Monday, June 21, 2010
Immersion 2.0, Green Day & The Good Ole Days
"Immersion 2.0 (A Bug Report)" (6/16/10) - I remember when I first saw a clip of the Wii's motion controller in action. One of Nintendo's first Japanese television commercials for the Wii had gone viral on the internet. And even though I couldn't understand what was being said, I remember being wowed by the audacity of the technology. I recall thinking something like: 'Finally, virtual reality without the silly '90s headgear!'
That was a few years ago. With Microsoft and Sony now having jumped into the motion-control bandwagon (bandwaggling?), I'm feeling increasingly dubious about the whole idea of pantomime hour in front of the television, at least in games that offer lengthy, narrative-based, single-player experiences. There seems to be a misguided underlying assumption that acting out a game protagonist's movements in front of the television creates a greater sense of immersion in the game world. I find the idea silly, especially given my countless experiences with the absolute immersion offered by good literary fiction, which involves no more physical movement than sliding into the couch with a book cracked open in your hands.
Green Day: Rock Band Review (6/18/10) - It's always exciting, as a writer, to have an opportunity to share your work with new audiences. A couple of weeks ago I began writing a review of Green Day: Rock Band for Electronic Gaming Monthly. I was bummed when they abruptly shifted the assignment to an in-house writer in order to expedite the piece's layout before the start of E3, but I decided to finish the review anyway and find an adoptive home for it. Jeremy Zoss, the intrepid editor over at Joystick Division, kindly agreed to publish it as a "reader review."
I had some enjoyable moments with the game, but overall the experience felt strangely undercooked, especially in light of the obvious care invested in The Beatles: Rock Band installment that arrived last September. When you offer just three venues for a band that's been kicking around nearly a quarter of a century, it makes the band's career feel accordingly truncated and diminishes the sense of experiencing their full career arc. Not to mention the visual under-stimulation that comes from shipping a game with only three levels. Can you imagine Gears of War 3 shipping with three levels? Fans would mob Epic's office complex in North Carolina and messily rip out Cliff Bleszinski's belly-button ring.
"Pining Is Evergreen" (6/9/10) - I've been wanting to write a piece about the nostalgia of retro games for a while and Retro Games Challenge for the Nintendo DS offered me a softball pitch of an excuse. I remember my dad being obsessed with the oldies radio station K-Earth 101 in Southern California for several years during my childhood. I never particularly loved the music they played, but I did love the effect that it had on my dad. We'd be driving down the road and he'd be grinning from ear to ear, reminiscing on college memories, drumming on the steering wheel like a man possessed. There's just something about the way art crystallizes the moment in which you first experience it.
I get the same euphoric buzz when I play 8-bit videogames, especially the old NES classics. Picking up my NES gamepad retrofitted with USB and firing up the Nestopia emulator on my MacBook Air, I might as well be merging with the avatar of my childhood self. Regardless of where I happen to be playing—on the couch, on an airplane, outside—I feel like I'm at a grade-school sleepover. Just now while writing, I had this memory of playing Rampage with a neighborhood buddy, pretending that the damsel in the skyscraper that you punch out of the building and toss into your mouth like a peanut M&M was Aimee, the blonde girl in my fourth-grade class I had a crush on at the time. Pathetic, I know, but I cherish the memory all the same.
My childhood was one long pixellated fever dream.
Posted by Jason Killingsworth at 1:47 PM