I made a comic for the Penny Arcade’s StripSearch Home Edition. It’s built in 90 minutes on the words “mystery” and “naugthy” and is not safe for work, probably.
Earlier this year, my daugther’s 2nd grade elementary school class was given an assignment to write a short paragraph about something they own that was important to them and draw a picture to go along with it. While I pleaded for my daughter to choose Minecraft, she ultimately selected her favorite stuffed animal. A few other smarter, less spiteful kids did find inspiration in the world of video games, and their writings rivaled those of many popular video game web sites. In fact, each of them seems to have emulated a specific style of the current video game writing stable. See if you recognize your favorite site’s style below!
The New Games Journalist
My D.S. is awesome! It is very special because my Dad bought it. It’s very very smooth. It has cool sounds. It is white. It is as white as snow. I love my D.S.
This writer’s emotional prose and unnecessary back story remind me of something I might read on insertcredit.com or in Kill Screen magazine. Sure, we all have DS, but this particular DS is special. During the divorce proceedings, this youngster’s father purchased it for them to help fill the hole where love once dwelt. Like most New Games Journalists, besides aspirations of painting us a word picture, the writer finds it necessary to pad his word count with overly elaborate verbiage. While an additional “very” is quite unnecessary, I do find it hard to dispute that the DS is, indeed, quite smooth. This leads us into the most poetical part of the piece, in which the DS is compared to the delicate majesty of new fallen snow. This writer doesn’t just like their DS, or believe it to be a well made piece of hardware, they are in love with their DS, and I love them for it.
Even before games were declared Art by the Supreme Court, the DS here was depicted in crayon as being inside a sturdy wooden frame, suitable for hanging and gazing at through your Wayfarer eyeglasses. Taking a closer look at the picture, you can see that the game drawn has been paused, but contains little other recognizable objects. My best guess, with its chubby, blue, spiky haired character and tree like obstacle would be a Sonic the Hedgehog Japanese import. It’s either that or a fat Mega Man with too much hair mousse.
The Press Release
I have a Ds. It is as white as whiteboard. I can play Gameboy games and Ds games on it. It sounds like a ding and it feels rough and smooth. It looks awesome.
This entry feels like a solid marketing push that sticks to the facts. This kid went the extra mile in the drawing portion of the project, showing the DS in both the opened and closed positions; he is really selling it. His marketing savvy fell off a bit in the color description, remarking that it is, “as white as whiteboard,” but then he drops the ultimate marketing bomb: backwards compatibility. At this point, Nintendo would have been ready to offer him a job, but his last sentence contains a few curve balls. Though my photo is quite blurry, it still seems that he remarked that the system sounds like a “ding”, which leads me to believe this 7 year old marketer spent a little too much time on Urban Dictionary looking for buzzwords. Then, rather than targeting a specific demographic, he hoped to capture a wider audience and stated that the system feels both rough AND smooth. Way to gild the lily, second grader.
The Consumer Report
My DSiXL is as blue as the sea. It has two screens. There are four circles. Circle letter A is to go. Circle letter B is to stop. Circle letter Y is to boost. Circle letter X is to beep. And the screens are to see the car. The six dots are to hear. The Circle is to see yourself and to see someone else. And the R and L are to slide. The Start and Select are to pause. My DSiXL is cool.
If our first DS entry cops from your favorite New Games Journalist, this entry pulls straight from the Consumer Reports school of reporting. No single detail of the DS’s features are missed, except for the fact that it can play other games besides Mario Kart. Still, if you are in the market for a Mario Kart machine, this write-up has got you covered, even going so far as to describe the very nature of the speaker vents. Unfortunately, the picture portion of this entry doesn’t deliver the same level of detail. I’ve spent the past hour trying to figure out what the blue squares and orange Xs flanking the DS are.
Yoshi is a dinosaur dragon. I got him from a Chinese store. His nose is as big as an apple. He can fly a little and grab stuff with his tongue. All he says is “yoshi.” He also lays eggs and he runs super fast. If Yoshi gets wings he can fly a lot.
Here we have an article only peripherally related to gaming, perfect for a blog or tumblr. Granted, it’s not a cake power-sculpted out of inedible fondant, or magic bead pixel art, but it gets the job done in a solid fan boy way. Is Yoshi a dinosaur, a dragon, or both? All we know for sure is that this kid picked him up in Chinatown after one of his father’s weekly massage appointments. As with most non-commercial writings, the art on this one is what brings in the page views. I doubt I could draw as good a depiction of Yoshi now, let alone when I was a portly 2nd grader. Despite his erect stature, Yoshi is instantly recognizable and a ton of little details have gone into this work. Coins, a fire flower, star power, Yoshi egg, “gomba”, and three types of mushrooms make an appearance, all labelled appropriately. The artist even went so far as to draw a baby Yoshi that is the spitting image of his father. I didn’t even put that much effort into the creation of my own child; mostly, I just laid on my back.
The Retro Gamer
My GameCube feels as smooth as a penny on a couple of sides and bumpy on the other sides. It looks like a cube because it is one. It is awesome in every way. You can play videogames on it.
Nostalgia. It often paints a bright, sunny picture of the past to help us forget the times that we were struck by the lightning of reality. Like many before him, this writer cherishes the game system of his youth, believing it to be superior to any forthcoming offerings. “Awesome in every way,” with the exception of market share. The author, in an attempt to rebuff detractors of the GameCube’s legacy, reminds us (very specifically) that this is a system for playing video games, not watching movies, playing music, or other ancillary features touted by the competition back in the day. In the picture portion, the GameCube’s handle has strangely migrated from the back of the machine to the top, and it appears that he has connected a Microsoft Sidewider PC joypad into controller port 1. Ah, well. Such is the nature of memory.
My Wii started out as white as milk, but now is turning yellow from lack of use. A spider has taken up Resident, and seems to enjoy it’s pretty blue glow. I love my spider, even thought he is Evil.
Finally, we come to the most annoying of entries, The Comedian. Rather than stick straight to the assignment, this class clown has seen fit to go for laughs instead of approaching the subject seriously. Sure, it will win him a few guffaws from the peanut gallery, but he won’t ever become the Lester Bangs of video game journalism with this kind of attitude. If this were my kid, you can rest assured that I would punish him within an inch of his life. Let’s see how easy it would be to maintain that Ferris Beuller attitude after a day of no personal credit card! Well, at least he didn’t make a top 10 list.
These goddamn guys at IndieGames.com are relentless. Not a single independently produced game doesn’t pass before their eyes, and whenever you think you’ve discovered something worth writing about, they’ve most likely already covered it, and probably before you were even birthed from your mother’s womb. Such is the case today, as we take a look at a Canabalt-like, Bit-Trip-Runner-ish rhythm platformer called Stalwart, from Jonathan Whiting, the creator of Collateral. Multicolored meteors and fireballs fall from the heavens, to the beat of fantastic jams composed by Demoscene Time Machine, deterring the advance of your “stalwart” knight, forcing you to jump, long jump, and back flip to avoid being crushed by musical terror; Bringing It On, as it were. It’s great, of course, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this, but I would like it if the synesthetics were tweaked slightly. Currently, the notes of the song being played are connected to the impact of the meteors, rather than their appearance on screen, which would give the player more of a heads-up that they are in danger. That’s just me, though, because I suck at games.
Interestingly, Stalwart is actually a re-creation of an unreleased, nearly Christian-themed game created for the Atari 2600 back in 1984 that never saw the light of day, but was one of the first rhythm games ever created. At that time, popular Christian music label Sparrow Records commissioned Home Computer Software, Inc. (whose only other credit seems to be the Kids Say The Darndest Things game for the Commodore 64) to create a game based on their popular children’s album, Music Machine: The Fruit Of The Spirit. Essentially a clone of KABOOM!, Music Machine, the game, has the player controlling Stevie and Nancy, the two characters featured on the music album, as they attempt to catch various symbols representing “positive character qualities” dropped from above by the titular Music Machine. Music Machine was published by Sparrow Records and only sold in Christian book stores, so is quite a rare cartridge. A sealed copy was recently sold on eBay for the princely sum of 5,250 dollars.
The unique thing about Music Machine was that an even more rare special edition was available, packaged with a modified version of the aforementioned children’s album meant to be played along with the game (Unfortunately, the one mentioned above is not one of these bundles). A special introduction was added to the beginning of the record, directing players to start the game at a specific moment, thereby syncing the game to the album. The in-game Music Machine would send down its flood of “positive character qualities” in time with the “real” Music Machine on the on the record. This usually only worked perfectly as long as your record remained unscratched and untouched by sunlight. While some arcade games and a few home consoles (such as the Vetrex) featured plastic overlays with additional visual components, this was the first instance of sound overlay ever being used in concert with a video game.
Home Computer Software, Inc. created a follow-up game using the same concept,codenamed Stalwart, but when the first title failed to catch on, Sparrow Records decline to publish it. Since the game was already complete, Home Computer Software, Inc. was able to shop the game around. Miraculously, it was picked up by Golan-Globus Productions, whom hoped to release it alongside their 1984 medieval adventure and box office bomb Sword of Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, starring Miles O’Keeffe and an embarrassed Sean Connery. Again, a special version of the soundtrack album was planned that would sync up with the game, this time available on a cassette that could fit right in the box with the game. Unfortunately, the failure of that film, along with the previous year’s failure of the E.T. game that was already dragging down the video game market, lead to the eventual complete disappearance of Home Computer Software, Inc., and the prototype Stalwart along with it.
That is, until now. The experience has been updated appropriately, of course, with new music and additional menu options befitting modern computers, but it’s amazing how much of the game remains intact and in great playable form. Enjoy it in your browser!
Game manual images courtesy of AtariAge
Screenshot courtesy of Jonathan Whiting
As a man, I find I can’t possibly put enough things into my mouth. As a gamer, I find that the only thing that fills the palm of my hand more than a bottle of Code Red Mountain Dew is a game controller. Not all controllers are created equally, and with rigorous bite testing, I’m afraid. At least, not according to MY mouth.
10. Sega Genesis controller – This hard plastic boomerang may seem an odd choice, but it’s the Start button on this controller that gets all of the incisor love. Something about the way this small Tic-Tac shaped button can be flicked is endlessly entertaining to my strange sensibilities. Attacking it from the top and flicking it on my front teeth is like scratching a dog behind the ears.
9. Paperboy arcade controller – This one…this one is difficult to pull off without a shit-ton of money or some serious cat-like reflexes. Even with feline speed, you’ll really only get in one or two bites on the wonderfully nubbly handlebar grips before having to resume play and avoid the prying eyes of long-haired, vest-clad arcade attendants. For this reason, the Paperboy handlebars are best used for those game ending expressions of ultimate rage, compounded by the fact that the arcade cabinet is far too large to throw across the room. When that fucking remote control car makes three random 90 degree turns right into your bicycle and ends your game, locking your jaw onto one of those grips and squeezing like a pit-bull is not only an effective release, it’s also easy on your fillings.
8. NES controller – Despite its popularity, you would be ill-advised to go directly after this classic controller. The NES controller itself is basically a brick of plastic, able to withstand multiple high-impacts and bites. However, let us talk about the cord, oh, the marvelous cord of the NES controller. When my parents hid me and my brothers under a blanket in the back of our station wagon to avoid paying full price at the drive-in movie theater, our reward for silence was a full Red Rope of licorice. I’m not talking Red Vines or Twizzlers, here, with their awkward, twisted braiding. I was all about the smooth, silkiness of a Red Rope licorice length that could slide along your teeth with the greatest of ease. I’ve never really like the flavor of licorice, and the NES controller cord is a far better surrogate than an actual Red Rope due to its lack of flavor and extreme length. Munch on as much or as little of it as you want, there’s plenty. Share with your friends. Recreate the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp. Go nuts you crazy kids.
7. Intellivision disc pad – Goddamn this controller. It’s nearly impossible to control anything with it, its side-buttons are minuscule, and its phone-like cord offers little, if any, distance from the TV. The face buttons, though, as useless as they were during a game, had the kind of solid, poppy feel that you can’t find anywhere short of the board game Trouble’s Pop-o-matic Bubble. You can pop a lot of trouble on the Pop-o-matic Bubble, but the game board and size of the thing make it impossible to get your mouth around. Not so with the Intellivision controller. As thin and delicious (and operable) as a Hershey’s chocolate bar, popping those buttons with your teeth is 50 times more satisfying than with your fingers or a penis.
6. NES Advantage – The NES Advantage is a solid, well-built controller made to withstand the pressures of arcade style joy-sticking, slapping, and twisting. Short of the feet on its bottom surface, not one piece of squishy rubber was used in its construction. Its saving grace is that the knob on top of the joystick can be unscrewed and popped into your mouth like a Willy Wonka jawbreaker. As everlasting as any solid piece of plastic, its glossy surface slides along the gums in a most satisfying way, and makes you look like Rollie Fingers on the pitcher’s mound without the hideous tobacco smell or stains. For those of you that were unawares, a NES cart dust cover can also double nicely as a spittoon.
5. Racing Wheel – In the world of racing, a “white-knuckled” race does not refer to a driver’s hands losing blood as he grips the steering wheel tightly, but, instead to the end result of a particularly horrible wreck in which the driver’s teeth are embedded into the soft grip of their steering wheel. I totally made that up, but what better way to kill time and relieve tension while you are in the pit, waiting for the green light, or during your victory lap, than the soft, supple curves of your imitation Italian leather steering wheel. I mean, just look at; it’s shaped like a teething ring! The steering wheel is probably the only controller that you can still use effectively while chewing, which allows you to complete other important tasks, such as, mixing a martini, pouring a beer, lighting a cigarette, or punching the clown. Another great benefit of the steering wheel is that they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and textures for your chewing pleasure. A la (Mario) carte!
4. Nintendo DS stylus – “That’s not a controller!”, you may say, and to that, I say, “Bite me.” (HA!) As we all know, pen chewing is dangerous pursuit that can end in ink-filled mouth tragedy. With the Stylus, you can chew with the confidence that when you show up to your next dental exam, the hygienist won’t wonder about the light shade of blue that coats your molars. Careful you don’t get too aggressive, as a flattened out Stylus won’t fit so easily back into its holder.
3. Pelican NERF Playstation 2 controller – Nothing is more synonymous with squashy than the NERF brand of sporting goods and equipment. Given gamers’ predilection for frustration and angst, the geniuses at third-party hardware maker Pelican decided to create a licensed controller that actually made sense. The PS2 NERF controller was mostly made to combat the ever present danger of throwing your controller against the wall/ground/sister/TV when things in Ape Escape just got a little too heated. Rather than hard, unforgiving plastic, this controller is encased in a soft mold of foamy rubber that has saved hundreds of dollars in lunch money. While protection from sudden impacts is its primary purpose, I’d have a hard time believing that there wasn’t at least one person in the Pelican testing department that spent a good chunk of time nibbling on this thing and giving it their chomp of approval. Just try it yourself; this controller is a love letter to your mandible. While NERF is great fun to chew on, it doesn’t work so well in the tummy, so if you find little bits of controller on your tongue, just remember that NERF stands for Never Eat Rubbery Foam.
2. Atari 2600 joystick – The gold standard for years since its inception, the Atari 2600 joystick has recently been surpassed as the controller of choice for mouth fetishists everywhere. That’s not to say that the controller is not an excellent source of mastication relief. I’m sure there are those that would still prefer the phallic shape of a well-worn Atari 2600 joystick to any of the latest “next-gen” offerings, if for nothing more than its nostalgic feel. Sinking your teeth into one of these babies is like taking a trip back to a time when putting things in your mouth was expected and not chastened. Note: while you may be tempted by one of the “new” Flashback multi-game, or plug-and-play Atari devices, be forewarned that, most likely due to newly enacted safety regulations, these just don’t have the same feel as an original, classic Atari 2600 controller, and should therefore be avoided.
1. Wii-mote (with Jacket) – Recently, I was playing Barbie’s Island Princess with my daughter. As she took her turn in the Javelin Throw, knocking down multiple bananas from the target trees, my eyes began to glaze over and my hand moved instinctively towards my gaping maw. It was then that I discovered that the Wii-mote, in combination with its safety jacket, has a fantastic mouth feel, very reminiscent the Atari 2600 joystick, but with a durability that surpasses that of the old stand-by. In between rounds of Ballroom Dancing, Flower Collecting, and Dress Designing, the Wii-mote with jacket maintained a spongy, yet firm tooth resistance that always returned to regular shape with little to no teeth marking or damage. So tooth alluring is the Wii-mote, that I caught quite a bit of guff from my daughter for often missing my turn. What does she know? She doesn’t even have any teeth!