A few weeks ago, the producers over at Vancouver-based Mainframe Entertainment (now RainMaker Entertainment) announced the return of ReBoot… and the world rejoiced.
For those who might not be familiar with the show, Canadian-made ReBoot takes place in Mainframe, a computer-system turned city for the sake of those watching at home. The show featured a Guardian named Bob who mends and defends his new-found friends; their hopes and dream to defend them from their enemies. And a whole host of other characters.
The show was able to create an entire world within the 90s desktop computers, which was a pretty imaginative place for the show to choose as a setting. It allowed them to create all kinds of scenarios, it allowed them to use complex terminology in funny word play, and it allowed them to use a burgeoning landscape as their playground.
And all of this could be coming back to television someday soon!
Yet you have to wonder, how is this re-imagining of the series going to deal with the vast changes in the video gaming landscape? With things like massively-multiplayer role playing games and games with their own economies, I doubt Mainframers will be able to play games and simply beat the user like they used to.
Part of the Guardian’s job is to help the sprites and binomes of each city to defeat the user when a game is inputted. For instance, if you load up a copy of System Shock 2 onto your computer each sprite you kill is a digital representation of a sprite or binome that makes up a part of your system.
Makes you feel kind of shitty for killing so many dudes over the years…
Anyway, Bob, Dot (his level-headed foil), and Enzo (the energetic kid in the series) were able to enter into the games, defeat the users, and protect the system. Most of the games were pretty simple usually having one goal, one life for the user, and one method of playing. It always played to the protagonists’ advantage and they always won… well except that time Enzo had this happen to him:
But then he turned into this:
While the characters of the show were its main attraction, I always felt that ReBoot’s true appeal came from its environment. Mainframe is a fascinating place to have set a television show. The entire city is the visual representation of the digital components of a computer system. But the problem is that a lot of what existed in that show back then are no longer relevant to kids today.
For instance, Megabyte is the main villain of the series. Back in the 90s, a megabyte wasn’t a lot of memory back then and by today’s standards we have Terabyte drives. How threatening would he be to the kids of today who know that he represents a infinitesimally small amount of space on their own hard drives at home. There are a whole host of things that the creators of the new shows are going to have to update in order for it to be relevant, but also some concerns.
Part of the show’s mandate was to educate kids of the dangers lurking in computers. While playing games online is all fun and games there are also risks involved with opening your computer to the online world. The game’s two main villains were created from this very act of going onto the net and the rest of the series is spent in fear of the expanding “Net” and “Web” of information that exists. With the concerns that exist today (spy networks, the National Security Agency, and others), there’s a lot the show has to update.
1. Cloud processing
On the whole, computers are still closed systems. With the release of the Xbox One almost upon us (holy November showed up fast) cloud computing is going mainstream. What ReBoot needs to reflect is the changing landscape of the computer world. No longer are they going to have to deal with just other computers, but they’ll also be seeing video game consoles and mobile devices making up a large part of the online community.
I imagine the mobile devices would be like little digital frigates while cloud computer centres would look more like bastions made to protect the attached consoles. The entire show was made up of separate systems that were made unique by their access to the net. For instance, Mainframe is a computer that has little in the way of protection against viruses and this becomes apparent during the first Web War. Giant monsters float right into the city to cause havoc and destruction.
Now Mainframe will have to deal with things like cloud computing that attaches their system to others sources of power. It’s an open connection onto the web and it’ll be fraught with problems for the characters. What would happen if they are in the middle of a game and the connection suddenly goes down giving the other player an advantage? What would happen if they are trying to fix the system, but the extra juice they need to complete repairs disappears? Many possibilities here.
2. Google owns everything
Fucking. Ray. Tracer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Ray Tracer, he’s the Motorola-sponsored search engine who entered onto the scene late in the show. He was pretty much the show’s answer to Enzo being unable to find Mainframe by himself. As much as I dislike Ray Tracer (more like jealous of him since he was so cool), I can’t help but feel that his guise as a search engine was beyond clever.
Season 3 of the show began around 1997, so that’s when Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, and Google were still competing as search engines… but now Google has a monopoly over pretty much everything. No longer are you going to see a character like Ray Tracer bringing his cool goggles, slick hair, and Australian accent to the table, but more or less a character personifying Siri who will help the characters find their way around the net. Ray Tracer was the image of surfing the net, literally, so it’s with some hatred and some love that I remember his character.
How will the show deal with this now? Like I say in the paragraph above, perhaps search engines will now be automated characters taking the form of little balls of light. It’s easier. It’s simpler. It’s not cool.
3. Massively multiplayer games / better games
Video games have evolved since the 1990s. While many video game playing people live from present moment to present moment, in other words we look forward and not backwards. Nostalgia, however, plays a giant role in popular culture’s understanding of video games and even Reboot itself. But have you seen the games the User plays?
They’re kind of mediocre, and they also struggled to create challenging situations enough to challenge the likes of Mike the TV. There are about 34 games that have appeared in the series and all of them lack depth, continuity, and quality. The last game that appeared in the series was a mash up between Pokemon and Dragon Ball called Pantsu Hebi X… which roughly translates to Underwear Snake 10. To recap: the game is garbage, the name is idiotic, and there have been ten of them, so far. In the episode, Enzo (Matrix) even says that he’s played the game before so it’s not even new.
Video games are sophisticated. While the online experiences of games like in Grand Theft Auto V might say otherwise, people who play games competitively over networks have grown up. Dark Souls, as a good example, has a whole set of rules that players have to follow before a duel. It’s complex and the games of the new ReBoot should reflect that.
4. The privacy wars / social media
Privacy has become the most pressing concern on the Internet. Even in video games, players have to log onto their own game streaming service in order to play his or her favourite games. PSN, XBLA, STEAM, WHATEVER they all have the player’s privacy at the core of the service, but at the same time they also want us to share, interact, and play with everyone.
The focus of our computers have also moved away from playing just video games. Social media plays a huge role in how we use our home computing devices, but this also means there’s been a shift in how powerful computers need to be physically versus how powerful your connection is at home. This plays into the Cloud Processing paragraph way up there. Players will one day have the ability to play any game so long as their Internet connection is powerful.
So ReBoot will have to be less focused on games and more focused on the newer facets of living and using the Internet. Games still make a huge up a huge part of how we use our computers, but I bet you spend more time on the Internet surfing for pornography than playing games. I do… ahem, speaking of.
5. Internet porn
Well, I doubt the show will address Internet pornography directly. However, pornography websites also house some virulent content. Megabyte and Hexadecimal were pretty terrible, but could you imagine how horrible your computer would be if there were living beings inside of your computer.
Imagine if viruses were actual things and now imagine if you are a 7-year-old who just had his or her first Blue Screen on their laptop. A Blue Screen would be an apocalypse inside of the world of Mainframe, and with the state of the Internet being how it is there would be more viruses than you could ever imagine inhabiting the world of ReBoot.
As we saw in Season 3, the show kind of addressed this. There was this Praying Mantis virus, but it was never really said what he represented. What the show will have to address are the other threats on the Internet including spyware. Also people. People are probably the most horrible part of the Internet.
7. The User
Here’s my theory. What if Bob, Dot, and Enzo aren’t fighting the User, but they are the User. It makes a lot more sense to think that the agile, complex, and strategic characters in the game are being controlled like puppets with the puppet master being the User. All of the games the characters play in the show feature players who lose out of sheer incompetence.
Also, this guy:
What kind of video game would make you play as this evil clown? This red-nosed clown is the main character in a game called The Fun House, but Bob and Dot play two, better, taller clowns.
Also (sorry this went on so many tangents), who the heck is the User? At some point in the new series this will have to be addressed. The world of Mainframe is a battleground. This User is downloading viruses at an alarming rate and playing games that are just… awful. If the User simply stays in the background for the series, I won’t be too broken up. Perhaps it’s better that whomever owns the computer remains an omnipotent God.
8. Bob is black, officially
I feel like Bob’s race was nebulous, but he is black. This was one of many awesome Canadian television shows that had protagonists who were made up of a multitude of races. I just hope that the new show doesn’t take Bob and make him into a blah, regular white guy.
Well, I wrote a lot, but what do you think? What else would a reinvention of the show have to address?