This week's guest is illustrator and sculptor Derek Walborn. You can see his work at www.derekwalborn.com. Derek wrote the insanely funny Huey Hog article, and was also the star of our very own Dan Gurewitch's short film, A Death Sandwich.
TALKING POINT: Did video games used to be harder, or did we used to be stupider?
Derek: The two most difficult games I've ever played are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Battletoads, both for the NES. I have fond memories of Ninja Turtles but somewhere deep in my psyche I think I can indentify a flame of hatred for the frustration involved in navigating the Turtle Van. It's right there next to my repressed memories pertaining to Grandpa's bedroom closet.
Jeff: Some NES games are just flat-out unbeatable. They were just as complex as today's games, but much less elegant so you had no idea how to play. A Boy and His Blob is a great example. The only people who know what to do in that game designed it. Derek: A Boy and His Blob just gave you nothing to work with. The only direction in the manual was something like, "Just be sure not to feed the blob ketchup flavored jellybeans! He hates them!" I wanted to feed that thing ketchup all day after my little soul was crushed knowing I had wasted my 5 day videogame rental in a masochistic manner.
Jeff: Older games often demand practice, while newer games just ask for general competency.
Derek: That's because 2D games often rely on timing and memorization, whereas 3D games are usually about exploration and discovery. That and the fact that Japan was still, at that time, hopping mad over WW2 and thought that making it impossible to drive the Turtle Van up the right street would be a most devestating act of revenge.
Jeff: Most recent titles also have a story to tell, so if they made the game impossible you would never hear the ending. That wasn't always the case. If you don't get past the first stage of Burger Time, you're not really missing anything.
Derek: Another tough one is Brain Age for the DS. It's not hard in the sense that it's a gamer's game, it's just hard on your feelings. Once it was clear that I had forgotten how to subtract, the game pretty much told me I was a retard. Battletoads never did that.
Jeff: Never to your face, anyway. I like to do drugs and then do the training in Brain Age. It's like running with weights on.
Derek: Brain Age would know. You have to pee on the touch screen before you begin to test for any brain-enhancing drugs.
TALKING POINT: Are the Perpetual Mario Machines art?
Derek: Yes, it is undoubtedly art. The fact that the "machine" exists solely in a digital medium doesn't make it any less valid.
Jeff: The Internet is his canvas, and Super Mario World is his paintbrush. The Perpetual Marios often surprise me, like a good movie. It's almost witty. Mario's a digital Mr. Magoo, blindly surviving one trap after another on luck.
Derek: It would be interesting to see some Perpetual Sonic as well, although I feel that some Sonic levels are halfway there already.
Jeff: By what witchcraft was Perpetual Mario forged? I had no idea that people could hack Mario so precisely that this sort of thing was possible. I imagine whoever created these movies opened up Super Mario World, decoded the rules that govern it's physics, and built these levels in a very mathematical way. He then celebrated his accomplishment with six straight hours of Heroes on DVD. Derek: I'd love to create my own Super Mario World levels. Since I'm older now, it would obviously have a darker theme to it. By that I mean I would make it all take place in the Vanilla Dome.
TALKING POINT: What's the best side-scrolling shooter?
Derek: When it comes to shooters I have to throw my vote on the whole R-Type series. While it may not be the most innovative, the art direction really set the bar for a whole lot of H.R. Geiger-esque games during the 16-bit era. The later versions of R-Type got a little too surreal though. The last stage's background on the PS2's R-Type Final is more or less flat orange with silhouettes of a man and woman embracing and kissing. You fly from forest to battle-torn city to complete acid trip.
Jeff: That's why I always favored Parodius. I don't completely get it, but from what I can gather the series Gradius is so popular in Japan that it can support a spin-off parody series which replaces all the enemies with nonsense.
Derek: I love the plot of every shooter: humanity, in a last effort, pools together all of its resources in order to create the most powerful spacecraft in the galaxy. The catch is always that the "most powerful ship in the galaxy" cannot touch anything solid or it explodes into a million pieces.
Jeff: It also can't go backwards and has no brakes.
Derek: The "most powerful ship in the galaxy" also explodes into a million pieces if it is touched by a single bullet or laser in spite of the fact that the enemy's ships can take full minutes of non-stop laser fire
courtesy of the "most powerful ship in the galaxy." I'll bet it didn't have a CD player either. Jeff: You are being generous. Most shooters have no story beyond "bullets and weird shit". Derek: Well, if you look in the manual there is usually a terribly translated paragraph worth of plot.
Jeff: This is the genre that brought us "All your base are belong to us."Derek: Think of how disappointed that cocky pilot must always be. Everyone has him all jazzed up, "Yeah man! Most powerful ship EVER!" Then he goes and nicks the wing on an asteroid and the entire human race is enslaved by the Bydo empire.