Wednesday, April 29, 2009


For reasons explained at the end of this blog I am going to post a piece of my olders writings. Originally I focused a lot more on comedy in my writing. After seeing how many websites already devote themselves to video game comedy I thought I would really get lost in the shuffle. So rather then working on finishing what I had for today I present an old piece from the Okayama Fuzzy Peach (a newsletter / creative outlet for English teachers in Japan). This is from a series I did called Playing with my Joystick.

Have you been playing video games recently and wondering where all the man love is? Well you are in luck because this month I am going to lead you to three games that answer that question...

Duel Love (Nintendo DS):


Japan has fallen off the radar a bit lately as the shift towards new gaming ideas has moved to the west. But fear not the Japanese still corner the market on the dating sim genre. In this dating sim the gender roles are reversed. You are a new girl at school and its just your luck that a bunch of hunky guys are all interested in you (that is if you think a bunch of guys that look like girls and one boy who looks 10 years old is hunky). It should also be mentioned for some reason all the boys in the school of boxers and have big boxing matches to a bunch of fanfare. Its your goal to try and date one of the boys. You are rewarded, through paying attention to their boring emo bullshit, by getting to play some mini-games. The mini-games include such classics as; blowing away steam in the shower your to check out your favorite guy, wiping the sweat off his body after a boxing match, and giving the hunk some medical treatment and a massage. Sadly these games show up for about 30 seconds after every hour of reading boring text. If you want to get the idea of what its like to play this game read a really bad romance novel and stop every 60 pages to rub the picture on the cover for half a minute. Overall this game was worthless! If you really want to see some hot man anime love go to your local manga or anime shop and ask the clerk for the “Yaoi” section.

Freshly Picked Tingle’s Rosy Ruppeeland (Nintendo DS):

You may have heard of the classic Nintendo franchise “The Legend of Zelda.” As loved as this series is many people try to forget a Zelda character named Tingle. Tingle is a 35 year old man who dresses in green tights and wants to be a fairy, I have no idea how he got past the character concept stage. For some reason Nintendo decided to give Tingle his own game. In this game Tingle needs to build a tower to Ruppeeland with the help of his transexual sidekick who lives in a computer, named Pinkle (I couldn’t make this up). Tingle also meets many bizarre vaguely sexual characters along the way. The most memorable character is a construction worker (dressed exactly like the one from the village people) who humps the screen ever time he completes work on a bridge. For all the awkward sexual overtones throughout, it is actually pretty damn good. Tingle has grown from the annoying character of the “Zelda” series, into the star of a uniquely warped game. 

Ring King(US) / Family Boxing (Japan) (NES/Famicom):The year is 1987, your parents let you rent one game from the local dingy video store. You see a boxing game and think, “this would be fun for me and my brother to play.” You take it home and immediately start playing. The controls are stiff and the boxing isn’t realistic but this is regular Nintendo you put up with it. Round one ends... and then you see your cornerman doing something strange to your character. Your father, who was half watching you play, notices the act immediately and tells you to “TURN THAT GAME OFF!” Little did you know you had just witnessed the cornerman giving the boxer a blowjob, right there in 8 bit glory. 

There will be no new post until May 13th (2 weeks). The reason for this is because this weekend I leave for a short vaction to Fukuoka, Japan and then heading over to Nagoya, Japan. Rather then putting out what I was originally going to have for today I would rather hold on to the things I have already finished and put them up in 2 weeks. Most of my blog posts are written weeks a head of time and then during the lead up to the post my wonderful fiance edits it and then I put together the pictures and media. Since I can't work on the blog during the vacation it would be better to be late on my terms then to scramble to catch up when I get back. See you then.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Movies and Video Games

There is a long list of movies based on video games and vice versa. Sadly the list is full of games and movies not worth spending your money on. It seems like a no brainer that movies would translate to games and games would become great movies. Action movies in particular have so many cool moments that the viewer would love to play. Some games have such fantastic worlds that the thought of seeing them on the big screen is exciting. But something gets lost in translation and things never work out the way they should.

Movie based Video Games

Some designers create games out of their own imaginations, and creativity. New worlds and experiences are born out of this, and you can see the time and care put into a great original game. Movie games are almost always corporate decisions and the movie license is thrust onto a studio. There is almost no room for creativity because the designers are in a trap. They can either create a note for note re-creation of the movie with added action, which usually turns out to be a shallow experience. Or they can change the game's direction far away from the movie and lose everything that made people fans of the movie in the first place. It is really a lose/lose situation and it rarely works. Adding to this problem is the fact that the developers have to rush the game out to match the theatrical or DVD release. If the movie based game comes out at a different time than the movie the public may have lost interest in the property already. This creates games being sold that are incomplete messes. The following examples are only a select few out of the many movie based games.

Superman Returns

The game came out around the time the DVD hit stores. It was still too buggy and unplayable to be worthwhile. Also the movie was less action oriented and more about Superman as an icon, something that cannot be translated into a game. Recieved a 54% of Gamerankings


This game was diluted twice over. From an amazing book, to a medicore movie and finally a bad video game. Beowulf is part of the English literature cannon and any alteration of it ruins the original intent. It is so ingrained in its orginal medium that it was impossible to mimick the genious that the novel was. Recieved a 54% at Gamerankings.


This game was so bad it helped along the video game crash in the 80s. Millions of copies were made since the movie, made in the same year, was an enormous success. The game was barely playable and most of the copies were returned and people lost faith in video games. The returns were so large that there is a landfill in New Mexico that houses millions of cartridges. ET was a drama and it was impossible to emulate the magic of that movie onto a primitive Atari cartridge.

Very rarely do video games based on movies work, but it does happen. Sometimes a game based on a movies can become commercially and critically successful. These movie games usual change the details of the movie a bit while leaving the original theme of the movie present. The movies that mostly work as games are part of a franchise that have rich worlds full of characters. The game designers can sidetrack the movie while still using memorable locations and include characters players will recognize. These successful movie games used the movie franchise as a blueprint and created an expanded universe within their game.


No one was expecting this game to be a hit, the publishers and developers included. They did not print off enough cartidges to meet public demand and it was near impossible to find the game during christmas. Rare, the developers did a number of things right when creating the game. They did not try and match the game's release with the movie's, in fact the movie was already out for 2 years. They took their time polishing and working on the game they wanted to make. Goldeneye the game did not follow the movie note for note and added a lot of new locations and missions. This worked for this game since James Bond is already an established icon with a large backstory to exlpore. Finally the game had a fully realized multiplayer mode and pioneered the movement of first person shooters on consoles. Received a 95% at Gamerankings and is currently the 19th highest rated game of all time and the highest rated game of 1997.

King Kong

Not a great classic, like Goldeneye, but a good game none the less. The game lucked out by having Michel Ancel, a designer of the critically acclaimed Beyond Good and Evil and Rayman series, as its lead designer. Having a truely great creative force behind the game helped the game stand out. Michel also took the movie license seriously and used it to create a unique game by trying to capture a cinematic feel. The game got rid of health bars, maps and any other thing that typically is displayed on the screen. You saw what the player would have actually seen, creating a more realistic look. The game was also not very long but it worked to its advantage, rather than repeating itself it led the player through a series of events and told a focused story. Recieved an 80% for Gamerankings.

Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

Nothing should have pointed towards this games success, it was tied into a summer action movie starring Vin Diesel and it was timed to come out with the movie. Starbreeze, the developers, took a different approach to making a movie tie in. Rather than try and recreate what happened in the movie, they took the lead character and told a new story that took place before the movie. This could have been a cheap storytelling techinique but it worked. Since they had a different storyline they could create Riddick as a video game from the ground up. They took the game seriously and added a lot of their own personal touches and techniques to make it stand out. In fact this game recieved better reviews and commercial success than the movie. Received and 88% on Gamerankings.

Movies based on Video Games

These never ever work. There has not been a good movie based on a video game and I don't think there ever will be. Many people think that video games will translate perfectly to film because of their cinematic presentation. Games may look cinematic but it is a mistake to see them as such. I have said it before, but a video game without interaction is not a game at all. Without the player interaction it loses most, if not all, of its purpose. Books can become great films because all you need to do is translate the words on the page to the screen, but games have hours of gameplay and every player has a different experience with it. You cannot bring a video game to the big screen without cutting something crucial from it. Because the player has so much influence over the main character in a game it is impossible to translate the feeling of the character to the big screen. Everyone has their own vision when they play a game and not a single director or script can capture all of them. Furthermore most games do not rely on storytelling so there is not that much story to pick up on. And the games that do have a focus on story have way too much in it to handle properly. It is a lose/lose situation. Just look at the reviews for Double Dragon, Mortal Kombat 1 and 2, Silent Hill, House of the Dead, Super Mario Brothers, and Alone in the Dark. Video games are untranslatable to the big screen, because they are games first and foremost. Do you think someone could make a movie out of Hungry Hungry Hippos, or Monopoly? Just because games are art doesn't mean they can translate to other forms of art. They are too unique, and there is nothing wrong with leaving them in their original forms.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Little Big Planet

The Playstation 3 came out promising more than the Playstation 2. The games were going to be bigger, the graphics better, and the story lines more epic. The PS3 was out for 2 years before I even really cared about having one. When I finally got one (for Christmas from my lovely fiance) the game I really wanted to play was Little Big Planet, which in a way delivers all the promises that the PS3 offered while at the same time changing the way we perceive games.

Everything old is new again

This game is like looking into what would happen if game designers continued to focus on side-scrollers rather then moving on to 3D games. The main character is a "Sack Boy" and he is as cute as can be. In a time where a lot of high selling games feature heavily armored, gun totting, macho-men, Sack Boy stands out. Sack Boy doesn't just adventure through the level, you can also control his emotions at any given time. You can make him happy or sad, scared or angry. Adding these emotions gives Sack Boy much more personality. He is already a lovable character just sitting there but by going that extra distance the designers made Sack Boy come alive.

The art direction has a "puppet show" feel to it. everything (besides sack boy) is either attatched to strings or mechanical. The world is supposed to be what we see in our dreams and the designers did a fantastic job on creating a magical look.

Little Big Planet has a great nostalgia factor to it. Even though it is the first game in a series it feels like a great classic game redone with todays graphics. Games do not need overdone stories or even have a deeper symbolical meaning to be art. Little Big Planet is to video games as Disney is to movies. When playing the game there is a sense of magic, and it can completely get you into the game world. Not only does it feel like an old classic video game, but also like playing in a toy box. You can even dress up your Sackboy in dozens of costumes (and hundreds more to download online), adding to the toy box element. Little Big Planet is fun and it brings out our inner-child which so few games (or any other piece of media) can do. This is a feat that the game should get full respect for.

Little Big Planet has a simple motto "Play, Create, Share" which is also how I will break down my look into the game.


Little Big Planet returns video games to its console roots, side scrollers. The levels are done in full 3d but you can only move left and right. The controls are simple: run, jump, and grab. Other than that it's the only way you really interact with the game world. You can also put stickers and objects places using a very unique menu screen. The menu screen is always attached to Sack Boy and with the simple press of a button it pops up without interrupting the game. It is a simple premise but no one has really done it before in such a way. The levels that come packed with the game are already top quality. Each world is based off a geographic location and is packed with charm. You meet many colourful characters on your adventures and each one has their own unique personality. Side-scrollers usually only focus on platforming and other challanges but Little Big Planet adds a little story and motive to every level. Some levels have you; helping break someoe out of jail and escaping using explosives, reuniting a bride and groom, or racing a giant scateboard down a steep hill. As you play the game you are constantly thrown in new situations, and it never becomes dull.

Just a normal event in Little Big Planet, riding a giant scateboard with 3 friends!

One of the ways that the game teaches you how to play is through optional tutorial videos. The game went above and beyond what was expected. Rather then having a simple tutorial the narrorator adds humour to the mix. Not only are the video helpful but they are legitamatly fun to watch.

Create / Share

The real artistic side to Little Big Planet actually falls into "Create" and "Share." As you play through Little Big Planet you earn different pieces of the game, all of which you can use in a level editor. So not only is the pre made game loaded with style and charm, but the designers of the game allowed you to share in their creation. The create aspect of the game really gives you an idea how hard and time consuming it is to actually create a worth while experience. Thankfully the already made levels are so full of ideas you can gather gameplay elements from there. I may talk a lot about game design and the art of gaming but I have to admit I have trouble creating something worthwile here. It is a good thing that you do not need to be artistically creative to enjoy the customizable side of Little Big Planet.

In the "Share" aspect of the game you can play any level that people have created and put online. So the game is not limited in the designers interpretation. It is "reader response criticism" at its best. Players can see what others think of the game by simply playing their levels. It also adds to the depth of the game, Little Big Planet could survive long past the normal length of time. People are currently creating shooters, action games, flying games, puzzle games and many others by customizing the game to their wishes. Sometimes you can find a game that is shallow and weak, but other times you may find something that has a lot more to say than even the lead designers did. Overall though, it still all boils down to letting out your inner child. Little Big Planet is the closest video game experience you can get with playing pretend as a child. All of a sudden everyone's story is out there to see and Sack Boy is more than happy to help you along.

"Sharing" also comes out in multiplayer. Every level of the main game and any level online can be played with 1-4 people. Normally multiplayer games are a competitive affair, but Little Big Planet expands on that idea. Players have to work together, and even though players are ranked at the end, all the rewards earned are shared with everyone. As I said earlier Little Big Planet is like playing with your toy box as a kid, and playing with others just enhances that feeling.

The Music

The game ties together with the help of the music. Every piece of the game is just loaded with charm and the music is no exception. The songs in the game are just as playful and fun as the game itself. A large majority of the songs have a happy feel to them. Rather then creating the songs from the ground up Media Molecule outsourced the work, to experienced musicians. By doing this the collected a wide variety of work from many creative minds. This added to the toy box feel of the game since it was many ideas coming together and forming a cohesive theme. Some of the songs even had lyrics and vocals which is very rare in game design. The vocals are minimal though and do not distract the player at any point.

My personal favourite song in the game and it is one of the first songs you hear. It is hard not to feel happy when lstening to it. This video also shows many player created levels.

Little Big Planet is so many things that my blog alone cannot summerize what makes it so special. It needs to be experienced to fully understand what makes it art. In a sense it is the only real way to understand any video game as a piece of art, but Little Big Planet is so unique and new it needs to be played to understand the magic. Art doesn't just have to make you think it can also make you feel, and Little Big Planet is a prime example of this. It is art that expresses emotion onto the player.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Video game violence usually means the graphic depiction of blood and gore in a video game. However, according to, violence means (I only copied the definitions that were relivent):

1. swift and intense force: the violence of a storm.
2. rough or injurious physical force, action, or treatment: to die by violence.
3. an unjust or unwarranted exertion of force or power, as against rights or laws: to take over a government by violence.
4. a violent act or proceeding.

So using violence as an umbrella term, not only would Grand Theft Auto use video game violence but so would Super Mario. Since Mario jumps on turtles, is that not a form of violence against his enemies?

Why all the Violence?

Video Games are not alone in using violence; movies, TV, comics, books, paintings, drawing and basically every other medium has used violence to capture the attention of others. Almost no one would argue that violence negates art. Many violent movies, and tv shows are critically accalimed and loved by many. Violent literature is frequently taught in high schools and universites. If you take a look at many artforms around us some form of violence is there. But why do we project all this volience into art?

Violence is one of the easiest ways to motivate and capture our attention. Nothing gets us at the edge of our seats easier than the threat of danger. We naturally want to preserve ourselves, and you can see this trait in every animal alive. Therefore, seeing someone in peril is something we can immediatly identify with. In a video game the easiest way to motivate the lead character is to set him up in a situation he/she has to fight out of. There are other ways to motivate us but the video game medium lends itself more easily towards violence. Even the controller is set up for action oriented games.

Another reason for violence is comedy. It may seem a little contradicting but violence can lighten up a game if done in a specific way. One of the most basic forms of comedy is slapstick. While slapstick alone can get tiring it can help add a layer of humor to the game. Comedic violence only comes through when the blood and gore is exagerrated. For example in Martal Kombat 3 when you preform a fatality, sometimes multiple rib cages errupt from their body. Having this over exagerrated effect lets the player know that not only is the violence on the screen not real but so ridiculous it should be laughed at. Sometimes using violence as comedy can move out of slapstick and into dark humor. Dark humor is a much higher form of comedy that gets the player laughing when he/she should be disturbed. It is really hard to pull off effectively but when done properly it can create a memerable experience. The Grand Theft Auto series nails dark humor perfectly using a violent world to make the player laugh and have fun while at the same time poking fun at our society.

Violence isn't the only solution

I made it clear that a vast majority of designers use violence as an overlaying factor thoughout their games. However, violence is just part of the puzzle, it should never be the only thing the game has going for it. Games have come out that are overly violent and extremely shallow and they usually fail both critically and commercially. Here are some examples of games that truely have nothing but violence and failed because of it:

Postal 2

A mindless first person shooter (FPS). Most game critics, from well respected websites and magazines, hated the game and it received negative reviews. FPS should at least have some sort of motivation beyond mindless killing. review states that Postal 2, "is meant to be rude and crude, but it's also meant to be funny. That can make up for a lack of gameplay if done right. But guess what? Postal 2 isn't funny... In the case of Postal 2, the joke is on the game buyer. "

Thrill Kill

A fighting game so violent that it never came out commercially. But most reviewers got a near final build and it was universally panned. The game went through a number of delays and changes and eventually turned into a Wu Tang clan game. This game was also universally panned. Video game critic and comedy writer Seanbaby said, "The art direction was a combination of a 12-year-old metalhead's Trapper Keeper doodles and a crime scene."

Bad Day L.A.

This game is just one violent act after another with no real purpose, and stars a lead character that is immpossible to care about. A PC gamer reviewer said in their review that it was, "so tasteless that I wanted to scrub myself with Lysol after getting up from the computer." Most video game websites and magazines didn't even bother to review the game.

There are some extremely violent games that did cross over and became well recieved games. It was not because of their violence that they strived but because of the other things the games had to offer.

Mortal Kombat

The game may have brought extreme violence into video games for good but it knew how to do it. It was not only a fairly solid fighting game but also a homage and satire to old kung fu movies. As I mentioned before, later games in the series actually used the violence in a humorous way in order to change the way the game was perceived.

Grand Theft Auto

Enough has already been said before. GTA was a game that used extreme violence to mock our society.


Violence as visual art? Mad World turned blood into the only color on the screen. Watching this game is like watching a black and white pulp comic coming to life. The storyline of the game also realizes how over the top it is and has some humorous commentartors that poke fun of the beat-em-up genre.

God of War

Set in ancient greek methology you cannot realistically portray the subject matter without violence. If you read any old texts that deal with the subject matter it is full of sex, and violence. God of War follows a new character Kratos and his fight against the God of War. It's a new story but it borrows so much from other greek tales and entrenches itself in the mythology that the violence fits the mood of the source material.

Of course not all games are violent but a lot of them are (at least on a very micro level). But even when a game is full of blood and guts it can still be saying something more. In fact, a game has to be more then just violence to survive, considered that a shallow game will be quickly lost in the shuffle when there are many deeper games out there. The media latches on to it because it is the only thing apparent in screen shots and short videos, but if people actually took a chance to sit down and play and look deeper in the games they would see so much more. How would a movie reviewer feel if people dismissed the Godfather just because they saw a bloody horses head?

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Before I get into writing about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of time (LoZ:OT), the orgins of the series have to be discussed. The Zelda series is another brainchild of Miyamoto, but it has a bit more of a personal connection to him. The first Zelda game on the NES was inspired by Miyamoto's own childhood. He spent a lot of time in his mother's garden playing and it was through these experiences that he got the idea for the game. This explains why all of the Zelda games have a strong tie to nature. Link even wears the colour green further grounding him in the natural setting.

The original Legend of Zelda game also was revolutionary in many ways. It was one of the first open-world games. Rather then having levels, the game just started off in a field and it was up to you where you went. The game was covered with tons of hidden areas and secrets and players spent hours discovering new things all the time. It also broke away from the traditional adventure games by not having your character level up. Usually in adventue games your hero gains experience from defeating enemies and therefore becomes stronger. In Zelda the way you gained power was through exploration. You discovered new items that gave Link new abilities. Rather than encouraging battles, this game rewarded you for exploring. Battling eniemes was part of the game but puzzle solving was the real attraction of the game.

The world of the Ocarina of Time

LoZ:OT was not only the first Zelda game to be 3D but one of the first adventure games in general. The game set the bar for what was expected afterwards and in many ways that bar still stands. LoZ:OT became the blueprint on how to make a vast adventure work. The new updated visuals made the world seem so new and real at the time, and the environment thrived because of this. The people in the towns each had a unique look and personality. Even characters that added nothing to the storyline still helped create the ambience of the background. The many dungoens in the game, large expansive Hyrule Field, the towns, and the many different intelligent species all added to making the game world feel real.

The over world map for the game. You can see how diverse the environments are.

A new touch that LoZ:OT had was the day/night cycle. It had been done in games before but this was the first game where it seemed most natural. At night more monsters would roam the field, shops would be closed, and new strange characters would be out to talk to. During the day Hyrule was lively and fun, with lots of people to see and realitively safe. It was a simple idea but the world seemed more real because of it. It gave the game a lot more depth and charm.

The game world also changes as you interact with it. You start off the game in Karakiko village which is guarded by the Great Deku Tree. Once you venture inside the tree and clear the monsters inside, you find out that it is the tree's time to die and some people in the village blame you for its death. At one point you find yourself in a whale's stomach trying to stop what is corrupting it. Once you save it the entire Zora village is extremely happy with you. There is a lake in the game that is completely dried up and its through beating the water temple that you bring life and water back to the lake. By having a real effect on the world around you makes you seem more important as a player.


Hyrule Castle Town as a child

Part of what made the story so memorable was that you started the game as a child and ended the game as a late teenager. Since the story spanned several years it had a larger scope and effect. Young link's world was a lot more safe and fun to play in. Hyrule Castle town was a lively place that had a lot of people. The castle itself is grand and full of colour and beauty. In adult Link's world the town is plagued with the undead and no one is left alive. The skies swirl red and Hyrule Castle is taken over by the evil Ganon. As young Link you can visit the Zora's and adventure in their underwater society. When you are adult the Zora's seem dead and their village is frozen over. Overall young Link's world is light while adult Link lives in a dark world. This is much the same way we see the real world. As kids everything is a possiblity, we believe in monsters, see everybody as some unique new person, and are excited to play around outside. When we are adults we have to become a lot more serious and see the world as a much more stark place.
Hyrule Castle when you are an adult.

Save the Princess (10 year old spoilers)

Zelda as Sheik. Not the typical look for a princess.

The typical Zelda game followed this storyline, "the princess Zelda has been captured by Ganon, go save her." LoZ:OT on the other hand, lead us to believe this was going to be the story and then turned it on its head. When you last see Zelda as a kid she is being taken away by Ganon. Once you are an adult a new character meets up with you from time to time. This new character is named Sheik. Sheik is seen as a strong and mysterious figure. Near the end of the game you find out that Sheik was Zelda all along. Now this is a basic plot line but including it in this game showed that the designers were ready to break away from their traditional stroy telling techniques. Rather then having Zelda be a weak damsel in distress, she is now Link's equal in many ways. Even later in the game you find that the Triforce, which is what Ganon wants to gain ultimate power, has become part Link, Zelda, and Ganon. All pieces of the triforce are equal giving Zelda equal standing to Link and the powerful Ganon.


Epona is your horse, and throughout the game you become attached to it. You meet Epona as a child but rescue it as an adult. Once it is rescued you can call upon it whenever you want in order to ride it through the fields. Rather than making Link walk or run everywhere it was much more fun to ride Epona. The horse is your main vehicle but it also a living thing, it tires out if it ran to hard, and controls kinda stiff like a real horse would. Epona gallups toward you when called and has a little personality of its own.

The Ocarnia

The music in LoZ:OT is entrenched in the overall gameplay. The main item in the game is a musical instrument, the ocarnia of time. You actually play the ocarnia in order to progress in the game. You have to learn new songs, and even get to make up one of your own. Technically speaking you can use the ocarnia at any time and play any song (you have control over what notes it plays). Each song you learn is not only played on the ocarina but also in the background music in the game. Your songs can also directly effect objects in the game, and warp you to dungeons. By playing the song to warp you to the next area it is setting the mood of where you are going creating a smoother transfer from one different level to another. Moving from the forest temple to the fire temple, could throw the player out of the game. Both temples are very different and the music change is drastic. If you ride your way to the fire temple you will see the gradual change over time so the player gets the idea that time has passed and land has been covered. But if the game warped you directly without the ocarina it would seem like too much of a change, and unbelievable. By having Link play the fire temple's song it adds a layer to the transition making it less black and white.

All The warp songs in the game. You can hear how each song goes along with the element it represents.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, had a lot of time and care put into it. every aspect of the game was expanded on and created a unique experience that some say has never completely been matched. I remember playing this game when it first came out and it completely changed the way I saw other games. After LoZ:OT I expected more out of games, and other game worlds seemed very shallow standing next to it. I play through the game every other year or so and find that, other than the graphics (which like any technology becomes dated), the game still stands as one of the best all around experiences.

Friday, April 17, 2009


I mentioned in my introduction why music is important to video games. I am going to expand on this topic and go through why video game music is so important to the artform. Music is in bascially every game, some times it plays a more significant part then in others. In some games music is just background noise to set the mood. In others, music is the game and the player has a more direct influence over how the music sounds. Both of these methods of video game music are equally important, and it all depends on the game which way the music should be used.

The Loop

Some games do not have a set time limit, or the time limit is so long that it's unrealistic to create one song to encompass the entire level. In these cases it is important for the musical composers to create a song that works as a loop. The song has to begin and end the same way. Not only does this effectively fill up a level of any length but also because of the content looping helps get the song in the gamers head making it memerable. The loop can have drawbacks if the loop is too short. It turns from catchy, fun, and classic, into annoying and irritating.

Timed Song

Some songs are timed for specific events. For example in Halo you go around with barely a note played but once a battle starts the music comes in. This makes the song not only stand out against the stark silence that came before but also sets the mood for the battle. Music can cue the player how to play, and the timed song does this the best. Having a song fade in or out and change depending on the atmosphere of the game can really inhance the mood. The oinly problem with the timed song is what to put in between one song and another, since they don't always mesh together.

Interactive Song

Now this is a very new and experimental type of gameplay that isn't used that much, most likely because it is difficult to pull off with great success. Now some rhythm instrument games like Guitar Hero, or Rock Band fall into this category. Those games have music as their main focus and it is fairly easy to set gameplay around it, press the buttons at the right time to make the music. This is not so much interactive music as it is a timing excerise. It's a lot of fun and gives the player the idea that he/she is actually playing the music. This is the most common type of interactive music.

The other form of interactive music does not require picture perfect timing and is a lot harder to pull off successfully. In these games the music goes along with the player no matter when the buttons are hit. Unlike the previous games the music always sounds different. Here are some games to give you a better idea what I am talking about.

Space Invaders Extreme

There is music in the background but hitting the enemies adds notes to the score. Different weapons provide different sounds. The music alone is just part of the overall picture and is only fully appreciated when playing the game.


A full on music game that only has a simple tune in the background. Shooting eniemes and leveling up make the music change as you play. You are essentially exploring the musical scores and manipulating it as you play the game.


A puzzle game that adds different sounds as you break the pieces. The music gets more complex the better you do at the game. Also the blocks break at the speed of the beat of the game, so each level is different depending on the song.

Sound FX

Sound FX is probably the biggest challange for video game composers. Every time your character shoots, jumps, hits an enemie, dies, and many other things, a sound FX usually occurs. These sounds have to compliment the music in the game. While they do not directly effect the music they are still played on top of it. It would be jarring to hear a sound that does not go along with the overall score. This is why when Mario jumps it sounds different from when Sonic jumps, each sound effect has to go along with the music in their repective games. You are in control of the hero and its up to you how you play with it, the sound FX designer has to make sure every sound you can possibly make will fit into the musical score of the game.

Player's Mood

Everything I mentioned before is an answer for"how" video game music is used, but an equally important aspect is the "why." I touched on this aspect before in my intro blog post but I think that it is such an important part of the video game artform I have to also expand on this. If the composers have done their job properly not only will the music fit into the game thematically, and go together with the sound FX but also relay an emotion to the player. If you are going to have a level in a forest, the music should be light and fun, connecting the player to the mood of nature. When the player is in a lava level, light fun music won't cut it, you need a faster paced tune. If you are in a dark dungeon the music should have a dark or "echo" sound to it further bringing the player into the environment. The music should connect to the player by bringing him/her into the environment as well as letting the player know how much action to expect on the screen. So if you are in a light easy forest level but you are at the boss and the action has picked up the music should not stay all light and slow, it should pick up a bit while still maintaining the feel of the level. I will leave off this post with some examples of music effecting mood, and gameplay.

Shadow of the Colossus Boss fights

Then game is extremely silent for the most part. The silence ends however, when you finally meet up with a Colossus. The music stand out against the stark silence of the rest of the game, and gets the player ready for a battle.

Sonic First level

The music is much faster than most platformers. Sonic was also a much faster game than any before it. Helping the player get the idea that this game was meant to be played at high speeds was the music

Zelda Lost woods

A light song you hear on your way up to the forest temple and the surrounding area. The song, played mostly using wind instruments, helps connect the sound back to nature. This is a great piece that could not fit any better in the environment.


One of the first open world side scrollers. This game was extremely difficult when I first encountered it because of its lack of any real direction, it really confused me at the time. The music is just as mysterious and dark as this game. Here is a sample from the game called "Kraid"

Duck Tales The Moon

One of the best tv series turned video game. One level has you searching through the moon for treasure. This song really captures the sci fi feel while keeping the action alive.

Music can do so much for a game. Whether it is setting the mood, or being an part of the gameplay it is an equally important part of the video game artform. Next time you play a game listen to the music and see how it matches your experience. Think back to songs you remember fondly, chances are you have a connection with them because not only were they beautifully compossed but also because they fit so well in the game's environment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Grand Theft Auto

I have heard GTA (Grand Theft Auto), lumped with other games that are not artistic. I think this is a mistake. Just because a game is not hyper violent and has some crude aspects to it does not mean it isn't artistic. Sure violence for violence sake isn't really art, and its hard to find artistic merit in a lot of games, movie and TV that are nothing more than violence. But GTA goes deeper then that. Violence is the best way they can get their message across. GTA has mulitple layers to the overall game design and all of it has thought and care behind it. I found it very difficult to pick out just one game from the franchise so I am going to do an overall breakdown that can pretty much be applied to all the games.


A typical scenes in Grand Theft Auto showing the chaos you can cause.

One of the most thrilling aspects of the GTA games is the sense of freedom. I remember playing the very first GTA with my friend on his PC. We didn't even play a single mission our entire time. Once the game starts up you can basically do anything. You can steal a car, kill random people, take your cars off jumps, ram into oncoming traffic, really anything that seems possible in the game you can do. There is a bit of a guilty pleasure aspect to playing like this but it just shows one of the layers that GTA has. If you want GTA to be a shallow game, it is one. You are not forced to do anything you don't want to do, and if you feel like following your characters story it is there for you, if not you can ignore it.

Of course the game designers gave this freedom at a cost, your actions result in reactions from the game. If you want to run around shooting people, the police will start to pursue you. If you continue your relentless violence the police get more and more forceful to the point where it is near impossible to escape them. There are ways around this, changing the plates and color of your car and hiding in your house for a while, but overall the game does a good job at giving you freedom but with a consquence. The freedom of a GTA game is easily its biggest draw to the public and sadly its the one the media latches on to when trying to slander the game, but there is so much more artisitic merit to the game.


Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? I would argue that the makers of GTA think that art imitates life, and it is very clear in making GTA a satire on our real world. As I said before, freedom is the big draw of the game and with that freedom usually comes a great deal of violence. The violence, both caused by you and brought against you, is so over the top it starts to become funny and satirical. If the violence in the game was more realistic (watching people cry, having children in the game, using sexaul abuse all of which the game does not use) it would become distrubing and any right minded individual couldn't play it nor would enjoy it. But the image of a man walking down the street with a bazooka blowing up hot dog stands, goes from violent and scarey and becomes silly.

While the hyper violence in GTA is satire it is a fairly low form of satire. Anyone could pull this off. But again the game is as shallow as you want it to be, if you enjoy that kind of humour then it is there for you, if you want more, GTA has that too. The storylines in GTA games are usually full of colourful characters that are extreme representations of real personalities. When the game shows a politician, he will most likely be the sleeziest politician you have ever seen. When the game has a police figure, chances are that cop is crooked and drunk on his own power. GTA is not afraid to poke fun at authority and show us how our society has some dark features even where we think it is safe. Again, they exaggerate these characters to make them more humorous then serious. This way of showing well know figures takes its cue from Monty Python, wich regularly showed people with ridiculous and exagerated personalities. The makers of the GTA series are from the UK so british humor should influence them.

Usually the lead character in the game is the only intelligent figure, even though he is also a criminal. The hero may be a criminal but for the most part he is sympathetic. The fact that a criminal is the hero among many other characters in the game speaks volumes on how strange the world of GTA is.

Finally on a deeper level the Satire encompasses even the smaller aspects of the game. If you watch TV in GTAIV there are plenty of shows that spoof our own TV programs, and are loaded with social commentary. The radio in all the games pokes fun at the various music genres with the DJ being an exaggerated colour commentator. The talk radio stations are full of left winged and right winged bias (depending on what channel or show you are listening to) to show that no one or now political view is safe and they all have flaws.

Republican Space Rangers is a show you can watch in GTA IV. It pokes fun the anti-immigration movement, racism, right wing politics, and nationalism. Just like the GTA games the show is overly violent to expose its true ridiculous nature.

A sample of the talk radio in GTA: SA.  It covers everything from "bogus" gurus to the "liberal media." If you are interested in more follow the youtube link.

GTA III      

A surprise success since the previous 2 GTA games had only limited appeal. Set in the early 2000s (when the game was published), it was the first GTA to go 3D, as well as add more layers of depth to the freedom and realism in the game. This game added the many fully tuned radio stations with licensed music. While it seems rather trivial to add radio to the game it made the game seem more real, since the radio was so fully realized that it was basically like having an actual radio in your car. Also bringing the game into 3D made it easier for the player to fully immmerse him/herself in the game. GTA III brought in a few other small touches to give the player even more freedom, they could drive a taxi around the city and pick up fares, drive an ambulance and save lives, and use police cars to stop criminals. All these extra touches made the world more well rounded and real. The game was set in Liberty City and the whole city is basically a satire on New York City. It had some similiar features to the real world New York but looked different enough to hold its own identity.

The lead character was a Silent Protagonist that was never even given a name (they mention his name in a later game but you go through all of GTA III not knowing it). I have already mentioned how a silent protagonist is effective in an earlier blog. The designers must have used a silent protagonist in this game to yet again give the player more insight into the game. The lead character was rather plain looking and it is not hard to project yourself on to him, and use your internal dialogue as his voice in the game.

GTA Vice City

Vice City did had a new and different direction then GTA III. First off the lead character was no longer silent, he was a loud, tough, mob boss. The game is no longer set in a contemporary times, but in the 1980s. Vice city is very different from Liberty City in both look and feel. Vice City is a satire of Miami, so it had a more tropical and southern flare to it. Overall GTA Vice City was a homage/spoof on the movie Scarface. It was an interesting choice to give GTA more of a focus in its presentaton and it is something that has stuck ever since. Vice City was the first game where the city itself was more of a character, and it influenced the architecture and fashion of the game.

Tommy Vercetti, the lead character, was a lot less likable then any other lead in a GTA game before or since. Its clear that he is a criminal and even though he is still the most intellegent person in the game, he is still a large part of the overall satire. However, having this truely evil lead character is needed to capture the feel of Scarface, which itself starred a horrific character.

GTA San Andreas

GTA: SA, San Andreas. Is the first and only GTA game to be set in a state with multiple cities. The state of San Andreas includes Los Santos (Los Angelas), San Fierro (San Fransisco), and Las Venturas (Las Vegas). The game is set in the early 90s just as gangster rap and gang life is entering popular culture. Out of all the GTAs this one is the largest and has the most off the wall plot. You play as the likeable CJ, who has just returned home after his Mother was killed. The entire game CJ just wants to find out why his mother was killed and is trying to make something of himself on the streets. The storyline spirals out of control and turns from a satire on medias portrayal of "street life" to a truely ridiculous plot involving breaking into Area 51 and stealing a JetPack. Luckily this storyline really thrives in the ridiculous and insane, and just enhances the idea of freedom and satire in the GTA world. Keeping the story wacky helps it not become too depressing since the lead character does deal with heavy material (gang life, gang violence, betrayal, drugs, police brutality, and the death of his innocent mother). With the crazyness the designers are giving the mass public something they enjoy from the GTA series while still getting their message across on a different level.

The other thing that made GTA:SA stand out from the other games was the character development. Your character would gain muscle from working out and lose weight from running. If CJ spent to much time at the burger shop he could become obese. The more you drove, ran, swam, and rode your bike the better your character became at doing those tasks. CJ was a different character at the end of the game than he was at the beginning.


Finally GTA IV returned to a contemporary setting (2008) and Liberty city. GTA IV took a lot of risks and reigned in much more than GTA:SA did. the plot is much more focused and is not as humorous. The story revolves around an Eastern European immigrant finding out that the american dream is not all its cracked up to be, and finds his brother already involved in the wrong crowd. Niko, your character, is also a war vet who is damaged from what he experienced. The freedom is still there but once you enter the main storyline the game really hits you much harder. In some cases you have to make tough choices on who you trust and are given an option to kill one person or another. Whoever you decide to kill is gone from the game and their absence has an impact throughout. Your freedom has more consquences this time not only on a threat level, police chasing you, but also on an emotional level. The comedic-satire still exisits when you listen to the radio, or watch TV. GTA IV has a wide variety of radio and TV to watch and listen to and they often contain a lot of political commentary, or snide remarks about our culture.

The one new feature GTA IV added was relationships. You could gain friends and girlfriends. Just like in real relationships you have to keep up with them (by calling them and going out on a regular basis) in order to get closer. Your dates would even complain if you wore the same clothes more than once. One the flip side if you bothered someone too much, they would start refusing to see you since you are being too clingy. The people around you are almost as well rounded as the lead character. This makes the world seem more real and gives the player more reason to care about those around him/her.

GTA is an artistic series, it just is a form of art we do not always recognize. GTA can be a game that is a simple violent kill spree, or it can be a heavy story driven game with a deeper meaning. Just like the freedom the player has in the game, we have a freedom to interpret GTA more than any other game. Since the game has this layer of depth it shows how creative the designers of the game are. It takes a lot of skill to make a game so well rounded that it fits with many players tastes. On the narrative side of the game the designers chose to play with cliches and satire in order to maintain a higher form of commentary throughout. They chose to make their game not only fun but also say something about the society we live in. GTA is an exageratted world but when you take it down a few notches you can see that it is very close to what we see around us. Yet again this adds another layer of depth this time in the stoytelling aspect. Some people may see the game as "kill this. go there. kill this." Others can see it as a story about all the things wrong in the world. The GTA series is a sandbox game that has many possibilities both in gameplay and story and it is up to the player whether they see it as art or not. It shouldn't be a surprise how I see the game. What do you think?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Silent Protagonist

When games first started out, practically none of the lead characters talked. Then again, no one really talked back to them. These are not the kind of silent protagonists I am going to discuss. There are some games that have large diverse worlds with thousands of lines of dialogue, and still the lead characters you control are mute. At first glance this seems like it would be completely useless and draw the player away from the game. Imagine watching an action movie where the hero was completely silent while everyone and everything around him/her was talking and making noise. It would be a jarring experience to say the least. It does not work that way in video games, in fact a silent protagonist can do a lot that a voiced hero cannot.

Are they truely silent?

The answer is both yes and no. "Yes" there is no audio coming out of the speakers from the voice of your character. But "no" this doesn't mean they aren't speaking. When someone in the game world approaches our player and talks to them even though our character isn't responding we are. In essence the protagonists voice is our inner dialogue. When we play video games we are constantly thinking; where should I shoot, how can I get out of this battle safely, where is the key for this locked door, where do I go next, what magic should I use and the list goes on forever. In a way that inner dialogue we have is also our silent protagonists dialogue. Since the character has no voice of his/her own its easier for us to pretend our inner dialogue is their voice, whether we do it subconciously or not. For example if we know the character we are playing has a high pitched cartoony voice chances are we are not going to think like that same voice while playing the game. When I play Super Mario I am not saying to myself, "Mama Mia, I have-a to jump now. Okey dokey." I know that when I am thinking that's my voice and when Mario is speaking, in his stereotypical Italian accent, that is him. But when playing a game with a silent protagonist there is no clear distinction between your voice and theirs. Having a silent protagonist is one of the best ways to ensure the player has a more personal connection to the protagonist. When another character in a game talks to the silent protagonist our emotional reaction becomes the hero's reaction. We are no longer forced to accept the characters emotional responses if they are different than the way we would behave.

Designing a Silent Protagonist

A silent protagonist does not have to have a specific look. But, many of them do. Calling it a "specific" look is somewhat of a misdomeaner since a silent protagonist should have an atypical look from other characters. Let's look at the threee most famous silent protagonists.

Gordon Freeman (Half Life Series)

One of the first things you may notice about Gordon is his anti-action hero look. Sure he has that tough looking armor on but he looks like a "nerd." I hate to say it,but a large portion of the video gaming public do consider themselves nerds in one way or the other. In a lot of ways we look a lot more like Gordon freeman then we look like most bulky muscle bound heroes. Gordon Freeman is just a scientest caught in a bad series of events and it is played out in a way to make it believable that it could happen to anybody. He looks like an average male with glasses, and he doesn't speak. Its fairly easy for most of us to picture ourselves as him. It's also important to mention that Half Life is a first person shooter, so we are looking through Gordon's eyes the entire game. Not only are we his voice but also his eyes.

Link (Legend of Zelda Series)

This one is a little different since he doesn't really look like any of us. Link isn't even human, but he does have mostly human features and is not a muscle bound hero. In the games, Link is either a child or in his mid teen years. This age range mimicks the typical age of video game players at the time Link was created (now gamers are much older). As child who grew up with the Zelda franchise it was easy for me to put myself in his shoes. More important to Link's silence than his appearence is the overall game design. The Legend of Zelda is a large scale adventure series that requires a lot of puzzle solving. Naturally in a puzzle game we have to think a lot harder and are constantly guessing what to do next. Our internal dialogue is extremely important when playing the Legend of Zelda. Therefore, it makes sense to further link us to the game by giving us a silent protagonist. It also is not a coincidence that his default name is Link either, Shigaru Miyamoto gave him that name because he felt like we should have a link with the character. Furthermore, technically speaking, his name can be changed into any name as we are given the option to do that when we start the game. Having the name Link, which symbolically links us, or giving him our own name, which directly links us, are enhanced by him being a silent protagonist.

Crono (Chrono Trigger)

Now it was a very strange move to make the lead in a RPG silent. RPGs are typically the most story driven games and have the most dialogue. The lead character in an RPG usually has a very distinct personality and the designers want to sell the character as a specific personality type. However, in Chrono Trigger this is all thrown out the window. The designers made Crono silent basically making him a stand in for ourselves. His silence also helps prop up the supporting cast. It lets Crono fade into the background a bit and forces us to pay more attention to the other characters around us. Chrono Trigger has a cast of very colouful characters and they stand out even more beside the silent Crono.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mega Man 2

If you look at the enitre Mega Man series (there are too many games for me to count) you can image it could be a daunting task to pick just one as a great example as art. Personally I think Mega Man 2, is not only the best game in the series but easily the most artistic game. After Mega Man 2 the series became a huge hit and went from a real artistic vision to a franchise with the sole purpose of gaining money with medicore games. For those of you who know the franchise well enough, you know I am not saying anything new here. Mega Man 2 is often held as the best game in the series and even one of the best games of all time.

Designing a Hero

One look at Mega Man you can clearly see he is heavily influeced by Japanese anime. This anime look actually works extremely well in old Nintendo games. In anime, human features are exagerated. The one anime feature that most people can't help but look at are the giant eyes. Basically every anime artist uses big giant eyes, in order to portray emotion effectively. Now Mega Man may not have a wide range of emotions but giving the character this style allows the player to actually see the features of the face. Most NES games had the lead character with no face or beedy eyes. Mega Man has large cartoony eyes that really stand out and help to portray something the player can actually relate to.

The other major character design choice is one of the oldest tricks in the book. Mega Man wears his underwear outside his pants. Now in real life this would look ridiculous, but it works with drawn characters. Mega Man is not alone in his fashion both Superman, Batman, and countless outher super-heroes share this style. Not only does this subconciously give the player a link from Mega Man to superheroes but it also works well with animation. Super Heroes wear underwear outside their pants (or at the very least have multi-coloured costumes) because it makes it easier for the viewer to tell where the action is. Seperating the legs, from the mid-section using different colours makes it easier for us to follow the action on their legs. Mega Man also wears long gloves for this same reason. Rather then having one uniform colour that will make the character looked washed out, seperating the arms, legs and mid-section make the action easy to see and control.

One final thing that helps Mega Man stand out is the black outline the designers drew around him. Mega Man goes from level to level and each one looks completely different from the last. On top of that Mega Man can change his colour scheme depending on what weapon he is using. This black outline makes it so he never blends into the backround. We can always find him on the screen no matter the background or what he is wearing.

Even against a blue background while wearing blue Mega Man stands out.

Labour of Love

Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man, was really proud of his original Mega Man game. However, the game did not get the response that Capcom, the puiblisher, wanted. The original Mega Man did not sell very well, and since Capcom was in the business of making money, they were not very interested with another Mega Man game. But luckily Capcom eventually allowed Inafune and his team to make Mega Man 2, but only under the condition that they also work on other games. Inafune and his team had to work on the assignments that Capcom gave them and after hours, when they had free time, they could spend it working on Mega Man 2. Rarely is this kind of dedication seen in making a game. Keiji Inafune called making Mega Man 2 a "rogue effort." Thankfully Japanese work ethic prevailed and his team was content with working late hours to create a game they actually cared about. They used the original Mega Man as a blueprint but built on the game in every way they could. They added more bosses, more unique weapons and updated the graphics (which even though it was released in 1988 in Japan it still looks good). 

Choose your own adventure

The first eight bosses in Mega Man 2. You can choose who you want to start against.

One thing the original Mega Man set up was getting rid of level progression. Rather then playing Mega Man level 1 then Mega Man level 2. The game started with 6 bosses on the screen and you choose where you wanted to go. Choose cut-man and you go to his level, once you beat it you fight him and get his power. This basic idea was repeated in Mega Man 2 but instead of 6 bosses there were 8. This adds a new layer of interactivity that was uncommon in NES games (platformers especially). Now the player had to think about which level to tackle first. Not only that but since after beating the boss and gaining the new weapon you had to figure out what boss would be weakest against your new powers. It was really simple and easy to understand, while at the same time adding a new way to play a shooter/platformer. It gave the player a certain influence over the game. He/she could choose how they wanted the game to unfold.

The Music

It is impossible to talk about Mega Man 2 without mentioning the music. When this game came out no one had heard video game music that fast and with so many layers (for an NES game). The composers pushed the hardware to its maximum in order to get their rather complex music score to sound good. Even today people still consider Mega Man 2 having the best music of any game ever. It is a daunting enough task to create a few songs for an old NES game but the designers went above and beyond the call of duty and created an intro song, a level select song, a song for each of the 8 bosses, a song for selecting the bosses, a song for the final levels in the game, and a song for aquiring a new weapon. That's a lot of music and is an exceptional amount for games of its time. Furthermore each song was not just unique from the last but they were all much faster than video game music was at the time. The music not only sets the mood, by adding to the action happening on the screen, but also helps along the simple story of the game. I have provided a couple examples of some of the games most classic songs.

Intro Song

What a way to start the game. Because of the sound system the NES had the begining notes sound like futuristic computer noises setting the stage for the time period. The song starts off slow giving the player a false sense of calm. The music slowly builds faster and faster until we see Mega Man and it reaches its peak. The song is now at maxium speed and throughout the game it doesn't let up. The game designers effectively created a crescendo into the game before the player even started one level. It lets the player know we are skipping the slow part and getting right into the action.

Bubble Man

I could pick any or all of the Mega Man bosses but everyone has their favorite, and mine is Bubble Man. Personally I feel that this song really goes against everything we should expect with the level while at the same time complementing it. Somehow the creators meshed the fast paced songs of Mega Man 2 with an underwater level. Underwater levels in games typically have a more mellow tune to match the feeling of gliding through water. Even the boss' name, Bubble Man, evokes the image of safe, calm and slow. Even though the song is fast it still captures the image of a bubble. The song starts a little slow for a few seconds with a few notes floating up then the hard raw notes hits right after. Its almost like bubbles floating up and popping. Its imaginative, creative, and perfect. If you want to hear the other songs click the names, Metal Man, Wood Man, Heat Man, Air Man, Crash Man, Flash Man, Quick Man.

Wily world 1 and 2

Once you beat the 8 main bosses you move on towards the climax of the game. The climax starts off with the fastest paced song, that reminds the players of a really rocking guitar solo. Even among the other fast songs in the game it stands out, and lets the player know the game is about to ramp up even more. It is hard to create a climax in such a high action game but this song helps cement the fact that the peak of the game is yet to come.

Why not Mega Man 1 or 3

Now why do I feel that part 2 deserves special recognition over its sequel and the original.Some poeple might think that since Mega Man 1 is the original it deserves special recognition above the rest. Others think Mega Man 3 was the better game because it had an extra layer of polish. Simply put Mega Man 2 is the perfect example of a Mega Man game. The original lacked the layer of polish to make it really stand out, the basics were there but playing the game you can tell it was missing something and did not live up to its full potential. Mega Man 3, while still a great game, was the first in a series of over working the franchise. I would still suggest that Mega Man 3 is a great game but it did nothing better than Mega Man 2. Mega Man 3 was created because the success of Mega Man 2, it was not a labour of love it was an assignment. It also gave Mega Man his first superfluous abilities (sliding and a dog named rush) that pointed toward the watering down of the series. Mega Man 2 is just the right mix of old and new, and you can tell everyone who worked on it cared a great deal about it and strived toward this piece of art.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Colours - Red

The complete opposite of the colour green is the colour red. While green was calming, safe, and inviting red is a big warning and alerts danger. We are naturally tuned to be alerted by the colour red, the best example of this is blood. It takes a human, (and animals in general) no time at all to learn that blood = stop and pay attention. Stop signs, and emergency vehicles are red for this reason. It's hard not to pay attention to the colour. You'll notice McDonald's. Wendy's, and, Burger King all use red in their logo. This is about as close as you can get to yelling, "hey stop here" on a sign. Red is used the exact same way in video games.


Blood in video games has become a standard since Mortal Kombat (there was blood before but it was the first game to popularize it). Not only does blood give a sense of realism but also helps direct the players attention toward the action. The red blood stands out and it is easier to aim at and see exactly where your eneimes are. This is why blood isn't just added to a game it is also exagerated. Look at how blood draws your attention in these examples.

Mortal Kombat
(Rather then just seeing the fighting you can also see the impact of your hits. When this game came out in the arcades it was the first fighting game to use blood. Not only did it draw attention of the players but crowds would normally form around the cabinet.)

Gears of War
(a game where you cannot just run-and-gun. You need to find cover and react in a strategic manner. Everytime you hit the enemies a great deal of blood come out. This lets the player know where their targets are. Also the enemies and the backgrounds have the same colour scheme (grey eniemes and grey levels) so the blood adds much needed colour to the game.

(I have a Japanese PS3 and when this game first came out the blood was censored on all Japanese PS3s. They have since fixed the error. I played the game a bit before patching the game and noticed it was hard to tell when I was hitting my target. With blood the game became easier.)

Mad World
(The game only has 2 colours red (blood), and yellow (for sound effects). The rest of the game is black and white. The blood red really stands out against the stark black and white game. This further exagerates the blood by allowing red be the only real colour on the screen. It also makes the action much more exciting.

Hard Levels

Just like how green is a good colour for the easier levels, red is a great colour for the harder levels. A lot of games have had lava or fire themed levels and they are usually the harder levels in the game and have a vibrant red colour scheme. However, red levels don't always need to use lava or fire.

(in contrast to the peacful overworld the Oblivion planes are filled with harder battles).

Super Mario 64
(One of the levels that has you doing the most tricky platforming is a lava level)

Mega Man 2
(Heat-man may not be the hardest boss but his level required skill).

Bowser's Castle in Mario Kart
(some of the harder courses in Mario Kart are red).


Finally red can be used to just grab your attention without using blood. Some games have just used the colour red because it does a great job of standing out from most other colours.

Gears of War
(When you are getting close to dieing, a red Gears of War symbol will be flashed up on the screen. Warning you to take cover).

(You think it is a coincedence that the most recognizable character wears red clothes? Its a great way to make Mario stand out in all the colourful levels he is in.)

Health bars
(most health bars in games are coloured red. The health bar is important for the gamer to notice so having it lets it stand out even when not in direct line of site. Also having the bar red sybolizes blood, since as you lose health you are losing blood even if the blood is not shown on the screen.)

So while green was the safe and clam colour, red is the danger and warning color. It can be used to either catch the players attention against everything else happening on the screen, or it can be used to warn the player of danger.