Waypoint 101 –– The Thing

So I finally saw the 2011 Thing and it’s reputation is what is deserves. Basically nobody remembers this. Positive are Tormund Giantsbane kissing an alien and a double-headed alien that’s a creepy effect. Negatives are everything else. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is usually more fun, she’s flat in this. The effects are terrible, maybe not an affront the original but unimpressive and often uncreative.

They have a good idea in imagining that the Thing cannot replicate earrings or teeth fillings. But it’s so meh.

Like I said in the other thread, I feel like the fillings/metal/anything non-organic is an interesting wrinkle in theory but falls apart basically immediately under any scrutiny. The thing easily replicates people’s clothing which is covered in zippers and other synthetic materials, so the idea that fillings or jewelry is a problem is… odd. Let’s not even get into the fact that bodies have metal and minerals in them by nature is doubly confusing.

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This is actually what got me to try Crimson Skies. I was flipping through what was available and saw it and remembered that some people really liked that game and I hadn’t played an arcadey plane game in awhile. While I only played 2 hours of it I see why people liked it and I can imagine this happening with other games I just randomly stumble across.

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I think part of why game re-evaluation doesn’t happen as often in the same way is due to the mechanics of playing games, both in the sense of what we consider game mechanics and also how we physically play a game. A book or a movie can be easily reproduced and engaged with in the same format or in a close approximation of the original format over and over, but older games either require the original console, emulation, or a re-release on modern hardware. In most cases, this only happens for something that already has at least some sort of buy-in from interested parties.

The other part of this is also that games, due to both being much younger as an artform than film and advances in technology, have rapidly changed in such a way over the past 30 years that engagement with older games, at least to me, feels very different. Think about the differences between showing a random person something like The Thin Man vs having somebody play through like System Shock. I also think it’s a lot easier to sit through a film, even one that has been shot in an unfamiliar way, than it is to play through an entire game (shout outs to the Puzzle Master’s struggles with RE’s tank controls).

Lastly, as an aside, I think it can not be stated enough how much art just disappears. Good art just disappears. We can say Vertigo and the Thing were unappreciated at the time, but they remained known after they were released until that re-evaluation occured. How many films and how many songs were released and then disappeared into the ether? I think a lot of re-evaluations occur when an artist is able to continue releasing art and then newer audiences go back and revisit their other works. How often, especially today, does somebody put something out and then is unable to continue building on those ideas because they can’t afford to?

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Preservation is and will definitely continue to be a hurdle for games in particular, for sure. As it stands any sort of mainstream reevaluation is limited to games that were popular enough to be ported or remastered (but not popular enough to be completely remade.) Emulation continues to improve but it remains in such a grey area that most people wouldn’t go that route.

Localization could also be a factor (though I’m sure that applies to film and literature as well to some extent); I’m sure there’s a PS2 era JRPG that people would love out there somewhere but the localized release only had 10,000 copies printed or something, along with plenty more that just never got localized at all. At that point it’s like, yea, actually finding this thing is hard enough (if you don’t know about emulators), let alone spending the time it would take to engage with it even if you did have it. Versus something like, I dunno, Plastic Love that just gets uploaded to Youtube one day 30 years later and hits the algorithm and you listen to it and realize it’s good even if you don’t understand the lyrics.

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I do think every so often a clip from a game makes it’s way into The Algorithm on YouTube and it gets a brief resurgence but that doesn’t really mean much other then people briefly talking about it and maybe someone makes a long form video.

What I think ultimately does change this is game streaming. Something I forgot to mention in my original comment is I did not install Crimson Skies, I just streamed it on my Xbox and I think after I was done it prompted me if I wanted to go ahead and install it. I could not tell at all that I was streaming the game but I also am fortunate enough to have very good internet. If Xbox cloud streaming can get to the point of being the Netflix of gaming I do think you might actually see a lot more revisiting of older games especially as consolidation continues and companies like Microsoft just start sitting on a trove of older games that while the IP itself may not have value in making a new game it’s just another title to throw on Game Pass.

If Google had not absolutely botched Stadia I could very well see a world in which you are watching a clip of a game and it just prompts you if you would like to start playing said game via Stadia using a subscription. Still scratching my head over that one considering every other company just wants to push SAS and not sell you an actual license of a product.

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I was motivated by Rob’s mention on the pod to rewatch Jacob Geller’s Fear of Cold video. It’s still great:

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I have to say, I woke up quite surprised to find a Waypoint 101 podcast on The Thing, but I’m quite happy all the same. Looking forward to seeing the crew cover the PS2 game and the OG 1951 film.

One note I will make is that I thought it was odd that everyone assumed that the thing was an intelligent being capable of space flight, like it comes from an advanced civilization that mastered interstellar travel. Given what little we know about it, I always felt it was far more likely that it just took over a life form that had a ship.

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