Remixing Retro - Preserving the “Classic Feeling”
Author(s): Domini Gee
Originally presented at Replay Japan and published in a special issue of the Journal of the Japanese Association for Digital Humanities.
Attempts to preserve retro game elements or ‘the classic feeling’ through remixing retro elements with modern ones are not a new method. However, it is an effective preservation method. According to Newman, videogame preservation goes beyond simply preserving hardware. In order to deliver “authentic play (and aesthetic) experiences”, it also necessary to determine what are the most significant, qualitative aspects or properties that make a particular videogame what it is (Newman 2012, 122–23). Part of the success of classic characters like Mario is how often they are reused and reimagined (Suominen 2012, 8). Even if you have never played the original Mario games, you have still likely been exposed to the franchise’s most ‘basic’ elements through their various iterations. However, while the game industry typically aims for continual innovation and reinvention (Newman 2012, 9), the changing market and gaming landscape is allowing for alternative opportunities for remixing retro elements. One notable example includes Mega Man 9, which garnered praise for their gorgeous, realistic graphics. While all three games were made for modern consoles, Mega Man 9 was made in classic retro style, not only to return the series to its roots but also to give players a new story and “the classical feel” (Takeshita 2008). By studying the approaches developers have used, it is possible to study what ‘feeling’ they were attempting to preserve, what elements were considered most essential, how these elements were translated, and what new meanings occur.
"6 Video Game Missions That Totally Insulted The Player"
Co-written article written for Cracked.com. Details six times games rewarded players for completing herculean tasks with a giant middle finger.
Primary writer for the Earthbound and Breath of the Wild sections.
Thesis - "Layers of Narrative Interactivity"
Author(s): Domini Gee
Narrative in videogames is a frequently discussed topic in game studies, even in game studies’ early years. In 1997, two books offered differing points of view on the value of videogames as story-telling mediums: Janet Murray’s Hamlet on the Holodek and Espen Aarseth’s Cybertext. In the former, though Murray refers to the narrative content of series such as the Mario or Mortal Combat as “thin”, she recognizes videogames’ potential for “evocative theatre experience” and new expressive possibilities. She includes videogames among other digital artefacts under the term “cyberdramas”- a reinvention of story telling through digital mediums. In the latter, Aaerseth argues for the need to work with the game-text and that play and narrative are two distinct modes of discourse and that there is no difference between the two is to deny the “essential quality of both categories” . These arguments helped set the tone of early debates surrounding how to study videogames, let alone how to define game studies as a unique field.
However, though the two are useful for articulating early theories and opposing points of view, these binaries are out-dated and inadequate to be used by themselves when talking about videogames. The videogame industry has greatly evolved since 1997 with a sheer amount of different genres and game design. Though it is possible to dismiss the ludology versus narratology debate, the next natural question is what makes videogames 'gamely'? How do we work with game-texts? What does it mean to interact with games from the two supposedly distinct discourses – play and narrative – if videogames are a distinct field? And, for my primary interest, what makes videogame narrative ‘gamely’ – compared to traditional narrative mediums such as novels or films – and how should we analyze it?
To attempt to answer these questions, I turn my focus to the element that is many consider unique to videogames: interactivity. There are several different ways you can interact with media objects but videogames allow explicit interaction, allowing for direction interaction between the participant and the object. This sets videogames apart from other mediums in two ways: first, there is a difference between interacting with a physical object (i.e.: the game controller) and interacting with the content; second, game interactivity is a reciprocal relationship – when the player interacts with the game, the game interacts back. Though Aaerseth argued narrative and play as separate categories, I argue that videogame narrative stands apart from traditional narrative mediums because the narrative elements in video games provide a means for the player to direct interact with the game’s content to create meaning.
Janet Murray. Hamlet on the Holodek: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. The Free Press, New York, NY, 1997. 51, 53, 271
Espen J. Aarseth. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London, 1997. 5
"Remixing Retro - Preserving the Classic 'Feeling'".
Author(s): Domini Gee
Venue: Replaying Japan 2015, Kyoto, Japan.
Date: May 2015
Attempts to preserve retro elements or ‘the classic feeling’ through remixing retro elements with modern ones is not a new method. However, it is an effective preservation method. According to Newman, videogame preservation is not just about preserving hardware. It is also necessary to determine what are the most significant, qualitative aspects or properties that make a particular videogame what it is. By doing so, we are capable of preserving a style of how videogames should look, play and feel. For example, part of the success of classic characters like Mario is how often they are reused and reimagined. Even if you have never played the original Mario games, you have still likely been exposed to the franchise’s most ‘basic’ elements.
However, while the game industry typically aims for continual innovation and reinvention, the changing market and gaming landscape is allowing for other opportunities for remixing retro elements. By studying the approaches developers have used, it is possible to study what ‘feeling’ they were attempting to preserve, what elements were considered essential elements, how these elements were translated, and what new meanings occur.
 James Newman. Best Before: Videogames, Supersession and Obsolescence. Abington: Routledge, 2012. 122-123
Jaakko Suominen. “Mario’s legacy and Sonic’s heritage: Replays and refunds of console gaming history”. DiGRA Nordic '12: Proceedings of 2012 International DiGRA Nordic Conference, 2012. Vol.10. Paper. 2014.
"Assessing Serious Games: The GRAND Assessment Framework"
Author(s): Domini Gee, Man-Wai Chu, Simeon Blimke, Geoffrey Rockwell, Sean Gouglas, Shannon Lucky, and David Holmes.
Published in: Digital Studies/Le champ numérique
The videogame industry is a considerable market: in 2012, the industry was worth over $86 billion USD and about seventy-two percent of American households play videogames. It is unsurprising, then, that commercial and educational developers and/or researchers have sought to capitalise on videogames. Games and simulation technologies have been used for educational purposes for thousands of years prior to the digital era (Gee 2007). Digital games, however, offer many new affordances including increased accessibility, reinforced automation (i.e., fair and consistent application of rules), embedded data-gathering for assessment, dynamic adaptation to student needs, the ability to simulate complex situations for student inquiry in a safe context, and reduced overall costs (Jin and Low 2011). However, it is difficult to assess the process of serious game development and effectiveness of educational play. Many serious games retrofit assessment late into the project, creating a gap between original intents and the game's current uses, limiting effectiveness of measuring and meeting the project's goals. As such, we propose an assessment framework that synthesises work from various fields (educational assessment, game design, usability, project management) that aims to guide researchers and game developers through a project from its inception to the end by presenting specific topics to address and questions to answer throughout the game design phase of the project. By building assessment into the game development from the get-go, original intents and a game's current uses can more closely align, allowing for stronger, purposeful games.
Gee, J. P.2007. Good Videogames + Good Learning: Collected Essayson Videogames, Learning and Literacy.New York: Peter Lang Publishing.
Jin, P. and R. Low. 2011. "Implications of Game Use for Explicit Instruction." InComputer Games and Instruction, edited by Sigmund Tobias and J.D. Fletcher. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing.