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October 19, 2005

This Day in History

On Oct. 18, 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) first went on sale in the United States

I would just like to take a moment to commemorate this historical event.

Happy Birthday, NES. I still love you now as much as I did when on the day you were born. Twenty years later, you still sit by my tv, right next to your offspring, the Game Cube. We anxiously await the next generation of Nintendo gaming. And while I may play with and bestow affection upon the other Nintendo systems, you will always hold a special place in my heart and forver remain my favorite. Thank you, NES. Thank you for Mario and Zelda, for Metroid and Kid Icarus, for Ninja Gaiden and for everything that came after you - SNES, Game Boy, N64, Game Cube - Happy Birthday.

nesbday.jpg

Hang on, I'm getting verklempt.

Feel free to share your NES memories. What were your favorite games?

September 16, 2005

the sound of one hand gaming

I've been waiting since May for news of the Nintendo Revolution controller. And now here it is:

Nintendo Revolution Controller

Nintendo breaks with more than 20 years of video game history by abandoning the traditional controller held with two hands and introducing an all-new freehand-style unit held with one hand. The intuitive, pioneering interface allows players to run, jump, spin, slide, shoot, steer, accelerate, bank, dive, kick, throw and score in a way never experienced in the history of gaming. ďThe feeling is so natural and real, as soon as players use the controller, their minds will spin with the possibilities of how this will change gaming as we know it today,Ē explains Satoru Iwata, Nintendo president. ďThis is an extremely exciting innovation Ė one that will thrill current players and entice new ones.Ē When picked up and pointed at the screen, the controller gives a lightning-quick element of interaction, sensing motion, depth, positioning and targeting dictated by movement of the controller itself.

Read the rest of that.

One hand? I don't know if my old-school brain will ever adapt to playing a video game with one hand. This seems revolutionary (no pun intended) and all, but what the hell will I do with my other hand? That's rhetorical, kids.

It does have an adapter (pictured, very Dreamcast reminiscent) so old dog/new tricks people like me can continue with the two-handed way of gaming, and the innovations on this controller are mouth-watering, so until I read all the articles stating what a piece of crap it is, I will believe that Nintendo has not let me down. Except for believing that video games were meant to be played with one hand.

I laid down my twenty dollar deposit at EB World for a Revolution months ago. I'm starting to feel that little tingle of excitement now.

Ahh they come in colors, too!

nintendo controllers color

There's a much more detailed explanation and review of of the controller here, as well as more purty pictures.

Hhah the comments there are amusing. Xbox and PS fanboys will shit all over anything Nintedo ever does.

IGN has an in depth look at the controller and how it might work with specific games.

Here's a video demonstration.

Also, I just thought of this: How many of us have sat in front of a video game, twisting and turning the controller as we manipulate charaters as if that's really going to help you? Now it WILL. Awesome.

I am sold.

Lots of people do not like it. I am not one of them.

Update, for those worrying about using controllers beside this one:

The top of Revolution has four GameCube controller ports that will allow the system to be compatible with the original controllers, Nintendo's wireless Wavebird controller, the DK Bongos, the Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance cable, and the Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix dance pads.

From wikipedia.

Nintendo's willingness to be backwards compatable is where others fail.

More discussion, pictures, links here.

July 21, 2005

Rockstar Games: Hot Coffee = Hot Water [UPDATED]

Someone emailed to ask my opinion on the whole Grand Theft Auto: SA thing (in which a hidden mini-game with explicit sexual content was found through a third party mod).

The "Hot Coffee" mod saw players taking their girlfriend home and then having sex with her in a mini-game that, while present on the game DVD, only came to light after a PC modification unlocked the code. The data was subsequently found to be resident on the PS2 and Xbox discs and could be unlocked on PS2 using Datel's Action Replay cheat-finder product.

Quick take; Rockstar Games is the worst thing to happen to the video game business. At first they denied they put the hidden content in, blaming it on hackers, but later it became apparent that wasn't the case.

This isn't just a matter of having to change a rating on a game - The ESRB wants the rating changed from M (mature, 17 and over) to A/O (Adults Only, meaning video game porn). And while you can argue until the cows come home that the ESRB, politicians and the media are overreacting because there are games with head-shot kills and incredible violence and they're worried about some characters in GTA humping, the long story short is, Rockstar Games fucked up. Not only does the rating have to be changed, meaning the game has to be pulled from shelves (Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Best Buy are all pulling) and sent back, but a lot of stores aren't going to carry the newly rated version. I can see where some video game chains don't want to carry something labeled as porn (also, there are financial ramifications).

If the mod/mini game was a publicity stunt by RG, it's biting them in the ass BIG TIME. And it's giving a huge black eye to the gaming industry, which doesn't have a good eye to spare, really.

I do think politicians should stay out of the gaming business and let parents determine what their kids can and can't play. It's part and parcel of the nanny state of liberalism, coupled with the prurient state of conservatism, that leads to ratings and enforcement of those ratings via retailers. It shouldn't be up to Joe Lieberman or Gary the EB Games clerk what our children can purchase. That's a parenting decision that shouldn't be legislated.

And does anyone else think this is like changing the rating of a movie after everyone's already seen it? "Oh, I'm sorry. That movie should have been rated NC 17. Wipe your mind and come see it again!" The rating change is probably a futile answer to a complex problem.

Hilary Clinton: "There is no doubting the fact that the widespread availability of sexually explicit and graphically violent video games makes the challenge of parenting much harder.."

How? How does it make it harder? Don't give me that "takes a village" crap, either. The challenge of parenting includes boundaries, guidelines and oh, not buying things for your kids that you don't want them to have, not letting play those games in your house and monitoring what they do/watch/listen to at their friend's houses if that kind of thing worries you so much. It also involves teaching your kids that just people who die on tv or in video games...wait for it...don't die in real life! It's fake! And here's a challengve: Instead of being so shocked that your kid is robbing pixelated taxi drivers and humping cartoon hos that you run to Congress to enact a law to forbid it, you TAKE THE GAME AWAY FROM HIM. How hard is that? And if it offends you so much that he's playing at someone else's house, don't let him go there. It's as simple as saying NO, something a lot of parents these days have forgotten how to do.

But back to Rockstar Games: The fact that they denied this easter egg of a treat was their doing is wrong on their part. Maybe they thought that when the content was discovered (which they knew it would be) it would bring publicity (no such thing as bad publicity!) to their product, thus boosting any lagging sales. But what they didn't think about was how this would affect the stores that carry their products and the gaming industry as a whole.

I think the problem lies with the fact that the general consensus among the non-game playing public is still that video games are for kids, are something only children play. They see a game with violence or nudity and they gasp in unison as they imagine nine year old kids killing soldiers and watching Lara Croft's jiggling breasts. The people who are horrified over M rated games need to look at some stats and see who the biggest game players are. (see, also: Think of the Childrens)

And if Hilary is so upset that violent and sexual video games have "fallen into the hands of young people across the country" maybe she and her cronies should be addressing the parents of those young kids. Someone is buying the games, and they are being played in someone's house. Don't blame the industry, blame a lack of supervision, blame lenient parents, blame lazy parents who don't take the time to see what's entertaining their children.

Or, perhaps we can look at some of the parents and congratulate them for teaching their kids the difference between reality and some pixels on a screen.

Either way, Rockstar Games has fucked over their own industry with this fiasco.

Rockstar CEO Paul Eibeler: "We are deeply concerned that the publicity surrounding these unauthorized modifications has caused the game to be misrepresented to the public and has detracted from the creative merits of this award winning product."

Bullshit. You're sorry that it's going to cost you. Like this person says: They should have released two versions or deleted the mod - and NEVER called it a hack. And honestly, as much as I love video games and play my share of violent titles, I think GTA is BORING. With or without adult situations.

[Wrote this in a real hurry, will probably edit, clarify, proofread later. I meant for this to run about four sentences, tops.]

Update: I should mention that I don't think the rating system itself should be abandoned - it pretty much protects retailers against litigious parents who send their children off by themselves to the store with a wad of cash and then act horrified when they come home with something violent.

Also, Penny Arcade had something on this yesterday I wanted to link to, but their site is wonky this morning.

Much more at Somebody Bitchslap Rockstar

Update: IT WAS TEH HAX0RZ!

June 29, 2005

name that game

Stemming from a discussion about coin-op games last week (or the week before), I made this Name That Coin-Op Game image.

Each image represents a a coin-op arcade game from the 80's. Some of the images are cropped from screen shots of the actual game, some from the title screen and some from the logo that appeared on the game cabinet. Some are easy and obvious, others a bit more obscure.

I've been working on this for a week. I lost the paper where I wrote down all the answers. You're on your own.


click for bigger.

One note: I really like making these games (I also did one for father's day) -if you want to suggest other categories for me to create games for, feel free.

June 16, 2005

Open Discussion: Bring Your Quarters

pmf.jpgI know I've done this before, but I'm doing it again. Why? Because this month marks Pac-Man's birthday and I'm in a celebrating mood.

If I come across a Pac-Man game coin-op, I have to stop and play, just to keep fresh the pattern that has been seared into mind for 25 years - the chomping pattern that earned me many a high score in various arcades around Long Island.

I miss going to arcades. I miss the thrill of stuffing an paycheck's woth of quarters into a slot. I miss spending almost entire days controlling joysticks and trackballs, mashing buttons and shooting missiles and riding ostriches in joust tournaments.

Let's talk coin-op games again. Give me your favorites. Share your memories. I'm feeling nostalgic for the good old days of Centipide, Q-Bert and Tron.

And happy birthday, Pac-Man. I never liked your wife or kids, but you? You fucking ROCK.

May 17, 2005

console wars!

gaming.jpg

It's certainly a hot time for gaming. Microsoft introduced the Xbox 360, Sony unveiled the PS3 and now Nintendo brings us the Revolution.

The console market is just about saturated. Is this a good thing or bad thing?

I think what's going to happen is we'll see more and more brand loyalty surface as new consoles are hand helds are introduced.

I used to be more loyal to Sega than anything else (I still heart my Dreamcast), but I find myself defending Nintendo a lot these days. That's probabpy because I still think 2D side scrollers are the greatest games and too much "artsy" innovation in video games doesn't always translate to better game play. For my money, Nintendo comes out with games that have the best play value.

The best thing about the Nintendo Revolution is the backwards compatability - eventually you will be able to download almost every Nintendo game for play, from Mario Bros. on up. The only thing that worries me about the Rev is they don't show the controllers. I need to see what they look like first before I make a commitment.

Look at the controllers for the PS3. What the hell are they thinking? How do you hold that for any length of time without getting carpal tunnel syndrome?

The 360 is everything I hate about the new age of video games. I want a console that plays video games. I already have everything I need to listen to music and upload camera images. I don't want another computer. I want a video game system. I want simplicity. I want to put in a game, press play and go. Why would I spend money a gaming console that does everything my computer does? Sometimes less is more. Which is why, I suppose, I always turn towards Nintendo.

So are any of you looking to buy one of these new consoles? Which one makes your hands twitch with anticipation?

---

As an update, I have to say that while I will defend Nintendo and it's "kid friendly" games to the death, I am not without my need for blood and gore. If I had to choose between the two other platforms, I'd go with the PS3 - and it's most likely that we would end up getting the PS3 as well to satisfy both my husband and son, who aren't big Nintendo fans like myself. I'd have to see a list for planned titles for the PS3 before I made a real choice - if it's all just rehashes of PS1 and 2 titles, then, for me, it's not worth it.

We never did buy an Xbox and it's not likely we'd ever get the 360.

April 15, 2005

the most awesome thing I have ever seen on the internet

Ever. Ever. Ever. I swear. Just. Fucking. Awesome.

[QT video. Windows version here. video game nerd alert. via MeFi]

Here's their website. And the audience reaction at some parts is priceless.

February 25, 2005

Random List

Games I played on the Sega Genesis that I really enjoyed and probably would never make anyone's Top Ten Video Games list, unless that person was a five year old kid:

  • Tiny Toons Adventures
  • The Berenstain Bears Camping Adventure
  • Aladdin
  • Mickey's Ultimate Challenge
  • Talespin

I always hated the Berenstain Bears on principle. Too preachy. Too trite. I remember reading a couple of the books to Nat once and she said, with a hint of both boredom and disgust, "Do all these books have to end in a lesson?"

Yet, somehow we ended up with Berenstain Bears Camping Adventure. And somehow I ended up in front of the tv at 2am, trying like hell to get through that cave and get all the diamonds. Just like when I ended up in front of the tv at 2am trying to get all those carrots for Buster Bunny.

There were some points in Bears when I just let Sister Bear hang out on the tree limb and get stung by bees and I'd be whispering,"there's your lesson, Sister Bear!" I never did beat that game. And all these years later, I still think about that. A game meant for 5-9 year olds and I didn't beat it? What's wrong with me? Too much time trying to make Sister Bear have an allergic reaction to bee stings, that's what.

I was thinking about downloading a Genesis ROM, but I'm going to go one better than that and dig the old Sega out from storage. It's time to free Sister from the bees and finish off the game.

Ohh, I hope Aladdin is in that box. (Flashback: A, B, B, A, A, B, B, A. Skip level.)

That's pathetic.

(Yes, this was an invitation to list your favorite stupid but loveable Genesis games)

February 24, 2005

Most Important Games Ever (3 and 4): Thank You Mario, But...

[See first in this series here]

Yesterday I mentioned something about doing a post on life altering experiences, in addition to doing the important video games thing and I realized that in a way, the two can be done at the same time.

I'm saving the bad life altering experiences for another time. For now, let's talk about how a dragon that looked like a duck, a plumber and a princess changed my life.

char_yorgle.gifMy favorite console video game ever is Atari's Adventure. It was simplistic and crude, but it thrilled me nonetheless. The thrill of slaying the dragon/duck, searching for keys, opening doors, finding the chalice - I had never played anything like it before. It had all the makings of one of those fairy tale adventures I loved so much when I was young. Well, minus the prince and the knights, but I had a good imagination. The best thing about the game was finding the Easter egg.

Select game 2 or 3 and enter the maze in the Black Castle. Move screen to the left of the first maze screen. At the bottom center of this room is a closed cubicle. Use the bridge to enter that area and collect the "dot". Carry this item to the screen just above the catacombs, located one screen down and to the right of the Gold Castle. Note: The "dot" is the same color as the ground outside, so care must be taken not to lose it in transit. Drop the "dot" here, and bring two other items onto the same screen. Move through the line on the right side of the screen to view the programmer credits.

There were also little quirks like different ways to get around the bat or make it so the dragon can't eat you. And really, was there anything more terrifying than the noise the game made when that dragon tried to chomp down on you?

I dreamed about Adventure. I played it in my head. And I thought how cool it would be if they would expand the game because I wanted more. More dragons to slay, more treasure to find, more quirks to discover.

Enter Nintendo. I clearly recall sitting in my living room one night with my sister Lisa, watching the Olympics. We saw a commercial for the Nintendo and made up our minds right there that we had to have one. An hour later, we were at the Video Vault (conveniently located in the lobby of Modell's, which was then a giant department store and not a sporting goods store*) buying ourselves a Nintendo.

I don't remember how long we played for. I know our eyes probably glazed over at some point and thumbs were aching and our asses had gone numb, but we were hooked.

I described Super Mario Bros. as Adventure times infinity. It had all the magic of Adventure - the quest, the hero, the villians, the scrolling from screen to screen as you tried to find your way around. But it was so much more. It was that expansion I was looking for. More worlds. More hidden features. More suprises. You never knew what would happen next. Would this brick bring a star or a mushroom? What will happen if I crouch down on this pipe? You can go up into the clouds!! Every time you played, there was something else to find, another clever trick or hidden surprise.

And the graphics! No more was I running from a pixelated dragon! Everything was so well defined. The colors were plentiful, the characters had real shapes..this is the stuff I had been dreaming of!

And now we get to the real reason why SMB is one of the most important games of all time: "Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!" thing? That was awesome. That, my friends, is how you learn coping skills. That's how you learn to handle disappointment. Put your kids in front of Super Mario Brothers and let them play their little hearts out until they think they won, and then those lowly mushroom retainers appear with the bad news and your kids will have learned one of life's greatest lessons. Disappointment sucks, but you must go on! I taught my kids how to play SMB at an young age just so I could let them know early on in life what if feels like to have the rug pulled out from under you. It comes in handy later. "I know you completed the entire project on time and you did a great job, but I think I want you to write me a ten page essay, too." THANK YOU MARIO! BUT OUR PRINCESS IS IN ANOTHER CASTLE!

You just can't beat a video game that's not only fun to play, but gives you a harsh dose of the realities of life to boot.

I still have so much love for the 2D side scroll games. In fact, I prefer them over today's 3D games that tend to be more about art than gameplay. I'm more interested in finding secret rooms and hidden weapons than I am looking at my heroine's perfectly formed tits.

And that's probably my next gaming post, so I'll stop there.

*I worked at both places at various times

February 23, 2005

Most Important Games Ever (1 and 2)

Hey, I already wrote a post like this. That makes my work a lot easier.

The two games mentioned below are just two of the most important games ever. I thinke each platform and each genre have their own heroes, legends and forerunners. These two certainly were leaders in the industry.

When it comes to reading a book that has been made into a movie, I always prefer the book, no matter how well made the movie is. The reason is simple - I like to use my imagination. I prefer to conjure up the scenery, the look of the characters. I have a definite vision in my mind of the world that exists within the story Iím reading and no cinematographer will ever match what I envision.

I thinnk this is why I fell in love with text adventure games. From the first time I loaded up Zork on my Vic 20, I was obsessed. It was a story, but with choices. I could direct which way a scene would play out. The heroís life was in my hands. No, I was the hero!

There is a small mailbox here.

> look in mailbox

That mailbox probably looked different to everyone who played Zork. For some, it was made of wood, for others it was gold, or silver, or just a shabby, rusted box by the side of the road. I read the leaflet that was in the mailbox. I was on my way. I stood in the open field, west of the big white house with the boarded front door.

And thus my adventure began. And it was my adventure, nobodyís elseís. No matter how many people were playing Zork at that exact moment, no one was having the same adventure as me. I had a set vision in my mind of the way things looked in the house and in the cellar and underground. In fact, I dreamed about these places - in a precursor to the days when I would dream about falling Tetris blocks - and thought about them even when I wasnít playing the game (yes, I did stop to sleep and eat once in a while).

I never wanted the game to end. I wanted an endless array of puzzles to solve. Yet I did want it to end because I had to prove I could do it. Once I finally solved it, it was like a piece of my life was missing. Pathetic, I know. But there were sequels to Zork and many other adventure games to keep me going once I finally got back to the mailbox and found the barrow.

You are in a twisty maze of passageways, all alike.

>

Colossal Cave Adventure was made before even Zork; it was the first known interactive fiction game, created by Will Crowther originally to simulate his cave exploring experiences. I played "Adventure" so often that sometimes I would fall asleep at the computer. So many days and nights meeting dwarfs and saying plugh, catching the bird and falling into a pit because I forgot to turn my lamp on. Again, I got lost in a world that existed solely between my head and my keyboard. There were other text adventures I played endlessly, but Zork and Adventure are the ones that I can still reenact in my head; every detail I gave to those worlds still exist for me (Later on, Level 9 would add graphics to Adventure).

Eventually, graphics were added to the adventures. I thought I wouldnít like it, but I was amazed by the pictures that appeared on the screen before me (Hey, I hear you young whippersnappers laughing. Those pixilated graphics were amazing for that time!). Pirates convinced me that I could get used to having pictures to go with my games. Once you got into the gameplay, you were only concerned with getting to the end.

Some of my favorite graphic adventures came from Windham Classics. Sure, I felt a little odd sitting there playing games based on childrenís books, but the puzzles were hard and the authors of the games kept them interesting enough so that you never felt like you were in a childís world; there was something very adult about Aliceís adventures in this Wonderland. Same for Below the Root; the story was fascinating and the gameplay pretty hard.

Colossal Cave Adventure and the Infocom games paved the way for future generations of amazing role playing and adventures. From Zelda to Metal Gear Solid, they all owe a debt of gratitude to the simple command choice of north, south, east or west.

Of all the games we geeks played, of all the nights we never went to sleep because we had to find our way out of the chasm, for all the grues we met and treasure we found and all the times we had to say xyzzy, for the trolls and dragons, for the drafty room and for the trial and error way of getting that last point in Caves, and for all the reasons the readers have shared, I am claim Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork: The Great Underground Empire as two of the Most Important Games Ever.

[The original of this post has a special place in my heart as Dave Lebling, one of the co-authors of Zork, left a comment. One of my greatest blogging/geek moments]

You can nominate your VIG (very important games) in the post below this one. Or this one. Whatever floats your boat, spins your dryer, butters your toast.

You Go Ahead and Play While I Work
Quiz and a Poll

Today turns out to be much busier at work than expected.

And I've decided to do the games post today and save the other stuff for the rest of the week.

While I'm trying to clear off my desk so I can blog without work-guilt, I've got a few things for you.

First, see if you can name all these games by the screenshots.

Second, a gaming poll. We've done the best arcade games, worst video games and tons of other polls here, but we've never covered the subject I am going to write about later: The Most Important Game EVER.

Nominate a game. State your case. We'll discuss it later.

December 19, 2003

Gaming: retrocrush invaded my mind!

I swear, I was going to do this same contest. I even had 10 screenshots saved already. Just ask Todd. I told him about it two weeks ago.

It's a hard contest. Out of the 40 screenshots, I think I recognized only 12 immediatley. I have to study the rest. How did you do?

[Category: Gaming]

December 12, 2003

today's gaming fun: haiku tributes to the atari 2600

Quite busy today, but squeezing in some time to work on a tribute to the Atari 2600. In honor of that, I think I'll have an Atari haiku contest. It's Friday and we should be having fun. So sharpen your mad haiku writing skillz and pen an ode to the system itself or your favorite game; anything as long as it's Atari 2600 related.


Remember, haiku is 5-7-5. Incorrectly metered haikus and any other types of poetry will be discarded.

the gateway drug to gaming: winky dink and me

winkydink.gifIn the early sixties, when I was just a wee child and television was still broadcast in twenty shades of black and white, I had my first experience with interactive tv viewing.

Winky Dink and You originally ran in the fifties, but was brought back, if momentarily, in 1969. The premise was this: Winky Dink was a kid with hair that was shaped like a star. Winky would get into all kinds of jams and he would ask the kids watching at home to help him out by drawing whatever he needed to extract himself from his predicament. We did this with the Winky-Dink Kit, which consisted of a greenish plastic screen and some crayons. If Winky needed a ladder, for instance, you would put the screen over the tv - it magically stuck to the screen! - and draw a ladder. Usually there were dots to connect to help you draw the picture.

The show originally hosted by Jack Barry, and I don't remember if he also hosted the episodes I watched. There was a goofy assistant with the name of Mr. Bungle, which maybe explains my fascination with the band of the same name - some deep seated memory makes me cling to the band as the only connection to my innocent, black-and-white childhood. No, not really. But it's still an interesting side note. Sadly, the rebirth of Winky Dink in 1969 didn't last long, as doctors everywhere decided that children could go blind from sitting that close to the tv.

Winky Dink was my first inkling -at just seven years old - that television could be more than something to stare at. It was a slippery slope from there, kids. Winky Dink was the gateway drug that led me to Pong and Oddyssey many years later.

December 11, 2003

new gaming subject: console wars

Tomorrow's gaming talk will be a knock-down, drag-out death match fight between Atari 2600, Colecovision and Intellivision.

Let the console wars begin. Start your defense of your favorite one.

Worst Game Ever: The "winners"

It took a lot of contemplating, research and consulting of People With Opinions, but I finally have the winner for Worst.Video.Game.Ever.

Winners, that is. Because of the passion generated by the haters of both E.T. and DaiKatana, I am awarding them each a Comic Guy statue.

Continue reading "Worst Game Ever: The "winners"" »

today's gaming talk

Today's gaming topic will be Worst Video Game Ever, thanks to a suggestion by Dodd. I suppose Most Disappointing Game would fit the topic just the same.

For this one we will include everything: coin-ops, PC games, and the new stuff as well as old school.

Nominations in the comments, please.

My first nominee is below.

Continue reading "today's gaming talk" »

December 10, 2003

choose your own video game adventure

So, what shall we cover tomorrow? PC games? Old school console games (Atari, Oddysey, Coleco, Intellivsion)? A specific genre of games? Name your poison and I'll serve it up.

video game lifetime achievement award: xyzzy!

When it comes to reading a book that has been made into a movie, I always prefer the book, no matter how well made the movie is. The reason is simple - I like to use my imagination. I prefer to conjure up the scenery, the look of the characters. I have a definite vision in my mind of the world that exists within the story Iím reading and no cinematographer will ever match what I envision.

I thinnk this is why I fell in love with text adventure games. From the first time I loaded up Zork on my Vic 20, I was obsessed. It was a story, but with choices. I could direct which way a scene would play out. The heroís life was in my hands. No, I was the hero!

There is a small mailbox here.

> look in mailbox

That mailbox probably looked different to everyone who played Zork. For some, it was made of wood, for others it was gold, or silver, or just a shabby, rusted box by the side of the road. I read the leaflet that was in the mailbox. I was on my way. I stood in the open field, west of the big white house with the boarded front door.

And thus my adventure began. And it was my adventure, nobodyís elseís. No matter how many people were playing Zork at that exact moment, no one was having the same adventure as me. I had a set vision in my mind of the way things looked in the house and in the cellar and underground. In fact, I dreamed about these places - in a precursor to the days when I would dream about falling Tetris blocks - and thought about them even when I wasnít playing the game (yes, I did stop to sleep and eat once in a while).

I never wanted the game to end. I wanted an endless array of puzzles to solve. Yet I did want it to end because I had to prove I could do it. Once I finally solved it, it was like a piece of my life was missing. Pathetic, I know. But there were sequels to Zork and many other adventure games to keep me going once I finally got back to the mailbox and found the barrow.

You are in a twisty maze of passageways, all alike.

>

Colossal Cave Adventure was made before even Zork; it was the first known interactive fiction game, created by Will Crowther originally to simulate his cave exploring experiences. I played "Adventure" so often that sometimes I would fall asleep at the computer. So many days and nights meeting dwarfs and saying plugh, catching the bird and falling into a pit because I forgot to turn my lamp on. Again, I got lost in a world that existed solely between my head and my keyboard. There were other text adventures I played endlessly, but Zork and Adventure are the ones that I can still reenact in my head; every detail I gave to those worlds still exist for me (Later on, Level 9 would add graphics to Adventure).

Eventually, graphics were added to the adventures. I thought I wouldnít like it, but I was amazed by the pictures that appeared on the screen before me (Hey, I hear you young whippersnappers laughing. Those pixilated graphics were amazing for that time!). Pirates convinced me that I could get used to having pictures to go with my games. Once you got into the gameplay, you were only concerned with getting to the end.

Some of my favorite graphic adventures came from Windham Classics. Sure, I felt a little odd sitting there playing games based on childrenís books, but the puzzles were hard and the authors of the games kept them interesting enough so that you never felt like you were in a childís world; there was something very adult about Aliceís adventures in this Wonderland. Same for Below the Root; the story was fascinating and the gameplay pretty hard.

Colossal Cave Adventure and the Infocom games paved the way for future generations of amazing role playing and adventures. From Zelda to Metal Gear Solid, they all owe a debt of gratitude to the simple command choice of north, south, east or west.

Of all the games we geeks played, of all the nights we never went to sleep because we had to find our way out of the chasm, for all the grues we met and treasure we found and all the times we had to say xyzzy, for the trolls and dragons, for the drafty room and for the trial and error way of getting that last point in Caves, and for all the reasons the readers have shared, I am giving the ASV Lifetime Achievement Award to both Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork: The Great Underground Empire.

You may make your testimonials now.


December 09, 2003

speaking of video games

A new phrase has been coined: Killographic.

It pertains to video games that portray "graphic depiction[s] of brutal violence."

Get it? See, pornographic is for sex and killographic is for....oh, nevermind. You understand.

The problem is here is that most pornography is made with real, live people and video games aren't. I'm sure David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family understands that. He just doesn't get it.

Remember Frogger? Did you ever make the frog purposely get hit by a car just to see him splatter? Killographic!

Are you one of those people that made the rides on Rollercoaster Tycoon go so fast that your visitors were flung from the coaster cars to their death? Killographic!

Hell, even on Tiny Toons Adventure, tiny Bugs Bunny (Buster?) dies and when he does, a little halo appears above his head as his ghostly shape rises to bunny heaven. That's animal cruelty. It's a horrible potrayal of death as a game. Killographic!


Sure, the games that the research center list as "killographic" are games meant for mature players. And yes, they do contain graphic violence. Against animation! The horror!

On the other hand, look at the games they recommend. Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga is one such game. Look at this picture! Just look! Luigi is about to pound Mario on the head with a mallet! If that's not Killographic, I don't know what is.

And SimCity 4? Why, you can set fire to your city! You can make a volcano explode or have lightning bolts strike a neighborhood. Death, destruction and mayhem - family fun for all. Killographic!

What's the difference between the simulated violence in Backyard Wrestling and that in SimCity?

Sorry for being so cynical, but killographic is just a stupid word, used to scare parents into taking away their kids' video games or not even buying them at all. News flash: most of those games are rated T or M. The little kiddies shouldn't even be playing them.

Oh, silly me. That would be putting the responsibility in the hands of the parents rather than the video game industry. Everyone knows that parents aren't responsible for their kids do. The entertainment industry is. Instead of shouting from the mountain top that some video games are bad, bad, bad, perhaps someone should be educating some parents about keeping an eye on what your children are buying, playing and watching. We'll make a movement out of it and call it Parentgraphic: The almost realistic display of parents taking charge of their children.

Too horrible to even think about for some people, I know.

video game awards: new category

Before we move onto consoles, I will be presenting a lifetime achievement award to the the old text adventures and graphic text adventures, from the days of the Commodore 64 and Vic 20 (those are the machines I used, you may have used others).

You can make suggestions here as to which specific games should be honored. This is not a poll like the others were, just a love letter to my favorite computer games of all time.

December 08, 2003

It's a late rush win!

rotb.gifFor almost 24 hours, it was a contest between Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man and Galaga. But neither the dot-chewers nor aliens-as bugs space game has taken the crown.

In a last minute surge, the ostrich riders of Joust pulled out a victory. I have a sneaking suspicion that this guy had something to do with it.

For those of you who are not old enough to remember Joust, I am not kidding about the ostrich thing.

Tomorrow, we will move on to console-based games, but not before I present the Lifetime Achievement Award to a certain genre of PC games in the morning: the good old text adventure/graphic text adventure.

If you have something you would like to say on behalf of the games that paved the way for adventures in gaming, please do so here so I can add your testimonial to mine. Damn, I'm getting all verklempt.

every vote counts

It looks like it's still a dead heat between Mr. and Mrs. Pacman and Galaga.

I'm going food shopping on my way home from work. Do you think you could have this thing decided by the time I get home? I want to move on to the other categories but I'd rather not have to deal with a messy recount or deal with the fans of either game spending the next four years harping on and on about how their choice lost a flawed election. Know what I'm saying? Good.

Go vote. You have about two hours.

note on video game voting

I won't be posting any new video game voting until tonight. Meanwhile, I've decided to leave the polls open for the latest vote, because it's such a heated contest. Right now it's between Pac-Man, Galaga, Joust and Space Invaders, but things can change quickly. You can also run a campaign for a write-in vote if you feel that strongly about Bezerk or Robotron or whatever other games you freaks keep writing me about.

December 07, 2003

Video Hall of Fame Awards, Stage 3: The Rest of the Best of the Coin-Ops

This is the last coin-op entry, and then we move on to platforms (which will include the C64, Vic 20, etc. Won't somebody please help me break those things down into categories?).

There were too many nominated to get them all in the poll, so here are the most frequent nominees.

[Poll in extended entry]

You have the rest of the day to vote. We've got snowmen to build.

Continue reading "Video Hall of Fame Awards, Stage 3: The Rest of the Best of the Coin-Ops" »

Video Hall of Fame, Category 2 Winner and new category

mm2.jpgWe have a clear winner in the Coin-Op Trackball category. Congratulations to Marble Madness.

I always loved the idea of Marble Madness but I couldn't play for more than five minutes. As soon as my marble went over the edge and into oblivion, I would get a sudden attack of vertigo. Yes, my fear of heights transcended into video games. Sad, I know.

Coming up later - most likely in the afternoon - will the Best of the Rest category, featuring all the other Coin-Op games in a death match battle. There's still time to make your nominations (see the others there). Just remember that we are honoring old school games, pre-Playstation. So anything coin-op before 1994 (but not vector or trackball games, because they've already had their moment) is good for this category.

December 06, 2003

Video Hall of Fame Awards, Stage 2: Trackball Coin-Ops

games2.jpg





We have one more category to go on the Coin-Op (and that would "the rest of them") and then we'll start on the platform-based games. No idea how I'm going to split them up yet.


And the winner is (plus new category)

results.gif

Asteroids kicks the collective ass of everyone else.

I'm working on a separate Hall of Fame page and I'll make the gaming thing a separate category so all the entries will be in one place.

Now, for the next category. We're still working with Coin-Ops here, remember. This will be for trackball games. There's a lot of nominees here, but you can still make more suggestions on this post. Pre 1995 is the only requirement.

You have a little bit before I make the poll; I've just been challenged to a game of Yahtzee by my son.

Video Hall of Fame Awards, Stage 1: Vector Coin-Ops

Here's how this is going to work [if you're late to the party, see here for reference]

I'm dividing the Coin-Op Category into three sub categories. Don't ask how I came up with the subs. I'm not sure.

And the nominees are:


games.jpg

Vote early, vote often, vote with your heart, not with your head. It is now 1pm EST. Polls close...later. Some time today.

December 05, 2003

vote early, vote often, and don't forget about Pengo!

Don't forget to keep making your nominations here for best Coin-Op game. I'll be posting the five finalists tomorrow and then we'll move on to the next category. I still could use some help making the categories if anyone has suggestions. Still undecided on the platform/genre issue.

[Pengo]

poll position

Speaking of voting and such, go vote for you favorite bloggers over at Wizbang.


[click it]

Ok, I made that for Kevin but it just looks like crap when I try to resize it. I thought he wanted it for the top of the page, but he just wants if for the poll section. Every time I change the sizing, the graphics look like shit. I've never had this problem before and I can't figure out where I went wrong.

Anyone? Bueller?

Update: Thanks to Stacy who, as always, had the answer I needed.

Also, I am getting my ass kicked in the awards. Kottke? Please don't let me get beat by Kottke. Go vote for someone else ahead of me, just for the principal of it.

zaxxon and me

This one is for Jack, who nominated one of my favorite games, Zaxxon.

zax.jpgOnce upon a time, I worked at the Video Vault, which was one of the first video stores to open on Long Island. The Video Vault was located in the lobby of Modell's, which was then a Wal-Mart type store, not a sporting goods store.

Modell's, in their quest to attract dirtbag teens to their snack bar, which shared a lobby with the video store, installed some video games right at the entrance to the store. I think Tron was first, then Dragon's Lair, then Zaxxon.

I probably turned most of paychecks from VV into quarters and spent all of my break time - and time before and after work - playing Zaxxon.

My little anecdote about Zaxxon is this: The Clash song Rock the Casbah has some weird sound effects in it, and they sound so much like one of the sound effects from Zaxxon that every time I hear the song, I am back standing in Modell's, hand sweating, hunched over the Zaxxon machine and making bets with Pete the security guard that I could break the high score. And I always did.

You can find out more about Zaxxon here.

Video Hall of Fame, Category 1: Coin-Op Games

[ED NOTE 12/6: The nominations for VECTOR COIN-OP GAMES ONLY are closed. You are still welcome to leave nominations for all other coin-ops. To vote in the official poll for this category, go here]

I see I'm not the only one that drools over old video games, so I'm going to go ahead and start up the nominations for my awards/hall of fame type thing. I think this is much better than doing a year-end round up of my favorite things because, honestly, 2003 sucked for new music and music would have made up the bulk of my posts.

Anyhow. We're going to start by nominating Coin-Op stand alone games. Because I drew the cut-off line here at BP (Before Playstation), we'll keep it at before 1995, which is when Playstation was first distributed in the U.S. So, for this category:

I'll then whittle down your choices in each category to five, and have a poll for those five, and then we'll move on to other categories. If you have a suggestion for a category (for instance, should I break them down by type of game, or by platform?) just add it to the comments.

First Category: Coin-Op games before 1995.

Gentlemen (and women), start your nominations. And yes, you can nominate as many as you like.

video game revolution (with hall of fame voting enabled)

Watching those wretched Video Game Awards last night - and breaking out in hives as they named Madden 2003 Game of the Year - kept me awake most of the night thinking about gaming. Yes, I actually lay there in bed, tossing, turning and cursing the video game industry.

Still harping on the subject today, I started a conversation with my fellow stunted-maturity victim Todd and we both came to the same conclusion. Old School beats New School when it comes to gaming.

Iíve had enough of 3D. Itís starting to bore me. Iím sick of first person shooters. I hate video games that spend too much time presenting themselves as slick CGI movies. Iím tired of the way they dick you around when you are buying a system, making you purchase your second controller extra or buying bundles with games you have no interest in playing or, in the case of the Game Boy Advance, having to purchase a light so you can play the damn thing without going blind. Most of all, I hate that the industry has become nothing but a relationship between whores and pimps.To wit: Two whores for the price of one today: IGN and GameSpy are merging. That means one less place you can go to for biased reviews of games, paid for by advertising from the companies who make the games that are being reviewed. Pity.

I am going to start a revolution, even if itís a revolution of one. I am going to drag my Super NES and my Sega Genesis out of the closet. Hell, Iíll even break out the Atari. Iím forsaking 3D rendered worlds for the flat world of Mario and Luigi. Iím kicking out all the half-dressed babes and macho men for the simple world of Pole Position. I want controllers that donít have as many buttons as the space shuttle. I want cheat codes that consist of U-D-R-D. I want cartridges that take a beating and keep on ticking. Come on, how cool was it to be able to attach Sonic & Knuckles to Sonic 3? I want simple midi music and cheesy looking characters. I want Pitfall Harry and poorly rendered spaceships. I want to waste hours upon hours playing Dr. Robotnikís Mean Bean Machine or Castlevania. And I donít want your new-fangled 3D super spectacular improved and anatomically correct Mario or Zelda. I want a scrolling flat screen, a simple controller. I may even search the attic for my C64 and Vic 20 and rescue Leisure Suit Larry from oblivion.

Join my revolution. Tell John Madden and his over hyped games to take a hike. Bring back the Tecmo Super Bowl!

So what am I going to do about this but have a revolution from my living room? Iím going to make my own awards. Simple, easy and no David Spade or Missy Elliot to distract you from the real issue at hand. The award will be called the Old School Video Game Hall of Fame Recognition (for lack of something more creative at the moment).

Make your nominations below. Nominate as many as you want. The only rule is, the game has to be for older platforms, meaning Sega Genesis, NES, N64, Atari, C64 or, basically, anything before the Playstation came out.