Monday, 15 December 2008

Sega: Childhood Mythology

I imagine that most people are like me in that they have enduring, and somewhat haunting images from their childhood - when one's imaginitive life is just as potent as real-life interactions. I'm of such a generation and demographic that some of the most potent images of my early childhood come from computer games.

This may sound unfortunate to some, but it isn't something that troubles me at all. Computer games for me were wondrous environments to explore. Children today play computer games in which the graphics, the interface and the sophistication in design has long superseded what I grew up with. Yet I'm very happy to have spent my early years playing Sega Master System games.

It's sort-of difficult to explain precisely what continues to bother me about some of these images. But there is something particular about these early games that spook me. They create these little internal worlds that just look so incomplete.


See what a strange image this is. All primary colours, made of these big blocks and no detail whatsoever in the sky - just bright blue. A blonde guy sits on the shoulder of a giant robot and waves at you. He's accompanied by slow music that bleeps and bloops.

As you play the game, you never learn who Space Harrier is, he's just a guy whizzing through the air that shoots space aliens and monsters and the like. No back story, no motive. Unclear where he is. Just a guy whizzing along....


Here's an image from a game called R-Type:

For old-school gamers, this is quite an iconic image. But again, an entirely incomplete imaginitive space that the player enters. I never understood whether I was controlling the spaceship itself, or a guy inside the spaceship. But besides that, what's the deal with this alien? You just fly up to it and start shooting, and it shoots at you. What was it doing before you got there? Who made it? It's tied to a wall, so did it spend its whole life sitting there being evil or what? These sorts of things bothered me when I was a kid. And again, besides the lack of back story there is no detail whatsoever behind the figures of interest, just pitch black. This wouldn't happen in computer games today, there is always visual detail and the self-contained universes are filled-out with a back-story.

For this reason, I don't think that young gamers today will be as haunted by their early computer games in later life as I am by mine. A child's fertile mind is compelled to fill in the blanks with the incomplete environment and he/ she becomes more immersed. Weird stuff from early life that imprints itself in your brain.

So I'm thankful to have been part of that fleeting generation.

1 comment:

michael crowe said...

Delightful post Paul!