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LevelUP (Aprilie-10 Redux)

LevelUP (Aprilie-10 Redux)



|Views: 652 |Likes:
Published by cristan2
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Published by: cristan2 on May 17, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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etro eventually gives way to parody. Think aboutit. The latest ‘80s movement is about to all aton its ace because no one can pop his pink polo shirt’s collar or much longer than a year beorerealizing how stupid it looks. The words “disco is back!”are a punch line, but 15 years ago, they sent people insearch o designer bell bottoms. The transition romserious high ashion to giggle-inducing is just part o the underlying cultural understanding that you can’tgo home again. Despite the cyclical nature o westernculture, entropy nds a home in too many hearts to letus repeat ourselves verbatim, and no throwback in theworld evades a comic gaze or very long.But what about when someone creates a throw-back complemented by a wink and a nudge? How canyou make un o retro when it’s already making un o itsel? Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel without a Pulse daredme to answer that very question when I put on myedora and popped the CD into my Xbox last October.I was able to get in touch with Wideload’s MattSoell, Stubbs’ creator, and talk game design, specicallyretro gaming. O course, the rst thing I ask him is whenStubbs the Zombie was born.“Wideload began lie in early 2003,” he tells me.“The initial incarnation consisted o three people - Al-exander Seropian, Mark Bernal and mysel. We had a loto conerence calls because we didn’t have oce spaceyet, and Alex was still spending a lot o time at hometending to his just-born rst child. We’d been kickinga bunch o ideas around but we hadn’t come up withanything we really liked yet. Ater one conerence callon a Saturday morning, during which we all shot downeach other’s ideas, I was pacing around trying to willa good idea into existence. Nothing was coming, so Igave up and took a shower. That’s when the raw ideaor Stubbs came to me. I seem to have most o my goodideas in the shower or in the car. Aspiring writers shoulddrive and bathe oten.[...]“The Roaring Twenties were basically a big partyto which Stubbs was not invited, and the Great Depres-sion was the atermath in which Stubbs somehow gotstuck with the bill,” Soell says. “Just when he thinks hislie is nally turning around, someone blows a basket-ball-sized hole in his gut and buries him in the middleo nowhere. Twenty-odd years later, he wakes up in themiddle o a rich man’s city to discover that he’s still deadand some whiny little punks are eating hot dogs on hisgrave. It’s a pivotal moment or Stubbs, the point wherehe realizes that he’s doesn’t have to let people walk allover him anymore.”[...]Stubbs did what so ew games can: It let itscontent shine right next to its gameplay. But the retro/parody content didn’t just shine, it said something.“One o the underlying themes in Stubbs - which Ilited rom Poe’s ‘Masque o the Red Death’ - is the ideathat you can’t build a wall big enough to keep entropyout,” Soell says. “Andrew Monday doesn’t like povertyand decrepitude and unpleasantness, so he builds acity where luxury is a birthright and everyone can relaxbecause bad things only happen to lesser people inlesser cities. Then Stubbs shows up, and he’s not justpoor and decrepit and unpleasant ... he’s undead. Hestands in direct opposition to everything Punchbowl isabout. And he wears a really ugly tie.A man with hubris meeting his nemesis isn’t a newtheme. Now, mash that into a zombie a movie wherethe zombie isn’t a conormist and you’re treading onunamiliar territory. “There are a lot o games aboutzombies attacking humanity, but in our game, the zom-bie is the hero,” Soell says. I no examples come to mind,think about the original Dawn o the Dead, whereeveryday mall-goers turned into brain-eating zombies.In Stubbs, the only non-conormist is a zombie; imagineJames Dean with green skin. However, or a reani-mated noggin-chomper to be the least zombie-likeperson in the world, Soell had to create a city ull o ‘50sautomatons. “Having made that one crucial inversion, itseemed natural to make a ew more. Instead o settingour grisly antihero in a gritty modern-day city, we puthim in a gleaming, sterile environment - the sort o citythat never really existed except in ights o ancy.[...] I ask Matt what our next demon will be.“I don’t know what will be next. I you look back at the things that inspired that kind o public outcry,it seems like they bubble up rom subcultures thatare already stigmatized to a certain degree,” he says.“Punk rock, D&D, Lenny Bruce, hip-hop - or indeed anymusical orm pioneered by Arican-Americans ... all o them were easy to demonize because they came romsubcultures that were - and still are - actively denigratedby the mainstream. At the risk o sounding pompous,those who want to predict the cultural ashpoints o tomorrow should probably look at the stereotypes andprejudices they hold today.As our conversation comes to a close, I ask Mattto gaze into his crystal ball and tell me how people willperceive us 50 years into the uture, since he did such agreat job o encapsulating the past. “In 50 years, thesewill ocially be the Good Old Days. Our technologyand culture will seem quaint to the point o amuse-ment, but there will also be a sizable group o ogiesand blowhards whining that everything’s gone to hellsince then. And o course they’ll need something toblame it on - but it won’t be videogames, it’ll be some-thing new,” he says.His last thought makes me think on the drivehome. When I make it into my apartment, I load upStubbs again, this time trying to keep up with all o Soell’s deep reerences and stereotypes, only to ndmysel unable to actually keep up with the game. I pushdown my edora, crank up the volume, and by the timeI’m dancing against Punchbowl’s chie o police, I’mback at the top o my game. I guide Stubbsthrough Matt’s world a whilelonger beore realizing it’s2:00 a.m. and long past mybed time. I put the gameback in its case anddecide to place it on abookshel, away romwhere I normallystore myold games,because thisone crossed a barrier;it said something.
 Joe Blancato

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