watched video games grow up. In a way I feel like
a parent. It's a strange parenthood though. There
are lots of other parents out there, and not just
one woman. You're all parent in the same sense that
I am. The dominance of video games was born of that
willingness to pay for the entertainment they offer.
So in that sense it's our offspring.
I remember playing "Asteroids" as a child whenever
I could in a nearby market. It was a physics class
well before I hit high school, judging x and y forces
on the fly in a great space dance around the rocks
of the Universe. Games were younger then. So young
and innocent. "Asteroids" was set up near the door,
as games usually seem to be. Maybe that's where they
were because the owners wanted them visible immediately.
Maybe they were there so that they were separated
from the "real" business of the store. Maybe "Pong"
just wasn't supposed to create a traffic jam in between
the dried rice and breakfast cereals.
was also a game at the local laundrotmat, the name
of which I still don't remember. (After writing this,
I was happily informed that it's called "Rock 'n'
Rope") I was a mountain climber, and I shot grappling
hooks from one side of the screen to the other trying
to reach some kind of bird at the top. There were
monsters at every ledge. They shook the cables when
I was on them. I had to stop when they did, and hope
the cables didn't break. The game had my imagination
by the throat. Something similar, if not the same,
seems, from the description, to be out on a Konami
classics CD for the Playstation.
felt like talking about my spin on the growing importance
of violence in video games. The adolescence of video
games brings this on. Puberty, if you will. Our child
has too much power now to be an innocuous sideshow
in a supermarket. "Mortal Kombat" is too much for
doesn't have much in its form beyond some connected
lines representing an almost abstract intergalactic
destruction. I don't imagine that anyone worried,
when they walked into the market looking for the golden
peanut butter, about how the depiction of an occupied
spacecraft being destroyed by rocks of a fearful size
was too greusome and needed censorship. If we imagine
that, graphics aside, there's a person in that little
wire-frame ship screaming in agony when you clumsily
guide him into the nearest hurtling rock, it's still
not an image conjured up by the disinterested passerby.
You have to work to imagine that buried reality.
the disinterested passerby may gladly admit that brain
power was better spent on something different... perhaps
which brand of baking powder was the bigger value,
or whether the generic ibuprofin was really as good
as Advil. So the bulk of the danger in games when
they were young may have been in how people who played
didn't want to do anything else, how they forgot about
their homework, zoned out; not in the images they
portrayed and how that could seep into reality.
a way, those were the days. The lost innocence of
youth. Games took up time, and people complained a
little, but the connection to reality was tenuous.
Shaking me from my grappling hook in that climbing
game seemed about as tragic as an eviction in Monopoly.
Maybe that was one of the problems as well as one
of the benefits. It was an escape from reality, not
a terrifying version of it like we might find in "Carmageddon".
But now that we have systems like the Dreamcast (almost),
the realism of fleshed-out designer mainstays can
start to look like a terrifying and vulgar reality,
rather than an abstract time-waster. It's leaving
it's childhood home. It's intruding on reality. Call
to mind "Kingpin".
do we get now, with the Dreamcast? We have the capacity
for games that are easily mistaken for reality. Even
the Saturn and Playstation could do it on occasion.
I remember having an aunt walk into the house when
I was playing "International Track and Field" once.
I saw her later, and when she began with the chit-chat,
she mentioned the sporting event I'd been watching
earlier. Go figure.
2000" looked nearly photo-realistic when I saw videos
filter down from the E3 and into the Net. And the
console market is bigger than the PC market, more
mainstream, closer to reality, because unlike the
PC, it's a living room passtime. The world of the
PC is further from the core of a family, where the
living room may be more of a sanctuary. Seeing near
photo-realistic imagery in that so-called place of
living (unlike straight television, which isn't controlled),
could easily be much more disturbing to a parent that's
worried about having to release her child into the
big bad world of reality every day. Maybe video games
as an escape from reality were better. If video games
can now be as disturbing as reality, where's the sanctuary
have the possibility of children controlling and obliterating
characters that look nearly real. And maybe in one
of the few places that parents have time to be a good
influence in a dangerous world.
expressions are a big part of this reality. The "Emotion
Engine" in the Playstation 2 accepts this as a given.
I have a hard time empathizing with the blocky polygonal
characters of today, with their painted and immobile
faces. "Metal Gear: Solid" is great, but.... Still,
it surpasses the Master System. Bodily movement is
a part of this too. Characters on current systems
look like a bunch of rectangles masquerading as a
person, and without much practice. Games like "NFL
2000" have a close tie to this issue. Clarity alone
wouldn't be enough if the animation were only as detailed
as the latest "Gameday". In "NFL 2000", the characters
won't just be as clear as people, they might move
like them, too. My mountain climber didn't look real
facial expression or a tiny twitch in the body can
make a beautiful human moment. As an example, I'll
mention the film "Liar Liar". In general I wish that
movie hadn't tried to touch touching. But the face,
body, and voice of the judge near the end of the film
when he said "I see...." in response to the fact that
there would be a custody battle, was genuinely moving.
If I shut the movie off then, I can almost forget
the sugar that comes after. If such a moment were
in an interactive world of Playstation-quality visuals,
much of the power would've been inevitably lost. The
Dreamcast might do it.
with games, often so intent on destruction, the capacity
to build "real" people with as powerful a face and
body as that judge will necessarily bring the capacity
to destroy "real" people. No more imaginary space
men in wire-frame space ships that only the fascinated
gamer would bother to picture. A cornered enemy in
a first person shooter can give you the most human
look of fear, and then have the face that made it
splattered all over the wall. By you. It should happen.
Or could. Couple this with what the Game Boy Camera
can do for enemies in "Perfect Dark" and it's easy
to see how more people could get close to killing
those that anger them. Maybe at times that could be
a healthy venting. I don't know.
this could be good... sometimes. Like I said, "a healthy
venting"? A "reality simulator" could be used for
good or ill. Just as easily as someone could destroy
a character that seemed strikingly real, that same
player could see the look of fear in a cornered foe
and realize a way to have unforced sympathy for a
kind of human pain. And maybe he or she could have
an epiphany about the human condition. Maybe the player
could spare the enemy.
mentioned that anything from the greatest good to
the worst evil could be done. That's with anything,
not just a video game-like reality simulator. There's
a spectrum between them. Spectrums are everywhere.
More power broadens the available spectrum of good
and bad, distances the two extremes. The arrival of
the Dreamcast means we have a great big spectrum now.
examples for a good/bad spectrum, influenced by power:
Hitler may not have been as "evil" as some. But the
ability that the power he had gave to him made him
stand out more than any hellish recluse. Someone who
doesn't have the charisma to lead a country, even
though he may want to kill billions, won't make a
huge mark. Infinite unknown evil that doesn't kill
billions won't be remembered or matter as much as
Hitler did. And Anthony Hopkins may not be as "good"
an actor as some. Maybe those with more talent will
be undiscovered forever. Maybe they never get lucky
enough to hit it big. Maybe they don't have the political
talent necessary to get ones self to a place where
acting talent can be fully utilized. Maybe they'd
rather be game designers. But if they don't get a
break and gain some acting power, their talent will
never show to any but their closest friends.
point is that the power of the Dreamcast means that
if bad has been done by games in the past, greater
bad is now possible. If good has been done by games,
more good is now possible. A better "murder simulator"
can be programed, a bigger artistic epiphany can be
Dreamcast has power. Not ultimate power, but a great
deal of power none-the-less. Enough to get "close
enough" to reality in many regards. The limits of
reality in games will no longer be near the grainy
yet somehow grand compromise that constituted "Metal
Gear Solid". Only the sound and voice acting in that
had no obvious technical boundaries.
rest of the boundaries are fading now. I should mention
the FMV or CG cut scenes that can come on any CD system.
Those mimic, and even out-pace the movies, quite well,
as I mentioned a few weeks ago. Any camera movement
and set is possible with animation. Yet they remain
frustratingly non-interactive. Sometimes spectacular
non-interactivity is what I want, but I'm not writing
this piece for a film site. And the Dreamcast can
do near-CG quality real-time interactivity.
yet again I say "Long live the Dreamcast". My love
makes me feel like a parent of it, too. I hope it
grows up well.
You may contact Amos,
he would love to hear your comments and opinions.
Amos' Website: Sega