Trojan Tub Entertainment

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Epic Mickey

The devolution of the once-great Walt Disney Company continues with the release yesterday of a new video game featuring Mickey Mouse. Entitled Epic Mickey, it was designed by prominent game-designer Warren Spector for Nintendo Wii. With little sense of irony, the game features Mickey trapped in a dark world called “Wasteland,” the dustbin of old or no longer useful Disney characters, products and ideas. In Wasteland Mickey finds a nemesis in none other than the character who might have been the iconic cartoon figure that Mickey Mouse became—namely, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the rights to which Disney lost to his distributor in 1928.

But most interesting, and also most disturbing, about Epic Mickey is what Warren Spector had to say about the game, and gaming in general, in a recent interview with Guy Raz for NPR’s All Tech Considered.

What games do that other media can’t, according to Spector, is allow the player to make decisions that influence the action. In Epic Mickey, this dynamic of choice goes so far as to allow the player to decide what kind of hero Mickey is going to be: as Spector puts it, either a “sweet, friendly guy,” or the kind of hero who says, “I’ve got a world to save, I just want to do the most efficient thing possible.” At the end of the game, as Mickey’s personality and the player’s personality fuse, “every player is going to create his own unique experience, tell their own story, and define for themselves what makes Mickey a hero.” The reality, of course, is not quite so Promethean, as all the available choices—including (no surprise) the ability to turn Mickey into a “naughty” Mickey—are programmed into the game. But fostering even a virtual sense that a player has the power to manipulate Mickey’s character is itself alarming.  

The video game as an exercise in creative self-definition, transforming the very concept of heroism that we found, once upon a very different time, in Disney’s own Snow White.

As far as cultural shifts go, that’s epic. 

1 comment:

  1. Was anyone else surprised by the animator's claim that video games now have a place in culture that makes them "a force to be reckoned with"?