The NL - News & Mario Opera Interview
Author: Darryn King
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Japan's Richest Man, Liberty City's Poorest
Who is Japan’s richest person- No, not multi-talented comedienne Masami Hisamoto, nor blockbuster actor Tatsuya Fujiwara, nor even television star Nobuyoshi Kuwano (Don’t you love Japanese names-)… The answer is 80-year-old Hiroshi Yamauchi of course, former president of Nintendo and the man credited with taking the company from making playing cards to videogames. He’s retired now, but still owns 10 per cent of the company, which is now valued at about $79 billion – a figure that has more than tripled in the past two years with the Wii console. Yamauchi’s net worth- A cool $7.8 billion.
It’s a figure that makes a nice contrast (and segue) with the bucks videogame voice actors are getting these days. Michael Hollick, the Brooklyn-based actor who lent his voice to Niko Bellic for Grand Theft Auto IV (no, he’s not really Eastern European) made a grand total of $100,000 for the part… which is approximately 0.016 per cent of the $600 million Rockstar has made from the game itself in about, oh, three weeks. Over the course of 15 months he was paid about $1,050 per day with no residuals – any other performer, as Hollick (and other GTA IV alumni) has pointed out, would be drowning in royalties right about now. Sucks to be you, Michael.
Health experts have been up in arms about Nintendo’s Wii Fit in the last week, some going so far as to suggest they be taken off shelves. According to the reports, the game’s Body Mass Index test categorised a perfectly healthy 10-year-old South East England girl as “fat”.
“She is a perfectly healthy, 4-feet-9-inch-tall 10-year-old,” said the girl’s stepfather, who happened to be pushing home a wheelbarrow full of pudding at the time. “[She] swims, dances, and weighs only six stone. She is solidly built but not fat. She was devastated to be called fat and we had to work hard to convince her she isn’t.”
Well, actually, the game uses far less judgmental terminology: “overweight” or “obese” are as close as it gets to name-calling. Nintendo has responded that the BMI test isn’t 100% accurate for those aged two to 20, due to varying levels of development.
Certainly though, the game is less successful in determining your overall health and fitness – my own Wii Fit age goes up and down by about 10 years every time I play – but this is a small aspect of the game, as The NL hopes to convey in next week’s Wii Fit feature. Stay tuned.
Belgian Urinal Game
Move over Miaymoto. Werner Dupont and Bart Garaets, both from Brussels and a software developer and electrical engineer respectively, have launched a video game that is somewhat inspired by the motion-sensing technology of the Wii, but maybe takes the ‘Wii’ bit a little too literally. It’s called Place To Pee, a two-player game that sees players shooting at aliens with, um, their urine. Players hit their targets by aiming at sensors positioned on either side of the urinal.
Personally, The NL is very excited about the possibilities of incorporating gaming and relieving oneself.
Place To Pee also includes a skiing game, but my brain nearly blew up trying to figure out how that would work.
“This thing had to be invented by Belgian people and that’s what we are,” they said, somewhat cryptically. I like the part of the sentence where they say ‘This thing had to be invented…’
Ladies wanting to get in on the action can also play with the aid of a specifically designed paper cone. Wahay!
THE MARIO OPERA
It’d be fair to say that Jonathan Mann is slightly fanatic about Nintendo. He was, in fact, the first person to score a Wii, having waited in line for the Los Angeles launch party for 38 hours. His other claim to fame, however, is as writer and composer of The Mario Opera. No, you won’t be seeing this at the Sydney Opera House any time soon – it’s a fairly modest personal project, but one that has made Jonathan something of a star with other fans of the plumber. He spoke to Darryn King.
What was it about the Mario story that you thought would make a good opera-
Never been a fan of traditional opera. I performed in a version of Monteverdi’s O’rfeo in college, and the story (about a guy saving his lover) is kind of what got me thinking about Mario as an opera. It’s such a simple, classic tale: an unlikely hero sets out on a journey to rescue the woman he loves. There it is in a nutshell, both the game, and many classic operas.
Can you tell us a little about the story of the Mario Opera-
Mario doesn’t realise who he is – he doesn’t know that he’s in a video game, that he’s this huge cultural icon. As the story progresses, he starts to realise that everything he’s experiencing (the kidnapping of the Princess, killing the Goombas etc.) he’s experienced millions of times before… every time a gamer has ever played his game. This realisation comes down on him hard. That’s the end of the first act.
Many of the finest operas are tragedies… Do you think there are tragic elements in the story of Mario-
I’ve definitely made the first and second acts very tragic. Princess is kidnapped. Mario feels the full weight of his cyclical existence and dies at the hand of Magikoopa. Bowser and Princess get married. Everything is backwards from the way it’s supposed to be. But in the end, Mario prevails. He’s the hero. But there will be costs to his victory.
Have you written an opera before- How about fan fiction-
I co-wrote another rock opera in college, called The Last Nympho Leprechaun. I also composed and starred in X-Play the Musical on G4TV. You can see all of this at mannmade.tv. Never touched fan fiction per se.
You wrestle with the motivation of characters and some pretty heavy philosophical ideas in the Mario Opera… Can you tell us a little about some of these ideas-
I basically wanted to see what would happen if I made Mario self-aware. Kind of a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead type of thing. I like the idea that Mario becomes more than the sum of his parts. He meets his maker.
Which tunes from the games have you incorporated into your score- What other music inspired you-
I’ve used tunes across all the games, from SMB1, to Mario Land on the GameBoy, to Sunshine on the GameCube.
People say I sound like They Might Be Giants and/or The Flaming Lips. My influences are more of the Magnetic Fields, Pixies, Dylan, Jonathan Richman variety, but Kondo’s music was by and large the most important piece to the musical puzzle for me.
Has the opera been performed-
It has been performed in three incarnations. The first was a four-night run at CalArts in Los Angeles, CA, where I was attending grad school, 2005. The next was one show at the Barnsdall Art Park in Los Angeles, 2006. Finally, we did about 20 ‘club’ versions around LA, which were more like rock shows, but still with props, costumes, etc.
How was the opera produced-
The opera was produced entirely with my (and my parents’) money. This is one of the things that sort of always gets me. The opera has been on hiatus for two years, mostly because I just couldn’t afford it anymore. If ever I were to get enough money, and/or have the right space (theatre space, that is), I would resurrect the project in a heartbeat.
What element of the opera have people responded to the most-
I wrote the opera from a very nostalgic place – this feeling of just utter warmth and happiness when thinking of old games. I think that’s the thing people get the most out of it, as well: a feeling of joy at seeing these characters and hearing this music that they grew up with being reinterpreted.
Does Nintendo know about it-
They know about it. I don’t have their permission, but they haven’t tried to stop me, either.
What other games do you think could make video game operas-
Megaman has already been interpreted in two different ways: The Protomen and The Megas. Zelda is an obvious choice. I would love to see Metroid done right. I write a lot of other video game related music, most recently doing a weekly ‘Mushroom Singdom’, which is singing reviews of the old games that Nintendo releases for download on the Wii.
WHAT: The Mario Opera