Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.
Sex, Booze, And CCGs
This week, Drew Toal told the story of the Spellfire: Master The Magic, a collectible card game from the creators of Dungeons & Dragons meant to capitalize on the success of Magic: The Gathering. HobbesMkii shared a story from Salon written by a former Wizards Of The Coast employee that offers an alcohol, goth, and sex-filled look into the Magic maker’s formative years:
Further irony: Peter Adkinson founded Wizards primarily to write companion lore books for RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. When that got him sued, he and Garfield set up Magic (under Garfield Games, licensing it to Wizards) which eventually gave Wizards enough capital to purchase D&D.
John Tynes wrote a great article about working at Wizards in the early days for Salon back in 2001. I think it makes an excellent companion piece to this article, examining Magic versus D&D from the other side. It’s kind of a profile of an upstart young company that hits a success and loses its creative compass.
Elsewhere in the comments, The_Misanthrope wrote that it wasn’t just Spellfire that tried to get a piece of that Magic pie:
Spellfire would hardly be the last one to try to cash in. In the post-Magic CCG boom, if you had a [movie/TV] franchise or other intellectual property, there was likely a CCG made about it: Mortal Kombat, Austin Powers, SimCity, Dr. Who, etc. Or, if you were feeling particularly bold, the publisher would just make up something whole-cloth, though it was often tied into an existing (though often little-known) RPG-world. Even WOTC would make several more attempts to re-catch lightning in a bottle: Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, Rage, Battletech, Netrunner, etc. Few would build an audience beyond a cult following; I doubt many of them remain in print to this day (Illuminati: New World Order is the only one I can think of off the top of my head).
I’m pretty sure I remember, at the peak of the copycat fad (’95 or ’96, I think), that I was running the registration desk at our university Games Club’s convention and the freebie/door-prize bin was so full of knockoff CCGs that I couldn’t give them away by the end of the con (I was throwing them at con-goers, though). Good or bad gameplay, shameless copy or original concept, there was just no way to stand out amongst the glut of CCGs. There even developed a sort of anti-Magic/CCG strain among the “pure” RPG players.
These days, I’d rather play a good game of Munchkin or BANG! over MTG. Or I suppose I’ll play a game with a deck of playing cards, but that is just so boring and old-fashioned. I crave a narrative in my games.
Actually, a Doctor Who card game sounds like it could be pretty rad.
On The Merits Of Wanton Excess
The latest edition of Alternate Soundtrack matched Super Mario World with The Beastie Boys’ Check Your Head, but Derrick Sanskrit’s tongue-in-cheek association of Super Mario Bros. 3 with “wanton excess” drew the attention of some commenters. Girard argued that it was this excess that made the third installment so special:
If that’s wanton excess, then I’m pretty sure more games need it. Mario 3 innovated in so many ways upon the prior games that it hardly resembled them, despite being on the same system [the NES]. Such a huge variety of imaginative worlds (many of which you could just warp on by and never see, but that you’d have to come back and visit on a later playthrough), so many weird little secrets and ways to find them, and so many inventive and weird powers. There was so much there.
Not to slag Mario World, which should be lauded for trying some different things, and not just being more of the same, becoming arguably as great (greater, to some) as SMB3, but in its own way.
Contrast this inventiveness with the New Super Mario Bros. series, in which every game looks virtually identical despite spanning (now) 4 systems, in which “secrets” are unlocked by finding 3 big gold coins you know are in every level, and where “new, innovative power-ups” are unimaginative variations on the fireflower (…but this one shoots ice! …but this one makes…coins…or something!).
I agree. There is a distinct lack of giant boot-based power-ups in today’s games.
Even More British Game Shows!
John Teti’s journey into the world of British game shows might have come to an end this week, but there’s still a vast ocean of quizzes and dry humor still left unexplored. Captain_Internet provided some recommendations to kick off your own expedition:
Challenge! I forgot there was a whole TV channel dedicated to [U.K. game shows]. There’s days of fun to be had with the Challenge show list and YouTube’s search function. Particular recommendations: Bullseye, Big Break, Goldenballs, and the anti-gameshow, Shooting Stars.
On Anthony John Agnello’s interview with Rhianna Pratchett, the writer of Overlord and Mirror’s Edge, a discussion of the role of video game writers led Kurt Schiller to observe that writing assignments in the business can be rather dreary:
Companies absolutely do have in-house writers who deal in dialog, flavor text, and so on. But it’s less “Create an overarching narrative that seamlessly blends high adventure and fantasy!” and more “Write 30 things a vendor will say when you buy a sword.”
And root (1ltc) accepted the challenge:
01) Thank you!
02) A fine choice.
03) I was hoping you would get that.
04) Long and shiny—just how you like it.
05) Good! My children can eat tonight!
06) Don’t forget to equip it. (tutorial pop-up prompt)
07) I hope you kill many monsters with that!
08) Well, you asked for it. (if weaker sword is purchased)
09) Hot off the anvil!
10) Test the grip on that.
11) For a few bits more I can monogram that for you.
12) There’s a million more where that came from. Literally.
13) Hold it from the hilt, not the blade.
14) You’ll have to clean the blood off of it yourself.
15) Don’t bring this to a gunfight.
16) You like murder and I like money. We all win!
17) Some of my better handiwork, if I say so myself.
18) Your purchase pleases me.
19) No scabbard? Why don’t any of you want to buy a scabbard with these?
20) How does it feel in your hands? Good? Now try the sword.
21) I’m glad you’ll use my craft in the name of justice. … you are fighting for justice, right?
22) No common infantry sword for you, eh?
23) No shoes? No shirt? I guess you have priorities.
24) Give ‘em a short, sharp shock. Dig it?
25) You’ll definitely assert your manhood with that!
26) I threw in the sharpening for free.
27) Now you’re wielding something powerful! Uh.. with the sword, yes.
28) Normally I’d say “don’t get yourself killed”, but you always seem to resurrect. Are you mortal?
29) The King has ordered me to stop making phallic jokes, so I’ll just say thanks.
30) Did you ever have the feeling of deja vu? It seems like we’ve done this before.
That wraps up another week in Gameological. 1. Thanks for reading! 2. Have a nice weekend! 3. See you on Monday. 4. Tell your friends! …