Keyboard Geniuses

Pippin funeral

Console Consolations

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Kodner • June 7, 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.

Console Graveyard

Adam Volk brought us the disastrous tale of The Pippin, Apple’s first foray into console gaming from almost 20 years ago. Pagan Poet wondered about other obscure and similarly damned consoles that we rarely heard about:

I was reading a list of every video game console ever released a few months ago and was really struck at how there were just so many! I had never even heard of most of them. For every runaway success story like the NES or the PlayStation 2, there are at least a dozen other consoles that were doomed to utter failure.

It makes me wonder what the business model is for these developers are when it comes to a new console. It seemed like many were hyped to death so that everybody would ideally go out and buy one as soon as it was released. When that didn’t happen, it was deemed a failure and then forgotten forever. It seems to me that it would be smarter to have a long term goal, that way if your console doesn’t set the world on fire on its opening weekend, that isn’t the end of the line. Hell, look at what a slow burner the PlayStation 3 was.

Mr. Glitch chimed in with a little history:

Every decade for the last 40 years has been littered with the corpses of dead game consoles: The ’70s had its explosion of Pong knock-offs. The ’80s saw scads of Atari 2600 competitors rise and fall in the span of three years. The ’90s taught us a valuable lesson about full-motion video, and (with a few notable exceptions) the ’00s proved that the state of portable gaming had not improved much since 1989. I’ll be keeping a light on for the overpriced, always-connected, DRM-slathered mega-consoles that are yet to come.

Mattman Begins wrote us a mascot-themed ditty honoring the Pippin and its lack of a mascot:

Of course, part of the failure to succeed here, as evidenced by Dana’s marvelous graveyard illustration, was that the Pippin didn’t have an iconic, cuddly character to pair with a console launch title, endearing it to more than 500,000 global customers.

Which brings me to my audition piece for all of you today—although it’s mainly for the Juilliard representative in the back there, so please take your fingers out of your ears, Kilzor. I will be singing a selection to the melody of Pippin’s “Corner Of The Sky.” *Ahem*

SEGA gave us Sonic the Hedgehoggggg
Nintendo’s got Peach and those two guyyyyyys
But if Jobs’ fucks
Want all my hard-earned bucks,
Gotta bake me an Appllllllllle
Apple piiiiiiiiie.

I thank you. Mattman Begins, number 27. (Exits stage left, tripping over Xbox cords in the process.)

I’ll be humming that one all day! Further down, Girard reminded us of a PlayStation mascot whose reign was all too brief:

Playstation briefly had the not-at-all-hideous-or-terrifying-honest Polygon Man as a mascot, too!

Selling Points
Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix and Tomb Raider

Anthony John Agnello kicked off the week by taking a look at how the mantra of “sex sells” has changed in the 10 years between Fear Effect 2 and the recent Tomb Raider reboot. DoYouRealize pointed us to Catherine, a Gameological favorite, as a counterpoint to Anthony’s Tomb Raider example:

I would argue, though, that Tomb Raider isn’t indicative of games as a whole. Comparing the two, it certainly seems games have lost some sense of “fun,” but what if you compared Fear Effect 2 and Catherine? You could draw a very different conclusion. Catherine certainly didn’t shy away from sexuality in its marketing or its gameplay, but it still kept a focus on the player, throwing some brutal puzzles at you throughout the game. Sure, there’s an easy mode, but there’s also a hard mode and Babel, and Rapunzel.

And about having a sense of fun? You play a man wearing boxers and sporting a pair of goat horns who regularly has discussions about strategy with other sheep. All this with more explanation than Fear Effect 2 had for its own gratuitousness.

Looking for a game in which you actually play as a female? Maybe you could have compared Fear Effect 2 to Lollipop Chainsaw? While I think Suda probably overplayed his hand here, it’s a game about a blond high school chick in a cheerleader’s outfit, chopping off zombie heads with a chainsaw!

I’d argue not that games have lost their sense of fun, just that games aren’t exactly sure what they’re supposed to be doing at this point. They’re torn between appealing to a larger audience and appealing to those who have been playing since The Legend of Zelda.

Start Kicking
Massive Chalice

Among other news in this week’s Bulletin, Sam Barsanti covered the launch of Double Fine’s second bid for our scratch in the last three months. The new Kickstarter campaign has drawn heat by those unhappy with Double Fine’s perceived double-dip, but KidVanDanzig helped demystify the tricky business side of making a game:

Most gamers don’t actually know how game developers typically operate or the necessity of staggered development that results from the iterative development process. You start a new project before your previous game’s release because your entire team typically isn’t needed through the whole life of a game’s development. Writers and designers and artists and the like finish up their work on your first project, so you need to have a second project funded, unless you’re Valve and have enough money to pay developers to do nothing. Otherwise you’ll be laying off people as they stop being needed.

This was InXile’s reasoning for putting up their Torment kickstarter months prior to the release of Wasteland 2, since that game was far enough along that most of the designers and writers were no longer needed. They set records for that project as they did partly because of nostalgia but primarily I think because they thought through every aspect of their pitch beforehand and they inspired a ton of confidence when they went public with it. (Torment had cult appeal but I don’t think anybody thought it had considerably more cult appeal than other high-performing KS projects.) Double Fine’s pitch is cute and presents a neat idea for a game but that’s not much more than a lot of scrappy KS projects present. As before, they’re banking on rep and personality, but I think they’d do better if they had offered a bit more beyond the grand scheme.

As for Double Fine’s game, it includes a feature that allows you to arrange your underlings’ marriages. Merve gave us the real world lowdown on how arranged marriages work today:

As a Canadian-born person of Indian descent, I can provide some insight into the modern “arranged marriage” process. Basically, arranged marriage hasn’t really been “arranged” in the sense of “marry this person or else” for quite a few decades, at least among middle- and upper-class North Indian folk. Nobody actually forces anybody to get married against his or her will. (Generally speaking. Forced marriage is sadly still all too common a practice in some instances and subcultures. But it’s not something you’d likely see among middle-class, educated members of the Indian diaspora.)

When a person reaches marriageable age, usually around 25 or 26, his or her parents start looking around for potential spouses. This involves asking their network of contacts in the Indian community, “Hey, do you know a boy/girl for my girl/boy?” Sometimes, parents look for prospective partners on sites like (”Shaadi” is the Hindi word for marriage.) In recent years, events like Indian marriage conventions—as depicted on a recent episode of New Girl—have cropped up. But for the most part, potential partners are found through contacts.

After the two families are put in touch with each other, the parents—usually the fathers, but it may be the mothers if prospective partners were found through the mothers’ contacts—exchange information about their families. This includes what they do; what their spouses do; what their children do—even the siblings who aren’t looking to get married. The two families then meet, and the boy and the girl may go on a “date.” In the past, these dates were supervised, usually by a male sibling of the girl, but they’re generally not nowadays. After some period of time of “dating”—it used to be as short as a few weeks, but now it’s typically a few months—if the boy and the girl like each other, then they decide to get married.

So, the marriage is not “arranged” in the sense that a boy or girl may be forced to marry someone whom he or she dislikes, but it’s “arranged” in the sense that partners must be approved not only by each other but also by their families. Marriage is, in a certain sense, viewed not only as a union of husband and wife, but also as a union of families. Therefore, there must be compatibility between the spouses as well as their families.

Sucked In

We compiled a list of 13 instances where games sucked their players inside their world for another Inventory. As usual, the commenters added to our list with suggestions like Chalkdust’s appraisal of a confusingly meta game:

Spoiler alert! In Star Ocean: Till The End Of Time, you spend the first half of the game thinking you’re exploring a sci-fantasy world of its own, until it is eventually revealed that you’re all characters inside a massive online game. (It cleverly recontextualizes several major earlier moments: Gigantic space beasts that threaten your existence turn out to be anti-virus software, and a powerful magical artifact you tracked down earlier is essentially a developer backdoor.)

CNightWing made a case for Zathura, a kind of spiritual successor to Jumanji, but with less Robin Williams:

Similar, but superior in my opinion, to Jumanji is Zathura. The movie has two brothers and their older, irritable sister sucked into a space adventure board game. Sounds like standard fare, as the sister is cryogenically frozen and asteroids wreck the house, but then a hunky astronaut turns up, and things get really weird.

See, the sister is unfrozen and immediately gets a crush on the astronaut. Then, after they’ve escaped some space aliens, the brothers get into a fight and it becomes apparent that due to some sort of time paradox, and the ability to have one wish granted, the older brother wished for the younger brother to go away [and later regretted it]. Then he grew up into the astronaut. Everything gets fixed, and the sister’s incestuous crush is played off for laughs. FOR LAUGHS.

Fantasia: Music Evolved

Drew Toal brought gave us the lowdown on an upcoming collaboration between Disney and the Rock Band studio, Harmonix. Appraising the game’s lackluster trailer, Roswulf gave us good reason to be wary:

I generally think the drive of semi-elitist internet communities to bash pop music is silly. But I have enough love for the original Fantasia (because NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN) and enough admiration for its ambitious goal as a delivery system for accomplished classical music that linking the name with a game advertised as featuring the music of Bruno Mars and fun. irritates me.

Now, I like the idea of expanding beyond European masters—give me jazz, give me tin pan alley, give me classic rock, give me Motown. But give me something the audience isn’t already consuming. That’s kind of the point of Fantasia.

Now that may be what the game is—the launch trailer emphasizes the big names, and 80 percent of the game could be a whirlwind tour through our shared cultural heritage. But MAN, that trailer stings.

Swap Meet
The Swapper

Joe Keiser reviewed The Swapper, an inventive puzzler partially animated in clay. In the game, you explore a neglected space station and attempt to piece together just what happened. Emperor Norton I argued that a more involved scenario shouldn’t be out of the question:

For once, I’d like an explore derelict space station sort of game that is more about repairing the destroyed systems to make progress rather than obviously arbitrary door and switch puzzles. For example, to get to the objective area, you have to route cables, jumpstart the reactor, clear out radiation, gather scrap to repair hull breaches, deal with solar flares, puzzle out how to lay cable to inaccessible areas, etc. Basically, use the theme as an arena to create a bunch of realistic physics-based puzzles, instead of attaching the hackneyed door-and-switch archetype to a random theme.

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

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54 Responses to “Console Consolations”

  1. Citric says:

    I have commented on things 800 times! 

    Well it was a coincidence I noticed and I figured whatever I’d shout about it. Other people have commented more.

  2. PaganPoet says:

    Praises be to the kitty! It may have been a while since my last KG comment, but I have just been given a spiky, blue turtle shell with Effigy’s name all over it.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      Doesn’t the blue, spikey one hit the person in first place?
      Let’er rip.

  3. Chalkdust says:

    Hooray!  I shall celebrate this week by sharing somebody else’s impressive Tetris skills.  I like when people take a well-established, seemingly rigid game and invent a new way to play with it.

  4. caspiancomic says:

    Howdy friends and neighbours. As I suggested yesterday, I’ve got a brand new Game Theory essay up, this one about the DS mystery classic Nine Hours Nine Persons Nine Doors. I saw in the WAYPTW thread that some people are only just starting to play this game so fair warning: spoilers ahoy!

    • PaganPoet says:

      Aww, I wish it was a game that I’m familiar with. :( I’ll just take refuge in the fact that the main character is named Junpei and one of the other characters is wearing an outfit similar to Yukari’s.

    • Citric says:

      As a person playing 999…

      I’m the meaning in your life
      I’m the inspiration.
      I bring feeling to your life
      I’m the inspiration.

      Continuing down that path does get a little weird so I’ll stop there.

    • Chalkdust says:

       Oh man, you are going to love Virtue’s Last Reward.  There were certain revelations and moments that made me so giddy I had to run around a bit to calm down, both in the surface plot, as well as epiphanies about the genius interplay between game structure and story structure.

      As a writer myself, I am immensely intimidated by the scenarists for the Zero Escape games.  I cannot comprehend how anyone could come up with so dense and complex a narrative that unfolds like an intricately engineered puzzle box as you progress.

  5. Aurora Boreanaz says:

    Thanks Merve, for sharing your cultural insights.  Checking compatibility for the family members affected by a marriage actually seems pretty smart!  My wife’s family would probably be totally incompatible with most of mine…good thing they live in separate states from each other AND from us.

    CNightWing – I thought Zathura was a far better movie than Jumanji.  Incest-for-laughs is bad, but not as bad when compared to shitty CGI monkeys and monkey makeup…or something.

  6. Girard says:

    In other Massive Chalice marriage-related news, this is kind of heartening:

    I like also how this is leading them to think critically about the gameplay opportunities, too, and kind of nice domino effect. Affording same-sex family structures requires them to acknowledge possible purposes behind the marriages beyond siring new warriors, leading to possibly more complex options and strategies.

    Of course, that’s a Kotaku link, so don’t read the comments unless you’d like your soul to die.

    • aklab says:

      *reads comments despite warning*

      *tries to go back in time*

    • saemtanji

      meh. i couldn’t care less if there were homosexual relations in a game, and i’d probably roll a homosexual character if it changed mechanics or meant a different story perspective, but male-on-male or female-on-female “reproduction” isn’t exactly believable even in fantasy settings. maybe if their are adoption mechanics where they beef up the stats of a chosen child, but reproduction is ridiculous.

    • caspiancomic says:

       I see the mysterious masked hero “Bakana” is fighting the good fight out there in the Kotaku comments… godspeed, mysterious protector…

  7. stakkalee says:

    It looks to be a rainy weekend here on the East Coast; you know what that means, right?  It means you have no excuse for not playing video games.  A rainy day is the universe’s way of saying “Sit down and  shoot these pretend zombies.”
    Our most-commented article was, of course, the WAYPTW thread with 223 comments, altough Tuesdays’ E3 question contest came close with 210 comments.  Also, this week the Top 5 comments will exclude any of the contest winners because they already got an article dedicated to them so nyah.  And now here are our Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments:
    1) With 28 likes @Dikachu:disqus explains tubs of money are people, my friend.
    2) @The_Guilty_Party:disqus gets 26 likes for asking this actually legitimate question.
    3) @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets 22 likes proving he’s genre-savvy.
    4) @George_Liquor:disqus gets 22 likes talking about investment opportunities.
    5) And in fifth place we have @The_Guilty_Party:disqus again, getting 19 likes for being amused.
    Most excellent!  We’re not welcoming any new members to the Plaid Jacket Society today – everyone chosen by Soupy has been selected before.  @Roswulf:disqus gets his first stud for his second mention!  @Chalkdust:disqus and @KidvanDanzig:disqus each get a second stud, and @doyourealize:disqus, @CNightwing:disqus and @EmperorNortonI:disqus all get their third studs!  @MattmanBegins:disqus gets a fourth, @PaganPoet:disqus gets his fifth, and @Mr_Glitch:disqus gets his sixth!  Plus @Merve2:disqus gets unlocks the “Lucky Thirteen” achievement with his thirteenth stud, and the Redoubtable Russian @Paraclete_Pizza:disqus pushes futher into the lead with his 26th stud! Hot damn!
    And now, Linkdump: Game Chair edition!  What kind of gamer are you?  Are you an emperor?  Or are you an agoraphobe?  And just because, here’s a picture of Bowser from junior high.  That’s it for this week!  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • PaganPoet says:

      My Major Arcana is The Emperor, so I trust that one of my subjects will be providing this throne for me, yes?

    • Girard says:

      That adorable Bowser reminds me of this adorable Rush.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      I am running out of hollow threats and angry, crotchety fist-shaking stuff. I really need to up my game.
      PS: That Emperor-chair is great, but then it reminded me that I am due for a pap-test and now I hate you.

    • I’m a four-stud general!  Hey, that makes me flash back to SSI’s Panzer General games.  And makes me wonder why nobody ever attempted a LEGO General edition.  On second thought, no it doesn’t.  Many thanks for the recognition, @stakkalee:disqus .

      A thousand watt sound system in that little safe?!  This gives new meaning to the term “sensory deprivation chamber”.  Your senses will have been bludgeoned out of you by the time the authorities pry that “chair” open with the Jaws Of Life because you left the keys outside in your haste to recreate your Battletech Center memories of old.  Assuming you aren’t dead.  Which is far too optimistic an assumption.

      Myself?  Still rockin’ the papasan chair setup of old, which puts me more on the Emperor side of things.  Gaming is not only possible but very cozy with the help of a wireless keyboard, wireless trackball, and wireless dark side of the Force.

  8. Wait, @Merve:disqus , you’re a Canadian of brown-skinned descent??  


    • Citric says:

      I always figured Merve was brown, I think it’s his avatar color scheme. 

      I’m guessing a lot of people look nothing like we picture them.

      • aklab says:

        This is why my avatar is so helpful! 

        Note: my avatar is a photograph. I literally have MS Paint skin and hair tones.

      • vinnybushes says:

         I do actually mildly resemble Monkey Island 2 Guybrush, at least in terms of current hair length and facial hair.

      • Jackbert says:

        My avatar and I share facial expressions.

      • PaganPoet says:

        You’re wrong. I AM a cross-eyed pussy pirate.

      • Effigy_Power says:

        Angry, glaring, full of contempt. Yep, that’s me.

      • Enkidum says:

        I’m a drunk baby, that’s for sure.

      • ProfFarnsworth says:

        You are wrong, I am an angry crotchety 172 yr. old man. I also do science and fly a spaceship!

      • His_Space_Holiness says:

        I’m actually a mammal.

      • The hair does reach that height for about two weeks out of every year, then subsides (I will NOT say “recedes”) in height as it grows in length.  My strict one-haircut-per-year schedule determines when those two weeks transpire.  I’m doing better now; it used to be once every four years.  I looked like a member of Carcass.

        The pallor, vaguely alarming eyebrows, and world-repelling sunglasses are there most of the time.  The disdainful expression, not as much, I promise.  But, as with @Effigy_Power:disqus , it’s probably how I feel on the inside more often than not.  Certainly toward co-workers.

      • EmperorNortonI says:

        I am not a Zaku Mk II, nor do I own or pilot one. However, for two years I had a part time job as a substitute Zaku pilot for a private security firm in Japan’s countryside. On weekends and evenings I was on call for Monster Suppression duty. That robot was a piece of crap pulled together from several junkyard wrecks, and they were too cheap to pay for ammo so I had to do everything with the Heat Hawk, and a left arm that barely moved.

        Real story, I nearly convinced a good number of Japanese JHS students that the above story was true.

      • Mr. Glitch says:

        I actually rotate counter-clockwise.

    • Whoops, forgot he was @Merve2:disqus 

    • Merve says:

      Drat! My secret has been discovered! *vanishes in a puff of blue smoke, leaving behind only a top hat and a mustache*

  9. saemtanji

     and no this isn’t homophobic commentary. i don’t believe for one second that de facto exclusion of homosexual reproduction in a videogame is “insensitive.”

    • Girard says:

      Are you, uh, recreating the baffling, disorganized structure of Kotaku comments, too, dude?

      • lokimotive says:

        I just want to thank you for, again, mentioning this. I do not understand the logic behind the Gawker-verse’s comments. On the rare occasion that I visit one of their comments section I’m even more frustrated by the structure of the comments than I am by the content of their comments.

        I realize this isn’t exactly a revelation, but I want to support anyone pointing it out.

        • aklab says:

          You are so right. Gawker sites are that rarest of  birds: something that makes you long for Disqus. 

        • EmperorNortonI says:

          I’d be incredibly happy if this site managed to license the comment and discussion infrastructure they use at Daily Kos. THAT is a top quality architecture.

  10. Mr. Glitch says:

    I suppose its best not to put too much stock in the rumor mill, but if what I’ve heard lately is true, I may have to eat my words: Vaguely dickish tweets from Sony aside, the PS4 may indeed debut without Sony-enforced DRM, and at a price comparable to the Wii U. Hopefully, we’ll find out a little more next week.

  11. Destroy Him My Robots says:

    Announcement! For those who missed it so far:
    A bunch of us are thinking about making a game ourselves, hobby-style. We don’t know what we’ll be making or how we’ll be doing it yet, but we have a thread in the Gameological Steam group so you know it’s legit:

    There’s a couple of fine people there already; more would be great. We’ll start getting more specific than “we’re making a game” soon-ish, so don’t be shy, drop by and say hi if you want to be there from the beginning. It’ll be nice.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Oh snap! BRB, checking Steam thread

    • NakedSnake says:

      Awesome! This is a great idea. I will link up with the Steam grup.

    • Mr. Glitch says:

      I tried replying on the Steam Group, but their draconian yet incompetent security measures are keeping me from signing in. I have to wait until their support group emails me back.

      Anyway, I’d like to help too, in whatever way I can. Maybe you need someone to make coffee?

  12. Effigy_Power says:

    Mmm, a fold-out ad without the ability to silence the sound that plays at every page-change. Those people at TNT really know how to make me want to hate a show without even seeing it.

  13. Sleverin says:

    I didn’t think about it before, but I just realized upon reading the comment about Fantasia that this is the Harmonix’s studios desperate grab to do anything, ANYTHING, with those licenses they paid for and are probably getting screwed for not using.  I don’t know the intricacies of the economics or the laws involved, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were being forced to pay money for having that music just sitting around not being used.  Either that or they are just trying to cover their ass for paying a lump sum and still needing to pay more money.  I’m totally theorizing here, they honestly could just be trying to scrounge around the music game genre that died out as a lot of people completely expected and trying to bring back anything that could possibly give them money.  I expect it’s the last one, honestly.