INSOMNIA

By Recap / Originally published on Postback on July 9, 2008 and translated for Insomnia from the Spanish by Emmanuel "El Chaos" Fernández Noguera


I've dedicated the last three editorials (and you can expect many more) to illustrating that thing about the irreversible cancer that the American way of gaming's hegemony has meant and I realize that I haven't yet talked from this section about the other big evil that scourges todays' electronic-recreational panorama — the Microinvasion.
   In reality, both go quite hand in hand. The dominant technocratic mentality that drives us to accept two-dimensional graphics (or the traditionally Japanese graphic style, if you prefer) and the genres that these are associated with as something obsolete is the one that causes their exile to the portable machines, less technically and technologically advanced, aimed at a younger public and, therefore, worthy of receiving this kind of offer. The problem arises when the exile is accepted without suspicion nor objection by those who didn't agree with the new trends. A new and very extensive legion of enthusiasts joins, even. The minimachines have something that make them diabolically irresistible, and not only before that younger audience. Portability equates to success, to modernity. It's the other technocracy.

The New
Technocrats

   Because functional autonomy is put before ergonomics; ease of use, before experience; the Machine, before the Game.
   The most deplorable thing is that the majority doesn't even consider it, despite its blunt obviousness. The aficionado's degree of alienation is such that he'll keep thinking that X game for a portable machine, just because of the fact of being born for that machine, is a perfectly suitable product, regardless of genre or origin. He'll keep covering his ears whenever you remind him that 99.8% of titles appearing on portable systems are NOT specific designs for portable systems, but literal translations of concepts belonging to the bigger systems [computers, video consoles, arcades], and, therefore, would be indisputably better games if, just like that, they were addressed to one of those.
   This means that there exists very little room for argument for those who try to defend the portable systems' validity as something more than despicable substitutes of home systems. And the fact that the portable format's original raison d'être (and I'm not just talking about the videogame systems' sphere) is that of, simply, acting as a replacement when the physical circumstances prevent us from the standard usage, has been forgotten. They aren't, or they shouldn't be, a general alternative to the bigger formats because their limitations prevent the experience from being fully realized.
   It's the second time that the million-dollar word shows up — experience. It would be tremendously hypocritical, or stupid, to deny that the videogame's experience has a fundamental audiovisual component. I repeat: fundamental. We could erect ourselves as champions of the radical conceptualism which so many claim to like and take note of that thing about the videogame's essence residing exclusively in the mechanics; that graphics and sounds are accessory elements. A reductionism as decerebrated as fallacious where not even Pac-Man or Pengo would have room. Maybe not even Tetris, if you press me.
   Since it would be absolutely foolish not to admit that the experience is directly proportional to the size of the screen that serves as interface and to the power of the speakers that transmit the sound (within some limits, logically). Experience and perception are two closely related terms, you know.
   And if we're talking about interfaces and about experience, we can't stop mentioning how inadequate a portable machine's control pad is for the majority of their action titles (inevitably inspired by or derived from the arcades). Merely the impossibility of changing the controller is an irrefutable limitation. Or how unnatural it is that controller and screen form a single and inseparable physical unit; a videogame's screen has only one optimal state during its use — that of absolute immobility...
   Therefore, we will start calling things by their names once more. The portable videogame is a SUBSTITUTE. It's IMPOSSIBLE, by definition, to replicate in them the conventional videogame's experience, in spite of the fact that the nature of these systems' catalogs demonstrate that that has been the only intention in the designers' heads. THERE ARE NO de facto advantages in a portable system beyond the immediacy of usage and their ease of transport. And, if you are one of those who prefer this kind of exogenous advantages instead of those characteristic of the experience, the GAME, allow me to tell you that, whatever winds blow [Spanish idiom, it means something like “no matter what happens” or “no matter what everyone else does or says” –Trans], you have mistaken (or deformed) your passion. Deeply.
   But I go back to the trigger idea of the diatribe; that of the generalized conformism. That of how many get moved because a saga such as Metal Slug may see its seventh episode born in portable format [ > ] or because a DS version of Ketsui is announced [ > ]. The idea that no one considers perhaps how much an Yggdra Union [ > ] or a contemporary Akumajou Dracula [ > ] would gain in a home system. The idea of the blind belief that the minimachines are the great saviors of the sprite-based graphics instead of thinking that, perhaps, without them, producers would find themselves compelled to cover this demand in serious formats and aren't doing anything but stealing an attention that doesn't belong to them...
   Hey, I curse you. I curse you all.