It may seem hard to believe, but playing video games once made you a pretty big nerd. I remember in late elementary school when we had our SNES and played Warcraft 2 and Marathon at my friend's place (wow, it really has been that long) that they were subject to near derision, and most people didn't think they were worth much. Now, of course, there still seems to be that stigma, but it has been drastically reduced. Part of this has been because of their widespread popularity. You can go almost anywhere and find games and systems for sale. Ads are on TV and the internet. It's a fairly pervasive part of our culture. Part of it is, also, that they are seen as more of a legitimate form of entertainment. Games nowadays are not like Super Mario Brothers as a whole; many have sweeping scores, beautiful art and complicated storylines. Back then it wasn't as much so.

I remember in class one day our teacher was talking about culture or something. She wanted us to learn a bit about classical music (because, really, I think elementary school teachers can pretty much teach whatever they want to). She put on a song, Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and let it play for a minute or so. She asked if anyone had heard that song. I think I was the only one who raised my hand. She looked surprised, and asked me where I had heard it. I replied I had heard it in a video game.

Earthworm Jim 2 to be exact. I remember the level well. You were out of your suit, swimming through some fluid. Not sure what. It was a fairly difficult level. My teacher looked even more surprised and was speechless for a second, then stammered something to the effect of, "oh. Okay." I've thought about this a bit, and that's where I get my inspiration for this blog: culture in gaming. I'm going to share two short examples of where gaming has, indeed, inspired me to seek out culture a bit more.

Mordin Solus - Scientist Salarian

The first is more well known. Mordin Solus, from Mass Effect 2, is an interesting character. He is a scientist, but it is clear he has dabbled in more than just surgery. With incredible intelligence, an aim that would make most jealous, and some complicated morals, he is one of my favorite characters of the game. One section has him singing his "Scientist Salarian" song, which for those of you who don't know is a parody of the "Modern Major General" song in Pirates of Penzance. Now, I suppose this didn't make me seek out the musical as I was already aware of it, but I found it hilarious. My daughter for some reason is obsessed with Pirates of Penzance and so I've heard that song upward of 100 times, and having it parodied in the most unexpected place just made me laugh. I couldn't help it. I've shown it to my wife and she loves it. I don't know if this song has made anyone look up its origin or not, but the musical is actually fantastic so if it did then I'd be pleased.

Chopin's music - Eternal Sonata

Now, I've written about Eternal Sonata before. It's an RPG with a genius real time battle system that slipped quietly, and shamefully, under the radar. With vibrant cell shaded graphics it exudes innocence, though I can understand that the characters (the oldest of which is in his mid 20s) can grate a little. This game follows Frederic Chopin (yes, the composer guy) in his last moments of life as he hallucinates. Everything about the story is genius, from the way that the battles take place to the way they introduce the battle system. Chopin, being a musician, influenced his visions in such a way that absolutely everything is music related. Their weapons are instruments, etc. It's quite well done.

This is a game that has made me actively seek out Chopin's music. I was never interested in him as a composer before (I've been a Debussey guy and haven't branched out much) but I loved the music it played and the snapshots it gave of his actual life. It fascinated me. One of my favorite classical songs is actually a Chopin song now (Prelude No. 15, "Raindrops"). I love it. I highly recommend both his music and this game.

There you have it. Sure it's only two examples, but there are plenty more exhibits of culture throughout both modern and retro gaming. Every time I find a nod, I love it. Maybe it's just how I was raised, in a family that encouraged music, or maybe it's just my love of culture in general. I think more games need to follow this example though, and I'm confident that more will.

So, have you come across any examples like this in your gaming sessions? What are your favorite ones?