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Showing posts with the label Narrative

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

Open Discussion: Conversations with NPCs

It doesn’t matter if your games are at a tabletop or one in the digital realms of consoles and PCs, at some point in your role playing adventures you'll wind up interacting with a Non-Player Character. Unless you’ve a really weird game going on, you’re probably dealing with multiple NPCs regularly.  Non-Player Characters are the denizens of our imaginary worlds that bring them to bustling life. Even the most mundane outline of a person rounds out the settings we create in ways we don’t often consider. As the blog has discussed before, a lot of storytelling can come from the environment , but we shouldn’t neglect the people that dwell within the places we present and play in. Non-Player Characters are our vendors, our adversaries, our allies, our victims and our quest givers. At times they may just be part of the background, but without them our roleplaying games simply wouldn’t work. Interactions with NPCs can range anywhere from a brief visual description to a full-out member of y

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,

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

...Spins a Web? Any Size?

Spider-Man, Spider-Man, Does whatever a spider can Spins a web, any size, Catches thieves just like flies Look Out! Here comes the Spider-Man. Spider-Man has been a pop culture stalwart since the early 60s, with no signs of that slowing down. He's had numerous comic series, spin-offs, cartoons, blockbuster movies and, of course, video games. His appeal is unquestionable, as most people can relate to his dilemma of power and moral responsibility. The Atari 2600 Spider-Man from 1982 may not have been a masterpiece, but electronic gaming has come a long way over the years. After a break from video games since the PS2 generation, Marvel's Spider-man seemed a perfect fit for Captain Jumpy Andy's return to consoles. Little did he know when he picked up a PS4 and the game early in the 2020 pandemic just how appropriate the game's plotline would be... Prophetic or not, what does Never Say Dice have to say about this incarnation of the world’s favorite web-slinger, and how

Restless Dreams: Horror, Fantasy, Gaming, and Emotional Logic

The calendar tells us that it's October, and while it may not feel like it outside, this is officially the season for spooks and scares. Given the time of year and the twenty-year anniversary of its release (and also of my owning it) the next game in my backlog playthrough was obvious: 2001's Silent Hill 2 . Much has already been written about this game (there's a reason it's on so many "Best Games of All Time" lists, after all), so this post will be neither explanation nor analysis, but rather a exploration of the way horror blurs the lines between the world that we know exists, and the way we feel it exists... and the way that games, both electronic and tabletop, are uniquely capable of embodying this dichotomy. Given my love of horror and all things surreal, it's kind of surprising that it's taken me this long to actually finish the game. At the outset, it was because I felt obligated to play the original Silent Hill first, even though I was va

Thoughts on the American Withdrawal from Afghanistan, Primarily Informed by MGSV

Afghanistan's a big place. It's become something of a cliche to say that recent events are " just like Metal Gear games ," but this is often the case with science fiction. Good works are always about the time in which they were made, but with a focus on exploring certain aspects. Where it might go. As time goes on and these aspects develop, science fiction can feel eerily prescient. The Metal Gear series has incorporated real-world politics since the 2D days, portraying the governments of western nations, particularly the United States, as duplicitous and capable of monstrous atrocities... all while playing a character working on those governments' behalf. 1998's Metal Gear Solid was fundamentally about the fallout from the Cold War arms race, the dangers of the weapons created for a war that never came (which included Snake himself), and lengths to which the military-industrial complex will go to maintain its fiscal and political dominance in a world without