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Image: GamesRadar
This video game for children is all about joy, love, peace … and being silly.

I know almost nothing about video games, other than that my grandchildren are fascinated by them. But a recent article in the Los Angeles Times opened my mind to how important they can be.

Todd Martens writes at the Los Angeles Times, ” ‘Meow!’

“Artist and unconventional game developer Keita Takahashi has just overheard a feline through the telephone line. He laughs and begins asking questions about said cat. It’s the moment Takahashi seems most comfortable and chatty during our long-distance interview, a detour from discussing his latest game, which is about explosions, golden poop and, ultimately, how to be better people.

“ ‘Wattam,’ the long-awaited work from the developer behind the endearing cult smash ‘Katamari Damacy,’ itself a jubilant celebration of fun and optimism, is also about seeking out the joy in the everyday, namely the objects that surround us and can sometimes be taken for granted. If it existed in the world of ‘Wattam,’ for example, a random cat’s meow would be cause for celebration, a reminder that beauty and joy is not only everywhere but too often fleeting.

“Yes, that’s heavy stuff for a game in which a walking and talking mouth might devour an anthropomorphic apple and then turn the latter into a human-like piece of feces that wants to spread love, but Takahashi’s metaphorical approach to game-making is one in which play is utilized as an expressionist tool. …

Objects are simply excuses to explore interactions, to show that a toilet, a telephone, an acorn, an octopus toy, an onion, a nose, a castle-sized cake and a bounty of other random things can and should live in harmony.

“ ‘Wattam,’ Takahashi says, was inspired by watching his two younger children play. He wanted to create something that presented a more hopeful view of the world.

“ ‘Kids are so great,’ the Japanese developer says. ‘They can enjoy everything, even small things. They can run around and be happy and then suddenly cry or get angry. But they can get that happy feeling back so quickly. That’s unbelievable. That’s like a different creature.’ …

“In ‘Wattam,’ as in ‘Katamari Damacy,’ there’s an underlying sense of rebuilding the world, of correcting a past generational mistake. … Objects are drawn in the bold, rounded colors of infant toys sprung to life; they slowly and awkwardly wobble, bumping into one another and even crawling and climbing all over one another.

“There are occasional missions — retrieve a receiver to stop a telephone set from crying, or create a body of water to prevent the season of summer from being sad — but mostly ‘Wattam’ is about wonder: What happens if I climb a tree? What happens if I explode? What happens if I get eaten? …

“When he lays it all out, it becomes clear why one of the core abilities of ‘Wattam’ is holding hands. Solutions in the game can come just from creating giant dance circles, of watching the hand of a flower touch that of a crown. But be careful of the latter: ‘[inventory] descriptions tell us that those who wear a crown — those who flaunt their power — are ‘susceptible to losing it.’

“Upon arriving in Vancouver and discovering its diversity, Takahashi marveled that the city functioned without everyone warring with one another.

“ ‘For me, it was very impressive,’ he says of the shift in cultural points of view. ‘There were so many different races of people in Vancouver. They speak different languages, like different Asian or European languages. They speak English. They work together. …

” ‘I just believe that while differences make so many problems, it’s differences that make our cultures more deep, more nice, and make our perspective more wide. I just wanted to make a video game about our differences, but a game that would get over our differences.’ …

“While Takahashi’s ultimate goal for ‘Wattam’ may be to strengthen communication between us, he’ll be content, no doubt, if the game’s audience simply finds a greater appreciation in all that surround us.

“ ‘When I find a very nice very small object — beautiful fruit at the grocery store, or nice plants in the flower shop — I’m just happy,’ he says. ‘I don’t need to go on vacation. … I’m happy to just be in a peaceful environment. I’m happy to walk around the city and take the bus.’ ”

More here.

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Photo: Shirley Curry via Kotaku
A grandmother who plays the Skyrim video game has made more than 300 popular YouTube videos about her pastime. Her videos are said to be soothing.

File this article under “Never Too Old.” It’s a 2016 Kotaku story by Alex Walker that showed how one woman in her 80s became rather cutting edge.

“Unsurprisingly, Skyrim: Special Edition quickly became one of the most popular games on Steam over the weekend,” Walker reported. “And given that she had already established herself as a channel for older gamers and Skyrim fans, it made sense that Shirley Curry, aka Grandma Shirley, would return to Skyrim.

“Her 300th video highlights just how prolific the 80-year-old gamer has been when it comes to updating her YouTube channel. Her first Skyrim ‘Let’s Play’ was uploaded on September 18, and since then she’s received a Silver Play button from YouTube  —  a button given out to channels with more than 100,000 subscribers. …

“The Virginia-based grandmother … gained a following for [the videos’] calming, almost meditative quality.” More here.

I also saw this report from Elizabeth Tyree & Annie Andersen of WSET ABC television. They quote Grandma Shirley saying, ” ‘One of my sons gave me my first computer and he gave me a game, and he taught me how to use both and I got so addicted, I was playing that game day and night, day and night. He would say, “Mom you have to eat and sleep sometime,” Curry said.

“The Rocky Mount senior isn’t the only mature gamer. But she may be the only one with a huge cult following on YouTube.

” ‘It just went viral. I got on my email and it was like 11,000 emails and I didn’t know what to do. I sat here and cried,’ Curry said. …

“Her newfound popularity and the demand for her YouTube can be overwhelming.

” ‘Now, I just make my 30 minute recording. That’s about all I get to do. Because then I spend so much time reading comments and replying,’ Curry said.”

It’s good to have role models. I took up blogging in my 60s. It wasn’t because of the two old gals in wheelchairs who used to blog about politics in funny, unexpurgated language. But seeing them out there sure didn’t hurt. What other seniors have taken up something fun and different?

 

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Photo: Floyd Davidson
Genuine “Eskimo Kiss.” Iñupiat sharing a kunik at a Nalukataq festival in Barrow, Alaska.

For Asakiyume and others interested in inventive efforts to preserve the culture of marginalized groups, this New Yorker story may be of interest.

“Iñupiat people, a tribe native to Alaska, did not have a written language for much of their history,” reports the magazine’s Culture Desk. “Instead, for thousands of years, their culture was passed down orally, often in the form of stories that parents and grandparents would tell and entrust to their children.

“In recent years, those stories, and the lessons and values and history that they contain, have become harder to preserve, as the young people of the tribe, growing up in the modern world, have drifted further and further from traditional ways.

“[A new] video, which originally appeared on ‘The New Yorker Presents‘ (Amazon Originals) and is based on a story by Simon Parkin, is about a recent experiment in transmitting Iñupiat culture through a new medium: a video game … in which an Iñupiat child travels across the wilderness to find the source of the bitter blizzards that have been hitting his village.

“Before they began building the game, E-Line developers travelled up to Barrow, in northern Alaska, in the deep, dark cold of January, to meet with tribe members and to lay the groundwork for the project. The resulting game is called Never Alone. …

“Never Alone was created through a highly collaborative process: ‘We’ve had everybody from eighty-five-year-old elders who live most of the year in remote villages to kids in Barrow High School involved in the project,’ Amy Fredeen, the C.F.O. of E-Line, told Parkin. …

“As Clare Swan, who sits on the tribal council that had to approve the project, recalls, ‘We just said, “Shoot, of course it’s difficult.” Anything that’s worth it is.’ ”

More at the New Yorker, here.

I imagine that elders and students got a thrill out of this project in different ways. I would love to know to what extent their feelings overlapped. Did the elders care more about the preservation aspects and the children about making modern media?

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