Sometimes I wish I had four hands so that I could play video games while I knit. (When I really think about it, though, gaming while knitting would probably mean bad results all around.) My hands are almost always busy with needles, so when I do put the knitting down for a game, it has to be a pretty great game. And Katamari Damacy, in its various iterations, is maybe the closest thing to a perfect game to me.
This is a game with legions of fans, so I’m sure many of you have played it and love it too. For those who haven’t, the premise is sublimely bizarre: the King of the Cosmos has accidentally destroyed the universe, and you, his tiny prince son, are tasked with restoring the planets and stars by making new ones. To create a heavenly body, you roll stuff up on earth, starting with small objects like pushpins and parsley, and gradually adding larger items like teapots, cats, apartment buildings, and clouds as your ball gets bigger.
The rolling works in an easy, natural way, with your two thumbs on two joysticks pushing it forward. (Most of the games are for the Playstation, with the newest, Touch My Katamari, for the PS Vita.) With virtually no learning curve, this is a game that is instantly fun for anyone with two thumbs.
It’s the world of Katamari Damacy that really inspires me. It’s a world full of stuff, but that stuff is curated for maximum play and discovery. Roll up an egg, and it hatches out a swan as you do so, making your ball that much bigger. Roll into a school bathroom and someone’s on the Japanese-style toilet— you may not be big enough to roll him up yet, but you can snag the pile of toilet paper sitting next to him. Grow your ball giant enough to roll up the cosmos themselves, and you’ll encounter magical incarnations of the game’s characters alongside ancient Shinto deities.
For the most part, this is a specifically Japanese world, and much of the items you roll up are specific to Japan. The game’s attitude about its nationality is refreshingly matter-of-fact. After rolling up a pile of caramels, you might roll up an “octopus sausage,” the name of which will appear on the screen, but with no further commentary about what it is. I love how the Japanese developers neither tried to make the world more generic for players in other countries nor played up the Japanese-ness of the game as a big selling point.
This is a game with no bad guys, and no real failure. (You can get shamed by your cosmic father for not living up to his expectations, but once that’s over, you just get back to rolling.) The cosmos themselves don’t contain any good or evil, and nothing in the world is too small or too big to be in play. That’s a spirit that I strive to bring to my own creative projects, and I know I’ll always return to this game for some imagination fuel.
As you know, I went to Berlin in April, accompanied by my lovely sister-in-law Jenna. I was mostly there to make art and to see art, and Jenna was mostly there to locate this game:
That’s right, it’s a German game in which you get points for making a dog poop. We actually didn’t find the game in any of the many toy stores we stopped in, but Jenna managed to acquire one later via eBay. It’s pretty much as fun as it looks!
By the way, Jenna, who took gorgeous photos of my cats last year, has just moved next door to us in Brooklyn. If you’re in the area and have a pet and/or a kid, check out her beautiful photography website!
I just had to share this exciting news: John is in the new “Gamer’s Edition” of the Guinness World Records book!
As you can see, he set a record of the most Gamerscore points achieved on the Xbox 360 in a 24-hour period. His original purpose for playing randomly point-generous games on the Xbox for 24 hours straight wasn’t to set a record per se, but to prove a point about meaningless points for an article for Eurogamer.
This happened in May of last year, smack in the middle of the first heat wave that we had in NYC. (No air conditioning for us.) It was grueling for him, and not easy to watch once he hit hour 18 or so. The whole thing was pretty surreal, and the bizarreness was enhanced by the fact that one of the games he spent the most time with—and I’m not kidding here —was Hannah Montana: The Movie. (It gives you mega points right and left for riding a horse and doin’ your thing on stage.)
I took this picture of him at the end of the 24 hours, which had begun at 10 am the previous morning.
Congrats, John! Please never try this again.
You can keep up with my husband the games writer and TV critic at his blog.
Now that my show is up (and soon to be down, sadly!), I’ve had a little more time to do stuff with my hands other than knitting. Like gaming! I’ve finally had a chance to play Limbo, which I mentioned here a few months back. I’m really enjoying this game—it’s so beautiful and creepy! Definitely suitable for right around Halloween.
I love the spooky, lonely atmosphere of this game, whose visuals are entirely in shades of gray, with no dialog or even numbers or letters on the screen. It’s basically a puzzle game, with many unsettling twists.
I haven’t played this one myself yet, but it looks like a fantastic platformer, and the art is wacky and superb. You’re a little cube of meat in this game, and that comes with fun splatting sound effects and meaty residue that you leave everywhere you land. Even as a vegetarian, I can appreciate this.
Limbo is a new game for the Xbox 360 that I am eager to play when I find some spare time. Just look at this beautifully moody screenshot:
John just reviewed the game for Eurogamer, so I got some glimpses of him playing it a few days ago. I was happy to hear from him that the game lives up to its prettiness.
Looks like it is officially released tomorrow!