Dispatches from the Uncanny Valley

I’ve just bought Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 for the Wii, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it, but it does take you into a weird parallel world. Not just because of the licensing restrictions that mean the English league is full of clubs called things like ‘Man Red’ and ‘Lancashire Athletic’, and Germany has players called ‘Fnich’ and ‘Harmey’, or the fact that you can play matches like England vs. Barcelona*, or even the robotic, repetitive commentary from Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson. No, it’s the strange, shiny looking, dead-eyed players with faces that look like they’ve been painted onto blocks of wood from memory. Here’s Christiano Ronaldo, congratulating Rooney on scoring a goal for Man Red.

And yet for all the little bits of clunkiness, it feels enough like football that there’s a real joy to be had from scoring a good goal. It doesn’t feel like playing football, but it does feel like watching-football-on-telly-but-I-can-control-the-players. And even if they look a bit peculiar, I still want to use my favourite players in the game.

If Coleridge came back from the grave and encountered computer games, I wonder how it would affect his concept of the willing suspension of disbelief. He only had theatre as a subject; I wonder what he would have made of a game where you control a little Italian plumber as he jumps up scaffolding, avoiding flaming barrels thrown at him by a gorilla, in order to rescue a princess? Because at some level I think you do have to ‘believe’ in computer games, even the most primitive ones.

 *I lost 7-1: Ronaldinho had Gary Neville on toast.

All geeked out

One reason this blog has been quiet over the past week or so is that I’ve been engrossed in Puzzle Quest, perhaps the geekiest computer game of all time.

It’s an RPG with all the standard trappings thereof: orcs, trolls, giant rats, lots of character statistics, magic weapons, spells and so on. Except that when you meet a troll or a dragon or whatever, instead of hitting it with your sword, you challenge it to a game of Connect 4. Or what Connect 4 would be like if you had seven different kinds of counters dropped randomly into the top of the grid and you had to make lines to gain the magical energy to cast spells.

So it’s really a puzzle game with added orcs. The plotting, characterisation and so on are extremely flimsy, but it doesn’t really matter because the puzzling is really quite absorbing and the game eats up hours at a time quite easily.

I was struck again by how far the internet has come so quickly when I got stuck on a particular bit, googled ‘capture wolfrider’, and was pointed directly to a video someone had uploaded showing how to do it. Truly we are living in a brave new world.

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Nintendo have announced that their new games console, referred to previously as the ‘Revolution’, is actually going to be called the ‘Wii’. Personally I think that ‘Revolution’ was a fucking awful name – or at least a leadenly literal-minded and unimaginative one. I can’t quite decide about ‘Wii’, although it does make a good logo:

I think it’s a good thing that it’s neither too techy-sounding or too macho, but it may have strayed too far into Hello Kitty territory. Nintendo are keen on the association with ‘we’, but I’m not sure that makes up for the associations with small Scottish things and urine. If they were going to go for a clean, modern sounding monosyllable, how about Kii? Or something.

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Sir Shigeru

Shigeru Miyamoto has been made Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. Damn straight. If the man who invented Mario and Zelda doesn’t deserve a knighthood, who does?

That doesn’t make it any less annoying that the release date of The Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess has now been pushed back by a year since its original projected release last November, but I don’t begrudge Miyamoto-san a bit of non-industry recognition.

via wmmna

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