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5:24 PM on 12.11.2008

Moral Choice In Gaming

Several recent games have really gotten me to thinking about how ethics and moral choices have been played out in games over the years, so I decided to write a whole series about it! Part I is up now, covering the games from days of yore.

The Good, The Bad, and The Other: Part I

I hope to have Part II up next week, covering some of the more recent games (especially the very recent ones that started this whole thing in the first place...)   read


5:30 PM on 10.07.2008

80 Hours of FFTA2 Later...

And I'm finally done with the game, and thus finally ready to give my review. Better late than never, right?

http://www.spectaclerock.com/2008/10/06/review-final-fantasy-tactics-advanced-2/   read


12:07 PM on 06.09.2008

The Start of the Affair: The Treasure of Tarmin

In the far-off mists of time, in a distant land known as the early 80's, a mighty beast strode the realm of home videogaming, crushing others beneath its feet. That beast, as you know, was the Atari 2600 (and its related kin). Often overlooked, however, was a stranger creature, one not as flashy or well-known, but that could still hold its own with the best of them. That mysterious beast was called the Intellevision, and in my childhood home, it was our one and only console.


Meet the thumbwrecker.

The Intellivision may not have had some of the big-name games that the Atari had, and it may have had one of the strangest controllers to ever grace a console system, but it was ours, and I adored it. Countless hours were spent nested in my basement bean-bag chair, munching on Cheerios and playing pixilated baseball, dropping digital hamburger buns on equally digital angry hot dogs, or simply leaping from virtual lily-pad to virtual lily-pad, snapping up flies until night fell. And that is not even touching on the pure bliss that was Shark! Shark!, of which I have written much before and will likely write much again.

So, yes, the games were there, and I most certainly played them between bouts of watching GI Joe cartoons and playing with GI Joe figures, but there was one game that was different from the rest, and made me think about video games in a whole different way.



Dungeons and Dragons: The Treasure of Tarmin, was actually the second D&D game for the Intellivision. Now, as a mere child, I was not really familiar with the concept of D&D, nor that fact that even looking at the box cover would endanger my immortal soul, so I went into it with no preconceived notions. The actual connections to Dungeons & Dragons itself were pretty flimsy, and I suspect it was simply a licensing deal that worked out well for both parties involved. Tarmin was a dungeon crawl in the same vein as early Wizardry games for the PC, minus any sort of character customization or, you know, story. The player finds themselves on a lonely island, in a massive labyrinth stretching beneath an ancient castle. At the bottom of the labyrinth lay the glorious Treasure of Tarmin, guarded by the fiercesome Minotaur. Slay him and claim it as your own, and victory would be yours (as well as, assumedly, massive riches and scantily-clad elven ladies. That really wasn't covered in the manual).


The ironic thing is that it turns out the best treasure was actually up in the towers.

The game took place from a first-person perspective, looking down the dungeon hallways while the player's inventory was arrayed along the bottom of the screen. The entire adventure took place in the dungeon, making your way down hallways and through doors, looking for the ladder down to the next level. Depending on the difficulty you chose, the labyrinth could be as simple as a 4 level deep jaunt, or as in depth as a 20 level deep behemoth that stretched across the entire island. You start off armed with a simple wooden bow, ready to face whatever dangers the labyrinth may hold. And oh, what dangers it would hold. Monsters would appear at a distance of around 3 steps away, making terrifying, blippy noises. Some would never move, whereas others would come hunting after you. Giant ants, Giant scorpians, giant Giants; it was a veritable menagerie of big, mono-colored creatures. Combat was... let's call it "turn-based." You would select your weapon or item, use it, and if you were lucky, the creature would flash and make a noise, indicating a hit. The monster would then take its turn, roaring at you and attacking, which would usually kill you. At least, in my experiences, that's how it usually went. An important thing to note here is that everything in the labyrinth wanted to kill you. The monsters stalked you, chests would be trapped, and even doors would occasionally just up and fire a lightning bolt at you. This was not a maze for the unwary. When death came, which it almost always did, the game over scene was simple; a full view of the map of the labyrinth, with a simple flashing white gravestone indicating how far you made it. A lonely adventurer forever lost to the dangers of Tarmin.


This door hates you more than your puny human mind can comprehend.

During the pleasant periods of not being slaughtered, exploring the dungeon would bring riches of discovery. Every weapon and item in the game had a different quality based on its color, with wood (brown) at the bottom, and platinum (white) at the top. And while it did seem odd that there were spellbooks out there made of platinum, you stopped caring about the details as soon as you found one. Treasure containers came in various sizes, from simple sacks of coins to large containers holding mighty weapons and armor. Games, especially on the higher difficulty levels, could go on for hours, which was quite unheard of to me at the time. My sister and dad and I would often play as a team, shouting out instructions to whomever had the controller about which direction to go, or whether to try and open that door that looked suspiciously like it was about to rain lightningy death upon us.

What Treasure of Tarmin really showed me, though, was that games could be worlds unto themselves. Lock 'N Chase was fun, but my sense of involvement with the little cop was limited. Tarmin managed to put me into a world different from my own, and let me and my imagination build the story around me every time I played. It was not a small bundle of pixels in that dungeon; it was me. I was finding silver bows, I was slaying angry spiders, I was the one nervously opening treasure chests deep in the bowels of the dark island. For a game that had no story, it still let me build stories in my own mind like no other game before it had done. Tarmin opened my eyes to the idea that games could be epic in their own way, that they could be more than just a fleeting distraction of glowing bits.


In the darkness of the hallway, Zargon spotted the giant scorpian waiting for him. Or maybe it was an octopus. It was really hard to tell, even for an adventurer as seasoned as he. Regardless, he grasped his platinum spellbook in his hand and made ready to face the foe, desparately hoping that the door next to him would not suddenly launch a fireball into his ass. Fucking evil doors.

My world of games expanded in the following years, with an Apple IIe introducing me to the world of Maniac Mansion and its kin, and then eventually a PC and a Nintendo, and the many new worlds that each of them brought as well, each in their own way. Treasure of Tarmin, however, was still the first to open my eyes to what could be, and they've been wide open ever since.   read


6:53 PM on 06.07.2008

The Playback Machine: An Apology

Just wanted to quickly apologize to my no-doubt numerous fans wondering what happened to the Playback Machine, eager to find out what happens next. I've been busy the past many weeks getting myself married and traipsing off on my honeymoon. That somehow managed to take precedence over my video gaming (bizzare, I know). Anyway, with that bit of business out of the way, I shall endevour to pick up the adventure once again, and regale you with the party's continued quest! Stay tuned!   read


9:18 AM on 04.23.2008

The Playback Machine: An Adventure in Orkogre Castle

When last we left off, the party was leaving New City for the first time and heading into the wilderness in search of Orkogre Castle, home of the Gorn. With a message of utmost importance to the king, speed is off the essence!

Heading down the road from New City, we encounter a few simple enemies (bugs and such), but nothing too particularly challenging. Coming to a fork in the road, we recall that Boerigard told us to head North, so we use Tragic's map and determine which way to go. Tromping down the road a little further leads us to our first indications that we've entered Gorn lands...

[embed]82899:10647[/embed]

A civil war erupting, eh? Sounds like our mission really is quite important! You'll notice that in that exchance with Lord Galiere, we also used the "Lore" function. What that does is gives us updates on what all of the NPCs we have encountered so far are up to. While this sounds harmless enough, it also represents us giving information to the NPC, which may help speed them along in finding the Maps that we are looking for, so it is a bit of a double-edged sword.

Following Boerigard's instructions, we move into the forest past the road and begin our search for the entrance to the castle. After slogging our way through several large battles with some lesser Gorn rebels, we finally find a ladder descending into the ground in a hidden grove. With that, the castle is breached...

[embed]82899:10648[/embed]

The Castle is, fortunately, laid out in a relatively logical way, and is not so maze-like as other dungeons. Our encounters with Gorn soldiers continue, growing more difficult the deeper in we delve. On the up side, we do manage to slay a Gorn Captain and lift a Spear +2 off of him, which we give to Tragic. It's now the strongest weapon we have in the party!

After descending a few levels, we come to the throne room, but are unable to find a way past the gates. Nearby, however, we find Murkatos's Outer Sanctum, which we are able to enter following a spot of puzzle-solving. Inside, we find the wizard's hastily scrawled last words...

[embed]82899:10649[/embed]

Using the conveniently placed ring of keys nearby, we follow his advice and check out the prison. After a few tough fights (including more bugs! What is with this planet and their storage of bugs in prisons? What kind of penal code is this?) we locate a hidden series of switches which takes us to a deeper level. There, we find Murkatos's Inner Sanctum.

[embed]82899:10650[/embed]

Such are the wages of treachery, it seems. Murkatos's own ambitions betray him, to the ruin of himself and his empire. Perhaps we can find a way to help mend his wrongs (as well as check out that treasure he mentioned...). With the wizard's spirit at rest, we take a secret path out of his sanctum, and using some things we found along the way, are finally able to enter the throne room itself. No doubt the Gorn King has some thoughts on all these events...

[embed]82899:10657[/embed]

I guess we managed to cheer him up slightly? If slaughtering his own people makes him happy, who are we to judge? At the very least, he has given us the keys to his secret stash, and that can only be good!

Heading back down to his bedchambers, we open up the secret chamber...

[embed]82899:10658[/embed]

Another map in our pockets! And, again, totally cryptic! When the time is right, I'm sure it will all make sense.

With that, our adventure in Orkogre Castle is more or less complete, so we pack up and trudge back to New City to sell some junk and restock on a few vitals. From there, I guess the next natural step would be to take that other fork in the road and see what lay to the South!   read


3:40 PM on 04.10.2008

The Playback Machine: Prison Break (and someone dies...)

Ok, if you recall, I ended last time by saying there was a lot of Old City left to explore. This, it turns out, was a total lie. There was actually very little of Old City left to explore; simply a few more hallways, with nothing of note down any of them. Clearly, the Map was our big prize here, and with it safely in hand, we make our way back to the surface.

Looking around the city a little more, it seems we've done pretty much all we can here for the moment, except for one little detail. Remember that fellow down the ally pleading for us to help him out of prison? Well, we're a little tougher now, and busting into the local jail to face off with some Savant Guards seems like a perfect idea.

Here it is, in all its glory:

[embed]80937:10202[/embed]

For those who don't feel like watching, a bullet point summary:

-We win.
-Hitogoroshi, unfortunately, takes one too many spears to the face and passes into the great beyond.
-Fortunately, we have an Amulet of Life (our prize from Ra-Sep-Ra-Tep), so Hito comes back to us better than ever (but -1 Vitality)
-We get a nice load of EXP.
-The door code came from the barracks we raided earlier, for those who were paying attention.
-I demonstrate the reason we save immediately after battle by being ignobly killed by the bugs the Savant guys were keeping in the prison. Of course they were keeping bugs in prison. WHERE ELSE WOULD YOU KEEP THEM?

After that little boo-boo, we reload moments earlier, and this time try a different door. Door #2 gives us the result we were looking for...

[embed]80937:10203[/embed]

Alliances broken, war about the break out, and secret letters of passage; now we're getting juicy!

With that last task complete, we follow Boerigard's directions and head East out of the city and into the wilderness beyond... stay tuned!   read


8:08 PM on 04.06.2008

The Playback Machine: Old City, Part I

When we left last time, we were descending into the musty halls of Old City to see what
we could see! We make our way through the narrow corridors, following the fairly
straight path before us. The first few encounters let us know that the enemies are most
certainly tougher down here, but the rewards they bring are also greater. At the end of the
first long hall, we come to a larger chamber that "reeks of death." Beyond the stench, all
we find is a gated passage way and three small antechambers. Tragic's keen eyes spot a
hidden switch in one of the alcoves, and beyond that a secreted room with a with a tasty
treasure chest waiting to be opened.

Liam does his thing and disarms the trap, and inside we find a small assortment of magic
potions and scrolls, as well as a key. Hmm... gated passageway, hidden key... I think we
know how this works.

Returning to the gate, we pop in the key and it swings open. Stepping into the next hallway, we are assaulted by a "stinking waft of putrid air" as a hoarde of oozes come pouring down atop us. This is one of the toughest battles we've had yet, not just on numbers, but because the tougher Puxic Oozes can both poison and nauseate us, as well as dealing some serious damage. With the assistance of Styos's powered-up Fireball spell, and Hito's constant healing, we manage to make it through, damaged but alive. At this point, out of magic points and in dire need of healing, we exit the dungeon and head back to Father Rulae for a sip from his magic fountain. We could've found a quiet corner in the dungeon and camped out, but resting too long in this game carries two threats: First, you are an easy target when you are asleep, and that's always a bad thing. Secondly, the world of Dark Savant is a dynamic one, and the NPCs you encounter are always on the move. They fight each other, they explore, and worst of all, they can get to the always-critical hidden Maps before you do. And if they get their hands on one you really need, you have to first hunt them down and then either take it by trade or by force. So early-bird definitely gets the worm in this case, and camping out for a few days to heal is not such a great option early on.

After a refreshing gulp or two from the fountain, we head back down for further exploration.
Pushing onward, Tragic once again spots us a hidden door, beyond which we discover another treasure chest full of goodies (and monsters guarding it, of course). As we are about to leave, our attention is drawn to additional hidden door out of this already-hidden room. Heading through that, we find a lone chest in a tiny room.

[embed]80167:10046[/embed]

Cryptic, eh? But these maps will ultimately lead us to what we seek. How? I don't know,
I'm just along for the ride.

That ends Part I of our adventures in Old City, but there is still a lot of dungeon left to explore...   read


11:01 AM on 03.22.2008

The Playback Machine: New City

With the dank halls of the Starter Dungeon behind us, the party emerges back to the surface world. Before heading into the city, we take a quick detour down a forest path that leads to some tasty treasure. Liam tries his hand at disarming another trap.

[embed]77050:9509[/embed]

Back on the main path, we follow the road along the stone wall beside us, we are shortly led to a stone path that can only be a sure sign of civilization. Moving forward, our spider-sense tingles as the narrator points out that this would be the perfect spot for... AMBUSH!

A throng of rat-men pour from the trees, looking like they haven't come to chat... We
identify them as Rattkin Bandits, and the battle quickly begins.

A tough fight, to be sure, but the rewards are quite hefty. Moving a little further down
the road, we enter an alleyway leading to the gates of the city. At the gate, we are
confronted by on the warriors of the Dark Savant; strange machine-like creatures of
great strength. He tells us that New City is under the control of the Savant, and asks
us what business we have in the city. Now, we could probably try and fight our way through
here, but these guys are tough, and it would most likely end with somebody dead. Fortunately, we found that flyer down in the dungeon that gives us a good excuse for coming to the city. We tell the guard "Palukes" is our destination, and he confirms it as valid. We are allowed entry.

[embed]77050:9508[/embed]

Not to make liars out of ourselves, we head into the center of town and find Paluke's Armors relatively quickly. Paluke himself greets us and offers us a look at his meager selection. He isn't lying when he says he doesn't have much available, but we do manage to find a leather helmet for ZargonX, and a Feathered Cap for Tragic. Other than that, we ask Paluke a little about the city, but he doesn't have much to say. How very like a merchant.

Leaving the store, we set about exploring this large, twisting city. The streets are very maze-like, but Tragic's mapping kit helps keep us on track. We find a weapon shop, the Arms of Argus, but the rather large Umpani inside demands to know who sent us, to which we have no answer. In the center of town, a lone statue sits surrounded by a ring of water; it looks important, but attempting to swim out there now would kill most of us.

Adjacent to the fountain, we come across Thesminster Abbey. Kindly old Father Rulae welcomes us and offers healing for the body or guidance for the soul. Healing for the body gives us access to a health-restoring fountain (for a small donation, of course). Asking
for guidance, he tells us to travel to the city of Munkharama and find Brother Tshober.
"Slay not he that cannot hear" are the cryptic words we are told to repeat.

Elsewhere in the city, we find a series of Savant-controlled buildings that we decide
not to mess with. The red-marked buildings, though, are Savant Trooper barracks, and we
are strong enough to tackle those. A few battles later, and we've let the Savant forces
know that trying to have somewhere to sleep in this city will not be tolerated! We also
find a strange black wafer with the rather meaningless words "ETX:BYYR" on it. We
save that for later.

We let Liam try his hand at staging a bank heist, picking his way into the local bank. It
turns out the bank has been long abandoned, and the only loot we find is a single copper
penny. We tuck it away for later.

Near the bank, we stumble across what seems to be the only inn in town. We don't need a room for the night yet, but innkeepers are always choc full of information! Questioning
the innkeeper on several subjects reveals that war is brewing among the various races of
Guardia. We also find out that the Arms of Argus is rumored to be involved with the "black
market," so that could be some valuable info...

A little more exploration leads to an interesting encounter down a back alley...


This is probably important

Checking around the front of that building reveals it to be the Savant-controlled jail. We'll
hold off on that jailbreak for the moment...

Down the road a little further, we find a condemned area. The inside is, of course, full
of garbage-dwelling creatures that we quickly dispatch. A seeming dead-end has a faded sign that reads "Ol C y c ess." Well, since this is New City, I can deduce that "Old City"
is probably the first part of that sign, and the keyhole on the wall makes me think that
this is the area, perhaps, for "access." We have no key that fits, though, and the lock
seems unpickable. Someone out there has to have it...

Back towards the center of town, we try once again to enter the Arms of Argus. This time,
when queried about who sent us, we tell him "black market." That does the trick. He hurries us inside and gives us a look at his selection. Funds are a little tight right now, but
weapon spending is always valuable, so we get a bastard sword for ZX, and a shiny new
Rapier for Liam. (At this point, Tragic has also picked up a spear and a crossbow from
fallen enemies). There is also a shiny new katana that Ryoga could use, but we're going
to hold off on that for the moment.

On the far side of town, we enter Belcanzor's Magick Emporium. He has a variety of scrolls,
spellbooks, and potions available. We decide to pick up a Slow scroll for Styos, as that's
always handy to have around.

[embed]77050:9507[/embed]

A stop by the local library leads us to find a book guarded by a silent, motionless Savant sentinal;we decide to leave that alone. We also find Prof. Wunderland, a nervous old Rattkin. Since there is never anyone better to ask about stuff than a professor, we question him about Old City. He also provides us with the access key, but warns us that someone else has been poking around the city...

[embed]77050:9506[/embed]

Knowing that someone else is possibly ahead of us, we race back to the Old City access and get ready to begin the next stage of the adventure!

[embed]77050:9505[/embed]   read


4:09 PM on 03.13.2008

The Playback Machine: Starter Dungeon

The adventure begins!

After landing on the strange new world of Guardia, our bold party decides to do what every proper RPG party does: go cruise through the starter dungeon. Breathing in the deep, wild air of this new world, we take our first brave steps forward. Not seconds later, we are approached by a strange woman on a magical flying device!



Welcome, indeed! She greets us as "travelers from the stars," and says that perhaps our coming is foretold. With that, she flies away, leaving us as alone as ever. I have a feeling we'll be seeing more of her...

Walking a little further down the road, we come to a fork; one way seems to lead into the nearby city, and the other leads to an innocent looking ladder leading underground. Of course we take the ladder.

The dungeon air is dank, and the hallways dark, but we push forward. Why, you ask? Because we seek the much fabled EXP. Trudging around the empty halls, we soon encounter our first chance to test ourselves in battle!



Lovely fellows, eh? A few sword strikes and fist bashes later, and they are soundly defeated. Our first victory, and we drink it in!

Moving further into the dungeon, we fight a few more battles, and find a fountain of healing (convenient!) Soon, in a plain looking room, our eagle-eyed ranger, Tragic, spots something on the floor:



The simple scroll turns out to be a tattered flier for "Paluke's Arms and Armors" in New City. We'll have to keep that place in mind...

A little more adventuring, and we come across the thing that excites adventurers even more than EXP: a treasure chest.



Moments later, our sneaky thief Liam takes a stab at disarming the trap on it and ends up getting himself killed. That's what we have Quit + Reload for! Another few attempts, and Liam finally gets it. Unfortunately, there is not much in the chest save for some rusty armor and a rusty sword, and a handful of what we think are Potions of Cure Light Wounds (we are not skilled enough to identify them yet).

Making our way down to the lower level of the dungeon, we fight more battles, and everyone manages to hit level 2, as well as generally improving their weapon and casting skills. A little while later, we come to a door that strikes us as most ominous...

Something tells me we've got our first boss battle on our hands. Let's see how it goes...

[embed]75431:9124[/embed]

Victory, sweet victory! Levels are gained, treasure is found, and the starter dungeon lay defeated! With that, we return to the surface, confident and ready to start the game for real! Next stop: New City and, dare I say, adventure?   read


7:15 PM on 03.11.2008

The Playback Machine: Intro

I've got the party fully assembled, and we're ready to begin the adventure! To save the time of me laying the groundwork of the story, I'll let the game speak for itself...

[embed]75107:9121[/embed]

(No, that isn't our party, but the intro is the same.)

I'm going to run us through the first dungeon tonight, and then review the journey tomorrow!

For the record, the party came together thusly...

ZargonX - Lizardman Fighter (dumb as a rock, tough as a rock)
Ryoga - Felpurr Ninja (fast like lightning!)
Liam - Hobbit Thief (super sneaky, super lock pick-y)
Tragic - Elven Ranger (our super scout, ready to stick arrows in things)
Styos - Mook Mage (smarter than your average psychic alien thing)
Hito (Hitogoroshi) - Rawulf Priest (pious as the day is long)   read


2:39 PM on 03.09.2008

The Playback Machine: Part I

In an effort to enrich the knowledge of others, as well as give myself an excuse to play more games, I've decided to embark on an adventure of playing through some of my favorite old games that I haven't played in a while, and of course sharing the whole experience with everyone else!



To start with, I've decided to go all-out and re-tackle Wizardry VII: Crusaders of the Dark Savant; a game I personally consider one of the best PC RPGs made. A lot of you may have never played this game, let alone even heard of it, and I'd like everyone to get a chance to see how great it was.

To help add a little interaction to this whole experience, I'm taking volunteers who'd like to see their namesake loaned to my party of adventurers. I, of course, will be leading, backed up my you intrepid volunteers. With the two volunteers I've already got, that leaves 3 slots on in our glorious party.

Slot 1: ZargonX
Slot 2: RHibiki
Slot 3: Hitogoroshi
Slot 4:
Slot 5:
Slot 6:

(And if more than 3 people volunteer, I'll do good ol random drawing to decide who gets in!)

So if you'd like to be a part of this grand adventure, just say so! You can also pick your racial preference from the wide variety available:

Humans (soft, squishy humans)
Hobbits (charming, weak hobbits)
Elves (snooty, magical elves)
Dwarves (hardy, slow dwarves)
Felpurr (Cat-people; fast and nimble)
Rawulf (Dog-people; pious and strong)
Gnomes (Smart and weak)
Lizardmen (Very strong, very tough, about as smart as toast)
Dracon (Tough and smart and breathe acid)
Faeries (Fast as all get out but weak as a kitten)
Mook (Big, hairy, alien psionic dudes. So, yeah.)

Let's get this adventure rolling!   read


11:02 AM on 03.07.2008

And The Gamers Who Play Them: Something a little different...

With a topic such as this, it would be easy to quickly slip into tried-and-true negative territory and launch into a spirited discussion of how Halo 3 players are frat boys or how turn-based strategy gamers all live in their mother's basements (we do not). While that would indeed be easy, and probably fun, I think this is a golden opportunity to focus on a more positive aspect of gamers that is so obvious, yet so often overlooked.

Gamers play games; games of all types: Some like to role-play, some like to shoot, some like to manage the lives of faceless minions, wielding a god-like power over them that can be used for good or ill. Whatever their chosen gaming haunt may be, however, I have noticed that a vast number of gamers share something in common: the drive to create.

Gamers, when give the opportunity, seem to have an overwhelming desire to take the games they love and to change them, to enhance them, or even to recreate them in new and exciting ways. I know that personally, when I was younger, I would spend hours in school drawing out new levels and enemies and items for Super Mario Bros, yearning to find some way to put these concepts into action.

To be sure, it's true that any time someone finds a connection with something, regardless of the medium, they can often be inspired to emulate or improve upon it. In my experiences, though, there is something about games that drives far more people to make that jump from simply thinking about the act of creation to actually creating.


The real adventure is figuring out where he got that cloak.

Perhaps part of it is the availability of tools. Sure, in the beginning, if you wanted to make a game, you needed punch cards and a whole lot of caffine (the caffine part is mostly still true...). And the idea of taking someone else's game and changing it? That was just right out the window. Technology advanced quickly, though, and by the early 80's, anybody with an Apple IIe or a Commodore or whatever personal computer of choice you owned could sit down with the Pinball or Adventure Construction Sets and create a game of their own from start to finish with no more programming knowledge than was required to actually play the games. These types of games provided endless hours of amusement for my friends and I. One very industrious friend of mine created a full 10 level adventure in my honor! You could play as me, armed with a mighty spitball shooter, or you could play as the Punisher, armed with a minigun. Did I mention I hate my friends?


57.6!? Back in my day we had 14.4 and we liked it!

These early tools were great, and they gave many a gamer a creative outlet, but there was still so much more we wanted to give. As time marched onward, the tools just kept improving. Some game companies started including editors for their games with their software, graphics tools became more readily available, and home computers grew more powerful. The advent of modems and BBSs suddenly meant that one dedicated fan could put together a tool or game that could now be shared across the nation.

I remember my first experience in the world of mapping came from a shareware Wolfenstein 3D map editor I got from a local BBS. It was the easiest thing in the world to use; just pick a wall, place a wall. It even had a graphics editor so you could change any of the wall graphics to anything you liked, all with an easy to user interface! I put together a map of my middle school (something that would probably get me arrested these days...) and shared it with my friends. Because honestly, what could be more fun than gunning down Hitler in your own cafeteria?


SPOILER: No matter how many times you kill him, Hitler will keep appearing in video games.

Soon, modems and BBSs gave way to the wonder that was the internet, and with that it became even easier than ever to not only share the tools, but to share the results from those tools. "Modding" became a term that grew more and more common, and with that grew this new concept of the modding community. This idea of Community is key here since, when you get right down to it, gamers love to share. Sure, someone could sit in their basement for months, working on a Cheers total conversion of Command & Conquer purely for their own enjoyment, but that's highly unlikely. For more likely is that, the moment it was finished, that mod would be up on C&C (and Cheers) fansites around the globe. By the next morning, a gamer in South Korea would be marching hordes of Norms across the streets of Boston, gunning down young Woody Harrelsons.


You know you would play this game.

Gamers create, gamers share, because they feel a connection with the games they play. Gamers want to take something that has given them much joy (or sometimes, frustration) and add to it, improve upon it, to make it do something it was never intended to. And they do it a lot. Any cursory search of the internet will show you that for almost any game you can think of, someone has taken the time and effort to change it somehow. Time and popularity are no obstacle once a gamer gets inspired. Be it something as simple as recording silly noises for the monsters in DOOM to essentially rebuilding a flawed game like Master of Orion III from scratch, someone is doing it. I've seen someone take a game like Emperor of the Fading Suns, which wasn't that well known to begin with, and spend years recoding it into the awesome game they always knew it could be. Sure, maybe only a handful of other people in the world will even bother to notice, but that's all it takes to be worth it.

When gamers get an idea in their head, they find a way. When I was ready to try my hand at making maps for TF2, there were so many people out there willing to share their knowledge and experience to help out, it became a joy to learn instead of a pain. And even if I didn't have the skills, no doubt I'd be able to find other people with different skills that would love to come together and create something great. Look, for instance, at Project Top Secret, an experiment to bring together people of different skills and different ideas to try and make a fan-made MMO. Sure, some of those people are there to try and win the "prize," but the vast majority give their time and energy simply because they want to, and expect no reward from it. Sometimes gamers don't even need skill or knowledge, they just need other people willing to try something new. Was Civilization meant to be played as a cooperative, role-playing infused team game? Nope. Is it fun? Completely.



Two guys with an idea took Half-Life and made a whole lot of changes... see how that worked out?

Games beget gamers who beget more games. New games, changed games, games that they are ready to share with the world. Gamers have a drive to create, moreso than I have seen in fans of any other medium, and with time it will only grow even more. We play games because we love them, and we make games because we want to spread that love to others. Hardcore, Casual, FPS or RPG; it doesn't matter. This creative urge is an oft ignored but vital facet of gamers, and one that we should all be proud of.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go make fun of fighting game fans; those dudes are losers.   read


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