Legendary film critic Roger Ebert once wrote that he would rather take up knitting than review video games—as though the two were mutually exclusive. Lately, it seems like that couldn't be further from the truth.
At E3 this week, Electronic Arts unveiled a lovely game called Unravel, where you play as a tiny yarn character that slowly unravels as it moves through the level. Although that sounds a little like a metaphor for the slow but inexorable march that we are all taking towards death, in Unravel this thread is a versatile tool you can be use as a climbing rope, grappling hook, trampoline, fishing line, and whatever else the game can imagine. Enjoy the earnest trailer that produced many wistful sighs and misty eyes:
There have been more than a few yarn-based video games over the last several years, from the Little Big Planet series (which stars a knit doll called Sackboy) to the recent rash of Nintendo games like Kirby's Epic Yarn and the upcoming Yoshi's Wooly World. And while this uptick in might be partly attributable to the more recent popularity of amigurumi, yarn and knitting has made their way into video games since the very beginning. Let's take a look back.
THE NINTENDO KNITTING MACHINE
This is surely one of the greatest gaming artifacts of the 1980s: a magazine advertisement for a device that would allow you to knit sweaters with your Nintendo Entertainment System. In it, Nintendo claims that video game knitting is "just one more example of the innovative thinking that keeps Nintendo on the cutting edge of video technology," noting that no other game systems—not one!—have knitting peripherals. This is indeed true. Ultimately, the Nintendo Knitting machine was sounique that it was never actually manufactured.
SUPER MARIO SWEATER
The Nintendo Knitting Machine should not be confused with I Am a Teacher: Super Mario Sweater, a game designed for a Japan-only '80s console called the Famicom Disk System. It allowed players to create pixel art patterns for sweaters, although you still had to knit them by hand.
Created by LucasFilm Games and Brian Moriarty back in 1990, Loom was one of the great works of the early adventure game era—and it revolved entirely around weaving. Rather than a text parser or a traditional inventory system, you solved puzzles by playing magical four-note tunes that weave "subtle patterns of influence into the very fabric of reality." There's a giant and all-powerful loom at the heart of it all, and at one point it tears apart the world and everyone turns into swans and flies into space. It's weird as hell, and I love it.
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