Kamis, 31 Maret 2011

Tenancy Culture Studies: More Fun and Games

Renting is occasionally described as a mug’s game, a view we certainly don’t subscribe to, but in this entry into the Brown Couch’s growing library of tenancy culture studies we delve into games inspired by renting.

Of course, we have previously mentioned the ultimate property-related game of Monopoly and it’s ancestor, the Landlord’s Game. However, there are in fact two very different games with at least as many, if not more, players than Monopoly that are relevant to our interests.

In 2008 Monopoly fans across the globe set out to break the world record for the number of players playing at the same time. They achieved a respectable 3000 according to Hasbro. Somewhat embarrassingly for the wannabe property developers and occasional landlords however, at that exact moment there were something more than 1.5 million people playing “Fight the Landlord”, or Dou Di Zhu on online platforms such as TencentQQ and GICQ.

(Dou Di Zhu on the popular QQgames platform)

The game involves three players. One player is the Landlord, the other two form a team of Peasants. The object of the game is to have a player on your team shed all their cards first. This is done through a system of hands much like other climbing games (Australians may know Big Two, or Bullsh*t).

Dou Di Zhu has its roots in the Cultural Revolution- and the name reflects Landlords position in Chinese society at that period. As members of the “Stinking Old Ninth” and the “Five Black Categories”, landlords were subjected to some fairly horrendous treatment at the time. Unfortunately, the modern names for the two teams have on occassion been changed to the Cop and two Bandits. The possible cultural inference is not lost on us here, with the Landlord becoming the law-enforcing Cop and the Peasants (or renters) being criminalised into Bandits!

But let us not dwell on that unpleasantness- we have come to the big one. Not just bigger than Mr. Monopoly or Mickey Mouse- bigger than any pixellated character ever.

It's a me, Mario!

Yes, it’s Mario. The various Mario games had in 2010, only 19 years after the first release, sold at least as many copies as Monopoly has in it’s 80 year history. It’s hard to put a precise number on, since appearing in around 200 different titles, this fubsy little landlord is adored by hundreds of millions around the world. Wait a minute, I hear you ask, landlord? I thought he was a plumber!

Lest you think I’ve gone off the rails a little bit, let me take you back to 1981. Shigeru Miyamoto had created Jumpman, also known as Mr. Video, the carpenter featured in Donkey Kong. Nintendo America was localising the game for the American market when Mario Segale, their landlord, burst in upset about back rent that had gone unpaid. In honour of their beloved landowner, Nintendo settled upon Mario as the name.

(Mario Segale as a young man)

I don’t hang the connection solely on the namesake however. Mario, like many landlords, considers himself something of a handyman. A plumber? Well, so he says- he does do a little in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (2003) when he fixes the piping system in Beanbag castle. Before or since? Nothing that could actually be called plumbing.

He did famously start out life as a carpenter in Donkey Kong. He also does a stint as electrician in Hotel Mario (1994). So plumber, carpenter and electrician- what could possibly go wrong? Well, somewhat worryingly, there were two stints as a demolitions expert in Wrecking Crew (1985 and 1998).

(l-r: Dodgy wiring practices at Hotel Mario; Ryan Wood's artistic rendering; Mario in Wrecking Crew mode)

In short, Mario fits the bill of the worst stereotype of a do-it-yourself landlord, telling you all the things he can do, and never doing any of them properly.