For as long as I can remember, I've been a claustrophobe--elevators, coffins, closets, all of them send shivers down my spine when I think of being caught in them. The first Resident Evil captured my fears. A mansion surrounded on all sides with yapping zombie dogs at every exit?
I believe I'll take that change of underoos now, if it pleases you.
The year was 1998 and survival horror was a relatively recent development on the scene. It had only been two years since the first installment in the series was released on the Playstation, and most of us were hungry for more (brains). In Resident Evil 2, we were first introduced to the sad tale of Raccoon City. An anonymous city in an anonymous state, presumably somewhere within the vast reaches of middle America. An Everycity for an Everyman character if you will.
When we're first introduced to our soon to be nightmare-atropolis, it's done with a bang--there is a car crash and the subsequent events are to lead our brave heroes on the fight of their lives. Faced with a choice of who to embark on the journey as, you, the player, is in for one hellish ride. Already, fans of the series are familiar with the Wesker mansion and all the horror (previously believed to be) contained therein. Anything to follow, surely will be even more horrifying.
Imagine my joy at realizing that I wouldn't be facing my fear of claustrophobia in this title? The wide stretches of a mid-western city, that I can handle.
Dear God, how wrong can one man be?
Everywhere you turn in RE2, there is rubble in your path. A burning car pile-up stands in your way. A horde of feasting zombies blocks your every move. You get the horrible sinking feeling that you are being led to your certain demise, but the openess--the expansiveness of Raccoon City--tricks you into believing that the choices are your own.
Raccoon City is a place familiar to most of us. The coffeeshop on the corner. A police station. A fast food restaurant. The local public trans. All of this is familiar fair. But in the hands of Capcom, the familiar becomes unfamiliar. That which was a haven, is now the dark, rotting insides of a festering heap of what used to be family and friends.
No place is safe. There is no haven. You will either die, or you will get out.
The scenario is a simple one: a large pharmaceutical company moves into town. It creates new jobs and people are excited about the prospect of working for a big name corporation. The town is booming with new life and people are happy. We're all willing to overlook a few wrongdoings now and again for the sake of everyone's happiness, right? Right?
But then the little oddities become even stranger. And the events that happened at the mansion in the woods will soon pale in comparison to the carnage about to be endured by the residents of Raccoon City.
Having completed RE2 with only minimal soiling of my undergarments, I got a breather for a year. But in November of 1999, the bastards at Capcom decided to reel me back in...and I was hooked.
In RE3 we were back to the familiar, albeit, terrifying landscape of Raccoon City. Except this time, this guy is going to stand in your way.
Prior to starting RE3, I thought there was no way that Capcom could make Raccoon City more horrifying. They had already trapped me like a rat in a cage with so many flesh eating zombies. How could things possibly be worse than that?
Nemesis would be the answer to that ridiculously stupid question.
He's lurking around every corner. He's big and bad and ugly and, for whatever reason, seems particularly keen on rearranging your innards in particular. Already we, the players, have seen every aspect that the City has to offer. But as Nemesis runs down Jill, it quickly become apparent that even the undiscovered nooks and crannies of this hellmouth are inhabited by the most vile variety of evil that the fools at Umbrella Corp can cook up.
What never ceases to amaze me is that the mythology of Resident Evil continues to grow in each spin-off and sequel. We learn more about the events surround the Raccoon City incident. RE-makes have managed to further flesh out the backstory of the city. Sometimes, just before completing one of the games, I'll read through the files just to see the sad stories suffered by each of the inhabitants. There is a pathos to this town. There is a deep pain and suffering and walking in, you know right away that there can be no redemption.
Death might come quickly for some, but undeath is forever. Or, at least until some punk blows your head off with a shotgun blast to the face.
I was thrilled when Capcom brought us back around to Raccoon City in RE0. It was like coming home to an old friend. Sure, an old friend who wanted to take a bite out of my face, but an old friend nevertheless.
Oh, Snotty Ragsdale, you magnificent bastard. So sad that you were nearly completely overshadowed by the inimitable Earthworm Jim. You had a good thing going for you, Snotty, but you couldn’t hold a candle to the awesomeness of EJ. Sure, you were a great play and we had our good times together. Who doesn’t love a good fart joke? A good fart joke that goes on and on for over 20 levels? But what the hell was up with you being a 13+ title when you were first released? Lulz. Released. Like a fart.
When they re-released you on the Virtual Console, you were rated E for Everyone. You’ve lost your edge, Snotty. Why aren’t you out there beating hookers with baseball bats to take back your money?
Shouldn’t you be smothering someone with a plastic bag? How in the hell do you expect me to have fun without massive amounts of carnage and gore?
You were a loveable, albeit stinky, anti-hero. An eccentric millionaire hellbent on saving the world from…just what the hell were you up to anyway? And who has that much mucus in his nostrils on any one occasion? I seriously think you should see a doctor about that. Lactose intolerance is something that can be handled by altering your diet and using certain medications.
Oh, right. Now I remember. You took a crap job at some science lab to see what was going on with Professor Stinkbaum’s plans to transport all the world’s pollution to the X Crement dimension. And when things went awry, you leapt into action, donning your superhero suit and diving into the unknown.
All in all, Boogerman was a fun platformer. I guess I was approximately the target audience at the time of its original release, and the humor was not lost on me. If you were an adolescent male and you got your hands on this game, there is no way you didn’t just pick BM’s (oh, I c waht tehy did thar!) nose to hear him say in his THE TICK-like voice, “BOOGER!”.
Also, he grunts out his farts.
If you are looking for a fun way to pass (lulz) an afternoon, Boogerman is good fun from the guys at Interplay. While not as challenging as Earthworm Jim, it’s a nice alternative to the squeaky clean ways of Mario and the gang.
The game featured some really bizarre areas, that broke with the cannon of lava, water, grass, castle and the combination of weird and gross was a good one.
I’m sure my nostalgia goggles are coloring my view on this one, but if you’re looking for a funny platformer where you can fly around the screen on the steam of your own farts then look no further.
Firstly, I have to give a big thanks to Silverdragon1979, for convincing me to pull my head from my arse and try something new. Seriously, I owe you a six-pack or my first born or something.
So, my first blog on this site was a bit of flamebait, to say the least. In it I espoused the opinion that there is nothing new or great about modern gaming. I may have also insinuated that new games are gimmicky and lame and that the average intelligence of those who enjoy them is equivalent to the average temperature in Alaska during Winter.
I was jaded because I’ve played so many games over the years and there have been few highlights in my gaming experiences since I put down the controller after finishing FFVII. If you disagree with me, you are wrong and a bad person for feeling that way.
But Silverdragon told me to pick up Portal and give it a whirl. He said it was short, but worth the price of admission. I had actually picked up Portal some time ago, but never got around to actually playing it. I bought it separate from the Orange Box for $9.99 and figured I’d get around to playing it eventually.
But I put down my classic controller and dusted off my mouse. And hot damn am I glad that I did.
A year and a half after its release, here I am discovering this game for myself for the first time. It was everything I hoped gaming could accomplish now. Humorous, irreverent, challenging, surprising, and most of all—fun. I forced myself to stop playing when I realized I’d already blown through the first 15 chambers in one sitting. This was one of the best gaming experiences I’d had in a long time and I didn’t want to burn through it in less than a day.
So I beat it in two.
Everything from the mechanics and physics, to the graffiti on the walls glued me to my computer. I’d stayed blissfully unaware of the secrets of GLaDOS and the Companion Cube and the Aperture Science center, so everything was new and fresh and awesome.
I did get stuck a few times on the upper levels beyond the 19th chamber. But that’s what I want in a game. I want to get stuck and have to puzzle it out for myself. And one of the best things I can say about a game is that I didn’t have to go to a Walkthrough to beat it. All the answers are right there in front of you and if you are willing to tough it out, you will reach the next stage.
Portal was the perfect game. Sure, it didn’t meet my general requirement of taking a long time to beat, but I’d rather read the perfect haiku, then belabor a tiresome novel. I might be the last gamer on earth to have picked up Portal for the first time. But to anyone like me, who thinks that gaming has lost its ability to amaze and entertain in more recent years, you need to pick up Portal.
And now, my top 5 Portal moments (Spoilers ahead for anyone who hasn’t played it. But I highly doubt there are any of you left…)
5) Realizing that GLaDOS is lying to you for the first time. Misdirection in this game kept me enthralled. It made me want to know what was waiting for me at the end of the line. It kept me guessing right up until the end.
4) Finding the first “behind the scenes” chamber filled with graffiti. There was something deeply disturbing when you found the first tin of beans paired with marks on the wall. What happened to the eater of said beans. Why didn’t he or she progress? And, finally—was that one of my predecessors? How many copies of me have been made?
3) Ending credits. If you beat this game, there’s absolutely nothing more I need to elaborate on this point.
2) Incineration of the Companion Cube. In what other game has an inanimate object taken on a life of its own to this degree? Have you ever felt guilty about throwing a switch because it might hurt the switch? Brilliant. Absofuckinglutely brilliant. I actually turned my speakers up thinking that I might have missed the Cube speaking.
1) The final fight with GLaDOS. Rarely in a game have I found a fight so compelling that I didn’t want to complete it as fast as possible. I wanted to hear every last sultry word she had to say. Meanwhile, I’m stressing on how to grab that orb that’s hanging in midair. Absolutely awesome.
I think I’m in denial that it’s already said and done. I’ve gone back and completed the bonus maps and I’m taking my time on the timed trials. I just don’t want it to end.
Thus, I’m open to suggestions. If there are other games as good as this one that are on the next-gen systems, bring them on. I’ve got my gaming face on and I’m hungry for more.
18 years later and this title still holds up. I recently rediscovered it on the Virtual Console and it’s just as much fun now as it was back in the day.
In Wonder Boy in Monster World, you play the titular “Wonder Boy” aka Shion. Our protagonist is a rather quiet young man with a penchant for hairbands and sidekicks. Shion’s mission is to save Monster World from the evils of BioMeka, who, until the final boss scene, is never viewed by the player. Suffice it to say, that BioMeka is bad news and it is your mission to destroy it.
WBiMW was the fifth installment in the series and the last one to ever be released on American shores, but it is by far my absolute favorite of the series. The game incorporates RPG elements with side-scrolling action/adventure gameplay. If you only ever had a Genesis, this was the closest thing you were going to get to a Legend of Zelda experience. And, while some gamers dismissed it as a knock-off of LoZ’s epic awesomeness and originality, WBiMW utilizes some new tricks--at that point--not seen before in the LoZ series.
Most notably, you had the opportunity to have a sidekick in most areas. Each zone featured a particular NPC who accompanied Shion as he traversed the treacherous terrain of Monster World. In each case, the leader of each zone will tell you that one of the colorful residents is in grave peril. So your first mission is to save them and then, after doing the whole hero shindig, you get to have them follow you around and help you out.
The first of these sidekicks is Priscilla, a fairy from Alsedo who used her wand to bop enemies on the head. While her attack was the weaksauce, she could heal you by making hearts appear out of thin air.
Hotta was your second sidekick. He’s a dwarf from the village of Lilypad. He busts up walls and can reveal hidden entrances. Good times, lots of fun.
Shabo is by far my favorite of the sidekicks. He lives in the Darkworld village of Childam and has an EFFING FLYING SCYTHE. Badassery not included.
Rotto is the most complicated sidekick to retrieve, but his firebreath is the awesomesauce. He’s the Elder Dragon’s grandson and he accompanies you into the volcano.
Where Wonder Boy shines is in the boss battles. Everyone from the overgrown mushroom to the final battle with BioMeka will test your patience and your reflexes. Be sure to load up on gemstones and potions for the final fight, because you are going to need them if you want to stand toe-to-appendage with BioMeka. And be certain to power up your shield spell. You’re going to need it.
WBiMW utilizes the old dynamic of having you find X item to access Y area. Thankfully, the maps are laid out that you don’t have to do a great deal of backtracking as you progress—warps are littered throughout the countryside, and unless you are using a newly acquired special item to access a previously unreachable area, you won’t find yourself wandering unnecessarily through areas where your strength far outmatches the enemies. Different items and abilities can make your life significantly easier—just try to complete the pyramid level without the aid of the ladder boots. All your favorite areas can be found here: grasslands, jungle, underwater, sea, ice world, volcano and … OUTERFUCKINGSPACE.
That’s right. When has Link ever gotten to go to outer space before? This game was easily overshadowed by the awesomeness that was LoZ: A Link to the Past which came out just 6 months after Wonder Boy hit American shores. But those of us lucky enough to play it when it was first released were treated to a well-balanced, cleverly mapped, fun adventure. It’s easily worth the 8 bucks it costs on the virtual console.
You just watch. There is going to be a Columbine-times-10 incident, and everyone will finally get it. Either that, or some video gamer is going to go Columbine at some video game exec's expense or at E3, and then the industry will begin to realize that there is no place to hide, that it has trained a nation of Manchurian Children. Jack Thompson, GameCore interview, Feb. 25, 2005
Yesterday marked the 10 year anniversary of the Columbine killings. I found it odd that the event went almost unmarked in the media, as I can recall being horrified at hearing that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had killed 12 of their fellow classmates and one of their teachers, wounded over 20 other students, and then committed suicide. I know very few peers who are unaware as to what happened on April 20, 1999, but I do know that the fallout from that event had far reaching impact.
The journals of the killers indicated that they were fans of Doom, Quake and Duke Nukem, and that they played for hours on end. Nevermind the fact that they also went bowling to “warm up” for what they were about to do—this factoid was exactly what the media latched onto. Video games were warping the minds of our youth.
Jack Thompson was able to use this piece of information and launch an ill-informed smear campaign against gamers and gaming. He argued that games were violent revenge fantasies. In an interview with Netjak in 2006, Thompson reacted to the pending release of Bully:
Game Informer already has published screen shots of the game, and has done a brief write-up of what’s going to be in the game. Nobody can claim that they haven’t gone into the game’s content; it’s already out there. We don’t need to play the game; it’s irrelevant to the subject. It’s going in there, and children shouldn’t be playing it.
One needn’t bother playing a game when one leaps to conclusions. And anyone who played through Bully will realize, rather quickly, that this isn’t some vengeance crusade. The protagonist in Bully is a bit of a punk, but he’s an Everyman—and the gore and violence that Thompson assumed would be present in the game was … well, it just wasn’t there. And there are consequences to the actions taken by the player in Bully.
If Thompson thinks that Bully is a violent fantasy, he should try being a misfit in middle school.
That’s not to say that there aren’t extremely violent and disturbing videogames—Manhunt is clearly an exercise in violence for the sake of violence. But if games are warping our minds, then why aren’t there vast armies of plastic-bag wielding madmen rampaging on the streets?
You know what's really exciting about video games is you don't just interact with the game physically -- you're not just moving your hand on a joystick, but you're asked to interact with the game psychologically and emotionally as well. You're not just watching the characters on screen; you're becoming those characters. Nina Huntemann, Game Over
In Game Over, Nina Huntemann touches on one of the most unique aspects of our favorite pastime. The ability to become someone else. Much of the genre is immersed in being a hero—Super Mario, Sonic, Link, Simon Belmont, Samus Aran and countless others make up a pantheon of great heros whom we, from childhood, have relished and venerated.
Who hasn’t loved the opportunity to stomp a goomba, spin attack a robot, blow up a dodongo, kill a vampire or freeze blast a metroid? But the vast majority of us don’t go about jumping on the skulls of our brothers after a round of Super Smash Brothers. We enjoy the games and are able to separate the fantasy from the reality. In most cases, we’re blowing off steam.
When I have a rough day at work and then take a virtual shotgun to the head of a zombie, who is getting hurt in that scenario?
Rhetorical questions for the win, Alex.
Video games are bad for you? That's what they said about rock and roll. Shigeru Miyamoto
Mr. Miyamoto’s point is well taken. Each genre and medium is scary to the generation that preceded it. It’s misunderstood and those who fail to try it will never understand it. The bliss of playing the perfect game is lost on many folks—but as gaming and gamers go from fringe element to mainstream, this perception is beginning to shift. As a kid, only a handful of us had in-home gaming systems. I’d probably argue that many of my peers don’t game as adults but the advent of handheld systems and greater accessibility of games has opened the pastime to the masses.
But David Walsh, a child psychologist, was interviewed by CBS in 2005 in regards to the murders committed by Devin Moore—another tool in the crusade by Jack Thompson. Walsh had this to say about the formative years of a gamer:
"…[T]he teenage brain is different from the adult brain. The impulse control center of the brain, the part of the brain that enables us to think ahead, consider consequences, manage urges -- that's the part of the brain right behind our forehead called the prefrontal cortex," says Walsh. "That's under construction during the teenage years. In fact, the wiring of that is not completed until the early 20s."
Which is why these games were not intended for children. GTA, Manhunt, Doom, etc. were all mature titles. And if parents can’t be vested enough to keep these games out of the hands of their children, then why do we blame the game publishers?
Because it’s easy. Because the public wants a villain with deep pockets. And the game development studios make the perfect whipping boy.
What’s new is misunderstood. And what goes un-researched and un-played by the angered parties can be vilified without remorse or consequence. When Charles Manson claimed that the Beatles song, Helter Skelter told him to commit murder, people who didn’t understand rock and roll wanted to run John, Paul, George and Ringo up the flagpole. Now, in retrospect, we see this as ridiculous—but at the time people wanted a rationale for why Manson committed his heinous acts. And it’s easier to hate a band then to think that someone completely mentally unbalanced can go off the edge for no apparent reason.
Not to get all Michael Moore on you, but riddle me this one, Batman:
Japan’s population is 1/3rd that of the United States (127.3 million to 303.8 million) and yet our murder rate is 25 times as high and our rape statistic is 40 times what theirs is. We’re talking about a culture who has Rape Man as a comic book hero. Reading said comic is socially acceptable for businessmen on the way to work on the trains in the morning. And yet, somehow, their rates of murder and rape are a fraction of what our country’s is.
Video games aren’t the problem. I’m not saying that I know exactly what the problem is, but it seems a shame that people like Jack Thompson can twist a tragedy into a political soapbox. Here’s the crux of his slippery slope argument in the wake of the murders committed by Devin Moore:
"There's plenty of blame to go around. The fact is we think Devin Moore is responsible for what he did…but we think that the adults who created these games and in effect programmed Devon Moore and assisted him to kill are responsible at least civilly.”
Moore wasn’t trained by video games and neither were Harris nor Klebold. What those men did was terrible, but the responsibility falls not into the hands of the game developers, but rather into the hands of their parents and our culture. Video games were, and still are, an easy scapegoat.
I don’t think Jack Thompson will ever get his way. I don’t think that the creative voice in video games will be stifled by him nor his lackeys. But I do worry that people give him too much credence. I know by posting this here I’m preaching to the choir—clearly a community of gamers will all agree that Thompson is an idiot—but outside of this community there are those who think what he has to say is worthwhile and valid.
Gaming has always been, for me at least, a form of escapism. Those who seek refuge from their daily lives are going to be drawn into the totally immersive worlds created in games. Who wouldn’t want to feel like a hero every day—even if it is only for an hour or two at a time? The nature of video games—much like comics, movies, novels, music and most other art forms—is to take you into another world. It would be a shame to rob anyone of that joy. What we need to recognize is when a fellow gamer is losing touch with reality. When the fantasy begins to bleed into his or her daily life in unhealthy ways that is where we, as friends and siblings and parents, need to talk to them and get them the help that they need.
The answer isn’t to pull the plug on games. The answer is tapping into the real issues of isolation and distress. Violent games aren’t the cause. But when a gamer begins to obsess over them, they can be a symptom of something that needs to be addressed.
I hate Mondays. And have thusly decided to reflect on more joyous times, when work was mowing the lawn and waking up early was 8:00...
I give you, the first installment, of Flashback Mondays. If it sucks, I'll cease and desist immediately if not sooners...but without further delay, read it and weep.
What game could strike fear and anxiety into the hearts of so many men? What sheer terror did we face when we turned out the lights and played this game for the first time? What is that sticky substance leaking out of the refrigerator?
Okay, it’s just ketchup, but I had you going there for a little bit.
Maniac Mansion was one of the first games of its kind ported to the NES. As a point and click RPG, the style was different and innovative to we lowly types without a PC—yes, imagine that, back in the day not everyone had a PC at home and there were no internets and there were still cassette tapes…lulz. Phantom is an old head—were experiencing something completely new.
If you didn’t figure out how to move the rug at the front door you were pretty much screwed, but getting past that first mechanic opened up a whole world of possibilities.
Most of those possibilities were determined my whom you chose for your rescue party, but I’m getting ahead of myself…let us first consider our predicament.
Twenty years ago today, a huge purple meteor crash landed on the lawn of the Edison family’s home. Dr. Fred, his wife Edna (I still have nightmares) and their special son, Ed were already weirdos, but after the crash landing of the meteor they became even more reclusive.
Nowadays, patients from the town hospital are going missing. A local teen—Sandy Pantz (oh, I c waht they did thar) has gone missing. Little does the kidnapper know that her boyfriend, Dave, saw her being abducted and has formed a team of his buddies to go in and rescue her.
Is the beginning of the anxiety attack. Pick wrong and completing the game could become rather tedious if not downright impossible.
Here’s a rundown of your potential options:
Dave: d-bad extraordinaire. Seriously. Dave is the only party member you are locked into using. And I don’t know anybody who didn’t just leave him in the dungeon so that other party members could be let out when he pushed the secret brick. Dave is Sandy’s boyfriend and a complete waste of space.
Syd: “new-wave” musician my ass. This pain in the arse character has the most annoying theme music EVAR. Thank the designers for the option to turn off everyone’s music. He’s useful if you want to help the tentacle get a recording contract.
Michael: our resident photog. He’s good people. And if you want to have a fun time with Ed, totally worth including in your party.
Wendy: writer, editor, geek babe. She’ll help with a manuscript if you ever come across one that needs editing…
Bernard: nerd alert! But most likely you’re going to include Bernard in your party. He can break down the radio, fix the HAM radio and he can fix the phone…making Jeff completely unnecessary.
Razor: the female Syd. Redhead. Temptress. Will nuke a hamster if necessary. Hardcore 8-bit tunes accompany this diva.
Jeff: the surfer dude. Lamesauce. Seriously. All this dumbass can do is fix the phone. You can beat the game including him in the party, but if you’re going for options, Bernard opens the most to you. Jeff is lame. And barefoot. WTF.
The villains in this game are what make it worthwhile for me. That effing Green disembodied tentacle was hysterical. Actually, I think he was probably manic-depressive, but it was funny back in the day. The thing is, if you piss him off bad enough, he’ll actually kill you. Which is weird to think of in a Nintendo game. Because there’s no coming back from that. Seriously—you’ll see a tombstone and everything. Hard. Core. Gaming.
When you first see Edna leave her room and realize that she’s headed right for you, that’s an awesome moment in gaming history. Freaking out so much because you didn’t know the layout of the mansion was par for the course. Throughout the game there will be all sorts of cut scenes when you know that time is of the essence and you’ll have to act fast, otherwise you won’t get another opportunity.
The other thing that makes this a great game is the humor. I don’t think I’ve ever LOLed at Resident Evil, but Maniac Mansion is full of funny moments and bizarre jokes. Just one caveat though—if you do nuke Ed’s hamster, for the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, don’t show it to him…
Oddly enough, I didn't have to doctor this photo at all...
Unless you want to get one of these screens…
If you love a good game and don’t care about graphics or dated-ness, find a copy of Maniac Mansion. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.