Trolls and Trolling. It's been a hot topic in the game community over the past few months. Two well publicized incidents happened in the same weekend at different cons. We talk about both in this episode and share some strategies for dealing with trolls.
Read Meagan Marie's original article and commentary here, "What Would You Do if You Weren't Afraid?"
Read about Adria Richard's experience here, "Fired SendGrid Developer Adria Richards Speaks Out."
We'd love to hear your strategies and thoughts about these two incidents in the comments.
Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda
Anime/manga and video games have been hugely popular forms of entertainment in Japan for decades, and have often merged. In the last several years, North America has seen more and more games highlighting this combination. However, it wasn't always this way. An interesting cultural development occurred in the early days of video gaming where many Japanese developers hid or disguised their anime influences and licenses during the localization process. Why? Was there apprehension that the anime style would turn away American gamers used to action films and Saturday Morning cartoons? A possible bias, intentional or not, against displaying Japanese culture in the American branches of Japanese companies? Maybe it's something as simple as skipping a licensing fee and transforming a game into an original creation? Regardless of why, several Famicom games were modified to remove their original graphical trappings, and were replaced with more “American-looking” sprites. Game difficulties were adjusted per region. Box arts were drastically changed to match up with comic books and gritty films, or otherwise deemed appropriate for American consumption. This is what I want to explore in this series.
Study 1: Blaster Master/Chou Wakusei Senki: Meta Fight (NES/Famicom, Sunsoft)
Blaster Master is a well regarded classic from the NES era. Its blend of sidescrolling action and overhead maze/shooter gameplay styles are both well implemented, and is backed with an astounding soundtrack and solid visuals. Despite some unfair respawning moments, potentially burning out the Hover power on mistake, and punishing the player in the overhead segments with the loss of gun power upon taking a hit, Blaster Master is worthy of its legendary status.
The game we saw here in America was significantly different from the earlier Japanese release, Chou Wakusei Senki: Meta Fight. The original starred a young man named Kane Gardner, the brilliant pilot of the tank “Metal Attacker.” His goal was to defend his homeplanet Sophia the 3rd from the evil Goez’s Imbem Dark Star Cluster army. A young woman named Dr. Jennifer Cornet, who was the creator of Metal Attacker, joined Gardner on his deployment to Sophia the 3rd by the Nora Satellite of the Science Academy. Together, they are its only hope for survival.
That plot line was disgarded for American audiences for...well, one of the kookier explanations for a young man to get into a tank and shoot aliens. Gardner was renamed Jason, Cornet vanished completely, and an entirely new intro was whipped up explaining how Jason ended up in this mess:
It was because of this frog. Yes, for those of you unfamiliar with Blaster Master, you did just read that correctly. Fred the frog escaped from Jason's terrarium, hopped into radioactive waste curiously scattered about Jason’s yard, becomes bigger, and promptly plunges down a pit nearby. Personally, I would totally sue Jason’s landscapers.
Anyway, he follows Fred and stumbles upon the tank Sophia the 3rd. After a quick costume change…
…the game begins proper.
As you can see, Meta Fight and Blaster Master took their own unique paths towards developing their individual identities. Meta Fight aligns with dystopic anime storytelling at its finest, complete with cute chibi anime character designs. Americans...get a teenager chasing after a mutant frog. The mythology of Meta Fight was reworked for the American release as well. In Meta Fight, Sophia the 3rd was the planet, while Nora was the company who built MA-01, aka Metal Attacker (which was also called Nora). In Blaster Master, the tank’s full name was Sophia the 3rd Nora MA-01.
The boxes also reflect the changes in design focus quite nicely:
Blaster Master's box screams "1980's", doesn't it? That lovely glow and faux-3D effects take me back. Sprite rips of one of the bosses and some key background elements round out the “dynamic” look. Here’s another look at the Famicom box (yanked from the ad above) for Meta Fight:
Sunsoft was obviously relying on anime designs to sell its product back home.
In terms of in-game content, Sunsoft left it alone for the most part. The gameplay is relatively untouched. Only plot elements were altered. Meta Fight lacked an intro, so Jason and Fred’s escapades were exclusively added to the American release. The ending has some changes, which we'll examine below. The American version is on the left, the Japanese on the right:
The headquarters of the Plutonium Boss/Goez are different in both.
Jason (complete with Kane’s blue hair…whoops!) and Fred are reunited, while Kane alone stares into the tranquil peace he helped return to Sophia the 3rd (remember: in Meta Fight Sophia is the planet). The cliff is also lower in Meta Fight. I do wonder why Sunsoft so heavily altered the colors, though.
Here's the "The End" screen, with Kane and Jennifer’s chibi busts smirking at the player, in contrast to the EXTREME THE END Blaster Master gave Americans. Luckily, the Engrish was left alone. Sunsoft left the badge on the left alone beyond its colors, and you can see the origins of Meta Fight lurking in it.
In an interesting side note, Blaster Master received a Worlds of Power novel in the US, which were licensed books based on video game properties. It basically regurgitates the plot of the game, with a few additions. A character named Eve, a shapeshifting alien, plays a major role, having been the original pilot of Sophia the 3rd. The Plutonium Boss decimated her home planet, and now are coming to attack Earth. Jason and Eve successfully conquer the threat and settle down together. Years later, in the PS1 sequel Blaster Master: Blasting Again, Sunsoft adopted the Worlds of Power plotline as canon! Eve and Jason had two children, Roddy and Elfie. The Plutonium Boss returns to rain further havoc, and Roddy must pilot the modified Sophia J9 to stop them. Blaster Master's prior sequels kept up the Meta Fight premise in their home country, but Sunsoft decided to retcon all of Meta Fight's history and released the game in Japan as Blaster Master.
Thus, this kind of severe game alteration is not a one-way street. Meta Fight’s anime dystopia lost out in favor of continuing Blaster Master’s sci-fi oddity…at least for that particular game. The latest title in the two franchises, Blaster Master Overdrive for WiiWare, skipped Japan altogether. Perhaps the PS1 rebranding failed to garner any interest, so Sunsoft decided to just focus on furthering Blaster Master in the West? All and all, fascinating stuff.
Recently Regina tweeted about violent video games being a catalyst for the spree killings we have the misfortune of suffering from time to time in the United States. Let me clarify. She didn't say that violent video games cause this. She was actually stating that this is not the case. I agree.
Some would argue that our society has become more prone to violence in recent years. Some would say that all you need to do is look at the news and you will see the proof. Often in the media they state or imply that a connection exists between playing violent games and actual violence. However, to date, as far as I can tell, there has not been definitive study proving one way or the other this is the case. I believe it's a facile argument used to boost ratings and as a tool for groups who have an anti-videogame stance.
It comes down to numbers for me. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports violence in the United States has actually been on the decline since the early 1990s. This is interesting to me because the decline in violence began at a period in video game history when the First Person Shooter genre had major hits with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom. In fact, the decline in violence has been continuous since that time and has managed to continue in the face of increasingly violent and visceral games.
Think of it another way. There are literally millions of people in the U.S. that play violent video games. If violent video games were the cause of spree killings, there would probably be at least one every day. But this was not the case in 2012. There were four. I think everyone would agree that it was four too many, but to lay the entirety of blame at the door step of the video game industry is absurd.
I would argue that the reason that violence seems so predominant is because here, in the U.S., we have our faces shoved in it by media outlets constantly. Sensationalistic media, that rather than just report the news, looks to put some sort of spin on it to boost ratings. Unfortunately, the typical U.S. citizen nowadays seems to eat it up.
The simple fact is violence is a part of the human condition. A part that I don't believe is going to go away any time soon. Until we as a species find a way to evolve past it, it will continue to be so. No amount of pointing fingers will change that.
Check out our new episode to hear all about our PAX East adventures. We talked to some great people and went to some fabulous panels. If you were at PAX East, we'd love to hear about your experiences and if you weren't, what are you sad you missed? Leave your comments here.
People we met and makers of the games we're looking forward to:
The Married Gamers, Chris and Kel.
Mike Gnade and Matt Cangialosi from Indie Game Stand
Tobias Drewry from Mesa Mundi Inc.
Leia Olson from BDA Inc.
Malcolm Spineldi with Geek Link Radio
Until next time, game on!
Regina & Rhonda