Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
The Sexual Awakening of Ness in EarthBound

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 29 Jul 2014 16:00
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Earthbound

After a short time whacking things with it, a strange new ability awakens within Ness, manifesting as a spectacular surge of energy that leaves him seeing stars. This power is named by the player, and is referred to obliquely as 'the best thing ever'. It's unclear if this attack comes out of Ness' baseball bat, but Ness is the only one who can use it, and is also the only character who uses a baseball bat, so do the math, son.

The companions Ness accrues on his journey all represent the many ways his path to sexual maturity may take. His first partner is his dog, representing the innocence of childhood, and who almost immediately leaves the party, unnecessary, as the adventure proper begins. Next comes Paula, the girl, the obvious ideal target for our love prong, whom we first meet when we rescue her from a cult devoted to worshiping the color blue. Blue is a color associated with coolness and emotional restraint, and is in contrast with the fiery red of Ness' baseball cap (another obvious symbol). In freeing her from the blue prison, Ness shows Paula the world of unbridled emotion she yearns for, that the pair can now enter hand-in-hand. At the end of the game, the clear assumption is that this pair are to be a couple, with not a single word of love spoken by Ness himself. For true masculinity needs no words; masculine superiority is self-evident.

The second teammate is Jeff. He is an outsider, hailing from a land to the north, and starts the game in an all-boys boarding school. He represents the option of homosexuality. Jeff specializes in guns and thrown weapons, and these demonstrate to Ness a hitherto-unrealized 'easier way' to achieve satisfaction. But Ness is unmoved. Jeff embodies science and intellectualism, which the true man regards with suspicion, for it allows the inferior man to achieve status and success through means other than physical prowess, and that is a world alien to Ness. Even more so is the world represented by Poo, the martial artist. He is the masturbator, who controls his sexual aggression and channels it inwards for personal gratification. But Ness realizes that Poo's attempts at control, in fact, control him; It is no coincidence that Poo is the late arrival, and furtively disappears mid-game for a period of 'study'.

And finally, the villain. Giygas, the final boss. It's a confirmed fact that Giygas' insane mid-battle dialogue is paraphrased from a rape scene that the game's designer, Shigesato Itoi, inadvertently glimpsed as a child. On top of that, there is much of H.R. Giger in Giygas' appearance in the final room, an artist whose entire career is characterized by bodily violation. Note how Giygas imitates Ness' face when they first meet. Giygas, you see, is of Ness' creation. It is his dark reflection. It is the final branch in the path to sexual maturity. Ness can either allow himself to be overcome by his own lust, that he has fed all this time to become a force of unstoppable power, or he can realize that true sexual maturity, true masculinity, comes only when that power is tempered with restraint. Paula is the one who ultimately defeats Giygas, and does so by repeatedly praying. Through a show of prudish piety, she kills Ness' boner, proving that he can overcome his lasciviousness.

A timeless lesson for us all, I think. In next week's lesson, we discuss how much the Death Star looks like a tit.

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