Tevis Thompson’s “Saving Zelda” Article is Garbage: The Dangers of Nostalgia and Entitlement

I feel like I’m in a good position to criticize Thompson. We’re both of the same generation. We grew up enjoying the original Zelda. Of the 3d Zeldas, Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker are the ‘exceptions’ and we both deeply enjoyed Demon’s Souls and difficulty in general. I’m also ‘barely’ a Zelda fan at this point. I have no fandom defensiveness going on. I can barely tolerate to play any of the new games. Regardless, his conclusions, to me, seem utterly bogus. When I first saw his article, I ignored it because it seemed poorly reasoned within the first few paragraphs. He wrote well — better than I ever do — but I’ll take a good argument over good prose any day. I only come to it now because I keep seeing it pop up here and there and I’ve finally come to read it.

Occasionally someone will say to me “You only like old games because of Nostalgia” and I’ve used the same answer for awhile. “Not quite. I like Castlevania or Contra because they’re good. I like Dinowarz because of Nostalgia”. If you look at kids going back and playing NES games now, none of them are playing Dinowarz, or Festers Quest or Karate Kid, or a huge amount awful games we learned to like. There are two games that are rarely enjoyed by the younger generation though that are, to many of us who grew up with NESs are thought of as sacred. They’re Metroid and A Legend of Zelda. Both innovative games in their time that have been ravaged by time and are almost unplayable to most people now.

Tevis Thompson is both a victim of Nostalgia and seems to have an over inflated sense of entitlement. No game is going to live up to the child like wonder you had when you first played it and youth makes for the rosiest of tinted glasses. Now, appreciating something due to nostalgia is no crime in it’s self. The problem comes when you assume your fond memories mean that something is inherently better and even worse to assume that is the solution for everyone’s ills. The fanbase for Zelda is not built on old men anymore. The series is no longer about what it was about once, in it’s first incarnation. We should be asking our self what Zelda should be for the people who love it, not for a few old men. Even among old men, the original Zelda is rarely considered the “best’ (LTTP and Links Awakening get that honor from the old guard in my experience).

So first thing that hit me was his comments on difficultly. Zelda should not be harder. Zelda should be EASIER. Zelda was not Demon’s Souls even during it’s time. Every game on the NES was hard, but Zelda was one of the few you could beat, with time, due to it’s save system. Even if it was a Contra, or a Castlevania, its original incarnation is not important at this point. Also it shouldn’t be easier because just because I say it should be easier. I like hard games! I wouldn’t even enjoy Zelda more if they were easier. This decision is contrary to my own personal desires of tastes. It should be easier because Zelda has teetered on the edge of accessibility for so long, but has never committed. The stealth segment at the beginning of Wind Waker means I can’t have any of my younger relatives get through the game. They also tend to have a ‘difficulty’ ramp up at certain points (such as the water temple) that are mostly invisible to experienced gamers, but significant to new players. The games have been, since LTTP, adventure games more than Action games and I think it benefits from dancing in that direction. I think making the game easier is the best way to grow the player base while not bothering the majority of pre-existing fans (who no longer have the idea in their head that Zelda is supposed to be ‘hard’). Now I could be wrong in my assessment, but i am -not- making it off of my personal preferences. If more games were like Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, I would personally be happier, but I don’t think gaming would be better off for it. Tevis should be less selfish. If Demon’s Souls is what he thinks Zelda should be, he’s fortunate because Form Software will probably have more games to give him! Now, I’ve said that I think Castlevania should emulate Dark Souls and that the soul games are the true Castlevania successors, but modern non-metroidvania Castlevanias never found their voice like Zelda has. Zelda has a voice — a flawed, unpolished voice that is often abused (in many ways that Tevis was right about, but also mostly stuff most people already knew). The answer isn’t to scrap everything and go back to Zelda 1 (if you want that, there is also 3d Dot Game Heroes which I ALSO enjoyed, but also suffered from being painfully obtuse), it’s to make it good at what it’s trying to be. I don’t have the answers to how (and really, I don’t like Zelda enough to care), but I know that Evis is coming from the wrong place. His blindness to his own nostalgia makes him as guilty as the people who say that Zelda needs to go back to being more like Ocarina of Time. For all Tevis has to say about his feeling of loneliness and isolation and a mysterious world, kids who grew up with OoT could match his praise. They would talk about how mystified and amazed they were when Link first traveled through time, or talk about the bleakness of the town in his adult form or how Epic fighting Ganondorf felt. The praise will be very different, but will still be bathed in childlike wonder.

This isn’t to say that this means the two are equal games. What it means is Tevis and the young fans who mindlessly defend OoT are equally wrong in their approach. When Tevis insults Aonuma for taking the ‘teeth’ out of a hardcore series, he fails to realize that, at the time Ocarina game out, that Zelda had already been a not-hard-core series for longer than it’d been hardcore. But no, since Demon’s Souls panged some Zelda Nostalgia in his head, THAT must be the answer! It’s embarrassingly “id” based thinking.

It’s unfortunate because he is right about many of the symptoms. Zelda IS too caught up in its own conventions. It’s content to stew on its big name and mediocre design. Most of this was already somewhat well-known and having a well written repository for that information would have been good… But the solution stinks. Even if some of it could work (reducing story, for one!), it comes from such a wrong place that for any of his suggestions to be taken seriously they have to be decoupled from Zelda 1. If the plot should be reduced it’s not because that’s how Zelda 1 did it, or to get back to its roots. It should be done because most games could deal with having their plots reduced! Zelda needs to change to truly thrive again, but the last thing it needs to do is be slave to the old ways. Mr Thompson’s fond memories are not the same fond memories shared by most of the current fanbase or even my self.

Tevis’s hubris would sooner betray the fanbase than save the series. Don’t let your own tastes or nostalgia get the best of you.

Tentacle Bento and Perverts!

So I was asked to write some things for this article, but most of my comments went unused. This is perfectly fine, but I figured I’d go and edit them (a ton) a bit and post my opinions about this whole thing. This will be a little weird since it was written before the Dev’s opened their mouths, so bare with me.

Always! This is a terribly grey area and while I can understand why Tentacle Bento has upset a lot of people, there is a part of me that is bothered by this. Now, Tentacle Bento is not a product I would buy, and it didn’t seem particularly well done. Heck, at best it seems “Terrible”, rather crude and immature. Kickstarter was within their right to cancel it, and considering the public nature of the service, it really probably shouldn’t have rape humor on it. Kickstarter should be a safe place! It’s also not a free speech issue. What happened was free speech at work — a call and response between free people. It was something about the attitude exhibited by *SOME* people (primarily people in the video game “scene”) that compelled me to even have an opinion.

So my first thought was “This is pornography”, which to me means “leave it alone”. it’s rather surreal for me to see Brandon Sheffield mention this or Rapelay in the same sentence as “GTA” or “Capcom” and refer to it as “our industry”. These games are as much “our industry” as pornography is a part of the movie industry. Cinema about sex does not include the latest release from Brazzers. It’s movies like Deliverance or Monster and even most uncomfortably, Irréversible. For games, it’s mostly stuff in the indie scene (auntiepixelante’s work, or maybe even Catherine (though your mileage WILL vary).

But while Rapelay is clearly porn, comments from the developers have made indicates that the Tentacle Bento guys want to REALLY, HONESTLY be ‘cheeky satire’. So fuck em. Still, I get bothered by the idea that you have to be some sort of horrible person to enjoy stuff like this. THAT I can’t let stand.

So forget being an indie game designer, I come to this as a pervert (though the venn diagram there has a lot of overlap there). When I play creepy Japanese sex simulators, I don’t have my game design sensors go off in the same way they go off when I play any ‘actual’ game. I don’t consider them a direct part of our craft or industry. I grew up looking at hentai and at a young age was roleplaying online in scenarios involving non-consent (on both sides of the field!). I look at hentai on 4chan while I drink my morning coffee before I start my design work for the day. Fantasy rape is a pretty common fetish in all gender/sexuality/role configurations and for the most part, people keep themselves and their fetishes under total control. A lot of people even avoid the term ‘fantasy rape’ and prefer using ‘ravishment’ or other terms to try and block out the negative connotations. This gets complicated because Rape *IS* a huge a social issue. But is fantasy rape as separate from real rape as Fantasy Violence is from real violence? I would venture to say it is as separate, if not more so, though there is no study I could find on precisely this. There is plenty of studies that say More Porn = Less Reports of Rape (just google for them). Even if it doesn’t increase the chance of violence, does it negatively influence our opinions? A big issue a lot of people have isn’t that more people will become rapists, but that our REACTION to rape will be diminished, and we’ll all be a bunch of victim blaming pricks. Sadly nothing can be said for certain on that front, though I would venture a guess to say, like with most other things, the answer is “no”. Social injustice is ingrained on the subtle level, not with ridiculous violence or porn. Maybe. Who knows.

If something is pornography then I am of the opinion that people should not be shamed for what they enjoy as long as no one was hurt in making it and they can keep their feelings under control. I am of the opinion that porn is the safest place for people to enjoy these fantasies. Sexism in general media I think is a far far far worse problem (and where Tentacle Bento’s dev team seemingly wants to be). It’s hard to play a game like Rapelay and think of it as a normal part of culture — it is so intentionally taboo and terrible that it even becomes part of the experience. It throws up red flags in your brain that reminds you “this isn’t real”, just like ridiculously violent games do. Sexism in general media, or the attitude about rape in open culture is a lot more subversive and should be fought whenever it can. We should hold our ‘public’ media to a higher standard… But hands off the porn. Porn is indulgent and self aware and very much a part of our culture and how we deal with our un-vented sexual feelings. Porn is the retreat we use to stroke the dark parts of our psyches in safety. My issue does not come from the idea that this thing is terrible, but the occasionally common idea that one would have to be terrible to like something LIKE that. I just don’t think that follows.

So I think Tentacle Bento’s problem is it ISN’T PORNY ENOUGH (and it’s probably being made by slapdicks). Seriously! I mean that. Especially with some of the stuff the creators are saying now, maybe their ‘cheeky satire’ does fall under the label of ‘harmful subtle subversion’. It’s also public presence is also a huge issue. For better or for worse, if you wanna do really fetishy, questionable porn, it’s better not to bring a ton of attention to your self.

Also, I think people SHOULD say things like this are sexist and misogynistic. That’s totally cool and a good thing! People who enjoy these things SHOULD know what they are. It helps protect your brain… but at the same point, I don’t think people should be shamed for liking things like this. Our criticism of a piece of media should not NECESSARILY implicate it’s fans. Now, if the fans are saying wild, stupid shit, sure, but we should try not to implicate the whole fan base. People can enjoy things in different ways and for different reasons. I’m really disappointed that a number of fellow perverts were really quick to point the finger. I don’t want any kink-elitism going on. It’s like putting calorie counts on food. It’s not to say “ONLY A FUCKING FATASS FOOL WOULD EAT THIS”, it’s to make them aware of what they’re putting in their body. Equally, we should know what we’re putting into our brain so we can hope to treat it responsibly. And if we do prove to be sexist or fatasses or sexist fatasses it might be totally in line to go “WELL MAYBE IF YOU DIDN’T THINK PORNOGRAPHIC SEX/BIG MACS WERE NORMAL SEXUAL INTERACTION/FOOD, MAYBE YOU WOULDN’T BE SO SEXIST/FAT”, but we should try not to generalize.

So humorously when I wrote this for Ethan I was sorta begrudgingly pro Tentacle Bento, but I just can’t anymore. They deserve to be ripped to shit. I can still be Pro-Pervert though! And I will enjoy my creepy Japanese rape porn while striving to be a friendly, gentle human being in real life.

edit: I just read about the tier where you could put someon e’s likeness into the game. What the fuck are wrong with these guys? That’s not cool, even if they were obviously in porn territory.

I hate Skullgirls IPS system

I really really really am starting to hate this system. For those who don’t know, Skullgirls’ IPS stands for “Infinite Protection System” and is the system the game uses to make sure you’re not doing infinite combos. It does this by detecting looped sequences and ‘discrete’ parts of combos. If you do an ‘infinite’ the other player can hit a button to burst out of it.To quote Mike Z…

I’m not sure why people think this IPS is complicated […] the rules are still simple to explain – “don’t start a chain with something you already hit with, and your combo is always legit.” You get 2 free sections before moves are even counted toward this limit (your first and second chains) and one more free section where moves are kept track of but the limit isn’t enforced yet (the entirety of your jump if you’re in the air, or your next chain if you aren’t). That’s it. You can determine exactly whether or not a combo is possible just by writing it out: “Did I already use s.LP? OK, can’t start another chain with that.” And if something doesn’t work, the hitsparks change color and you immediately know which move caused it. You also immediately know why, because the ONLY THING that would cause it is you having used that move before.
“Don’t start a chain with something you’ve already hit with” is the only rule. The exception is your first jumpin sequence, first ground chain and first air combo.

Okay, so it stops infinites and dumb loops, right? Well, no. It really doesn’t help any problem at all, and makes certain problems worse. All it succeeds at is limiting the length of combos. Not to a reasonable length either, just enough to make sure they eventually have to end. What the system demands is very carefully planned and practiced combos with very few liberties. Adding an extra jab somewhere can lead to another part of the combo not working. It stifles mid-match creativity. It doesn’t even stop loops. As a Parasoul player, most of my combos have this segment…

… LP->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot
LP->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot(sometimes allowed when starting in the ‘free section’)
c.LP->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot
LK->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot
c.LK->MP->HP->HP->LP Tear Shot

It looks sometiming like this. And you might go “That’s not too bad”, but then it gets included in a competent combo and you get this. Desk shows another ‘loop’ with Cerabella. You also get issues where the order of segments effect the IPS. For example (to make up a fake combo), something like, Launcher -> j.LP – .j.MP – j.HP relaunch j.MP – j.HP would trigger IPS, but j.MP – jHP relaunch j.LP – j.MP – j.HP would not. It’s a quirky, dumb thing that’s hard to keep track of mid match, leading to a reliance on pre-canned combos you read online, just like every other game.

So what does the IPS do for us?

Well, it makes sure combos end, like I said, but so does gravity, increasing pushback and hitstun decay. Does it do anything better? Well, for one it’s very deterministic. Gravity, hitstun and pushback are very “analog” and hard to track. IPS is super reliable, which IS a plus. But what else does it do?

*Promotes very long combos where players can continue until all their buttons are exhausted.
*Makes improving combos on the spot very difficult.
*Makes combo corrections for things like height and stuff very difficult since one errant move throws off the whole combo.
*Makes improvisation much harder in general.
*Makes memorization harder, since loops have to be ‘obfuscated’ from the IPS.

It really doesn’t have any positive qualities outside of it’s very clear, obvious deterministic nature. Everything else seems like a straight con. Funny enough, I still get messages from people when I complain about it saying that it promotes creative combos when that is so obviously not true. It has all the old problems of any old system, just slightly rearranged and much more rigid. It almost makes me wonder if these players are even good enough at the game to know what they’re talking about. “Lemme just copy combos like I always did but the devs tell me it’s more creative so imma think I’m bein’ more creative!” Okay maybe that’s being a little unfair, but whatever.

While the system sounds good on paper, in practice it seems like a hamfisted, awkward solution to a non-problem. Alas, Guilty Gear will continue to have the best combo system out of any chain combo based game. A shame too, because I like the rest of the game soooooo much.