Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Simpsons and the Evolution of Video Games Part One

The arcade game promotional material
(6/3/2016) --- There is no doubt that The Simpsons (1) is an iconic item on the history of Americana contemporary culture, the show had influenced pop culture due way the episodes are written and the hidden message that are related to mathemathics, physics, biology, contemporary events and popular trends.

The show has marked a hit and is impossible not do deny that; but on the other side of the franchise, The Simpsons games haven't done as memorable as the show itself. The first game of the series was "The Simpson's Arcade Game (2)" and it was actually quite well received because it gave the viewers for the first time a glimpse into play of The Springfield they saw on the television.

The Arcade game was eventually ported into DOS as well into the Nintendo System, Commodore 64 and almost 25 years later was ported into the iOS for a short period of time; it offered some minor variations between the different consoles that where available of the day but it kept the same essence.

As the game was developed before the producers thought the show was going to become a full fledged series, the hinted some degrees of separation of Matt Groening previous work of Life in Hell (Groening 1977-2012) by adding as an Easter Egg of Marge having rabbit ears below her hair and only visible when electrocuted. The platform side-scrolling game was later emulated on third generation consoles (4).

It wasn't going to be until six years later with the use of the McIntosh and Windows systems that would let the player explore in a pseudo 3D enviroment the grounds of Springfield with Virtual Springfield (5) but it wasn't until 2001 that The Simpson's would finally experience their first immerse 3D enviroment game with The Simpson's Bowling(6) and later the idea of 3D was explored with the Wrestling game which was panned by critics as well much of the fifth and sixth generation games with probably the only exception of Hit and Run which offered an interactive storytelling and the ability to travel around Springfield more engagingly.

GBA Road Rage
Road Rage could be one of the best examples on why so many the franchise games are plagued with problems on a critical and commercial level, is true we have to consider that the last game in a console was on 2007 which was The Simpsons Game, the same game based on the movie which didn't looked too much like the movie.

Road Rage was probably one of the best examples as the gameplay copied another franchise Crazy Taxi and only applied the concepts into the game settings. The overall problem with Road Rage is that it doesn't have a solid story-line, it is just weak and it sets the characters into a a map where they are trying to buy back from Mr. Burns radioactive buses; why they want to buy some buses that are impossible to be reused again? Who knows? All of this at the end is solved as Kang and Kodos playing a game and the entire game is just a piece of meta-fictionalized Springfield that can be situated on a strange Halloween non-canon episode.

The Simpsons Game
The Simpsons Game probably in terms of story telling is one of the worse (7) as it varies to different extremes on what consoles is played, one example is by lacking of hubs and a concrete story line. The Xbox and PS3 versions varie differently from the Nintendo, even the Nintendo versions vary among themselves as the Wii version doesn't look similar or shares anything in common with the DS version.

Is the lack of cohesion that places' the franchise games into an absolute oblivion because after the year 2007. The handheld games haven't been free of critiques but also they had seem to be stuck for a little bit longer, one example is Tapped Out which was made to capitalize the popularity of the freemius games (8), yes they aren't free and that's been a point of the stagnant grow of Tapped Out as well clones such as Quest for Stuff (Cary, 2014).

Tapped Out has offered some innovations, at least partial ones; the game had offered some nods to the series and had introduced minor characters first into the game as well story's but the game dynamics are short and don't offer anything new with the exception of some seasonal events. There is nothing much to expect of a freemium game itself, albeit it's fun to see how the game links episodes to events.

The evolution of The Simpson's video games is extremely similar to the show, it follows mostly the current trends but at the moment it don't follow any of the current consoles but it has developed a solid fanbase with Tapped Out. The problem with the consoles as it was mentioned it's the lack of immersing enviroment and lackluster sales, plus there are no news about any new consoles game with the exception of a DLC content on LEGO Dimensions (Barker, 2015) that expands a level into a Springfield.

Whenever with the new consoles by 2017 will bring new games with the yellow family, is difficult to know. There are no sources of information about any upcoming games at all but the future is always quite bright, because if developers and writers of the show take a more interactive and maybe episodic approach a la Life is Strange, it could bring the popularity of the games back.