Friday, May 7, 2010

Vintage Game-Inspired Gifts: A Primer

By Annie Wright

I often have my best inspirations when I am in the most inconvenient situations possible. Last week, I flew home from Indianapolis. I was thoughtfully applying the Zelda Method to my airport experience somewhere between the airline counter and the full frontal nudity security checkpoint, when I had a great gift idea for my pal Francis' birthday.

Typically, I suck at giving gifts. I mean, I know what I would want for my birthday (my own pony, my own robot, and money. In that order), but after one turns 21, birthdays are kind of a crap shoot. Honestly, the local game/bookstore gift card is a genuine winner in 90% of all situations, but sometimes you have that one friend with whom you share fond memories of after-school Mario Kart marathons and basement LAN parties, and the situation just demands that you do something special.

Well, my brilliant idea was a scarf. As far as knitting goes, scarves are about the only thing I've made successfully, unless one were to count a sweater I made in high school which was almost immediately confiscated by a neighbor for use in his Quasimodo Halloween ensemble. However, my new scarf idea was simple, clever and foolproof. I would knit it to resemble Yoshi's head at one end, his extended tongue making up the length of the scarf, and the best part would be that once I finished the head, the rest would be really easy- just a long red bit to wrap around the neck. I managed to keep this thought on the back burner of my easily-distracted brain as I refused the x-ray machine and in lieu received a pat-down from an unusually pleasant TSA agent, who told me that my boots reminded her of "that guy from 'Zelda'". I raced to the gate, clawed my way into the wi-fi, and set about Googling my idea, just to make sure no one else had thought of it. As it turns out, someone had :

Etsy member Shadowsinthenyte has done such a bang-up job that I knew I would have to order it. In fact, I was so blown away by the items in her shop that it inspired me to round up a collection of vintage game-themed gifts.

One of the things I noticed as I was digging through the myriad Flickr pools, forums and blogs devoted to game-inspired crafting was that a lot of crafts lend themselves very well to vintage video game imagery because just like 8-bit rendering, beadwork, cross stitch, tile and the like require that a picture be translated into dots. Technically, of course, this is true for any digital image, but on such a scale that in order to be comparable to a modern standard of resolution, your potholder would need to be approximately the size of Mongolia.

Whether you are seeking the perfect present for Xmas/Hanukkah/Kwaanza/Blót (haha, just kidding- everyone knows you don't give gifts for Blót unless your gift is ritual sacrifice!) or just want a stellar conversation piece for your coffee table, take a gander at these finely crafted wares:

Metroid Quilt

Oh Samus. You were such an inspiration to me as a child. At my elementary school, there was quite a race to see who could be the first to beat the game. While it totally wasn't me, I still felt a sense of victory on the morning when notorious girl-botherer and booger-flicker Anthony sullenly announced he had beat the game only to discover he'd been playing as "some dumb girl" the entire time. This was, of course, before we knew to call people out on spoilers.

Anyhow, spiritestitch user Lucyinthesky has crafted an absolutely beautiful quilted rendition of the Metroid game cartridge cover. I would have swooned over this as a kid. In fact, I covet it even now, though I would probably put it on my wall instead of my bed because I'm a grown-up, and grown-ups don't let their dogs jump around on handmade quilts. That's what IKEA is for.

Pac Man Lightbox Clock

If you prefer something a little more avant garde, check out this semi-abstract stained glass Pac Man clock. I'm a big fan of the concept of lightboxes. They can really make an otherwise boring room much more interesting, particularly if actual natural window light is at a premium, as it often is here in Seattle. I also enjoy the visual double entendre. (Even better: spellcheck tries to correct "entendre" as "extender" hee hee.) Unfortunately, I was not able to discover the maker of this delightful item, found over at dudecraft, so if anyone has additional info, let me know!

Now, everyone knows that nothing compliments a fine clock like an ottoman, and it so happens that the folks at QAYOT have just the thing:

Pac-Man & Dot Ottoman

Constructed from the "Three Ps" of DIY furniture (pine, polyurethane and polyester), this piece can be used individually or combined with multiples into a full sofa. I'm considering replacing my hide-a-bed with one, because I'm convinced that it would provide an absolutely fantastic sleeping experience for guests.

Perler Bead Warp Pipe Keepsake Box

Ah, Perler beads. These were a childhood staple of arts and crafts (or beer and crafts in college), and I am glad to know that they still thrive. The idea, for those that are unfamiliar, is similar to a tile mosaic, in that a picture or design is made using multi-colored, tubular beads. After what usually amounts to a lot of tedious, intricate placement of tiny plastic bits less than 1/4 the size of the average child's fingertip, a special (and presumably fireproof) sheet of paper is placed over the design. Then you hold an low-set iron on your masterpiece until the vinyl beads fuse together, being careful not to leave it on for so long that the entire thing becomes goo. After a brief cool-down, you have a lovely 2D mosaic... that will pretty much always wind up being used as a coaster by its recipient.

However, the designer of this particular Warp Pipe Keepsake Box has added another dimension (I see what ya did there -Kirk) to the traditional Perler concept by making a flip top compartment for trinkets, topped with everyone's favorite Mario-chomper. I particularly enjoy that the third dimensional concerns of what a warp pipe looks like from above are gleefully disregarded. The piranha plant appears to be popping up from a mysterious black abyss, because that's where it comes from, dammit. Actually showing the stem telescoping down the pipe would be tantamount to a imposing the Midichlorian Count in the Nintendo Universe. I include this link not because I doubt your knowledge on this topic, gentle readers, but because I want you appreciate this fine example of nerd rage and see that it is not limited to us.

Finally, I am compelled to share my favorite discovery of all. Brace yourselves, people. It's time for...

Legend of Zelda Game Cartridge Cuff Links!

Hand sculpted out of polymer clay by Etsy user TheClayCollection (who appears to have an awful lot of 80s geek-friendly items), I can only imagine how labor-intensive it must be to sculpt such perfect renderings in miniature. I have attempted this process, and all I ended up with were pea-sized balls of clay being pounded flat by my fists against the kitchen table until the legs collapsed. Thanks, IKEA. You know, you'd think furniture made by vikings would be able to take more of a beating.

In any case, the idea to turn Zelda's iconic golden cartridge into cuff links is a particularly inspired move, since wedding season is just around the corner, and everyone knows that dudes with class wear cuff links. It is not recommended to use the ACTUAL cartridge, and this could prove unwieldy.

And there you have it, my comprehensive primer to vintage game-related gift-giving. These represent only a small faction of the choice items I found while on the hunt. I highly recommend doing a little exploring of your own, because for each one of these, I must have seen hundreds of unique variations. If you happen to find anything that just BLOWS YOUR MIND, by all means, the comment section belongs to you, my friends! Now excuse me, I need to go locate a nail gun to repair my table before the upstairs neighbors get home and start yelling at me to turn down the Playstation.