The idea of learning from video games could take us to some unexpected places. It’s not too much of a stretch for me to say (with Toby Fox, so I feel like I’m in pretty good company) that playing old RPGs taught me to read. Even a fighting game like Street Fighter II, besides the hand-eye coordination it builds up and the discipline it instills, has an element of geography to it.
And spending enough time reading online, in turn, leads back to video games. For whatever reason, lately academia.edu has been recommending papers to me via email, like this one on teaching Final Fantasy X. (Be careful about clicking any of these links if you have an account on academia, because their overeager algorithm will probably start sending you a bunch of emails, too.) I don’t mind so much, but it’s a little stressful to realize just how much is out there. And I worry that the more I read, the more rabbit holes I’ll fall down.
Oddly enough, the majority of the papers on video game studies turning up in my inbox have been from outside the US, hailing above all from Brazil. My reading knowledge of Portuguese is very limited, but the convention of including an abstract in English provides a glimpse of the content at least. And there’s always google translate.
If nothing else, skimming through them and browsing their references turns up other material undergirding the arguments, suggesting authorities in the field and unexpected connections.
There’s a “Conversation on Archaeogaming”, whatever that is. I’m sure I’ll contact a few of the authors to see if they’re willing to set up some further conversations about these papers and their current research. A piece on “Video Game Music on the Internet: Nostalgia and Esthetics on YouTube” sounds right up my alley, as does another on literature and video games.
Reading just the epigraph to that one sent me to find the lyrics to this variation on Terra’s Theme, and then to the Pray vocal compilation. Uematsu’s message there is reminiscent of Itoi’s beautiful “What EarthBound Means to Me,” and both of these seem to recall the function of prayer in EarthBound, so crucial to the message of that game as a whole.
Which brings us back to Undertale… so more on that next week.
One last essay in this connection, “The music is the only thing you don’t have to mod” takes its title from the ROM-hacking and modding community. Music and modding, of course, are key for the development of Undertale, and both are high on my personal list of things I wish I knew more about.
I can’t think of a better way to keep on learning than by playing the Zelda theme on the piano and reading everything about game design that comes my way.