Loaded Questions is a regular feature at Game Bias. If you have a question you would like to submit, please email it to email@example.com or tweet it to @jedpressfate. Questions can cover anything closely or tangentially related to video games or art, including but not limited to criticism, culture, and politics. Questions may be edited for clarity.
Daniel Cánovas: Out of the games you’ve played, which ones were the longest with the least amount of trivial content? RPGs preferably.
Jed Pressgrove: Off the top of my head, my picks for RPGs of this sort would be Final Fantasy VI, Earthbound, Final Fantasy Tactics, Fallout 2, Planescape: Torment, The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, Dark Souls, and Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia.
Nathan Osborne: After the 2016 election, I heard some people say that one small consolation of a Republican administration is that the culture (music, movies, literature) gets better. A lot of this commentary was centered on the hope for a revival of protest music, but not all of it. There was almost a vague sense that artists, usually open-minded and left-leaning themselves, get challenged into higher terrain when faced with gross reactionaries. So do you notice anything like this in the video-game world? Do Republican or Democratic presidents make for better video games?
Jed Pressgrove: My gut reaction is that people who said the Trump administration will inspire better culture were being hopeful at best and naive at worst. For instance, I don’t think music or film has gotten more interesting since Trump’s election, especially if we’re talking about popular artists. And look at the output of musical and film artists during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Both Democrats and Republicans controlled the executive branch multiple times throughout those decades, but the quality of pop music and pop film in the United States was consistently vibrant during that 30-year stretch. Art is better because of style and execution, not because of whatever the artists might be reacting to. It’s how they react that matters, and right now, music and film seem awfully safe and pandering as a whole, and that’s what capitalists want.
Here’s something to consider specifically in the context of video games: everything isn’t political. Yeah, some people love saying the opposite, but that’s their knee-jerk revolutionary side talking. Here’s where I’m going with this: 2017 was considered by many to be a great year for video games. But when I look at some of 2017’s best games — such as Topsoil, Splasher, Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle, Steamworld Dig 2, and Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders — I don’t see much political meaning or inspiration at all. And as for top-notch 2017 games that were ostensibly, if not undeniably, political — such as The Norwood Suite, Nier: Automata, Pyre, Golf Story, and Torment: Tides of Numenera — can we assume that Trump was always a major driving force for their development?
I do think games like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Far Cry 5 were partially inspired by the Trump administration and people’s reactions to it. But those games have questionable value in almost every respect. So there you go. Artistic style and execution, ahem, trump political inspiration.
In short, people who spend their days and nights thinking politics, politics, politics will say just about anything that they think will impress and patronize their buddies.
Doggie: What makes shooters great to you? And why do you think Thunder Force VI is criticized heavily?
Jed Pressgrove: I do believe a lot of shooters are crap. It’s an overcrowded genre, so it’s a simple thing to fall back on because of its history and popularity. But what I like about great shooters is their kinetic brilliance and their ability to tap directly into our animalistic “fight or flight” instincts, to paraphrase Defender and Robotron: 2084 developer Eugene Jarvis. The shooter is one of the earliest video-game genres, so we can learn much about the potential of the medium by understanding them. Beyond that, they’re a very absorbing type of art, an intense experience. And look at some of the notable auteurs who have created shooters: Jarvis, Masanobu Endō (Xevious), Dave Theurer (Missile Command and Tempest), Shinji Mikami (Resident Evil 4). Check out my 15 greatest shooters list if you haven’t. I go into more detail there.
Haven’t played Thunder Force VI, so can’t comment.
Serge Soucy: What’s your favorite arcade cabinet?
Jed Pressgrove: Missile Command. Most of the time, when it comes to cabinets that I like, I’m drawn to some good-looking art or an attractive form of advertising. Missile Command’s cabinet gets my attention in a far different way. The art on the cabinet’s side is superb, but I’m more drawn to how the control layout makes me feel like I’m part of a battle station. I wish I could have played it back in the early 1980s (I was born in 1984) when the Cold War was still on everyone’s mind, but even when I played a Missile Command cabinet last year, I still got a strong sense of what it meant politically and culturally. It’s a cabinet that appeals to something far greater than the taste of an aesthete.