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Showing posts with the label Electronic Games

Pew-Pew Zoom: Star Commander Elite Wing

Forty-five years later, it's easy to take Star Wars (1977) for granted. Sure, as film scholars both armchair and professional love to point out, George Lucas wore his influences on his oversized Tattooine-robe sleeve: 1930s serials, Akira Kurosawa, spaghetti westerns (particularly ones also influenced by Akira Kurosawa), teenage hot rod racing films, WWII fighter pilot movies... but nothing had ever blended it all together like that. And while the joints between the various segments seem obvious now (thankfully, Marcia Lucas is finally getting credit for her part in turning her husband's unfinished mess of a movie into a cultural-defining juggernaut), at the time it was largely seen as a non-stop thrill ride of excitement and energy. Previously, we've talked about the influence (and very lucky timing) Star Wars would have on the nascent video game industry and how, within a year of its release, space games had become the dominant force in arcades as fans could experien

Pew-Pew Zoom: SHMUPS, WTH?

A few weeks ago, I delved into the narrative elements of early space-based aracade games , but I still want to keep exploring the frontiers of what space games have to offer. "Pew-Pew Zoom" will be closer looks at different aspects of space games, and I felt nowhere would be a better starting point than the humble (yet often very, very strange) SHMUP. So dust off your controllers, stack up those quarters, and GET READY! To start, we should probably define the rather odd, but fun to say, acronym "SHMUP." While it's a shortening of the age-old term "Shoot 'em Up" (which, prior to the advent of electronic gaming, primarily referred to films and TV shows, particularly Westerns and war stories), the term is generally referred to a specific kind of shooting game: one where the player guides a vehicle, such as a spaceship, fighter plane, blimp, or hummingbird , at a set speed across scrolling levels in two dimensions, avoiding enemies and their weaponry,

Super Cereal

Hey, It’s-a me Never Say Dice! We’ve gathered here once again to celebrate the flimsy excuse of a corporate holiday: March 10, otherwise known as Mar10 (or Mario) Day. Last year, after making a few suggestions on how you might celebrate the holiday, we discussed how details can serve as the Power-Up Mushroom for Your Narrative . We talked about what a person’s intro to Mario might have been, the story behind the "original" Super Mario Bros. on the NES, and what it could mean to us in our tabletop stories and elsewhere. Certainly, your first experience with Mario may have been a media cash grab like the one linked above. You could also have come to meet Mario later in life as part of an Olympic, Kart racing game, party game, or any number of other titles Nintendo inserted the character into. ( Mario Tennis in 3D on the Virtual Boy , maybe? Anyone? Hopefully the first time you met Mario it was at least less headache inducing.) Perhaps your first introduction to the plumber in

You Cannot Fast Travel When Plot is Nearby

You’ve probably been there. Trying to get from one part of the map to another. A sound effect cuts through the overworld music , an animation comes up, and the music switches to something a little more adrenaline-pumping. The first time it happens in a game, maybe the first few dozen times, you’re probably pretty excited. What monsters will you face? Will there be materials to upgrade your weapons? Just a little much-needed currency and experience? A surprise treasure box ? Then you get to that fourth dozen time…fifth…sixth? Somewhere in there it becomes a boring monotonous grind just to get anywhere, or maybe to find the last component you need to upgrade your ranged weapon. At best, the ritual becomes a minor annoyance while you pass through as quickly as possible. Would it be better if you could just fast travel ? Zipping between two points without subjecting your character(s) (and yourself) to yet another pointless battle? This can work well in video games, but do you use it at you

In the Arcade, Everyone Can Hear You Pew-Pew

You take aim at the enemy vessel and fire, but a huge rock, slowly tumbling through space, comes between you and your target. It splits, breaking into smaller chunks, each moving twice as fast as their predecessor. You swear under your breath as you rotate your ship and push the throttle to its maximum... the last thing you needed was another deadly navigational hazard to contend with. Your irritation turns to panic, however, when a alarm starts screaming at you - one of the small, deadly accurate fighters has entered the region and is coming at you fast, guns blazing. Suddenly, one of the small rocks careens directly into your flight path. By the time you've rotated again and hit the thrust, it will be too late. There's only one option, but it's risky: a quick jump into hyperspace will get you out of the way, but there's a good chance you'll break up on re-materialization or come out right on top of an asteroid. You pray to whatever lowly god is watching over this

Take Heart: Health in Games

Being "Heart Healthy" is something I’ve been concerned about in the past few months. It's not just for fun and games - after my incident with emergency gallbladder surgery (see our previous post " To the Pain " for more on that), my doctors have been encouraging me to adopt a heart healthy diet. Why am I talking about this at all though? As you may have realized, this is the season where you tend to see hearts everywhere. Valentine’s Day has snuck up on us once again. (I blame Groundhog’s Day for stealing some of the attention.) We’ve written about the romance aspect of the holiday and how to include them in your games before, but all these hearts around have had me thinking a lot about how we deal with health in our games. Both electronic and our favorite tabletop games have various ways of dealing with characters' health. So for this Valentine’s Day, take heart! And also take a look at health in games with Never Say Dice. The Valentine's-style heart i

Our 100th Issue!

This week marks an auspicious occasion for the Never Say Dice blog. Although Bugsy and Andy have been having these sorts of conversations in person, in text, and even in song far longer than they should probably admit, this post marks number 100 for the comic blog. For a monthly comic, that would work out to almost 8 and a half years! While we’re just shy of our 2 year Blogaversery , we’d like to do something special. After all, 100 weeks of content without fail is a pretty nifty accomplishment, we feel. While we don’t have a special crossover event (but if you’re interested in writing for the blog, feel free to reach us by email ), or a character death planned (by Lucifer's beard, Bugsy, please stick around. I can’t edit this thing by myself), we did have a special idea in mind. So dear readers, grab a snack, get in a comfortable spot, and enjoy making fun of our predictions of what gaming might look like over the next 100 years. Assuming any number of pending worldwide disasters

The Social Backlog Phenomenon

The term "backlog" has really grown in discussions about electronic gaming over the past few years, like... well, like a backlog (as many of us can attest). The pandemic, though, seems to have brought the subject to the forefront - I've certainly brought it up in here more than a few times. Starting around the summer of 2020, dozens of articles began to appear about how and why (or why not ) one should go about "defeating" (or "tackling" or "taking on") their backlog. Interestingly, as above, the choice of verb is often a violent or confrontative one, suggesting that the games that once intrigued us enough to purchase have themselves become bosses to fight. Again, I am guilty of this myself , largely due to cultural osmosis, but recently I used the term "backlog journey," which is closer to how I really feel about the subject. I get to experience these games for the first time, I'm neither trying to achieve a high score in &q

MasterType and the Surreal World of Educational Games

  January 8 is International Typing Day, a celebration of speed and accuracy in written communication that originated in Malaysia. The date was chosen so that, following a week's worth of thought and deliberation, people can write out their ideas and resolutions for the New Year. While reading about this holiday, I got to thinking about my own history at the keyboard, going back to the Atari 800XL my family acquired shortly before I started the first grade. One game we got early on was called MasterType - I don't know if this purchase was inspired by my father wanting to improve his own typing abilities or if it was more so that  my sister and I could more comfortable at the keys, but it was very likely the very first piece of "edutainment" software I ever experienced... although it certainly wouldn't be the last. MasterType exists in the same weird conceptual space as a lot of games from its era. Like Pac-Man or Qix , the individual elements exist unto themsel