Sunday, November 14, 2004

Idle Animation

Kelly's school was closed for Veteran's Day (and Friday too, for teacher conferences). I knew about this last weekend, so last Sunday Kelly and I made a field trip to buy a game. We started by looking for something educational, but couldn't find what she wanted, so we ended up getting Pokemon Colosseum, a game that's been on her Christmas list since it came out. Kelly's got limits on how much television and video game time she can burn in one day, but we lifted it for the two-day school vacation.

Now Kelly plays games pretty intensely. Without a brake on her involvement, she'll play for hours at a stretch. Too much of this is not a good thing, and she eventually becomes grumpy. Two days of this isn't really enough to bring out the brat, but it does bring out the zombie:

"Kelly, are you hungry for lunch?"

... silence ...


... "uh huh? Um, what did you say?" ...

"Are you hungry for lunch?"

... "okay" ...

I won't belabor the point, this goes on for awhile unless we step in front of the television, which we do. Now for a little seque, which will seem pointless, at first, but bear with me.

Many video games, action, adventure, platform, whatever, give you a chance to breath when your character is in 'safe' areas, i.e. places where there's no action or goal as yet. Save rooms in Resident Evil come to mind. This comes in handy if you've been locked in battle for an hour, unable to stop without losing your progress, and your bladder is just about to burst (I'm talking to you, Final Fantasy X).

Step away from the game controller long enough, and your character will begin to move on his own. He'll reach up and scratch his head, look around impatiently, tap his foot. Sometimes he'll even make rude remarks. I've even had games where the character will break the fourth wall and call out to me, "hey, I'm ready to go here!"

In Pokemon Colosseum, there is nothing so overt. The 'idle animation' looks a lot like the active animation, but stands out when you're not controlling the characters. This is because no normal person displays idleness by bouncing gently on their knees while matching tempo with their crooked elbows. That is, they push their elbows back just a little bit as they lower themselves, then straighten knees and elbows to stand upright.

Ready for the end of our seque? Good. I'd been watching this activity on the screen for awhile as I waited for Kelly to surface enough to talk about lunch, when it twigged. Without saying another word, I positioned myself so I was in Kelly's field of vision. Not in front of the television, just where she could see me. Then I began imitating the idle animation of her characters. Saying nothing, looking straight ahead, rocking on my knees, crooking my elbows.

Maybe half a minute passed, then Kelly looked up. At first she looked puzzled, then, as she had stopped running her characters, they went into their idle animation. She looked at the screen, then at me, then jumped up and tackled me.

I've been having fun the entire rest of the weekend tweaking her. Whenever she makes me wait, I go into my idle animation. Then she stops whatever she's doing and chases me. Too amusing.

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