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With The Sims
theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims,
asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual
life where everyone is Swedish?"
Josh Vasquez on Omikron: The Nomad Soul.
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2, Issue 1
November 9, 1999
games have become infested with ghosts. One of the trends in the
industry over the last few years seems to be an exploratory revisitation
of the successes of the past. Old bones, however, are just that,
and the stars of yesteryear needed a bit of "fleshing"
out (fade to a boardroom meeting: "men, we gotta think big"
the boss says as a chorus quietly sings "Dem Bones"
in the background). In a ritual of redressing, paradigmatic characters
like Donkey Kong, Frogger and, most recently, Pac-Man
have all been resurrected with a day-glow pulse and bubbled out
into a new landscape by way of a wonderful conceit: the illusion
that one can implant the third dimension into the second. In essence
this neoteric life promised to the faithful is a movement to the
geometry that applies in depth. It's a deepening meant to tap
into nostalgia and thus, hopefully, into wallets as fans trade
for a peek at the "new world."
As a side effect of this marketing strategy, a new aesthetic has
arisen around these once flat heroes that stretches beyond the
"fish out of water" charm of seeing them turn 360 degrees.
On the one hand, watching something being brought back to life
can persuade the observer to develop a new appreciation for the
tools used to work such a miracle. Seeing Pac-Man in the
increasingly standard "3D environment" format has the
potential to help the surfeited player rediscover a magical sense
of awe at such video game advances, like seeing the sun rise through
the eyes of someone regaining their sight after a year. Now, while
I don't want to overstate the power of this awakening (in the
end it is just a game after all), there is something to be said
for its ability to induce a warm smile if nothing else. On the
other hand, there is an interesting A+B=C equation taking shape
Mixing the cartoonish with a more fully "realized" environment
has some curious side-effects. Treating Mario or Donkey
Kong like, for example, Lara Croft (and whether Tomb Raider
came before or after is beside the point), or at least placing
them in a similarly rendered quest format, forces a strange marriage
of the serious and the silly. Even though the ideas behind the
games may be completely different, utilizing the same type of
overall design to reach utterly different goals, the viewer can't
help but see one in the newly cast light of the other. Just by
3D-ing the environment of a game you are evolving the narrative,
raising the stakes if you will. This is true even if the new Pac-Man
is still all about gobbling those little white dots; the walls
of the maze are instantly more "dramatic" in a three
dimensional setting than in the original by virtue of their being
made more concrete. I am not suggesting that the creators have
to have intentionally worked out a more detailed plot line for
this to be true. If the individual is inspired to let his or her
mind wander, stretching to account and plan for the possibility
that a threat awaits behind that next hill or around the corner,
then a more heightened interaction is automatically taking place
between game and player. The intriguing and humorous bent comes
in when the character is not a barbarian warlord or a robot monster