Sunday, June 29, 2014

On the Politics of Pikmin

You know what's awful and tedious about being a journalist? Transcribing hours of interviews. You know what's a great distraction from transcribing interviews? Having a wonderfully thoughtful conversation on the nature and ideology of Nintendo's Pikmin series with my good friend and fellow recent Medill graduate Anna "Anne" Frank. So here it is, mildly edited.

Anna: I've been playing Pikmin 1 and wondering what stops Olimar from being some sort of slave master or cruel dictator to the Pikmin? Does he give them something in return? Or does he just employ them for nothing and makes them attack things for his own ends? How is this a positive thing?

Jordan: He gives their lives order and purpose. And without his guidance they'd be lost, weak individuals getting eaten by Bulborbs or whatever at night. Plus he helps their species propagate, although that's mostly for his own ends. It is mad colonial.

Anna: Ah yeah I see that, it can be seen as good or bad, depending on your philosophic views. The whole "they are too stupid to regulate their own lives and run their own society" is cute if you're talking about Pikmin, but not when talking about other things... What if the Pikmin rise up against him? Do they do that at all in 2 or 3? Do they ever have any agency?

Jordan: I haven't played much Pikmin 2, but I doubt it, which is crazy because the whole premise is Olimar's company sent him back to the planet to strip it for treasures. In Pikmin 3 you play as three other astronauts who have to rescue Olimar, but he got captured by some mother slime monster, not radical Pikmin which would be way more interesting. However, if you run out of days in Pikmin 1, the Pikmin resurrect Olimar as some kind of man/Pikmin hybrid which has some interesting implications.

Anna: Hmm, I do think that would be much more interesting, instead of a slime monster. But yeah, becoming a man/Pikmin hybrid would be neat because it gives him more compassion/empathy/brotherhood with the Pikmin. Maybe Pikmin 4? I want more Pikmin psychology to be explored, or for them to evolve somehow, develop new abilities/more thoughts, like the whole robot-learns-from-humans-to-be-human-and-then-learns-how-to-defy-them sort of thing. They probably don't want to vilify the Pikmin, but at least make them more than long nosed Furbies! Jeez.

Jordan: What if Pikmin 4 was like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and you play as the Pikmin version of Caesar?

Anna: Yes, that is exactly what I was thinking. And they can get James Franco to do voice work as pseudo Caesar owner/Oimar. And at first you love him, but he becomes your enemy. Same gameplay, you lead the Pikmin, but instead of collecting monster corpses to fuel your reign YOU COLLECT HUMAN CORPSES AAAHHHH!

Jordan: Semi-serious question, can I post this conversation on my blog? It's too good to keep locked up. I don't have to name you unless you'd want that.

Anna: Haha, feel free to do what you want. I think this idea deserves screen time as well. And I don't mind being named, I stand by everything.

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