Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts with the label Narrative

Play It Again, Sam!

Sometimes it feels like people who consume media are divided into two camps, with little leeway in between: one says "I don't keep books/games/movies after I'm done with them, I'm not going to read/play/watch them again," and the other instinctively amasses the things they like in order to access or re-visit  them on a moment's notice. (Anyone who has ever helped me move knows which group I belong to... and I'm very sorry about your backs.) Physical media and its associated benefits and drawbacks notwithstanding, the motivations behind these positions say a lot about the way people engage with the media they enjoy.   With predominately linear formats like books and movies, the engagement process is mostly pre-defined. While one could argue about the way home viewing has changed the cinematic experience by allowing audiences to jump in at any point or to back up and  re-examine missed details, and that printed media, particularly comics, have always had a &

Superman and Purpose

Greetings, citizens of Metropolis, (Metropolians? Metro-ites? Metrons? Is there even a specific term?) and happy salutations to all for another annual Superman Day . While it may have originated as yet another spurious corporate holiday, for some it can still be an opportunity to celebrate a long-beloved superhero. Though I may tend to be more of a Marvel fan myself, DC Universe stalwarts like Superman and Batman have always been part of my media consumption. This may be an unavoidable force, as evidenced by both my children becoming fans of DC superheroes before they even consumed any related media. A while back, Bugsy broached the topic of nature of Superman as a character and property for a previous Superman Day. With such a long-running and widespread character, it's worth thinking about what our own personal experiences with Superman have been. How have they shaped our unique view of the character, and how will that change our interactions with future Superman media? For thi

Combat Culture

For the past two years, this weekend has seen “ Moments of Silence ” posts, the first in response to the murder of George Floyd, and the second to comment on what had taken place in the ensuing year. This year, the weeks leading up to the anniversary have seen a number of brutal, preventable, man-made tragedies, and, given their nature, the standard litany of finger-pointing -  particularly from those desperate to draw attention from the obvious connection between mass shootings and the ready availability of firearms. In addition to their current favorite targets, both human and conceptual (funny how the blame always falls on the people they were already mad at), and something that can only be described as “architectural victim blaming” (at least Ted Cruz’s comments about doors are being roundly mocked), the old classics were trotted out, including that aging recurring villain: video games. Both of us at NSD were in the same graduating class as the Columbine shooters, so, while we wer

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