The Toad Brigade Strikes Again

When thinking about what videogame or movie you would want to live in it is easy to place yourself in the role of one of the heroes of the game/film. The idea that you could be a war hero in Battlefield 3 or Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes would be exciting to just about anyone. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero or super genius? However, living in the world of Battlefield 3 wouldn’t necessarily mean you were the war hero, in the middle of the excitement, saving allies and killing enemies. Living in the world, means living in a world filled with war and destruction. Living in the world of Sherlock Holmes means living in a world filled with deception and corruption. The reason these heroes are so appealing is because they are so much greater than the ordinary people of their worlds, they are the light in a seemingly dark world.

However, there is one videogame in which I never dreamed of being the main character, instead, the characters just bopping around in the world were always more appealing. This game would be Mario Galaxy. Though I have never played the game myself, I have sat and watched it played enough to understanding the world and why it would be a fun place to live. When viewing this game I never wanted to be Mario, running around trying to collect random stars all to save a princess who cant seem to keep herself safe for anything. After the 100th time Princess Peach has been kidnapped, I no longer felt like being Mario and saving her. I remember being very young and turning on my Nintendo 64, playing Mario, and thinking that this girl almost deserved to stay captured. Now watching my friends play Mario Galaxy, all I want them to do is stop following their quest and just play around with the other characters in the world. When watching a game like Battlefield, I am invested in their mission. I want to see them win the battle, and get stressed out when they seem to be losing or die. In Mario Galaxy I am invested in the world. I don’t want to save the princess; I want to hang out with the Toad Brigade and Luma. I want to be one of them.

So, why live in the specific world of Mario Galaxy?  Obviously, living in space would be awesome. Just floating about, chilling on beautiful little floating Islands seems to me to be a stress free way to live. If I were the adorable Toad, I wouldn’t have to stress about collecting stars or winning battles in order to save Peach.  I could just enjoy the environment whilst still being entertained by the drama of Peach’s kidnapping and Mario’s struggle to save her. I could give Mario valuable information and assist in the rescue, but most of the time I could just chill. Maybe if I lived in the world, I would be able to be as invested in Mario’s quest as I am in that of a soldier in Battlefield. Being Toad would be like a spectator watching someone play battlefield, enjoying the thrill as a spectator while still living in the comfort and awesomeness to the Mario Galaxy setting.


Don’t Be So Superficial About It

The League of Incredible Gentlemen, as I understand it, is not your typical comic book. Its satirical nature allows it to go into societal issues that the superficial nature of comic books ordinarily does not. Some of the most important points made in The League of Incredible Gentlemen are not learned from reading the dialogues but instead can only be understood with close examination of each panel and its social and historical significance.

When reading the graphic novel and later deciding what panel to analyze this panel kept sticking out to me. When I first read the novel, I stared at this panel for a while trying to understand how it worked, because it was different from most of the rest. At that time, I wasn’t analyzing it for meaning but instead, it stuck out to me because everything seemed to be scaled incorrectly.  Now, looking at it I can see that these miscalculations in scaling are one of the first expressions of sexism seen within the novel. In this image, Mr. Bond is holding up the trap door that he and Miss. Murray have apparently just walked through. While, Mr. Bond is undoubtedly above average in size, the image makes him appear abnormally large and powerful. In the panel, Miss Murray can hardly be seen as she is already as ways down the path. Therefore, there is no apparent reason for Bond’s continuous holding of the door except for the artistic representation of his strength and size. Bond stands with one arm extending to the door at an angle and the other extended downward at an angle so that his two arms create a diagonal line. This makes him seem as large as possible. His bottom hand is also in a fist increasing his appearance of dominance and strength. Furthermore, in the panel, Miss. Murray’s head appears to almost as small as a button on Mr. Bond’s shirt, and his position on the higher level makes it so he is towering over her more than usual. A couple of panels previously, it is obvious that Bond can see Miss. Murray’s carriage approaching and her walking towards him, however, he chooses not to acknowledge her until she speaks to him. That panel, pared with this one shows how much more Mr. Bond values himself than his female companion.

And what of the dialogue?  Mr. Bond’s words seem to go against the image that his physical structure portrays. He tells Miss. Murray, “as we see, England has a place for you, in the employ of my superior. “ The fact that he uses the term “superior” was surprising to me as previously I believed him to think he was the most superior of all. However, his use of this word creates a sense of mystery and fear regarding the identity of this “superior”. This in turn adds to Bond’s mysterious nature because he works for this important mystery man. Furthermore, the fact that he connects having a place in England to having a place in his company shows how important he finds himself and his employer. Miss Murray’s response highlights that fact that she is not a typical submissive woman, as it appears Bond is trying to make her. She quickly counteracts his attempts at creating a mysterious and fearful atmosphere around the identity of his employer by stating that everyone knows who he is and even using his full and shortened name.  Furthermore, she responds to him while continuing to walk and look out over the bridge so that her back is towards him. She makes no attempt to turn and make eye contact, which would be a sign of respect. Miss Murray clearly understands Mr. Bond’s persona and the type of appearance he tries to portray but she dismisses his attempts to belittle her and to inflate himself. She does this previously by saying that calling her Miss. Murray will do just fine when he requests to call her by her first name. Furthermore, her facial expression throughout their encounter is stern and serious if not angry.  She is not oblivious to the fact that he is blatantly ignoring her approach in the beginning and she makes no attempt to secure his ego by acting below him.

Overall, this if looked at closely this panel can do a lot for explaining the typical interactions between sexes at this time and how Miss. Murray defies them. The superficial appearance of the two characters would play into the domineering man submissive woman stereotype. However, when looked at more deeply it is clear that those are manipulations of the true relationship. It is clear that Miss Murray respects herself too much to succumb to the usual inferior position of women.



People have long debated the idea of videogames being a form of art. Many have strong opinions one-way or the other. I on the on the other hand, believe that videogames are both.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” In my opinion, it is hard to deny that the creators of a game like LOTRO were artists. It takes true artistic vision to be able to create a world so beautiful and so detailed. Purely by the definition of art one can see the fictional world of LOTRO is artwork. Creating it absolutely took creative imagination and it is quite aesthetic. It has become pretty widely accepted that video is a form of art of why would the LOTRO world not be considered as such?

Is the playing of a videogame a form of art? This is where the question gets trickier to answer. When a game has very specific rules, and the player strictly follows those rules, the player is not an artist.  If anything, they are more of a mathematician. Simply doing moves like they are inputs into a formula. However, when the gamer decides to go beyond the basic necessities to complete their task, they can become an artist. When they invest themselves in the quest and the different ways they could go about their tasks the gamer becomes the artist.  And what of art’s ability to bring about an emotional response in the gamer? That too is dependant on the gamer and how much they invest in the game. In fact, in some cases games can change a gamer’s total outlook. War games can make a gamer view real life war in a different way. Playing can give gamers a new appreciation for the job of soldiers. War for trivial reasons like seen in games can make real war seem pointless. However, when gamers are only invested enough to fulfill the minimum requirements to advance, there is no chance that they are affected emotionally by the game.

So are videogames art? In their basic form, as they stand without the gamer, I would say no.  Despite the fact the imagery is art, the rules and coding in the game make the game too stagnant and inflexible to be. If the game becomes too much about the science that makes it work, it takes away from the artistry. However, with the right gamer, the videogame can become more than the coding. It can be appreciated emotionally and for its imagery and therefore becomes art.


It’s Called Sportsmanship Buddy

True competition is not found on the football field or basketball court. You won’t find it in the MLB, NFL, or NBA. Instead, real competition is found in the arcades, or at least that’s what King of Kong: A FistFul of Quarters leads me to believe.  In fact, I can say that out of all sports related movies I have seen, I have never seen more competitive people portrayed than the arcade game players in that movie. 

I have always been a competitive person and therefore try and stay as far away from it as possible. I don’t let myself get caught up in the winning vs. losing of it anymore. However, when I was little and would lose a soccer game I was the girl who refused to shake the other team’s hands. However, after doing so, I would be quickly reprimanded. When it comes to competitive team sports, the idea of sportsmanship is so important to the appearance of the team that seeming overly competitive is inappropriate.   This is why while watching King of Kong, I was so baffled by Billy Mitchell’s blatant rudeness. For example, the way he chooses not to acknowledge Steve Wiebe but instead simply makes offensive comments he knows Steve will over hear. I couldn’t see a how a public figure like himself could allow himself to be seen in such a way. There is a difference between what one may think in their head and the way they act in public. There is a difference between what their innate competitive nature urges them to do and what their reasonable side knows is appropriate.  When you have a video camera on you, it’s probably in your best interest to seem polite and respectful of others rather than egotistical and unscrupulous. Maybe that’s something learned through team sports. Maybe that’s something that can only be understood once you have had the idea of sportsmanship repeatedly drilled into you.  When you know you and your team are going to be judged based on your words and actions to other teams, you think twice about them. Billy Mitchell apparently was never taught that lesson while Steve Wiebe who played organized sports for years had. I guess every movie needs a protagonist and an antagonist and Billy Mitchell did a fabulous job of making himself the one to hate.

After watching King of Kong , I will never question video games as a completive sport again. Like they said at the beginning of the movie, people often think of gamers just sitting alone playing the game. To me, playing an arcade game was about competing against yourself and seeing how far you could get. Maybe that’s because I never stood a chance of actually succeeding and reaching a high score. Now, I understand video games players to be some of the most competitive people I have ever witnessed, and I will never question the competition again.


Gaming vs. Playing: A Life Choice

What is the difference between playing and gaming? What is the difference between a player and a gamer? To me, the difference is the degree to which you commit yourself to the game, how much you make the new reality, your reality. The difference between playing and gaming is what you want to get out of the game, what your end goal is. When playing, you enter the game to forget about reality: let loose and have fun. When gaming, you enter the game to succeed in that alternate reality; you invest in that game in the hopes of winning, doing better than others, being triumphant. In that sense, the same game can be either played or gamed.

Children play a simple game of house because they wish to experience the lives of others they observe. In house, they can invent an alternate life with responsibilities because it is entertaining and different, or they can invent an alternate life because it allows them to have power which they lack in reality. Even though none of it is real, having a more powerful alternate self can be exhilarating for a child who has only known the rules and confines of societal norms.

How do we choose between playing and gaming a particular game? It is nearly impossible not to compare ourselves to others because people are innately competitive; therefore, we are all gamers not players in reality. We strive for success, victory, power. We know what we have because of what others lack. We know what we lack because of what others have. Even if the goal of each person is to find happiness, we only know happiness because we know sadness. Success is subjective and therefore everything is a competition. ‪ We don’t want just an alternate reality or illusion of success like in a game; we strive to attain the real thing.

People say that we are playing this game called life. I would say we are gaming this game called life. Occasionally, we play instead. We forget about the future and enjoy the here and now. We forget about our goals and responsibilities and enjoy tranquility. We forget about what we lack and praise what we have. But in truth, life has a series of levels, a set of steps that people must follow. You can’t get to the next level while sitting around doing nothing in your current one. You can’t get to college without competing against other students. You can’t get a job unless you are better, stronger, and faster than the other applicants. It’s Darwin’s theory of evolution at its finest. Natural selection, you have to compete at the highest level to survive.

So, if we are constantly gaming, why do we feel the need to create alternate realities in which we also game. I believe in games as a release from the stress of every day competition. Real life has enough to worry about, enough success to be sought without entering other realities as a gamer. Power in an alternate reality will not make life easier in this one, so why add the extra pressure? However, the choice to play rather than game is the more difficult one to choose. To force yourself be unconcerned with measuring up to others feels unnatural. It feels like failure, but sometimes it’s just the break we need. All in all, the difference between playing and gaming is simple. Playing is about focusing on the fun and carefree side of a game. It’s about the escape from daily stress. Gaming is about focusing on the competitive nature of games. It’s about finding more success even if it’s fictional. Both allow us to live a different life for a little, it just depends on what type of life we choose to live.


Sex, Drugs, and/or Videogames?

Growing up, the title of “Gamer” always brought to mind a lonely person sitting in a dark room, their eyes unable to be peeled from either a computer or television screen. They had removed themselves from the typical world in order to completely immerse themselves in another. This probably stemmed from my parents opinions as they quickly took my Gameboy away from me after having it only two days. They were frightened that I would “become too obsessed and therefore antisocial.” To them, a young child playing a video game was a young child without friends to play with. As I got older, that didn’t change. Whether it was my parents or my friends, the people around me tended to have very similar opinions of gamers. If you were playing a video game, you were missing out on life. You couldn’t be part of a fictional world and the real one. It was a choice. There was no “and”, only an “or”. However, it wasn’t long before I made friends who were just as obsessed with video games as they were socializing outside of their technology filled basements. That didn’t change my other friends’ opinions. If we didn’t hear from our “gamer” friends for a couple days, or they missed a great party, the excuse people always gave for them was “they are probably sitting in their basements playing video games.” It was a running joke that that was all they did on Saturday nights. And I can’t lie, sometimes that was true. But what was also true was that a lot of the time my “gamer “ friends were right there with us. Whether it was at a movie, party, or just dinner, they could always pull themselves away from the game. But it was the select times when they chose not to that people remembered, that people judged. They were the exceptions on which my friends built the rule.

My friends liked joke that you have probably all heard before. It’s the image of a girl sitting in her boyfriend’s basement as he plays video games for hours on end and completely ignores her. The girl, tired of being ignored, is then faced with a choice. She can either join him or leave him. From there, of course, the boyfriend is either saddened for a moment before forgetting about the girl once again consumed by the game, or the girl becomes just as obsessed. Suddenly, their relationship is simply a consistent series of nights sitting in the basement next to each other gaming. No talking, no romance, just gaming. To my friends, these were the only two options. There was no middle ground, no compromising.  Once again, I won’t lie to you. It might be a sad truth but they weren’t 100% wrong. Not even 80% wrong. I’ve been that girlfriend, sitting in her boyfriend’s basement as he played video games for hours. He would sit at one television, his brother at another. They would play separate games and only talk to let out either a groan when defeated or a cheer when leveling up. My boyfriend’s brother would always ask me if I wanted to borrow his computer so that I could online shop while they played. As a girl I was stereotypically supposed to love shopping just like as gamers they were supposed be hermits. My friends didn’t understand why I put up with it: the nights filled with only videogames. To them, that was all our relationship consisted of. How could it be more when all he did was play games? How could he do more than play videogames if he was a gamer? But I knew the truth; I knew these types of nights weren’t every night. In fact, they were a fairly rare occurrence.  But, there was no convincing my friends and because of their stubborn beliefs I began to question my own. They could only remember the bad, but could I only remember the good? Were we both just as confused and narrow-minded?  To this day, I can’t answer that question.  I don’t know if gamers are missing out on the real world or just lucky enough to be able to mange being part of two at once.  I like to think that if people work hard enough they can have it all. Life doesn’t have to be a series of choices. Sometimes there can be an “and” in the midst of all those “or”s.