I decided to follow suit to Renita’s column on Wednesday about “BTS” and write about something in the realm of “Asian culture”: video games. It’s not unknown how deep video game culture is within Asia in general (do I need to mention Sony and Nintendo and Japan to make this point?), but the topic of video games is filled with so many sub-categories within it. There are different types of video games (First-Person Shooters, Racing, Fighting, Adventure, Role-Playing Game), but there are also different topics to cover within video games like designing, artwork, story writing, soundtracks, and coding. This column is going to be about more than just video games. It’s about human interaction with video games, to some degree. Let me walk you through this.
There was a video I saw while browsing Facebook. I hadn’t watched it in what felt like years. It’s a video of this girlfriend who bought a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) for her boyfriend who had just arrived home; she even had it wrapped in a thoughtful bow. That’s about the shortest summary of it that I could give without touching on all of the symbolism riddled throughout this video, however. Video game addiction (it’s a real thing; we can get addicted to literally anything), will power, loyalty, overcoming challenges, music synchronicity (that’s also a real thing) ... As I said, let me walk you through this; let me smith you a portrait with words.
This 8-minute animated video is called “Kaizo Trap” and it opens up with a bow on top of an NES. You can find “Kaizo Trap” labeled on the NES in the video. You know that with a bow on it, the NES is going to be gifted to someone, but you probably have no clue what a Kaizo Trap is. According to tvtropes.org, “You have just finished a difficult challenge, such as defeating a boss, completing a level, or even winning the whole game. The battle is over and you breathe a sigh of relief. Then the game kills you during the victory cutscene, and you have to do it all over again.”
“Kaizo Trap” is also known as “Hope Spot,” defined by tropes once more, “The Protagonist is about to face utter defeat. Suddenly, he finds a glimmer of hope, a reservoir for strength, a possible way out, a ray of light, a Forgotten Superweapon … only to be crushed cruelly by the bad guys returning in force.” Everybody loves when the good guy wins, but there’s something so satisfying about the twist; it grabs us by our face and tortures us with the downfall of our supported underdog. The satisfaction may come from reinforcement of our current reality that “sometimes the bad guys win.”
Returning to the video, the boyfriend is obviously surprised by this and is so ecstatic that he lifts and spins her. She gives him a kiss, leaving him to enjoy the surprise and to shut the door. The mood changes when the door shuts, the NES turned on simultaneous as depicted in the graphics. When she heads to the living room, she finds that her boyfriend is missing. The T.V. and NES are still on, though. Suddenly, the T.V. starts to suck, a vacuum increasing in its pull with each second, even swallowing up their couch and everything, including the red-headed girlfriend (I’m just going to call her “Red”), into a black abyss.
She tumbles through code before reaching fiery speeds, shooting like a comet to the world below. She lands next to a palm tree, the couch not far from her, and next to something that’s locked. This scene reminds me of Sonic The Hedgehog’s first stage, likely to have influenced the artist and author. The manual to the game flies down and hits her, prompting her to read it and memorize it. Anybody who’s played a video game before knows this feeling; it’s nostalgic.
She hops down and tries to jump across to the next platform. This tells us that this game is a platformer, meaning that the object of the game is to avoid obstacles that would “kill” your player while pushing forward from platform to platform by running, jumping, and various other ways of reaching a platform. Red doesn’t make it across on her first hop, though. This serves as a learning experience for her. She makes it across on the second time, having learned from the mistake the first time.
That was one challenge and it is completed. As she moves forward, the challenges get progressively harder while the music grows progressively intense. Eventually the screen becomes very busy with obstacles and Red’s actions; it would seem impossible that she’s capable of being aware of so many things at once. Regardless, she makes it to the end. Her boyfriend is there waiting for her, even after the immense learning curve thrown at her (she’s died so many times at this point and has learned from so many mistakes throughout her journey to her boyfriend).
That’s not her boyfriend, though. He’s dark with red eyes and she’s destroyed with a single white beam shot instantaneously, shot by him. The music slows down once more, providing a more somber tone as she is shot into “game over” below. She looks up to find out she’s reached game over and there are two options for her, two doors. “Continue?” it says above the doors. To her left, she could continue torturing herself by going through ALL OF IT AGAIN … or she can return to an empty home on the right.
The choice was simple for her. A determined look grew on her face as she stands up riddled with battle wounds from the game. She runs towards the left and decides to do it all again. She’s done it once, why wouldn’t she be able to do it again? The music gets a little dirty now, displaying Red’s feeling of determination … This is what I love about the music in this. It’s electronic, but the feelings evoked from the music are nothing short of perfect. It blows my mind that audio and animation were fine-tuned to coordinate with each other with so much impact!
The boyfriend has become obsessed with video games, or at least that’s the symbolism from it. In turn, Red (his girlfriend) goes through the same process all for the sake of saving him from himself and from the Kaizo Trap NES (you’ll know what I mean when you watch the video). The process is much different for her than it is for him, though they both share similarities.
Following Red through this whole fight, you see the challenge. She’s been utterly defeated to the point of having to do everything ALL OVER AGAIN. Do you know how frustrating it is? It happens in real life, too. Something can come and knock you down into “game over” in reality. She doesn’t become consumed by it, she becomes determined by it instead. She grew to be disciplined in her goals, which is to save her boyfriend. She is thrilled by the challenge.
What if this were an actual video game? If perceived this way, there’s a deep appreciation for the developer’s created challenges. Wall jumping to avoid spikes to finish by jumping on an enemy to bounce higher to reach the ledge sitting on top; it sounds complicated, but is easily learned after you’ve put in enough practice.
I could go on and on about this, but I won’t ruin the story for you. I’ll let you take the initiative in watching it for yourself and I certainly hope you enjoy it if you do. Check out the Alliance Times-Herald Facebook page to find the link to the video along with a separate link in the comments to the audio if interested in the music by itself. Links to our Facebook page and of the two YouTube videos are posted below!
The video on Youtube:
The song used in "Kaizo Trap":
Alliance Times-Herald Facebook page: