Vote now: oddity or serendipity?
Last time, you decided that physics freakouts are better than beautiful food. As much as I admire delicious dishes, I am very glad that something that’s wholly unintentional (and often unwanted by developers) is still in the running. Games are weird and daft magic tracks, and that’s great. This week, you must choose between oddity and serendipity. What’s better: impossible geometry, or games playing the music CD left in your drive?
I like really big unreal places in video games, and I really, really like impossible places. You know: a corridor which seems to loop endlessly; a door which takes you somewhere else when you turn around; Escherian megahells of places that don’t connect; holes in the world that should not be; fractal landscapes; staircases which are longer going up than they are going down; pathways which casually shift orientation so you walk up walls; endless recursive shapezones. Sure, video games are getting fancier at simulating reality, but we don’t have to. Embrace unreality and all its brainbreaking majesty.
I also like when the placement of loading zones makes impossible places happen. I don’t know whether it’s intent or oversight, but Dark Souls II has a spot where you take a lift from the top of a windmill in a clearing up to… a castle sitting atop a lava moat? Perfect.
I suppose you could consider games with wrapping screens as impossible. I think mathsfaces have argued that games like Asteroids take places on a torus (a ring doughnut shape) but since you can’t eat Asteroids, I consider that unverifiable and believe it to take place in an impossible place. If you would like to challenge me on this, you must bake me an Asteroids doughnut, thank you. Any similar arguments about “actually, if we consider 5D space and the Michaels-Robertson-Vaziri hypothesis, all these places are perfectly plausible” must also be served to me in the form of snacks.
Games playing the music CD left in your drive
It is a little sad to think that the best thing in video games might have already passed, and will likely never return. Many people will never experience it. The dwindling number of us who did will be here, decades from now, choking back tears as we tell about the time The Prodigy’s Fat Of The Land synchronised perfectly with the game you were playing.
To explain: when games made the switch from floppy disks to CD-ROMs, many also switched from synthesised music to prerecorded CD music. A data CD could also be a music CD, see. You could put a game in a regular CD player and listen to the soundtrack, and vice versa. These games would expect you to put their CD in your drive to have the soundtrack, but they didn’t check this and would work just fine with any old music CD which happened to be in the drive. Hence the delightful thing of: having a music CD (or another game’s CD) in your drive, and having the game treat that music as its own. This could lead to moments of wonderful serendipity.
Some music might fit perfectly with the game you were playing, taking it in a wildly different artistic direction yet really putting out an energy. Or sometimes the mystery music could turn serious moments ludicrous in the most delightful. Sometimes, sure, it didn’t really work in an interesting way. But when it did? Delightful! These opportunities for serendipity were magnified if you shared a PC with your family and had no idea what might be in the drive. Now That’s What I Call Music! 44 really went places.
But which is better?
I have many fond memories of musical serendipity but I cannot resist impossible places. Reality is for squares.
Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We’ll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.