Games need to fit their own culture, not to be fitted into another

What are the most generic girls’ games you can think of? The term itself may not get much use nowadays, but it was all the hotness during the 1990’s and even in the 2000’s. It used to baffle me back in the day, much like edutainment did.  Girls’ games never had a good reputation to speak of and had a tendency to be lacklustre at best, something you’d find in a bargain bin, or at a stupidly high price because of their unique place among games like Duke Nukem 3D or Quake.

The sort of games we most often associate with girls’ games are the Barbie games, dress-up titles or non-violent adventure games like Chop Suey. You have the occasional 2D action game that concentrates on puzzles rather than mechanical skills, like Mary-Kate and Ashley: Get a Clue for the Game Boy Colour. It’s not uncommon to see a girls’ franchises to be adopted into games, just like the opposite is true for boys’ franchises. With boys being historically the larger consumers base for video and computer games, girls’ games usually got shafted.

The question whether or not sport games fall into either slot has never been raised as such, but maybe it’s a moot point to begin with. I used to have a discussion whether or not NHL games were neutral in their audience with few friends. One of them was adamant that the userbase of any sports game didn’t matter itself, as the games were solely based on real world sports and reflected it. The other argued that because the NHL titles didn’t include National Women’s Hockey League, and the main set of players were boys and men, the game was a boys’ game. The question I always posed was naturally Why didn’t they include NWHL into NHL games? The answer I got was the women didn’t buy NHL all that much.

Considering Super Mario Bros. seemed to be the game that had most equal split in a study done with Finnish students around 1999, the idea of needing your playable character to be the same sex or gender as the player does seem largely unnecessary. Mariosofia (2002) has a chart on the rest of the titles on page 119. The discussion about women needing more representation in video games thus seem to be a bit moot, as the character itself is often a blank state outside RPGs. This is an act of playing after all, and the avatar the player controls is merely an extension of the player; the true actor is the player, not the avatar.

Despite this, the idea of girls’ games stuck around. While in reality it was more than enough to make competent games that bring in excellent gameplay and content, these specific games got separated from the bunch and fitted into the framework of girls’ play culture. This sort of framework fitting doesn’t exactly fit all that right, because this can lead into games that look like something girls might want to play on the surface, but are not anything of interest. Part of this is because of the aforementioned lacking gamplay, and other is that the industry barely has any idea what they are to do with girls’ games. The answer of course is not to do any and concentrate on making good games. We can’t force a readily set media and culture to fit another.

That is not to say games push a certain section out. Electronic games, like any other play-related medium, expects competency from the consumer. It’s the only kind of medium where you can not advance without playing, much like a child’s play like Cop and Robber can’t advance if you don’t play your part actively.

There are also variety of games that generally can fit girls’ play culture despite not being designed around that, at least not initially. The Sims is a virtual doll house. Will Wright even described it as such after losing his home in 1991. Doll houses are associated with girls’ plays far more than with boys, though castle sets and such are essentially the exact same thing, just with a different theme.  Castle Grayskull is essentially a doll house just any Barbie Dreamhouse is. Because the The Sims allows choice what the player can do and with what sort of characters, it avoids the girls/boys issue. It’s not exactly a continuation of either play cultures per se, despite taking notions from both, but it is fully part of electronic game culture.

One thing that defines electronic games as a whole is a set of rules and the play they require. This is shared with all play cultures across the broad and nobody wants to deviate from this. While most of the competitive rules have been inherited what are generally seen as boys’ sports and plays, majority of these sports and plays have their girl equivalent or an outright version. In electronic gaming the differences dissipate even further if we concentrate on what the game culture is in itself. Perhaps a truly neutral game, if you will, is something like a Super Mario title, where the main character can be whatever sort of fellow who appeals across the board and the game content, and the world for the matter, does not weight to any other direction but to the game’s own visual design. Mario titles do not ooze masculinity or femininity. You can argue however much you want about the need to save the Princess, but that always gets tossed on the sideways because that is only a reason for the adventure itself. Like in any play, the act of playing is more important than finishing the play. Hell, the game’s play and its flow should be enough to warrant player wanting to continue.

Games are still a young medium, relatively speaking. Despite this, certain certainties have been solidified already. One of them is the slow dismissal of unnecessary divisions. While boys’ and girls’ games will always exist in terms of targeted market, the genres themselves seem to have gone underground. It would seem the winning formula is to allow the players to step into world of electronic games rather than trying it the other way around. Games are, after all, about the freedom of play and there exists more games than anyone of us knows. We just need to find the ones we like the most rather than try fitting existing ones into a framework we’d like to see them in.

Of course, there is an issue of game culture being a sub-culture under the overall culture, but that’s another post altogether.

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A cold day in hell for NIS America

You probably heard already about NIS America apologising for the terrible translation job they did on Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, and will issue a free update down the line that will fix the translation. This just doesn’t anywhere, NISA is known for their terrible practices and laughable translations. This has come to a point that sometimes a fan translation can make more sense and contains better flowing text.

NISA doesn’t offer apologies all that often. The CEO of NISA, Takuro Yamashita, is correct; this sort of terrible translation should not have happened. Ys VIII however is not alone in the list of games that NISA has put out that should be retouched from the grounds up. Ar Tonelico series is somewhat infamous for its lacklustre quality in translation, with Ar Tonelico II‘s even going so far of having no translation in the game or completely mistranslations of in-world terms and being inconsistent on the name changes they did. The quality assessment wasn’t up to par with the title overall, seeing how the end-game boss has a bug that crashes the whole thing. This is just a singular example, of course, but we could point out such things as Ar Tonelico Qoga’s English voice script being different from the Japanese one, and even at times from the English text script. If you though name changes are OK, NISA may change your mind with their take on Atelier Arland trilogy’s Esty Erhart being renamed as Esty Dee for a stupid STD joke.

Not to turn this whole post into bashing NISA, but translation really isn’t the only place they falter constantly. I mentioned the game breaking bug in Ar Tonelico II, but that’s just one example of bugs NISA introduced into their games during localisation process. Witch and the 100 Knight on the PS3 has a game crashing bug, plus causing the game to overheat the console itself to the point of it suicide. The translation aside, NISA never did issue a patch on these, and I recall them even refusing to acknowledge the overheating issue. Again, a single example, but we could talk about Disgaea D2 having a CPU melting bug at release, game crashing Skills and opening essentially off in the middle of playback.

It wouldn’t be a full three-course meal if we didn’t have censorship to throw into the mix. NISA’s release of Mugen Souls and Mugen Souls Z saw removal of some 120 CGs. There has been multiple explanations over the years, but all that really boils down to wanting to appeal the largest possible market. This is coming from a company that is release a very niche set of games to a niche audience. NISA doesn’t seem to realise that the larger Western market doesn’t like anime style, especially not in America and in parts of Europe that doesn’t have along lasting anime related pop-culture elements, like with the French and Goldorak, so trying to appeal new market with a product they have an aversion of is a terrible business move. Maybe the best example of this would be the censorship of Criminal Girls, where the player needs to give the titular characters “motivation lessons” through slight slapping and whipping with naughty overtones. Censoring the game’s main appeal, appeal that only appealed to even smaller audience than normal, is nothing short of retarded. The game itself is nothing special in content, it’s a mediocre RPG overall, but a really nice playthrough. The motivation lessons just added something extra to it, and now even that was denied.

Anyone who saw NISA grabbing the Ys license after XSEED’s deal with Nihon Falcom was over could tell you that the quality of the translation would go down. Nobody questioned that, and like some sort of collective arcane expectation, that came about. The only reason why we’re seeing an apology issued with a promise of a new, free patch being delivered, is at least partially because of a mailing campaign the fans had put up. The main reason however is without a shadow of a doubt is that Nihon Falcom put pressure on them. Hammering Falcom with information on the failures of their new partner in the Western was the best way to turn the tide, as only Falcom has the leverage to essentially force NISA’s hand on the issue.

XSEED has handled the Ys series like a pro. They essentially revived the franchise in the West and made it a household name long after people had forgotten how good Ys I and II were on the Turbografix-16. However, with NISA being a larger company and being able to offer more money, they could grab the rights and a deal with Falcom. NISA now had their hands on a franchise that fit in their overall library of titles, was already popular, and expanded their market away from naughtier games. Well, they managed to fuck that up.

It’s not everyday you see sensible English from Japanese being re-translated by a localisation company. For example, a region called Crevice of the Archeozoic Era was changed to Archeozoic Big Hole. Certainly, there are better options than Crevice in the context, but Big Hole is not only an invitation for a series of stupid jokes about some big hole being important for a character, but also sounds really stupid. That may be just a single issue that really stuck with me, but the rest of the script is no better. Character descriptions are awkward at best, treating them as in-game inanimate objects rather than characters. There is an imgur folder up for some examples used in the mailing campaign, and it’s a good thing to check out if you’re interested further. Some of the examples are weirdly selected, but they give an idea how things are.

Let’s not forget that the in-game bestiary for Ys VIII contains different area names that are in the in-game map.

OG moonlanguage version
Are you serious? A goddam Mephorashmoo? Is it a cow?

We would not have seen NISA bending their asses over this if there was no pressure from Japan’s side. Nothing would have been rectified if not for that. It’s a sad situation when NISA more often than not completely ignores criticism from their consumers and even refuse to acknowledge some of their mistakes. This isn’t even the first time the consumers have raised their voice against NISA and their translation, which is probably why some have taken an issue with it. The argument that people should be happy to even see a game translated doesn’t hold water, as XSEED would have wanted to continue with Ys series. I also have already discussed the good enough argument. NISA tends to have hardcore fans that don’t really care if they have good quality titles or not all the while there is a sect of those who won’t touch NISA’s products at all because they do care. NISA all in all is an example when can be understood-mentality extends from translation to everything else. It’s just not cutting it. NISA’s not just a blunt blade, but a blade that was left to rust on purpose.

The situation with NISA won’t change until more of companies from Japan start to care about localisation. Falcom is painfully aware of the need for their games having a demand to be well translated, as XSEED has managed their IPs like a golden egg. Most other companies simply don’t care, and translation overall gets the shaft in the processes of things.

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana, like all games, deserved a proper localisation. Now that the game will be getting a better one, will it be worth purchasing? Wallet voting here is a tricky one; on one hand you shouldn’t support a company with practices you don’t agree with, but in times when they do rectify their mistake, either by force or via free will, that should be appreciated. If this has peaked your interest, I recommend sitting back for a whole and waiting to see what the reworked translation is like. The fact that NISA had to employ a new translator and editor for the game should tell you about the quality they strive for normally, and much they care about their products in the end. Well, products that are owned by another company they just happen to have a license to. Personally, I can’t but hope to see Falcom giving Ys‘ license back to XSEED as soon as possible, as NISA seems unable to change their ways unless forced to.

The skill of play

With Cuphead raising such questions as What is gameplay? and Is easymode bad? we really do see something lurking inside the media. As little as any of us care about John Walker’s ignorance, the question is valid in its own way. As humans we tend to describe the same thing in different ways, sometimes expanding and taking away details depending on whatever, but his insistence that gameplay is a wrong word for interaction with a game. Then I guess putting a game into a console is gameplay, as that is interacting with the game. Smartass remarks aside, gameplay is a term that was originally used to describe the system of functions that the player would play with within a game, and because electronic games are a continuation of children’s play culture, this term has then trickled down the evolutionary ladder of games towards tabletop and other sort of games with play as an element. Interaction is far too large term, and nobody in their healthy mind would use anything like it to describe something so precise.

This leads us to Ben Kuchera’s post on Polygon, where he has missed the whole point of games. Using books and art galleries as his point of comparison is missing the point. Kuchera is comparing apples and oranges at best. Because a game like Cuphead has more in-common with sports parkour and card games than with books and art galleries, his comparisons lack any sort of oomph. Yes, a game expects basic competence from the player to be able to clear a level before you see the next. It is, after all, a game. You don’t win at a game, unless you know how it is played and are skilled enough to play. You don’t get freebies in Solitaire either.

Easy Mode is something nobody should have anything against, as options are just that: options. That is not the case of Skip Boss Button. Electronic games are self-tiered tournaments of sorts. You can not advance in a martial arts tournament further if you lack the skill and discipline to follow the rules and execute your desired moves. Similarly, in Street Fighter you have to have enough control over your character to defeat each opponent to advance further. In a 2D action game like Cuphead, bosses can be seen as a similar opponent to any normal Street Fighter fight, with the exception that a stage is a warm-up. Of course, it just may turn out that the stage was harder than the boss, but there are always healthy exceptions. Skipping a Boss effectively negates the need of any sort of skill, and while the idea does not have anything wrong in it inherently, it really does tell you how little some people are willing to put effort.

My notion of effort in this isn’t about getting good, though it certainly is a part of it. Much like any other product, not all games are for everyone and not all games are meant for everyone. I would use a food comparison here, but it wouldn’t be apt enough. The one I used previously, about how no game with multiple players allows one to advance without excelling, is what applies here. While in a single-player games cheating does not cause any harm to anyone, it would go against the structure of the game’s play and how it’s planned out. After all, games are virtual spaces made with restrictive rules that the player plays according to and with. A game that allows its structure and rules to be broken without any consequence often turns into a dull and wasted game rather fast, mostly because skipping play is essentially just not playing it at all. If you’re not intending to play the game, you might as well find your pass time with other titles that challenge you a different manner, or other forms of entertainment and play. After all, just like with pasta sauces, some games are more chunky and demand more active jaw work than runny ones you could just use intravenously.

The problem, quite frankly, is not that a game is too hard and that the players can’t see its “art,” as Kuchera puts it. The problem is that they’re not appreciating the art. If anything is art in video and computer games, it’s the mathematics, coding, the set of rules and design, the thing that ends up being called gameplay. Not the graphics, the sound, visual design or any other part, those belong to other schools of arts. The art of games is the art of designed play, and much like other forms of art, this one challenges us both mentally and physically. Why? Because electronic games are a form of play and without that play, they’d be virtual spaces of content to see and watch but never to be played with. The pathetic thing about all this is the fact how Kuchera and other supposed journalists like him want to remove a section of this art and force it to become something mundane and have no legs to stand on its own. Variety is demanded and required.

Do I contradict myself there? Regarding this blog yes, but I can always entertain the argument of games as art whenever necessary.

Kuchera then goes in a tirade of personal achievement how nobody’s stopping you from fast-forwarding a television show, but again misses the point; games aren’t television shows. Not that anyone who would like to review a series or a movie would use fast-forwarding, that’d be skipping on the content.

Games are about learning and using information learned. If you make a mistake, you should be learn from that and not make that mistake any more. Any sort of pastime we have with any sort of game, be it cards or miniature tabletop figurines, there are always rules that we abide to and learn new things we screw up. Of course, there is a group of people who are just unable to do this, but you can’t please anyone. You can never create a product of any kind that would be universal to everybody. Someone will always bitch about it, so might as well make it as good as you can the way you know it’ll work the best. While it is up to the provider to provide the piece for the consumers, the provider can always choose its targeted customers. There are other similar products out there that will suit the consumers outside your targeted demographic better, and if there isn’t… well, that’s a niche someone else can step in fulfill.

Or you could carry some personal responsibility and step up the game.

Expanding Switch

With the recent Nintendo Direct, which I’ve just manage to watch thanks to life, we can say that its first year of games is pretty damn good. Very rarely does a console get this sort of first year. For example, the DS’ first year was abysmal before Nintendo turned the console around and made it the top selling console. Perhaps the only consoles that can compete with the Switch’s library as it is now compared to their first year are the NES and SNES. Famicom had pretty terrible first year, which the NES managed to avoid to some extent.

Switch’s success is tied to three or four different elements, depending how you want to count them. First is, without a doubt, that it is a hybrid console. Its portability without a doubt  is part of the Switch’s charm. Much like all previous handheld consoles that had extensive support, namely the Game Boy series and the DS, Switch is enjoying consumers carrying it around, though in somewhat limited extent due to its size. Sony could’ve taken few lessons from Nintendo how not to drop the ball with handhelds. Poor Vita, people had such high expectations for you. Being handheld is not really a reason for Switch’s success, but it is certainly part of it. Hardware, that is. Switch seems to be easy to develop for and allows more ‘portable’ games to be made that don’t require to be stupidly expensive Triple A. They have their own slot in the fray.

Nintendo bringing their old arcade games to the system is great. While some will scoff at them, and never remember that Nintendo started as an arcade game company before entering the home console market, these titles will have their audience. The more Nintendo brings their older titles that have not seen a release in years, the better. Just tie all of my past purchases to an account I can carry between consoles, so I don’t need to buy the same game again and again for new systems.

Of course, Nintendo releasing a Switch/ Super Mario Odyssey bundle will see more sales. The game, despite whatever personal issues I have with it, does look fun and may see good amount of sales. Now if Nintendo put the same effort and quality into a 2D Mario game, we’d be golden.

The second reason is that Nintendo’s own software has been of high quality. Breath of the Wild has gained loads of support from the consumers and generally has been accepted one of the better Zelda games. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, while certainly mainly just an upgraded edition of the Wii U game, it has made it rounds. The Battle Mode and included DLC really showed Nintendo that doing a complete release with some extra characters thrown in and tweaked gameplay pays the bills better than trying to what Capcom did with Street Fighter X Tekken. These games, especially Breath of the Wild, are keys to why Switch has been successful thus far. Hardware’s prowess doesn’t come from it being extremely good or able to push out incredible graphics, but something that can keep costs low and still be able to deliver easy environment to develop for. Develop games, that determine the success of the console.

This third reason could be counted with the second reason, but it really deserves its own slot, and that is third party titles, including all the smaller releases. While some of the titles are ports and some pretty low quality, but the fact that they are there makes the deal. Once you have the Big Titles in your library, you will want to look at the smaller and cheaper titles you might want to pick up. Indies (oh there’s that term again) will drop this sort of titles into the store from time to time. The more you have titles of at least decent quality, the better. Call it shovelware if you want, but all winning consoles had the most shovelware people could choose their favourites from.

The fourth reason is expansion. All consoles require their userbase being expanded at some point and it must be constant. Switch has been a success among Nintendo fans and general audience, but it still lacks certain appeal from its library. For example, Rocket League may be another port, and for a good reason gets dropped few notches because of it, but it offers something new not in other versions of the game. Same with Skyrim. The game may be six years old at this point, but there are still people who have not played it. It will also tap to the same core fantasy group that might find Breath of the Wild appealing, just with less Japanese feeling to it. Both Doom and Wolfenstein II both fall into a similar category with Skyrim in that they open doors to different interests the console currently offers. Back in the day, the media would say that the Switch is finally getting mature games to its library. It would have been preferable to have completely new entries to Switch in these franchises, but those can always follow if these are successful on the platform first and manage to solidify the userbase further.

Switch’s library is being expanded with these ports, like with L.A. Noir‘s updated one. While these are ports of past titles, they have an audience that will check them out, and another part will return to them if they’ve gotten rid of the previous version.

With this sort of tactic, the Switch has seen, and will see, a healthy game library from where both high-end and low-end product consumers will find something to enjoy. The problem of course with this is that it needs to be maintained. The Wii lost its steam halfway through due to Nintendo essentially dropping the support (Wii Music essentially killed the console), and looking at how Nintendo has released software on their previous systems, we can see that their main support is pretty much lost few years into a console, before things gear up for the development of its successor, with third party following in suit. As useless it is to hope that this time around that support wouldn’t vanish just like that, I highly doubt that’ll happen. While a console doesn’t have an expiration date other than when the developer drops their support, this five to six years cycle has become a standard of sorts. This is why we can be glad to see the Switch being expanded like this during its first year of existence, as that should lead into second and third year of further support and expansion.

 

Skill is glorified, universally

Dean Takahashi’s Cuphead play and the feedback it got seemed to have shaken some of the gaming media, as there has been a slew of posts popping here and there defending the lacklustre game play. Gotta defend your own tribe, I guess. Maybe the most snicker worthy text goes to Dante Douglas’ Videogame Culture needs to Stop Fetishizing Skill. Douglas, like so many others, has a sort of romantic view on the Third and Fourth Generation of games, where they were hard as hell. Much like nowadays, there were number of games that were difficult, which were eclipsed by the number of games that weren’t. Mega Man and Super Mario games, for example, were easy enough for five years old kids to play through.

Douglas’ main argument in his text is that you don’t need to be good at a game in order to criticise it. We can give him this just fine, to an extent. Games as a medium require execution and certain level of skill in order to be able consume them. People can play Street Fighter II at the easiest level just fine and experience what the game has to offer just fine, nobody expects them to go and win an EVO tournament. However, if you’re unable to play the game to even beat one opponent, then you’re far from being able to see what the game has to offer. Perhaps this is a bad example, but the would be the same across the board; consumption of video games require some skill and ability to learn the rules. Douglas vilifies the consumer groups who put weight on experience than observation by claiming skill has been fetishized. If Let’s Plays and other forms of watching someone else playing a game, then gaming media has no reason to exist anymore. All game journalists end up being obsolete under this mindset, and they’d turn into tech journos at best doing interviews and reports on game development and advertisements.

Wait, no scratch that. All those could be delivered by these streamers directly from the developers in joint attempt to close the gap between developers and consumers. All the reports on game development can be done that way too, or game companies could those directly via their PR staff. A video game journalist is a specialised job in that they’re required to practice journalism as well as be able to objectively view the level of excellence a product has through its consumption. At least with new media’s streamers and Let’s Plays we know where the producer stands. With game journalists we have to guess whether or not they’ve been paid up, whether or not there’s an agenda behind this or if there is an agreed stand across different companies how to handle a story.

However, you still require that mechanical interaction in order to, and I hate to use this term, experience the game yourself. We can’t experience what others do just yet, the technology doesn’t exist to create psychic links between human minds. You can not assert other’s actions as your own as an outsider. We tend to do that anyway, humans are emphatic beings in that sense. Yet, you can’t tell what sort of book your neighbour is reading just by watching him read.

His take on games evolving from just being puzzle boxes to stories is inaccurate. Games have always been about stories the player is a part of. It is unfortunately common to see people forgetting that video and computer games are part of game and play culture, all of which have stories as part of their structure. Playing GTA is essentially a play of Police and Robber, where the player plays the part of the Robber in an a more elaborate virtual environment, but the core is still the same. The Police this time around just happens to be an AI and the play is more controlled and directed than what kids would have. There is no real other way to experience the play than take part in it yourself. Certainly you can watch someone else play the part for you and have an onlooker experience. That, however, never replaces the experience of play itself.

Douglas’ argument that skill needs to be dropped from games in order for something better to happen for the industry and sub-culture is very much in the woods. While we can always discuss what a game is (a thing that we don’t really need to discuss any further, the question has evolved into what isn’t a game [Visual novels aren’t]), that is beside this whole discussion and an unnecessary addition to the mix. Game journalists need to step up and deliver what is expected of them by their consumers, the people who ultimately are responsible of them being employed. Attacking your customers is one of the worst tactics you could make.

In addition to Douglas’ ending his text in a very dishonest way of claiming They’re just games, there is praise to be given to a journalist or a reviewer who goes his way out to completely consume a product in order to wager all of its merits first hand. A Let’s Play shows you the visual side of things, yet you wouldn’t be able to describe the action of it. This is where game play can’t be directly compared to books or movies, as advancement requires, demands even, a genuine action on the players’ part. Not everybody is able to do so, and there’s nothing wrong in that. However, if you’re a journalist who would rather consume puzzle games rather than fast-paced actions games, it’d be better to stick to your repertoire in order to produce quality pieces.

Skill may not be fetishized, but it certainly is glorified within game cultures. This is nothing out of ordinary, as any hobby or sub-culture that contains a definitive action positively glorifies a finely executed action. Dean Takahashi’s struggle to beat the Training level and the first proper level of Cuphead would be like watching a reviewer struggling to build a plastic model of a tank and never managing to glue anything together. You can’t review a model properly unless you’re able to build it, and if your skills aren’t up to the task to execute the action to the end, you’re left on second guessing through someone else’s actions.

Why is skill glorified then? Perhaps one of the prominent reasons would be that skill in a given game isn’t exactly just that. A well executed game play doesn’t just look good, but also shows knowledge of a given game and genre as a whole. Being able to beat Super Mario Bros. doesn’t meant you’re a skilled player. Beating Super Mario Bros. without dying once, using no Level Warps or using any items however does show one’s skill. A reviewer isn’t expected to a tournament level player like Daigo to be able to consume Street Fighter III Third Strike, that is to say they’re not expected to pull of Moment #37 , but they are expected to throw Hadoukens successfully. Speaking of SFIII, if you’re interested in hearing what are the consequences of reducing skill gap within competitive games, Core-A Gaming has a good video on it.

That comparison isn’t exactly fair. Competitive gaming has always required more effort to gain probable skill in it than non-competitive, through self-imposed challenges and restrictions to “compete” against something is as old gaming itself. However, competitive gaming Journey, the player’s evolution from low-tier challenger to a skilled player, does give enough leeway to compare it to single-player games’ challenges, where beating the game and its challenges is part of the fun. This has been the backbone of majority of electronic games in its short history, where the player is expected to learn to rules and functions and develop enough ability to play the game head-to-head. This certainly is skill build-up, but it’s not skill as Douglas refers in his text.

Rather than forcing a square peg down a round hole by arguing game culture should drop difficulty and the required skill that it brings with it, it would be better if the game developers could produce games to expand the market and create new games to cater low-end game players, who for whatever reasons can’t muster the execution to challenge the higher-end products. This isn’t said in a negative tone, but in a fashion where we must face reality of different games suit different people. It’s like with food; a foodie with tomato allergy can’t consume foods with tomato, and simply observing someone else consume the food won’t cut it. You need someone who can in order for him to consume the food and be able to tell you about it.

Review of the Month; Mayflash GameCube controller adapter

Mayflash is a Chinese producer of console and PC gaming goods. For at least decade and a half they’ve been producing adapters and dance mats, as well as the odd dongle for your WiFi needs. They have offered alternatives to officially licensed product pretty much all of their existence, and it’s not rare for them to offer adapters that would otherwise be too obscure for any other company to produce. It would seem that their philosophy has always been It has to work and be cheap, design be damned. I can’t really fault this philosophy, even if a designer’s heart bleeds because of it.

If you want to cut the chase with the review, I can condense it in one sentence; it looks cheap, but the insides are good quality and it works. However, if you want something more, let’s look at what’s on the outside first.

The dimensions of the box itself is 128 x 71 x 23 mm, with a . It is, all things considered, surprisingly small. However, it is also very light and prone slide every which way. All this makes a very portable piece of equipment, but it does feel a bit cheap due to this. The plastic used is rather standard and its matte finish makes it feel a pretty standard piece of tech. Despite this, due to the text and lightness the adapter does feel rather cheap. The lack of any sort of striking design, or moving the text to the bottom and leaving the top completely vacant, does add to the cheapness factor.

The controller ports have been marked with with dots, like in GameCube itself. However, they’re a bit too small to see, and you can see my haphazard attempt at painting them in the middle of the night didn’t exactly product the results. It would’ve been preferable to have the slots marked with paint, or have concave dots made on the plastic that the user could have painted himself. I can’t really say they do their job well enough, they’re just there. Better than nothing, but again Mayflash’s idea of skimping on the surface raises its head.

As said, the adapter slides on surfaces, but I’ve added few rubber pads to make it sit in place. Surprisingly, this little addition makes it feel a bit more quality product, but in the end is a useless addition. The box itself is held together with Phillips head screws, which is great. Not only it probably cut some costs off, but also allows the consumer to open it up, fix if anything’s broken or otherwise has a need for modifications or such. I’m somewhat surprised that Mayflash didn’t opt to use their logo on the top of the adapter, as their logo would’ve made a nice looking splash. However, I recognize that having nearly brandless piece of tech opens much easier avenues of surface modifications, some of which I’ll probably take advantage at a later date. Case modding is fun, after all.

While the controller ports themselves are the same as in the original GameCube, the inside that does the job is what matters more. I must say, this isn’t what I expected. While some bits here and there seem like they could’ve seen just a tad better soldering, all the components are of good quality and the tracing is nothing to scoff at. Compared to what sort of botch-job 8bit Music Power offered, this looks nothing short of great. It may not be as sturdy as Hori’s Famicom Mini Commander, but having a modern electronic device build as sturdily as they were in the 80’s is rather rare. This is really where Mayflash’s competence has come through most often. While the cases are pretty terrible, and I’ve had few of them just come apart due to shoddy design, the PCBs and function of the devices have always been between decent and top-notch.

The use for the adapter is, of course, emulation. Very few player would prefer using a GameCube controller elsewhere. Dolphin, currently the choice for GameCube and Wii emulation, offer native support to GameCube adapters and Mayflash is one of the best, if not the best, alternative option to the official Nintendo adapter. Hell, I’ll go for broke and recommend it over the official adapter anyway just because Mayflash’s adapter’s price is half of Nintendo’s and readily available from your local Internet seller. It also does allow change between Wii U and PC mode, which helps quite a lot of you’re aiming to use GameCube controllers for other games. I wouldn’t blame you, the controller is still pretty comfortable all things considered.

Of course, it functions just fine with Wii U, there are no problems here.

Just to reiterate, the box itself, and its terrible packaging design, are nothing to look at. However, what’s inside the box and how it functions is terrific. Just remember to go to Mayflash’s own site and download the latest drives, as Mayflash is a manufacturer that aim to tweak their stuff from time to time.

The Archetype maker

Before going into Mega Man’s 30th anniversary, let’s make this week a thematic one for Street Fighter. Let’s talk about the design now that I alluded to that possible topic last time.

To cut the chase, this will be a very truncated version what should be a series of posts concentrating on each of the original characters in Street Fighter II. Yes, we’re ignoring the original game, because it’s just background noise at this point. Unless Capcom decides to remake it, which they should have already done. Also note that I’m going to use Japanese naming scheme.

The core of Street Fighter II‘s character designs is that they come from the culture around. It’s not self-referential or tries to shove other games into itself. There was nothing to reference yet, outside Capcom’s use of Yasichi and few other smaller items, like Henry from Side Arms Hyper Dyne. All the characters also have certain spot in the roster both in terms of gameplay and design.

While the planet beneath there came out of nowhere, it really drives in the idea of a World Warrior

Ryu’s design at its core is a Japanese martial artist, specifically Masutatsu Oyama. While originally a South Korean, Oyama has been one of the most influential martial artists in Japanese culture for developing his one-hit kill techniques that could kill a bull. Not only are Ryu’s and Oyama’s training style similar, but his Hurricane Kick, or Tatsumaki Senpuukyaku, was inspired by Oyama’s match against a Muy Thai fighter in 1954, where Oyama defeated this Black Cobra with an elbow strike, followed by a swift aerial triple kick. Yoshiji Soeno, Oyama’s most senio pupil, would later repeat this aerial marvel against another Muy Thai fighter in 1974 in hopes to rise against Reiba, who also went under the title The Dark Lord of Muy Thai. The name was attached to him not only due to his presence in the ring, but also due to his dealings with the local mafia, who killed him before he had a chance to fight Soeno.

Street Fighter‘s core is in Oyama’s challenge to fight against skillful martial artists in the world to test himself and his skills. The bout between Kyokushin Karate and Muy Thai kickboxing was not to be underestimated and spread around the scene in stories and legends. You never really knew any of this, but your brains did because of popular culture you consume.

Sagat is an amalgamation of these Muy Thai fighters, though due to how much has been lost to time its hard to say how much in terms of visual flavour. His trunks are style for certain are direct visual cues at least. Understanding how Ryu and Sagat are essentially the core martial art theme in Street Fighter gives them more depth both in terms of characters and design. This sort of approach is what makes Street Fighter II unique, even among Street Fighter games.

It’s said Thai fighters are not interested in fighting the Japanese anymore due to them lacking the same drive as they used to. There is not contest anymore.

However, things need to be more fantastic, and the low, semi-realistic take Street Fighter used to have is all but gone. Despite having roots in anime too (Hadouken is supposedly inspired by Uchuu Senkan Yamato and its Wave Motion Gun), none of its fantasy elements were too exaggerated.

The rest of the cast follows similar suit. Mike Bison is modeled after Mike Tyson, who at the time was the boxer around. Even now his name resonates among boxing enthusiasts. He has weight in popular culture due to his career, and probably will stay there for a good time, until someone stands up to take his place.

Ken, while being just a pallet swap of Ryu, was based on Joe Lewis. Lewis isn’t a small time name either, as he has won large number tournaments and was voted twice at the greatest fighter in karate history. He was a strong fighter, but what set him apart was his explosive speed. Ken’s kicks were probably inspired Lewis’ left side kick.

E. Honda and Zangief are both easily recognisable from their looks. Whereas Zangief is your archetypical show wrestler, E. Honda an archetypical sumo wrestler. Zangief carries the name of one Victor Zangiev, a Russian amateur wrestler who was known for his spinning throws, The Carousel. After winning two titles in Soviet Russia, he entered the New Japan Pro Wrestling scene 1989, from which he probably was just directly adapted into Street Fighter. Capcom’s staff is filled with pop-culture hogging fans, as it should be evident whoever has played their games. E. Honda is probably based on a well-known sumo wrestler, but my knowledge on sumo history is lacking. Only as of late I’ve begun to appreciate the sport. However, seeing he is still a very unique character in the whole of the roster, E. Honda stands out on his own and counters Zangief in the heavy weight department.

Guile’s sources, while clear, are rather interesting. Combine with 1980’s American Action movies Schwarzenegger offered with a cyborg Nazi Rudolf von Stroheim from JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and you get Guile. Stroheim’s influence comes in with Guile’s neat, flat cut, while the rest comes from Arnold’s physique and the American soldier image. Guile is a strong character, very limited in some sense, yet extremely explosive when used properly. Even without the JoJo reference, Guile’s appearance is very much to the point and shows one of the ways how Capcom’s staff didn’t stick just with Japanese popular culture. Well, Sagat and Mike Tyson already told you this, but the point still stands.

This playing with existing ideas and giving them form plays out in Dhalsim and Blanka as well. While neither has a strong real-world point of comparison per se, they both embody the idea of something that has spread across the world. Dhalsim as the Indian mystic who can contort his body into the most odd shapes and breathe fire isn’t exactly a stereotype. It’s more a mystical character and a perception the rest of the world has of some of India’s holier people. The skulls around his neck are a point of interest too, as you wouldn’t expect any other character carrying them around. Blanka is probably the strangest of the bunch due to him being a wild child, and is a good example of Japanese culture electrifying a something to an extreme degree. A green beast-man itself is nothing new, and out of all the more human kind of characters he stands out.

Balrog, the Spanish ninja, stands out for a different reason. The only globally accepted warrior-type characters Europe has are knights and Vikings. The rest don’t even scratch the surface. Nobody even knows Finland has an old martial arts of its own that is based on bear’s movements. Thus, Balrog fills the place of the exotic. A very lean, masked assassin with a claw might not be anything new, but putting flamenco into the mix allowed them to create something that reminds an archetype, but isn’t one. It could also be that Balrog gained his design cues from Japanese pop-culture, with him sharing similar history with JoJo‘s Dio and tends to hold a rose between his lips, a thing Japanese tend to repeat with certain kind of beautiful male characters.

Vega is Yasunori Kato of The Tale of the Imperial Capital. This in itself doesn’t matter much. the West only has passing familiarity with the character and story through the anime Doomed Megalopolis. What matters more is that the influence from Kato comes into play in his military uniform design. With a glance the player can see that Vega is something serious; while all other characters are martial artists, Vega is a military leader. Vega’s uniform however isn’t anything exceptional in itself, as it is more or less a suit from the Imperial Japan’s army. Vega is also the only character who still has a introduction before the fight, where he throws his cape away. That alone makes Vega seem a threat. These few simple things hammer in Vega’s influence.

Lastly, we have Chun-Li. Her design harkens back to a time when Japan had a boom for Chinese culture, hence such titles as Ranma½ and Gekisatsu! Uchuuken came to be. Her design takes the usual Chinese qipao and dons her hair into buns. Both of these are very traditional take on Chinese clothing, though her choice of military boots and wrist bands with spikes give a more lethal impression. Those wrist bands and Blanka are pretty much the only thing in the design department that hasn’t aged all that well, but have become iconic in the game scene. Chun-Li uses some open hand techniques that were inspired by Chinese kung-fu, but her very core point was her legs. Her design makes a clear colour difference between her qipao and lower body, and this comes clear through Hyakuretsukyaku, or Lighting Kicks. Certainly, she was designed with certain liking in mind, but this doesn’t demerit her at all; it gives her far more control in terms of visuals and how she controls the fight through speed from her legs as opposed to punches or projectiles.

That’s where come to an end. Street Fighter II didn’t just write the book how make a V.S. Fighter, but also what character styling to use. Almost all fighting games that followed used the same base formulae of character set-up and design to some extent. The simpler designs like Ryu and Sagat carry a long history before they were put into sprites, and often the reality is more fantastic than what we see on the screen.