Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale
This is going to be a different post from what you normally see from me in that today we are going to be looking into the science behind video games. And by science, I mean the portrayal of scientific topics in the game itself, and not the game’s programming. I’ve been thinking about expanding into video games for a while now, but I just couldn’t think of a good place to start as I don’t play a huge number of games. I have, however, been playing Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale for a while now and thought of an interesting topic worth exploring. Recettear is an indie game made by Easy Game Station and published by Cape Fulgar back in 2007. It was released on Steam in 2010 and I finally picked it up in 2014. The game is a combination RPG item shop simulator and dungeon crawler with a play style similar to the 16-bit games like The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. While the game is set in a fantasy setting, there is an interesting bit of science worth talking about.
The second boss of the second dungeon, Reginald Drisby, is a giant walking mouse wielding a crowbar.
It should be pretty obvious that a giant walking talking mouse is impossible outside of a fantasy or science fiction setting, but there is an aspect about the boss fight that I want to talk about. That aspect is his weakness, eating mushrooms. During the fight a number of red and purple mushrooms will sprout from the floor.
If Reginald Drisby eats one of the red mushrooms he regains health, but if he eats one of the purple mushrooms, he will be momentarily stunned. Any attacks that hit while Reginald Drisby is stunned will do significantly more damage.
While this is clearly a game mechanic, is it possible to confuse an edible mushroom with a poisonous one in the real world?
Mushrooms are one of many types of fungus, and many varieties grow in dark damp places like caves. In fact white button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus), one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world, is grown in caves.
So, in the real world and in the world of Recettear, mushrooms would be growing in caves.
The next point on the list is also a fairly straight forward one: as with plants, not all mushrooms are edible. There are a number of poisonous mushrooms, like the Jack O Lantern.
This mushroom looks nothing like the mushrooms we can find at the grocery store, or the mushrooms found in the cave Reginald Drisby lives in. However, there are some mushrooms that do look like the mushrooms we eat and are poisonous.
Straw mushrooms (Volvariella volvacea) are a lesser known variety of mushroom in the West, but they are widely eaten across southeast Asia. I find them to be quite delicious and love them in Thai food. The reason I mention these mushrooms is that they are edible and look very similar to Caesar’s Mushroom (Amanita caesarea), which is poisonous.
Just in case you are wondering, the Caesar’s mushroom is extremely poisonous, containing both amatoxins, and phallotoxins. Additionally, only half a mushroom is needed for a lethal dose so it is not something you want to eat anytime soon because if you survive, you will probably need a liver transplant due to the damage the toxins cause.
While the Straw and Caesar’s mushrooms look very different to our eyes, one Reginald Drisby is a giant walking mouse. In the real world mice, like many other mammals, are color blind, so the two mushrooms would look very similar to a mouse.
They’re not so different now when you look at them in black and white. Plus let’s not forget that Reginald Drisby lives in a dark cave so the mushrooms would be even harder to tell apart. Now I do realize that he would also have a sense of smell to tell the mushrooms apart, but most mushrooms do not have a strong scent unless they’ve gone bad.
While it might be a fantasy setting in a video game all of the aspects of Reginald Drisby’s weakness check out when using modern day scientific knowledge. It is very possible that a mouse might confuse a poisonous and edible mushroom using sight in a dark cave.
Please let me know if you enjoyed this look into the portrayal of science in video games.