Edit: So, somewhere between deciding to write this and actually writing it, I forgot the thing that prompted me to start writing this post in the first place.
I’ve been watching DS9 from the beginning. It’s one of my favorite shows and, being older and wiser, I’m getting a lot more out of it. This line of dialogue from an episode I watched last night struck me. Spoiler!!!! In the episode “In Purgatory’s Shadow,” we learn that Enabran Tain is really Garek’s father. Garek agrees to help him get revenge on certain people after death if Tain will simply accept for a moment that Garek is his son. They have the following interaction:
Tain: Elim, remember that day…in the country. You must’ve been almost five.
Garek: How can I forget it? It was the only day.
What strikes me as absolutely beautiful about those two lines is Garek’s response, which both means that that was the only day that they went to the country, and that that was the only day in his life. It’s a gorgeous statement said in a perfect way.
So, I just have a lot of ideas flitting around in my head, and it’s easier to put them all in one reasonably inoffensive post. Here we go.
Over at What Would JT Do?, JT Eberhard is discussing the best video game music. This got me thinking and doing some research and the ones posted on the page are great. There’s a fantastic video that I can’t find about why old video game themes tend to be “better” (hint: they’re not, just simplier and less designed to be subtle in their emotional effect on you), but I think MovieBob did it for one of his web shows. I could be wrong about that and if anyone knows the video I’m talking about, please post it to me. Might have been Extra Credits, but I don’t think so.
I also found this video making a rather arbitrary ranking of classic video game themes. I have no particular opinion on the ranks themselves except to say that Megaman 2 in the top spot is where I would put it, and I agree that these are all great and memorable themes. However, watching the gameplay has gotten me thinking about the old “classic games were so much harder” canard.
It’s rather a human tendency to assume that everything that you’re used to and comfortable with is the best. We see it in politics, we see it in long standing organizations, we see it in everyplace where there is a distinct “new” that replaces the “old”. Hell, I recently wrote a post talking about people who apparently think that times were better when kids could eat lead-based paint because whoever posted the stupid Facebook meme apparently survived (with very little brain damage).
So, with us Generation NESer, we equate “hard” to “good” and assume that because games were much more difficult in our day, that meant they were better.
Thing is, kids, that’s not necessarily the case. I would agree that games were harder in our day. I remember the Batman game in that video, and of course Ninja Gaiden is the gold standard for difficult video games. However, they weren’t harder because of game design or because today’s games have been softened. They were harder because the controls still weren’t very good. Batman was difficult because, among many control issues, the Dark Knight had a tendency to abruptly stop a jump in mid-air despite his apparent momentum indicating that he should still be moving up. This was a subtle yet distinct difficulty introduced because game designers hadn’t at the time gotten the hang of how to make a realistic physics engine. It’s nobody’s fault, but it added to the difficulty not because it improved the game but because it defied how we perceived the world to work.
Know the hardest game I’ve ever played? E.T. for the Atari 2600. The game so bad that Atari did everything short of ordering an exorcism for it. I just watched a video walkthrough and I still don’t understand what the fuck is going on there. Just think on that.
I really can’t wait for The Avengers this weekend. This is really the movie I’ve been waiting for my entire life. It addresses a lot of things I’ve been saying for quite some time.
1. People can love super hero movies. They don’t have to be aimed at a specific subset of people or dumbed down for a general audience. Super heroes at their best speak to the best in us and can mirror our own struggles. The Avengers cycle up to this point has been successful because they weren’t movies based around cool powers and special effects (though they had those). They were about, in order of release: a useless jackass finding out he can make a positive difference in the world, a genius who’s brilliance isn’t enough to overcome his rage, the previous useless jackass overcoming his daddy issues, an insensitive jerk who learns that other people matter, and a down to Earth guy who’s heroic qualities had nothing to do with Super Solider Serum. The Avengers as a movie puts all of that together.
2. You can have an extended universe that spans a number of films and people will follow it. Again, this goes to the idea that people aren’t as dumb as the entertainment industry seems to think they are. Being a comic book fan, I’ve never understood why all super hero movies existed in a bubble when even cameo appearances every once in a while would effortlessly expand the world. Not only does the Avengers cycle do this with the culminating film, but it makes multiple references to other Marvel titles throughout in subtle ways (e.g. the Eye of Agamotto can be seen in Odin’s magic item vault, the Golden Age Human Torch makes an appearance in Captain America, etc.). The Avengers is going to be groundbreaking, and I think it’s a long time coming.
3. A serious treatment of a subject does not have to be, prima facie, “dark.” There was and is a trend, though I feel it’s waning, of making everything dark and gritty. Sometimes that’s an appropriate take on a subject, but far too often it’s just an attempt to add a bit of realism to an unreal situation. Because the real world is dark and terrible, apparently. Perhaps the best example is the Super Mario Brothers movie. I know we don’t like to talk about that, but it’s important to face our failures as a species. Part of why this movie failed: they tried to turn this and this into this and it just didn’t work. Avengers doesn’t appear to be going for that aesthetic and it’s a good thing.
I’m still building a following here, which is kinda cool. The thing that I’m learning from reading other blogs: pay attention to what is said. I’m sure that not every blog owner reads every comment, but I notice that the best blog writers are aware of the trend of comments and know when to wade in and when to let things go. I think this is a skill I’m going to have to learn.
Of course, first I have to have a bustling comments section, but it never hurts to look ahead.
Ok, clutter gone for now. Will write about more as the mood strikes me. With this being Avengers weekend and SCA music day tomorrow (been barding it up with my mandolin since last Tuesday when I got to play at the beach with friends and actually was kinda happy with my performance), I just don’t have a whole lot of rage in me today.