cheers to you, playstation two

an uncomfortable couch

Over at the Playstation Blog, they have a great article featuring journalists and developers listing their top three games. Sort of a celebration of 10 years of PS2. I love that black box, so below is my own list.

Here are my top 3:

  1. ICO/Shadow of the Colossus: Yes, I know this is a bit of a cheat. Lets just say that thematically both of these games, from Fumito Ueda and friends, act as companion pieces to one another. They aren’t sequels in the conventional sense, and yet there is enough connective tissue here that we can consider them one unit. I really can’t articulate fully, just how much of an impact these games have had on me, as a creative person and in turn as a human being all together. For now it’s enough to say that the name of this blog, Swatting at Shadows, comes from ICO, and that maybe later down the road we can revisit in greater detail this subject.
  2. Persona 3/Persona 4: I’m cheating a lot here, as you can see. I played them in reverse order, and while I’m more a fan of P4 and it’s small town charm, I still hold P3 in high regard. Both games allow the user to get a glimpse at how life is like for the average highschool student in Japan, that is, aside from the alternate dream dimensions and summoning mythical creatures. These games point to an unexplored realm in the RPG space, let alone video games in general, stories that are removed from the Tolkien-esque fantasy settings or Sci-Fi trappings, and rather a scenario that more closely reflects our own day to day life.
  3. Katamari Damacy: I have no clue how to categorize this game. Is it a puzzler? A driving game? A Disaster Simulator? Whatever it is, there was never anything like it before. The gameplay, the music, the whole look of the thing, seemed to just escape designer Keita Takahashi’s mind in brilliant torrent of imagination and creativity. Just look at this and you might understand just a fraction of the insanity contained on that DVD.

About the original post, I find it helpful to read about the games that other designers appreciate. In this way, we can better understand where these creative folks are coming from, what their mindset is. Beyond gaming, it’s just interesting to see what inspires creative people. How much of that is an influence, and how much of that is simply an appreciation for something exceptional? Where do we draw that line, if we should in the first place?

I can’t help but to react and reflect on the things that interest me, the stuff I love. I put it all on the page, or in the words I write, or the comics I draw. Sometimes it’s a little embarrassing, but to work in any other way would be disingenuous.

Oh, and about the drawing above:

I remember seeing the PS2 in person for the first time, and being struck by it’s monolithic shape. It was the first system to popularize the ‘tower’ configuration, which only helped to contribute to it’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey-esque presence. I wouldn’t call the design sexy, or sleek, especially not in our homogeneous “idesigned” world, and yet there was something powerful and intimidating about that box. If the light cycles in TRON had engines, they just might look like a PS2.

For ten years the system would live up to it’s monolithic image, a constant presence in my room, whether I was away at school or back home. One of the first games I played on my own PS2 was Kingdom Hearts, I remember being blown away, seeing Disney characters realized in 3D, and convincingly so.  Years later, when I finally upgraded to a PS3, I actually played the older console more, so sucked into the world of Persona 3 and 4 that I didn’t care if the graphics weren’t up to modern standards.

If you’re wondering why the couch looks that way, it comes from my own personal greatest game (PS2 or otherwise) of all time, ICO. In that game, the player found stone couches scattered throughout a castle, sitting on one of them, along side your companion Yorda, allowed you to save your progress. It’s a small thing, but there is something endearing about seeing Ico and Yorda take a brief break on a couch.

I can’t help but take note of the polarity of that scenario. For the person the holding controller, we sit on couches and play games to relax and escape. For the characters in ICO, they sit on a couch to take a break from all the trails we put them through. Finally when they make it to the couch, that is our turn to get up and take on our own challenges.


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