Content Behind the Game

I always find it interesting when there is more to a video than just the game itself. I like it when fans of a game spend time thinking about questions the game left unanswered or did not even ask, and I like it even more when a game’s developers encourage this kind of participation outside of actual game play.

The amount of fan culture behind the Pokémon series is tremendous, and understandably so. The game has been around for well over a decade, and has expanded beyond just video games into television, cards, movies, and more. The “content behind the game” I’m referring to in this post’s title is the fiction and theories that fans come up with, which in some cases even seems plausible enough to be true. I won’t go into detail about these theories (you can find a few of them here, and plenty more with a quick Google search), but one of my favorite examples from Pokémon is the notion that developers for some reason switched the sprites for Venomoth and Butterfree. In the game, Venonat evolves into Venomoth, and Metapod into Butterfree. However, the following image offers a pretty convincing argument that somewhere along the line sprites were swapped:

Another fun example of “content behind the game” relates to Valve’s marketing campaign for Portal 2. This unique campaign, called the Valve ARG (alternate reality game), began with a message on the Portal 2 website from the antagonist of the first game, GLaDOS, asking gamers to purchase and play games from Valve’s bundle of games dubbed the “Potato Sack.” GLaDOS claimed that playing these games would “provide the raw computational power” to “speed up the reboot process” (www.escapistmagazine.com).

What does this all mean? Basically, Valve was encouraging gamers to buy certain games and play them, and the incentive they were providing was an earlier launch date for Portal 2. People who played these suggested games “began noticing strange symbols and coded messages appearing in the games. Savvy users began to connect these ‘glyphs’ to other games — which were receiving new content from Steam — as well as to external websites and real-world locations” (mashable.com). The interesting part of all this was that these external websites and real-world locations often contained clues of various sorts that could be decoded in some way, revealing Portal 2 related messages and content. In fact, an entire wiki page was dedicated to the discovery and interpretation of these clues.

What I find fascinating is the culture and content built up around certain games. The amount of detailed thought behind these games, from both players and developers, shows the complexity of their relevant semiotic domains.

Ah Pokemon the good ol’ days

Man I remember Pokemon, it was when I was in the 5th grade and everyone in my school and schools from all over the place were hooked on it. Everything from the game to the playing cards to even the movies and memorabilia. We would trade and compare cards, play the game with each other and battle or trade Pokemon. Me and my friends were so into the game back then that we could recognize the Pokemon just by the little sound that played when you encountered them. We would even quiz each other on evolutions, tricks and tips and the like. Of course that was only with the original 151 Pokemon. Everyone remembers the Blue and Red version? That was definitely the best; great childhood memories. I feel really attached to the original versions but I think they are beating a dead horse with the new versions that keep coming out. let’s see, after red and blue came yellow, then Silver and Gold. Then the remake of the original with Fire Red and Leaf Green followed by Ruby and Sapphire then Diamond and Platinum now finally Black and White. To be honest I probably missed a set in there somewhere.

Pokemon used to be so big, the trading card game was so popular that the good cards were as good as actual money in some places. The TV series was probably the highlight of every kid’s weeknight as they came out with new episodes every couple of weeks. What happened to games like this? Why was Pokemon so popular and why has nothing else been able to replicate its success? Honestly I wish games of this magnitude would come out more, it kind of unites everyone ya know? Its like something that everyone is interested in and can talk to others about. Its so rare that something as simple as a game could accomplish something like this but Pokemon is proof that a game can unite a nation. Everyone remembers the news reports of how Pokemon cards were banned in schools nationwide? That’s because everyone one in every school had them! It was like an epidemic! Sometimes I wish they would leave classic games like that alone instead of milking it until there is nothing left. I hope one day something becomes as popular as Pokemon so kids can have the same experience as we did with Pokemon

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