Archive for April, 2012

Adventures in Shit Games: Cho Aniki #1 and #3

from Cho Aniki: Bakuretsu Ranto Hen's opening titles

I promise, I’m really trying to not use Infinite Lives as my own professional pinboard these days, but I do have a column about Cho Aniki: Bakuretsu Rantou Hen at Vice Motherboard:

The game’s wackiness and camp are superficial. They’re just show. All the while, Bakuretsu’s characters and backdrops hint at something darker. To borrow from Baudrillard, there is a gradual “perversion of reality” until, at last, we are looking at a “facsimile” with “no original copy.”

Really, I’ve never had so much fun writing something in my life. Am I really serious? Who can tell!

I also made a supplementary video:

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Link can’t lose

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Recommended Reading: When games can’t contemplate life’s intricacies

Not without my daughter: Silent Hill's Harry Mason can't catch a break

Joel Goodwin is not too sure a video game can simulate some of life’s complexities. In his recent “Parenting Is Not an Escort Mission”—an indirect response to a thing I wrote in January about Creatures—he warns against using games to reify life events that are not so simple. Parenting, for instance, is not so simple.

In the same way that I used Creatures to think about parenthood, Goodwin worries that game designers, too, are guilty of the same abstractions. He catalogues some games about parenthood, and almost every single game he names is an “escort mission,” one that reduces love and caregiving to something as banal as “safely haul this potato from point A to point B.” Ehm, my words, not Goodwin’s.

Next he suggests subtler or alternative game mechanics that might go further in reproducing (NO PUN INTENDED) real-life experiences. He poses the possibility of games that, if developed, might represent parenthood in a happier, healthier, more intricate way. (In the comments, some readers name games that do just that.)

It’s a fascinating read, and I wholly recommend it.

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A review of ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial’ in under 1,820 characters

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial title screen

I’m a big, big fan of “My World of Flops,” an ongoing series of movie reviews by Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club. “Flops” conducts post-mortems of critical and commercial failures, reevaluating each film with fresh eyes. And Rabin gives every movie a fair shake (his review of Tom Green’s Freddy Got Fingered is, in a word, generous), ultimately grading each film as a “failure,” a “fiasco,” or a “secret success.”

I have always held that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the 2600 is a “secret success” (Kevin agrees), and when Rabin first announced to Twitter that he was going to score the video game for “My World of Flops,” I was floored with delight.

For one, this is the first time a video game has ever made it to “Flops,” and E.T.’s notoriety certainly qualifies it for inclusion. For another, the “Flops” series was only meant to last a single year; not only has it endured, it has spiraled out of control! Video games! Licensed video games! What next?

So I was totally thrilled when Rabin tweeted that his review is complete:

@nathanrabin I just turned in my first, and possibly last game-themed My World of Flops piece on Atari’s E.T. It is less than glowing.

In an effort to rally interest in Rabin’s upcoming E.T. review, I took to Twitter to inflict my own opinion of the game on everybody. There are a lot of inactive verbs. The whole thing could stand a rewrite.

Here, now, and unedited for posterity (mostly), are my E.T. tweets.

jennatar In honor of E.T. (Atari 2600, 1982) making it onto @nathanrabin’s Flops, here is my GLOWING review, presented one painful line at a time.

jennatar E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is about an extra-terrestrial named E.T.

jennatar In it, you play ET. You are trying to assemble an “interplanetary” phone, because you believe in liberties and that VOIP ought to be free.

jennatar In the game, your only ally is a 10-year-old child named Elliott, here rendered in stark, rudimentary pixels.

jennatar In the film, Elliott’s idealism and childlike naïveté are tested when Spielberg replaces all the guns with walkie-talkies.

jennatar Your adversaries, alas, are numerous. There are, for instance, a number of gov’t agents who are trying to strip-search you.

jennatar There are also scientists, no doubt working for Big Pharma, who probably want to capitalize on your organs and turn you into the latest pill

jennatar Despite all that, your greatest obstacle, poor ET, is yourself. Yes, the landscape is riddled with enormous pits. Step carefully, ET!

jennatar You could become a captive—by your own hand!—in one of these deep furrows, which itself is a metaphor for the “liminality”

jennatar For you are a stranger in a strange land, stretching yourself across space and time in search of a moment of connection, and small candies

jennatar It is during these liminal fugues, when ET is lower than ground itself, that most players, disgusted, switch the Atari off.

nathanrabin @jennatar Color me impressed. Beats the hell out of my infinitely more verbose take.

jennatar @nathanrabin Shh! Not yet; I’m not finished.

jennatar That players leave w/out finishing—that is, without making “contact” with “home”—is a potent metaphor for a collective lack of agency.

jennatar Finally, the graphics are OK but maybe the framerate could have been better. I’m not sure the 2600 is being pushed to its full potential 3/5

P.S. This E.T. “strategies” video rules (thanks, Andrew!).

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