Before reading this entry, for a laugh, go read The Anime Club
. All three parts!
I've never belonged to any anime club, because most of the anime fans I've met irl have been intolerable fujoshi
that I never felt compelled to meet with on any sort of regular basis. But this was also about seven years ago, and the world is a very different place these days. We are, you might say, living in a post-Adult Swim
For example, last night during my English class (yes, I am finally back in school) we were told to interview a classmate and write a paper about them, which we'll be reading aloud next week. So we drew numbers, and since there were an odd number of students I was one of three who drew 10. The other two who drew 10 were a couple of extremely attractive girls, probably much too young for me (early twenties at the oldest), which is evidently one of the downsides of going back to college when you're almost thirty years old. But anyway. We interviewed each other clockwise, and while I was doing my interview and the girl talked about how she moved to the U.S. from Honduras when she was five years old and wants to design videogames and likes anime (and wants to prove that these things are and can be art
because breaking down cultural and generational boundaries
(her parents are very negative toward her aspirations and she was actually once flunked out of an art class because she was told that "cartoons are not art")), the other girl chimed in and mentioned Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, and how of course
that stuff is very artistic...
I will have fun writing this report, I must admit.
Ah, videogames. I haven't thought much about them for a few months now (and I have good reason for that), but today I thought about how videogames have either changed my life, or simply changed my way of thinking about videogames. So, let's see. If none of this means anything to you, well, you have my apologies. I'll list games chronologically, and the year that I played them (not necessarily when they were released).Frogger
(1983-'85?)- Get to the other side and survive.Super Mario Bros.
(1987) - Get to the other side and survive. Run and jump, stomp goombas.The Legend of Zelda
(1987) - Get to the... huh. Wherever. I'll just explore.Metroid
(1988) - Explore, but it's different. The world isn't wide open and earthy, it's dark and cold. Just as lonely, though.Ninja Gaiden
(1989) - First encounter with "cinematics" in a videogame. Like moving comics between stages.Super Mario Bros. 3
(1989) - "Get to the other side," but now it feels more like an adventure. Overworlds
(1992) lead to Doom
(1993), adding new dimensions visually and in terms of sound and atmosphere.Final Fantasy VI
(1995) - Videogames can be beautiful and emotional, and tell a story more involved than Ninja Gaiden
's "cinematics."Chrono Trigger
(1996) - Everything that FFVI did, but better, and more instantly nostalgic.Xenogears
(1998) - I could write too much about this. Flawed as it was, it changed my way of thinking. I was immature enough, myself, at 18. This is the first videogame that I would say actually changed my life. It influenced me to start thinking about what I wanted from life in a way that lead to me abandoning a couple of childhood friends that I no longer felt had anything to offer me. Hell, I learned the word "antitype" from Xenogears
. It was used differently in this game, but it means "that which represents another thing." The type is the thing, and the antitype is its image.Metal Gear Solid
(1998) - Obviously, it drew from all the sci-fi/action flicks I'd grown up on. It was more deeply immersive in a tactile sense than anything yet.Half-Life
(1999) - Better than Doom
(1999)- Reminded me of Twin Peaks
. Hadn't seen Jacob's Ladder
(2000) - Felt like a dream in the summer, vaguely surreal. The hero awakens on the beach in a world where he never existed.Final Fantasy X
(2001) - They'd finally killed the wonder and destroyed everything good about these games. Left me utterly jaded.Ico
(2002) - Completely redefined what I look for in videogames, aesthetically. When I read Murakami's Hard-Boiled Wonderland...
I kept thinking of that castle.Rez
(2002) - It was like a vector-graphics arcade shooter elevated to sensory overload on rails. Awe-inspiring.Cave Story
(2005) - Hadn't played videogames very much for a few years. This reminded me of why I loved them.Katamari Damacy
(2005) - Whoa. What have I been missing? That's all I could think.Shadow of the Colossus
(2005) - No, this
reminded me of why I loved videogames, and where I had left off with Ico
(2005) - I didn't pay too much attention to this one's political allegory. I just loved it for being surreal and subverting videogame design traditions.Dragon Quest VIII
(2005) - My first DQ, I hate to admit. Its wide-open world left me wanting more, leading to...World of Warcraft
(2006-2009) - And I have somewhat mixed feelings about my experience with this game, but ultimately a lot of regret and I wish I'd never started playing.
I think I'm still recovering from that last one. The hero wakes up on the beach.
Most of you are probably familiar with this trope, typical of Japanese console RPGs like Final Fantasy
, or The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening
. The hero wakes up on a beach. As he stands up and dusts the sand off his clothes, blinking into the sunlight, he lowers his eyes to the horizon and realizes the water seems to blend in with the sky, almost as if it's not even there. The reflection must be perfect—not even a ripple. He leans forward to look into the water, expecting to see pebbles and maybe a little hermit crab skittering by. Something white is moving... Gulls fly in circles below. What? He realizes he's falling. The sand crumbled under his feet. Oops.
Well, it doesn't usually go quite like that.
Videogames seem to be going through some kind of phase right now. Or maybe it's just people. The last decade has been a rough one. Faithless (aka Heather Campbell), an old regular of the insertcredit and selectbutton forums, comedian, and writer for Play Magazine, among other things, wrote an article on her site The Call to Adventure
about how, um, love does not exist
. She's had a bad year, she says. That's fine—2009 was painful for me, too.
"I think few of us ever revisit games. I'm beginning to believe that this industry is driven by novelty alone," she posts on selectbutton.
Interesting, but I seem to be among the few, then, since revisiting stuff is all I do anymore, as far as videogames are concerned. I don't have any desire to invest too much time or money in this stuff right now. I'll eventually play things like Demon's Souls
, which seems to be one of those games that people will keep talking about for years, but I no longer have any interest in skimming release dates to see if there's anything novel
worth picking up every month (like I used to), or that sort of thing. I'd rather open up an emulator and remember what I loved about Final Fantasy VI
, if I'm going to play anything at all. Maybe give Shadow of the Colossus
another go and soak it in. I think "novelty" is about the last way I look at videogames anymore. Or anything, really.
I mean, I agree with some things that Faithless says. As humans, we are often creatures of novelty. We find something new, and we get excited about it. That much is true. But her entire article seems to be arguing that we obsess over these things very briefly, and every infatuation ends as we hop to the next, never to be touched again, never really becoming part of us like movies or books do, because we never really loved any of it. And if we think we have, we're liars. I don't agree with that at all. We're also creatures of nostalgia.
Another poster says that more than nostalgia, he thinks that looking into the past becomes a pathology, a sickness. He keeps "feeling for a pulse," and "trying to recontextualize the past," as if he's looking to gain some perspective on what his life has become.
I don't know if it's a sickness. It's pretty common for people to want to run their fingers over the contours of the past, memorizing every detail and breathing in the dust. Even when it seems empty and absurd—it's your life. And you have to keep living and moving forward otherwise you're only somewhat living... but we all want to bring the past with us. I think Faithless lives a life of novelty because, as I look over her site and her resume, she's a really busy person, and she lives surrounded by the wreckage of all that novelty as she forges ahead. (That, and she plays Street Fighter
, which is not really my thing with its apeshit mash-button asskicking—The Legend of Zelda
and its broken heart pieces scattered around the world, though, that's my language.) Maybe she's not as mired in the past as some of us who are more habitual. We all feel our own kind of sickness and emptiness.
The hero wakes up on the beach. He's no hero at all, having been adrift for so long.