Gillian Anderson ‘23 / Emertainment Monthly Film Section Editor
When you think of essential Gen Z cartoons, Code Lyoko isn’t usually the first to come to mind for most American children. However, this didn’t stop Alexis Foletto from creating Simulated Fictional Interfaces of Code Lyoko (IFSCL), a video game that simulates the reality of Code Lyoko. Foletto, who uses the screen name Immudelki, has been working on the game for over 11 years and is constantly adapting the game and adding updates to the software. In fact, there’s a “changelog” which maps out all of the work that is going into current updates and updates that are projected to be done years in the future.
Code Lyoko, which ran from 2003 to 2007 in France, started airing on Cartoon Network in America in 2004. There’s four seasons of the show totaling up to just under 100 episodes. It follows a group of young teens at a boarding school who transport themselves into a virtual world called Lyoko to help stop an evil force called Xana, who comes from Lyoko to wreak havoc in our reality. IFSCL simulates the computer that the character Jeremy Belpois uses to transport the characters into the virtual world by replicating the same interface that is seen in the show. The game has a story mode as well. IFSCL is totally immersive for fans and offers an opportunity to be a part of Code Lyoko, something that most games or cartoons only hope to give their fans.
Foletto first created the game because he didn’t know of any games that replicated the interface of the supercomputer that the characters interact with. This expedition for a Code Lyoko game that fit his standards became a project that has gone on for 12 years.
“There wasn’t any kind of game that fitted the gameplay fantasy I wanted,” says Foletto.
Foletto has spent not just time, but money on IFSCL as well, like the expense of having to pay for servers.
“It’s always a challenge to put time and effort into something for a big length of time,” he says, “…but that’s always the way I wanted it to be.”
However, in addition to these obvious downsides, there’s some less obvious ones that come to mind for Foletto.
“Another obvious drawback is the lack of a clear timeline delimitation. Unless I stop myself, I could continue all my life on it. Hopefully, I did put–and still am–putting deadlines and limits on my ambitions regarding certain aspects.”
Foletto hasn’t had any interference from the production company that produced Code Lyoko. He tried to inform their legal team of his doings in the past, but never received any answers from them. Foletto tried to recreate their assets as best as he could, which he cites as the general main point of concern.
“Any fanwork still can still be, by copyright definition, subject to strike, which I totally agree to,” says Foletto.“So unless they suddenly decide that a 12 year-old fangame which respects the branding is bad for their image or that it’s stealing their profits, I consider myself to be in a ‘tolerated’/’gray’ area.”
Most fans of the game play from France, Spain, or the United States, but Foletto has had requests for translations in other languages as well, which means there is at least a small audience in other countries playing IFSCL. Other aspects like gender identity are hard to quantify because the internet is such an anonymous place, but Foletto was surprised at the number of female players he encounteredat a convention in the past.
“Regarding age, it’s a mix of young newcomers and old fans, so it probably ranges from 10 to 30 years old people. For some, it’s their childhood game, that’s crazy!”
Noemí-Xuan Carod, a Spanish student currently in her high level education cycle, has been a fan of Code Lyoko for many years of her life, but just recently discovered IFSCL while surfing the internet for Code Lyoko-based content during her most recent rewatch.
“I saw it was very advanced and I was curious because everything related with Code Lyoko so of course I had to try it,” says Carod, “And after a few days of watching some gameplay I decided to try it myself.”
Carod studies animation and making video games, and finds inspiration from Code Lyoko,making 3D models of elements from the show. Carod started making these models last September and has been working on them since. Carod’s knowledge of 3D modeling and animation makes IFSCL all the more impressive to her.
“It’s incredible. He makes the game solo and it’s his own creation. I’m very impressed,” says Carod. “It’s very loyal to the show. It’s very carefully planned and it’s incredible–the amount of work and effort and hours behind this. Sometimes I’m like: is this even real?”
What drew Carod to Code Lyoko as a child was the mixture of 2D and 3D animation which the show employs. Code Lyoko was popular in Spain according to Carod, and appealed to lots of kids at the time. She links the success of Code Lyoko as a child to how complex the characters are and how much viewers can relate to them, even as time goes on and the audience grows older.
“There’s a lot of teenage drama and it’s a good way to make the public love the show. It’s very relatable. The drama between Ulrich and Yumi, Odd’s humor as the comic relief–they were very relatable. You always compared yourself to the characters”, Carod reflects. “The story was original. As kids we loved roleplaying and we were always fighting for the characters”
Foletto also has opinions about why Code Lyoko is a great show, drawing fans into its complex storyline. “Code Lyoko is a very special show,” says Foletto, “It’s realistic in its setting, very well based on actual location, has a magnificent art background direction, and a very distinctive character art style. Of course the mix of 2D and 3D to represent the different world still is today a great thing.”
Jacqueline Romeo,a professor at Emerson College who teaches about popular culture, compares the lasting interest of Code Lyoko and fans interest in IFSCL to how Disney garners its fans: nostalgia. The introduction to this show as a child often happens at a very impressionable age and creates a sense of nostalgia from the beginning. This leaves viewers wanting to recreate this feeling as an adult.
“That’s what keeps you sort of hooked. That’s the same sort of psychology of branding. You’re sort of branded for life,” says Romeo. “If you were particularly impressed with it as a child and associate it with a lot of very happy memories of childhood, then that sense of wanting to recreate those happy childhood memories comes back and therefore keeps that particular brand in business.
Romeo concludes that this game is a successful recreation of such childhood memories.
“It sounds like this particular series has [affected people in this way]. You have one person who is devoted to it and the other people that participate, or consume, his video game are also probably searching for that sense of nostalgia or that memory of childhood that they so much enjoyed when they were first introduced to it.”