprawling roster of ancillary heroes, for a To The Bitter End column. Cloks (whose battle-hamster avatar happens to come from the very game!) chimed in about why Force’s large cast is one of its greatest assets:

I think what I really love about this title is just how optional some parts of it were. I don’t know if it’s possible to play a major RPG in this generation and miss out on recruiting half of the characters simply by not exploring every nook and cranny of the game world, but Shining Force made you work to build a party. From the very first battle, there was the easily missed monk, Gong, who could only be found by leaving the battle—exactly the opposite of what any reasonable player would do—and wandering around the world map until you found a nondescript hut. The best hidden character had to be Musashi, who you never saw in the non-battle world; you read a sign and it simply stated as a fact that he had joined your party. I don’t know if it’s obvious, but I love this game. I may have to start it up again soon.

I Got 99 Pokémon And Missingno Ain’t One
Halo 3

This week’s Q&A (conceived by yours truly) covered our favorite gaming glitches. We had our fair share of whacked out stories, but Wax Tom’s cautionary tale took the cake:

Glitch? Aye, I got your glitch.

It was my first video game ever, a little game called Pokémon Blue, played on my brand-spanking new Game Boy Color. I’d already watched the show, I already knew the names of half the Pokémon available. But those were just playthings compared to this beautiful little cartridge. I was addicted in a way I had never been to something before and that I wouldn’t be again until I discovered cigarettes.

I switched Pokémon out and into my party periodically, but there were two Pokémon that I never put into a box. The first was my Blastoise, evolved from my very first Pokémon ever. The second was a little more random, a Dugtrio. Not the Pokémon you’d expect somebody to latch onto, but my god, he was a TANK!

Now, many a trainer had heard whispers on the schoolyard about a cheat in the game. I’m sure many of you know it well. You speak to the man who, after having his coffee in Viridian City, would show you how to catch a Pokémon. Immediately after this, you fly to Cinnabar Island and go to the east coast, where you swim up and down the shorelines. If you do this just right, you will meet a Missingno. This block of static and code was unlike any Pokémon and, so the whispers said, was near impossible to catch. However, if you encountered him, he would make the 7th item in your bag multiply 99 times. This was useful if you had a rare candy and wanted to just pump up a weaker Pokémon in your party.

I wasn’t one for the rare candy bit. I thought it took the fun out of it. However, once I discovered you could do this with the Master Ball, and thus not have to worry ever again about whether you could capture a Pokémon or not, I just couldn’t resist. So one Friday afternoon, I did the Master Ball cheat and caught all the legendaries with ease. It seemed that soon I would, in fact, have caught them all, all 150. I just had to wait for the weekend to finish out.

But I got greedy. 150 was just not enough.

Then I figured, hey, Master Balls can capture anything, right? So what if, just out of curiosity, one used such a Master Ball on Missingno? Could you possibly capture a Missingno? It’s stats always appeared to be at level 99 whenever I saw it, and I only had two level 99 Pokémon in my collection at the time (Blastoise and Dugtrio, natch). If this guy is so hard to capture, and at such a high level, it must be the ultimate Pokémon, right? I had to try it.

So I talked to coffee man, flew out to Cinnabar, and swam for a bit. Sure enough, I found a Missingno out on that shore. I threw out one of my many Master Balls, let it struggle, and presto! The beast was captured! When it got into my party, however, its look changed. It became a Kingler for some reason, but it still had the level 99 stats. I was on top of the world.

Eventually I got bored, as you do, with Missingno/Kingler and decided I’d pull out a different Pokémon to play with for a while. I’d still be able to show him off Monday, after all. I went to the nearest Pokémon center, put him in the box, took out another, and went about my business. Soon enough I could see that I was running out of battery. I diligently saved my game, turned off my Game Boy, changed the batteries out, then turned it back on.

But something was wrong. When I got to the start menu, there were only two available choices: New Game and Options. No Continue.

This couldn’t be right. It just couldn’t! I’d saved and everything! I flipped the switch on and off a couple times in the desperate hope that it would change back but it was to no avail. It was gone, all gone. All that work, all those Pokémon, all the badges and experience. Gone.

Nobody at school believed me on Monday, insisted that I didn’t catch Missingno and just accidentally started a new one but made up the story to save face. But it was real, dammit! I saw it! I did it! And there was no way to prove it.

I lost it all. Thanks to some stupid glitch and a greedy young mind.

What a yarn! Elsewhere, when the time came to beat a Star Wars game, Andrew Kemp ran into a unfortunate non-dilemma:

I chose to fight the Emperor at the end of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, so I left Darth Vader behind on the lower floor and ascended to the upper platform (now encased in a force field) to complete my journey—and get the all-important good guy ending I felt the character deserved.

Midway through the battle, the game glitched when I leaped to escape an Emperor death lightning blast, and I wound up on the outside of the force field looking in. I couldn’t get back in. I couldn’t even move effectively, as if I was locked into some 2D plane in a 3D map. I finally leaped up and allowed the Emperor to kill me.

When I restarted, the game decided that I was on the lower platform, so now I was fighting Darth Vader. No amount of restarting fixed it. As far as the game was concerned, the matter was decided. I beat Vader and got the evil, bad guy ending.

The game glitched hard enough to change my destiny.

Well, that’s it! Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week.

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59 Responses to “Wrath Of The Glitch King”

  1. DrFlimFlam says:

    Missingno was truly the Comment of the Week. Many of the bug stories reminded me just how ephemeral what we do in games is. I think much of the draw of games is that our progress is saved, frozen in time so we can revisit them, even if we never actually do. But games often find a way to remind us that nothing is permanent, especially a single file, and leave us with only memories.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      Ugh, don’t remind me. When I was younger, and it really wasn’t that long ago, I wanted to own every game, forever; not the soundest of plans. It’s honestly embarrassing how many games I bought during that period, and I scarcely need to emphasize that I haven’t played most of them.

      I’m better now, but not by much, considering the number of games I buy through Steam. One of these days I’m going to need to go through all of the games in my closet and get rid of most of them.

      • HobbesMkii says:

        I’m this way, but I tell myself it’s better now that I only allow discounted games to breach the walls of my willpower. 

        I mean, Steam has a sale every freaking day, so it’s not exactly a major achievement, but it’s still an achievement right? One I’ll get points for?

        • duwease says:

          Now that Steam has its own meta-badges, I am shocked.. SHOCKED.. that one isn’t something along the lines of “Buy 10 Steam Summer Sale games”.

          And a little disappointed, because I like empty recognition for doing things I was naturally doing anyway.

        • zebbart says:

          To NOT buy every Humble Indie Bundle would be an immoral act, right?

          The appearance of that charity/promotion single handedly got me back into gaming, or mostly buying games really, as I now have about 5 games in my Steam library for every one that I have played more than 5 minutes.

    • Roswulf says:

      Although sometimes what was lost can be reclaimed at unexpected times. About a year ago I stumbled across my girlfriends old Gameboy. The screen was barely readable, but there was a Pokemon Blue Cartridge in the back, and once I replaced the batteries, the game presented me with a last millenium save, a little more than halfway through the game. Apparently at 12 she adored Eevee. Over the next month or so, the two of us teamed up to complete what she had never managed to do so long ago (well not *complete* complete, but at least to beat the story portion of the game).

      I found the whole thing delightful, especially as somewhere there is a cartridge of my sister’s old Pokemon Blue with my own mostly-completed save. I hope somebody stumbles across it and thrashes that dastardly rival on my behalf.

  2. WaxTom says:

    You like me! You really like me!

    • caspiancomic says:

       Oh God, that comment….

      *Second dignified tear*

    • PaganPoet says:

      I like the way you started your comment. Like a grizzled old sea captain in a run-down pub somewhere in New England, sharing your experiences with some wide-eyed kid from the city looking to make a name for himself by catching Ol’ Sawtooth.

      • WaxTom says:

        This week I’ve been writing a lot of purple prose for a creative writing class I’m doing so I had a bit of a lead up.

  3. stakkalee says:

    Well we had a brief moment of despair yesterday, but fortunately John was around to castigate Disqus until it started behaving again.  Whew!  Change sucks.
    Our most-commented article this week was the Q&A with 232 comments, but just barely!  I fully expect the WAYPTW thread will have eclipsed that number by the end of the day (possibly by the time I post this!)  And on to our Top 5 Most Liked comments:
    1) With 26 likes, @Jackbert:disqus confesses to murder. Hilarious murder.
    2) @Enkidum:disqus gets 25 likes while praising the tight plotting of a comic book.
    3) Following right behind, @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets 21 likes for proposing an alternative explanation.
    4) With 20 likes, @zerocrates:disqus discusses the emergent properties of Chaos.
    5) And tied for fifth place with 17 likes each, @caspiancomic:disqus compliments a fellow commenter and @feisto:disqus channels David Caruso.
    Good stuff this week!  And on to our new members – everybody give a big welcome to @Roswulf:disqus, @WaxTom:disqus and Andrew Kemp (@facebook-681115544:disqus)!  Come on down and get your plaid jackets!  Plus we have 4 returning members this week: @cloks:disqus and @Mercenary_Security_Number_4:disqus are each getting a sixth stud for their seventh Soupy selections, your humble interlocutor gets his eighth stud, and @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus moves back into a tie for third with @caspaincomic:disqus with his 20th stud!
    We only had 1 assist this week, but it turned out to be a crucial one!  That’s right, with his assist on Roswulf’s comment, his Top 5 placement and his Keyboard Genius mention @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus is the first member of the Plaid Jacket Society to achieve triple threat status!
    And for the linkdump we have some more video game art!  Dutch artist Metin Seven has a series of art prints in his “Inside Video Games” project that give the viewer a different perspective on some old 8-bit games, and artist Brent Watanabe has an installation called For(){};, a fascinating “game” projected onto 3 acrylic panels.  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      I’m a triple-threat!

      *Gives thumbs-up -gouging self in eye, reels head-first into wall, drops Franklin Mint commemorative plate onto head*

      • Roswulf says:

         I’m just glad to have assisted on the assist.

        *Surreptitiously grabs Franklin Mint commemorative plate for future Soupy bribes*

      • stakkalee says:

        “Can’t comment, can’t pun, can draw a little.”

        Kidding, obviously.  I’ve been meaning to compliment your new avatar – it reminds me of a Ghost Rider/Starlight Express mash-up, or some FABULOUS alternate reality version of Kirby’s Black Racer.

    • Mr. Glitch says:

      I’d really like to see FOR(){};. It looks like it came from an alternate reality where the Vectrex was king shit.

    • Cloks says:

      I feel like I’ve been getting these a lot lately. The article with my avatar in it was pandering, plain and simple.

  4. George_Liquor says:

    I’d say yes and no to Mercenary_Security_Number_4’s point. Both movies were directed by patently non-Star Trek directors, but while ST2 is a whiz-bang action flick compared to its predecessor, it still deals with much stronger themes than the reboot does. In ST2, Kirk is a much more introspective character. He regrets the decisions in his life that lead to alienating his wife and child, and ultimately creating a madman in Khan. He finally learns what it’s like to face failure, and he becomes a wiser person for it. Star Trek: The Reboot exists to put Kirk in the Captain’s chair in the flashiest way possible, and offer a little fan-service along the way.

    • The_Helmaroc_King says:

      I didn’t watch any of the TV series, and I enjoyed the movie reboot, but the way it put Kirk in the captain’s chair was the part of the movie that bothered me the most. It really felt unearned, and the way he swaggered about once he was there only seemed like it would be endearing if I was the kind of person that wanted to be him.

      • George_Liquor says:

        If you can get around the stupid character of Mr Plinkett himself, Red Letter Media has come up with a brilliant analysis of the reboot, and how it compares to the series & previous ST movies.

        My complaint isn’t that the reboot ruined Star Trek, (The TNG movies took care of that) it’s that it’s a lazy movie. It missed the opportunity to become something greater than generic action schlock stamped with the Star Trek logo.

  5. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Weekend Prompt!
    I’m playing Guacamelee! and having a lot of fun with it.  It’s absolutely beautiful and much more reflex and timing intensive than I thought it would be.   I have died many times.
       But I’m sad that a game that relies so much on charm and personality would go the silent protagonist route.  Having enemies talk at you as you stand silent, cycling through your heaving chest animation is a sorely missed opportunity for some awesome repartee.
       
       What antiquated game design element still lingers despite any good reason that you want to see dissapear?  

       I’m removing autosaving as a choice, because that’s not opinion, that’s straight-up fact.  All things require autosave.

    • PaganPoet says:

      There’s actually a really charming bit about that, though, right before finally fighting Flame Face in Guacamelee! He walks over to you (in rooster form) and says “I suppose I should tell you my story…” Cue Juan transforming back to human form and uppercutting him and the boss fight starting.

      For me, I would have to say mistaking shoddy controls or badly implemented gameplay mechanics for genuine difficulty. I love difficult games, but they have to be difficult in a way that’s fair to the player. 

    • Chalkdust says:

       I’ve enjoyed Guacamelee so far, except I am completely stuck on the Jaguar boss fight.  He doesn’t have a pattern, he’s really fast and juggles me mercilessly, and I’m still getting my super-moves (which break his differently colored shields) sorted out.

      Aside from that, I complained at Drinkbox via Twitter for not making the soundtrack available separately (I will pay money!)

      Oh yeah, and I don’t suffer from epilepsy but the power-up screens for Guacamelee threaten to invoke it in me anyway,

      • PaganPoet says:

        Yeah, Jaguar is pretty tough. You’ve really got to take advantage of the dodge roll in that battle, but still be on the look out for the charge attack and the fire pillar since the dodge won’t protect you from those. And when you bring down his shields, knock him into the air with an uppercut so you can get in a decent sized combo on him before he brings a shield back up.

      • The headbutt attack is your best friend in the Jaguar fight. It sends him flying into a wall and he bounces back either right to you or nearby where you can hit him a few more times before he recovers.

      • Chalkdust says:

        Update: I beat Jaguar!  I attribute it to you all’s moral support.

    • HobbesMkii says:

      Shield/health recharging.

      • EmperorNortonI says:

        If it’s earned through leveling or item tradeoffs, it’s fine. I don’t mind how it works in Borderlands, because you have to pay to get it.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      Here’s something that I WISH would become an antiquated design trope – free health and ammo powerups everywhere. They are silly (thanks, bad guys, for leaving crates full of magic health everywhere in your base!), they make the game-ness of the game much more obvious, and they often break the difficulty of the game.

    • Fluka says:

      Fetch quests.  Always fetch quests.  I began to lose enthusiasm with the scripted bits in Skyrim when I realized it consisted of like 75% fetch quests.  Was Morrowind this full of stories asking you to go to (tomb A) and retrieve (artifact B) or kill five (enemy C)s?  Damn it, you figure storytelling and quest-plotting would be getting *more* sophisticated as time went on. 

    • Merve says:

      Awkward video game sex scenes. Unless you’re going to mocap them, they’ll always look like an R-rated animatronic Epcot show. And who’s going to mime dry-humping in a mocap suit?

    • Effigy_Power says:

      How often can I say “Quick Time Event” before Disqus thinks I am a spammer? It may not be antiquated, but it sure is getting old.

  6. PaganPoet says:

    I’ve been striking out nonstop for the past few months with Keyboard Geniuses. I guess I’m all out of interesting things to say.

  7. Merve says:

    How can you say that Comment Cat is proudly bug-free when @Girard:disqus and @Effigy_Power:disqus didn’t get mentions? :P

  8. HobbesMkii says:

    Oh god. Disqus is doing it again.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if they “accidentally” keep switching it until enough consternation sets in to just keep it.

  9. Merve says:

    FUUUUUUUCK. New Disqus is back. With fucking downvotes.

    • Mr. Glitch says:

      Aww hell. Disqus just doesn’t get the hint, do they? WE FEAR CHANGE, DAMMIT!

    • Fluka says:

      Oh dear god, my “profile” is all fucked up too! *Runs around in circles, panicking!*

      • Jackbert says:

        I should tell you that the above comment is your 1000th Gameological comment. Congratulations!

        • Fluka says:

          Oh dear god, I didn’t even notice that.  Entering the big one triple-oh with a panic attack…  That seems about right.

          (Thanks anyway!)

    • ChicaneryTheYounger says:

      Tweeted John, he’s away to deal with it now.

      • Merve says:

        I’m imagining that Teti is ready to spend a relaxing, sunny Saturday with his wife and cats when suddenly, an alarm goes off and an electronic voice from his speakers intones, “Gameological has been breached.” With a weary sigh, he picks up his rotary phone and says, “Operator, get me Disqus. Stat!”

    • John Teti says:

      My contact at Disqus replied quickly and said he was having trouble reverting Gameological with the usual method, so he’s put in a request with Disqus tech. I apologize for this. You know by now that I value the discussion around here in a huge way, so these glitches are extremely frustrating to me.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Say the word, John…
        -hovers very attractive finger over red button-

      • Merve says:

        Yay, it’s back to normal now. Thanks for fixing this.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        I always said, the one thing preventing me from launching a bold, expectation-defying experiment in evolved video game conversation was the possibility of dealing with a comment system hiccup on the weekend.
           Just ask my wife, I said so all the time.  Usually after a few fingers of Old Grand-dad.

  10. NakedSnake says:

    Teti – with all this AV Club turmoil, you’re not going anywhere are you?