In response to “Disney-Colored Death” from The Escapist forums:
Very interesting article, and one of the best I’ve read on the Escapist for a long time.
And you’re quite right that in any other narrative media the prospect of death is the great source of pathos, and something which games lose out on when any ‘death’ is impermanent. I have been thinking about what mechanics you could use to get around this, but the obvious ones (such as ‘permanent’ death) just result in games which are either boring, or frustratingly hard. Hmmm.
On a tangent, your aside about the impact of the death of cute animals is also quite interesting in of itself. Why are cute animal deaths always so powerful, when human deaths can be shrugged off?
I recently read on George RR Martin’s blog (he’s the author behind Game of Thrones) that after the episode in which Lady (a pet) was killed, many viewers wrote and said they were very upset and would stop watching the show.
He obviously explained in his post that the dog playing Lady was not actually killed, and was in fact being treated very well etc., but also noted:
Rhodri Hosking, the young actor who played the butcher’s boy Mycah, was not actually killed either, though oddly, no one seems quite so upset about him
It’s a strange world we live in…
The movies described had definite lasting impacts on the lives of those who watched them. As I read the description of Mufasa’s fall and Simba’s reaction, tears started to well up in my eyes as I replayed it in my mind. The Lion King was a childhood favorite of mine, and even now 17 years later, I can still remember every moment of that scene, and it still has the ability to touch me emotionally.
Only one game has ever hit me that hard: Half Life Episode 2. The ending of HLE2 had me in hysterics, for a week after I had tearful flashbacks, and I still get tears in my eyes just to think of it now. That scene hit me so terribly hard, mostly because my dad is my most favorite person in the world. He’s the one family member I feel truly understands me and cares about me. To see such an emotionally charged moment between a father and an utterly helpless daughter…that will stick with me for a very long time.
In today’s industry, the standard seems to be to keep characters around just in case there’s a sequel, lest you end up with some ridiculous Liquid Ocelot scenario. I think this cripples a player’s ability to form a true connection with the characters they play as and alongside. All love songs seem to agree that the hardest part of connecting with someone is the worry of losing them, but you never seem to be able to truly lose someone in a game world. Even if they’re held captive by the bad guy, you know you’re going to be rescuing them later, so what does it matter if you take a moment to explore a few side paths and secret areas? Until game developers can present us with scenarios where the loss of a character seems real, and the prevention of that loss is directly related to our actions, we’ll never fully connect with the characters they create and never fully submerge ourselves in the worlds they build.
In response to “Mickey, Donald, and You” from The Escapist forums:
FWIW, in Finland Donald is somewhere around demigod status (The weekly Donald Duck is the highest-subscription magazine in the country – and you’ll notice he gets top billing) while Mickey, though starring in his own stories, is roughly at the status of a sidekick. Probably a bigger deal than Gyro Gearloose or Magica De Spell, but small fry compared to Uncle Scrooge or Daisy.
In response to “Mickey’s Epic” from The Escapist forums:
I think there’s a couple issues with Kingdom Hearts being a “revival”, though I confess I’ve never played Kingdom Hearts myself. I was in high school when it came out so the very notion of combining Final Fantasy (ignoring all the NES and SNES variants) with Disney (which I was in high gear to hate) was appalling. Part of me still wants to throw up a little bit at the sheer popularity of what is the penultimate figure head of “selling out”.
I think the major issue here, however, is that the game attracted a large fan base not because of Disney, or at least not primarily, but because of the Final Fantasy element. If it was exclusively a Disney based RPG without a single sign of Cloud or Sephiroth, I guarantee you that it wouldn’t have become nearly so popular. People were drawn into seeing their favorite Final Fantasy characters meet Disney characters, not the other way around.
In addition, just because Mickey is “a certifiable bad ass” doesn’t mean his character has meaning. I still have trouble taking the later Harry Potter books seriously when they continue throwing childish and idiotic terms like “Muggle” around, attempting to say it with a straight face. I imagine there’s a significant number of people with the same issue. The aesthetic I’ve gotten with Kingdom Hearts is that they’re trying to take family entertainment aimed in particular towards children and make it “grown up”, and no matter how “successful” you are at such a thing it will still have that aspect of it that is nothing short of silly.
Epic Mickey, on the other hand, didn’t try to make Mickey become grown-up. There were mature themes, yes, but the characters were always mischievous in a child-like manner. Mickey was a bit of a rascal and his long-lost brother reacted as a jealous sibling might. It captured emotions that a child can understand and an adult can reflect nostalgically on.
In other words, Epic Mickey sought to give meaning to the character by taking what was already there rather than trying to pretend Mickey could be something he wasn’t (in the case of Kingdom Hearts, a certifiable bad ass). Considering how many people that don’t even care for Disney had wanted to play the game because of this, because it was a new and fresh interpretation of a character they thought they knew while staying true to the years of history, I think it grabbed an audience it wouldn’t have before.
Whereas Kingdom Hearts only truly grabbed Final Fantasy fans first, and what few Disney die-hards continue to exist after.
In response to “Cast Member for Life” from The Escapist forums:
My family has a long history of Cast Members. I had an Uncle that started as a stilt walker in Epcot in the early 90s to an executive of the Walt Disney Franchise, which then got him a job with the State Department. Since then every nephew as would up at Disney in some form or another doing everything from the Jungle Cruise to Animating at Pixar.
So now that my biases are out the way, Disney is still by far the best place I’ve ever worked and it breaks my heart to see a lack of enthusiasm about it in my little sister’s generation. I see the Mouse as one of my fondest memories and a symbol of all the fun I’ve had at Disney, but to her it’s just some old cartoon character.
I would highly recommend working at Disney World to anyone, and the 9/11 crack down is a lot better than it used to be. If you see a flock of Goofy’s in dark suits and ear pieces though… you may want to duck.