Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Episode 29: "Continuum"

update: as of 9/13/11 this video is found at THIS LINK

Episode 29 is now up at ScrewAttack...


http://www.screwattack.com/TGO/Continum

47 comments:

philosotaku said...

It's good to be able to put my collage education to good use!

As somthing of a Philosopher, I have to say, I have an issue, perhaps not with the idea discussed, but with the foundation of them.

I've never liked the theory of the Collective unconscious, for a very simple reason. It makes generalizations about humanity.

I have a large problem throwing 80% of people into a boat and casting out the remaining 20%, sort of my problem with American Medical practices in general.

Not to impose my own ideas, but I recommend both the Philosophical and Psychological work of John Dewey. In particular the idea of functional Psychology.

While I'd REALLY love to get into a discussion about this, this is a comment, not a table with coffee.


Great video though Bob (May I call you Bob?), I really did enjoy it, despite my disagreeing, I think you make excellent points, this is also the PERFECT follow up to Complex Issue, If you ask me anyway.

Looking forward to the next one friend!

Dylan said...

Actually, the email that Nintendo sent back to that guy was just a pre-written email to shut up fans obsessed with the timeline. Miyamoto himself has said that they have a basic timeline of how the games fit together, although I highly doubt it's as complex as most of us make it out to be.

AngrySun86 said...

Oh My God!
at 5:02, what game is that a screenshot of?

I remember seeing that game in my childhood, but cannot remember the title!

Anyway, good video.

Bob said...

AngrySun86,

5:02 was a rail-shooter called "Beast Buster." The one directly before it was a scrolling beat-em-up called "Gladiator." I haven't seen a Beast Buster cabinet in the "wild" in over a decade (there was a sequel nobody cared about in 2000 or so) but I think The Funspot (aka the American Arcade Musuem) in New Hampshire has a Gladiator machine.

For the record, the full in-order list of game screenshots in that sequence is: Pong, Donkey Kong, Dragon Spirit, Dark Adventure, Gladiator, Beast Buster, A Boy & His Blob.

Bobblegate said...

Another great episode! This may be your best one to date.

Thank you for cutting down on displaying text that we're suppose to read and you talking about something else over it. It makes for a better flowing, more comprehensible video.

JM said...

This video made me feel warm and fuzzy at the end. Even though I don't believe in a collective unconscious in quite the way that Jung described.

Jamazz said...

Yes, another great episode indeed. When I took psychology in college, I wrote a paper about Jung and some of his work. What intrigued me about his work was his theory about Synchronicity. Everything you explained about continuum or video game continuity seems similar to the broad aspect of Jung's Synchronicity theory.

I agree 100% with your video; If you are going to have a video game with a story, especially a game with an epic story that perpetuates... whether it was decided on at first or grew over the years... they are going to have a similar foundation just like everything else in existence.

soldierhawk said...

Oh my gosh. This video just about made me cry with happiness. Not literally but...oh. My. God. I am the biggest Joseph Campbell fan you will ever, ever meet, and I've certainly connected his work to specific games and stories before, but never, EVER in this meta-game kind of way. Thank you so much for this, Overthinker. You just made my week.

(Also, I agree with Bobble about less text we have to read while you speak. Much easier to concentrate and absorb what you're trying to say.)

Eric Taylor said...

This is one of your best videos yet. While there is a certain ethnocentric aspect to the Collective Unconscious (and indeed most aspects of psychology), the telling and retelling of stories is certainly a unifying theme in nearly any culture. Applying this to gaming is rather brilliant.

MFXD said...

Pretty much concurs with my belief for the Zelda series specifically. Basically, it's the LEGEND of Zelda, and each game is the retelling of the simple legend about the boy, the girl, the Triforce, and the man who is sometimes a pig.

Surprised you never mentioned Final Fantasy. There are people out there, although a minority compared to the Zelda fans, who will gladly show you how all twelve FFs (minus XI and XIV, presumably) fit together into one timeline.

And you'd also be able to get in a zinger about how they're all the same basic story of a hero who comes of age and takes on an Evil Empire.

Lance said...

Wow. Talk about learning something new every day. A Zelda Continuum?

Once I got rid of the image of Link on spaceship with a cyborg fairy going ”Hey! Listen. Resistance is Futile”, I started to realize how much a multi-game continuum goes against my established, nostalgia-encased view of the Zelda games. Zelda is my all-time favorite game series, but in all the years of playing I never even considered the idea that they were somehow all connected in a single story arc. I just assumed it was a re-telling of the exact same story with slight variations (even Majora’s mask has a lot of similarities). And personally, I am fine with that. In my mind, each game carries its own memories and associations, regardless if the narrative causes a bit of déjà vu. A Link to the Past (my first Zelda experience) was the first game I played for 12 hours straight; Ocarina of Time introduced me to that wonderful Song of Time tune (now my ipod); and the original Legend of Zelda was the first ROM I beat on my computer. Each game has its own special characteristics that do not require a narrative relation to justify owning it. Hell, when I bought Twilight Princess, I knew I was getting a game similar to the other Zeldas, and far beyond not caring, I actually delighted in knowing its basic progression. As I played the game, I sat there saying things like “First I beat the forest temple, and then I’m going up the mountain and getting me some bombs.” And later “Oh the water temple is next; I hate the water temple.” One time when someone asked me why I was going off the main path in weird direction I said “There’s a secret here.” “How do you know?” they asked. “Dude, it’s Zelda game,” I replied, “I know Zelda games.” And sure enough, there was a spider thing there (aka a secret). However, even though I love Zelda games in general, I have never played Wind Waker. This is partly due to the fact that I do not want to buy the Purple Lunchbox, and partly because I detest the cartoony look of the game. But since I view the games as connected in theme but separate in narrative, I was ok (if a bit angry/sad) with skipping a game and hoping Nintendo would return to the style I knew and loved. I didn’t feel forced to buy it because it was the next segment in the story (like Halo 2). My point/question is this: is a having cross-game continuum a good thing? I understand the appeal of applying stories to universes we like (as exhibited in the numerous Mario flash movies on Youtube), but do we really need an “official” story imposed on the Hyrulian epics? Why is justification required?

Of course, I would disavow everything I’m saying and immediately join the continuum camp if it would help get Midna in the next Zelda game. Midna is fucking awesome.

tl;dr: A Zelda Continuum? Why?

slomoto18 said...

I've always understood the Legend of Zelda to be like a modern myth. I've never understood how people try to get it to fit into a continuity. All those instances of characters like Impa and Tingle re-appearing are circumstances of characters re-appearing to play the role they were supposed to in the first game.

It is peculiar though that, unlike myths like Beowulf and Robin Hood, these stories are all made by the same visionaries using similar writers and coming from a similar source. That also has something to do with why we want there to be a continuity. We want Nintendo to acknowledge its own vast contribution to its impact on our collective game psyche.

But, just like any true visionary, Miyamoto chooses to keep his own views on the subject modest. Why make himself out to be a master craftsman. He's just a guy with a banjo, a garden and a cat.

JAcademica said...

Since it seems like you're not familiar with the series at all, I should probably mention that the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series IS pretty much based around Carl Jung's theories. Actually, Persona 3 and 4 are a lot more related to him than any of the examples you mentioned; in fact, his name is said once in Persona 3 and the story of all the games in the series revolve around "Personae" and "Shadows", terms that were, as far as I know, introduced by him.

I'm not sure if you should see this comment as something that could have been added to the video, a note that maybe hearing the name of Carl Jung when discussing videogames isn't that unexpected, or a recommendation of an amazing series of JRPGs. Either way, it's nice to contribute to one of these great, thought-provoking videos.

iNs1d3tRiP said...

Honestly, I couldn't disagree more. While to some degree I do agree that all myths are trying to "get at" certain truths available to mankind, I do think there IS a truth involved. Basically saying, of course all mythologies seem the same because they are trying to get at the same truth.

In other words I don't think you can simply reduce the Zelda "timeline" to a retelling of the same story. For example this basically says Zelda: Ocarina of Time has just as much relevance to Zelda: Link's Awakening as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time.

Playing the respective games is enough to exemplify this is not the case. There are indeed differences and I would say they largely come from certain presuppositions there are. Zelda and TMNT are trying to get to the same truth but have separate presuppositions about the truth.

I think this is why Zelda bother's so many people. Zelda isn't about a story, it's a LEGEND. Each sequel presents about the same story but because it's a legend it's impossible to actually express that legend fully in one single coherent storyline.

Meaning, that while Zelda and TMNT are both trying to express the same truth Zelda expresses it's Truth in a more comprehensive way because it is not limited to causality.

I know this sounds a lot like what you said, but I'm proposing that each Zelda title isn't a sequel but a different truth conveyed to get at the Truth.

I think if we reduce each Zelda story to the same retelling of the same story we oversimplify what it really tries to get at. Just as reducing all the Zelda titles to following a causally connected chain of events would also oversimplify what Zelda tries to convey.

Dapper Swindler said...

I would go ahead and label the Zelda chronology fanatics as losers. The reason is because they are obsessive enough to contemplate a timeline but not smart enough to grasp the reality of the situation that these games are driven by marketing forces and not some higher desire to create a coherent story chronology.

The fact is, chronology is bad marketing. Have you ever noticed how when any franchise reaches part 4 or part 5 they drop the numbers and instead go with a subtitle? Think of any franchise. They either all stop counting at 3 or are very hesitant to get to 5 (Street Fighter, Resident Evil).

The reason this happens is because direct continuity alienates new players. If you haven't played Silent Hills 1, 2, and 3, why would you jump in suddenly at Silent Hill 4? That 4 is too alienating to new fans. It's less intimidating to jump in with a title like Silent Hill: Homecoming or Silent Hill: Origins. This is true with movies too, of course.

For the same reason that titles can't be chronological, stories can't be directly chronological either in a game franchise. Most game franchises try to have it both ways. Wind Waker is vaguely connected to Ocarina of Time, but not in such a way that a new player couldn't jump in at Wind Waker. All the Castlevania games could be ordered in chronology, but you don't have to understand what it is to play a new game in the series.

In fact, very few game series have direct story chronology. A few examples include Xenosaga, Legacy of Kain, and maybe Halo (not sure, haven't played Halo).

Zelda has been a franchise that has been around for over 20 years. Many of the current fans of the series were not even born when the franchise began. Therefore, the franchise must constantly reinvent itself to attract new users. If the storyline followed a direct narrative from game to game for 20 years then it would only appeal to that very limited demographic that would have started playing it from the beginning. Thus, bad sales.

The reason I call the Zelda chronologists losers is because they are smart enough to dissect these games to death looking for clues but somehow not smart enough to realize that Nintendo is a business and as a business its goal is to make money - not to tell a story that will only apeal to a small demographic. It makes money by establishing a franchise based on familiar elements but at the same time appeals to new users by refusing to alienate them with story chronology. In this way, they can continue to make Zelda games for the next 100 years.

Blake said...

Nintendo has never been a company to provide great narrative in a game; BioWare and Valve are two good examples of companies who care about their stories and weave them together. Nintendo started making Zeldas, realized they were popular and took the care to make sure the gameplay and music were great in all of them. They also put a lot of effort into the story... in each individual one... not the entire series as a whole.

I doubt Nintendo has a timeline and really hadn't thought about it until the fans started pressing Nintendo on it. Miyamoto probably thought it would be pretty easy to put together... until he tried and said "Oh shit... we have fucked up this timeline beyond repair."

They have said that a future Zelda game will explain the timeline and how all the games connect together with multiple Links and however the hell it happens.

Personally, I would like to see the cohesive timeline, but I doubt we will ever get it. The bottom line is, the basic Zelda story is one that I'll always be happy to play and one that has consistently been beloved by Nintendo fans. The Zelda series serves as a model to new franchises of one lesson: have a story plan before you start making your series (much like BioWare did with Mass Effect). If you don't have a plan and just make individual games, the games may be great, and the series may be great, but your timeline and overarching story will be a disaster; just like Zelda's.

I doubt many people mind though.

Mark said...

wow, imagine my surprise to check and see a new episode so soon!

And a great one, it is!

I think the thing about Zelda is that it seems to *want* a continuity. Some of the games overtly reference others (WW to OoT, for instance), and the world subtly changes, as do the situations of its characters. This is not the case with something like, say, Mario. The Mario series doesn't seem to care about mythology and story. As a young kid, I remembered being confused when I heard about the SNES zelda game (is it Zelda 3, does it come earlier? why is it called ALttP?). When a new Mario came out, I never even thought about it for a second.

I think that's why the split-timeline-ers were so upset - the theory "worked" and the series seemed to "ask" for something like that, so people *want* it to be true. Although, on the other hand, the "its-just-a-retelling-of-the-same-legend" theory makes that assertion pretty moot. Where am I on this issue? I don't know. I like a good story, so I'd probably "prefer" there be a continuum for some of these games. But that's obvoiusly just a preference and I wouldn't care to impose that on anybody else, especially not Miyamoto and co.

BTW, that's a great definition of being a Geek. I love it.

Mark said...

Oh, I forgot to add that I think a true continuity only really works well if it is intended from the beginning, otherwise it can be constraining on the game.

Look at Castlevania. I'm pretty sure for the first four of five games they were just making whatever they wanted, not really caring about chronology. Later, Konami started caring about this, and the result is a tangled mess - Dracula is only supposed to rise every 100 years, so they go to tremendous lengths to create ridiculous reasons why he does so so much more often. In my opinion, this has served actually as a limitation to the series, and is probably why it seems that the new Castlevania game will be a reboot of sorts.

The same goes for something like Megaman, or MEgaman X, at least. They've become more story-centered as the series has progressed, but since there wasn't a really rich story foundation to base it all on, it too is a convoluted mess.

Even Metroid seems kind of limited by the fact that the metroids need to always be involved - how many times do they need to be eradicated?

This is in contrast with games that are conceived from the get-go as a part of a larger dramatic arc, although those are clearly few and far between (you know Xenosaga, Halo, arguable Metal Gear Solid (although I doubt it), possibly God of War... What else...? there aren't many!

Engineer said...

One of your most interesting and thought provoking episodes yet Bob. Well done.

hazlenaut said...

I hate to the annoying guy but you miss a spot in the Mario continuum. It hard to makes sense with the Mario games since throwing a red shell make it a homing missile and putting in your mouth and spiting it make breath out fire. The games you forgot were the Yoshi Island. Continuum help when figuring out the character knowing the adventures and the origin of that character know why that character is great. Ever since the sonic satam we now know when you put effort, think outside the box, and understand the character you can make great thing happen. Now only everyone can learn that so they make better fanfics and fan comics and movies in general.

hazlenaut said...

oh yeah for the zelda yes a movie can be made. and a split line is possible since the orcarina of time but I am not going to figure out that one,yet. It best to save your time and sanity for other problems. It does make an epic story with the cross over links (pun)

PsymonX said...

You're a very educated man. Hope people appreciate you videos as much as me.

S. James said...

Once again Bob, you astound me, I'll have to find a copy of that book. Also, I second the comment on the Shin Megami Tensei: Persona series.

squall lee said...

Very excellent video Bob, it really put into perspective the tendencies, and concepts prevalent in Nerd culture. And it even gave me ideas for my own writing.

But anyway, I do believe in the idea of the Collective Unconscious, in a way, doesn't it seem very similar to the behaviors of animal herds, like how they can all instinctively sense danger, changes in the environment, and the distress of fellow members, and are able to act accordingly? That's just an uneducated guess.

I'm also comfortable with the 'Hero with 1000 faces' theory. After all, if a story is worth telling, then that story should be fine regardless of where it takes place, and what names are thrown around in the narrative.

Amund said...

I'm a bit dissapointed. Came from your 2012 review where you called everyone who believes in world ending idiot jut to realize you think heroes from Gilgamesh to Harry Potter are the same people. This is really offensive ...
However, I'm quite sorry that the book you mentioned isnt available in my language.

Laura said...

I'm glad to see that a conversation involving Carl Jung and video games hasn't gone without mentioning Persona. I wrote my final paper for a psychology class on Persona 4's use of Jungian theory, and I've been searching for its continuity like the geek I am ever since - I certainly recognize my own habits in your definition, Bob. The PS1 Persona games included Philemon, a character drawn from a figure of the same name in Jung's writings, and 2 and 4 have drawn on his theories of the Shadow, the part of the mind humans suppress, consigning to the unconscious, forcing the characters to confront and accept these parts of their psyches. Persona 2: Innocent Sin actually took the collective unconscious and made it the setting of its final boss battle, against a god of the unconscious choosing to represent the characters' conflict with their fathers, a climax that put me instantly in mind of Campbell's Atonement with the Father.

Basically, I'm saying if you're interested in the kind of thought questions this video brings up, Persona can be a JRPG series to look at, but I'm being more long-winded than the two people who already said that.

bigjt_2 said...

Hey Game Overthinker, you pick up New Super Mario Wii this past Sunday? I know you were looking forward to it as much as myself? If so, what did you think?

mehnomae said...

Bob, this video seems to have gone missing.

Nathan said...

We geeks don't need to get lives, we have them. They just suck

Aaron said...

Sounds pretentious.

alphabet1 said...

This is quite the inspired post, Bob. While I do agree that Zelda's rehashing of the same basic story (boy/girl/villain) does satisfy Jung's "collective unconscious" and fits perfectly with Joyce's "mono-myth," I hope you're not implying that Nintendo was aware of this and used it accordingly.

Being humans, the people that run Nintendo are influenced by the "collective unconscious" as well, and that would explain why they unwittingly made use of this phenomenon.

Dapper Swindler, you make an excellent point in regards to marketing strategies, but I have to ask that you stop saying "the reason is because." It's redundant as hell.

=]

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Cam said...

Well I guess I can't call myself a geek any more (I don't think I ever did call myself one) since by your terms I'm not obessesed enough about stuff.

In some ways this is probably why I don't bring up lots of in depth discussion with my friends because they go so deep that I look at them and go "I'm sorry, what the fuck are you talking about? Dude step back to reality for a second and treat the damn thing like the game it is." Now this doesn't mean that I can't keep up with them, it's just that I don't give enough of a shit to think to far in to them, probably because I always default to Ogham's Razor in that if the explantion is too big and convoluted, it's probably wrong.

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imsmart said...

I see no reason to disbelieve that the Zelda games are in order already, and each game's version of Link, Zelda, and Ganon are entirely new characters (which reincarnate or something). Nintendo said so themselves until around Wind Waker. Still, theorizing is fun; one of my hobbies is taking something apparently meaningless (ie. the lyrics of a nonsensical song) and immersing myself in its details until I can convincingly demonstrate that it contains a shocking codified message. Still, this video is a great answer to those types who claim Nintendo is being uncreative by milking their existing franchises so vigorously and extensively. And if you think you're butchering Campbell, I usually describe his monomyth as "the hero gets dragged into something, meets other characters, discovers something useful, goes back to normal," and firmly believe I've missed nothing important.

The One Oh One said...

I was just searching the reason why Zelda was very confusing. I guess I unconsciously thought of it as a single story. I ended up coming across this video and it had me thinking about stories that games bring up. I agree with this video. I enjoy playing the Zelda games and I figured there was not a hidden meaning, but, just a tale. For example. In Wind Waker the opening speaks of a Hero of Time. In OOT, Link becomes the Hero of time. This connection made me believe there was as said, continuity as there is fact relating the two items. The only difference is Link in WW is Hero of Wind. And as you said before. All Heros are the same guy. This makes sense as to the lack, or in fact presence of a continuity. I dont really know what Im trying to point out but just wanted to say what was on my mind.

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