In Josh Bear's happy dream, Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Donkey Kong and Super Mario, was sitting on a toilet.
"I don't dream of hot girls," Bear told me as he recalled the dream last week at Game Developer's Conference, "I dream of Miyamoto taking a dump."
In the dream, as Bear tells it, Miyamoto gets off the toilet, wipes, then gives Bear a hug. Bear, who is also a video game designer in real life though not one who has yet reached Miyamoto's heights, sees the scene from overhead, but somehow reaches the great Nintendo creator's level when it's time for their manly embrace.
Bear thinks the dream might have something to do with a young game designer seeking the approval of an iconic one.
The dream gets better and funnier and will forever be linked, in my mind, to Ms. Splosion Man, the game Bear was showing me from a hotel room in San Francisco last week.
Bear is about half of Miyamoto's age and a bit more carefree. Miyamoto never shows his video games to reporters with his shoes off, feet kicked up while he sits on a hotel bed, joyfully zipping through his game while telling the story of the game developer who, in a dream, was hugging him and then escorting him "through his factory of funness."
Miyamoto, being Miyamoto, probably doesn't dream of meeting Miyamoto.
Miyamoto also probably has never buckled over in laughter, momentarily losing the ability to demonstrate his own game, because he is laughing so hard at his game's loving reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger's Predator.
Nor has Miyamoto probably ever included, in any of his games, a joke reference to Wesley Snipes' Passenger 57.
Before he told me the best parts of the Miyamoto dream, Josh Bear, chief creative officer of Twisted Pixel was showing me Ms. Splosion Man, in all of her movie-quoting ridiuclousness.
"Always bet on pink!" she says at one point in the game, homaging Snipes.
Ms. Splosion Man , like the eponymous star of Twisted Pixel's 2009 Splosion Man, is a side-scrolling action hero, sort of like Miyamoto's Mario except that all the Splosion folks can do is explode. Exploding makes them jump, ricochet and successfully battle or evade scientists. Ms. Splosion Man starts in a lab, where the scientists are more hostile than they were in the first game—possibly, Bear suggests, because the male scientists can't deal with the presence of a lady.
Ms. Splosion Man adds a Super Mario World map to its design, letting players skip harder levels. It also includes, Bear promises, better boss battles, because the ones in the first game "fucking sucked to play." They were made in a rush, he explains, involved too much pattern recognition to hurt their weak points and punished players who made mistakes in combat too severely. For this sequel, Bear and his team have studied the boss battles of games made by Treasure, the Japanese studio regarded for having some of the best giant enemy characters in the medium.
Ms. Splosion Man adds trampolines and ziplines, allowing for more dynamic action. Bear showed me a sequence that had the lady hero jumping across a lane of flying cars. He had Ms. Splosion Man jump into the body of the one female scientist in her enemies' lab, a portly lady named Mandy whose body can be used to slip past defenses, before our heroine explodes out of her.
I'd arrived at my Ms. Splosion Man demo thinking I'd deduce the series' connection to Ms. Pac-Man and discover how it related to Splosion Man the way that Namco arcade classic connected to Pac-Man. But there isn't much of a connection other than the "Ms." thing and Bear's hope that, just as Ms. Pac-Man is considered by many people to be superior to its predecessor, Ms. Splosion Man will be seen to trump Splosion Man. (As for the relationship betweem Ms. Splosion Man and Splosion Man, Bear thinks the best comparison is Popeye and Olive Oyl.)
The Pac-Man connection was thin, but maybe the Miyamoto one wasn't. Having met the Nintendo creator and been shown games by him numerous times, I can confirm that he does at least giggle at his own games, maybe not as often as Bear and not for those action movie references, but he does have a similar boyish fun with them.
Later in Bear's dream, there is a song. It has two lines: "Me and Miyamoto, strolling hand in hand / Me and Miyamoto, friendship never ends."
After the dream, Bear sang the song at work. He also sang it in the shower at home, to the consternation of his girlfriend at the time. "She was like, 'Stop singing that fucking song!'" She's now Bear's ex-girlfriend.
Ms. Splosion Man will come out on Xbox Live Arcade some time this year. Its creators already doubt that any gamer will be able to spot all its references to cheesy action movies. But now there's something else to look for as well: signs that Shigeru Miyamoto influenced this game. Now if only someone could explain what it means that Bear's dream starts with the Mario maker taking a dump.