Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby kodi » Sun Jun 07, 2015 6:32 am

I always assume the first 4-digit door code I encounter in any game is "0451" (from system shock 2, referencing a book title) and it's usually correct.

Anyway I agree with wildweasel, pop culture references and jokes in general are good if they're, well, good 8-)
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby wildweasel » Sun Jun 07, 2015 8:30 am

kodi wrote:I always assume the first 4-digit door code I encounter in any game is "0451" (from system shock 2, referencing a book title) and it's usually correct.

There's a more subtle one in the original System Shock, too: when Rebecca Lansing sends you your first email message, she addresses you as "Employee 2-4601." 24601 was Jean Valjean's prisoner number in Les Miserables.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Doom Juan » Sun Jun 07, 2015 12:58 pm

............?
Last edited by Doom Juan on Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Dancso » Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:28 pm

Doom Juan wrote:Your concern is that you fear one day all your favourite retro games will look as bland as brown British wallpaper in the 1970s.

Uh, no?

I was pointing out how it's becoming very common for games to reference oneanother, often in an obvious way, whereas in the past these things were mostly done via hidden easter eggs.
My argument was that by making these references part of the game's content / enviroment, they are taking away from the game's unique atmosphere potential.

As I'm a video game developer myself, I'm starting to feel bad about doing the same thing, and I wanted to gauge the response of various people. (thank you all for the input btw!)
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Xaser » Sun Jun 07, 2015 3:59 pm

leileilol wrote:Retro City Rampage is a nice example of how to not do it (doing it all relying on it for the whole plot) in an unoriginal tryhard kind of way. I can't stand playing it and I was looking forward to it for years since it was a homebrew NES rom in development stashed away in a corner on the SCI Studio website.

Heh, just posting to say I totally agree with this. The game looked awesome but when I tried it, it was all "holy fucking shit I just went through like eight different referential custcenes in a row and I have no idea what's going on and what the shit am I even playing." I never picked it back up.

re: the OP, if it's hamfisted, it's gonna ruin the immersion. Stuff like 0451 or Konami Code easter eggs (so long as they don't show up in the friggin character dialogue :P ) can be cool, though -- it's the subtlety.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Doom Juan » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:03 pm

Dancso wrote:
Doom Juan wrote:My argument was that by making these references part of the game's content / enviroment, they are taking away from the game's unique atmosphere potential.

As I'm a video game developer myself, I'm starting to feel bad about doing the same thing, and I wanted to gauge the response of various people. (thank you all for the input btw!)


Let me just check to make sure I've got this right: are you concerned with the fact that game developers are all using the same 3D tree model rather than designing their own unique one?
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Project Dark Fox » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:22 pm

I think you need to re-read the entire OP. You don't have a handle on the point of this topic at all.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby XanderK9 » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:29 pm

Doom Juan wrote:
Spoiler:


That's not even remotely close to what he was talking about. He was talking about referencing a game or whatever cultural stuff in another game right in the open. Easter eggs, like a secret location based from Super Mario Brothers in Dying light or Minecraft in Borderlands 2, are one thing, but breaking the fourth wall so many times by keeping to reference stuff at the front end can be very tiresome.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Trance » Sun Jun 07, 2015 4:50 pm

kodi wrote:I always assume the first 4-digit door code I encounter in any game is "0451" (from system shock 2, referencing a book title) and it's usually correct.

Shock nerd here; the code in SS2 (opening the first coded door in the game) is "45100", since door codes in SS2 were 5-digit. However, in the first game, the door codes were 3-digit, and the very first door code in that one is "451".

[/pedant]
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby DoomRater » Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:14 pm

Inclusion of a Pop Culture reference pretty much guarantees that historians will be able to date your project, so I guess there's that?
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Big C » Sun Jun 07, 2015 7:42 pm

leileilol wrote:Retro City Rampage is a nice example of how to not do it (doing it all relying on it for the whole plot) in an unoriginal tryhard kind of way. I can't stand playing it and I was looking forward to it for years since it was a homebrew NES rom in development stashed away in a corner on the SCI Studio website. Bloodline Kavkaz is probably more subtle with its 'dank maymays' than this game is with references.


The worst problem with that in RCR is that some of the references are from post-Y2K media! How immersion-killingly and gratuitously jarring can you get?
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Doom Juan » Mon Jun 08, 2015 2:58 am

XanderK9 wrote:
Doom Juan wrote:
Spoiler:


That's not even remotely close to what he was talking about. He was talking about referencing a game or whatever cultural stuff in another game right in the open. Easter eggs, like a secret location based from Super Mario Brothers in Dying light or Minecraft in Borderlands 2, are one thing, but breaking the fourth wall so many times by keeping to reference stuff at the front end can be very tiresome.


I don't play enough modern stuff to even make an actual judgement, and was drunk last night so I didn't quite understand the thread anyway :P
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby NeuralStunner » Mon Jun 08, 2015 12:53 pm

I can't stand having a bunch of referential stuff in a serious work. Though the occasional joke is fine as long as it's a plausible thing to happen or be said. (Example: Assassin's Creed 2, when you first meet Uncle Mario.)

Of course, in a game that doesn't take itself seriously to begin with, references can add to the fun... As long as the game has a good humorous identity of its own to begin with. TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is a great example of this.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Blox » Tue Jun 09, 2015 9:58 am

NeuralStunner wrote:I can't stand having a bunch of referential stuff in a serious work. Though the occasional joke is fine as long as it's a plausible thing to happen or be said. (Example: Assassin's Creed 2, when you first meet Uncle Mario.)

Of course, in a game that doesn't take itself seriously to begin with, references can add to the fun... As long as the game has a good humorous identity of its own to begin with. TimeSplitters: Future Perfect is a great example of this.

Yes, it all depends on the degree of seriousness in the game.

But other than that, I would stay far away from The Newest Dankest Trends, since in the time of the internet those things grow old exceptionally fast.
If you absolutely want to make references, then don't be afraid to make references to more obscure literature, and some classic ones here and there.
The degree of subtlety also depends on how serious the game is, although it is never a good idea to go overboard on the HEY LOOK THIS IS A REFERENCE GET IT HA HA I AM SO FUNNY train.
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Re: Pop culture references in games: Fun or Cliché?

Postby Reactor » Tue Jun 09, 2015 10:54 am

I believe there are key differences from reference to reference. Some stuff are not Easter Eggs or any kind, they're just cheap attempts for in-game advertising and shameless self-promoting. For instance, hiding a subtle text in a level with the "tag" of the maker of the level (great example is Levelord in Duke Nukem 3D or "Duv" from the 4th episode) is fine. Plastering the walls with "Team TNT" everywhere is just plain sad.

Same goes for in-game advertising. Having a few Visa or MasterCard logos on cash registers won't hurt anyone, or a Baby Ruth in the bottom of the pool (or a piece of turd, if you like it better). Advertising something notoriously bad to make fun of it - for instance, Action 52 - is also OK. Advertising or promoting a commercial game as it is, however, is not right I think. No wonder most games use fictional-named firearms and fictional weapon companies (Zicca, Microsol and so on).

Also, referring to very obscure and non-so-widely-circulated popcult fads is a bad idea generally. Even the famous "All your base belong to us" meme got many people puzzled as they simply didn't know what does it mean.

And, of course, there are those stuff which are incorrectly marked as Easter Eggs, even if they're not in reality. For instance, if someone titles a level "Magnetic fields", it won't be immediately a direct reference to Jean-Michel Jarre. Or an in-game message with "missiles flying over your head" or "vulgar display of power" in them shouldn't be taken as Easter Eggs either. The author might have liked these phrases, and put them in the game without any intentions of making them Easter Eggs.
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