Cutie Toad! NOVARIAN GAMES Darling Princess

One of the things that rarely fails to pop up an eyebrow or two on the faces of people who know little about secession is the fact that some of the most complete scessionists (well, a few, anyway) are aficionados of what we Aristasians often term Novaria games.

I shall simply say for the however-manyth time that our opposition is to the degenerate culture of the Pit, not to its technics, which are the natural outcome of the achievements of a healthier world and would have come about whether the culture had collapsed or not. Where we reject, say, modern motor cars, that is because of their design (which is a cultural statement) not their technics. The ideal car for most secessionists would be a beautiful Art-Neo body (whether from before or after the reign of the Pit) containing the very latest technical workings in every aspect. Of course the instrumentation controlling those workings should also be of delightfully real design.

So nobody who has the smallest knowledge of the secessionist philosophy (as opposed to some crude parody of it at which the unsophisticated mind seems sadly prone to jump) could imagine that there would be any objection to the technical side of Novarian games. But what of the cultural question? Are these games not a product of Pit culture?

This is a complex question. Of course some games are based on bongo films and other cultural artefacts. These, it goes without saying, we avoid like the B.B.C. But even here, the cultural corruption is largely extraneous to the game itself; often expressed more in the packaging and advertising than in what actually takes place in the course of play. In the early days of games, this was absolutely true. The coloured dots and merry robotic bleeps bore as much relation to the cultural images displayed on the box as they did to the Works of Shakespeare. As the technics become more sophisticated it becomes concomitantly more possible to include a degree of cultural content, and more care is required. Nonetheless, secessionists who are so inclined can and do continue to enjoy a wide variety of games.

Bad Bowser biffs MarioThere are probably two main reasons for this. One is that in many cases the technics have not yet advanced to the point where bongo culture can be effectively expressed (this is especially true of the smaller systems such as the Gamebaby which we shall discuss later); the other is that most of the games we secessionists like best come from Japan where bongo culture is only a superficial overlay rather than a root disease and where many charming things are still done.

Now, before I begin to talk about some of the charming things that may be found in the world of Novarian Games, let me explain something of their importance to the secessionist who happens to like that sort of thing. We live in a world where nothing new can happen on the cultural front unless we do it ourselves (which in many cases we are not yet in a position to do). There are no new books, no new films, no new fashions, no new cars, no new popular music, no new movements in art or tendencies in thought (except of course, for our own); no magazines, no television programmes, no ephemera of any sort that is truly ephemeral to us.

I do not mean to complain. We have a wealth of films inherited from the real world, a mass of popular music. We are more richly entertained than most of the potentates of history. Nonetheless, like the Ephesians, or whoever they were, we do have a natural human desire "to see or to hear some new thing". I mean, one has, hasn't one? Games cannot supply our whole need for a moving and ephemeral world, but they can at least give us a real and exciting element thereof. New games appear and one can actually take notice of them, discuss them, wonder what they will be like and later find out what they are like - and all this not only without being violently ill (as one would be in the case of culturally-diseased Pit-ephemera) but actually with excitement, jollity and satisfaction.

Many of our games appear on an absolutely topping little machine called the Gamebaby (well, that is what we Aristasians call it). I say "little" advisedly, for it fits snugly into the palm of the hand and has a little screen about midway between the size of a postcard and a postage stamp on which a delightful, colourful world passes before one's eyes controlled by the dexterity or (in my case) otherwise of one's own thumbs. I have a game called Mickey's Racing Adventure, in which one can control many Disney characters - Mickey, Donald, Pluto, Daisy Duck, Minnie Mouse and Goofy, walking about a lovely Disney town and a forest, and racing in cars and boats. Everything is just like a real Disney cartoon. None of us would watch a film made by Disney-in-the-Pit, but any one could, without the slightest risk of psychic injury, play this game. The Gamebaby is made by Nintendo, and without wishing to sound like an advertisement, I strongly believe that Nintendo is by far the best hardware and software company for a secessionist to patronise. Technically it tends to be ahead of the field. That is fun, but not of the utmost importance. Much more to the point, unlike the other companies in this field, it unites hardware design and software design into a unified world that has its own ethos, and that ethos is thoroughly Japanese (in a very approachable way) and wholly innocent. The world of Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach, of animated mushrooms, chubby friendly monsters and a fairyland supported by modern technics but untouched by modern groosh is the heart of the phenomenon that is Nintendo. There are, it is true, a number of "third party" games which you would not want to know about (as well as some very good ones); however, third party material is decidedly peripheral to the world of Nintendo and in fact has received surprisingly little encouragement from this curiously insular company.

Don't be frightened Princess - You're winning!This last, has, I suspect a great deal to do with Nintendo's very Japanese outlook, in contrast to the "multi-national" approach of its apparently more successful rival Sony, which has done all in its power to encourage third-party development, and, indeed is no more of a force in the software field than many far smaller companies. In many ways, Nintendo seems to reject "success" in the terms in which it would tend to be defined by Western businesses, and yet it is undoubtedly one of the most successful companies of its size anywhere in the world. While the aim of its rivals is to achieve "market domination" by placing their consoles into the maximum number of domiciles, Nintendo has been called a "creator of phenomena" and its primary aim aim was recently described by a perceptive member of the industry as being "to deploy its phenomena". This it has done with tremendous success. It is perhaps not accidental that Nintendo is based not (like its rival) in Tokyo, the capital of the new quasi-Westernised Japan, but in Kyoto, the capital of the old Japan.

Nintendo's achievement is something akin to Disney's* achievement in the 1930s. Nintendo's Disney is not the company's managing director, the formidable Hiroshi Yamauchi, but its resident genius Shigeru Miyamoto who is the inventor of the modern platform game, first in its one-screen-at -a time incarnation (Donkey Kong), then in its side-scrolling form (Mario Brothers) and in its most recent three-dimensional development (Super Mario 64). The significance of this is hard to overestimate. In essence the Novarian Game as we know it is largely the invention of Miyamoto-san. Also hard to overestimate (I must write an essay about this soon) is the achievement of Mr. Disney. If we imagine (and it is harder than you might at first think so to imagine) the modern Western imagination without the images, the image-language put into it by Mr. Disney, one begins to understand what a vast contribution that gentleman has made to the Western Image Sphere. While the imaginal influence of Miyamoto-san is not (yet) as far-reaching as that of Mr. Disney**, it should not be underestimated, and we believe that, owing to a combination of geographical and cultural circumstances, and also partly to the limitations of a developing technical means of expression, Nintendo has succeeded in creating a largely healthy image-domain in the Western consciousness which, at this stage in its current (and, it is to be hoped, temporary) degeneration, that consciousness is entirely incapable of creating for itself.

This is not to say that only Nintendo - or even only Japan - is capable of creating games acceptable to the secessionist. Certainly the further one strays from these two, the more cautious one must be, but owing to the lead set by Nintendo and the Japanese, and also to the technical limitations referred to above (a factor which has lessened and will lessen rapidly as time goes on) , one may find entirely acceptable things even of a Western provenance. That all this is a matter of any great cultural importance we do not wish to claim for a moment. That it is a source of life and colour and novelty to some of the less serious of secessionists is indisputable. In a world where there is nothing new under the sun that is not also beneath contempt, Novarian games provide a delightful stream of new things that we can talk about, anticipate and be amused by.


* It may interest readers to know that Nintendo was founded in 1898 by the great-grandfather of the present Yamauchi-san (maternal - for the first two generations the hereditary chairmanship passed in the female line) as a manufacturer of traditional Japanese flower playing-cards. It later branched out into producing many novel items. In 1959 it entered its first licensing agreement with an outside company - and that company was Disney. The license entitled Nintendo to produce cards depicting Disney characters. In 1999 Nintendo entered another licensing agreement with Disney to produce games based on Disney characters of which the above-mentioned Mickey's Racing Adventure is one.

** Though a survey taken in 1989 revealed that Mario was as widely recognisable to young children as Bugs Bunny and even Mickey Mouse.