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January 8, 2008

A return to the source: Koster, vol. II

Koster presents and interesting point when he says that the world could be replaced with cardboard cut-outs. I found the chapter to be engaging and fascinating, as it combined psychoanalysis and Super Mario.

Koster's statement is directed to the way in which our brains function, in regard to noise and chunking. He made the example about counting jugglers in a film, and how we could miss the pink elephant, even though it was terribly distracting.

He notes that "the world could easily be composed of cardboad stand-ins for real objects," and that falls in with his other statements. Humans search for patterns in daily life, as we do in everything else, and for what it's worth, we could simply walk around and only see a similar face/shape of a person and associate that it is "person x."

Because humans, however, overlook the noise and patterns that don't jibe in the world, we would easily overlook these people being clearly one-dimensional until something went wrong, such as missing heads.

This joke was even made back in 1976 in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" - the town of Rock Ridge is rebuilt as cardboad cutouts, and the roving band of outlaws doesn't even notice until it is too late. More directly, though, one can look at our older games, too, such as The Legend of Zelda.

Of course, there are all variety of stigmas and dogmas that attach themselves to games - because it was something we played when we were young, or the first game we beat on our own, we have developed some type of attachment to the game. As such, we develop barriers around these games and place them so high on pedestals that they cannot ever be spoken ill of. For many people, The Legend of Zelda is not just a game, it is the only game.

Consider what Koster says, though - the cardboard cut-out theory. How many other games have we seen that fall into the clone category? How many games mimic successful series? In way, it is this cardboard syndrome. Of course, Koster is more addressing the issue that we will overlook things, such as depth and and "realness" of an object as long as it fits a familiar form and shape. Games are the same - we like platformers, like Super Mario, Ratchet and Clank, Psychonauts, because they pretty much all fall into the same form and style. It is just replacing object A with object B.

Posted by KevinMcGinnis at January 8, 2008 2:31 PM

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