Movie Review – Atari: Game Over

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Rexis here!

Good day, literate ones! Do you know who Howard Scott Warshaw is? Everyday gamers may not recognize the name, but the more diehard among us know him as the creator of Yar’s Revenge, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, all for Atari 2600. That’s it. Just the three. So how did his name become famous in the retro gaming community?

This is an answer you’ll find in the documentary Atari: Game Over. Using my savvy inner-netting skills, I found the video on the Tubes of You. I went into this documentary blind, didn’t know what to expect. Turns out, the filmmakers were tracking down the location where Atari buried a large number of E.T. cartridges way back when during the video game crash of 1983. This is somewhat of an urban legend in the gaming community. This quest is intertwined with interviews from several employees who worked for Atari in its heyday, the most interesting, in my opinion, being Howard Scott Warshaw.

I won’t spoil the documentary for the five or six of you who haven’t seen it because I think it’s actually worth watching. It does lull from time to time, particularly during the search for the landfill spot, but the information and the interviews make it worthwhile to stick around. I was already familiar with the history of Atari and the crash of ’83, but it was a nice refresher and featured Q&A from people with first hand involvement, not to say that they caused it, but they were certainly affected.

My overall takeaway was that video games are held to a much higher stander now because of the mistakes made in the industry’s early years. I also gained an appreciation for the forefathers of game design who I, admittedly, have taken for granted. It is easy to watch YouTube videos featuring bad gameplay, like AVGN, JonTron, or PBG. We get a laugh out of it and it is entertaining, but if you really appreciate gaming, if you really are an enthusiast, you should take the time to see things from the creator’s perspective. It’s interesting, to say the least.

So how do I rate Atari: Game Over? If I had to put a number on it, I’d give it a 7/10. If you are an avid game history buff, you likely won’t learn much. Otherwise, you’re going to get an awesome history lesson about a company that pioneered console gaming. Either way, the interviews are great and worth watching! And when it’s all over, I’d urge you to show some love to HSW. Can you imagine what it would be like to live with that urban legend over your head? That a game you single handedly created caused the game crash? It’s not true, but just think about that for a second. You can find him on Twitter @HSWarshaw.

That’s my quick and easy review! Thanks for reading!

 

!SPOILERS! – This is a spoiler tag. If you plan on watching the film, skip this. The post is over for you.

 

 

HSW has gone on to become a psychotherapist. He’s led a successful life. The landfill dig turned up only a small amount of Atari items including some E.T. carts and a few others, but it was not the major haul urban legends would have you believe. The most logical reason these were scrapped was because the storage fees were costing more than what the games were worth.

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5 Games That Made Me Question The World

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Rexis here!

It’s been a busy time for the blog. I’ve had so much pent up writing aggression that I just had to beat a keyboard into submission. I’ve been known to peruse the web of the wide world and for some reason; top X lists always interest me. I usually skip the intro though and go right to the meat of the topic. Assuming you do the same means I can write whatever I want up here and you’ll never read it. So I can finally admit that I’m not a fan of Kirby or Donkey Kong. It feels good to let that out without fear of repercussions. On to the list at hand!

5

Harvest Moon (GB)

I would never have guessed a little farming simulator could invade my life, but I bought this game when it came out in 1997. I was 13… Wow. Anyways, I couldn’t put it down. The game was repetitive at best and not much fun by today’s handheld standards, but it taught me that the hard work you put into it pays off.  If you want to upgrade that house and grow that farm, you’ve got to suffer a little. This was a valuable lesson for a 13 year old because it is true to life. I didn’t get where I am by letting the crops die, if you know what I mean.

4

Final Fantasy VII (PS1)

A lot has been said about Aeris’ death, but when I saw it first hand, before it was common knowledge, I realized that the good guys could die. And they weren’t coming back. For some reason, this resonated with me. The game had captured something we see in the real world. The good guys don’t always win and that can make for a fascinating story.

3

Chrono Trigger (SNES)

A game in my top three favorites. Seriously, I could not love this game more. One of my favorite aspects of this game was the time period Antiquity. The floating islands and magic were so imaginative and challenged the view of the world. Sure, there was magic everywhere, but the other ages didn’t rely on it as much. This inspired me to read up on archaeology and I’ve loved it ever since. I’m particularly fascinated with ancient machinery like the Antikythera mechanism. I wonder what things happened in our ancient world that we have yet to unearth.

2

Fable (XBOX)

The hype for fable was overwhelming. It’s one of the reasons I wanted an XBOX in the first place. Little did I know that what it would be a giant steaming pile of letdown.  The game itself wasn’t bad, aside from the crude British(?) humor I didn’t find funny. (Fart jokes? Really?) It was the promises that weren’t kept that bothered me. I learned that nothing is ever as good as it is in advertising. And I learned to never trust Peter Molyneux or the hype train. It also influenced me to have my own opinions based on my own experiences. That’s important.

1

Final Fantasy XI (PC)

I’ve mentioned in the past what this game meant to me. I played it for the better part of a decade and made so many amazing friends. It was my first experience with online gaming’s social aspects and I loved it. This game taught me that friendship can exist no matter the barriers. I never used voice chat, only type, and I felt like I had some of the best friends you could ask for. I’m an avid Minecrafter now and play on a server with a bunch of fantastic people, many of which I’d say are friends. My real life friends scattered many years ago, but online gaming has done a lot to alleviate that lack of friendships in my life. Instead of going out to dinner and forcing conversation (because no one I know irl is as obsessed with gaming as I am), I get to build some awesome things with people who have similar interests. It’s amazing!

I hope you enjoyed my little list. If it gets enough likes, shares, whatevers, I’ll consider making more. See ya later, internet!

Plugged-in Players – Zelda / Sheik Gender Controversy

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Rexis here!

Hello internet and welcome to… Plugged-in Players. Kudos if you got that reference. Do you remember 1998? Were you alive then? When Ocarina of Time came out, it was something of a “big deal.” Phrases like “most anticipated game of all time” were being thrown around all willy-nilly. And rightfully so. Despite the complaints about Z-targeting and repetitive sword play that permeate today’s reviews, Ocarina was a great game!

One of the most memorable additions to the franchise, in my opinion, was the introduction of Sheik as a character. Throughout the game, you were never sure of his purpose. He would show up, teach you a song, say something wise, and then vanish before Link could approach him. He represented a power we were working to understand and possibly emulate. He was a mentor. He provided encouragement. He showed that Link was not alone in his conquest to save Zelda and Hyrule.

Then the reveal came. Sheik had been Zelda in hiding all along. Apparently, during the seven years Link was unconscious in the Temple of Time, Zelda was training to be totally BA. So how is it that 17 years later the internet could be so obsessed with what Sheik was packing below the belt?

Theorists are as fascinated with Sheik’s crotchial-region as that double-rainbow guy is with that, you know, double rainbow. (Outdated meme reference? So what? It’s MY blog.) So why all the confusion over something as simple as a woman dressing in drag to hide from a deranged demi-god? I’ll bet no one questioned what was under Mulan’s… uh, typical Chinese crotch armor (does it have a name)?

Being the guy that I am, I started the old Google screen and found a few interesting theories as to why people think Sheik is actually male. The first one I want to debunk requires you to understand the term canonical, as in canon, as in an official part of the franchise. Zelda’s magical transformation in Smash Brother’s Brawl is non-canonical. It is not an official part of Sheik lore. The second debunk is the magic issue. In Ocarina of Time, when Sheik reveals his true identity, Link looks away, there’s a flash, and Zelda is standing there. The flash is caused by what looks and sounds like a deku nut. If Link were frozen in place she would have had plenty of time to change her clothes. The last reasoning I will touch on comes from the idea that transformation is common place in the franchise. Link become a bunny, wolf, deku sapling, goron, and zora to name a few, however, in all cases he is still male. So why is it that Zelda’s transformation should come with a sex change? (Sexist gamers lashing out? Women can’t be awesome in games?)

Theories (and sexist agendas) aside, I’d like to think that no one who worked on Sheik’s design was ever worried about her alleged gender swapping ability. Most likely, they were no more concerned about what was beneath the costume than Stan Lee was about the Thing’s… thing. Luckily for us, we no longer have to debate this issue because Nintendo has finally put the sword to it.

“The definitive answer is that Sheik is a woman – simply Zelda in a different outfit.” – Bill Trinen, Nintendo Senior Product Marketing Manager

Keep gaming, keep learning, and stay plugged in.

Plugged-in Players – MOBA, DotA, and LoL

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Rexis here!

MOBA. DotA. LoL. What does it all mean?! The fans know all about it. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. It’s taken over many gamer YouTube channels. It’s a national eSports event in South Korea. But what it is?

My online strategy game days ended when I quit playing Final Fantasy XI. The closest I get to online PvP these days is when I pop in Black Ops or GTAV. Then there’s the occasional Minecraft death. Needless to say, the online PvP community is not my forte. And if you’re like me, you’ve been hearing these buzzwords flying about, but never bothered to care. I wasn’t much interested until recently when I saw a Vice documentary about eSports and League of Legends (A coworker calls it League of Virgins. Don’t be offended, learn to laugh at yourself.)

But before we delve into its popularity, let’s start with MOBA, otherwise known as multiplayer online battle arena. This sub-genre of real-time strategy involves two teams battling to destroy the opposing team’s base/structure/whathaveyou.  It is typically action oriented, top-down, and involves RPG elements. Growing your character works into the strategy of taking out your opponent.

That’s not confusing at all! I’m surprised I didn’t know that before. For me, this genre was largely overlooked because I haven’t always been a fan of RTS and that is exactly where this started. Particularly, with StarCraft and a custom map called Aeon of Strife (AoS). This inspired a map called Defense of the Ancients (DotA) for Warcraft III. DotA became the first MOBA to have sponsored tournaments, ultimately paving the way for the worldwide success of League of Legends.

I won’t dwell on the gameplay for League of Legends. If you want to try the game out, it is free to play on Windows and Mac. The more interesting aspect of this story is the development studio itself. League of Legends remains Riot Games only video game to date and the company made $624 million in 2013. That’s only 4 years after the game released. It’s like every indie developer’s dream.

Hopefully you learned something about MOBA, DotA, and LoL from this post. At the very least, you should know what they are talking about when the inevitable LoL conversation comes up.

Keep gaming, keep learning, and stay plugged in.

Plugged-in Players – Replayability, Replay Value, and Etymology

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Rexis here!

What’s up, internet absorbers? I was clicking around the giant web of computational systems many of us call home when I came across an interesting debate that I can hardly believe is a thing. Apparently, a secret debate rages beneath the calm streets of Videogametopia and it revolves around the word “replayability,” or, as some would say, the non-word, because technically it’s not one.

Now I’m not one to be drawn into a debate the offers no victory for either side (hence why I stay away from religious, political, or best fast food conversations) so I would concede immediately that it is not a word. That’s true. BUT! What is a word?  Now I’m no google-ologist, but google-ologing confirms a word is “a single distinct meaningful element of speech” and so forth. So a sentence like “Chrono Trigger has awesome replayability” certainly seems to qualify the word. It is distinct. It is meaningful. Isn’t it? What does a word that doesn’t exist actually mean?

In the grand scheme of vidya gaming, we know what “replayability” is. It is a word exclusively used for video games. You wouldn’t say that football has “replayability.” You wouldn’t say that a movie has “replayability.” (Rewatchability?) And it certainly isn’t as simple as saying “I have the ability to play again.” This word refers primarily to the replay value a video game possesses and fills the need for a slang term, basically. In the same sense, aggro refers to aggression, mod refers to modifications, and own (pwn) refers to defeating an enemy (to name a few).

I’ve always enjoyed etymology and the origins of words. I’ve written a lot of fiction and creating words is fun! Yes, you can literally create words. A somewhat well-known author by the name of George R. R. Martin recently created the word turncloak. So, you know. There’s that. Not to mention the 1700+ words created by Shakespeare, and I’m not talking about his silly words like hobnob. Many words he created have become common language today. Compromise. Lonely. Label. Elbow. Moonbeam. Luggage. And for you forum lovers; rant and bump. All Shakespeare.

“Replayability” may lack a solid definition. It may not be in the dictionary. Yet. It may not be something you fully understand because you’re not a gamer and have never experienced something you would say has “replayability,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a word. Anyone who would argue what is and isn’t a word has a clear lack of understanding when it comes to etymology and coining a word.  Seriously, if you are so passionate about language, maybe learn how it evolves over time instead of forcing your totalitarian views on others.

On a side note, there’s a video game I enjoy that shares its name with a word created by Shakespeare. Unreal.

Escapism – Why I’m a Gamer

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Rexis here!

What is up, world? It feels like it’s been ages since I’ve written anything. I assure you, it’s for a good reason. You see, I’ve been busy with real life. Specifically, all my spare time has gone into finding a new vehicle. I was successful in my quest. All of the running around from one dealership to the next, dealing with the bank, working out my financial situation, doing so much math… All of it made me long for something different, an escape of sorts.

That’s what video games provide me. It’s what watching Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead does for me. It’s why I write. It’s why I have a game room. Escapism provides me a diversion from my everyday life. It may be the single reason I consume any sort of entertaining media. The comforting thought is that I’m not alone in this boat. There are good and bad sides of the “escapism paradigm” (yes, I made that up). On the one side, you might think I resent my life and want to have little to do with it. There are a lot of people out there who undoubtedly use means of escape because they are unable to deal with life. I feel for them. But I am not among them. I love my life! It’s awesome! That brings me to the other side of the paradigm, escapism as a positive motivator.

When I play a video game, it is important to me that I can relate to the main character. Joel from The Last of Us, Drake from Uncharted, Edward Kenway from Black Flag. Even television (which I don’t watch much of) has to pull me in and make me care. It doesn’t matter who I am playing as. I love to feel the connection, to go through these trials and ordeals with the hero. It seems to me that these experiences can help us grow if we embrace them, just like anything we could experience in our real lives.

When we are able to exist in a world outside of our own, it can invigorate us. It charges the imagination and pushes us do something we might not otherwise be able to do. I think this is why games that offer real choices with real consequence are so great. Skyrim allows you to choose what side of a civil war you want to fight on. When would you ever be faced with that in your daily life? More recently, TellTale Games has been doing impressive work in this area.

In the gaming world, I know of two major events experienced through the heroes eyes that brought the gaming community to its knees. The first was the reveal that Sheik was Zelda the whole time. It may not have surprised you, but I dropped my controller and my jaw when this was revealed in the game. If you google it, you’ll see it’s still a hotly debated subject. The other moment I’m thinking of has brought gamers to tears. The death of Aeris in Final Fantasy 7 was my first real emotional moment brought on solely by a video game. Laugh if you want, but that scene was brutal for its time.

As with most games, I learned something from both of those incidents. I won’t dwell on those lessons (that’s a post for another day), but they were real. I’ve been learning more about myself with every game I’ve played ever since.  Brining those lessons back into the real world is important and may be why psychologists are looking at video games as a means of treating patients.

I wonder if doing these things that I do is really a form of stress relief, therapy in its own right. I certainly feel better after I click publish or drop that final block on a project in Minecraft. Emotional connections, amazing experiences, stress relief. There are so many reasons why we game and, when I think about it, these are the same reasons I do things in my real life. Do you know what drives you in gaming? Does it carry over to your real life? I’d be interested in hearing about it.

Oh, and by the way, a video game about financing the purchase of a new car would suck.