Wrecking Wreck-It Ralph and How NOT to Glorify Videogame Culture

Before you read, just a heads up: This post is a no-holds barred, spoiler-laced discussion about the film. If you haven’t watched the movie yet and you think that spoilers will affect your opinion for it, don’t read this. Otherwise, go right ahead.


I finally got the chance to see Wreck-It Ralph. For those who aren’t in the know, it’s Disney’s not-so-recent movie about the uncanny quest of the titular videogame character to redeem himself, with a (big) handful of destruction as a side dish. The thing is, I watched it under the pretense that it was a videogame geek’s wet dream, that it had a good cast, a good plethora of advertising schemes, and most importantly, a good story that pays homage to the videogame industry.

Boy, I never thought I’d be utterly mistaken.


Sword Art Online and a catchy title here, I’m tired, give me a break

Let us talk about Sword Art Online, particularly its inevitable comparison in my brain to the .hack series, its stated themes, the reaction to it, and its unstated themes. I would ask if that made sense, but it’s probably the most cogent first line I’ve written for a blog in ages (and possibly in my dissertation, who knows?)


Growing Up in Worlds of Fictional Men


Yeah, I’ll leave it at that.

Many moons ago, I posted about Cardcaptor Sakura & gender.  Now, I’m back to explore video games & gender.  Why not anime this time, you may ask?  Because, uh…battleaxe.

I’ve been playing video games for most of my life.  While they provided a beautiful escape, they also shaped much of my ideas about what was male & what was female through my adolescence.  Part of the reason for that is I didn’t have many games that even had women in them, much less had a female protagonist.  & not that many games that were made when I was a kid had female protagonists.  I grew up with fictional, pixelated men.


On Cash Points and Video Game Money

I rarely harbor feelings of hate when I play video games. But when I do, I do it with audacity and intensity. So when the concept of incorporating Cash Points in modern gaming came into existence, I was furious. Why, you ask? Because the existence of Cash Points is the most horrific thing to happen in the video game industry.

To know why it’s bad, one must know how it works. Basically, you purchase the points using real world cash, which you can use to unlock rare and powerful items in the game, hence the term. Feeling underpowered with the cheap Longbow you mugged from some random monster? Become a god of archery with this Cash Point-only Super Bow. Fifty inventory slots not enough for you? Purchase fifty more slots using Cash Points. Want to stand out from your guildmates? Get the limited edition Gold Ring.

Now that you know how it works, back to why it’s bad. And it’s bad on a number of reasons:


a few more random ideas on game criticism

I was just decompressing after watching the trailer for the new Prince of Persia, and had a few thoughts about game theory.  

[By the way, just so you know — I still cite Sands of Time as one of the best video games I’ve ever played, so, you know, I’m probably biased.]

Nothing like practicable ideas, I should say.  But perhaps some that will open routes of inquiry.  

When I’m absorbing art, and that’s any kind of art, I’m looking for a feeling of beauty.  I’m going to wax maudlin at you for a moment.  The best kinds of art instill in me feelings like I get almost nowhere else.  I’m in the middle of some kind of perfect storm of great stuff here, too — the new Decemberists song does this for me, as does a book I’m reading, Dhalgren (in between the frightening dystopia bits).  I just started Silent Hill 2 in a bid to write a paper on the Gothic in video games (yes, you’ll likely hear more about that as the semester wears on).  

What I’m getting at, and not very well, is that some video games have given me that same feeling.  Prince of Persia did it, and so did Shadow of the Colossus.  So I may try to write critiques, proper entries here, for those games, to try and get at what makes them what they are, rather than choose-your-own-adventure stories with prettier pictures.  I know, somewhere inside me, that some video game stories couldn’t be told any other way, while others (much as I love it, Legend of Zelda springs to mind) could.  They wouldn’t be as good, but they would still work.  But writing up Shadow of the Colossus for a novel version would involve so much new writing it would be a different thing, whereas you could write up Wind Waker and the effect of the story on the audience would be unchanged.  Not that I have a problem with that, I’m not asking every game to fuck me up like a new Lord of the Rings.  

I feel like I have a way to tackle this problem through my genre and myth criticism ways, too.  Certainly there are enough romantic elements in the games I’ve mentioned to get me started sometime.

[I should say that whenever I use the word "romantic" I mean it in the original sense, that of a story of medieval style romance.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, think King Arthur.  Those stories, especially those from the French tradition, were romances.]


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