Nostalgia meets (meats) the modern age of gaming
September 23, 2010 9:28 AM   Subscribe

8BITS is a short, very violent film about nostalgia for 8-bit video games. Well, maybe 'about' is a strong word.
posted by Fraxas (28 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Via Bruce Sterling's frequently awesome blog.)
posted by Fraxas at 9:29 AM on September 23, 2010


While I enjoy the various video game styles "downgrading" and "upgrading", I am left wondering why the progression of technology is seen as an evil glassy eyed gangster. Or why the protagonist is in briefs; is he the archetype gamer?

I have seen the glassy eyes of modern gaming....
posted by cavalier at 9:42 AM on September 23, 2010


Huh, and I'm wearing my new shirt for the first time today.
posted by Eideteker at 9:43 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


could have done without the glassy eyes, frankly.
posted by crunchland at 9:43 AM on September 23, 2010


There's a short scene -- about half a second -- where the dude goes up a pipe w/ Sonic's spin dash sound effect and emerges from it with the pipe-travel effect from Super Mario Bros.

Failed the geek test so hard when I noticed that.
posted by griphus at 9:45 AM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think that King Of Power 4Billion% (Part 2 or the full AVI here) by Paul Laurence Robertson is the best expression of this retro console homage kind of thing.
posted by bionic.junkie at 9:46 AM on September 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


Paul Robertson is a god among men, but I think this is expressing a totally different concept. I also think that the purely-2D animated wipes are clearly alluding to his style.
posted by griphus at 9:47 AM on September 23, 2010


I like the character animation a lot. Exactly what I'd imagine vintage 2D game movements to look like if put in 3D. It feels like robots engaged in fight-ballet.
posted by hanoixan at 9:49 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The ending tune is Magical 8bit Tour by YMCK (which is a novel piece of 8 bit nostalgia itself).
posted by banal evil at 9:49 AM on September 23, 2010


That was cool.
posted by jquinby at 9:50 AM on September 23, 2010


If we're linking these here, I recently found Lasse Gjertsen's Consoul, another great 8-bit homage with deeper themes. I'm not sure if it would make a good FPP but it's worth a mention here in the comments.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:51 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this is intentional metaphor, which it seems to be...well then it's a little bit hamfisted. Why are 3D games symbolized by a woman-hating mobster kingpin? For that matter, why is "8BIT" a naked, mostly helpless woman with a triforce on her forehead?
posted by jnrussell at 9:53 AM on September 23, 2010


What th'..?

Nice to look at, at least.
posted by indiebass at 9:54 AM on September 23, 2010


...why is "8BIT" a naked, mostly helpless woman with a triforce on her forehead?

"Helpless damsel" is the reigning MacGuffin of 2D platformers, 8-bit or not: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Double Dragon, BattleToads, River City Rampage...
posted by griphus at 10:02 AM on September 23, 2010


Whoops. Quick on the trigger.

SPOILERS

Anyway, the point here is that she is not helpless while still fulfilling her role as driving plot device. Her "downgrading" is what allows the hero to succeed, especially when she resurrects him and clearly empowers him via downgrading in the final scene.
posted by griphus at 10:03 AM on September 23, 2010


At least there were no truckers this time.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:05 AM on September 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Helpless damsel" is the reigning MacGuffin of 2D platformers, 8-bit or not: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Double Dragon, BattleToads, River City Rampage...

Don't forget Braid!
posted by shakespeherian at 10:07 AM on September 23, 2010


A mostly nonsensical plot to advance the plot and facilitate another violent set-piece? The more gaming changes...
posted by codacorolla at 10:12 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't forget Braid!

Or Limbo!...to some extent.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2010


It's amusing to me that nostalgia for old video games seems to start with the Nintendo era, which, for me, was always frustratingly new and modern and teenyboppery.

My little mental nostalgia film goes a little further back, to playing Qix with my crotch pressed hard against the console to better savor that subsonic thrummmmmm you got when you'd close in an area. Even better were the almost unknown geometric pleasures of Quantum and the whirling familiar webs of Tempest, the lurid neon lines of vector graphics in the half-light of a thunderous arcade in the middle of a nowhere mall in a fading town somewhere unimportant.

My own glassy eyes, watching the paper churn up from a Decwriter, or glaring into the green light of an ADM-3A when one was open, when my reserved time slot on the PDP-11 came up, and I'd sit there, log in, and go on an adventure in a stark digital elsewhere.

You are standing at the end of a road, before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully.

[HIT RETURN TO CONTINUE]

I am inside the building, a well house for a large spring.

There are some keys on the ground here.

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
posted by sonascope at 10:14 AM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Failed the geek test so hard when I noticed that.

Failed or aced?
posted by Babblesort at 10:21 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Good point, sonascope. I bet the explanation for only going back to the nintendo era for the nostalgia is because the people who have the time and the inclination to make a movie like this weren't even born when we were dumping quarters in arcade machines, or keying in the checksum codes from C64 magazines, let alone the clickity clack from the teletype machines.
posted by crunchland at 10:23 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I bet the explanation for only going back to the nintendo era for the nostalgia is because the people who have the time and the inclination to make a movie like this weren't even born when we were dumping quarters in arcade machines...

I suspect it's that and more.

The Super Nintendo was the first popular console with graphics sophisticated enough that, by hook or crook, the sprites could resemble actual figures. Any way the Atari 2600 could be pushed to generate sprites more complex than a gently pulsing rectangle or blocky stick figure was in the realm of good hacking rather than good art. By contrast, Mario looked like a squat little cartoon guy. He had arms and legs that moved rather than waggled. His expressions could change. You could feel comfortable calling the sprite "he" rather than "it"...

The Super Nintendo has also been ubiquitous at rummage sales for over a dozen years now. Atari 2600s are getting a little rare, Colecovision or Intellivision consoles are rare. Pre-cartridge consoles, like Pong or Breakout, are collectibly rare. These are all also pushing thirty or more years old; they were already scrap by the time the current generation of artists were born. These oldest consoles are also incredibly limited by current gamer expectations, and therefore not really of interest to anybody beyond the fact they exist. Super Nintendo, by contrast, is still something you can play.

People doing art in pixel graphics style are rarely observing the strict constraints of Super Nintendo or even the Sega Genesis: Pixelation is only an appearance and aesthetic to borrow from and elaborate on, not a set of rules to obey with exacting detail.

I like the style, and it usually doesn't bother me overly much when modern pixel artists and retro-style games use more colors, have more moving objects on the screen, in animations that aren't constrained to the pixel grid. So it's a style that doesn't necessarily have to be evocative of any era of computer gaming, but anything involving more than four colors and relatively high resolution pixel density is going to be too far forward of the first couple generations of console games, and into the realm of early 80s arcade games (where they could custom-build and dedicate boards to a single game and its gameplay), or late 80s console games.

When the leading edge in graphics technology has advanced so far forward that replicating realism isn't as great a concern as heightening and elaborating on it, it frees older graphics styles from the obligation to strive for impressiveness and realism. As a consequence, artists are taking pixel art in all kinds of directions. I think it's great.
posted by ardgedee at 11:26 AM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Super Nintendo was the first popular console with graphics sophisticated enough that, by hook or crook, the sprites could resemble actual figures.

What do you mean by "resemble?" Photo-realism? And what do you mean by figures? Humanoids? In the first case perhaps but little on the system chose to do so. On the second, the NES could. So could most 8-bit home computers.

Any way the Atari 2600 could be pushed to generate sprites more complex than a gently pulsing rectangle or blocky stick figure was in the realm of good hacking rather than good art.

Good hacking is an art. Anyway, the fact that the Atari 2600 did some strange things to create its graphics doesn't mean those things are any more or less valid. If you had a faster processor and a chip with a bit more vertical resolution, and okay some more memory, in a 2600, you could have MUCH better graphics.

The thing is, the 2600's graphics were directly tied to processor speed. Almost every other computer gaming system uses specialized graphics chips to make visuals, but the 2600 did it all itself. If you put a better processor in it, you could make surprisingly good graphics on a 2600. I'm honestly surprised no one has done this yet. It would rock.

It's worth noting at this point that the word "sprite" technically only applies to overlaid movable on-screen objects, while the rectangles on a 2600 are more properly termed backgrounds. However on the 2600 the distinction, while still useful, is a bit more abstract. There is no memory-resident tilemap on that platform.

By contrast, Mario looked like a squat little cartoon guy. He had arms and legs that moved rather than waggled. His expressions could change. You could feel comfortable calling the sprite "he" rather than "it"...

Many of these things are true of Pitfall as well, and it was far from a late release on the system.

Super Nintendo, by contrast, is still something you can play.

So are NESes. We in fact may be at a point there where a magic line has been crossed into general playability, but the ability to comprehend and participate in video game play is still learned, and our tastes are influenced by our growing up around games.

There are a few 2600 games that still hold up, fewer than the NES, but still. Combat is still a lot of fun to play with a friend -- its inclusion as the primary pack-in was good marketing by Atari. Pitfall is still somewhat playable, but Pitfall II is very much playable*. So is Bezerk I think. Defender, although very limited compared to the arcade, is an amazingly complex game for the system. Ms. Pac-Man is closer to the arcade game than you'd think. And then there's Adventure, which is probably, in retrospect, the best game for the system, and nearly as interesting now as it was then. There's some more little-known things released for it. A couple of favorites of mine are Maze Chase, which has surprisingly good resolution for a 2600 game and over 10 variations, and Entombed, which is a scrolling maze game with two player co-op play.

But my point is, although graphics can help a system catch on, we are acclimated to video games while growing up, what people consider playable varies greatly between decades, and ultimately design counts for much more that visuals for keeping a game interesting through the years.

* Pitfall II is probably the most technically advanced game for the system; one might argue that the game cheats by including extra chips in the game, but NES and SNES games did that all the time and no one complains about it. One(?) of the chips was designed by David Crane himself and intended as a general-purpose chip for use in 2600 games, and if the world had gone a little differently it might well have extended the console's life a couple of years.
posted by JHarris at 12:28 PM on September 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


We are only up to a Playstation 2 for my son, but I still go back to his room when no one's home and plug in the Sega collection. For a few short hours, I'm a stoned 20something again, on the cutting edge of graphics. At this age. nostalgia is a rare break in the crushing hailstorm of reality. Modern cosole games have too many buttons for me anyway....
posted by Redhush at 12:48 PM on September 23, 2010


"Helpless damsel" is the reigning MacGuffin of 2D platformers, 8-bit or not: Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Double Dragon, BattleToads, River City Rampage...

...Earthworm Jim...
posted by Evilspork at 1:40 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Over 10 variations should be over 100 variations.)
posted by JHarris at 3:01 PM on September 23, 2010


Or why the protagonist is in briefs; is he the archetype gamer?

I believe it's a reference to what the hero of Ghosts 'n Goblins looks like when he gets hit and loses his armor. Maybe clearer in this shot from Ultimate Ghosts 'n Gobins.
posted by juv3nal at 7:06 PM on September 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


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