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12:05 PM on 03.23.2008

Zatsuga's Fond Memories 1b: Casual Childhood, Technology

In addition to an original GameBoy, I had a Sega GameGear as a child. Do you remember this thing?

The GameGear absolutely chewed through batteries, but it was high technology at the time. Really, is it any less portable than a PSP or DS is now? The GameGear was as chic in the early 90's as those systems are now. In any case, I fondly remember two GameGear games in particular:

Shinobi (1991)
Shinobi was an improvement over my previous GameBoy examples in many areas; it was semi-linear in contrast to all three, the playable characters were unique, and it was in color. Though the introduction of color allowed for palate swaps between playable characters, each ninja played differently. Beginning as the basic Red ninja, the player could unlock a ceiling-clinging Pink, a waterwalking Yellow, a grappling hook equipped Blue, and a double jumping Green. Each ninja's basic attack was different as well, and each level contained areas some could not reach.

Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
Obviously the more famous of these examples, Sonic is a universally known character. The major advantage Sonic had over Super Mario Land and the other previously discussed games was pacing. Sonic's claim to fame is his speed, and that speed is what made him an enjoyable character. Which brings us to the real topic of this post: technology.

The GameGear was a technological advancement over the GameBoy. This is exactly as one would expect, it was released two years later. I have already mentioned the addition of color to games. Color made these games more visually appealing, and more visually consistent, than those of the original GameBoy. Kirby, who is pink, appears on the cover of "Dreamland" as white. Color makes characterization easier; consider the Ninja Turtles, distinguished only by their weapons, and Shinobi's Ninjas, who have different appearances and abilities. With distinct characters the game can tell a story with greater depth.

Sonic's trademark speed is simply impossible to convey on the GameBoy, which could not handle the framerate needed to indicate speed. Greater speed requires larger levels, again beyond the capability of the inferior GameBoy. Outside of platformers, the other games available for these early systems read like a list of minigames: Boxxle, Tetris, etc.

My point is this: I plan to discuss the features that have evolved over time in gaming history, but many are a natural result of improvements in technology. Of course color will be implemented as soon as it is viable, but that doesn't detract from a discussion of what color adds to game design and impact. So, while I may not mention technological improvements in systems explicitly in future posts, this post should serve as an unstated acknowledgment thereof.

Next time:
Zatsuga's Fond Memories 2: GoldenEye and Perfect Dark

Zatsuga's Fond Memories 1a: Casual Childhood, Features   read

2:41 PM on 03.22.2008

Zatsuga's Fond Memories 1a: Casual Childhood, Features

I had one of the 'gray brick' GameBoys when I was young, and I fondly recall playing these three games:

Super Mario Land (1989)
Actually a rather odd Mario title; Princess Daisy is the damsel in distress, not Peach, and Tatanga replaces Bowser as the primary foe. A GameBoy launch title, it was immensely popular, selling over 18 million copies. Wikipedia tells me it had a 'hard mode' that I probably never accessed, most crucial to this article is the fact that it had no save feature.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Fall of the Foot Clan (1990)
Another simple platformer, with the familiar faces of Leonardo, Michaelangelo, Donatello and Raphael as playable characters. Pizza was health. Slices = 1, pies = full, genius. The game had five stages, and a full ending you could only see after playing all five. Again, an ending I don't think I ever saw.

Kirby's Dreamland (1992)
Kirby, a character I absolutely love, was originally a stand-in. The development team became attached to the puff-ball, indication that their customers would too, I should think. The major difference between the Kirby and Mario/the Ninja Turtles was his ability to fly, which opened the levels up immensely, and was a crucial mechanic in boss battles. Dreamland was a short game (that I did complete), with four main stages, and then a quick revisitation of each boss battle before the final boss battle (against King Dedede, according to Wikipedia).

I mention these games because I am fond of them, but they are meant to illustrate my real topic, and the planned overarching topic of this blog: features. Game features influence how gamers play, and their evolution over time mirrors the evolution of gaming psychology.

The lack of a save feature in these games engendered in me a casual approach to gaming. The instanced nature of gaming sessions without a save feature cut the games' narrative at sessions' end. This is why I most vividly remember three franchises, contexts to which I could immediately relate. As a child, viewing each session as an instance prevented me from realizing that playing "Super Mario Land," or the other games, was a skill. Certainly I did improve with practice, but that improvement was a byproduct of my search for entertainment.

Some part of me wishes I could return to this state of innocence, when I gave no consideration to my gaming performance. Though a competitive approach to gaming makes accomplishment easier to gauge and feel, I feel it also increases the chance and intensity of disappointment, or test friendships. I would hope every young gamer experiences this innocence, as opposed to immediately viewing gaming as competition, though it is less likely given the popularity of multiplayer and online-multiplayer games. In my opinion, childrens' games should not be tasks, they should be recreation.

Each additional game feature has added sophistication to games' storytelling or competitive structure. I plan to discuss many game features, their influence on gamers, and to elucidate this discussion with examples from my gaming history. Hopefully my ambitions for this blog will become realized.

But first, article 1b will be a nod to the equally important discussion of how technology has influenced gaming:
Zatsuga's Fond Memories 1b: Casual Childhood, Technology   read

9:33 PM on 03.19.2008

Introductory post

Hello Dtoid,

It's about time I started this blog, I've been a lurker and reader for a long time. The tipping point was my boy JamesOn starting his blog. Check out the PC he's building.

I wouldn't classify myself as a hardcore gamer, but I have potential. Games added flavor to my childhood, but were not a main focus. I entered college never having played Halo, and having only barely heard of it, but am now the proud owner of a never-RRoD'd 360. Knock on wood.

I am passionate about the things that interest me: sports, movies, and games (shocking, I know); I hope to contribute impassioned and knowledgeable discussion of these topics.

EDIT Facts that the comments so far have spurred me to add:

I am a 21 yo male (sorry everyone!) living in the continental US. JamesOn is my friend from college, and 'my boy' was intended as 'my friend.' I'm not his mom, the PC he's building is, sadly, not for me.

Although full posts on 'games I have played' and 'games I an eager to play' are forthcoming, I will say my current 360 library consists only of: Orange Box, Mass Effect and Halo 3. I can't wait to join some FNF fun in Halo and especially TF2, but my tubes are, at times, mildly clogged.

I am glad to say that the comments I've received so far have been more positive than expected, it's nice to see a community I've enjoyed as a lurker isn't as punishing as I had feared!   read

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