Hello hello! It’s that time again – a time of happiness and joy for one and all – a new installment of Total Access from your friend Travis Taft!
The game scene has been pretty consistent over here. I win some games, I lose some games, I take out a few bosses or gain a few levels. Yadda yadda yadda. I’m not complaining, but it doesn’t leave much to talk about. I love my games, there just isn’t much to be particularly excited about in the ones I’m playing right now.
Nothing too exciting with my games right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be excited for the games of the near future.
Some time ago, while the Wii-U was still about a year away, Nintendo announced plans to release a new installment of their extremely popular Super Smash Brothers (SSB) line for the new system (as well as a sister SSB title for the handheld 3DS).
That was all they said. No title for the game, no new characters or features, nothing. In fact, they specifically said that they hadn’t even touched it yet – only that they had plans to start working on it once they finished Kid Icarus Uprising for the 3DS. But that was all it took. In some way the game was already real, and the fans pounced on it. So how do fans interact with a game that is still years away? By flocking to the message boards.
Message boards have been a staple of the gaming community since early in the internet age. I have fond memories of scouring the web to find codes and combos for my SNES games. And the Walkthroughs… Each one a finely crafted love letter dozens and dozens of pages long, detailing every minute subtlety of the game. And they would usually he headed off with ASCII art that was probably made with the same care and attention as you see on the first letter of a fairy tale or other classic literature. All done with no expectation of compensation, simply out of a compulsion to make something concrete with their love for these games.
Somewhere along the way surfing pages of tips and tricks became frequenting pages of topics, but I’ve had an account at gamefaqs.com (one of the largest gaming boards on the net) for the better part of two decades now (I still remember when it was known as gamesages), and I rarely go a day without at least reading through some topic titles.
I’m more of what people refer to as a “lurker” than an avid poster – I tend to read the conversations more than contribute to them, unless I have something very specific to say, especially these days. But I was on the boards for Super Smash Brothers Melee and Super Smash Brother Brawl for ages before those games came out (and up until the next iteration was the new norm) and now the cycle has continued on to the latest installment.
At the moment I’m writing this, there is still extremely little known. We still have no title, let alone word on any new features. All we know is that Nintendo wants to do a dual release on the Wii-U and 3DS, they have recruited Bandai-Namco to help develop it, and as of today we know that we can expect something at E3.
But that’s more than enough for the message board community. People make threads on all sorts of subjects – speculative topics like what enhancements the new games will have, conversational topics about things the poster knows would never make it into the game, nostalgic topics about previous games in the series, silly topics verging on the edge of fanfiction, meta-topics about the message board and its users, and of course an explosion of picking through every word of interviews and every frame of videos the moment they are released to the public.
As anybody who has been on a message board will know, the occasional troll (somebody who says inflammatory things with the intent of riling up other posters) does emerge for reasons I will never truly understand. But on the whole these boards tend to become something like a family, with some frequent contributors becoming well known and developing a name for themselves and inside jokes that only members of the board would understand. They are self-developed communities all based on equal footing and shared interest.
As a disabled gamer, the “equal footing” part is particularly valuable to me. I’ve been on these message boards for at least twice as long as I’ve been in a chair, and the transition didn’t affect my message board experience in the least. My hands may not be up to the task of playing a lot of today’s games, but if I can write I can contribute. Heck – there was even a time shortly after leaving the hospital where I would post using voice-to-text software. And when so much of my experience these days involves people making assumptions as soon as they see the chair, having a corner of my life where people only judge me for my words can be a downright miracle.