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Desperate Dan: Studio Joho's Dan the Man

How hard will you work to get the Princess? Dan the Man goes as far as his pixels will carry him, destroying robots, even getting a day job. But is fantasy better than reality, what do you do with a rescued Princess?

Together we've clocked approximately 50 years worth of gaming, maybe we should get a medal? A lot of videogames nowadays involve a whole lotta work to 'play'; kill 50 squid, collect 100 coins, play for 100 hours, playing many games has become a chore. Developers aren't necessarily to blame -- when hardware has achievements and trophies built in (on Microsoft's XBOX360 and Sony's PS3 respectively), designers are obliged to incorporate the feature. Sure, there is a tremendous sense of achievement that can come from acquiring one of these goals, but the sensation has diminishing returns. When you put a new game in, and stare blankly at the roster of imminent tasks, it can be incredibly daunting. 

Perhaps the kick inside really comes when you realise the labours of gaming that characterise contemporary childhood are perhaps a minature adulthood, cast in dayglo colours.

Australian Animators Studio Joho appear to have made the same connection in their recent short, Dan the Man. It tells the story of the eponymous Dan in his daily grind. Except things aren't that simple, since Dan is modelled in a classic videogame hero from the 16-bit era. As expected, his Princess is in Another Castle, and rescuing her seems to be set to easy mode as he whisks her back to his leafy pad. 

All is not as it seems though, and Dan the Man tells the story that is never told, the days and weeks post-rescue, when Princess and Hero resolve to co-exist. Sure enough, this particular Princess wants to live it up royally, and so Dan has to deliver.

The game character working to keep his Princess happy is a great little concept, not only because it creates a cute little bitter-sweet story, but because it returns us to thinking about games. At first it seduces us, in a manner that recalls the pixel animated epics of Australian Paul Robertson, by pairing compelling animated loops with gaming nostalgia. Beyond the novelty of the treatment, as the plot twists and we see Dan work, hand cranking the floating platform outside the shop-owners house, it says something of the grind that has always been (regretfully) a big part of gaming.

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