This was perhaps around half through the N64/PS generation. Every week or so, I would be
driven down to Blockbuster, that magical place where at any one point there would be five
whole games to choose from! Now the way it went, was if they had something awesome,
that would be your pick. But if not you would wander around scanning uninteresting box art
after uninteresting box art until your pestering parents forced you to do eenie meenie minie
moe (catch a tiger by its toe). One of these uninterested picks was a small game called
MegaMan 64. For the uninitiated, a game called Mega Man legends was released for the
Playstation. It was Later released under the monicker MegaMan 64 with added content.
Mega Man 64 (and legends) was a game that I had never heard of, and I had no idea what
to expect. I remember having MegaMan 6 for the NES in my earlier years, so I was sort of
expecting a game I would suck at. But it was anything but!
This really isn't a MegaMan game per say; but a game that uses a derivative blue robot boy
with the MegaMan name. The story goes that you live with Roll and Barrell Casket, a young
girl and robot old man, and you travel the world "Digging", IE, you wander under ground
catacombs filled with evil robots (?!) and collect spare parts and money. The legend of the
"Mother Lode" is what motivates the story, the legendary treasure the Roll's parents
disappeared searching for. Now keep in mind. I was a N64 kid. I never had a Playstation.
So imagine how amazed I was, at like, 10, that this game featured full voice acting!
Granted, it was terrible, but it was fucking impressive! The game play is essentially what I
imagined what a 3D MegaMan would look like. You run around in 3rd person and fightrobots
with a lock-on mechanism. Instead of Robot Masters implementing new and stronger
weapons, you instead build them out of spare found parts.
The graphics where good, featuring full very expansive 3D environments. The art direction
was very pop anime cutesy, but still contained a certain amount of badass-ery in enemy
What keeps me coming back to the series (and made me find MegaMan legends 2) is the
sense of exploration and curiosity. You travel into these dark mechanic labyrinths filled with
all sorts of treasures and items, and even a sense of danger. Its a shame the series only
had 2 installments, and I doubt a third will ever even be in the pipeline.
I am steadily learning to play keyboard, so I can actually participate in me and my friends
band Schrödinger's Bat. My newest addition to my musical arsenal is this lovely little toy that I
got the privilege of borrowing.
I remember the first time I was truly terrified by a video game. It was around 3 years ago,
I got the Resident Evil remake for the Gamecube. My friend still gives me crap for calling
her and asking her to come over so I wouldn't be alone. Needless to say I loved it, but for
years I have had a secret obsession with horror movies. There is something so satisfying
about being scared shitless. I would compare it to playing chicken with a freight train, when
the scaring gets good. Heavy pulse, covering ears, sweating, those are the moments I live
for. But Horror is hard to pull off in all mediums, especially games it seems. The struggle is
literally power. The most distinctive and prominent mechanic of all horror games is a
feeling of powerlessness. In a medium where power is pretty much everything, its a
terrifying feeling to have that sense of power taken away from you.
Having played through Resident Evil 4 at least 20 times, I can tell you the most terrifying
part was the first encounter with a Regenerator. You aren't given a weapon to defeat them
until AFTER you first run into about 3, all in cramped small places. Even after acquiring the
weapon (which is a thermal sniper scope) there is a pressure to get the shots right on very
specific parts of its body. The slow shamble, wheezing, and this pressure to get it right all
add up to the most terrifying experiences in the game. And that all stems from a sense of
helplessness. What makes the rest of the game not that scary is the ability to go fucking
commando and shoot the hell out of everything (which isn't a bad thing mind you, just not
Silent Hill is a series that takes this "zen horror" seriously and not only makes you feel
helpless, but adds in a twisted introversive story with terrifying enemy design. The key to
one of the greatest in the series, Silent Hill 3, is in fact the helplessness. You are a teenage
girl, not a government agent trained in 14 styles of kick boxing. You can barely handle a
gun and have to spend most of the game beating things with a pipe. Silent Hill 2 took the
same approach with average everyday guy, but added in a twisted story of subconscious.
Which makes we wonder if the evil in Silent Hill exists in the people that go there, not in the
town itself. Which scares me the most. There is no "boss", there is no human face to put on
the haunted town. There is no solid explanation. There is no limit to the horrors this place
can produce. Its inhuman, and that is SCARY. I can only hope the new Silent Hill developers
The primary criticism of the Silent Hill and Resident Evil games is the lack of control of the
camera. Born from a technical limitation in the original Alone in the Dark, it was a fluke that
helped limit the players control on the environment. But I enjoy it and think it adds wonders
to a game that would then only turn into an action game like Resident Evil 4 (which I
remind you, I love). First person allows for even more freedom on the genre in my eyes
(no pun intended), because You are now seeing directly through the eyes of the character.
Things can sneak up behind you (which is the old cheap spring loaded cat scare, but its still
a fun jump when its done well), and a feeling of mental degradation can truly take place;
Condemned was good.
With horror being such a distinctive genre, and a genre so hard to pull off, (Come on
F.E.A.R.! You can try harder than that!) it takes a genius director to understand horror and
not just allow it to become a steroid pumped manly man shooting fest.
You remember the 20's? When one piece bathing suits where corrupting our youth?
You remember the 60's? When Rock and Roll where destroying our nation?
You remember the 90's? When Video Games were turning us all into violent serial killers?
In every notable era, some fragment of pop culture is accused of corrupting our youth.
Some element is destroying the very foundations of the human race. At this point in our
cultures timeline, you would think parents could claim responsibility and actually do a good
job of RAISING there children. But with the ever growing corruption of the electronic
games, and what they are doing to our poor defenseless children, its a wonder that our
streets are not running with the blood a million sacrificed innocent!
I am part of a generation that loves all sorts of media; music, television, movies, and video
games. And growing up around it, my parents were not blind to the ratings. The first Teen
rated game I ever played was Tomb Raider when I turned 12. And my Mother still refuses
me to have GTA in the house for my little brothers sake. Unlike seemingly every other
parent, my parents paid attention to the ESRB ratings. Why is that so hard? Even the
stores in my area enforce them! Last year I wanted to buy Resident Evil DS at Best Buy
and they refused because I didn't have an ID!
I think we can say our kids are rather safe from Video Games; its terrible parents that are
dangerous. I am confident my child will get a rather inevitable exposure to pop media, and
I will accept the (seemingly) burdening responsibility of choosing what media is and is not
right for them. Its not that hard! People act like video game companies are intentionally
targeting children with violent games. When in reality, its the careless parent who is to
The biggest case against the Video Game medium and the "neccesity" of censorship seems
to be Columbine, when two teenage boys shot up there school and committed suicide.
People often point out that they played Doom in there off time and it made them violent
people. Well, I think the guys at Penny Arcade summed it up best:
"Oh he had Doom on his computer. Well of course he had Doom on his computer he was a
violent fuck. Violent people like games..."
At the end of the day, all I have to say is, be a parent. Pay attention to what your child is
taking in, and don't rely on the government to do it for you. It just screws things up for us
who are old enough understand it and it only makes you look like a fool.
I, as a retro gamer, am very young. I am 17, meaning I was born at the release of the
Super Nintendo. But being the son of a Young couple in Sweden who's father was going to
college, the best we could afford in our small 2 room apartment was an NES from the
classifieds. Of course I wanted the SNES, and I drooled at the display N64 at the big toy
store in downtown Stockholm, but at the same time I loved my NES and played it too
As I grow and mature as a creative individual, my childhood experiences are always
reflected in what I do, and the things I love. The simple colors and that distinct, beautiful
simple sound that came from that grey box ground themselves into the very core of me. I
am regarded as having weird music by some of my friends, seeing as my iPod is dominated
by NES soundtrack and Chiptunes; which brings us to the point of my post. Why the hell do
people make Chiptunes, and why do we love them?
One can simply write that off as taste, but I think its something deeper. When you grow up
around that kind of sensory input, it truly grows on you. Its like when parents teach morals.
It becomes something that you are founded upon. It becomes something you "believe in".
It is something you carry your whole life.
There is something special about the NES soundchip that can't be reproduced. It was a
weird middle ground where the hardware could produce enough channels for fully layered
compositions, but not quite advanced enough to mimic real instruments. I would personally
classify the NES as its own instrument. There was a distinct sound that existed, and if you
have ever played games like Mega Man 2 or Ninja Gaiden, those composers took that
hardware to the limit and made absolutely awesome music. It was not only good game
music, but good MUSIC. The songs sounded good.
I think the draw to make Chiptunes sprouts from is the subtle almost subconscious concept
behind it. That this technology is outdated and meaningless in a practical sense; so we
apply it in an artistic sense. Typing this, it feels almost hauntingly existentialist. It also
follows the same lines of minimalist art; where the artist creates as much as possible with
as little materials as possible. Where the emotional punch in the piece is achieved with as
few visual (or in this case auditorial) elements as possible. The NES for example has 4
channels of sound, and I have heard some incredible compositions come from that.
If your in the mood the check some of this out, you should check
out 8bitpeoples . They are a new york based art
group who do some amazing stuff. May I recommend Anamanaguchi?
BIOSHOCK is probably my favorite game of 2007. The engaging combat, interesting
characters, and above all the spectactular city of Rapture. The leaking, almost post
modern metaphor of the decaying forgotten city of Rapture and its maniacle citizens,
aimlessy roaming the flooded halls. The immense detail put into the environment leaks like
the sea from the walls. Being a designer, I always take note of things like posters and
typography, and most of the time its standard Times New Roman fair. But one of biggest
contributing factors to the enviroment in Bioshock is the extensive use of graphic design to
contribute to the atmosphere. The first thing I noticed where the picket signs littered
around the bathysphere chamber. Simple white signs, with all uppercase Futura lettering.
Futura as a typeface is extremely prominent in Bioshock. Hell, its even in the logo. The
significance of this however, is what Futura Represents.
Futura is a geometric sans serif typeface designed in 1927 by Paul Renner. Although
Renner was not associated with the Bauhaus, he shared many of its idioms and believed
that a modern typeface should express modern models, rather than be a revival of a
Isnt that what Rapture is? A modern, new model of society, rather than a revival of a an
old one? Granted, it all went to hell, but one can easily imagine the mindset of the graphic
designers in Rapture, and the desires of there clients. Its important to note other very 50's
and 60's esque typefaces are occurant as well.
Covering the walls throughout the game are the smart, realistic posters of Plasmids and
Places. They are appropriate, understandable and examine a realistic chunk of a society
once obsessed with free expression and scientific exploration. While 50's design isn't my
favorite, it is signature of the era, and its ideals are expressed in full when they are used
in the games atmosphere.
So did typography help make the atmosphere in Bioshock? I think so.