Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An Open Letter to Nintendo

Dear Nintendo,

I recently purchased your game Tetris DS for my Nintendo DS Lite and am enjoying it quite a bit. (Goes without's Tetris for chrissakes!) However, I have one major problem with it and that is the reason for this letter:

"Nintendo-themed" is not a theme!

As you well know, the Nintendo DS has two screens, one on top of another. You only need one of those screens to play Tetris. So, in "Tetris DS", while the bottom screen has your game going, appropo of nothing, classic 1984 Super Mario Brothers is being played by an unseen force on the top screen:

Not only that, but, as you can see, the background of the Tetris playfield features a darkened bit of World 1-1. Oh, and that Goomba on the lower right? He rotates randomly in 3D space.

It cotinues on from there. Various game modes have differant "themes" which all feature classic Nintendo or classic Gameboy graphics, like Metriod. Circa 1988 type graphics, I'm talking about, which gain a lovely amount of pixilation when translated to the DS's higher resolution screen.

With all this recycling of characters and graphical elements, you might as well call it Mariotetris. Of course, it wasn't always this way:

The top image is original Gameboy Tetris, the bottom is Apple II Tetris. Those had a theme that was totally unique to Tetris -- Russia. The Gameboy had it's wonderfully plinky Russian music. (Confession: As a 12 year old, I recorded the music onto my Walkman and would listen to it on car rides when my brother was using the Gameboy). The Apple II version had pictures of cosmonauts and Red Square around the playfield. This theme worked because it tipped it's hat to a world that (especially in the early eighties) was exotic and hidden. There was actaully something that felt a little seditious about playing Tetris.

Of course, that theme wouldn't work in 2006 (and I'm not asking you, Nintendo, to re-release it as OsamaTris). But in the quest to find a new theme to wrap the most sucessful (and I would say primal) puzzle games of all time, you decided to not continue that tradition of making Tetris exotic, instead you chose to nostalgically pat yourself on the back for the successes you had in the 80's.

Now, I can understand where you might be coming from. For you, "Mario" is an important brand. And I think you're trying to position Marioanything in parent's minds as "products that don't have sex or excessive violence that are safe for kids."

But that is extreme arrogance.

Because, in actuality, Tetris is a far stronger brand than Mario. And here's the real shame of it -- once you actually play Tetris DS, with it's spin mode and it's touch-screen push mode, you realize that the game of Tetris has been expanded upon quite nicely. However, the brand of Tetris has been cheapened by all the random Mario crap littering the playfield.

It's like you had an office to renovate. You made it much more functional by getting better desks and faster internet, but then put up wallpaper so annoying that no one could concentrate.

Besides the aesthetic clusterfuck, here's the basic problem: I feel ripped off. If I'm going to pay for a brand new game, I expect brand new elements. If I'm going to pay $30 just to use a new platform for a game I've been playing since 1986, it damn well better have entirely fresh graphic elements. (Hell, even something like C64 Girltris is at least a step in some direction.)

Tetris has a rich tradition and demands more respect, not the standard 8-bit Nintendo white wash you throw on anything you are too lazy to seriously think about making great.


Staying West

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Neverending Source of Amusement

AdSense's idea of what I need to purchase never gets old. You pull up a map of the city on MapQuest and you get:

Four ads for fake rollercoaster New York and one for a New York so real, I'd rather not think about it.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Japanese Hodgeman: Particularly dumb and obnoxious

This is great. A close reading of the Japanese "Get a Mac" ads with insight you could only get from a native of Nippon. Unlike our versions of the ads, theirs are a subtle comedy of manners. Fascinating.

(via the fireball)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Most Foul

Two things happened today:

- Got a job on a documentary show about homicide detectives

- Passed by a curbside memorial to Fausto Lopez

40 year old Lopez was walking from one busboy job to another at 4 in the morning when a 27 year old mistook him for someone else and shot him in the head and back. Seeing the flowers, candles and cards on a street in Hell's Kitchen I walk down everyday caught me off guard in a way I didn't expect. A man was mowed down here a few nights ago because of mistaken identity. We're still living in a dangerous big city and people are being killed randomly. It sounds trite, but I was bothered by the senselessness of it all.

I came to New York City two years into Giuliani-Time. I remember being 17, seriously considering NYU, and having a real adult tell me, "Living in New York is great, but you will have an altercation at some point.You just have to accept that." And I did. For the first several years I was here, I waited patiently for my run-in with thugs that never came. It's always seemed safe to me. Stumbling through Brooklyn (or Hell's Kitchen) at 4 AM never seemed dangerous. I feel in a protected bubble that grows thicker with every year. It's been 10 years, my bubble must be like the plexiglass at the check cashing places by now.

And I know that my bubble is going to make it easier to cut a show about murder. I will be detached from it. I'll be thrilled with our hero detectives and excited by the story I'm going to weave. I'm going to craft an awesome show about one of the most intriguing acts one human being can do to another. This is why I love my job.

But seeing a color copy of Lopez's smile taped to the side of a building made me remember why we call it vertité.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Visceral Power of the Image

The written word can only go so far. There's something inherent in moving images that creates tension merely by the passage of time. When reading a novel, the timeframe is created by the reader. Yes, a good novelist can make you read faster or slower depending on the cadence of the words, but it cannot match the intracable, uncontrolable tempo of film, and the emotional response that creates.

What this is a pretentious way of saying is: Novels have never made me say aloud, "Oh please, oh please, oh please!" waiting for the (hopefully) inevitable to happen.

The hopefully ineviatable is about 2/3rds in, but enjoy the whole ridiculous thing.

("Worst Burglar Ever" via digg)

And nobody thought I'd use it

I'm cooking vegetables for Chrissakes!

(Mario Batali grillpan/panini press, available from Crate and Barrel. Thanks JB!)

Friday, November 10, 2006

Opiniogram #3

#3 - Thumped edition

It's out there

Finally, I've nurtured it as long as I could. It's time to send it out into the wild. I only pray I've given it the intellectual tools and emotional fortitude to survive in the harsh, harsh Tubes.

Don't even watch it. Just visit Google Video and rate it 5 stars.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

One Word

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Without Further Comment #8 (Gettin' Thumped edition)

Look, people that's going to be looking at this election, the enemy's going to say, Well, it must America is going to leave. And the answer is no, that doesn't what it means.

POTUS. Today. Post-Thumping

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I am almighty in verbosity

This mere forum couldn't contain the depth and breadth of my thoughts.

So, I'm now writing about music on Records I Buy, too. Check it out.