Pixels…

How Far Can You Stretch A “Cube” Concept?… After the Break…

Pixels…

I’ll never understand the concept of “Minecraft.” Ever. I just don’t get it. It’s a kid’s thing. Do you know how kids obsess over Harry Potter and you just look at them and wonder where they are on the scale of artistic and autistic? It’s a kid’s thing. It’s the same with “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” and “One Direction” and “Slenderman” and… And just about everything that has risen in popularity with the crowd most likely to be wearing metallic braces. I don’t get it. What makes these stories and movies and games so ‘neat’? ‘Popular’? ‘Cool’? What am I missing that so many are enamored about?

With “Minecraft,” though, there’s a bit of cruel irony. I grew up with video games as video games “grew up.” I played ‘Pong.’ I experienced the first console wars firsthand. I lived through the black floppy disc era and the smaller plastic-encased discs era and the CD-ROM era and the DVDs and now all of this digital crapola… I was there for the entire arcade era and, by golly, if I had kept even a fraction of the quarters that I had pumped into those machines, I’d… Well, I wouldn’t be wealthy but I’d have a whole mess of jars just toppling with quarters.

Why are kids so enamored with a game that looks as though it belongs in the late 1980s? I lived through the era where the green pixel was a dragon and the yellow pixel was the treasure and the black pixel was a bat and… And quite honestly, it sucked. I mean, there was a reason why the cover art on those old console games had to be so expressive and hand-drawn. It’s the same reason why movie actors who are about to act opposite of a tennis ball on a stick have concept art on the set so that they can envision what they’re running from.

I write all of this because it’s not as though I hate the bygone age of the arcade era – Quite the opposite. There was a simplicity to games such as “Space Invaders” and “Frogger” that modern gaming will likely never match, namely because they can’t. Gamers’ tastes have grown and evolved (well, with the exception of “Flappy Bird” and “Angry Birds” which ought to be litmus tests to see if eugenics ought to be re-instated). I enjoy games that celebrate our earlier roots and I enjoy creative media that celebrates it as well.

Enough time has progressed where the kids playing the arcade games of yesteryear are the doctors, lawyers, architects and other highly important people of today. If anything, the first generation of gamers are now graying and the generation who first programmed those games are now collecting social security checks. So, naturally, it was only time when gamer culture was going to seep into the mainstream… Which it has.

There have been movies based upon games and games based upon movies, as with comic books and novels as well. “Chiptunes” is an entire musical genre dedicated towards creating music within the constraints of archaic computer chips. The movie “Wreck-It Ralph” celebrated the arcade era while the movie “Tron” was the first to be based inside of a video game (and, no, I won’t mention that ‘other’ movie…).

And now there’s another one.

“Pixels” is a movie based upon a short YouTube video that was made by Patrick Jean. The short video merely showed pixelated classic arcade game characters interacting with the structures and life of a typical city. Tetris blocks would come down from the sky and “compete” a few lines from a skyscraper, causing that part of the skyscraper to disappear. Frogger could be seen jumping through traffic, as per the classic arcade game. Donkey Kong threw pixelated barrels down onto the ground.

I saw the YouTube short when it first came out and generally thought that it was a cute concept.

Turning a cute concept into a full-length movie? That’s a lot harder. Knowing how they’ve managed to turn a cute concept into a full-length movie? Now I’m a bit less interested than before.

Apparently, the full-length movie features the arcade characters as being controlled by aliens bent on destroying humanity with the human response being to hire a team of arcade game experts to fight them.

Huh.

The YouTube video was cute. It made effective use of CGI graphics to both convey the old-school arcade character while also reserving other CGI effects for the real-world city.

The full-length movie seems to be straining itself under the initial YouTube short concept. The movie is too far along for anyone to do anything about it but my concern is with the concept that these beloved arcade characters are destructive to humanity. Your core audience will want to see these characters in a fond, nostalgic way and not as mortal enemies. Why not have them defend the planet against aliens instead? Why not have a plot where the arcade characters are the last hope for humanity?

I have no interest in seeing this movie now that I know the synopsis for the plot and, once more, I continue my search for a movie that panders to the nostalgia of the old arcade era. “Wreck-It Ralph” sort of got there but it was mainly about original characters than the classic arcade characters. It also modernized the look of the classic arcade characters which had an alienating effect on the nostalgia. “Pixels” keeps the characters in a more traditional visual style but will have us rooting against the arcade characters and not for them.

Oh well. Better luck next time.

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