Grasping the true form of Giygas’s attack

What’s this? A post? By Pontifus!? Surely glee seeps from your every pore.

Until you realize it’s a video game post about a cult classic that’s probably more cult than classic. But fuck it. Earthbound is amazing, and all the more so for its unusual final boss. Giygas, like the game, compels one to drag those around oneself into mutual madness — and, to that end, I’ve recorded and annotated the battle. You’ll thank me for it later.

Part One

0:00-0:37 — Somehow it took me over thirty seconds to walk the length of this fleshy corridor. It’s all that walking in circles, I suppose.

Given the corridor’s aforementioned and very evident fleshiness, this is as good a time as any to mention the contentious fan interpretation that imagines the approach to Giygas as a birth canal…

0:38-0:45 — …And the pulsating thing at the end as a…well, look at it.

There’s an anonymous graphic that goes along with this theory, which, once seen, can never be unseen.

I don’t prefer to think of Giygas as a fetus. But, given the way Giygas is handled in Mother, it isn’t too much of a stretch to see it as childlike, and it’s true that Pokey (or Porky, though I’ll stick with the old translation) has a way of using people to get what he wants. It’s also true that, with Giygas out of the way, Pokey is free to do what he does in Mother 3. Whoever wins the fight, Pokey stands to gain in that he’ll be rid of major opposition — which does not, of course, mean that he explicitly tricks Ness and co. into aborting a fetus.

It’s not that I’m unwilling to grant that the game’s heroes commit an act of questionable heroism; in fact, I think we can reach that conclusion even without the Giygas-as-fetus angle, if we really want to. And anyway, it’s really no stretch to take some of the things that happen throughout this fight as figuratively evocative of birth and sexuality. I’m just not convinced that Earthbound’s final battle is literally an abortion. But I’ll leave the fetus theory at that; it’s been debated across the internet quite enough already.

0:55 — The Devil’s Machine looks more like an eye than a cervix, as far as I’m concerned, or at least it evokes in me the idea of an eye first and foremost. Ness’s head (or at least the head he left behind when he agreed to have his consciousness housed in a robot body — how’s that for the hero changing himself to meet the challenges he faces?) occupies the position of iris and pupil. The mirror effect serves to link Ness with Giygas, actively raising the question of which of Ness’s qualities or inner demons Giygas could represent. Also consider that the iris and pupil are responsible for the admission of light; perhaps Ness alone could get through to the crazed Giygas, if he tried — in fact, Giygas’s weakness in Mother was its deep-rooted compassion — though the game offers no option for this. I suppose we could say that the gameplay thus defines Ness as practical and efficient; after all, slaying a foe ensures that it cannot return, and, though I don’t think Ness realizes it, Giygas has fallen and returned before. Even the empathetic Paula does not protest. But, setting aside the question of whether I’m overanalyzing (I don’t really believe one can over-analyze), perhaps we should ask whether we ought to allow gameplay to define characters in this way. We might establish gameplay and characterization as separate concerns, but I’m not sure we can divorce anything from gameplay entirely.

1:13 — Nobody ever properly explains what the “Apple of Enlightenment” is in the first place1. We’re told that Ness and his merry band do what they do in fulfillment of destiny, but the nature of destiny is always left vague. It’s more like they’re being jerked around by people who claim the authority of destiny than being led on by destiny itself. Destiny isn’t much help at all.

1:23 — I suppose we should receive “the embodiment of Evil itself” with skepticism; given that good and evil are never all that well-defined in Earthbound, and that Pokey is a pathological liar, perhaps it’s been a misconception throughout the game that Giygas is wholly evil.

1:35 — Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way: when asked to define Ness’s favorite thing at the beginning of the game, I chose “Fuckin” (not because I want him to suffer from nymphomania, but because “Fuckin α” sounds like “fuckin’ A” and “Fuckin Ω” is just amusing). At least I didn’t change his favorite food to some phallic euphemism.

2:06 — Giygas’s use of Ness’s special attack makes me wonder again which part of Ness it resembles closest. It’d be easy enough to say that Giygas is Ness’s evil/dark side, if not for the fact that Ness has already overcome his inner evil at that point. Besides, I’m hesitant to choose “evil” as the be-all, end-all of Giygas; it seems too easy, even if we’re talking about a mid-90s SNES game.

4:04-4:08 — See, this is what I’m talking about: if Giygas is, for all intents and purposes, mentally disabled, can it be said to be “evil?” It’s mentioned that Giygas isn’t even aware of what it’s doing. How we define Giygas, then, probably depends on whether we base our definition of evil on the act (and/or the intentions behind it) or the effect, and whether we’re willing to grant that a person or sentient thing can be defined in terms of good and evil. Surely Giygas’s war against the Earth at least makes sense to the Starmen and other sentients fighting for its cause.

4:12-4:17 — In a 2003 interview, Earthbound writer Shigesato Itoi discussed the creation of Giygas. At one point, he brought up the topic of typical villains:

Itoi: Well, you know, having a villain there who simply goes, “Wahahaha!” and the like would clearly be bad. But, actually, when I think about it, having villains go, “Wahahaha!” is a really intriguing pattern. But there’s no point in wondering all by yourself for days on end what it means for a bad guy to go, “Wahahaha!” at the climax of a game, you know? I get the feeling that there aren’t many people in the game industry who would do that sort of thing, though.

[Interviewer:] I don’t think it’s limited to just the game industry, though.

Itoi: In short, “What does it mean for a bad guy to laugh?” Hmm…

With that in mind, it’s interesting that Pokey gets a brief Evil Laugh at this point — not that I think there’s much to gain as a reader from scrutinizing a creator’s creative decisions as such, but it’s fun to think about.

5:06 — “You cannot grasp the true form of Giygas’ attack!” — Itoi talks about that, too.

Itoi: Basically, Giygas is something you can’t make sense of, you know? But there’s also a part to him that’s like a living being that deserves love. That part is the breast of Hisako Tsukuba from “The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty”.

Itoi: … When I was a kid, I accidentally saw the wrong movie at a theater. It was a Shin-Toho movie titled “The Military Policeman and the Dismembered Beauty”.

After I saw it, I went back home and was silent and just really out of it. I had received such a big shock that I worried my parents. After all, a lady had been raped. By a river. In the movie. When the guy grabbed her breast really hard, it got distorted into this ball shape. It all hit me really hard. It was a direct attack to my brain.

[Interviewer:] When you were a little boy?

Itoi: When I was a little boy.

In other words, there was this sense of terror having atrocity and eroticism side-by-side, and that’s what Giygas’ lines at the end are. During the end, he says, “It hurts,” right? That’s… her breast. It’s like, how do I put it, a “living-being” sensation.

Word of God aside, Giygas comes to embody at least two qualities in a significant way. The first is incomprehensibility; everything from its attacks to its mad babbling to its physical form is difficult for the protagonists to fully understand. The second quality becomes clear as the fight progresses.

6:29 — This stuff is truly nightmare-inducing. It’s theorized that Giygas was planned to return in Mother 3, but the developers felt it’d be too frightening for a younger audience, and I can see why some fans would reach that conclusion. Seriously, Kefka and Lavos don’t have shit on Giygas, and coming from me, that pretty much means Giygas is the greatest end boss ever.

Speaking of Lavos, Giygas is a similarly intelligent but incommunicative alien. In the works of Orson Scott Card (the Ender novels specifically), it’s argued by some characters that the killers of such a being cannot be held morally responsible; humans must protect themselves, after all, and when reason isn’t enough, there’s really nothing else that can be done. Perhaps Giygas exists beyond human logic, and so concepts like morality don’t apply to it — but it can, after all, communicate to Ness in recognizable language, so maybe not.

6:46 — Adding to the tension of this battle is Giygas’s immunity to the arsenal you’ve built up throughout the game; literally, all you can do is pray.

But you don’t pray to a deity, interestingly; people you’ve met and interacted with receive your prayers and send you their best wishes, which damages Giygas somehow. Essentially, the protagonists’ connections with people allow them to succeed. It’s like the Persona games, or the good end of Clannad, or the writing of John Donne made fictional.

6:58-7:36 — I wonder why some of the Mr. Saturns show up around the edges of the screen, but refuse to gather in the middle. They’re probably just wandering NPCs the code doesn’t delete or shoo off, I guess, but maybe, maybe

I believe Itoi says the Mr. Saturns have something to do with innocence, but they always reminded me more of creepy old men, for some reason.

7:50 — OH GOD IT’S A FETUS

Part Two

0:08-0:12 — Alright, let’s go ahead and get to that other quality Giygas embodies. There’s really no way around the fact that its dialogue is at least vaguely sexual. It may not be so apparent in this particular playthrough of mine, but the dialogue is thrown at you randomly, so you’ll occasionally get “it hurts,” “I feel good,” and random grunting and groaning in succession. And even if that’s what Ness thinks he’s hearing, it’s still worth a look, as I’m trying to figure out what Giygas is to Ness anyway.

So let’s review: Giygas is potentially not purely evil; it represents (and practically is) chaos, it uses Ness’s abilities against him, and it has an air of sexuality about it. Considering that Ness is roughly a young teenager, Earthbound’s scourge of the galaxy begins to look a lot like puberty2.

0:46-1:14 — Here’s a relevant Itoi quote about Tony, Jeff’s boarding school friend (the linked article also includes the bit about Mr. Saturns and innocence).

…There’s a gay person in MOTHER 2. A really passionate friend who lives in an England-like place. I designed him to be a gay child. In a normal, real-life society, there are gay children, and I have many gay friends as well. So I thought it would be nice to add one in the game, too.

Yeah, intentional fallacy etc., but, to be fair, the character is pretty gay. You didn’t see a lot of gay characters in Nintendo games during the 90s, at least in the United States.

2:10 — Heh, Poo…why they couldn’t have translated プー as “Puu” is beyond me. I guess they sought to amuse.

4:19 — If you weren’t guaranteed to have nightmares before, you are now.

6:04 — That’s right: the final prayer, the prayer that defeats Giygas, comes from you, the player. If you thought the question of whether Giygas’s defeat has any moral repercussions wasn’t your burden…well, you’re still right, insofar as Giygas is fictional, but involving the player in the process like this brings the player a little closer to all the game’s implications. Imagine if Fallout 3 assigned your name to the protagonist’s father. Or if Portal gave your name to GLaDOS. Either would throw a few rocks at the boundary between play narrative and game plot narrative. And, of course, in Earthbound’s case, you really are responsible for Giygas’s defeat, being the player who consciously brings it about.

In retrospect, it may have had more of an impact if I’d entered my real name instead of Juan Pontifus.

6:31 — Wait, if Pokey can travel through time, why doesn’t he just…damn you, time travel!

Anyway, Giygas having been vanquished, I leave you with this:


Endnotes

1It makes me think of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, though I’m not sure that there are thematic parallels between Earthbound and the Eden story, unless we go with loss of innocence.

2Also Azathoth. I’d love to be able to discuss Giygas as gothic, or Lovecraftian, but I don’t know enough about those things to do it properly.

Leave a comment

27 Comments

  1. Cuchlann

     /  15 April 2009

    Actually, it’s worth noting stuff like author interviews in the way you have, without discounting them — the author, in Barthian theory, can still be a learned reader, similar to a scholar who’s studied the work and its history a great deal.

    RE: eye imagery — eyes are also typical symbols of enlightenment. The third eye opens to see the metaphysical, so on, so forth.

    And of course it’s puberty. You have a young hero traveling up a uteran canal and coming out the other side? Please. Do I even need to elucidate the rebirth metaphor?

    Also Azathoth. I’d love to be able to discuss Giygas as gothic, or Lovecraftian, but I don’t know enough about those things to do it properly.

    Is that a gentle nudge in my direction?

    Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  16 April 2009

      Alternately, maybe Ness engages in combat with the feminine. He simultaneously fears and desires it…yeah, still puberty.

      The eye as enlightenment seems hard to apply here. Being incomprehensible is the essence of the fight. But then, things don’t get really chaotic until the “eye” disappears. They give you the enlightenment, then take it away when it’d be useful.

      The Lovecraft reference was more of a sharp prod in your direction. In any case, if you haven’t played and/or beaten Earthbound, you ought to.

      Reply
      • Cuchlann

         /  16 April 2009

        Well, given that I’m setting up to be an 18th-19th century lit. scholar with a focus on the Gothic, I thought both might be. :D

        The eye doesn’t necessarily represent enlightenment achieved in this context — it could very well be the possibility of enlightenment in the boss that does not get passed on.

      • Pontifus

         /  16 April 2009

        Yeah, I meant that both are sharp prods. Very sharp indeed!

        Re: bringing in the author, I think it was Sartre who said (in just a few more words than this) that the author is too close to the creative process to serve as a good reader of the product, which makes a kind of sense to me — not that it matters, since I bring the author in whenever I feel tempted to do so anyway. Itoi is pretty interesting.

  2. Deiphobus

     /  19 April 2009

    Itoi mentioned mr saturns being innocent similar to children. he based their special font off his daughter’s handwriting and said their genius represents the power of innocence.

    Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  20 April 2009

      Their genius is where I get snagged. It’s hard for me to accept that the power of innocence is represented by knowledge; I’d think innocence means they should lack knowledge. And while genius and knowledge aren’t necessarily the same thing, their genius does manifest as knowledge of technology. I suppose they could be innocent in terms of lacking human wisdom — that’s probably the case, actually — but might they have their own Mr. Saturn brand of wisdom? The game’s pretty vague on this point in general.

      Reply
  3. Phäzys

     /  20 April 2009

    I’m sorry–this is my first post on your website.

    I remember my brother showing me this clip before, and watching it with him. Normally he exaggerates how frightening things are, but in this case, I find that he was quite right. This is probably one of the most disturbing things I have ever seen. To be honest, whenever I think of things that children draw, they can be one of two things: cute or absolutely frightening. In the movie Manchurian Candidate, the drawings in the room that the main character enters looked very disturbing. In Hide and Seek, the ending where she draws two heads on top of one body was also disturbing. I think what makes these images disturbing is the same reason why Giygas is pretty disturbing.

    I was wondering if Giygas being a fetus could probably represent, like you said, a loss of innocence; like how a baby, which is supposedly clean and innocent when being born, is portrayed to be “evil” even before being born.

    Reply
    • Pontifus

       /  21 April 2009

      Ooh, you’ve reminded me of something. There is a doctrine that claims that human beings begin life in a state of “evil” — original sin. We can’t escape from the misdeeds of our forebears on our own, or so it goes; it’s not the loss of innocence so much as the lack thereof. Add to that the idea that Giygas is attacking not from another location in the present, but from Earth itself in the past (as someone, I think Dr. Andonuts, mentions before the last dungeon), and maybe Earthbound starts to have themes of causation and the human condition. Maybe innocence, as such, doesn’t exist.

      Of course, since Pokey is the one who brands fetus-Giygas evil, and Earthbound never portrays organized religion very positively (i.e. Happy-Happyism), it’s possible that original sin is bogus in the game’s context, in which case we have to wonder what it means that the protagonists buy into it, in a roundabout sort of way, and off Giygas anyway. It’s fine with me if the saving of the world here is neither wholly good nor wholly bad; I like the “one thing offset by another” approach, where things balance out in the end, and, again, if the protagonists aren’t completely innocent, it’s possible that Earthbound is deconstructing the very idea of innocence.

      Reply
      • Phäzys

         /  21 April 2009

        I’ve actually ever played any of the Earthbound games; are there any out on maybe the GBA? But I don’t think it would include Giygas.

        Yeah the “one thing offset by another” approach makes sense because, while the heroes are able to destroy ‘evil’, they have killed a near-sentient baby/fetus; and show themselves to not be ‘innocent’.

      • Pontifus

         /  21 April 2009

        You could get Mother 3 for the GBA, but it hasn’t been translated officially; the fan translation’s pretty good, if you don’t mind the questionably legal route (it got a lot of publicity in the game media, and Nintendo has yet to bring the law hammer down). Of course, if you don’t mind the questionably legal route, it’d be easy enough to play all three games.

        It’s a shame the Earthbound SNES cartridge is so expensive now. Last I heard, they’re afraid to port it to the virtual console in the event that someone would sue them for some errant pop culture reference, or something like that.

  4. Midge

     /  22 June 2009

    The entire Mother series revolves around one simple thing. Tragedy. To over-analyze it is to miss the point. Mother 1. Giygas is stripped from his parents and feels that, with the knowledge George gained about PSI, could betray his race (Giygas included) and therefore hate was induced in him.

    This is a tragedy.

    Furthermore you drive Giygas off with his mothers lullabies, because deep down inside he doesn’t want to destroy earth. He loves it and in him is this sense of “George and Maria never meant to betray me”.

    The same can be said of Mother 2. Here’s Giygas again. He’s amassed all this power in an attempt to overcome this still present misunderstanding of his emotions and is destroyed by the will of all the players of earth. It’s the same thing.

    The game is a tragedy. It is about innocence. Giygas from the beginning never knew what to do. Over-analyzing it covers up the true beauty and nature of the Mother games.

    Reply
    • Midge

       /  22 June 2009

      I probably should also add that Giygas wasn’t acting out evil. He was never evil to begin with. He was protecting himself and his race.
      Ness and Ninten do the exact same thing. They’re just two species fighting for survival over a misunderstanding of one persons sense of betrayal.

      Reply
      • Pontifus

         /  22 June 2009

        The inevitability of conflict is a nice theme to get out of it, I think. It is tragic, probably, in a very human way. I’d say you’re right in that good and evil don’t factor into it, really; all parties are essentially doing what they have to do, or at the very least all parties started that way.

        Still:

        To over-analyze it is to miss the point.

        There is no such thing as overanalysis. Why settle for only one point (“the” point, as it were — another phrase I don’t like, since there can be no One True Point) when you can create many?

      • Cuchlann

         /  22 June 2009

        Yeah… without analysis, there *is* no beauty, not to anything. It would just be a blur.

        This is especially true of the Mother games, I think. Without analysis, they’re exactly the same as Final Fantasy or the other generic ilk. It’s only in paying attention to the details that we can notice anything out of the ordinary.

      • LateToTheParty

         /  20 January 2010

        Why do you dismiss Final Fantasy as generic (instead of, say, the standard by which everything else copies)? What constitutes analysis? Or overanalysis? What do you mean by beauty?

        Let’s talk a second about that last one: beauty. To paraphrase Terry Pratchett, if we put an Earthbound cartridge through a fine mesh, you won’t find one particle of beauty. Therefore, it’s subjective. And therefore, whether one views it as beautiful or not depends on oneself. Obviously, then, there exists such a person that rigorous analysis would decrease that beauty. While you may find beauty in analysis, to dismiss other’s feelings simply because they don’t follow the path that your feelings developed is immature to say the least.

        Let’s also talk about the supposed non-existence of a One True Point. Sorry, but it does exist. Given that “point” is an inherently vague framework, simply take all the points and put them together into one whole. There you go. The One True Point since it encompasses all points. Now, whether that’s practically reachable is another matter entirely (which is why you are still right to be suspicious of anyone who lays claim to being the bearer of such a thing).

        And now, in a roundabout way, we get to my point. I believe that Midge meant by “reading in” when he talked about “overanalysis”, as in you should be wary of reading in your own biases as intentional. Vis a vis Earthbound, I believe that Itoi made the ending sexual not directly, but indirectly due to the fact that he was trying to make something disturbing and (as revealed in interviews) used one of his early experiences as a kid and accidentally walking into a porn theater for inspiration (why sex is disturbing to kids is a different matter). In other words, it’s like reading a book and saying “Aha! This is ink written on paper! The story must therefore be about ink and paper!”. The means that Itoi disturbs you is immaterial to the fact that it is disturbing (though the means are important if you, for instance, want to replicate it).

        Also, while you seem to be a fan of the whole “Death of the Author”-mindset, I must confess that I’ve always found it rather confusing. If you can’t take into account the author’s intentions, than the work of art is now about what you can read-in to the work yourself. That’s fine, except that that means that any criticism of the work is not of the author’s ability to effectively communicate his meaning, but in your own ability to create meaning. You might as well critique a random number generator since you’ve reduced the author to a noise generator that you then impress your own meaning on (which incidentally, gives me an idea for a program: genetic algorithm poems).

      • Pontifus

         /  22 January 2010

        Whew, alright, I’ll try to address those parts of your comment dealing more with what I said. It’s good to get comments from people who feel like discussing nuanced stuff like this.

        Let’s also talk about the supposed non-existence of a One True Point. Sorry, but it does exist. Given that “point” is an inherently vague framework, simply take all the points and put them together into one whole. There you go. The One True Point since it encompasses all points. Now, whether that’s practically reachable is another matter entirely (which is why you are still right to be suspicious of anyone who lays claim to being the bearer of such a thing).

        The very fact that we can only reach the sum total extant meaning of a work by considering all personal readings indicates to me that there can be no one true point — I don’t think that, when all meanings “come together” as such, or are pushed into a whole, they end up as something like what we might call a “point.” Instead what we’d get by pushing divergent meanings together is either some provisionally and artificially harmonious construct (which I don’t much care for) or absolute chaos (which I’m all for). The fact that we can’t really take all these different readings and make a coherent whole, or that the whole we get when we try is a complete mess — Earthbound means A, Not A, Sometimes A, Usually Not A, etc. — is something I particularly like about fiction. But I wouldn’t really call that a “point.”

        In short what I’m saying is I agree with your methodology. Really what I’m arguing against when I say there is no one true point is the notion that one reader can offer an absolutely true reading that must apply to everyone.

        I believe that Midge meant by “reading in” when he talked about “overanalysis”, as in you should be wary of reading in your own biases as intentional.

        I pay absolutely no mind to what is intentional and what isn’t. I approach every analysis as a product of my own reading; I acknowledge that everything I write comes out of my own bias, to some degree. I don’t think I ever made any claim to the contrary. If I did, I didn’t mean to.

        Vis a vis Earthbound, I believe that Itoi made the ending sexual not directly, but indirectly due to the fact that he was trying to make something disturbing and (as revealed in interviews) used one of his early experiences as a kid and accidentally walking into a porn theater for inspiration (why sex is disturbing to kids is a different matter). In other words, it’s like reading a book and saying “Aha! This is ink written on paper! The story must therefore be about ink and paper!”.

        It’s entirely irrelevant to me how the sexual element got there, or even if it exists for anyone other than me. If it’s there for me, it’s there for me. If it’s there for you, it’s there for you. If it’s there for any one reader, it’s there for that reader. That’s all any one person can claim. So, yes, if a reader would like to interpret every novel they read as being “about” ink and paper — and, believe me, such readers are out there — there exists no good reason why they shouldn’t.

        The means that Itoi disturbs you is immaterial to the fact that it is disturbing (though the means are important if you, for instance, want to replicate it).

        Oh man, I absolutely disagree with you here. The means are what disturbs — there isn’t something beyond the means that disturbs. I’m pretty poststructural about it. Without the means — the story elements that actually do the work — it wouldn’t be disturbing at all. Of course a story element may be a mutable thing — maybe the signifiers employed by the Giygas fight are sexual for one person and not for another, and that’s okay. The whole point here is to analyze my own experience. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying here, though.

        If you can’t take into account the author’s intentions, than the work of art is now about what you can read-in to the work yourself. That’s fine, except that that means that any criticism of the work is not of the author’s ability to effectively communicate his meaning, but in your own ability to create meaning.

        Yes, I believe that this is precisely the case. Art is something one does. This is not to say that the author’s provision of signifiers isn’t the essential catalyst that gets art going, that the artist has nothing at all to do with the aesthetic experience — the author’s rhetoric manipulates us into aesthetic experience in the first place.

        You might as well critique a random number generator since you’ve reduced the author to a noise generator that you then impress your own meaning on (which incidentally, gives me an idea for a program: genetic algorithm poems).

        Random/not-random isn’t very important at all, as long as the thing in question prompts the aesthetic experience (and has its origins in something human-made, even if it’s a random number generator; if it’s naturally-occurring, it’s just nature) — that’s the very basis for critique. It’s not art we critique so much as ourselves “doing” art. That’s about as much as we can critique — in translating text into something our mind can work with, reading irrevocably changes text. Surely there are some commonalities between my conception of a text and yours — otherwise we’d never be able to discuss art of any kind. But the two will never be precisely the same, and they will never amount to precisely what’s written in the book or video game or what have you. The author’s intentions aren’t really important because the author’s work, the author’s intended text, isn’t what we’re working with when we work with fiction. And even if you aren’t buying my strict semiotic/reader-response approach to things, I don’t see the point in restricting the potential of a text to what the author might’ve intended for it to mean — something that, in many cases, we can never know for sure anyway. What’s the point of art at all if everyone’s bound to the same reading? I just value the author’s opinions as highly as those of any reader — I don’t write the author off entirely, which wouldn’t be fair, but I don’t privilege the author, either. That’s the essence of death of the author/intentional fallacy/etc. (there are some critics who say the author gets no opinion at all, and I wouldn’t go that far).

      • Given that one of the most famous pieces of orchestral music in the 20th century was a piece of scored silence, the sound of which was the increasingly-noticable noise of the crowd, your attempt use a ridiculous and obviously silly comparison (the random number generator) actually does nothing but provide interesting ideas — we could, indeed, get meaning from a random number generator, if we so chose.

        Also, to say you think something’s confusing doesn’t refute it. The death of the author is necessary, or else we couldn’t read the text. It’s our interaction, not the author’s meaning, that’s important. Or else we couldn’t read anything that was written in another culture, or another time period, because it would be impossible for us to arrive at the mindset of the author. If you’re okay with only reading/playing/watching media from your ethnicity, country, language, and most probably, neighborhood, go ahead, attempt to find the author’s intention. I quite like reading books from three hundred years ago and watching television from other countries, so I find I’m forced to use the author’s death as a framework.

        Beauty is subjective. That’s the deal with beauty. But that doesn’t obviate analysis. Without analysis, there’s no construction of a subjective viewpoint, as that’s how a viewpoint *is* constructed.

        No, I shouldn’t be wary of reading my own biases into the text as intentional: because I’m not reading for intent (see above). You can’t attempt to claim a person is wrong for X, and then also Y, when Y destroys any possibility of X being true. I don’t read for author’s intent, so I’m free to use my own perspective and, as you put it, biases.

        And actually, pretty much every novel with a self-reflective function is, in some way, about the medium in which it’s expressed. That’s why so many of Shakespeare’s plays are about acting and the stage.

      • ubiquitial

         /  25 January 2010

        You say that we can obtain meaning from a random number generator. Can’t one say that for most anything? In fact, as long as something is observed, it will possess “Meaning” Because the observer will supplement reality with their own former knowledge. Consciously or not. Lion sees a gazelle. Subconsciously he thinks: Food. And he acts on the whim without realizing it. And if everything had “Meaning”, would it mean none do? It is subjective, after all. And subjective thoughts rely on comparison to other pre-existing concepts, does it not? Or is “Meaning” only what you consciously apply?

      • Yes. Meaning must be consciously applied. Where else does it come from? And one in fact can say that about anything. That’s pretty much what reading is, the creation of meaning using a tool designed for the purpose — part of the purpose being the abandonment of the marks of the purpose, for the marks of design typically distract us from the creation of meaning.

      • Geo Vaughan

         /  11 March 2010

        There was once a programming student who was coding a program for a computer to play Tic-Tac-Toe.

        When his teacher came in and asked him what he was doing, he replied “I’m writing a computer program that will use random numbers to determine the computer’s move in a tic-tac-toe game, so the computer won’t approach the game with any preconceived notions.”

        The teacher then wisely replied “But the computer will have preconceived notions. You just won’t know what they are.”

        In reality, the computer has neither preconceived notions or randomness. Randomness is only another construct of the human mind used to interpret events. Their meaning is equally worthless.

        I have a bag of three marbles: red, green and blue. One person closes their eyes, reaches in, and, after feeling around for a bit, draws a green marble. His choice is ‘random’. A second person reaches in with his eyes open, and, seeing the green marble, takes it intentionally. His choice is ‘preconceived’. Does the significance of the green marble change because one person chose it without knowing its color? Could it not be said that the one who did not look still made a conscious ‘choice’ to pull that marble from the bag, but used a different standard to make that choice? In the end, the interpretation of randomness or preconception makes little difference. The only ‘reality’ is that two people have drawn green marbles. Both are therefore equal.

        Author fiat or consensus… neither of these two factors can influence “truth”. The truth is the game. It exists, and we place meaning to it by virtue of our cultures and upbringings.

        That being said… the Giygas-as-fetus theory resonates really strongly with me. I don’t actually see Giygas as a literal or metaphorical fetus. Rather, the imagery of something as fundamental as an unborn baby mixed with the imagery of chaotic faces becomes extremely jarring. It’s like a Dali painting where one brushstroke becomes part of two different but coexisting objects. One cannot see both objects at once, and I relate this to why “You cannot grasp the true form of Giygas’ attack”. Giygas’ visual form provides symbolism in both the positive and negative space, meaning that our minds cannot hold both forms simultaneously. Therefore, it conveys the essence of Giygas. We cannot grasp it because to see it in its entirety requires us to rid ourselves of the instinctive symbol recognition that our brains are wired for.

        Following that train of thought, then, Giygas’ true nature is meaninglessness. It cannot be comprehended, because comprehension creates meaning. To see and understand Giygas, we must become like him: that is to say, devoid of preconceived notions.

  5. Etrunef

     /  17 June 2011

    Personally I think we’re taking too much thought into this. Could it be possible that Itoi wanted us to come up with these theories when in truth none of them may be true? Oh well, that’s the beauty of the Earthbound series since it allows us to have all these theories.

    Reply
  6. Beeg

     /  29 October 2011

    I didn’t read all the replies but has anyone mentioned when you buy the house in Onett for $7500 and check the dresser? Ness reads something interesting that may add to this theory…

    Reply
  7. I think that Azathoth is a brilliant comparison here.

    Since you said you didn’t feel knowledgeable enough about the Lovecraft Mythos to take a stab at it I’ll give it a go for you.

    Azathoth is the “blind nuclear chaos” Nuclear not in the sense of fission and fusion, but at the very core of the universe, it’s nucleus if you will. He is also called the “blind, idiot God” how’s that for a direct comparison to Giygax?!

    He is not evil, he is chaos. He is beyond any human conception of morality because he predates the concept by eons. Much as what is called Genocide today would have been called normal war tactics in the era of Caesar, Azathoth so predates any sentient thought in the universe you cannot apply any moral judgement to his primal power.

    He is the Id of the universe, a primordial power more potent than any other but clumsy in his application: unknowing, unfeeling, driven only by the impulses of his own unfathomable internal logic he would consider exterminating all human life, or indeed all sentient life in the universe as no more immoral than wiping ants from a picnic table. If he even has the intellectual capacity to understand morality that is.

    Reply
    • Very nice. Thanks for this.

      The fascinating thing about Giygas, though, is that he wasn’t always what he is at the end of Earthbound.

      Spoilers for the first Mother game are about to happen — ready? — okay —

      In Mother he’s just an alien who had human parents, and, if I remember correctly, kind of your adopted uncle. He ended up as the primal chaos at the beginning of time either (1) because magnificent bastard Porky made him that way, or (2) because, as per Mother, he was really, really depressed.

      Reply
  8. secretfinalboss

     /  7 April 2014

    I just read this whole thing, and first I want to say that I’m happy I could find stimulating, respectful, and fluid philosophical discourse online, especially on this topic. I destroyed Giygas fifteen years ago (hey, the game said I did). At the time, the only thing that unsettled me was the fact that The Player was made into a character. The point in the game where it asks for your name felt very random, and I didn’t know why it wanted to know. A few years later, I was looking for a Giygas image to download… and I do remember seeing one of the pics showing the fetus outline (I didn’t notice it fifteen years ago)… but I think my reaction was nothing more than, “Well, how about that?” Tonight is when the hammer fell on me, though. I watched the EarthBound episode of the Game Theory series on YouTube… and, it’ll pass, but I don’t feel very good right now. Yes, I get this invested in my gaming at times, especially since the RPG is my favorite genre.

    Reply
  1. Finishing Fate for real « Pontifus
  2. Earthbound Thoughts « Cuchlann

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