Nostalgia, and Zelda day

Nostalgia is a double-edge sword. It can reawaken memories, make you happy, give focus to your life, or remind you to find about about or contact that long-lost friend. Or it can make you yearn, or grieve for something past or gone, or take up your time and prevent you from living in the here and now. Perhaps nostalgia needs a warning label: “Best used sparingly and selectively”.

Digital games are little different, and nostalgia pervades the sector. Retro was, and is, a major part of the gaming landscape. More than a few of us in middle age, and older, were gamers in previous (multiple) decades. Long-forgotten sequences, screenshots, tunes and songs have an often strong pull. More so than most other media, arguably; rather than just passively absorbing the images and sounds, being an active player has probably embedded the coda of what we experienced more firmly within our neorology. [I really should be a good academic researcher and find several weighty scientific works to give credibility to this, but it’s early morning and this is still coffee number one]

Today is November 21st. That doesn’t mean much in history. The Plymouth Colony settlers signed the Mayflower Compact in 1620. Thomas Edison announced his invention of the phonograph in 1877. The Flag of Estonia was formally adopted as the national flag of the Republic of Estonia in 1918. The first permanent ARPANET link was established between UCLA and SRI in 1969. Some other things happened.

But this day, and tomorrow, are the days when Nintendo often release a major Zelda game. In 1991 it was The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.

And on this day in 1998, Nintendo released The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I’d recently acquired a Nintendo 64 as I eased myself back into gaming after several nyears of little playing, and I bought Zelda: OoT on a whim, being only partially aware of the back history of the franchise. However, it then took up most of the conscious part of two months of my life. I regret nothing.

Unlike many others who rushed through it with the primary or sole aim of completion, I wandered around the landscape, poking at various things and trying other things out. Hence, the two fulfilling months of experimentation, and my mind thinking “Oh! You can do X. So, maybe, you do Y. And not necessarily just in this game, but in other places.”

Is or was it my favorite game? It’s up there, but probably not (Shenmue on the Dreamcast for various long-form reasons is a more likely contender). Or the one that had the most influence on me? Again, it’s up there, but Phantasy Star Online (also on the Dreamcast) was pretty much a life and career changer.

However, for soundtrack it wins (Halo being a close second). Therefore, there is little surprise that the net contains thousands of reinterpretations of the many tunes. This post contains several of Gerudo Valley, the point in the game where I realized I was slowly approaching the end and Zelda: Ocarina of Time was, and still is, one heck of a cultural achievement. Enjoy.

K.K. Faire

Every now and then in Animal Crossing you get a glimpse of the depth of the game (and it is an unexpected and terrifying depth, at times) and the level of thought and attention that was invested in the design.

One of many things you can collect in New Leaf (and some of the other Animal Crossing games) is music. There are various tracks, all by K.K. Slider (a guitar-playing dog – if you aren’t familiar with Animal Crossing, just go with this). Each track fits into a distinct genre. The album sleeves in themselves are particular pocket-sized art covers. But, the music is also playable, so long as you have a record player, gramophone (tends to be a bit scratchy), jukebox or some other player.

And there are many tracks to collect and play.

One of my favorites is K.K. Faire. Here it is:

…and a different version, preferred by some (the drop-off and restart is fun):

I thought this was some kind of Appalachian or deep south or bluegrass derivative, but was wrong. This is a remastered version of a folksong called “Tancha Mebushi” from the Okinawa and Ryukyu Islands of Japan. Here’s the original:

I love that, rather than create a new and random piece of music, K.K. Faire is carefully based on a traditional song.

And someone else has come along, taken one of the Animal Crossing versions, and remixed it. A little bit new-agey, but still an interesting variation:

Also, K.K. Faire has appeared in previous iterations of Animal Crossing. Here’s a Let’s Go To The City version, which sounds a little deeper than the New Leaf version:

…and this version sounds slightly faster and clippier (I don’t have the vocabulary of a musician, sorry):

It should be noted that K.K. Slider has produced other songs for citizens (I can’t really think of them as players) to collect in the Animal Crossing games. A *lot* of other songs. Though if you aren’t familiar with the game, but are more familiar with e.g. Daft Punk, this may be your best route in…

Animal Crossing: some research

As a fan, player, observer and casual researcher, it is pleasing to see that there is a small but regular flow of research articles and papers concerning the game franchise Animal Crossing. Here are five such publications, with links to free PDF versions for each.

2015. Animal Crossing: New leaf and the Diversity of Horror in Video Games. By Ashley Brown and Björn Berg Marklund. [PDF]

2013. Game Cutification: A Violent History of Gender, Play and Cute Aesthetics. By Emily Flynn-Jones. [PDF]

2008. The Rhetoric of Video Games. By Ian Bogost. [PDF]

2007. Touching is good: an eidetic phenomenology of interface, interobjectivity, and interaction in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: Wild World. By Bryan G Behrenshausen. [PDF]

2005. Constructing a Player-Centred Definition of Fun for Video Games Design. By Stephen Boyd Davis and Christina Carini. [PDF]

A trip to the hairdresser

The last few days have seen some banging and hammering above the Able Sisters’ shop and yesterday the reason why became clear: a hairdressers had opened there.

Thus, I found myself in Shampoodle, being queried by Harriet (no spoiler: Harriet is a poodle).

Getting a new hairstyle is not cheap.

Cost

You also get asked a ton of questions to narrow down what your hairstyle will look like:

Kinds of casual

…and how it matches your persona:

Loose guy

Cute guy

There’s an interesting thread somewhere in here about gender perceptions within the game, as the “guy” and “girly” difference has come up before in conversation with animals.

But then we move on to color.

Bright color

I selected a bright color. The options given come back to the predominant narrative arc of Animal Crossing, that it is a relentlessly positive game with a vocabulary to match. Other games may have just given me the options of blond, blue, orange and so forth, at this point.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf, on the other hand, gave:

Choices

If I had selected an intense’ color instead, the color options would have been:

  • Burning love
  • Forest
  • Deep Sea
  • Moody

Hair color selected, the rather violent, and totally automated (no actual poodle paws involved) process of getting a hairstyle took place:

Under the dome

Dazed

Hmmm

That was fun. But, the aforementioned financial hit then comes:

Cost

I’ll probably go back over the weekend and try the makeup. Because it’s a game and I can. Wish me luck.