March 19th, 2008

Warning: this is the post where I say potentialy bad things about Smash Bros. Brawl. Anyone who’s pregnant, suffering from a heart condition, or just likes to stone non-conformist game bloggers, I recommend skipping this one.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way: Brawl is great. It’s pretty, it’s a blast to play, and it’s packed with fanboy (and girl) pay-offs. Of course, it’s not perfect. Scott’s “Gripes and Glees” over at Joystiq pretty much sum up all my minor issues: controller confusion, character floatiness, an all-consuming love of stickers, etc. Like any other reviewer, I was psyched when it arrived on my doorstep, and I’m even more psyched to play it online with my friends across the Atlantic. But…

As great as Brawl may be, I don’t think it deserves the attention and energy it receives. No one is denying that it’s fun, and it’s always exciting to get the newest version of a cool toy–but in a lot of ways that’s all Brawl is. We can talk about new characters and levels and moves until we’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is Smash Bros. hasn’t changed all that much over the years. Yes, I know, consistency is important in a fighting game. Yes, I know it’s not supposed to be an innovative title. Still, does no one else seeing something off about treating it like the second coming?

Most of the time I’m a Smash Bros. supporter. It’s the first title I bought for the GameCube, so it has a place close to my heart. And like any good fan, I dig the ability to beat up the characters I know and love. But when you boil it down, there’s something very masturbatory about game. Here we are, huddled in our game culture, get super excited about playing a game built from other games. You could call it self-referential, or meta, or in-bred, but really it’s a multi-level circle jerk. Brawl gets worked up over other Nintendo titles while we get hot and bothered over our Nintendo fan-dom. The whole thing closes in on itself until every detail about the game is breaking news in the gaming community.

Of course, the more tightly the whole thing weaves together, the harder it is to bad-mouth Smash Bros. without leaving the game culture altogether. It’s called hegemony, yo. With that, I’m off to take out my frustration on some Brawl CPU’s. That’ll show… someone.

Tags: gripes, new games

5 Responses to “Brawl: Sweet New Toy or Gaming Masturbation?”

  1. Courtney Taylor Says:

    Personally, and though some people might shoot me for this, I’m not a big fan of the Smash Brothers series. I bought Melee for the cube to see what all the fuss was about a couple years ago. It was about a month before it was collecting dust I was back to old faithful, the Soul Callibur series. I just never could get into it, and after having played Brawl with a few friends… I still can’t. I guess it’s just not for some people.

  2. halfassured Says:

    I think it is perhaps a bit masturbatory, but I’m never opposed to that. I think video games themselves tend a bit toward that, and certainly the metaphor is instructive since I /like/ masturbating. I guess the question is, if you have a game where there’s less of this, is it /better/ to play that game — is the experience more enriching or whatever?

  3. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Courtney, while I do enjoy Brawl, I hear you on the Soul Calibur love. Maybe it’s the difference in layout, but I always feel I have more control/success fighting in the 3D format (and with Voldo, no less :) then on platforms where I often find myself forgetting just who I’m playing as or where the heck he/she is :).

    That’s a cool attitude, halassured: masturbation a-ok. I like it! It’s sort of like my approach to people who eat meat (I’m vegetarian): if you can accept what you’re putting in your body (it’s an animal, it used to be alive, etc.) and you’re still fine with it, then more power to you!

  4. Leigh Says:


  5. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Leave it to Leigh to be the voice of caps lock shock and disbelief :).

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