Fish simulation

I’ve mentioned Aquzone from time to time in this blog in few different contexts, but never to a large degree. The title is fascinating in its simplicity and function. Aquazone, in its essence, is a virtual fish tank. It’s subtitle Desktop Life says it all, and the title did find most success on Windows and MAC PCs.

While Aquzone may look like some late 1990’s screensaver, it was a bonafide simulator with caring aspects. You had to keep the fish alive and all that. You could even give the fish names and grow attached to them. You could change the backgrounds, put in statues and whatnot in there and so on. You had to take care of the lights and water purity as well. Pretty much everything you need to do with real fish tank. It’s a lot of fun, sort of.

In the above video is pretty much all you get it up front.

The very reason why Aquazone exists is due to people wanting to have fish, but either can’t pay the amount to own a fish tank, the fish and all the little things they require, or as it is the case in Japan, they simply don’t have any room for such contraptions.

Aquazone wasn’t a haphazardly put together title. The development team spent enormous amount of time observing and recording real life fish behaviour in order to replicate that within the title. This went as far as devs’ growing very attached to the fish they were taking care of, something that’s not exactly uncommon when taking care of pets. The team as far as including digital DNA, which determined the aforementioned behaviour and some of the aspects a fish could have. When two fish would mate (yes, you could watch hot fish-on-fish action in Aquazone), their offspring/s would inherit certain modifiers from the parent fish and would exhibit them to certain extent.

The title came and vanished sometime around 1998, though the original seemed to have hit the Mac sometime in 1993, with only few people mentioning it around. I have the vaguest of recollections of seeing this somewhere locally, but it may as well have been at a friend’s place or something. The game found success on the Saturn, because the Saturn was in a weird place when it came to software titles at the time, and saw all the Option Discs that were released for the PC platforms as well. These discs added more fish to the mix.

Aquzone most likely seems weird to most people nowadays. The few people who have talked about it have called it shovelware. Indeed, as a game Aquazone does seem rather lacklustre and missing what would make a good game. Of course, the gaming landscape has changed since the 1990’s, for the better or worse depending on issues, but it still has sequels to this day. I recommend the DS one, the 360 version is sadly region locked for whatever reason.

The term desktop game has pretty much died out with all the games run from PC desktops rather than via DOS. Well, now you’re more or less required to run a game through Steam, but we’ve gone through that few times already. These titles were small and offered wide variety of short but fun interactive games you could play during workday. Solitaire and Minesweeper fall into this same category. Aquazone is essentially one, something you could set up and take of from time to time when you had a coffee break or similar. The Saturn version was pretty much for enthusiasts who didn’t have access to a MAC or Windows PC, as the 1990’s was a freakish era for Japanese PC gaming and IBM standard steamrolling the living shit out of their own national machines like the PC-9801. There’s a writing subject when it comes to Japanese computer games, but that might be out of my scope without rather extensive research.

As a desktop game, Aquazone is a superb title. We could go a step forwards with this and question whether or not it is a game to begin with. With some flight simulators, like IL-2 Sturmovik, the software allows the user to drop the level of realism down to the point of it being essentially an arcade flyer. Flight sims certainly have elements of gameplay to them through missions and whatnot, but something like Farming Simulator series has none. The underlying assumption in all this is that the aim of a simulation is to offer, well, a simulation rather than game play. Kamov KA-50 Black Shark is a simulator well known for its detailed helichopper modelling and accurate-as-hell functions. Just check the start-up sequence required. It is hardly a game, or a game with a very, very hardcore aim to be photorealistic in both visuals and design.

This is not to say that a simulation couldn’t be an electronic game, but rather that a simulation doesn’t need or is not required to be allocated among games. A game like Final Fantasy Tactics could be described as fantasy war simulation RPG, for example, though something like Command & Conquer would fit the simulation bill better. Both of these titles evolved from strategy games played with tin soldiers. A flight simulator on the other hand evolved from the need to educate new pilots how to fly. First with mechanical rigs, which then evolved into a combination of software and hardware. Of course, with flight and plane enthusiasts wanting to make-belief fly their favourite planes, these companies would see a profitable niche and strike true.

It can’t be denied that early computers didn’t have the power to render realistic graphics or physics, which puts questioning simulators as games into question. That, and there are stupid amount of games that still have the sim title attached to them without aiming for any actual simulation. Then again, hardcore replication of reality rarely makes a good game. Even Grand Theft Auto, with its emphasize on photorealism in both visual s and design, takes freedom when it comes to accommodating gameplay elements, like player character actually dying when riddled with automatic weaponry.

The golden middle pathway might be the best idea to take once more and say that some simulators are games without a doubt, with some of them belonging to simulation software category. The strange obsession of calling any and all software that exists on a game console or similar as game is most evident with titles like Aquazone, but it’s also undeniable that without games like it we wouldn’t have Digimon or other pet raising titles.

Video games in Olympics?

Tony Estanguet, the co-president of the Paris Olympic bid committee, seems to know there is some kind of writing on the wall and has held talks with the eSports representatives and the IOC about them joining the Olympic games in 2024. While he argues that digital prowess should be considered a legit sport if Olympics is to maintain its relevancy. Estanguet should look elsewhere first and begin to work on removing the corruption and the financial strain the games cause to a nation.

The idea of digital games in Olympic games is not too far-fetched. After all, the two do share the core common root in games and competition. However, despite their spirit common ancestry, the two beasts are very much different in the end. Olympics have a history on themselves that fetch respect alone, and in the core still aim to celebrate the physical fitness of the human body. Albeit with the healthy help of helping substances and loads of less than clean money. Nevertheless, sports does include activities like chess, but that never got into Olympics by that merit.

It’s all about money, really. If this news bit is to be believed, an eSport star makes money than your average Olympic athlete. With electronic game industry eclipsing Hollywood and movie industry at large in worldwide revenues and cultural impact to the point of political agendas being driven into the sub-culture through sheer force, it’s no wonder Estanguet would like to give this newfangled thing a careful, close look.

Not that the idea hasn’t been amused before, but that’s exactly why modern eSports scene has come to be. Not because it was regarded as sports worthy the Olympics to begin with, mind you. Money goes where the viewers are, and it would seem the newer generations do not value seeing people doings traditional sports (if you will in this context) on-screen, when they could see professional video game players raking in bucks and points like no other. Perhaps the biggest difference is between Olympics and eSports tournaments is that anyone could become a good player with few months time put into a game and compete in a tournament, whereas an Olympic athlete has to live the life. It’s not an easy life either, and not everybody can become the world champion in 100m dash. However, the chance of becoming a damn good Counterstrike player is much more attainable goal.

If electronic games would enter the Olympics via eSports, there would be further shift to appease the broadcasting companies and such even further than what they already are. Outfit bans would become a common practice within these tournament circles to adhere to the high standard Olympics and their broadcasters would demand, which would still be ridiculous considering the same channels would be airing gymnastics, swimming and hurdles, all sports with people in rather skimpy outfits. If eSports would enter Olympics, you can bet on companies changing their designs to fit these standards from the get go rather than sticking to their guns. After all, if we’re to count games as a form of art, then they should be able to present anything the author/s intend without censorship. What a riot.

Thomas Bach is on a high horse when he questionsed whether or not eSports would stand to Olympic rules and would respect the values of sports. They lost that long time ago themselves, but it’s the front what matters the most. He also mentions that the implementation of Olympic rules should be monitored and secured, which more or less can be shortened into They have to change to fit out agenda. The Olympics committee doesn’t see video games and sports and within this generation they never will. Furthermore, there is no reason to see video games as sports to begin with.

I bet there is behind the doors talk about gaming maturing or needing to mature before it can take its place among the higher cultural phenomena like the Olympics. As I’ve argued before, this is a fallacy and video games do not need, should not, prove themselves to be like other media formats or games to stand on their own. The value of games as themselves can not reach its mature point until its hardcore consumers start masturbating over it as art or sports, literal storytelling or other such forms included, and begin to treat electronic games as they are. It’s not going to happen over night or in a week. There needs to be a paradigm shift with time. Electronic games need to achieve similar status to that of poker (or cards in general), where it is universally accepted as a valid form of entertainment where there are possibilities of serious competition while offering the player/s to have a solitary game against the deck/game itself.

No, video games should not be included into the Olympic games. If anything, eSports should create its own official Olympiad similar to Chess Olympiad. Hell EVO essentially is that for fighting games, and they even offer Special Olympics equivalent with the inclusion of Smash Bros. I know, that’s a terrible joke, but I know at least one you chuckled. This format could be easily expanded and included in a larger event, where you could have all the big names in town within the same Olympics-styled event, with e.g. Starcraft being played all the while you have people competing for the next high score result of Donkey Kong. It is a possibility, it just would take loads of money to be organised. Seeing how much money there is overall within these competitive gaming circles, it wouldn’t be a far fetched idea.

We could throw in an additional question whether or not there is a need for such an event. Video games shouldn’t need to be validated through Olympics, or an Olympics like event. Would it be better, in the end, if eSports would stay in somewhat similar form as it is now and naturally evolve to whatever shape it’ll be in the future? Whatever the direction may be in the future, rest be assured either one will shape how the games will look and play, with distinct lack of that original artistic intent being replaced with intent of making the games more sports-like (e.g. overly balanced, but not fun fighting games) and sticking to rules set by a committee outside electronic games industry.

Stuck in the past

What does Star Trek and Star Wars have in common? Both have slew of prequels to them. The idea really is solid; explore how things came to be and see what sort of stories could be made within a certain set of time. The problem with either franchise is that there are definitive elements within those worlds that dictate how certain things must be in their prequels, otherwise the stories would not make sense or even connect.

Star Trek Discovery is supposedly set ten years prior the original television series. One would expect them to follow how the series then should look, albeit updates here and there. After all, Star Trek is a pillar of modern western popular culture in many ways. However, pretty much everything was moved to the side in favour of visuals that follow more along the lines of the nuTrek movies, or the Kelvin timeline as its now called. For a common couch potato this all fine and dandy, and requires little suspension of disbelief. However, for even a light fan of the series, the visual just don’t sit right. All this is of course because the series is developed under a license intended for an alternate timeline Star Trek, not under one that’s meant for the mainline.

There is no problem in making a prequel in itself. The problems rise if the creators want to have freedoms that are not tied too much to pre-existing stories. Especially with stories that are set between set events. Essentially, you’re boxing yourself between a rock and a hard place when it comes to creative freedoms. If you’re not willing to utilise given tools and take advantage of the existing stories, then it’d be better just find someone who can.

This isn’t a hardcore fan’s perspective either. A story of any sorts requires at least some level of respect towards it, otherwise the end product will most likely end up being schlock at best.

A good example of a story shoved in-between two other stories would the Shadows of the Empire. While it was a well made marketing decision to create a Star Wars phenomena without a movie, it did stand on rather good story that utilised elements from Empire Strikes Back that would lead into Return of the Jedi. All the while creating something new.

Say you want to write a story for Star Trek without being hampered down by existing restrictions. That’s an impossible task, but the most freedom you would have if you were to create a sequel story. This would allow you to have pretty much all the freedoms to do whatever you want, with the only restriction being the overall history and relationships between factions. Nevertheless, you could still have Klingons as enemies with a good reason despite there existing an alliance between Federation and them.

Star Wars’ prequels movies didn’t exactly suffer from being boxed between stories, like STD does, but what they suffer from is spoiling and devaluing the original trilogy. For example, Empire Strikes Back has less impact when you’ve seen Anakin becoming Darth Vader. Vader himself changes as a character if you don’t make a mental distinction between trilogies.

Under Disney’s rule, we’re getting new prequels all the time, for the better or worse. Rogue One‘s story was something we’ve seen few times over already, and due to this SW‘s Expanded Universe had to reconcile how things went down between events and who really stole the plans. That, and you couldn’t have anyone alive at the end. That didn’t stop them mucking up the storyline though, as the end of the movie contradicts the opening of A New Hope.

The question that is required to be asked if we even need to see these stories unfold. The fact that Death Star’s plans were stolen isn’t an important story in the end, but what happened afterwards is. The same thing happened with Death Star II’s plans. We didn’t need to see many Bothans die on-screen to understand how heavy their losses were. Mon Mothma does that well enough on the screen with her acting.

For Star Trek, we don’t really need to see the Earth-Romulan war, despite plans existed for it during Enterprise and fans wanting it. There really isn’t need to see what happened between the period of the Original Series and the movies. These would be best explored in supplemental materials, where the fans could enjoy these events the most. This is due to the nature of Star Trek itself; it’s not a story about wars. Deep Space Nine being an exception rather than a rule. Even then, DS9‘s war was naturally developed aftermath of finding a stable wormhole.

Hell, if STD wanted to tell a grim story about Federation warring, the staff could’ve introduced a new enemy and make heavy questions if a society like Federation can exist in its high-horse haven like state when reality does not match it. The Original Series does this to an extend, especially with Kirk, who constantly has to fight to uphold his ideals in a human way. This is the exact opposite to early The Next Generation, where the cast was completely idolised without much shred of humanity. That all came down after the Borg invaded. In retrospect, it could be even argued that Federation was taken down a peg by the Borg and made them realise how their own society had moved towards a more terrible direction.

A natural progression of a story is forwards. Episode VII made the right direction to move forwards in Star Wars‘ canon, whereas we can debate if seeing a film about younger Han Solo was ever needed. If you’ve ever read Han Solo at the Stars’ End, the answer is Yes. However, those who know the book also recognize that Solo in this book is very much a different beast from modern Star Wars’ take on him, especially if the rumours of the solo Solo movie’s original take was to make him an Ace Ventura-like. Midnight’s Edge unsurprisingly has a vids up on the whole issue.

Boxing yourself tight into a prequel takes a certain set of mind, one that has to be able to to utilise given resources, not make up whatever shit you want. Whoever owns Star Trek in the end, be it either CBS or Universal, they really need to move forwards and do a new The Next Generation rather than trying to milk with remakes, prequels or reboots.

Macros and the accepted form of cheating

A while back at a friend’s house party, he showcased the visitors how he had set up a command macro on his mouse to function as a repeating fire in Mech Warrior Online. This macro allowed him to gain a high rate by timing the fire button presses according to the cooling rate. All he needed to do was to press a button. Execution and timing removed, all there was a press of a button.

I admit, this struck me. While macros are accepted in computer game community from the get go practically across the genres, all I really saw was an accepted method of cheating.  Cheating is, after all, gaining an advantage of sorts through illegal means. Illegal in gaming would mean something that would go against the allowed functions of the game. In this sense, there is nothing wrong in using a macro in a competitive game. Nevertheless, yours truly would feel compelled to ask the opposition whether or not it would be alright with them if I were to use macros to enhance my performance.

However, with electronic games the use of assisting programs is counted as cheating as well, as they often give you an advantage of sorts. Trainers directly interject with the intended function of the game and can give advantages like infinite resources or limitless health. The question that I need to ask at this point whether or not we can count macro programs in this category, as they do no directly intervene with the normal function of the game. Nevertheless such function gives an advantage to the player, an advantage that would not exist otherwise. In a competition situation of any sorts against a human opponent, this would be without any doubts be counted as cheating. Not in PC gaming though.

To use a standard 2D fighting game as an example, the use of a projectile within the game is often highly necessary. This necessitates the skill of being able to execute the fireball motion, most often being down, down-forwards, forwards and an attack button, or 236+A if we were to use your keypad as a direction indicator (assuming the player character starts at Player 1 side on the left).  If we were to use the same kind of macro function here, the player would simply need to push a button to throw out a projectile attack. However, due to the different nature of the games, the timing would still be completely up to the player, but with high repetition on the player could throw out this projectile as fast as the game would allow. In some cases, this could mean having multiple projectiles on the screen that the player would not otherwise have, or would have difficulties of executing without said macros.

To re-iterate in a different manner, macros are  a way to handle a mundane task that would take too much time or execution to streamline the gameplay, if you will.

The use of macros have become common to the point of games essentially being designed to use them. The amount of Damage Per Second is various MMOs are essentially tied to macros, in-game or not. An acquaintance asked me if I wanted to play an MMO with him, replying to my inquire whether or not the game required skill or whether or not it Was just about the numbers that it was. You needed the skill to set up the right build to your character and set up the macros so that you maximise the DPS.

Knowledge is not a skill. The search for knowledge however is, and the lack of that is evident on the Internet on sites like Yahoo Answers. To be frank, games like Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest require no skill. They require acquired knowledge of in-world mechanics and how to set up a party to counter these mechanics. You can set up a perfect team and win, or lose if your knowledge fails you. In a game like Monster Hunter the knowledge is about as much required, but the element of skill required to play the game also brings in execution, and that execution brings in

The use of macros are, in effect, replacement of execution and skill. As said, this is accepted within the PC game community as-is. There is no negative stigma in using them, and complex macros that may give even the slightest of advantages is seen as some sort of marvel. An impressive feat of setting up a string of commands that are executed with a press of a button.

Automation is where the world is going anyway. Tasks that used to take a master craftsman or other kind of skilled worker have been slowly replaced by machines.  In few decades even welders will have to wonder what’s next, when the technological level has reached certain point. In similar manner how macros are prevalent in PC gaming, some genres have aimed to broaden their customer base by streamlining their games, effectively, trying to lower the skill required to play them. This of course usually bombs and alienates the installed fan base. A fighting game, for example, won’t see much success if it becomes oversimplified and takes away the sheer excitement of the game. Pressing the same button for time for an automated string of attacks that end in a super is the very opposite way to go. The problem why current gaming has hard time to expand its audience is that it mostly refuses to expand itself. It’s the same shit all over again, and making things easier or dumbing things down (i.e. more accessible) has yielded little results. Games like Nintendogs and Brain Train  managed to be a hit due to them being something new and hitting completely different and untapped section of the possible market.  This is a whole post on its own, and I’m sure I’ve already written about it few times already.

To take yet another position, what does it say about current games and their design when they expect the player to have a set of tools to remove task management from the game? Is the mark of controllable complexity now the hallmark what ultimately separates PC and console games? That’s something we’ leave hanging out.

A Mega Man movie

The first question the whole thing raises up is Why? Mega Man as a franchise is not currently relevant to the game consuming crowd and has fallen into a niche. Yet, Twentieth Century Fox worked two years to acquire the rights. Exclusive news be damned, there’s something rotten in the land of Denmark.

Let’s step aside the fact that Hollywood reported used the wrong sub-series picture and managed to fuck up telling the premise of the games, as Rock is Mega Man’s non-hero name and he volunteered to be turned unto a super fighting robot. They are also using the Capcom method of counting the games, with ports counted as separate entities from each other.

The question we have here isn’t if the movie will be good. It’s almost guaranteed not to follow the little plot the original games had and will deviate from it like no other. All Mega Man adaptations have done this, for better or worse. What is relevant about this keg of horseshit is what will the approach be. Whether or not Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman will direct the movie is slightly less relevant on what the studio wants. I can see Twentieth Century Fox wanting to move forwards with video game adaptations in order to fight Marvel’s comic book movies, and adapting Mega Man is all about nostalgia, currently.

The original Mega Man is a children’s TV-show, essentially speaking. The same goes for the Legends series, which can be even played episodically like that with certain pacing. The X-series can be a cartoon for slightly older audience, but much like Zero-series, it could be adapted to a full war story, though both of them do offer interesting philosophical points about humanity and robotics. However, despite that, Mega Man as a whole isn’t about that, and a Hollywood adaptation most likely will miss the little point the games have going on for them.

Let’s not beat around the bushes, the movie’s probably not going to be very faithful to the games and will probably make the fans disappointed while the rest of the audience couldn’t give two shits. Saying this before any solid info on anything has surfaced is presuming a lot of things, yet that’s how it usually goes. Even decent game-movie adaptations tend to suck and have no impact whatsoever.

There is also a possibility for franchise confusion here. With the Man of Action cartoon coming out 2018, Capcom probably has been revving up to emphasize that as the main vehicle to resurrect the franchise. That’s all good and dandy, there is validity in resurrecting the franchise for children from a clean slate, even though it will piss off the older fanbase. However, all the current fans should recognize that they were catered when they were kids, and a kid’s IP should stay that way for future generations rather than change to be something it’s not.

These points worry me. It is possible that the movie will be aimed that older fans and the content of the movie will reflect this in content. This would mean the Man of Action’s take on the franchise could stay as the kid friendly entry, with all the toys and possible games aimed to cater them solely. An adult oriented Mega Man would not be a good idea, unless it specifically concentrated on the more mature aspects of the larger franchise, as mentioned.

That’s where I can’t trust Hollywood Reporter on this. They’re speaking of Mega Man all the while using image resource from X-series. Let’s suppose for a moment that Twentieth Century Fox didn’t just get rights to the Classic series, but for Mega Man movies in general. Then it would be possible for them to use any material from the franchise. I wouldn’t put past them to just use elements across the franchise rather than sticking to one, which Man of Action is kinda doing with their entry.

Chernin Entertainment, the company making the movie under Fox, has multiple action films under its belt,  like the reboot series for the Planet of the Apes movies alongside few dramas and comedies. Outside Parental Guidance from 2012, none of their production is something that would reflect positively on Mega Man. This bodes just as well towards a Mega Man movie as Fox as a movie studio. Their track record with game adaptations like Legend of Chun-Li is absolutely terrible, and while Tom Rothman is not working for them anymore, they’re not getting out from the low-quality swamp anytime soon.

Granted, Deadpool was a damn good movie, but Chernin Entertainment had jack shit to do with it. Telling me that fans that love Mega Man doesn’t carry any weight around here, and while Masayori Oka probably grew up playing the games, Fox is ultimately the ones to put the boot down.

Oka’s some sort of gleam of hope in all this, to be frank. In an issue of SFX Collection, he mentioned collecting Pluto, a retelling of sorts of  Tetsuwan Atom‘s arc The Greatest robot on Earth. It’s not terribly far-fetched to say that Naoki Urawasa’s works have affected Oka, and this influence could be seen in the Mega Man movie. That is, if Joost and Schulman won’t ignore their producer completely. More than a handful of movies have been completely and utterly destroyed by executive hands, like the recent Ghostbusters reboot or anything Rothman touched.

Knowing Capcom, they’re not going to care one bit either way. They have a long-time partnership with Hollywood ever since the film version of Street Fighter II came out, and movie adaptations of their games haven’t really gotten any better. Resident Evil is still going on, supposedly, and there were even Dead Rising films. A Mega Man to the mix is just a droplet in the river for them.

If this post reads like I’m losing all hope and faith in the product as I write this, that’s not too far from the truth. While the movie industry is pumping out products that sell millions at the worldwide market, they’re lacking in imagination. A movie about a boy robot fighting an evil scientist’s ambition to take over the world sounds like something that doesn’t carry itself. What works as a game doesn’t work as a movie, and that’s the crux that will nail the Mega Man movie’s faith to either direction.

Games as consumer art?

If the arcade game paradigm is applied generally in interactive art, `interpassivity’, a Pavlovian interactivity of stimulus and response, will be induced.

Simon Penny

Electronic games can be argued to train the player in a Pavlovian sense. I’m pretty sure most people who have played games to some extent can discern what sort of importance a large, glowing globe on a boss’ head means. You may need to solve a some sort of puzzle or wait for the right time for the globe to reveal itself, but when it does, you close in for the damage. There are so many games out there that use this approach to their enemies and bosses that it has become universal to some extent, and players already have a Pavlovian response to them. Modern Zelda games even go as far as to explicitly train the player in a use of a gimmick to solve a puzzle that is then presented in a boss battle.

Games are not the only ones that draw a response out of us. Art tends to do that as well, though art itself rarely is interactive. There is a distinct overlap between interactive art and electronic games in both of them requiring a participant in order to be realised. Interactive art does not fulfill its intended form without interaction in the same way as a video game can’t play itself.

Games and art do share more than that. Both are biologically unnecessary and often are seen in a romantic light of being separate from the need of being a sales success or politically driven. From a more realistic perspective, both art and games need to make money and the more emphasizes storylines games have had, the more they have emphasize they have on a subject. It should be noted that games like Zelda don’t intend to make any sort of political statement as such, but as with anything, there are those who will analyse anything and see whatever they wish to see.

The value of art itself is also in the line, as the general public is outside the circle of high art connoisseurs, who have made efforts to determine what art even is. At one point the notion of a five years old being able to do the same thing as a highly skilled painter was able to had become common enough to be seen absolutely everywhere. It’s the lowest level of insult given to any piece of work out there. This insult is not necessary from ignorance, but simply that the notion of a canvas painted white was even considered as art.

There is a lack of criticism towards what is considered art. Whether it is due to the post-modern era we live in or simply because the majority of the population simply attach the term to anything they see even remotely wonderful and astonishing. The old argument you’ve seen in this blog is If everything can be considered art, then art has no value.

This blog tends to would argue that art has always had a direct connection to its consumption under consumerism. However, the romanticised view is not any less valid. Art does not need to entertain or conform to the wishes of the consumers, it has no wish to the commercially successful. A consumer product has to, and if we are to combine both art and electronic games under one banner under the term of interactivity, then we must also abandon the notion the romantic view of art gives us and embrace art as something that has to serve the masses.

The language here is an issue. The emphasize we’ve given to art and artists is stupidly high in modern world. Whoever draws pictures is called an artist. Whoever can produce a piece of music is called an artist. Whoever can make and edit videos is called an artist. Ad nauseam. While the core etymology of art in ars refers to skill or craft, perhaps that’s not applicable nowadays, where the amount of people who are skilled eclipses that in out history. Make no mistake, very few can make classics like Mona Lisa, but in all objectivity, we have Internet full of people making far more impressive paintings with superior tools.

The worlds just don’t meet. If a game is made by hundreds of artists in a combined effort towards one end goal, is such work art anymore? Perhaps games are galleries in the sense that they offer a virtual space for different artists to showcase their skills in respective fields. Most games are not single vision as the main consumer crowd wants to view them as. Hideo Kojima is not the only person responsible on the success of Metal Gear games just as Miyamoto has a large team behind most of his Mario games. There are composers, illustrators, modellers, coders, designers, business men, organisers and God knows what within the credits of one game, all supposedly artists in their respective fields working.

The same applies to movies, and to some extent to movies as well.

Cultural consumer is a thing, a person who consumes cultural product within their society, and even outside it. Perhaps Patricia Martin was right to suggest the converge of art and entertainment alongside with technology was, and still is, remaking the consumer. This thinking consumer who wants to separate himself from the mass market has options to voice himself. Either through blogs or Youtube videos. In reality, with this constant cycle of ever-present news, media and event information we have thanks to the Internet, the cultural consumer has become part of the mass market. What used to be counter-culture is now mainstream.

How does this tie to our topic? Games were made by mathematicians and other people who didn’t want to get a “real job.” They were seen as kids’ toys. Something to scoff at. As games became more popular and mainstream, the more they were tied to artistry in multitude of ways. Now, electronic games are a bigger business than Hollywood. The institutionalisation of art would mean that its romantic view needs to be discarded, and we recognize that art is through and through a tool for profit and politics. Art is a thing that perhaps should stay as a romanticised object and be desired to be realised as, despite the reality not permitting this.

 

Life simulation in Japanese games

One of the main goals of video and computer games since their inception has been the realisation of virtualised world. In other words, the simulation of the real world. The most common examples that people across the world can recognize would be the multitude of driving simulators (with varying levels of realism across the board) and The Sims, a life simulation game series that has been acting as a huge time sink to many players since its inception in 2000. Seriously, all the people I’ve known who played The Sims had a mania towards it to the point of one girl wrecking her four-year relationship.

The thing is, certain type of simulation games aren’t really common in the West. The main reason I chose driving and life simulation above as examples is because of their widespread nature. Sports overall can be counted as sort of simulation, depending how the level of realism they have, but without a proper controller such games always fall tad flat. Sure you can do realistic dribbles in Fifa, but that’s all in the controller. You’re not standing up and actually dribbling the ball in a virtual environment. That’s currently impossible, the technology isn’t at the level of Star Trek‘s holodeck yet.

 


Alpine Racer had a control rig of two sticks and slots that emulated skis. The game require complete physical movement to be controlled, and was fun

The main difference between American, European and Japanese cultures when it comes to simulation games, which also reflects our approaches to games in general, is that there is a level of separation. Sure, driving games and such are fun thing to play, but ultimately a Westerner could just go and try these things himself for real. In Japan, however, this is not the case due to geographic and overall cultural influence. The reason Japan has so many golf games is that it’s a status symbol. To have a membership in a golf club is a sign of financial success and socially high status. These golf clubs are much more than just tracks to play golf, as they offer a complete spa and vacation resort experience. It’s a prestige, and simulation of that prestige is invaluable.

Similarly, due to the limited space Japan has, the experience of e.g. owning a dog can be a challenge. It’s also a financial risk that some people can’t simply do. Hence games like Nintendogs became a success, though Nintendogs wasn’t the first dog simulation game. There has been a few in the past, with one of the more notable ones being Sega’s Inu no Sanpo, or Walk the Dog. The game works on a treadmill and on force feedback leash. You are given instructions when to walk normally, run or dash, while the screen would have a realistic Japanese scenery going on while your dog just stumbles along events that can happen. Like a runaway cat taking your dog’s attention or car almost hitting it. All the while you can feel the force feedback through the leash in your hand.

Walk the Dog may be a curiosity for a Youtuber to rant on, it’s a case study how Japanese simulation games do allow people to do things they couldn’t otherwise. Of course, there is one specific simulation game that doesn’t only hit the cultural nerve but also has a mania following with train otakus. Densha de Go! or Go by Train! is another example of simulation games allowing something desirable in the culture, as trains are nearly revered in Japan.

 


Armed with a special controller replicating a train’s control panel, Densha de Go! was a massive phenomena in the late 1990’s and gained a legendary status as far as train simulators go

Densha de Go! isn’t just about achieving something that’s beyond most people. It’s also a sort of taking control event, where the player can move from being a simple passenger to the role of the train driver. The game also benefits from having realistic environments for the tracks, which has been argued to relieve stress in many ways, e.g. allowing a salaryman to travel and see new sights without moving away from his home, or bringing back childhood memories through seeing familiar train routes from back home.

Of course, one of the most Japanese simulation game genres out there is the raising genre, or ikusei games. Or sodate-ge, if you want to be informal bastard. Without a doubt the most well-known title in the genre is Gainax’s Princess Maker, in which the player character takes control of raising a girl from childhood to adulthood. The game’s a contrast to The Sims‘ controls, where the player doesn’t exactly control much of the character in the end. In Princess Maker, the player is responsible is one individual’s growth into the ideal women, and the game offers 74 possible endings, ranging from your daughter ending up being a solider, bishop or a whore.

Princes Maker can be seen as another way for Japanese men to ogle at young girls of different ages in a perverted way, but the more likely reason why Princess Maker became popular is that it allowed lonely men to experience some resemblance to family happiness. Which is one is the sadder option is up to you.

The most popular and well-known raising game however isn’t Princess Maker when it comes to global population. That would be Tamagotchi, which experienced its explosive boom in the late 1990’s. These eggfriends was a bane of many school’s existence, with the fuckers beeping in the kids’ bags every so often requiring to be fed or their shit be cleaned out. The basic idea is that you have an egg that hatches into a creature that must be taken care of and raised well in order it to flourish, until it dies. Early in the game the creature gets sick easily and there has to be rather large amount of effort to keep it alive in the first place. Balancing with its diet and mood was important as well, as sweets tended to get it sick while normal food kept it alive in the first place. The reason why the game became a bane was that the device beeped every time the creature needed attention, and you can imagine how teacher’s felt when thirty Tamagotchis went off during every hour, demanding their shit be cleaned.

Not everyone saw the device as a terrible bane. Some teachers and adults saw Tamagotchis as a device to teach responsibility to the child playing it due to the whole death of the creature if its neglected thing going on. What Bandai didn’t see with its raising pet simulator dangle thing was the psychological effects it had on the player. The Tamagotchi Effect describes the development emotional attachment towards non-living objects, like robots or software agents. It’s not necessarily a negative effect, as it can be used as a form of therapy, as is the case with the PARO Therapeutic Robot. The choice of the creature dying in Tamagotchi has caused some trauma with the player, but this sort of permanent deaths in a massively popular game was something new. It brought a level of realism to a game that was expected to be cute lil’ thing. Instead, it brought adult responsibility and death.

To be honest, I never got into Tamagotchi, but it’s a subject that really necessitates its own post with an analysis of its effects.

Whether or not we can count a software like Summer Lesson a game on its own rights is for another time, but it can’t be ignored that it is essentially an evolution of life simulation, where the player takes control, or rather becomes, a tuition teacher to a schoolgirl during summer. While its raising elements are a more limited than Princess Maker‘s, the player is expected to set up a schedule for Miyamoto Hikari, the student character. Much like Princess Maker, it has been criticised for being a game for perverts, where in reality its intentions are anything but. After all, Japanese culture has always added a small hint of sexuality to its cute things in a positive fashion, which Western culture often misunderstands.

In the end, Summer Lesson emulates real life much like any other in its genre. It just managed to get unnecessary flak way too much, whereas the game’s main content really isn’t anything far off from other manager/raising simulators that have been around on Japanese PCs and consoles since the 1980’s. Summer Lesson also allows the player to take part in a valued job, much like in Densha de Go!. Perhaps it too is a way for the player relive their youthful years or experience some sort of life they couldn’t otherwise achieve, much like what other simulation titles offer as well.

Maybe I should skip buying Switch this year and get PS VR for Summer Lesson after all.