Game Eaters

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Eiji Aonuma doesn't get it.

Or, rather, we don't get it. We don't understand that the designers of Zelda aren't even seeing things in terms of this "Cartoony = Childlike, Realistic = Mature" idiocy.

It's silly enough that gamers in the West split hairs like this anyway. Nevermind that the so-called "realistic" Link is still a cartoon character. We just see bodies with textures and shadows on them and think realism... which, somehow, gets automatically associated with "adult" themes of... er, well... evil dark stuff, I guess. What the hell does "dark" mean anyway?

Eiji Aonuma doesn't seem to know, based on this interview. It's actually pretty hilarious. It illustrates perfectly the gap between EGM's adolescent mindset and the Zelda team's sense of style. How's this for a telling exchange:

EGM: [J]ust the realistic graphics alone might make it seem darker or grittier...

EA: [Long pause] It's very hard to say. We're not trying to make it a very dark game, despite that impression, but we are trying to create a big contrast. For example, it should sometimes be very dark, and other times very bright, so people can enjoy the sheer contrast.

Hello? Can we say "culture gap?"

Aonuma literally thinks this guy's talking about how light or dark the game is... which makes sense since in his mind there probably is no obvious connection between the look of the new Zelda game and mature, violent, and/or elements we otherwise characterize as "dark" in the West. A paraphrase of this conversation might be:

EGM: Yeah, but... oh come on! Link is all big and cool lookin' and stuff! Not like that stoooopid Link in Wind Waker. That means the new Zelda will be, you know, dark and cool and stuff, right?

EA: [bewildered] Uh... are you talking about the lighting?


  • I think Aonuma's interview is enlightening because he gave a better answer than the question that was asked. Throughout the interview, he tries to describe how Zelda is, really, a property that encompasses many genres, emotions, and challenges. It tries to have it all, like a good novel. When the interviewer asks if it's going to be darker, he says it'll be bright, dark, sad, happy, mysterious.

    I'm not sure if he'd intended it to come across that way, but while "mysterious" normally fits some superficial versions of "dark", it clarifies the kind of emotion they're going for, demonstrating the vagueness of calling anything "dark," and in the end, piquing audience interest instead of unreasonably twisting their expectations.

    I don't think anyone would object to applying the term "dark" to Majora's Mask. But "dark" fails to convey the complexity of the estrangement, sweetness and sense of impending doom conjured up by the game. Hinging design strategies on "dark sells" leads to debacles like Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within.

    At the last GDC, the contrast between the Japanese presenters and western developers was pretty striking. The latter would largely be focussed on checklists and how-tos, and occasionally business. The former would talk about metaphor, emotion, feeling and atmosphere. That's what they think of when they make their games. Not about normal mapping or the five steps to better character development.

    By Blogger Philip, at 11:04 PM  

  • Hey, I have enjoyed...your blog is informative - even entertaining.

    I have a halloween sites. They pretty much covers costumes and masks related stuff.

    Thanks again and I'll be sure to bookmark you.

    By Blogger jiri, at 7:10 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home