Pop Culture Series: Nintendo Switch

By James Wargacki, Learning & Research Services

Nintendo entered the current video game console generation with a bang when it released the Switch on March 3. This new home/portable console “hybrid” is the culmination of over 100 years of experience in the entertainment industry for Nintendo.

Founded in 1889, the Marufuku Company made a name for itself in its native Japan as a manufacturer of cards for the game Hanafuda. The Marufuku Company was able to survive the economic turmoil in Japan after World War I and World War II due to the relatively low cost of manufacturing and distributing card games. In 1951 the Marufuku Company changed its name to the Nintendo Card Company and began its path to gaming innovation. A shortage of paper in 1953 led Nintendo to develop plastic playing cards, and in 1959 the company released various sets of cards with licensed characters from the Walt Disney Company.

Over the years, Nintendo continued to expand further into the entertainment industry with board games in the 1960s, the electronic Beam Gun series in the 1970s, and arcade games such as Donkey Kong in the early 1980s. Also in the 1980s, Nintendo developed its first handheld console under the Game and Watch product line.

In 1983 Nintendo released its first home console, the Famicom, in Japan. Two years later the Famicom was released in the United States as the Nintendo Entertainment System which began the company’s legacy as a home entertainment powerhouse around the world. In 1989 Nintendo expanded their reach to the handheld console market with the release of the Game Boy. As the years passed, numerous competitors such as Sega and Sony came to market with their own entertainment consoles such as the Sega Genesis, Sega Game Gear, and Sony PlayStation to challenge Nintendo’s dominance. Although Nintendo has not always been the market leader in the home entertainment industry, their well-received hardware like the Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, and Game Boy Color paired with strong first-party software titles from the Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, and Metroid series have contributed to their continued success throughout the years.

The peak of the company’s popularity began in 2004 with the release of the Nintendo DS. The DS included many innovative features such as an integrated touch screen, Wi-Fi connectivity, and backwards compatibility with older Game Boy titles. Two years later Nintendo released the Wii to great critical and commercial acclaim. While the Wii had less processing power than its competitors, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, the innovative motion controls and strength of first-party titles such as Wii Sports and The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess appealed to casual gamers and longtime Nintendo fans alike. The Wii and DS would go on to sell 101 million and 154 million units respectively.

Nintendo’s follow up consoles, the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, ended up at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of financial success and critical reception. The Wii U’s major selling point was its proprietary gamepad. With various buttons, triggers, and control sticks surrounding an integrated touch screen, the Wii U Gamepad opened up new gameplay possibilities in the form of asymmetric multiplayer experiences and the ability to play some games directly on the gamepad. Poor battery life and a lack of compelling software caused the Wii U to greatly underperform compared to its predecessor. The 3DS continued Nintendo’s history of innovation with the inclusion of a glasses-free stereoscopic 3D screen. The new technology was impressive and critically well-received but resulted in a high initial cost for the console, low battery life, and sometimes led to eye-strain and dizziness for its users. While hardware updates and price drops contributed to the 3DS selling over 65 million units, the Wii U was discontinued in early 2017 after selling only 13.5 million units.

The Switch builds on Nintendo’s history of innovation in hopes of replicating the success of their most iconic home and handheld consoles. The central feature of the Nintendo Switch is the hybrid design which allows gamers to connect the console to their television using a docking station and also allows them to undock a seven inch tablet for gaming on the go. The included pair of Joy-Con controllers can be used individually or in tandem to allow gamers plenty of flexibility in how, when, and where they would like to play. Multiple Switch consoles can connect using local Wi-Fi or Nintendo’s online services for multiplayer gaming, and the Nintendo Switch also works with the company’s popular Amiibo line of interactive figures. Gamers are able to experience new entries in established franchises such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Bomberman R, and Just Dance 2017, along with new titles like 1-2-Switch.

Celebrate the release of the Nintendo Switch by checking out some of these games, books, and other items from and about Nintendo and the video game industry.

 

Games

Smash Bros. Melee

Smash Bros. Brawl

Super Mario Galaxy

 

Books

Portable Play in Everyday Life: The Nintendo DS

Playing to Wiin: Nintendo and the Video Game Industry’s Greatest Comeback

Replay: The History of Video Games

The Golden Age of Video Games: The Birth of a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Philosophy Through Video Games

God in the Machine: Video Games as a Spiritual Pursuit

Trigger Happy: Video Games and the Entertainment Revolution

Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

 

CDs

Super Mario Galaxy Official Soundtrack

Legend of Zelda Majora’s Mask Official Soundtrack

 

Scores

Super Mario Series for Piano

Legend of Zelda Series for Piano







THIS JUST IN: Lions, Tigers, and Pegacorns, Oh My!

Age of the Womanimal, published for the Garden of the Womanimal/Caroline Paquita exhibition at the Booklyn Art Gallery from April 12 – June 18, 2014.

By Yvette Yurubi, Research Assistant

In following this year’s #BeBoldForChange theme for International Women’s Day, we wanted to highlight one of our more recent and unique acquisitions from Caroline Paquita and Pegacorn Press. Caroline and her collaborators have been publishing zines together since the mid-1990s. These works showcase femininity and sexuality in a raw and brazen way, and capture the female body in all of its many shapes, forms, and sizes, while also tackling the experience of being a woman in today’s society. The exaggerated, cartoon-like designs blend with their uninhibited approach to art and serve to capture women not at their most demure, but at their most feral and expressive, unencumbered by traditional gender roles and society’s seemingly impossible-to-achieve beauty standards. There is an elegant absurdity to her work that completely divorces the notion of being a woman from any regulatory definition and instead represents women as untamed, unapologetic, and unashamed of their own female form.

Garden of the Womanimal, published for an exhibition at the Booklyn Art Gallery from April 12 – June 18, 2014.

On the moniker of her independent press, Caroline states that Pegacorn has “embodied the wild spirit that I wanted the press to embrace – a feral beast, and one that wouldn’t just print and release ‘boring’ work by ‘socially acceptable’ people who have always had opportunities to have their work put out. I wanted artists to feel there were no restraints on what they wanted to put out with Pegacorn Press, and that they had the freedom to make whatever they wanted – that they could be as weird or as wild as they wanted.” Her run of Womanilistic, in particular, with its unhinged and frenetic art style, perfectly encapsulates the ideas of unabashed freedom that she wants to encourage. The style achieves this by using close-up ink drawings of the female anatomy and women wearing bestial features in a manner that is explicitly treated as empowering instead of insulting.

Taco Time, from Womanilistic #3

Several women’s issues are conveyed through abstract images in this set of zines. The themes range from body image to sexuality and gender inequality, taking an evocative stance that emboldens readers to not shy away from these topics but rather to lay them all out in the open for discussion. The resulting images and text elicit a dialogue about modern perceptions of gender and trying to transform the norm by rampaging through the idealistic and encouraging self-expression in an unrestricted sense. These zines also offer a welcome glimpse into the celebration of being a woman in a society where the definition is ever-changing and where barriers are constantly being shattered.

We invite you to come enjoy International Women’s Day every day with us here in the Special Collections Department. Located on the eighth floor of the Otto G. Richter Library, the department is a place where anyone can learn more about women’s history by exploring our growing collection of feminist zines and artists’ books.



Pop Culture Series: Mardi Gras and Carnival

By Jay Sylvestre, Special Collections Librarian

Floats, parades, dancing, masks and elaborate costumes, beads, alcohol, and Dixieland jazz: these sights and sounds are all synonymous with Mardi Gras, which is French for “Fat Tuesday.” Celebrated just recently on February 28 of this year, Fat Tuesday is traditionally known for its colorful blend of religious and pagan festivals.

Mardi Gras has been observed for thousands of years in various forms throughout Europe. Recognition in North America began in 1699 with the Le Moyne brothers, Pierre and Jean-Baptiste, while on an expedition to reinforce French claims to the Louisiane territory. The first organized Mardi Gras was held in Mobile, Alabama in 1703, but it took until the 1830s for the city of New Orleans to officially endorse the festival. In the early 1740s, then Governor of Louisiana Marquis de Vaudreuilthen introduced the elegant society balls that became the model for contemporary celebrations. By the late 1830s, New Orleans’ Mardi Gras festival included the flambeaux, a gaslight torch bearer who lead all of the parade krewes. Since its earliest days, Mardi Gras has evolved and grown into the grand cultural event that we’ve come to expect each year.

When used as a backdrop for movies and television, Mardi Gras is often interpreted and portrayed in socially relevant ways. The “All on a Mardi Gras Day” episode of the HBO show Treme (2010) captures the intense and conflicting emotions during the first celebration following Hurricane Katrina. Movies like The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Interview with the Vampire (1994) use the festival and city of New Orleans as a lush, supernatural setting. In the counterculture road film Easy Rider (1969), Mardi Gras is the target destination for the two outlaw protagonists. Even famous “Who’s On First” comedians Abbott and Costello dropped in on Mardi Gras for their 1953 film Abbott and Costello Go to Mars. However, instead of landing on the red planet, the duo accidentally end up at the lively street party in New Orleans.

Carnival, which is sometimes confused with Mardi Gras, is actually the name for the season that runs between Epiphany (Three Kings Day) and Lent in the Christian calendar. The Mardi Gras festival marks the end of the Carnival season. Not to be outdone by New Orleans, many Caribbean and South American nations have their own Carnival celebrations. Trinidad and Tobago, Puerto Rico, and Cuba have notable Carnivals. The most famous Carnival festival takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Rio celebration attracts millions of people every year and accounts for approximately 70 percent of the country’s tourist visits. Even the birds of the 2011 computer-animated movie Rio end up at Carnival in Brazil.

Although Carnival season just passed, you can revisit the revelry of Mardi Gras anytime by grabbing yourself a slice of king cake and digging into these book, DVD, and music selections.

 

Books:

Masking and Madness: Mardi Gras in New Orleans

Mardi Gras Indians

Mardi Gras, Gumbo, and Zydeco: Readings in Louisiana Culture

Blues for New Orleans – Mardi Gras and America’s Creole Soul

Trinidad and Tobago, our ’83 Carnival and Calypsoes

En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean

 

DVDs:

Skyros Carnival: 2004

The Princess and the Frog

Cuba on Fire: Mythologies and Origins of Carnival

Tchindas

 

Music:

Mardi Gras [sound recording]

New Orleans Jazz and Second Line Drumming

Carnival! [sound recording]