July 20th, 2016
Zootopia‘s differentiated animal society is a rich allegory that reflects issues of race, gender, and disability. Every element is anchored around these theme and it injects a sense of dynamism, variety, and depth that I don’t think I’ve seen in any animated movies before.
- Typecasting is natural in Zootopia‘s world because the animals are different species, yet the film is a commentary on issues of race, gender, and disability among humans, one species. This is an incredibly rich dynamic which the movie explores deeply through both its story and the details of its world. At the same time, it’s also a potential minefield for those writing about the movie.
- Is racism equivalent to speciesism? Is speciesism okay because there are strong biological differences between animals? Is segregation in employment okay if some animals are inherently better at doing some tasks than other animals? Is there more discrimination in the human world than the animal world? Is the difference between predators and prey in a animal world a comment on the eugenics movement? One of the reasons why Zootopia asks such challenging and interesting questions is because the animal world and the human world are not easily comparable.
- One of the reasons why it’s not easy to compare Zootopia and the human world is because Zootopia is equally as happy to satisfy traditional roles in the human world as it is to subvert them. The police force is full of masculine types (predators), while administrative roles are given to feminine types (prey), yet it is suggested that Officer Clawhauser, an overweight tiger (predator) who mans the front desk, is gay. Clawhauser’s role in helping the protagonists capture the villain is also far more significant than the more masculine characters. Finnick, Mr. Big, and Yax also have subversive character traits.
- Jude’s comments at the press conference and Nick’s reaction serve to demonstrate the power of language and how the taken-for-granted mindset can often undermine our own values. This scene was the highlight of the movie. Everything afterwards was simply going through the motions. Given the tone of the movie, I would have preferred a more unconventional third act over the stock “heroes defeat unexpected evil villain” trope.
- I loved the subtle examples of differentiated design, such as the smoothie stalls with the mini elevators that ship drinks up to the giraffes. Zootopia, as a world where diversity has been consistent through its history, offers us a potential glimpse at what a future society which caters to individual difference would look like.
- The range of animal types offer a great deal of visual and thematic dynamism to the movie, especially the differences in the size of the animals. The donut scene in the mouse village is an excellent example of contrasting worlds within the same city.
- I love the narrative cohesion and symbolism created through the “It’s called a hustle” line, which represents the power relations between the main characters. Nick tricks a naïve Jude, Jude outsmarts Nick, and the pair then work together to catch the villain.
- I don’t think we saw any monkeys in the film.
July 15th, 2016
Stolen Projects, the outfit which published Game Design Companion: A Critical Analysis of Wario Land 4, has recently closed. Yesterday I opened a Gumroad account to continue selling the book online. The new shopfront will also host future publishing ventures and I will continue to work with Daniel Purvis, the creative behind Stolen Projects, moving forwards. Feel free to direct any purchasing queries to my email danielprimed [at] gmail [dot] com.
I have also taken this opportunity to update the Additional Material page with links to Wario-related articles which I have published since the release of the book.
July 14th, 2016
Watch a few minutes of the video above. What do you notice about the nature of the environment? And what effect do you think these things would have on the player?
Here are some observations I made whilst playing:
- The wall textures look similar throughout Tairon.
- There are many realistically modelled doors, but most are static textures.
- Tairon consists of a network of winding pathways which branch out in multiple directions.
- The large hall near Military Gate looks appears to be a hub, but isn’t.
- It’s possible to dash around the rooftops, yet only about half of the visible accessible elevated areas are actually accessible.
- Blood splatters are non-permanent.
- When you revisit areas, fallen enemies respawn anew.
The visual and structural design, as well as the lack of permanency, make it difficult to orientate oneself within Tairon. Because most rooms are narrow and bendy in shape, it is harder for the player to define the room as a simple shape, a technique which is useful when organising the town layout into a mental schema (for example, “the big round room comes after the narrow walkway”). The samey texturing and lack of landmarks similarly deny the player the visual resources with which they can make each room in their mental model of Tairon distinct from the rest. The constant respawning of foot soldiers every second time the player returns to a room prevents one from using the presence of enemies as a means of monitoring their movement through the environment. And, finally, the doors and ledges deceive the player into investigating unnecessary dead ends. Tairon, as a site the player must traverse in various ways throughout the adventure, is a somewhat sluggish stop gap that punctuates the otherwise linear and forward-moving sets of Ninja Gaiden Sigma.