By Mento 7 Comments
All right, so I'm just doing a short blog (but is probably going to be really long, because that's what always happens when I say something like this) this week to test out the new blogging tools. The site has too many kinks in it right now to commit to anything too elaborate or extensive. You know, because these always have so much effort put into them normally.
So since meteors on everyone's minds after what went down in Russia yesterday, I'm going to write a bit about them. Everyone loves inanimate space rocks, right?
I Keep Wanting To Type Urals as Urinals
The meteors striking the Urals region of Russia is truly outstanding to watch, if one were to peruse the various YouTube clips coming from the area. It's perhaps even more outstanding to listen to, with those massive booming noises followed closely by windows shattering and pets freaking the fuck out. It's almost a little unreal, in fact.
We don't really know what to expect from a massive asteroid collision with the Earth. We have historical samples, from which we can extrapolate the precise level of devastation such impacts caused in the past. We have the best scientific minds using this information to make accurate (one would expect) hypotheses of what would happen if rocks of various sizes, of various mineral compositions and travelling at various speeds hit various spots around the globe. It's sort of crucially important to know what to expect should we ever be faced with such a scenario, because ducking and covering can only do so much. Of course, there are all the trashy Emmerich and Bay movies that bombastically over-sell fictional asteroid collisions for the sake of box office revenue and seeing what their fancy million-dollar CGI technology is capable of, but even then it's hard to fault their accuracy when we as a species have only lived through a scant few asteroid crashes of any note, and fewer still that we've managed to record for posterity's sake. Shit may, indeed, get that real for all we know.
It's probably not healthy to be too fascinated with, or fixated on, extinction-level events. Like, just in general. Meteors are a collective bunch of entirely inert and unfeeling Swords of Damocles that hang over our heads and could annihilate us at any time, with whatever brief warnings our best telescopes and telescope engineers (engiseers?) can garner in time. Even so, it creates a vivid depiction of how the human race as a whole might kick the bucket some day, and games are savvy enough to explore anything that might give us the jibblies.
Meteors Bring Death
One of my most favorite regular occurrences on Twitter, that oft-maligned micro-blogging website that really doesn't need a double-comma digression to explain anymore, is reading @mattbodega explain/complain about what's currently happening in his utterly inexplicable "Final Fantasy VII is a cornerstone of literature" class in whatever his video game media course might be, a no-doubt expensive college program that will be rendered entirely superfluous by the greater accomplishment that is interning (twice!) for the best video game website on the planet. It's worth following the erstwhile Kingtern in his travails, partly because they're funny, but mostly because it shows just how ineffective academia is at structuring a course around what is an increasingly relevant artistic medium that could really use the influx of creative and well-informed writing talent that I can't see classes that pull shit like this or this really engendering. It sounds every bit as awful as the course I took, and that no educational progress has been made in a decade is something of a troubling issue as far as video games are concerned. As is the fact that it's been almost a decade since I graduated. Wait, seriously? FFFFU-
But anyway, when Final Fantasy VII isn't being the be-all and end-all of the maturity and complexity possible of narrative fiction in a cutting-edge modern medium and how it symbolically reflects societal mores of the era, it's also a big dumb fairytale about a guy with silly hair who doesn't remember who he is, but has to stop another guy with silly hair from crashing a big rock into the Earth because of mommy issues. Meteors have been a big part of JRPGs before now - Lavos of Chrono Trigger and Dark Gaia of Illusion of Gaia, for instance, but also as the usual (presumably economic class) method of travel for dimension-hoppers in Final Fantasy V, an earlier example from the same series - but in Final Fantasy VII we get a more realistic portrayal of the world in peril from an apparently inescapable meteoric fate. The party and Shinra's upper management are aware that there's a silver-haired goon at the source of this incoming strife from the clouds, but for all the rest of the world knows this is a random meteor that will cause the end of all things. It helps focus the final act of the game, where the protagonist finally shakes himself out his game-long stupor and a united party works in tandem to end a much more overtly cataclysmic threat.
Standard stuff, but then no-one said Final Fantasy VII was art. Besides Kessler's professor. The Kessfessor? Dude needs to chase his PhD after this so I can start calling him that. I imagine all he needs to do is write a 20,000 word thesis explaining the plot of Final Fantasy 8. Godspeed, buddy!
Meteors Bring Life
Another popular sci-fi trope, one that extends beyond the scope of video games but doesn't exclude them, is how a meteor might carry with it some green (or occasionally purple) glowing alien goop that causes all manner of strange mutations down on Earth. It might be a little bit of a cop-out to introduce some magical junk from space to kick-start whatever "X comes to life" story you have in mind, but science hasn't actually entirely discounted the idea that all life on Earth began the same way. I mean, the origin of life is still one of the big mysteries we've yet to fully explain. We can probably discount colossal bearded dudes who just got bored one day, or giant bald albino aliens who disintegrate themselves after leaving us co-ordinates to deadly biological weapon facilities, but there's no telling where our true origins lie. Yet.
In Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars, this is precisely what occurs. A meteor lands, bringing with it a glowing phlebotinum that causes all fungi to gain sentience and apparently everything else to go irrevocably insane. The player moves through the colonies of various mushroom life, such as the friendly Boletes, the brutish Morels, the imperial Amanita, the samurai-esque Shiitake (because that joke wasn't too easy) and one particularly malevolent Lepiota that serves as the chief antagonist. It's yet another Wii game with a lot of personality and imagination, and like its contemporary Deadly Creatures depicts the grim and gruesome world from the tiny perspective of a lifeform beneath the notice of us haughty, enormous humans.
Just to throw a few more examples out there: The two lifeforms I mentioned earlier, Lavos and Dark Gaia, which caused many lifeforms on their respective new homes to evolve faster and in unusual ways. There's the Phazon meteors of the Metroid Prime series, which also created new lifeforms and in Metroid Prime 2's case, caused the formation of an entirely separate "dark" version of the planet of Aether.
Meteors Bring... Talk Shows?
As previously implied, the "glowing green meteor causing mutations" is something that's existed in sci-fi for decades. It's become something of a nostalgic cliché among sci-fi fans, their affection for which brings up cases like Maniac Mansion, in which the culprit and the entity pulling the strings of the Edison family is none other than a malevolent purple meteor, who becomes oddly preoccupied with Dave's cheerleader girlfriend Sandy and the other women of whatever familiar everytown berg Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnock pieced together from their beloved B-movies.
Presuming the player isn't stupid enough to microwave radioactive pool water or incur the berserker wrath of Weird Ed and find one of the few premature game over screens (or, to be more exact, an eternal stalemate state in which everyone is dead and buried and no longer accepts the player's commands), they can arrive at one of the game's many endings, based on how much they've discovered about the mansion and its inhabitants and who they chose to bring with them at the start of the game. While the regular ending has Dave and the others summon "the meteor police" to take the calculating, recalcitrant calcite into custody, you can also give it a book publishing contract and let it earn its fortune in a manner that's more legal than kidnapping nubile young women though every bit as inexplicable. Or you can do both, and let it be hauled away in the middle of a talk show to its eternal chagrin. Have I ever mentioned how good LucasArts was in its heyday? "Like a thousand times," you say? Pfft, fine.
The One Little Bear That Can Save Us All
Finally, even though I've spent a lot of time talking about our inevitable demise from a catastrophe from the stars, I want to end this blog on a note of hope. For there is one creature on this Earth capable of sending a meteor back where it came from with a mighty swing of a Louisville and that creature is, of course, Winnie the Pooh.
Though old news as far as the internet's concerned, this Winnie the Pooh baseball flash game from the diabolical pits of Disney of Japan starts simple enough but ratchets up the difficulty in a manner that at first seems to ask for some absurdly precise reaction speeds beyond most preschoolers, and then manages to ratchet it even further by having certain characters break down the goddamn walls of reality itself and pitch balls that curve unnaturally through the air, undulate wildly in a manner not of this plane of existence or just become invisible partway through its journey to Pooh's waiting bat because why the fuck wouldn't that happen in a Winnie the Pooh baseball game meant for children. If this is a regular day on the diamond for the honey-loving bear, then seeing an enormous meteor bearing down on him would not elicit even the briefest of "bother!"s out of the unmoved ursine.
Compared to the destructive power of the pitches of Christopher Robin (or, perhaps more accurately, the eldritch entity that has assumed its form), the Chicxulub meteor is a mere pebble.