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Monday, February 23, 2015

I Wanna Go South

By RAWKHAWK2010 - And I'm not just whistlin' Dixie.

Ah, the Deep South -- home of tobacco chewin', moonshinin', mullets, banjos, and sex with your first cousin.

Confederate Rebel Villager Animal Crossing
"It's a Southern thang. Y'all wouldn't understand."

Contrasting a bit with the lad above, I never considered my "Southernness" to fall too far on either end of the spectrum in my growing-up years. I most definitely hailed from this land, and still occasionally participated in certain Southern pastimes (fishing, hunting, burning crosses in people's yards, etc.), but for the most part I did my own thing, and tried my best to solicit with various dudes cut from various cloths. For many it seems the recipe for happiness is sinking yourself in a vat of interests and ideology  that mirror your own (see NeoGAF), but that's just not a belief I've ever really harbored. I like entertainment, observational humor included, and by definition that requires the company of people who come in different stripes and mental deformities. I suppose this is why when I went to university in a considerably less "Southern" area, I considered my friendships with the "gamers" to be excruciatingly boring and had more laughs with the inbred pig-farmer than anyone on campus. (Was I friends with him for the right reasons? Probably not. But hey, he probably wasn't friends with me for the right reasons either!)

So following my first trek into the outside world, I moved back to the Deepest part of the South only to have to relocate to the "New South" (specifically the Atlanta area) a year later. And while some of it's aight, some of it has left me basically paralyzed when it comes to day-to-day life. Lighting ordinances? Low-flow toilets? Complete strangers not waving? It's times like these that leave me with a newly-minted appreciation for the primitive freedom of my humble homeland, and I like to feel this air of familiarity in my video games too, as seldom as it may manifest.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance - Nephenee Brom A level support conversation nothing wrong with country
"Country" is a compliment where I come from.

Most game developers who reference this neck of the woods seem to A) only do so for the sake of a quick cheeky insult, or B) have their hearts in the right place but are so shittily-financed that the end result lacks elegance and is thus downright creepy or weird. Like the recent Duck Dynasty game (Sorry Phil), or the intro of this monstrosity. But as seen above with Good Ol' Boy Boyd and Good Ol' Girl Nephenee from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, there is the quality example that rears its head every now and then (in Japanese games, no less), but due to cultural remoteness the results seem few and far between. So much so that we're led to look for connections where they most certainly don't exist, like that time Ludwig thought one of the Friend Area themes in Pok√©mon Mystery Dungeon was a remix of I Wish I Was In Dixie. (Spoiler: It wasn't.)
And that's where once-legendary developer Rare would always come in, who has actually competently channeled the South and for a multitude of purposes -- portraying it as a living, breathing world teeming with ambiance and charm. Maybe this is because Rare is a western dev (and at the time, a highly successful one) possessing western predispositions, yet still far enough east to be aloofly unaware of the things that leave us hopelessly ostracized by everyone else living on the North American continent. Regardless, Rare's games always had a knack for regularly exhibiting bits and pieces of Southern U.S. culture -- whether through characters, environments, or music. And one could argue that such tributes might all be a result of Britain having its own bumfuck backwater region which eerily parallels our own, but you'll have to excuse me for being a skeptic, since the David Wise-composed Donkey Kong Country 3 GBA actually includes a song with parts borrowed directly from SWEET HOME ALABAMA.

Even after Rare went mostly belly-up, David Wise (now a Rare alumnus) would go on to accompany Texan Nintendo subsidiary Retro Studios in crafting Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which included a level that felt like something straight outta Hazzard County.

The Duke Boys would feel right at home. And speaking of Dukes of Hazzard, it must also be noted that several connections can be made between the Duke Boys' sister, "Daisy Duke", and our homegirl Dixie. First of all, Dixie is totally a girl of the South, because where else did she get that name? A non-Southerner doesn't just get named "Dixie" by accident, so either Rare's DKC2 team were ex-confederates who immigrated to Twycross in the late 1800's to avoid federal re-assimilation (Think Confederados.), OR Rare was just always really good at paying attention to the Heart of Dixie's goings-on and liked what they saw -- particularly Daisy from Dukes of Hazzard, ensuring that Dixie would inherit an identical shirt-knot and be named after Daisy's jeep in Her Honor. (Then there was Nintendo Power who would consistently refer to Dixie as "Daisy Kong" in their editorials, which...might mean they knew more than we ever gave them credit for...? Hmmmm.)

Daisy Duke of Dukes of Hazzard and Dixie Kong of Donkey Kong Country 2
"Dix" is French for "ten." As in, 10/10.

You're now imagining Dixie talking in a soft southern accent ("I'm Dixie and I'm from South Cay-o-lien-ah!"), and your response? Well d'oh -- you like it, you love it, you want some more of it. And every developer this side of the Mississippi should be giving it to you. They should be giving you a new Donkey Kong Country with an entire world based off your beautiful homeland. A Project S.T.E.A.M. with equal amounts of spotlight shone on Robert E. Lee for those not in bed with Abraham Lincoln's Northern Aggression. A game tailored less for the frost-faced, snow-shoveling carpetbagger, and a game tailored more for you -- a son/daughter of the South, who does his/her duty in all things.

And I'm with you all the way.

Do you want your gaming experiences "going South", or are you comfortable with them right where they are? Let the author know your thoughts at RawkHawk2010 on Miiverse or Twitter!

Ludwig also sang a country version of the Donkey Kong Rap from Donkey Kong 64!
Rebel Crosser later appears to be trucking with Reggie Fils-Aime.
Rebel Crosser stands with keeping the Confederate Flag in our culture.

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