Sunday, February 23, 2014

A tendancy toward the Mundane

Image courtesy of   -  and definition of Mundane courtesy of google

This is a ramble I wrote probably more than a year ago, but follows a theme that I have been exploring since we started this blog, and am still exploring:  my own interest in the mundane when it comes to video games.

It must be a product of growing older - that's the only thing I can chalk it up to - but my interest in action and adventure has severely declined, and my interest in the mundane has increased.  On this blog I've talked about  Bike Riding, Flying like a Bird and Riding the Train. I notice a similar trend in my preferred comics;  American Splendor, Harvey Pekar's slice of life comic book;  Love and Rockets, Dykes to Watch Out For - even Larry Gonick's Cartoon Guide to History (of the universe).  These works aren't terribly exciting, but I really enjoy them.  

The non-game game is a big phenomenon right now, and it's my favorite.   Proteus, To the Moon, Gone Home, Dear Esther are all big standouts from the last two or three years.  Come to think of it, Animal Crossing is still huge, and it's a highly Mundane game.  And then there's Nintendogs, The Sims, Civilization; Mundane games are nothing new, yet are still making headlines.

Let's take a look at the definition of Mundane, shall we?

  [muhn-deynmuhn-deyn]  Show IPA
adjective1.of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly: mundane affairs.2.common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.3.of or pertaining to the world, universe, or earth.
1425–75;  < Latin mundānus,  equivalent to mund us world + -ānus -anereplacing late Middle Englishmondeyne  < Middle French mondain  < Latin,  as above
Word Origin & History
late 15c., from M.Fr. mondain (12c.), from L. mundanus "belonging to the world" (as distinct from theChurch), from mundus "universe, world," lit. "clean, elegant"; used as a transl. of Gk. khosmos (seecosmosin its Pythagorean sense of "the physical universe" 

[Isn't this interesting?  The second definition is the one with which I am more familiar.  However, the first is not one I'd heard before.  I rather like it.  Earthly, yeah, that works for me.  Heaven is a place on earth, after all.]

James Portnow, writer for Extra Credits, is fond of saying:  'when you're making a game, you're crafting experiences'  This comes to mind for me whenever a game idea pops into my head.  A common feeling I have is that I would like to 'reverse engineer' an experience and see what happens.  Like I had a goofy idea that it would be fun to remake mario bros 1 but give him a cell phone and have the player get calls and texts while playing the game.  Just to play with the feeling of interruption I usually have when I get those calls and text.  It would be like a social media simulator mashup with a platformer.

I've noticed lately I have a tendency toward the Mundane when I come up with game ideas.  Like, for example,  I ride the Amtrak between Sacramento and Davis every work day.  And I spend most of these days staring out the window and watching the scenery go by.  I love it.  It's relaxing.  It's beautiful.  And it occurs to me that I want to simulate this experience with a game.  How boring eh?  And yet...

When the weather was better, I rode my bike to the train station on the American River Bike Trail.  And I had similar feelings.  I love the scenery I love the way the foliage surrounds me and I sometimes feel like I'm going through a tunnel of greenery.  And I want to make this into a game setting.  I don't really care.  Probably an RPG.  I just want to simulate the experience in game format.  I guess I'm just oriented toward games, mostly 8 and 16-bit RPGs.  Probably FF VI more than any other.

There's a theme with these two ideas:  they're both travel-based.  What I enjoy is the relaxed pace of moving forward, and the great scenery.  Essentially my idea is for an 'on-rails' kind of a game.
As an aside:  I've heard people say  more than once that the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are essentially travel novels.  That works for me.  Makes sense.  I like it.  While the LOTR movies had hours and hours of extended action sequences, the feedback I tend to notice regarding the books was 'Tolkien sure likes to spend a lot of time describing things.'  The man appreciated the little details, and lately I find that mundane details are what I'm looking for in games, rather than roller-coaster excitement.


PS:  I never played Pokemon Snap, but I wonder if it fits in with this idea.  Originally, when I heard about that game, I remember thinking "what a stupid game.  I'll never play that"  "bo-ring" and other, admittedly, immature thoughts.  Granted, I hadn't played any Pokemon games at the time, so I didn't really have interest. I didn't even know how badass squirtle was yet.  Perhaps I will have to watch out for it to pop up on

Yep, there it is, five bucks.  Once called 'the best game ever' by my friend Orangeleecy.  One of these days, I'm going to check it out.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, "Pokemon Snap" would be a more traditional rail shooter, but instead of a gun, you have a camera. You are given items that you can throw in order to temp or annoy the other Pokemon. I rented it once and played it a few times with The Kid.

    "The Novelist" which came out recently sounds like it would fit in well with what you're talking about here, although I don't know much about the game except what was viewable in the trailer. And honestly, sometimes a "mundane" gaming experience is what I need after playing something that is very story driven or "intense."