Experience and digital space

Short answer; No. Long answer; It’s a bit more complicated than that. With digital media, the ontology is often concentrated on viewing the relationship between the consumer, the media and the culture of the media. The digital part is significant. While there are now few generations that have grown up in a world that never lacked the digital component, it is still relatively new introduction in historical scale. Nevertheless, it is present everywhere nowadays and digital elements in out life most likely will keep growing as the time goes by.

Timothy Druckery, a theorist of contemporary media, even went so far to argue that it would not be possible to describe or experience the world without technologically digital devices. He argues further that the evolution from mechanical to technological computer  culture has been more than just a series of new techniques and technological advances, that it is more about the evolution between dynamics of culture, interpretation and experience. Much like Druckery’s collegues, he argues that representative works are based on experience, and it would be hard to argue against that.

Video and computer games are based on experiences people have. First computer RPGs had their roots in Dungeons & Dragons campaigns people had, and this applies to origins of Ultima as well.  Miyamoto has stated that The Legend of Zelda his goal with the game was to have the game feel the same way as if you were exploring a city you have never been in before. You can almost see the overworld map as a city layout in this sense, where certain paths are alleys, larger open areas are parks and numerous dead-ends permiate the game. Or maybe that’s just me. Satoshi Tajiri, the name behind the Pokémon franchise, based the game on his own experience with bug catching. Japan has a history with kids having bug catching as a hobby, and the latest big craze was during the 1990’s. When you consider how a kid has to cover creeks, run over rivers and search the forests for new bugs to catch, you begin to see the adventure and the excitement that Tajiri wanted to convey in Pokémon. You also begin to see where modern Pokémon has started to veer off, emphasizing plot over adventure. There was a good article how Yu Suzuki put Virtua Fighter’s developer through martial arts training each morning in order for his men to animate a punch or a kick right.

That is not to say a game can be created without any experience in subject itself. Hideo Kojima has never been a spy or a soldier on a battlefield, but he nevertheless put his experience from Western movies into use in Metal Gear. You can see the change in certain visual in Metal Gear Solid 2  when they got an actual military advisor on the team. For example, Snake no longer pointed his gun upwards and overall how characters began to handle weapons changed. Small, but rather significant change when you consider how much Metal Gear games depend on the whole experienced soldier schtick.

Nevertheless, all the above mentioned games are representative of some sort of experience and allow the player to experience a sort of simulation of it. With any new sort of media there has been the fear of losing something important to humanity, if you will. With digital media the question of the consumer’s identity has become a question through the fears of how any new media might (or rather will) change our way of thinking and the way we live.

Without a doubt we have both real and virtual spaces as well as the identities that go with them. We have a wear a different persona when we are with our parents or friends, and the same applies to the virtual space. Since the 1990’s virtual space has become more and more daily thing to the point of Facebook and other social media becoming almost essential. However, even in these spaces we have a persona on us that is different from others. Much like how when writing this blog I have a persona on you don’t see in other virtual spaces, though it is overlapping harshly with everything nowadays. While there is no physical aspect to virtual spaces (they are digital and non-physical by definition) they nevertheless are real and can carry to the “real” world. However, we can always the space we choose to interact with, though this has led to the birth of extreme comfort zones where one must feel safe all the time rather than challenging oneself and broaden horizons. After all, nobody wants to get stuck in place for all eternity. Unless they get hit by a car and fall into three years of coma.

Whether or not digital media and virtual identities change our selves in physical form is a topic for a different post (it does, but the extent in which way is expansive), but I can’t but mention that experiences the consumers gain from digital media affects us just as any other similar source. After all, electronic games are an active medium instead of passive like movies or music and require the consumer to learn in order to advance. This has led some to argue that games promote violence through teaching violent methods.

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold are the two names responsible of the Columbine Shooting in 1999, and two years later Linda Sanders, whom lost his husband in the shooting, sued 25 different companies, like Id Software, Apogee Software and Interplay Productions, claiming that the event would not have happened if games with extreme violence like this wouldn’t exist. It was argued that certain games allowed the two assailants to train their shooting skills with precision and affected the two in a negative way. However, as we’ve seen multiple times over, games do not cause kids to go violent, and it would seem to be far more about the individual and their mental health than the media they consume.

However, it must be said that even when games are escapism from real world, they still are a product of real experiences. Playing may be just a game much like any other, but the more real world expands into virtual spaces thematically and ideologically, the less there is separation between the two. Ultimately, playing a game will affect the real world persona of the player, thought he question how much is very much up to the individual consumer. Games have been discussing censorship, violence and current topics for more than thirty years now, and for a medium that is about escapism to a large extent, that does not bode well. How much value we can put on a digital world that does not make use of its non-real capabilities and ties itself to the real?

Perhaps the digital personae we use has become less important as the melding of two worlds continues, and the identity we assume is an amalgamation.

ICD-11 video game addiction is being pushed without proper backing

Without a doubt certain percentage of people who play electronic games overdo their hobby. However, this is only for a small percentage of the overall enthusiasts and hobbyists. Furthermore, it would seem that problematic gaming, that is the consumption of electronic gaming that is detrimental to everyday life, itself grows itself thin in time and dissipates on its own. A longitudinal study showed this with 112 adolescents. I’ve already covered why the proposal for gaming disorder has no basis, but it would appear pushing for its suggestions into ICD-11 has merit to it. Merit that wouldn’t serve science, culture, markets or consumers.

Ferguson wrote that less than 1% of people experience video game addiction. His writing is a good read. Game addiction in itself is a very different nature from e.g. gambling. I’ve actually covered issues with pairing electronic gaming and gambling with each other previously, but to make short story even shorter, video game addiction is far more often a symptom of an underlying problem than the cause in itself. Ferguson’s own study supports this. Hell, there’s even a paper arguing against the very concept of video game addiction.

In a discussion between Ferguson and an administrator at the World Health Organisation acknowledged political pressure from countries, particularly from Asian ones, factoring in the inclusion of video game addiction into ICD-11. If countries are pushing its inclusion, that means scientific basis comes second at best and whatever political stance these nations have come in first. That is extremely dangerous, as adding video game addiction opens doors for other far more intrusive and harmful suggestions to be included under its umbrella. Considering video game addiction is extremely loosely defined and would require far more research than what it has, there’s no guarantee any of the future additions would have better research behind it.

You may be asking yourself what nations would have need or use for this sort of addition to the ICD-11. Some nations have reported more deaths from non-stop gaming than others, and mostly we hear these reports from either China or South Korea. In 2005 a 28-years old man died because his heart failed during a session of Starcraft, BBC reports. It is interesting to note from that article that despite Starcraft being a real-time strategy game, professor Mark Griffith only talks about MMORPGs, a very different genre of game. You have far less interaction with your opponent in Starcraft that you have in e.g. World of Warcraft.

South Korea has seen drastic changes in its electronic game landscape, and one of the more worrisome changes came around 2014, when some members of the government began to regard games as a detrimental pastime. South Korea has discussed to enact game addition bill to limit not only the amount of time people should be allowed to play, but also games themselves. However, when you have legislators directly comparing video games to tobacco and alcohol, there is something amiss. South Korean gaming culture is far different from any other, e.g. you can actually graduate to be an e-Sports player. However, much like any other person who has a career in “sports,” e-Sports players suffer from injuries as well. Seeing how the South Korean culture has almost twisted games and e-Sports into a national pastime, it’s no wonder a lot of young people are willing to give a chance to become a player worth millions of wons.

The thing is, South Korea does have a problem with gaming, but rather as we are lacking in evidence for gaming addiction (we have more researches saying against it as linked above), it is far more probable that the South Korean gaming problem is a symptom from an underlying social and cultural troubles. Putting legislation that equates games with drugs and alcohol won’t cure the problem, it will manifest itself some other way later down the line.

Passing a law based on game addiction is hard when you have nothing to base it on. However, if ICD-11 would recognize video game addiction as a valid illness, there would be no need for debating or researching the issue much further; after all, you can simply point out that it’s in the books. That would be injustice.

One of the gaming limiting laws has already passed. The Shutdown law was passed in 2011 and limits people aged under 16 from playing online games during the night between 00:00 and 06:00. While this would sound decent in principle, it is not the government’s job to do what parents should be doing. Furthermore, this law challenged in few occasions as unconstitutional. However, the law is still in effect, albeit nowadays parents can request the ban being lifted from their child.

China’s following this South Korean example with similar legislation that would ban gaming outright from people aged under 18 between 00:00 and 08:00, and would necessitate computers and smartphones to be fitted software that would track down law breakers. Both South Korea and China require their people to use their real IDs when accessing their gaming accounts. In case of South Korea, this is a necessity with many of their websites in general. However, in 2012 Real Name Rule was struck down and rejected by court. The law requiring the usage of users’ real names was introduced in 2007 to combat cyber-bullying. Again, this is treating the symptom, not the cause. Furthermore, as gaming is a million-dollar business, by accusing game industry creating addictive products, governments could push forwards for harsher taxations and other underhanded shenanigans to gain more from the revenues. This may sound like a foil-hat idea, but seeing how few years back we found game journalism colluding and attacking their consumers and recently CIA spying everyone everywhere, this isn’t far fetched.

Games of any kind, be it sports, card games or anything else, are addictive in their own way. For modern electronic games, it’s a whole mess to open why they could be addictive outside the usual action-reward scheme. This is because electronic games have more dimensions than gambling. After all, games are a tool to give leeway for people from their everyday life in an electronic way that supports social interaction through cultural landscape and aims to both challenge and please the players at the same time. They are not gambling, except Complete Gacha in Japan, as gambling quite literally requires wagering money or something else valuable under uncertain conditions for higher gains. Of course, games are designed to pull the player in and be enjoyable, but that is what every form of entertainment does.

If video game addiction would have something to be tied to, it would be escapism. Escapism is always tied to something else than the tool people escape through, and the question I must ask here; what are people escaping from if they are willing to kill and die because of video games?

Social unsocial gaming

In the 1980’s and 1990’s electronic games were usually blamed to remove children from each other, that games separated players from their normal friends. However, much like on many of claims like this, that’s only partially true.

Let’s consider arcades at first. They were nothing short of social event. While I’ve gone over how arcades were part of continuing cultural phenomena, including criminal activities and rebelling teenagers, I’d like to reiterate that arcades have always gathered people of all walks of life to a common place. Penny arcades first, then video arcades. While the image of arcades as masculine place of triumphant to-be adults has long since died and replaced with kids’ place of play, only to be taken over by free-to-play arcades for young adults with barcades, they nevertheless have always served as a place to escape to in some extent. A round of Street Fighter II might have had a group significance, it also served a way for those who simply wanted to vent something out and be alone.

PC gaming has always been a bit more a hobby for the hermit kind, that much I’m willing to give in. However, even then most children who played computer games played them with either a friend or a family member. Furthermore, computer games would bring people together in groups to discuss the games themselves and ways to upgrade or fix computers. Geek squad is most likely derived from these kind of groups of people with specific computer know-how most people seem to lack. Nowadays Internet connection is making playing with other people very easy, and the old way of thinking of a person playing alone doesn’t apply. A person may be playing a computer game alone in a room, but connected to dozens of different players across the world. Modern social gaming at its finest.

Console gaming has been about multi-player since Pong hit the markets. David Sudnow goes over in his book Pilgrim in the Microworld how adults, not children, played an Atari console at a party and it was a big hit. This should be noted, as while the perception used to be that gaming is only for children, everybody regardless of their age is open for a game or two. Electronic games may be largely based on boy’s play culture, but the truth is that both boys and girls, men and women, have always played games.Compared to PC games’ hot-seat switching (it’s still cumbersome to shove people next to the same keyboard) console gaming has allowed real-time interaction. Now you may scoff at me and say You can attack USB controllers and whatnot to a PC and just play emulators, but you’re console gaming then.

While multi-player games are part co-operation and part contest, playing a single-player game socially is a different kind of shared experience. Streamers nowadays seem to get the same kind of kick from socialising with their viewers as they did when they were children, interacting and discussing the game. What’s lacking from here is sharing the game and taking turns at beating a stage. Peer learning is the key here. By sharing the physical space with someone and exchanging ideas and turns, players learn from their peers that they can then put into use later when they are playing alone. However, it would seem that the significance of peer learning diminishes with age and older game hobbyists tend to prefer their own, single experiences to challenge themselves. Nevertheless, the significance of socially playing a game has not vanished, and streaming indeed has given it a new form. Perhaps streaming is the next step in this chain, where the streamer first has learned from his peers, then challenged himself  before stepping unto a stage to both entertain viewers and to showcase his learned skills.

In late 1990’s and early 2000’s, video games were still mostly an option to do when you were bored. This applied specifically to girls, who saw more merit in more traditional hobbies. Boys on the other hand regarded games a better option over reading a book, listening to music or watching television. For computer gaming at the time, this could mean boys had a somewhat powerful gaming machine and an Internet connection to play either a strategy game or a first person shooter together. Console gaming, outside the Dreamcast, didn’t offer much online functions. The amount of games boys and girls played games is significantly different due how different the play culture is between boys and girls. While we could argue that gender roles have something to do with this, it would be extremely interesting to see how much genetics have a role in how a child takes part in their gender’s play culture.

There are those who have been separated from their friends and peers because of games. However, the same applies to any hobby. Books, radio, television, movies, etc. It is more about the person himself than the hobby they choose. Gaming can be extremely social event with its own set of rules depending on the people and the game being played. Just like how one can’t expect to enter a foreign culture and find it acceptable from the get-go, so does modern social gaming expect new players to get accustomed to the modern Internet-driven multi-player landscape.

It would be foolish to assume there would be just one form of game culture when it comes to online gaming. Each region and even game has their own set of sub-cultural rules and behaviours that can even vary between server rooms within the same game, in the same region. The much laughed Call of Duty kid who calls others by names and acts like a brat may be a black and white stereotype, but as much as it is true just a much there are those who act completely the opposite with courtesy and encouragement towards their fellow players.

Electronic games, as much some people hate to think about it, connects more people than it separates. We can choose what games we play and whom with we play them, and we shouldn’t expect to be able to share a game with everybody, either because of cultural or preferential differences. We can be social in the circles we choose in, and while it is healthy to venture outside and see what others are doing to broaden out horizons, we should just concentrate on enjoying this social hobby instead of tearing it down.

A local question

Astro Boy, Gigantor and Eight Man are classic shows that have a place in American pop culture, even thou Eight Man is probably the most forgotten piece of the bunch. This was the 60’s, and a cartoon with robots flying in the sky, high-speed androids and robot boys fit the era fine. From what I’ve gathered from what people who grew up with these shows, nobody questioned their origin. They were entertaining shows on the telly and that’s all that mattered. I’d throw Speed Racer into the mix as well, thou it arrived just a tad later to the mix, but met with the same treatment.

Video and computer games have a similar history, all things considered. Nobody really cared where from arcade games came from, they just rocked the place. Not even the name Nintendo raised some eyebrows, it was just some exotic name cocked up in a meeting. Pretty much what Herb Powell did in The Simpsons.

Games had a shorter gestation period than robot cartoons when it comes to finding the source to some extent. US saw the mid-1970’s Shogun Warriors, a toyline that used wide variety of toys based on Toei’s show with some changed names to fit better the American market. The NES era is relatively infamous of its localised games, and much like how American reception of these Japanese cartoons ultimately was felt back in Japan, so was the localisations and changed made to games. Perhaps the best example of this would how Salamander became Life Force in its arcade re-release and effectively became its own spin-off from the base game.

This, of course, has been largely in America. Europe is a bit of a different thing, with France, Italy and Spain having their own imported animation culture to the point of Spain having a statue for Mazinger Z. I remember reading about a tennis comic that a French publisher continued after its end in Japan. This was done by hiring an illustrator who could replicate the original style and saw healthy sales for a time. Something that like probably could never happen in modern world, unless the original author has died and has made it clear that continuing his work is allowed. Somehow I can see titles like Mazinger  and Dragon Ball still gaining new entries to the franchise long after Go Nagai and Akira Toriyama have left for Mangahalla.

Sadly, I am not as well versed in pan-European phenomena when it comes to Japanese animation in the Old World, but there are numerous resources in both online and book format, often in native tongue. Perhaps worth investing time into for future entries.

While things like Robotech and Voltron made their names around the American landscape, the 1980’s saw a growing appreciation for the original, unaltered footage. This was the era of Laserdisc, and people were mail ordering cartoons solely based on the covers. Can’t blame them, LDs tend to have absolutely awesome covers. Whenever these shows were shown in a convention, a leaflet explaining the overall premise and the story would be spread among the visitors or a separate person would enter the stage and give a synopsis of the events on the screen. There were those who felt, and still feel, that localisation demeans the original work.

Similarly, game importing became a thing in the latter part of the 1980’s and in the early 1990’s with NES’ success, though it should be mentioned that Europe saw PC game importing across regions far more. The Nordic countries began importing NES games anywhere they could and specialised mail service stores popped up just to service this part of the population. It wasn’t uncommon to see Genesis and Mega Drive titles sold side by side in-game stores. Appreciation for the original game saw a rise, either because of it was simply cool to have shit in Japanese or from America, or because some level of censorship was present. However, more often it was because Europe was largely ignored when it came to releasing certain games. Importing unavailable games to a region is still relevant, perhaps even more so than previously now that companies are investing in English releases in Asian versions and region free consoles are becoming an industry standard.

The question I’ve been asking myself for a long time now, longer than I’ve been writing this blog, is that whether or not wholesome localisation like Space Battleship Yamato and Starblazers was a necessary evil of the time that we can be do without now, that we are grown culturally to accept the original work as a whole, or whether it’s just hubris of the people who are too close to their sub-culture and co-fans. A person who is tightly knit with music’s sub-culture doesn’t exactly understand the sub-culture of pinball or golf.

By that I mean that pop-culture in general doesn’t give jackshit whether or not panties are censored in a video game, it’s irrelevant in macro-scale. Even in a localised form a product can impact pop-culture in ways that the original couldn’t, the aforementioned Speed Racer and Robotech being highly impacting examples in American pop-culture. I guarantee that these shows would not have their impact without the localisation effort.

Is it a necessary evil then? Perhaps this is the subjective part with no answer. Those who value original, unaltered product without a doubt will always prefer the “purest” form of the product, whereas someone who doesn’t have the same priorities will most likely enjoy the localised version just as fine. It would be infantile to assume that people who don’t know better can’t appreciate the original piece or lack in intelligence somehow. It is merely a matter preference, and like assholes, everyone has one.

If it matters, I personally vouch for unaltered products whenever applicable for the sake of keeping the integrity of the product and the intentions of the creators intact. However, also see complete localisations having their valid place in e.g. children’s cartoons. While it would be nice to have two or more versions of everything for the sake of options, that’s not always an option for budgetary, marketing or some other reasons.

Perhaps that’s what could be argued; when it comes to Western culture, we are more acceptable to unlocalised products more than previously, but total localisations still have their place. Even without knowing much about the source, we can appreciate the intentions and look past the cultural difference.

Or at least we should be able to, and appreciate the differences and intentions without resorting to raising a hell for nothing.

ICD-11 proposal for gaming disorder has no basis

World Health Organization has a new proposal in the ICD-11 category, one which would add ‘Gaming disorder’ as a valid disease. The definition for this disease would be the impaired control over daily life in which video games would gain priority despite negative consequences. This is tied to Hazardous gaming, where a pattern of gaming that causes physical or mental harm to the individual or to people around of this individual. Hazardous gaming is essentially just a step towards gaming disorder.

I’m calling bullshit on this proposal as it is now.

You probably clicked the link above and read the short description for gaming disorder. Just from that alone we can surmise few problems the proposal has. First of all, the proposal includes only video games, leaving arcade and PC gaming alone, and hazardous gaming simply refers it as ‘gaming.‘ Granted, the terminology I’m using is more old fashioned in comparison, but using video game as an umbrella term for all electronic gaming is weak at best and shows the authors have little knowledge of the industry’s history. Because of this the proposal ignores the fact that games like pachislot, that is undeniably a video game if we were to use the modern umbrella term, are more dependent on gambling addiction than on the proposed form of gaming disorder.

To add to this, those who are playing video games as a career in some form would be singled out to have this disorder. Psychology as a soft science struggles with things like this, as case studies may not apply to the larger population and vice versa. Furthermore, what is considered harmful in these cases is somewhat open question again. The discussion about what is normal behaviour falls into behavioural psychology a bit too heavily and would be a discussion on its own. I would argue in this case that a person who would have symptoms of gaming disorder may simply be a person who is a hermit and finds solitude in his hobby instead of mingling with people. Whether or not he has a disorder would be questioned. Furthermore, if we were to change the hobby in an individual case like this to something like watching movies, would he then have movie viewing disorder? Such disorder does not exist in the papers and has never been proposed thus far.

There are no long-term studies that would support gaming disorder as proposed. Even short-term studies are hard to come by, and the few examples I had in my mind have eluded for me for the time being. However, the addictive action that electronic games offer is not much any different from other forms of similar activities, but these are not singled out as separate diseases for whatever reason. No other leisure activity like video games, or electronic gaming if you’re an old fart like me, has been singled out like this. While some could argue that gambling falls into this category as a singled out, the psychology of gambling is a bit too much to open here and has proper research basis to back it up.

Furthermore, 26 scholars have written an open letter, rebutting this proposal. You can read the whole thing at Research Gate. Their arguments is that inclusion for gaming disorder, even as a proposal, would have economic effects on the industry. Singling a media out like this would be akin to showcasing the harmful effects of tobacco, the difference here being tobacco’ negative effects had solid evidence behind them. Possible effects of this proposal would be adverse limitations on the industry at large. At worst, possible prohibitions and limitations of what sort of games and what content games could have could be realised. South Korea already employs harsh limitations on games as it is. Last UN’s CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women) wanted to ban Japanese media that depicted sexual violence against women. Kumiko Yamada, the representative of Japanese wing of Women’s Institute of Contemporary Media Culture, responded to CEDAW’s proposal by stating that their view on the matter was an absolute No. Translated version on Niche Gamer. The reasoning to Japan’s response was that first of all, they are fiction and do not threaten real people. Second reason was that these fields are filled with women, and such ban would do the exact opposite what CEDAW’s aimed at, as disallowing these women to portray fiction whatever they wished would create new venues of sexism towards women. If this proposal about gaming disorder would pass, it would mean limitations and even bans similar to this would come to pass under the guise of population health concerns.

As the open letter states, passing the proposal could lead into a moral panic. Gaming in general is no foreign to these, as the industry’s history is well marked with controversies regarding violent games, and more recently about games with sexual content. This would tie itself to the aforementioned limitations and bans, when in reality no good evidence is backing up.

As such, if the proposal would to pass, it would be met with harsh criticism and high scepticism from both common population and scholars. The open letter goes even further and states that passing gaming disorder would harm WHO’s reputation and medical community in general, would dramatically reduce the utility of such a diagnosis, especially when it is not grounded in proper evidence base. Singling games out from the rest of the media out there would open a Pandora’s box of behavioural disorders, where any and all activities from sports to gardening could be diagnosed as a behavioural disorder, saturating and demeaning the whole field at large.

The question you may have now whether or not I am deluded enough to say that there is no disordered gaming. That answer would be No. There are numerous ways a person may end up playing games more that it is healthy, but in numerous researched I’ve read the core reason is more often than not somewhere else. An action in itself can be just a symptom, and singling our excessive gaming in itself disorder would put a patient in possible danger if the underlying reasons are not solved and properly treated. The proposal’s worst case scenario considering health could be treating a symptom while completely disregarding the cause.

Ageless games across generations

Video games have more in common with hide-and-seek than with movies, literature or music. This is due to video games, and electronic gaming in general, being the latest iteration of play culture. As such games of the past, be it the NES or Atari era, still find home within the new generation of consumers just as easily as any well planned out children’s play, game or even sports would. Only in video game industry we hear something become obsolete because of its archaic technology or because we have that aforementioned new generation. Soccer, basketball and numerous other sports still are around because they are ageless because each of them has been passed down to a new generation, just as children’s plays are.

Children will invent stories as they play along, be a costume play, playing with figures or something else. While there is a rudimentary narrative running in these plays, playing is the main thing. Electronic games, both PC and console games especially, are largely a legacy of these plays. The problem with electronic games is that they are static and can’t dynamically change as the player wants. This is why more varied games are always needed and the more unique titles we have, the better. The Legend of Zelda and Skyrim may be based on a similar notion of a hero in a fantasy land, but their realisation is different and serve different purposes. On the surface the ideas and even core structure seems similar. The reader already knows, the two games are vastly different in how they are played. Just like how the narrative in children’s plays are to enforce the action of playing rather than being the main thing, so do games use narrative as a support for playing the game. Changing it otherwise undermines both playing and gaming.

An ageless game will sell to future generations despite its technological backwardness. This is why emulation will never cease to exist, as anyone who knows the basic use of a computer and reading comprehension probably has already fired up at least one sort of emulator. As an anecdote, I’ve seen people as young as seven doing this without any outside help, and they enjoyed playing Super Mario Bros. on JNes. Why Super Mario Bros.? Because Mario is still a cultural icon, and using a Nintendo system most likely the one thing that people go for first. Not because of the modern entries in the series, but due to how large of an impact the franchise left on the face of culture in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.

Much like the game industry at large, those companies with a long history with electronic gaming often simply ignore the possibilities of their library. Instead, we may see plug-n-play conversions of some titles like with Atari 2600, but sometimes we get a piece of products that hits the cultural nerve just the right way and outsells itself to the point of amazing even the producers themselves. The NES Mini surprised Nintendo and its execs without any shadow of a doubt, as mentioned by Reggie in a CNET interview regarding the Switch. To quote him;

The challenge for us is that with this particular system, we thought honestly that the key consumer would be between 30 and 40 years old, with kids, who had stepped away from gaming for some period of time. And certainly we sold a lot of systems to that consumer.

Reggie claims that Nintendo is aware of the popularity of their classic games, which he contradicts with this statement. Furthermore, if they were aware how popular their classic games were, Nintendo would aim to make them obsolete rather than push games that enjoy less popularity. The NES Mini, as Reggie mentions above, wasn’t just popular with the people who grew up with the console, but with basically every age tier. Furthermore it should be noted that even in Europe the legacy of the NES has become that they were the victorious console, but do go back few entries to read how well Nintendo royally fucked NES in PAL territories.

It’s not just the nostalgia that sold NES Mini. As Reggie said, NES Mini is popular among kids, and kids have no nostalgia for a thirty years old game console. The games cherry picked for the system simply are mostly well designed and can stand the test of time. Super Mario Bros. does not appeal just because it is a Mario game, but because it’s a fun adventure in a fantasy land. Zelda‘s open world Action-RPG is popular outside the fans of the franchise (and I hope to God BotW will have an open world in the spirit if the original.) Metroid‘s action-adventure appeals similarly to a larger crowd than just to the fans, thou game devs have been furiously masturbating to this genre for the last years harshly.

There is nothing that would keep Nintendo from realizing the spirit of their older games in their future titles. Nothing keeps an old game from appealing to modern consumers, just like there’s nothing from modern children playing games invented couple of hundreds of years ago. We still play cards like Go Fish! or Shitpants with our kids. Hell, one could even say that when we grow into adults (or rather, we realize we are adults) we still keep playing the same games, but stakes are just higher. Poker may replace Go Fish!  but a new generation will still play that. A new card game for kids will appear in the future to supplement already large library of card games, but it’ll never be able replace anything if it doesn’t refine the formula somehow. Even then, it’s hard to beat a solid classic.

To use another Nintendo example is the Wii. Wii’s Virtual Console sold more titles than Nintendo’s big releases in the latter part of the console’s lifecycle, and saw a slow death on the 3DS. This seems to say that Nintendo doesn’t really take into heart the notion that classic games and their core are still viable. Instead, they concentrate on something surprising and that old games are only played due to nostalgia. A sentiment the game industry at large sadly seems to agree upon. With the success of NES Mini, will Nintendo begin to value their classic games more rather than just as the beginnings of an IP? Probably not, but Switch should tell us in due time.

To heighten and value

Artists tend to hate the exact accuracy the more mass productive industries tend to have as a standard. Discussion with friends and colleagues who work in the and industry have claimed that the schedules and accuracy needed stifles their creativity and kills motivation. Some don’t give two damns about the industry while some deem any industry that’s prone to mass-production an evil entity serving the global agenda to kill culture and creativity via capitalism.

The other side of the coin does the same, just differently. The metal industry doesn’t value artisans or craftsmen and often seem to lump them together with blacksmiths. Then again, who does know what an artisan does? I’ve noticed only handful of people. The words I’ve heard described is that their work is useless and carry no need in modern world, whereas a welder’s job hasn’t changed a bit in the last forty years and are still needed. In a sense they are right, but just as machination has made these traditional creative industries all but obsolete, the future of technology will aim to make welders as they are now obsolete as well. We already have robots that know how to drive taxis and trucks, and it’s just the question of time when welders will see their work being replaced with automation, who do their job more efficiently.

Still, somebody has to sit on their ass and design all these up.

To be fair, splitting creative industries so that there would be a clear-cut opposition is hard, as creative industries themselves contain huge amounts of mass productions. Film, music and game industries are all but creating that one thing that makes your heart aflutter, and then press it million times over with slight variations.

Nevertheless, this sort of undermining of each others’ value seems to be prevalent. We tend to think our work is undervalued while others’ are overvalued. The truth is that some work indeed does have less value than other in objective terms, but we barely recognize these to any extent. We barely appreciate cleaners who keep our streets and offices clean while we shit things up. Mailmen, while busting our packages left and right, have to work hard hours in the worst of weathers carrying our packages and letters with pretty bad overall conditions. Hell, even the police get shit on their neck despite them being an essential part of upholding the law in modern societies, otherwise there would be anarchy. We can discuss whether or not anarchy has any merit some other time. Hell, people who work at child care and daycare centres deserve boatloads of recognition for working with any and all sorts of kids, and I tell you modern kids can be complete nightmares to work with.

Perhaps it’s because we undervalue someone’s work, be it whatever it is, we either expect jack shit from them or expect the highest possible results with the lowest possible resources. We as consumers may not even value their work to any extent and disregard any of their efforts. Yet, whenever they fuck up, we’re sure to let them know and demand better next time. Yet we don’t give enough shit to demand elevation for that work, just better results.

This again ties back to the theme we’ve had in our semi-Monthly Three. When we do not value something enough and it’s just good enough, we are doing a disservice to that industry and workers in there by saying their work, their very best, is not needed. They don’t need to elevate themselves or their products any higher as it sells as it is and it can remain on a level that’s just satisfactory. This encourages further degradation of the industry and how it’s valued, opening more ways to exploit both the work and the worker for other means.

But we don’t really care, do we? As long as products that come out cheaply at the minimum most standards met, if even those, we’re satisfied as consumers. I can’t stress enough how important proper translation for anything is. After all, language is one of the pillar of our culture/s, and should be valued just as any major pillar.

That is not to say that there is room for budget products that simply fill a niche, but perhaps there we can see valuing work at its finest. Not everybody has the money to buy a Rolls Royce, but those who can pick up a standard rugged car that can stand slings and arrows of outrageous fortune will appreciate that car just as well. China produces numerous alternatives for almost any product out there, and many of them do the exact same thing at a lower price just as fine. However, this isn’t exactly the same thing, but slides alongside the main point.

To use video games as example, consumers expected No Man’s Sky to be something like the second coming of Jesus. They expected the game to be a lot more, demanded even, and when the game was released, the consumers who bought the hype were let down. Promises were made and not kept, but people still demand more satisfactory gameplay they’ll probably never get. All the possibilities were there, and are still there, but the developing group clearly can’t fulfil the demand their promises made. This is what the situation is with Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations. They’re just as broken and a let down as No Man’s Sky is. While the hardcore video game consumer values most of game developers, they largely give jack shit all the industries the game industry requires to go with it, undervaluing their work and thus showing the corporations they don’t need to value them either. Just as we demand respect towards our own work, we also need to rise up to the occasion and respect others’ work. Easier said than done.

However, I’m afraid that consumers tend to have a twisted vision of industry outside their own. A level of appreciation requires a certain amount of studying, learning whys and hows of a system before we can see the time and effort put into anything we see or use. A simple thing like a the fork you eat with was first planned up my a human mind before put into production, but do you value that effort and appreciate that simple yet frequently used item in your hands? Even the smallest, most mundane things are of value.

Appreciate each others’ work

How things have been rolling as of late has reminded me of Ralph McQuarrie’s quote A real artist wakes up and does what he wants, instead of what the client wants, the agent wants, the gallery wants, etc. I consider myself a craftsman, a draughstaman. The reason for this is standards.

To use the product design industry as an example, consider your main chair back home. It may be wooden, plastic or combination of multitude of materials to create a cohesive whole that fits your taste. How many times have you given that chair a thought after your first purchase and impressions outside the few times you felt uncomfortable in it?

The best of designs tend to go unnoticed in many ways. That chair you use is most likely built to human body standards and it is made to support your back just the right way. After slight adjusting here and there, of course. Maybe it even has a headrest and an armrest pair that allows you a more supportive and comfortable positions. You may find them nice and appeasing your needs, but sweet hell does it take a forever to find that right spot during the design phase.

Design is a source of life enhancement was the motto of the late Kenji Ekuan, best known as the designer of the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, which probably stands as the best design of the previous century. It is without a doubt a bottle that has a nice curves and size that fits your hand just right. How it’s used and it functions is even more impressive and took Ekuan long enough to fine tune it. If we were to talk about high standards, the Kikkoman bottle is up there in regards how an everyday item should be.

That’s not exactly the standards that has been muddling my mind, but they’re part of it all in the end. To return to your chair, if it is one of the workstation chairs with combination of multiple materials, you can bet your ass that each connected section has sub-millimetre standard that the producer has to adhere to in order to make a satisfactory product that will not break down, can withstand certain loads and stresses and still be economically feasible to produce. Each section has required some bit of machining at some point in the production, be it when making the moulds for the plastic or some bolt, these are within third of a millimetre standard deviation in size, and that’s not even the finest allowed standard deviation.

The welded parts of that chair of yours have standards of their own as well. If you start taking notice of welded parts, you should notice the same thing repeating in most cases; uniform look, uniform thickness and uniform methods. The common consumer most likely doesn’t give one flying fuck about this, as it is something they are never concerned with in their lives. Welding is just something that a worker does and it keeps shit together. Nevertheless it is an arduous work to gain experience in and requires both hands on training and theory studying. Credit is where credit is due, and it would seem everybody thinks that their work is least appreciated out of the bunch.

If your chair is wood and not made by your local craftsman, you can be sure that in the factory it came out they have similar standards when it comes to joint manufacturing and so on. If you picked something from IKEA and had to build it yourself, each of the part is made with standards.

This combines somewhat to the previous issue with Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations, making this a possible Monthly Three in retrospect. Translation has standards as well, yet especially companies and corporations are very willing to simply force through the translation process instead. However, imagine if companies would do the same thing with your chair. It’s good enough if it just manages to hold together and sells, the consumer be damned. The reason why consumer would not find this satisfactory is because things would break down or bend out of shape due to out of standards cheap black iron parts, terrible fragile plastics used and the most rough deviation machining used. The design itself would be somewhere out there and wouldn’t support your back or contour accordingly. That’s what Bandai Namco’s Asian English translations are, with the only difference that we don’t have any other options to choose from outside Japanese. Honestly, the scripts would look loads more polished if they were just edited properly. I can almost see some fans taking the existing English scripts and just doing that. Currently, they’re just waste of space and resources, and support further detrimentation of not just English translations, but translations overall.

To return to McQuarry’s quote, the one thing an artist doesn’t need to bother himself with is standards. That could be seen as one of the things that separate art and other fields. For example, in design you still need to adhere to standards and conventions to achieve certain desired results. Within art, there are no standards as such what you can or how. This becomes more muddles when we take into notice classical paintings that adhere to a puristic style like realism and were ordered pieces. However, art has always been about selling your piece, and the modern take on being something that shouldn’t be “sold-out” is largely laughable. Just like dada.

To assume this is valid, it is one more argument for things like literacy and movies not being largely art in themselves. For exactly that reason we have art movies that encompass that whole thing of doing whatever the hell they want however they want, sometimes even changing the concept of how a movie is played in a theatre. Books too have these takes, as some books make a statement by having hundred blank pages or a poem collection with just one word per opening. Seems like a waste of material, but who am I to judge what people buy?

We tend to not give a damn about standards unless they directly apply to us and rarely even realize how strictly standards play out in our daily lives. We don’t appreciate them to a certain degree, and while we want shit to work like it should, we also give in far too often and far too much in certain things like translations where these standards should be hold up as almost sacred things. Not just because it will create a better product, but for both culture and appreciation of each and every field of work there is, art or not.

EXP

When you employ a craftsman or an artist to create a product for you, the basic idea is that you pay for the production of the product, the product itself and whatever else goes into delivery and so on. However, if we were to philosophically to consider this, we’d be paying for the creator’s experience as well. After all, a piece by a master craftsman does seem to fetch a higher price due to its quality than the same piece with somewhat less elegance by the master’s student.

It could be argued that the quality and finesse of a product has some relevancy to the amount of experience the creator has under his belt. In a modern production environment this may not be the case, as automated machines are able to produce a very even quality. To put that aside, the amount of experience a craftsman needs to learn to master his craft doesn’t end. In a way, to call someone a master is sort of oxymoron, as there is always room to improve one’s skill, but we just tend to use the term to nominate someone who has skill beyond the standard qualifications, if you will.

The experience we’re talking about here isn’t just few times working hands-on with something, or just few years. Ultimately, to be considered a master of a craft classically requires a small lifetime. What many seem to forget about other fields is that they contain the same seed from we all learn from; failure. Failure and the will to overcome that failure by solving whatever problem caused that failure to come true is what makes us learn. As an anecdote, I’ve seen people having a swell time in the workshop and haven’t seen much troubles. However, at some point they are just faced with a wall that they can’t overcome easily because they have lacked the challenges failure brings with it. I have to say that most, if not all of my experience really has been accumulated through numerous hardships that have sometimes required me to scrap numerous work hours due to a simple mistake or an unseen problem that could not have been avoided without a necessary experience.

As such, experience costs a lot of money, but we rarely see this in the product price itself. Then again, perhaps it should even be visible in there to any extent. Experience however does have an effect on the price in few ways. Like I discussed earlier this month, accuracy raises the price due to the sheer amount of time it takes for a craftsman to ensure the required dimensions are to a point. Thank God for standard tolerances, I tell you. Those things are a life saver in, money saver and time saver. Anyway, with experience gaining those accuracies is, in principle, easier as you have that knowhow to back unto. This sort of experience doesn’t really appear on a conscious mind all that much, you just have both the muscle memory and the gist of doing something right. It’s like opening a bottle. You instinctively know that lefty loosy and righty tighty and you twist the right way without thinking it too much.

And yet we all just stop thinking and wondering which was the direction on an occasion or seven.

For a moment, consider how much time and effort you’ve spent on your hobby or field of work and how much easier things just are nowadays for you, and how much you still require to learn new things and experience to be just that much better.

You know this already by hear, but it never ends. Perhaps the best way to put it would be that we can master something well enough at some point in our lives, but due to the nature of world, the evolving technology, changing tools, new requirements and numerous other things that can change a thing within a month, we can never truly master something. Perhaps that sort of search for perfect mastery of something is in vain, but it is without any shroud of doubt very admirable, whatever it is.

So, to return to the point. The best place where you can see quality and worth of your money is in whatever restaurant you frequent. The more open view to the kitchen, the better. There you can see that sometimes the more expensive price can fetch a more skilled chef. Watching a master chef working in his kitchen is a wonder. Applies to really everyone at their own work, really. Have you ever seen a master secretary? That’s a sight to behold in itself, especially when it comes to time and event management.

However, experience and mastering the craft can make a person a bit blind as well. I mentioned that changes can keep one from being a master of something, but it could be argued that mastering a craft in a version of sorts that turns archaic down the line. Traditional and digital painting being just one example that pops to my head. Sticking to one style and way and being its master may exclude tools and methods that would make things so much easier at times. This sounds like I’m talking about martial arts or something.

A good example of this really is how traditional metal and such craftsmen are becoming a sort of rare species due to how the same products can be largely made faster, easier and more efficiently. For example, if you were to employ a craftsman to make a ladle, surely you would get a fine and well made ladle with no second piece like that existing in the world. That is, if you don’t order multiple pieces and ask him to do a limited mass production. However, ordering some Chinese factory to produce ladles for a fraction of the price and gain so much more in quantity with the same quality is reality we must face.

But experience. Don’t underestimate it, and if you want to ensure something as it should be, don’t be afraid to ask for it too

The Force was woken up, but it asked for fifteen more minutes

I’ve commended Disney for pushing out new Star Wars movies each year. That’s what people seem to want and consume. I can’t fault that. However, there is a downside in all this, and that is that Star Wars will become mundane and yet another franchise that will be run to the ground by a big corporation if Disney intends to keep this pace up. This post, in the end, is more about personal view rather than the blogger view I aim to employ otherwise. Why? Because Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is a boring disappointment to yours truly.

I recommend reading my initial reactions to the movie here, as I that should give you a base on things. It’s essentially a post on its own right.

Star Wars as a franchise could be described to have four distinct eras. The Classic era, which lasts from Episode IV to Episode VI, the 1990’s Resurgence Era starting with The Trawn Trilogy, the 2000’s Prequel-era and all the side materials that brought with it, and the current Disney-era. I would argue, from a personal point of view, that the two first eras were the best of times for Star Wars. The franchise’s birth was a massive popular cultural shift that we still and see to this day in franchising and how Hollywood changed, and the Resurgence era expanded the lore immensely and took advantages of all the existing ideas and properties, which Timothy Zahn engineered, sort of.

The Prequel era on the other hand brought in people who couldn’t be critical of Star Wars, and it shows. Stories suffered from ideas that didn’t hold much water. Prequels themselves too suffer from this. Lore expansions saw further retcons in favour of these new ideas, like how The Force Unleashed games changed things as well as saw the use of some discarded concepts of the original Star Wars. You may be thinking that I’m harping on this using unused concepts too much, but it tells you how little anything truly new modern Star Wars has to it. Recycling the same story frames has become a common thing, not to mention the aforementioned concepts. Can Star Wars really exist just by doing this? If the money has to anything to say, yes.

This is why I have no interest in the new canon to any extent any more. Episode VII was recycled trash that made no sense and had numerous glaring faults. People who grew up adoring Star Wars are now running it, and it shows. To say that the new stories read out like expensive fanfiction that got an official status would be correct to an extent, as often in fanfiction the writer doesn’t realize what made the original piece tick. To use an example from Episode VII, no character has an arc of sorts. Kylo Ren barely has one, but we only see the end of it. Finn turns into a sidekick after the first few minutes, Poe has no arc to speak of and neither does Rey. Poe’s sold like a new Han Solo or Wedge Antilles, but lacks everything that made those characters interesting. Hell, Wedge had less screen time than Poe and still had more character to him.

Essentially, people who run Star Wars, but don’t exactly get why the original trilogy is so admired. They’re no better than George Lucas, and it shows. The fact is that Lucas experienced how Star Wars fans are absolutely impossible to please, but they also think how things should be. I don’t claim that, but as an observer I can see that people writing these new movies and shows does seem to think that. I doubt we will ever see a Star Wars product that will have a brand new story that is able to stand on its own two legs with its concepts and ideas before Star Wars becomes mundane with nothing but forgettable trite, like it did during the Prequel-era. Rogue One is yet another telling of how they stole the plans for the Death Star. We’ve seen, read and played it already, the story itself is not important for Episode IV. If fans want it, then by all means do it. It’ll make you some money, like always. Big Star Wars titles will always sell, no matter what the quality is.

Disney has all the chances to make Star Wars something better, but as it stands now, it’s simply cashing in. Then again, perhaps that’s what the franchise needs to do, as there are those who seem to enjoy the Disney-era products. Each to their own, I can afford to miss all movies’ theatrical runs and wager them on their own later down the line, just like how I did with Episode VII.