Art Games: Smash Bros is Serious Business

Without much doubt, Super Smash Bros is a game series familiar to many people who are familiar with video games. Known primarily for crossing over characters from Nintendo’s franchises (and occasionally other third-party characters), the series pits these characters into a fighting-game context.

The series has also been known to have a notable competitive scene that has launched several gaming tournaments dedicated to the games. However, some of the game’s developers have expressed concern for these competitive communities, citing the skill gap between casual and competitive players.

A proposal I have in mind for bridging the gap between casual and competitive play, while maintaining a sense of communal gathering, is to host a version of the game in the form of a puppet show. Partially inspired by Isla Hansen’s Motion Capture America (2015), which also involved puppetry and motion capture in the video game context, the player characters are represented physically by hand-made puppets. The movements of these puppets would be captured to move the on-screen characters on the stages, and particular movements would trigger attacks while physically moving the puppet would move the character on the stage (walking/running/jumping).

The idea of using motion-capture puppets particularly comes from the story-world elements presented within the series itself. The fighting game genre as a whole tends to be built like a theater stage, in which the elements shown on the screen are arranged 2-dimensionally. The fighters themselves are “actors” in the digital productions; additionally, they are also like puppets in terms of having to be chosen and controlled by the player. The third installment of the series even hints at this with it’s story mode, in which the characters are represented as inanimate “toy” trophies that come to life when needed to fight. (Check out this advertisement for the Nintendo 64 version, which represents the characters humorously in costume) 

Additionally, this form of motion-capture gameplay is meant to be seen as an absurd and silly form of playing a game that is often seen as highly competitive. Players can attempt to master the controls to play this form of Smash Bros competitively, or they can chose to play casually for the novelty of the controls. Either way, I would want the experience to be silly and light-hearted, as the game series often present itself to be.



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