Thursday, February 24, 2022

flowers of the machine, part 3: gamelon of the floating world (IV)

 As I said before, this project seemed like a much better idea before it began.

Several months after I first watched it (and re- and rewatched it), YouTube rerecommended me the Zelda CDi Reanimated Collab—again. And like a cat who can't help itself from batting at a foxtail dangling in front of its face, I clicked the link and watched it—again.

This time, for whatever reason, I imagined a scenario where an alien anthropologist, visiting Earth thousands of years in the future, somehow found itself viewing the ZCRC in the vine-shrouded shambles of an old server bank. (No, I don't know how it would accomplish this. Alien science.) What if, somehow, this very video was one of the only digital artifacts from the twenty-first century that the visitor could reconstruct in toto? Given this clue, what would the curious alien surmise of humanity's way of life in the twilight years of its global civilization?

That was the handle of it: pretending that the ZCRC wasn't just a silly piece of internet ephemera, but something that deserved a thoroughgoing accounting for, as though the description "YouTube video about the cutscenes from a so-bad-it's-funny 1990s video game" would be received with an uncomprehending stare.

Since I'm too afraid to reread the first three parts of this exercise and discover that I'm actually a babbling idiot, let's please assume that I've given an adequately explication of the ZCRC in terms of the medium in which it occurs, the persons who made it, and its cultural functions, all as outcomes of historical processes. All that remains is to guess at what it means.


As the seasons passed and his missions continued, Marco mastered the Tartar language and the national idioms and tribal dialects. Now his accounts were the most precise and detailed that the Great Khan could wish and there was no question or curiosity which they did not satisfy. And yet each piece of information about a place recalled to the emperor's mind that first gesture or object with which Marco had designated the place. The new fact received a meaning from that emblem and also added to the emblem a new meaning. Perhaps, Kublai thought, the empire is nothing but a zodiac of the mind's phantasms.

"On the day when I know all the emblems," he asked Marco, "shall I be able to possess my empire, at last?"

And the Venetian answered: "Sire, do not believe it. On that day you will be an emblem among emblems." 
   —Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (1972)

What does the Zelda CDi Reanimated Collab mean? What do The Faces of Evil and The Wand of Gamelon mean, for that matter?

Saturday, February 12, 2022

flowers of the machine, part 3: gamelon of the floating world (III)

Games, like institutions, are extensions of social man and of the body politic, as technologies are extensions of the animal organism. Both games and technologies are counter-irritants or ways of adjusting to the stress of the specialized actions that occur in any social group. As extensions of the popular response to the workaday stress, games become faithful models of a culture. They incorporate both the action and the reaction of whole populations in a single dynamic image.
   —Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media (1964)

Of course, "games" meant something totally different in 1964 than today. But the good professor is still worth listening to on the topic, I think.

So, once again, we're examining the technical and cultural backdrop of a silly YouTube video where a couple hundred different animators set new moving pictures to the old noises from two of the most embarrassing video games ever made.

This seemed like a such a good idea a month or two back. I was drinking more back then. Early winter and all.


Who are the mythmakers?

First, it depends on what we mean by "myths." We'll come back to that.

Second: it depends on how a culture is organized, and the technology it uses.