Big Games and Little Boys

I do like games that celebrate little boys.

Some might argue that most games celebrate little boys, from the juvenile and madcap mayhem of Saints Row: the Third to the countless titles that allow for cooing over big breasts in bikinis or big breasts in chainmail or big breasts in chainmail bikinis. But I’m not talking about that man-boy crap. I’m talking about real little boys, the cool ones.

It might be that I have only daughters, so I’m not around little boys often enough to think too much about them. I kind of take them for granted. They seem loud… and dirty. However, there are some great games that do celebrate the real ones and remind me that in addition to being kind of loud and often dirty, they also can be pretty neat. There’s Earthbound, A Boy and His Blob, and, of course, Ico.

I’ve been replaying Ico recently (on the PS2, not even in HD!), which is what brought the whole little boy thing to mind for me. The game is evocative and nostalgic, especially if you were a little boy once. It’s because the game evokes boyhood in so many little, simple ways.

The obvious contrast that exists between Ico and Yorda, with her being a good head or more taller than the player character, despite their probably similar ages, is sufficiently charming enough. I’ve been there — that moment when suddenly all the girls in your class are suddenly towering over you. Like Yorda, they speak an unfamiliar language. Who can understand them? After all, they are so very tall.

But additionally it is things like the fact that Ico has gigantic feet that he needs to grow into so desperately, that he possesses the weapon of choice of any little boy worth his salt, a stick, and that when he first meets a caged Yorda, his first question to her is “Why are you in there?,” followed almost without a chance to pause to breathe, “I’ll get you out.” He is simple, curious, and determined.

I think maybe the most amazing thing about the art direction in the game is that the world that Ico occupies is so gargantuan by comparison to him, making it plain that Ico is so very small. And so very feisty.

It’s a game that makes me want to arm myself with a stick and go off tramping through the woods looking for adventure… or frogs. And I don’t feel that way often enough anymore.