I am Mr. Hop, Frog President of Bug Mars.
…I control the flow of pornography on this red rock, from a terminal upon my Frogsidental Desk—a tricky proposition, you’ll learn, as any number of cruel scenarios, from warehouse fires to frog STDs, will see my internet porn investments flounder alongside the Bug Economy. For this reason, I do nothing but borrow money—900,000,000 zorkmids a day—each time with the sinking realization that, gosh, I really am the worst Frog President ever. And the first.
And that’s Frog Fractions, the newest game from Twinbeard Studios…or rather, that is kinda the game, one fragment among many in a shattered mirror of genres from (primarily) the early days of computer gaming. It’s the kind of thing one might call a “love letter to classic gaming,” were one into missing the point. The developer himself, Jim Crawford, called Frog Fractions “a game about the joy of discovery,” which also misses the point, but only by a little, I suppose. No, from beginning to end, from genre to dragon, Frog Fractions is a rumination on the very nature of physicality, and the fear of inadequacy.
Ah but it starts oh so innocently, you see…A game about fractions! and frogs! But play a few minutes past the title screen’s sweetly intoxicating chiptune track and edutainment-style graphics and the artifice quickly begins to drip away. One moment you’re perched upon your lily pad, snagging bugs from the air and eliciting fractional rewards, and the next you’re realizing that those fractions, well, they don’t make any damn sense. Next thing you know you’re purchasing a cybernetic frog brain, and from there on out things just start to get weird: you’re riding a dragon, you’re in space, you’re on Bug Mars on trial for crimes against Bug-kind. You’re applying for a work visa.
…It’s right around that time, however, that things begin to click. As you delve deep down into the waters of Frog Mars, a calmly foreign voice begins to inform you on the “history of boxing”:
As conceived in 1632 by Portuguese printing press operator Andre Felipe, boxing was a gentleman’s game, in which two men would square off and regale each other with stories monotonous for days on end, until one of them fell to the ground from boredom or exhaustion…
…While it was universally agreed that the boy had violated the spirit of the game, officials were unable to find any actual rule that “Punching” violated, and were forced to let the victory stand. This upset caused an uproar in the boxing community large enough to spill over into local newspapers, which drew the interest of many outsiders to come see what all the fuss was about. The newcomers were enthralled to engage in these borderline-barbaric displays of human strength and skill, and the rest is history…
The falseness of this “history” notwithstanding, we could have just as easily been listening to the history of videogames, or rather, the history of storytelling, at the tail end of which is a thing called “the videogame”—a medium whose claim-to-fame is not “interactivity” (as I’ve explained before) but a raw and evocative physicality. Notice how in this false history the originator of “boxing” was a printing press operator? It seems reasonable to assume that by “boxing” we mean “storytelling” and that by “storytelling” we mean, at least in its inception, the non-physical narrative. And thus, in the span of just a few moments, Frog Fractions evolves from a game about diffusing narrative sense to a game about reconstructing it.
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