Keyboard Geniuses

Journey Shout

Let’s Power On And Quake Dance

The best of the week’s comment threads.

By John Teti • April 6, 2012

The comment threads on Gameological are already bustling. So it’s time for the first edition of Letters To The Editor, where we feature the prime cuts of the week’s comment threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity, but you can follow the links to see the full threads.

Power On

Captain Power gun follies

Drew Toal’s “The TV Show Will Fire Back!”—a piece about an ill-fated sci-fi TV show/game hybrid—drew a number of comments from people who remembered Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future from its first airing in 1987. Seems that many commenters saw the show’s XT-7 jet accessory at a friend’s house, but Mike Huberty was the rare bird who owned the toys himself:

I was 11 when it came out and had the Captain Power ship as well as the “Power On” chair. I used to tape the show every week so that I could replay the episodes. I would set everything up, the Captain in his chair and the jet by his side. When he powered on in the show, the chair would activate, and then I’d move him to the jet and proceed to shoot at whatever bad guys were on the screen. The “game” parts of the actual show were usually pretty lame, and the acting was horrendous. I do remember thinking the story was pretty sweet, but I was a dystopian fan from an early age (like Max Headroom or almost every Doctor Who story.)

The only fun thing to play was the credits, which was designed like Luke flying through the trenches in the Death Star. That ended up being pretty cool and had some replay value. (Meaning that sometimes, you’d get ejected from your seat if you were “hit” and if you made it to the end of it, it sounded a little victory song!)

Overall, the process of playing it was pretty lame, but it was such an awesome idea that it kind of overshadowed it for me. It felt like I was playing a game in the future, it felt cutting edge, and that was part of the fun.

Quake Dancing

Marcus "djWHEAT" Graham

In my interview with Marcus “djWHEAT” Graham, a professional gaming play-by-play commentator, Graham compared the potential rise of e-sports to the rise of skateboarding. Trilobiter questioned whether the comparison was apt:

My roommate and I are way into the MLG Starcraft tournaments. We’ve been watching together for over a year now.

We like the idea of e-sports growing into a real “thing” that is culturally commonplace and relevant to ordinary people, like skateboarding and the like have become, but it seems as though even skateboarding is still considered a tier below the big games like football and baseball and basketball. I guess the real question in my mind is whether e-sports are going to be another tier below that, or meet that bar. And even if it does meet that bar, will time lead to even more mainstream success? I don’t know.

E-sports fan flowsthead was more optimistic, citing the “BarCraft” phenomenon that sees StarCraft fans gathering at their neighborhood saloons to watch pro matches on the big screen:

Considering that StarCraft has been fairly successful at playing in bars (BarCraft), I would say that eSports has a leg up on skateboarding competitions. I could be wrong, though, since I am not familiar with the skateboarding scene, but could you ever go to a bar and watch a skateboarding competition? How often were the competitions, as in how often could you organize an event where you go to watch one of these?

The neat thing about StarCraft II is that there is pretty much an event every weekend, and there is at least one large event every month, so organizing a weekly or monthly BarCraft makes sense. And bar owners have been pretty happy with it, seeing as they get a new customer base that they may not have gotten before.

Again, I am going to display my ignorance here, but I was also under the impression that while the skateboarding community certainly wanted their sport to be more popular, they also had a general identification as underground and against the mainstream. eSports is quite the opposite. Most people want StarCraft to be more mainstream and more popular. That is an important factor in what you are willing to do.

Graham remarked in the interview that watching a professional player of the classic first-person shooter Quake could be like watching a dancer. That prompted this reminiscence from The_Asinus:

I was a Quake dancer. I had a dedicated server that I cranked the speed up on because I could really get into a flow if I didn’t have time to think. I managed to develop enemies in real life because they were sure I was using a bot, but once you get it down, you know exactly how slightly to move the mouse to quickly flip 90 degrees and hammer someone with a rocket, or exactly where to throw a grapple hook to zip through a quad damage or an invincibility power up, or circle strafe around someone and mow them with a super nailgun. God, that was fun. But even more fun was logging onto another clan’s server, getting to know them, and just generally having a blast with capture the flag.

The online community has changed a bit since then– not a lot of people had broadband or powerful enough computers to play Quake competitively, and the vibe was often way, way more friendly. I kind of lost interest once it became incredibly douchey. It used to be that there would be a single douche who could be neutralized. I checked the pings on my server once before logging in and there was a known asshole [preying on the weak]. I didn’t catch flags or defend, I just went on a hunt for that guy. It took about five minutes for him to leave. Fun times. Now my upstream on my DSL is way shittier than it was in the dorm, so running a decent server is about impossible.

*Cue “Where Have all the Flowers Gone?”*

Dissents Of The Week

The Digest: Teti and Narcisse

There was the occasional point of contention in this week’s last installment of The Digest, in which Evan Narcisse and I talked about Journey. In one moment, Narcisse began to talk about Journey’s perspective on internet gaming, and I chided him for framing the game’s insights so narrowly. I wanted to talk about the game’s statements about human relationships in general, not just as they relate to online play. Commenter caspiancomic said I might have been too quick to argue:

I think Journey has something really interesting and important to say about the nature of online gaming, and while it might not be as literary as what it has to say about human relationships generally, that doesn’t mean it’s fair game to stomp all over Evan’s point before he’s even made it. I for one was interested in hearing what Evan had to say about Journey’s philosophy on online gaming (which I ordinarily avoid like the plague, but found very rewarding here), and hope he illuminates us either in the comments or in a follow-up article or video.

I’m sure there’s a point to be made about how restricting the number of people involved in an experience to just two predisposes people towards cooperation, like a kind of reverse-bystander effect. Or how dramatically restricting communication forces players to develop their own unique methods of communication with every playthrough. Or how leaving your companions anonymous allows you to truly abandon your prejudices and preconceived notions about people—even those you may not have realized you had. (I don’t just mean racial or sexual prejudices, mind, I also mean more low-stakes things, like assuming some guy whose handle is Naruto_fan69 is a dumb kid and not a real human being perfectly capable of sharing a meaningful experience with another person.)

And HobbesMkii chimed in:

Video games are such a young medium that it seems only right that if you’re going to talk about them as art, you might as well back up and tackle them with as broad a reach as possible when considering themes and messages.

But what I’m thinking is that one way we tend to engage with art is to compare what it’s doing (or not doing) to other examples of its medium. Picasso’s work challenges not only to regard how we look at the world, but also how we look at art—as the sum of shapes and lines. The Artist, for example, holds an attraction not just because it demonstrates a technique of communication without spoken words, but because it harkens back a century in its medium’s own collective narrative to remind us that that technique used to be the default. It both preys on our sense of nostalgia while also offering a critique, however slight and unassuming, on film. It happens all over—The Yiddish Policeman’s Union plays with the conventions of detective novels (and I’m willing to bet any one of us could rattle off five novels that are more meta and recursive about literature than that one). Watchmen famously holds up comics’ centerpiece protagonists to a rather harsh light.

Thanks to the commenters and to the silent majority for making this launch week of The Gameological Society such a success. We’re looking forward to showing you everything else we have planned.

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132 Responses to “Let’s Power On And Quake Dance”

  1. ShitMcFWillNotAssimilate says:

    So far so good at encouraging non completely stupid discussions about games.

  2. caspiancomic says:

    Oh man, I got mistaken for a guy who has smart opinions about stuff on the internet! This is awesome!

    (PS This is like my new favourite website, keep up the good work fellas)

  3. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    Oooh, I like this idea for a feature. Gives people a reason to put a little effort into their posts and hopefully will get people posting more often. Also makes it feel more like a community type thing. I approve. Now is there any thought of organizing a steam group or anything like that, or are you guys not really planning on fostering a community to play together?

    • ShitMcFWillNotAssimilate says:

      Is it wrong of me to hope for a feature that ostracizes idiotic fanboys who bitch about unfair reviews before they have played the game?

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Don’t we do that in the comments already? I had a blast when the Uncharted 3 review went up on the ol’ AVC. 

        Although, I would like to see some coverage of the shittiness in most gaming communities. Everyone acknowledges it as a thing but dismiss it with shit like “it’s the internet, who cares?” It’s especially bad in “esports” communities (ie; that whole fighting game thing, or anytime there’s a woman casting a dota 2 match or whatever).

        • ShitMcFWillNotAssimilate says:

          The Uncharted 3 review was hilarious. You’d get comments were personal attacks on the author that would get 100 likes and none of them were from regular users.

        • Binsbein says:

          I mentioned some of the more specific controversies in the E-Sports story comments so I hope people do some research and see what the problems in those communities are.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          What about starting a feature called “Troll Bait,” where a writer comes up with something truly awful (or just declares a winner in the XBOX/Sony/Nintendo console wars) to write about as an inside-joke to us in-the-know regulars, and then allows us to laugh hysterically at the trolls when they all show up to complain? We can even hand out awards: Cleverest Reconstruction Of Poor Grammar; Most Vituperative Response; Least Educated Comment; Most Off-Topic Reply. 

          You with me?

        • @google-19efbd0104cbaffa5782aef5b7104019:disqus : If the Gameological Society continues to write about games with intelligence and depth, the trolls will come. They fear what they do not understand. 

        • Merve says:

          To be fair, that Uncharted 3 review wouldn’t have made any sense to anyone who hadn’t played the game.

    • John Teti says:

      I think that’s a great idea. May not happen right away, but it’s definitely something I’d like to do.

    • Raging Bear says:

      There’s been an AVC Steam group for a bit over a year, which I’m tempted to say isn’t very active, but I don’t use it regularly enough (or virtually ever to play multiplayer), so I’m not the best judge. Still, if people are interested, a rebranding could be an excellent way to revitalize.

      • The_Asinus says:

        I vaguely remember people talking about it, but I was a steam holdout after being annoyed to shit by earlier versions of Steam. I’m using it now and it’s a lot more transparent (and functional) than it used to be.

        • Raging Bear says:

          That’s good. I only started using it when the mac version came out; it leaves something to be desired, functionality-wise, but they still call it a beta so they can get away with that kind of thing. Still, it mostly works (I also use it on my more recently setup Windows partition. There’s plenty of glitchiness there, but I reflexively attribute that to Windows).

          I put a comment on the AVC group page alerting them to the existence of The Gameological Society, so maybe that’ll spread awareness among those who haven’t already heard about it and actually read the AVC group page comments, which may be as many as two people.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        I’ll try to find/join that AVC Steam group — would love to play some multiplayer, although I’m on the XBOX ripping through Mass Effect 3 right now (since they still haven’t fixed the import glitch that’s keeping me from playing — although not preventing me from starting over — the single player game). 

      • Destroy Him My Robots says:

        I’d be down with that, but it seems like I could do just about anything with the group short of actually renaming it, so “rebranding” won’t work unless there’s some sort of trick I’m not aware of. Maybe I could pass ownership of the group to Teti or someone else from the staff and they could write Steam or something.

        Anyway, it might be cool to expand upon this. Have an option to add gamer tags/PSN IDs/friend codes to our user names.

        • Raging Bear says:

          I guess it makes sense that they can’t be renamed. For some reason, that occurred to me way before I figured out that people can actually belong to more than one Steam group, and a Gameological one wouldn’t actually have to replace the AVC one. I do know how them internets work, honestly.

    • whataworkout says:

       People can leave their XBL or PSN names if they want too. 

  4. Mr_Glitch says:

    Oooohhh guys! Start up a classic game review feature here! Maybe once a week or something! And let me write it! Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaase??

    • ShitMcFWillNotAssimilate says:

      Just do it anyway and post it in the comments section.

    • Binsbein says:

      Teti’s a taskmaster so don’t come crying to me when he wants his M.C. Kids story at 5 am and you haven’t even found the first puzzle card.

      • Mr_Glitch says:

        He’s getting a foul-mouthed rant about E.T. on the 2600. Every week.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          I’d read that. Does this article begin with you heading out to the desert to first dig up all those buried copies? (Lesson learned: next time, *burn* your damnable game.) And does it continue with your quest to play the CD-I version of Zelda? I mean, why not just have a “bad game” feature? 

          And while we’re pitching concepts, I’d love to see a writer tackle an entire genre — one game a week, perhaps, or at least key games in the genre — from start to finish. Perhaps starting with adventure games? (You don’t have to include Interactive Fiction in that, though feel free!)

        • The_Asinus says:

          We already have the 30 Rock reviews to fill our need for reviews written by people who hate their subject.

          Though I always got stuck at the part in ET where you had to throw the pills into the federal agent’s jelly beans. I mean, the digital joystick and button didn’t allow for a lot of nuance in your targeting.

        • caspiancomic says:

            Oh man, a while ago I was writing a short one-off comic where the buried Atari ET cartridges actually like, polluted the soil with their awfulness and caused the land to become fertile for the growth of grotesque otherworldly plant life, and eventually a whole corrupted ecosystem started living in the middle of the desert thanks to the sheer awfulness of the game and the strangeness of its fate. I didn’t go ahead with the project because wailing on ET 2600 kinda seemed like reaching for the low hanging fruit after all these years, and because it was really more of a premise and not much of a story. Might fire it back up if there’s a bit of interest.

        • GhaleonQ says:

          You might have missed it, but Rabin really IS doing E.T. for next week’s Flop. 

        • Raging Bear says:

          @caspiancomic:disqus “Low hanging fruit”? There’s the story to go with your premise. A kind of fruit grows in otherworldly ecosystem and a corrupt corporation starts selling it around the world, mindless of the consequences.
          Sure, it’s hackneyed, but if you actually describe the fruit as hanging low, then it would be meta enough to make up for this.

        • Mr_Glitch says:

          @caspiancomic:disqus  I’d read that.

        • Mr_Glitch says:

          @Raging_Bear:disqus I’d read that too.

        • caspiancomic says:

           Dang @Raging_Bear:disqus , that’s actually pretty groovy. This might… this might actually happen.

        • Mr_Glitch says:

          Since Rabin’s got ET covered, I went with Warlords. Have a look & tell me what you think. 

          Not that ET is remotely comparable to Warlords, mind you…

  5. Binsbein says:

    I guess they’re waiting for Comment of the Month to mention me. I can understand.

  6. ElDan_says_Fuck_Disqus says:

    I think my screen name is probably going to exclude me from ever being featured here.

    That’s definitely it, and not the quality of my comments.

  7. trilobiter says:

    I’m going to do a dance now.

    I like this feature because it feeds my narcissism.  But I also like that this site is taking our comments seriously as part of the conversation.  I’m also proud of all of us for keeping the standards high.  Granted, we’ve been at this for only a week, but I think we’re doing a good job!

    • The_Asinus says:

      It’s just a matter of time and we grow complacent and start posting the textual equivalent of shitting with the door open.

  8. flowsthead says:

    This time I feel it, and I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!*
    *Read: I have no friends. I am so alone.

  9. Mr_Glitch says:

    Hi everybody! Mr Glitch here with my very first classic game review. Today, I dug through my dusty old stack of Atari 2600 games and pulled out a real gem: Warlords!

    Warlords is essentially a four player competitive version of Breakout, originally released in the arcades in 1981. You play as a capital L surrounded by bricks in one corner of the screen, and you must defend yourself from attack by the capital Ls in the other three corners. You use the paddle controllers to guide a shield around the outside of your brick fortress that deflects a ricocheting cannon ball. You can catch the cannon ball on your shield by holding the paddle’s button down, and then release it screaming into your enemy’s defenses. If you’re the last L standing, you win the match. Warlords supports up to four human players at once, with the computer controlling any un-manned forts. The various difficulty levels  just change how fast the ball and the computer-controlled opponents move. 

    It’s a great enough game solo, but four player matches are where it really shines. The ball changes speed and bounces around unpredictably, leading to some awesome moments of turnabout such as when it smashes around inside your own fort. The paddles give you precise, instantaneous control over the ball, and yet you have to rely on well-aimed & well-timed bank shots, as you’re almost never given a direct shot at the other players. The graphics are basic early 2600 game fare, but the sound effects are quite nice. The ball, for example bounces off your shield with a satisfying ‘plink’ and your enemy Ls meet their doom with epic fiery explosion noises. 

    Warlords is probably the best multiplayer game available for the 2600, and as a result, is very easy to find; my copy came in an eBay lot with the 2600 itself. Just remember you’ll need two sets of paddle controllers for the full four player experience (it won’t work with joysticks) and working examples of those can be a little more difficult to come by.

    • ntoad118 says:

      Great write up! Thanks for putting in the time, I hope others get to see this as well.

      • Mr_Glitch says:

        Hello & thanks for reading it! I’ll be sure to crank out more reviews, as I have a huge stack of terrific old video games to go through, and I’ll take any excuse I can to play them.

    • Binsbein says:

      Yes, but what does the capital L stand for? The (L)ost generation left behind by war? The (L)ong period of mourning that the (L)one survivor faces when their family is killed by a lo-fi bouncing cannonball? I have Phil Fish and Jonathan Blow to debate the subject with John Teti as moderator. 

      Editor’s note: Moderator is the official term for the poor soul who hands out the industrial-strength tissues to absorb the indie developer’s cartoon-size tears when they talk about games. The tears are then squeezed, bottled and sent to me, because honestly it’s the only thing keeping me alive.

    • zebbart says:

      I played so much of this in the 80’s with my sister. What a simple fun game. Being able to catch the ball was an ingenious addition because it introduced a whole level of trying to psych out your opponent. (Commenting a year later because I got curious what the first KG was like).