Friday, April 29, 2016

Ep. 21: The Inevitable Immortality of Man

It's apparently Amateur Philosophy Night at the bar this week, as Josh and Emily spend a lot of time discussing concepts like living archives and probably less time than they should have on video game music. They'll return to less weighty topics in upcoming episodes, but in the meantime, try to humor their rambling. Also, although Emily managed to make it through this episode despite being three days into a relentless migraine, she's definitely slowed down and more easily confused than usual. So that's fun!

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This episode was made possible by:
Game Track Title Composer(s)
Rayforce VISION Tamayo Kawamoto
Alien Target Intro Bartek Wroblewski
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon Blood Dragon Theme Power Glove
Super Castlevania IV The Submerged City Masanori Adachi, Taro Kudou
Xenogears Dazil - City of Burning Sands Yasunori Mitsuda
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island Above Ground Koji Kondo

...and listeners like YOU.


  1. Xenogears is a great game, or at least it tries really hard to be a great game. The last half of the game is notorious for having endless text and cutscenes to cover a lack of funding to complete the game. In fact, I've never beaten it because I got to a boss battle (on the second disc) and was too underleveled to beat the boss and there was literally no way to grind. I guess that part of the game is a known thing too. So if you do play it be careful with the saves!

    That said, it's still a great game, beautiful world building and graphics, and the battles are really unique in how they are fought. The song I put in is from a city in a desert where they are digging up gears (mechs) that were buried in the sands by an ancient race. I'd say spoilers but this is pretty early in the game so don't worry!

    1. Digging up mechs buried by an ancient race? This game just keeps getting better!

      That stinks about the boss, though. It's amazing that you could paint yourself into a corner like that, but I've heard similar things happening in certain Final Fantasy games where enemies scale to your level. I will be very careful with my saves, thanks to you!

  2. You were mistaken when you said that Nathan99 is not related to the other Nathans. Much like how one fungus sends up many shoots, but has a common body underneath, Nathans everywhere are connected to a metaphysical wellspring that is impossible describe in known language.

    Loved the Power glove track. I have one of their albums, and I love that they use a lot of synths and samples from classic 80's sci-fi and Hard-Boiled Asian action films. There's an awesome song called Streets of 2043(available on iTunes) that has voice samples from Streets of Rage 2 and some arcade game I don't recognize....and the track ends with an audio clip from Last Battle(the Genesis localization of Fist of the North Star).

    For those who haven't played the game, you deliver the death blow to some bosses by hitting them rapidly(very cool stereo effect), at which point fist-sized boils appear all over their body, then they explode. Even though I've neither seen nor heard the game since about January of 1991, that sequence was so jarring to my young brain that I immediately recognized the sound when I heard it in the song.

    Josh, you were wondering out loud if a particular animal or insect had the brain capacity to store games of a particular size. This is not directly related to brain size, but a few weeks ago I read that Technicolor recently encoded the 1902 French silent film "A Trip to the Moon" in artificial DNA; they showed a vial of a few drops of water which was said to contain a million copies of the film. The achievement is based on research conducted at Harvard in 2012, in which they were able to store about 700 terabytes of data in one gram of DNA material.

  3. Emily, please forgive the devil's advocacy, but would you say that your longing to be able to present your memories of other people as an archive is self-centered? To clarify, is it because you think the perspective you have of certain other people is a unique and important way of seeing these people that is somehow essential to understand the core of who they are? Put another way, is the important aspect of your memories of these people the fact that they're from you?

    What if you and another person shared a particularly revealing memory about a third person, one that showed how compassionate this third person was. Would you be content if person #2's memory was saved because it was somehow more accurate? Or what if your memories of a person were somehow inaccurate, and that person was a real bastard? Would you still want your recollections saved, and if so, why?

    I'm not trying to play the barfly for its own sake; I was just really interested in the comments you made on the show and I'm interested in understanding their impetus a little more. I used to have a lot of similar thoughts back when I kept journals. I'm not exactly sure why the thoughts left, although I think my children took them. Spouses and especially children have a way of relieving one of superfluous thoughts and functions, like shucking husks from corn.

    There's a great line in Interstellar that I can never remember exactly. The main character is talking about having to leave his kids to go into space, and he says something to the effect of, "Our purpose in life is to become the ghosts of our children's memories".

    When I was a lot younger, I had at one point considered becoming a monk. I was attracted by the opportunity of being able to focus all my time and energies on ascetic endeavors and spiritual advancement. But my main hangup, and I'm serious here, was the anonymity. Like most young 20-somethings, I had delusions that I was going to somehow make some grand difference in the world. I remember actually asking myself if I could stand become essentially "white trash in a robe". The younger Naka-kun would have bristled at the quote from Interstellar, but I think it's right. The most meaningful my life will likely get will be knowing that I emptied myself out for others, primarily my children and my wife. I'm finally getting to the headspace where I can appreciate the value of that.

    I'm not insinuating that your motivations are the same as mine were; they sound more altruistic than I ever remember being. I'm just sayin'.

    1. And just to clarify, when I say "self-centered", I don't mean selfish.

    2. Don't worry Naka. I get what you mean -- and I've even had the same thought!

      It's funny that you bring up the concept of prioritizing memories for preservation, because that is a central conundrum in librarianship. The simple fact is that we cannot archive every letter, book, interview, or object, and thus we must make difficult choices about what to save and what to leave behind.

      This quickly becomes and ethical issue, because if librarians are not aware of their own personal biases when they ascribe value to information, they may over- or under-represent certain demographic groups, topics, genres, etcetera. It is literally our job to avoid that pitfall, because history is only that which persists, and we are the champions of persistence.

      In my scenario of wanting my memories to remain, however, I'm engaging in some very detached and rather extreme magical thinking and pretending we have infinite storage. I'd want all people's memories to be preserved, and none to be emphasized over others. That way, the patron of the hypothetical memory archive can decide for themselves what interests them, and then find any existing memories that relate.

      When I say that I'm sad that my personal memories of people will vanish, it's a very uncomplicated feeling. I just want it to be possible for people to know how much someone has meant to me, or understand the wonderful things they've done, or feel the wonderful feelings they've made me feel. I just want it to be possible that someone, somewhere, someday -- even just one person -- might relive this affection.

      And really, that is the heart of this podcast. We're dedicated to (obsessed with?) collecting patron memories and broadcasting them to a greater audience. The more information Josh and I preserve about how people relate to their video games -- the emotional, sentimental, day-to-day recollections -- the more our own memory archive grows, and the more people can connect with each other through common experiences and learn from the different ones. We're all building some kind of greater understanding together.

      This is also why Josh and I are making a push for more +1s and new track recommenders. The more individual voices we can preserve, the more heterogeneous our archive becomes -- and that is always the goal!

    3. What an incredible answer! And I'm sure you've mentioned this in some way before, but it hadn't occurred to me that the show is somehow the a perfect product of your function as a librarian. More than *just* curating video game tracks, you are curating our memories. I guess it's obvious now, but was that very real connection between your job and the show obvious to you when you began?

    4. It was a deliberate thing on my part, and here's why. I've done a lot of research on video game preservation, which is a big, confusing problem. Consider this: when an object requires interaction to be experienced properly, what exactly do you preserve? What aspect captures the most "authenticity" of a thing which is so incorporeal and user-dependent?

      You could preserve the source code, but that is only foolproof if you still have the machines that the code was written for. You could recreate the game by programming it in an entirely different language, but this preserves nothing of the original game's coding or content. You can emulate the game by creating a virtual middleman, but then you'll have to keep producing new middlemen on a constant basis as current technology keeps changing. Each method is good, but ultimately flawed in some way.

      But there is a researcher (whose name I'd have to look up, sadly) who is a big proponent of a certain theory, which I agree with: that the best way to preserve a video game is to film people playing it.

      What's intriguing about this is the paradox that generating video footage effectively removes the entire point of the medium -- its interactivity -- but yet it captures the most context surrounding the experience: the players' reactions, the machinery in use, the time period as represented by such things as furnishings, the players' gaming behaviors (e.g. how one held the peripheral, whether or not people ate while playing, the spectacle of four people cramming on a couch to have game night together), and so on.

      It's like going to a museum and looking at an ancient vase. You can make some pretty educated guesses as to what that vase was used for, but you don't really know until you see some period-specific paintings of villagers carrying those vases in funeral processions, or using them to water crops, or filling them up with coins.

      So that's what I wanted to do with patron testimonials. Sometimes I think about how a lot of objective information about video games will be preserved: the physical console, recordings of the music, reproductions of the artwork, etcetera. What I wanted to try to do was contribute to the effort of making sure the personal significance of video games (with a focus on the music) was being recorded as well, so that it might be remembered that children danced around their living rooms to Biohazard Battle, that kids gave their parents CDs of music from games they used to play together, that malls would leave arcade cabinets cranked up to 11 so that movie-goers would get the Stage 1 music from Rastan stuck in their heads.

      Anyway, I apologize for the super-long comments. I'm going to try to keep things more succinct in the future!

    5. Bah! Here is where it makes sense to use as much space as needed to get your point across. I like that you're viewing the curation of memories as important as the subjects of those memories. It gives me pause, though, that the vehicle by which this curation occurs(podcasts in cloud storage) is at least as volatile as the original games. I hope you're saving those recordings! :)

  4. First off, great episode. I love the selections! Y'all have some mighty fine taste! I wanted to address the death and knowledge base and memory conversation you have had in this episode and subsequent episodes. Emily has talked with me before in forums and I would like to think that she has a vague sense of who I am as a person and my personal tastes and preferences. I think that, if you put yourself out there and express yourself to the world honestly, you are instilling your knowledge base and passions onto others. You enthuse and communicate your emotions clearly and it sways others to see your perspective and to know you. When you die, you truly can't transfer your thoughts and emotions to another, but you can give them a better sense of who you are. I spend every day engaging people in conversation and having intimate discussion that gives them a better understanding of myself and of others. I feel like it is important as a human being to be open about yourself and it leaves a bit of you in those you encounter.

    Also, think about this. You are leaving behind a podcast and an internet footprint that gives an indelible mark on who you are for others. That should be a bit refreshing right?

    Also, Josh! I am so happy that you finished Mother 3 and enjoyed it. It is a very strange game, which I hope to experience and already have my +1 coming so I can enter in a chance to own it. Earlier last year, played Earthbound and initially wasn't very impressed with the game. With the coming of my first child, I decided to fire it up again and play it while I held her napping. The game had a whole new light as a parent watching over these children and their adventures and before I knew it, I was engaged in a way I thought was not possible for this title. It quickly became one of my all time favorite games, thanks to my new perspective as a parent and when the final credits rolled, I will admit I was teary eyed. Anyways, thanks for putting this up as a raffle and good luck to everyone who participates. Whoever does win it, make sure to let us all know how you liked it here!

    1. "I feel like it is important as a human being to be open about yourself and it leaves a bit of you in those you encounter."

      That's pretty much what it's all about!

      I feel great about leaving this podcast as an internet footprint, because the content is mostly other people's memories. I'd love for future archivists to listen to these recommendations and testimonials and really understand how video games have touched people and factored into their daily lives. It's one thing to have a physical console preserved; it's quite another to have a photograph of kids actually using it in their 1980s living room with some bowls of Kix and their pajamas on. It's all about context, and that's what all you lovely patrons are providing.

  5. VISION is exactly why I love podcasts like this so much. I might have NEVER heard this track before. I received full on chills, and hair standing up when this started up. What a jam!