A secondary promotional poster for Wreck It Ralph (2012), depicting M.Bison (Street Fighter), Dr.Eggman (Sonic the Hedgehog), and Q*Bert
Gaming to most is primarily a recreational pass-time with no real significance, this is usually the case with the ‘casual gamer’. However in the past few years/decades Games and Gaming Culture have evolved to not only a sub-culture, but a mainstay of popular culture itself. Part of the reason why is rooted in what’s happening to technology. In this postmodern era technology is basically merging into one, presenting the same access points and platforms with marginally different software. Consoles, computers, phones, Ipads, handhelds are all incorporating the same ideas, apps, features, and widgets as all kind of media is kind of being raised to the same degree in terms of cultural regard to suit this media conglomeration.
However as the evolution of console continues, I find myself yearning for the past in gaming. I’m not saying X is better than Y, or any kind of Box is better than a Cube, Station, Cast, or otherwise.I feel as games become more about the aesthetics and the streamlined technology, that there’s not as much thought put into the design. After all a game’s mechanics and how it plays, should always be the forefront, the central idea not just a generic shell with a different themed aesthetic like some games series have degenerated into.
Gameplay of one of the Home Ports of Arcade Machine classic ‘Q*Bert’
Obviously this is a huge generalization and is not aimed at any game, series, company or console in particular, and I’m certainly not saying I hate modern gaming as I both own and play them. I can’t remember the last time a modern game really immersed me to the point I couldn’t stop playing it, where I couldn’t fight the urge but play hour after hour until the early hours of the morning as my eyes turned hazy and bloodshot. I fondly remember being a child, eagerly clutching my Gameboy Colour on a Saturday morning, contently leveling up my Geodude in the addictive confines of a plastic yellow cartridge. Pokemon as I understand mean’t a lot to my generation and it’s notion of childhood. Along with the TV Show, the collectible cards, and the general merchandise. There’s a lot of running jokes on the internet about Pokemon now. Mostly referencing the original 150, and how the others’ll never be the same. To me that’s not so much a joke or a quip, but a general statement, an observation of how the things we once knew and loved do change.
Pokemon Blue, and the infamous ‘MissingNo’ a glitch pokemon that would create graphical glitches and errors, much like Vanellope Von Schweetz.
There is something addictive about the RPG made by GameFreak that just completely encapsulates childhood innocence. You begin to nourish and care for your Pokemon, as you’d battle trainers, earn badges, and achieve the ultimate dream of cash, money, hoes. I mean uh. Beat the Pokemon League. Yeah. Nintendo specifically was just a huge part of my childhood. Occasionally now i’ll still go on a SNES (Super Nintendo) spree and bust out Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, Super Mario RPG or Allstars, or anyone of the Super Nintendo’s priceless classics. At no point do I think i’m the majority though, I imagine the majority of people are happy with the way gaming technology is advancing. With it becoming more and more attached completely to the online world, with the Xbox One and possibly the PS4 seeming like they both need constant internet integration to properly function. I’m not surprised however, it only makes sense.
Space Invaders circa 1978.
I’m only the ripe old age of 19, so for me nostalgia is mostly the Playstation 1, the Nintendo 64, my gameboy in my actual timespan. Not counting older consoles I’ve still had experience with obviously. I’ve spoken to my dad a lot about gaming in his generation, particularly when I was a young boy I’d ask him. He always remarked how rare it was to see home consoles on their release, the Atari and such. He’d also recall his love of Space Invaders in his teenage years, as multiple people would clamor for the game we now deem archaic and mostly obsolete. There’d be queues in the local cafe, people eager to spend their petty change in order to blast some aliens. Since, the pixelated alien enemy has become somewhat of a pop culture icon, often appearing on T-shirts, in artwork, and the occasional internet meme.The principle of arcade machines are mostly lost now, bar from a few examples, they’re mainly not in production outside of Japan these days.
Ralph appearing in his Video-Game ‘Fix It Felix.’
Disney’s Wreck it Ralph (2012) is a wonderful animated little world taking place inside the confines of an arcade. But why the Arcade? Arcades are mostly a thing of Gaming’s past and don’t really bare any relevance to now. Although it’s true, the concept of arcades to some sections of the world are quite the nostalgic thing. In addition Disney and Pixar films often like to hinge around the idea of a community. That community could be anything, a group of toys played by the same child, animals in an environment, citizens under the same feudal aristocracy. As the plot develops something will threaten to corrupt, destroy, or alter that community and this is why the arcade is the setting in Wreck it Ralph. It’s a narrative conceit to convey the endangerment of the video games. In addition it’s also needed to portray Wreck it Ralph’s notion of death, via the macabre ‘Out of Order’ sticker placed on every machine as it’s slowly wheeled away. I don’t suppose these ideas quite work in the confines of a home console.
The first appearance of iconic plumber Mario, in ‘Donkey Kong’.
The very concept is drenched in nostalgia for gaming’s past. Ralph is a villain in a game known as ‘Fix it Felix’ in which Ralph must destroy an apartment building before Felix can fix it. Ralph begins to resent his job, and the fact no one really appreciates his rather important role. The game for me, reminded me of the original Donkey Kong without the princess. As Ralph begins to feel more helpless he goes to a help group for villains known as ‘bad-anon’.
From left to right, A member of the Lin Kuei possibly Smoke from Mortal Kombat. Bowzer from Super Mario (Et al). Zangief from Street Fighter, Dr.Eggman from Sonic The Hedgehog.
They all feel the same dejected way, that the hero soaks up all the glory and the villains are generally left with nothing. Although within the context of the fighting game from which Zangief originates from, that doesn’t exactly make sense as any character is playable. In addition I’ve always had a affinity for the more villainous characters in fiction. Zangief offers quite the humorous account but also some helpful advice, as he utters the words:
Then I have moment of clarity… if Zangief is good guy, who will crush man’s skull like sparrow’s eggs between thighs? And I say, Zangief you are bad guy, but this does not mean you are *bad* guy. –
Disney always did a do a wonderful job of humanizing characters. But to humbly accept that he’ll never be a hero isn’t enough for Ralph, as he ventures into ‘Hero’s Duty’, A first person Sci-Fi based shooter which seems like a kind of mesh between first person shooters titles Gears of War, and Call of Duty. He breaks the rules of the game, but escapes with the ‘medal’ maybe a smart satire on gaming achievements, or gamer points. He stumbles into an escape pod an ends up in the land of ‘Candy Crush’. He meets a sweet little girl named Vanellope von Schweetz who is a ‘glitch’ within the game, and is apparently a mistake by the developers.
Vanellope and Ralph, in the sugary land of ‘Candy Crush’.
The famous ‘Reptile’ fight. Appearing as a palette swapped Scorpion with a different movelist, regardless to what the name plaque says.
The idea of a character being a glitch, not intended for purpose in the game is certainly one that’s well rooted within the game industry. Frequently games are well-known to have unlockable characters, or easter egg cameos by a character not intended for use. In addition, hacking has shown us a lot about the development of games, and the frequently left files, and left over data from scrapped or removed characters or features. The fact that Wreck it Ralph uses this kind of idea as a narrative vehicle for the story, it certainly very intelligent and contextual. If a series embodies this, it’s probably Mortal Kombat and it’s sequels. It’s well known to have very particular requirements to face certain characters as easter eggs, even though the character themselves aren’t playable. Such as the original incarnations of Reptile, or Smoke. In addition the character Ermac originally appeared as a palette swapped error of the character Scorpion, the name actually standing for ‘Error Macro’, which Ed Boon decided to actually include into the game’s canon in later editions.
Ralph discovers Vanellope was originally a character in the game, her presence altered by an evil character the King of Candy Crush. It’s later revealed he is actually Turbo, a racing character who sought to usurp other racing games, in a plea for attention as he made his way into Candy Crush.
The Candy King glitching out, as his pixels reveal the truth.
The story finishes happily ever after, with the typical Disney schmultz. However, it’s worth noting it’s morality and characters are much more subversive than usual. Ralph abandoned his game to seek glory and recognition, but ultimately that’s what drove original good guy Turbo into villainy, he sought more fame, and more attention. Admittedly Ralph never mean’t to do any harm, but the imminent destruction of Candy Crush that almost happened due to his ignorance don’t really paint him as a hero after all do they? Is it a heroic trait to clean up a mess you made in the first place? What’s the moral? Seek recognition? or don’t? Or perhaps more accurately be yourself. I’ll stick with that one. I’ll finish this brief look into gaming’s past with a look into the significance of Q*bert in Wreck it Ralph.
The out of work Q*Bert, with enemies Coily, and Slick.
Q*bert is a real game character originating from the 80’s, with a series of cross-ports and sequels. In Wreck It Ralph he is a character out of work, as his game’s been unplugged. The poor little guy. At the very end, Ralph mentions how they brought him into Fix It Felix and had them as enemies on the bonus levels, and found them a place to live. How sweet. I like to think that’s a statement that old games and characters will always have a place in modern gaming, and won’t necessarily be forgotten. Wreck It Ralph is a cute little film, with a lot of in-jokes for games old and new, with some very fresh and poignant aesthetics and script. I’d recommend it. It’s been fun writing something a bit off the collar, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too. Feel free to Follow me on Twitter @Sams_Reel_Views.
Oh, and ‘Aerith Lives’. =P.