I was thinking about some old games the other day, as I do. I was remembering Fighting Vipers, and it’s sequel Fighting Vipers 2. These are some games that were never very popular, overshadowed by the far more successful Virtual Fighter series created alongside Fighting Vipers by Sega’s AM2 arcade development division. Virtua Fighter is a precision tuned fighting game, built to go head to head with the Street Fighters and Tekkens of the genre. This a genre that contains as a staple, mystical martial arts experts that throw fire from their hands, so weird is relative. Whatever you might think of Virtua Fighter though, it’s, odd duck, little brother Fighting Vipers, is weird. And weird games are great.
I don’t know if there is another medium that has such a deep set tendency toward weird. I think it comes down to capability. Early on, video and computer games had to rely on a healthy dose of disbelief suspension. When you tell me that tiny pointillist light smear is Mario, I’m just going to have to choose to buy in. Before that, the hero in Atari’s Adventure was represented by a single square. Four edges, four corners, defeats a dragon. These were the limitations at the time so going weird or abstract is built into video games at the molecular level.
Now that there are mid to high end PCs powering every facet of the industry, a character that could be mistaken for an actual human is possible. We haven’t seen one yet, but it is possible. Here is where we hit a crossroads. There are a lot of developers that would love nothing more than to hear a player say “that looks real”. While it might be an interesting challenge to take on, a mountain to climb, I think it’s worth asking if realism is a thing that anyone really wants.
I can remember all the fun I had playing Fighting Vipers, or Saint Row 3, or Katamari Damacy, and I can remember being so glad that those games were weird. Weird in a way that evoked their evolution from the earlier days of Adventure, where a square could be anything, and all possibilities were available to explore. With all the fidelity available today, I’m happy that a lot of games are still weird. I think it’s an aspect of video games that sets them apart, and it’s worth celebrating once in a while.
If you have any favorite weird games, or weird game moments, let me know in the comments. I am always down to talk about weird old games.