Blog Archives

23 They’re Just Videogames, Right?

or, “Memoirs of an old man trapped in a thirty year old body with the muscles of a fifteen year old girl”

This blog began one year ago. All because I love videogames – but, they’re just games.


I’ve always chased dreams. While in my teenage years I watched as friends chased girls, fast cars or rock bands that could be the spokespeople of their alientation, I was chasing fantasies promised in cartridges, CDs, instruction manuals. I could live with that, even with the reputation of being “that guy that won’t shut up about games”. One day I managed to talk about Bushido Blade for ten straight minutes with friends of mine just to draw a comparison between the sound one of them made while he choked on some coffee and the wet rattle a character in LightWeight’s title did whenever they were fatally pierced with a sword. The silence that came after the monologue was terrifying, even more so when one of them asked “all that just so you could compare the sound?!”. They endured a lot of my obsessions, but that didn’t stop them from being my friends. Or as friendly as they could be, at least.

Eleven years later and I’m rediscovering some of them on social networks. One of them, who looks like Alan Moore but paints more like Keith Haring, confessed to having played and enjoyed Return to Castle Wolfenstein. One other friend, a woman-child for whom I was terribly infatuated with for six long years, seems to be quite addicted to The Sims and social games. Rediscovering another, who went on to make wanderlust a way of life, left me heartbroken. Time had managed to steal half his heart and half his leg: in the first case, figuratively; in the second, not as much. He was one of the rare few people with whom I shared my passion for videogames and someone who, I discovered later, would go on to play EVE Online for years, ingraining himself into that virtual space, manipulating markets, making and unmaking corporations, commanding fleets and the respect of other players.

He, like the others, didn’t always took kindly to my videogame rants. But he, like the others, also didn’t resist their allure. Did I influence anything? Was it simple curiosity, an impulse, an obsession? Did they see videogames as more than headshots, more than suburban laboratories, more than persistent competitions?

Did they see nothing more than that?

Continue Reading

Comments Off The rock star who wanted to be a roadie

On Brütal Legend, Tim Schafer and his games

In the old days, videogame magazines lessened some of our indecision when it came to buying games. We knew Nintendo for their charming visuals; we knew Taito for their slick shooters; we knew Data East for, other than a good number of reasonable games, that Guns N’Roses pinball machine. But beyond specialty mags and our friends we knew little about who developed what. It all changed with the growth of the internet: over night companies were no longer unknown entities and we began finding out the names of those who worked on those levels, of who coaxed wonderful melodies out of 8-bit machines, of who poured their heart in making those sprites. At certain point gamers began understanding the notion of author and suddenly Mario and Zelda were no longer Nintendo products but Miyamoto’s games. Metal Gear Solid was no longer a Konami game and instead became Kojima’s “creation”. And so came the idea that videogames could be more than montly paycheques and that some creators have a voice or a vision. The idea that the industry may not just be about financial reports but about “art” instead. The idea that certain people in the industry deserve a certain status, even if the jury is made up of people who don’t know what “art” is, much less what a videogame is.

Which is not to say that, once in a while, videogames can’t go beyond themselves without losing what makes them unique and different when faced with other forms of expression. The ratio between attempt and success at this is arguable; less arguable are the mediatic temples consecrated to certain names. Tim Schafer is one of those cases where reputation elevates a creator to rock star status, earning him the esteem of journalists, respect from his peers and worship of the audience. Before Brütal Legend, Schafer was already a legend. Why? When Psychonauts saw the light of day, the press kept building this image of a brilliant designer whose games were filled with fantastic worlds and comedy, but their often mediocre controls and mechanics prevented further recognition. Which is peculiar. Before Psychonauts, Schafer had only worked on adventure games – a genre where controls and mechanics are generally irrelevant. And the only game prior to Psychonauts where Schafer had absolute authorial control was Grim Fandango.

Something to think about: all that reputation was built around one single game. Is it possible that the lack of recognition Schafer gets from the audience stems from a wrong idea promoted by the very journos who wanted to celebrate his work but didn’t quite do their homework?

And if so, how much of that reputation is responsible for Brütal Legend?

Continue Reading