Short essay my friend wrote about Earthbound

#1Samsaric_SpiralPosted 1/12/2009 6:38:00 PM
Art is the presentation through an action or object of a mentality or point, and must always be intentional.

Games are art through gameplay. Gameplay is a parental concept composed of 4 child categories: Aesthetics, Challenge (as in something against the player), Interactivity, Rules. Without one of these 4 things being present, a game is not a video game. Earthbound is a prime example of a game that uses the thing the medium has that others do not (gameplay) to drive points. Rather than a movie/comic/book/etc where the viewer juxtaposes himself empathically to draw an opinion, you are the focal point of the art, and thus your actions radically effect the meaning of the art. It is much different to watch a war movie than to be an SS general and execute a jew, knowing you would not want to do that. It says something about you when and how you play a video game that is art.

I will briefly touch on some aspects, since I could write a 20 page analysis on this game and not feel like it's enough.

- Importance of childhood: Itoi's philosophy that pain is evil and pleasure is good, that adults are usually terrible people because they lose their childish sensibilities. This might be the overarching theme of the entire game, if nothing else, and it permeates every facet of its narrative. When you find the sanctuary locations for example.

- Anti-establishmentism: Itoi cannot stand police or any sort of authority, including money (as is seen amazingly apparent in Mother 3 more than 2), and religion (happy happy, etc)

- Definition and substance of humanity: Itoi believes that the only Evil is objectivity itself (manifested in Giygas, as Giygas is an objective evil born of Ness, seen in the final parts of the game where you travel back in time into a Cervix to "abort" a fetal objective evil), and that people's lack of humanity (manifested in pure pleasure and subjectivity) leads to corrupt them.

- Subjectivity is the only weapon against objective evil: This is shown as readily the case in the ending fight. Using pray to beat Giygas is not a gimmick or some cheap cop-out, it's a bold artistic statement to videogames as a medium. You are cornered, dying, fighting the literal definition of evil itself, an evil that will become a force of nature if you do not abort it. You exhaust all your options, playing it as any other rpg where you simply use your most powerful damaging moves. Finally you decide to pray. A simple act. The weakest move in the game, and a representation of pure humanity as an idea. It's pure subjectivity, illogically calling out without any reasoning to defeat pure objectivity. This part in the game alone is also worth a good 20 pages.

- Buddhist themes of self discovery and edification: Through both Poo and Ness, Itoi explores the idea of edification through pain. While a very, very strong idea in Itoi's art is that pleasure is literally what life is for, he concedes this idea to a level of edification being necessary for a rounded human being. The only way you can pass Poo's training is by conceding all of your control (The ONLY thing a player has in a videogame, so it might as well be your life in the game itself). Ness is essentially the hero, and Giygas is the evil in him, and in Giygas' vindication Ness becomes whole/good. The ending to the game is very much a process of edification.
#2Samsaric_Spiral(Topic Creator)Posted 1/12/2009 6:38:13 PM
- Plays on American pop-culture: A Mr. T around every corner, big cities, suburbs, hamburgers, baseball, pie, 50's aliens, you get the idea. This one is basically just an aesthetic theme but it's important to note, as Itoi enjoys exploring western thinking in his games, despite being a Japanese game.

- Extreme hatred of capitalism: This is MUUUUCH more prevalent in Mother 3 (literally the theme of the entire game), but it is still there in Earthbound. All the police want you to die or are bought out (as in fourside). The Runaway Five (throw-back to American Jazz and artists in general) are always being ******* over by someone looking to make a buck. Money constantly corrupts individuals in Itoi's world. Money also makes people much more likely to BE evil, as it is a sign of greed and vampirism (mani-mani statue in Fourside, Monotolli, Pokey's parents, etc).

- Aesthetic decisions: Other than the western influence, Earthbound has some great aesthetic symbolism. Itoi is said to have done LSD a lot, and Moonside was his idea of that experience, so he says (though that is obviously hard to pick up from just the game). Fat people are viewed in Earthbound as synonymous with Capitalism and its greedy and vampiric nature (they are pigs), and thus Pokey and all the fat people in the game, with the exception of a few, are evil to represent this. In Mother 3, the army trying to globalize your anarcho-communist community are all dressed like Pig Nazi hybrids. Scaraba is more based on what westerners view the middle east as than how it actually is, same with Poo. This section also could use like 20 pages.

- Technological man vs spiritual man: Itoi views spirituality, not god-belief, as very important, and that society should accept self-enlightenment rather than condemn it. Itoi fervently hates Religion though, as seen throughout Mother 2 and 3. There's a reason the Doctor cannot cure the strange things the Healers in the hospital can, and it reflects this idea.

Earthbound is a game that is presented in a simple package (as it very much likes to parody the medium it is a part of), but do not mistake it for a simple idea.
#3DKU_ArichPosted 1/12/2009 7:02:18 PM
Very nice, but Itoi did not create Moonside. I can't remember where I read that (Starmen.net, maybe?) but I'm dead sure that he did not have anything to do with it. He let the developers run wild with that.
#4_ClintonPosted 1/12/2009 9:30:29 PM
I wouldn't say he hates capitalism...
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PopeHatSkeleton "Right, because as I watched a yellow rodent shoot lightning into a giant gorilla's ass I assumed that this game must mimic real life"
#5_ClintonPosted 1/12/2009 9:31:40 PM
Also I'm shocked your friend didn't talk about Walden 2...
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PopeHatSkeleton "Right, because as I watched a yellow rodent shoot lightning into a giant gorilla's ass I assumed that this game must mimic real life"
#6Spitball SparkyPosted 1/12/2009 9:47:23 PM
Yeah, Moonside was made by his assistant or something.
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#7j_ugnickPosted 1/13/2009 4:02:29 AM
While this essay is very rough and some of it spotty, I totally agree with a bulk of it. I'd love to contact your friend and work with him on expanding upon it, or just getting his permission to expand upon it.

I really admire Itoi and his message and philosophies within the Mother series, but I really think dissecting them a little bit to write an expansive essay with screenshots and photos would be great, as then more than just gamers could learn to appreciate what he's trying to say.
#8j_ugnickPosted 1/13/2009 4:05:18 AM
Sorry about the double post. I'm sick and going to bed... can't think straight enough to edit.
Have your friend e-mail me at bctrip69 at gmail dot com

Not my main e-mail, but I wouldn't just post that on Gamefaqs. ;)
#9SnappySnakePosted 1/13/2009 2:07:18 PM
Still, good work for your friend.
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Chris R. Sabat *Vegeta voice acting* : "It's over 9000. And my balls. They are inert." (happy?)
#10PKNintendoPosted 1/13/2009 6:16:15 PM
Excellent read.