Editorial Miscellany: Juxtaposition

Simple surface, complex themes.
Genuine character perspectives.

Last week, I had so many games to talk about that I barely knew where to begin. I even left some of what I had been playing by the wayside because I did not have enough room.

How much can change in a week, Dear LusiCrumpets. In the past seven days I have gone to a one-year-old’s birthday party, I have listened to Glenn Gould’s Solitude Trilogy a number of times, I have watched Mr. Bean, Mr. Show, and The Peter Serafinowicz Show, I have struggled furiously to not lose my soul to the thudding numbness that is daily live daytime television, but I have barely played a single video game. Well, that is not entirely true, but it certainly feels like it.

Thomas Was Alone

Yes, I am late to the party. I am late to every party. The only party I was ever early to was a late-themed party in which being early was considered late.

The point is that I have almost completed Thomas Was Alone. I am fairly confident that I am in the final set of levels and I am continually impressed with its arguments for how story and gameplay inform each other. The graphics are incredibly simple, the level design is competently satisfying and thoughtful, but these elements feel more full and detailed than they really are because of how the story combines character traits with the size and physics of the actual character. And these are just rectangles with no faces on them. We must either see or explore ourselves in art and Thomas Was Alone is not interested in replicating what it thinks is exciting. It is not interested in visceral distractions. It is interested in relationships. Between characters, between player and game, between player and himself or, more simply, relationships between ideas, which is all any relationship ever is.

Anyway, the game is an excellent study, but it is still a starting point. Games have been strung along by technology at a speed which has made it difficult for them to clearly view themselves, but – aided greatly by the indie scene – the perspective is starting to catch up. I cannot wait.

It had to be done.
I miss you Fennekin.

Pokémon X

I started over. I succumbed. I did not even beat it properly the first time and I started again. There are a number of reasons for this.

First off, I am a dunce.

Second off, while I loved my initial choice of Fennekin, the type redundancies ended up being too severe for me and I struggled to find a water-type that I liked and that lined up with my party balance.

Third off – and this is the biggest reason – I started having a much better time with the game once I ignored the Exp. Share and the stat-boosting mini-games. But I did not start doing this until the sixth badge and I would much rather experience the whole game this way.

Also I have noticed that as I get older, I now prefer to know what is coming in not only games, but television and movies and books as well. I used to like the surprise and visceral reactions a first experience would bring, but I find it much more satisfying and intellectually involved to come at something a second, third, or forth time. I mean, there is only so intellectually involved one can get in a Pokémon game, but still, whether it is a placebo effect, I am much preferring my Froakie-led playthrough this time.

This picture again.

I dunno, Mario Kart 8, I guess?

I have talked about this game enough, though. I will say, however, that 150cc is simply the way the game is meant to be played. The balance is the strongest and I rarely get annoyed at items because I feel like my final place accurately reflects how well I raced. That being said, it is still annoying that the balance involves items that involve no skill. If one player has an ultimate weapon, I would rather remove that ultimate weapon for balance than give every other player an ultimate weapon for balance.

Or just play local Versus Mode and turn off all that bullshit.

Seriously, did I play no other games?

Usually I sprinkle in a few other gaming sessions if even for an hour or two at a time, but I really did not game much this week. I am even less qualified to speak about Transistor this week because I forget all the opinions I was forming, I did not return to the painful but comfortable pool of my own blood that is either Final Fantasy X or Final Fantasy X-2 and I also did not return to the nostalgic ritual of beating my own head with a plank that is Kingdom Hearts.

Oh yeah, I guess…

My girlfriend has been playing Tomodachi Life because I knew I would not have the time to play it when I received the download code. Hearing about it and watching it at a distance seems like the right way to interact with that game. I get all the endearing strangeness without sinking hundreds of hours into it.

Final Thoughts

Right, I am back to weekly for the time being. ARE YOU NOT PLEASED?!?! I leave for Michigan on Monday so my next article will be sent from inside Castle Lusipurr. Be worried. For my safety.

One comment

  1. Coincidentally, I played Thomas Was Alone over the weekend. Odd! I entirely agree with your appraisal of it in particular and the Indie scene in general.

    “as I get older, I now prefer to know what is coming”
    I’m not surprised.

    Repeatedly it has been proven in psychological studies that people enjoy stories/narratives/entertainment media more if they know what is going to happen, even when they claim that they do not like having things ‘spoiled’. Human beings are able to focus on details and connect plot elements together if they know what is coming, and that creates a kind of anticipation which is more agreeable to our linearly-focused minds. This is why things like Le Morte Darthur and Crisis Core are more–not less–emotionally gripping, even although we know the ultimate outcome. In fact, they are emotionally gripping precisely because we know the ultimate outcome, and that allows all of the immense pathos of the situation to endlessly play upon us throughout the course of the story, rather than just in a single, incomplete, retrospective moment at the end, when surprise is the only instigating factor.

    But study after study after study aside, you will never convince people of this psychological fact. They will tell you repeatedly (and wrongly) that they like things more if they don’t know the outcome. This is because most people don’t know themselves, and they certainly don’t know how their own brains work. (Have you ever met anyone who ACTUALLY knows what they want? I haven’t.)

    And that’s why we don’t have a spoiler policy here. We give people what they really want–not what they claim to want.

    –And that (in turn) is why so much punishment is handed out around here.

    Or just play local Versus Mode and turn off all that bullshit.

Comments are closed.