Thursday, 9 April 2015

Video game textmode art part 17: Unicode art from China!

But first, the exception that proves the rule... Amber Coal, whose work you have seen earlier in this series, is currently running a textmode art game jam that will hopefully yield some subjects for further posts on this topic (not that I have any lack of subject matter!) If I'm really on top of my game, I might throw a fragmentary ZZT project their way, we'll see.

So. ANSI art. Textmode. I know what you're thinking -- that ship has sailed. But what if I were to tell you that more work in this medium is being made today than in any time in its prior history? And hebre's the kicker: it's in China, and the language barrier is totally obstructing cross-pollination and diplomacy between our western textmode art scene and their buzzing hive. The reasons are unclear -- word trickles out about massive multi-node telnet BBSes allowing anonymized discussions on political matters in contentious areas such as Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan in a fashion allowing them to duck censorious interference from the Great Firewall of China. But as far as the particulars go, we're all incredibly hazy. One thing we know for sure, though, is that though they're using a different character set (Unicode? Somewhere mattmatthew remarked that a picture looked like ... "Big 5" I believe it was?), the same perverse human impulses arise and the users have taken the opportunity to use textmode shapes and punctuation marks to make colourful pictures. (Here's an overview that raises more questions than it answers.)

Check that -- the second thing we know for sure: one popular subject for these textmode pictures is video games. Because of region-specific marketing, they're not necessarily fans of the same games and systems that we are, but it's all just different faces of the same coin. It's all centered around the somewhat straightforwardly-named website at http://ansiart.org/ (correction: that's just for China, just now learned about the unknown and untapped-by-me Taiwanese counterpart at http://ansi.loli.tw/, drat!), and illiteracy of the language and alphabet there means that getting elbow-deep in the archives and pulling out meaningful content can be quite tricky to achieve. But some symbols transcend cultural barriers...

Oh yeah? Who are those guys? Sega? What did they work on?
I don't know that anything remotely associated with the Sega Saturn was ever celebrated by a Western textmode artist. It must have been a bigger phenomenon over there. But what about the distinguished competition?
Nintendo 64! Not bad! But they were both left behind by...
This crazy industry keeps chugging along, though, so the PlayStation 1 was quickly countered with...
and then who climbed into the ring to struggle against Nintendo's GameCube but the dark horse...
Oh, that wacky XBox -- what intensity would you like its logo in? But I digress. What is a game hardware manufacturer without a couple of solid game development studios releasing for their market segment?
Namco has been doing it in style since nearly the beginning, a family name thanks to Pac-Man.
Square also was a name not to be underrated, unstoppable until they decided to branch into the feature film industry.

It gets stranger, though: reproducing the iconography is one thing, but why not go a step further and render depictions of the actual console hardware in textmode characters up on this screen? In chronological order...

Nintendo's Super Famicom ("Family Computer")

Sony's PlayStation 1 (what Sony ended up throwing together after Nintendo failed to deal with them in good faith on a CD-ROM for the aforementioned Super Famicom...)
Sony's PlayStation 2
Nintendo's GameCube
... and its controller, naturally!
Microsoft's XBox
Nintendo's continuation of its unbroken line of handheld dominance, the Game Boy Advance
and we skip lightly across a couple of generations to the present day, with Nintendo's current Wii U.
This is all just preliminaries, my friends. In my next post on this topic, you'll get to see some characters from the games played on these fabulous machines, topics somehow even more compelling than plastic boxes and corporate logos!

And one further parting digression...

#PyramidHead #SilentHill #SlenderMan creeping the background #cosplay #FanExpoVancouver

A photo posted by Chenoa ManyColours (@many_colours) on

Presented without comment, basically. I don't really understand fan conventions and have never felt the urge to cosplay, but this was a local event and it seems like it would have had some overlap with my interests. (Then again: I thought I liked Star Trek until I went to a Trek con.) I was just explaining to my partner how I would rather play the old games than go to a hall in order to listen to people perform heavy metal versions of the games' soundtracks and watch women disrobe in videogame-themed burlesque routines. They're related interests, but it's kind of a dilution to me (... says the man who blogged about his Pac-Man wallpaper!)