Keyboard Geniuses

Richard Dawson hosts Family Feud

Adventure! Violence! Scrabble!

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Landon Gray Mitchell • April 19, 2013

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.

Family Feuds Are Forever

On Monday, Noel Murray charted the history of Family Feud from its homey origins with Richard Dawson as emcee to its filthier present-day incarnation. Moonside Malcontent responded to Noel’s observation that game shows can form tight bonds with their hosts:

“There are times when the personality of a host becomes so inextricably tied to a game show that everyone who follows is doomed to unflattering comparisons.”

I think that’s true, and I think there comes a point when people watch a game show as much for the host as for the game itself. Could NBC have kept You Bet Your Life running after Groucho Marx quit? Not a chance. In some ways, game shows are one of the last vestiges of that carnival-barker, top-hat-and-tails, “come one come all” archetype of the American showman. Sure, Regis and Alex get multimillion-dollar production values and high-tech sets. But is it really so hard to see them in boater hats and sleeve garters, directing our attention to the Eighth Wonder Of The World?

But the contestants aren’t forgotten. Flying Turtle remembers the inevitable black sheep contestants that would pop up on Dawson’s Family Feud:

One of the things that was so great about Feud was the team aspect of the thing, and it seemed like on every show, at least one of the families would have a crazy uncle or nervous cousin hidden in its lineup who would provide a ridiculous answer, to which the team would almost always look around for a second and start clapping and yelling “Good answer!” even though there was no way that answer was showing up.

Along those same lines, I wonder if there are families that have lingering resentments about a Feud failure. I can just imagine everyone gathered at Thanksgiving dinner when someone says, “How about I tell you all about the time Aunt Millie cost us $10,000 because she went on national television and said that the best month to get married was Thursday?”

Public Access Scrabblevision

Last Friday, Matt Kodner interviewed comedian Chris Gethard, who hosts a call-in talk show on Manhattan public access that’s unlike much of anything else on air. Board Game Guy fondly remembers a different public-access show:

On the topic of interactive TV games, when I was in college in Minneapolis, there was a public access show called Totally Scrabble Tuesday. A guy (the host) played a game of Scrabble against the city. Viewers would call in to make “the city’s” plays. Watching was always fun and incredibly frustrating since the calls taken often resulted in suboptimal plays for “the city.”

Three cameras composed the main shot. One showed the Scrabble board with the city’s tiles superimposed at the bottom. The other was a long shot of the host at the table. Countless Tuesday nights were spent watching and loving this with a room full of friends.

John Teti and Evan Narcisse, and a crow

John Teti invited Evan Narcisse, an editor at Kotaku, to discuss BioShock Infinite for The Digest. George Liquor wishes the entire series could be more responsive to the player:

I wish adventure gaming wasn’t dead to mainstream developers. Rapture and Columbia are both places that screamed to be explored in an adventure game setting. Columbia in particular needed to be populated with characters you could interact with, gain information from, and only occasionally shoot. Like this Digest mentions, the Luteces dish out juicy plot tidbits in a delightfully quirky way, but when their scripted sequences are finished, they just stand around & eyeball you. I wanted more quirk, dammit, even if was just a response to “How ’bout them Mets?”

Elizabeth was the biggest missed opportunity, though. A whole lot of effort was put into making her movements and body language seem lifelike, but since you can’t interact with her outside of a scripted sequence, she still comes off as lifeless. Conversations, and the ability to choose my responses in conversations, make characters much more interesting to me, whether they have an effect on the plot or not. Without the ability to yak at her, I didn’t get any more emotionally invested in Elizabeth than I did in Jack The Gears Of War Door-Opening Robot.

But what do we do when all the adventuring is done and there remain countless malcontents who mean us harm? Feisto suggests keeping the fights dynamic:

I agree about the violence possibly alienating a potentially larger audience, but I’d go even further to say it can also prevent audiences who’re not squeamish about graphic violence from fully enjoying the craft that goes into a game’s world and narrative.

From my own experience playing the first BioShock, I felt like I was introduced to a certain type of game—a first-person shooter with a focus on exploration and discovery—and ended up playing the game the same way I’d done with Doom and Quake all those years ago: find enemy, kill. I did find the design and narrative elements compelling, but they felt like they were implemented to stay out of the way of the combat, which I DIDN’T find compelling.

In the end, it felt like a game that sacrificed too much of what could have made it interesting for play that quickly became repetitious and boring. And I couldn’t help but think, “You know? It didn’t have to be like this.”

In the comments of our Digest video on Citadel, the final Mass Effect 3 expansion, Oh Hai Mark expanded on Feisto and George Liquor’s thoughts, but in regard to Tomb Raider:

It’s such a conundrum, the fact that these shooting-heavy games are becoming mundane. Tomb Raider is another strong example. I wish that you could skip most of the fighting and falling and near-dying and just explore caves. If they were to make an expansion for that game, I’d hope it was an extended set of tombs to raid. It probably won’t be, but there’s hope.

The Citadel expansion reminded me of that. I like the shooting mechanics in Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 a lot, but it’s only thrilling for so long. The quiet moments in the Citadel, or those spent in the lower decks of the Normandy, were my favorite parts of the Mass Effect games. Seeing the characters moving about the ship, with things to say to me as new events happened, was just so engaging. You could spend the whole game without really talking to any of them, but then you’d just feel so lonely.

I also miss the solitude of exploring planets like in the first Mass Effect, even if the driving mechanics were wretched. Many nights were spent combing over the surface of a planet in a distant area of the galaxy.

Chareth Backstory
Injustice: Gods Among Us

In Tuesday’s new-release roundup, Drew Toal gave us the backstory to Injustice: Gods Among Us in a single sentence. Caspian Comic pointed out that this wouldn’t be so easy with most fighting games.

Fighting game stories are the weirdest things. If you were to play one without reading the manual or supplementary materials or wikis or whatever, you’d think for all the world they had no narrative whatsoever, but the mythologies surrounding these series are unbelievably, pointlessly dense.

Mortal Kombat has one of my favorite batshit insane mythologies, but I think the real prize goes to the Tekken series. In Kombat, completing a character’s “story” nets you a paragraph describing, for the first time, who that character actually was, and what his or her motivations were. But completing a character’s story in Tekken rewards you with a little 30-second clip that gloriously fails to contextualize any of the preceding content. Supposedly Tekken has an ornate, generation-spanning narrative about corporate greed, familial infighting, and international conflict, but it’s also a game in which you can play as a kangaroo, or a polar bear, or the devil, and it’s difficult to tell how much of the story we’re intended to take seriously, if any of it.

Warren Peace loves those batshit backstories:

I’m terrible at Tekken, but I love its crazy story, even though I think I’ve only managed to absorb a small fraction of its whole. Its just nuts, all about fathers and sons trying to murder each other and coming back from the dead, with all sorts of ridiculous nonsense thrown in just for the hell of it. Reading a Wikipedia summary of a character’s plot and then just following it down the rabbit hole to find out how all the other weirdos are interrelated is highly enjoyable. I’ll take that over actually playing any of the games any time.

Reboot Reverb
Tomb Raider

After Anthony John Agnello wondered what might have been in this week’s Inventory of games that were dramatically revamped before release, Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi wondered whether “reboots” in video games might be less effective than we typically imagine:

I really enjoyed the reboot of Tomb Raider, having never played any Tomb Raider game before the reboot. But while the game managed to make new fans out of the Tomb Raider franchise, it fails to spark an interest in the entire franchise. It reminds me of the Star Trek reboot: A great movie, but it doesn’t spark an interest in the entire franchise to the viewers. I’ve recently bought Tomb Raider Legends for $1 at a flea market out of curiosity. Hopefully, Legends can turn me into a diehard Tomb Raider fan.

Like a number of other commenters, Mr. Glitch suggested an addition to the list—the famously raunchy Nintendo 64 game Conker’s Bad Fur Day:

Conker’s Bad Fur Day was originally conceived as Conker’s Quest, a cutesy kids’ game in the same vein as Rare’s other cutesy kids’ games. Obviously, they took a creative hard left with Conker.

Thanks for reading and commenting, and we’ll see you next week!

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50 Responses to “Adventure! Violence! Scrabble!”

  1. George_Liquor says:

    Wow, I am the master of the run-on sentence!

  2. Haughty Todd says:

    … “Chareth Backstory” made me lol

    • Aurora Boreanaz says:

      Hehe, definitely.  Along with “Maxwell Hauser” in Hiding Out, among the worst made up on the spot names ever.

  3. boardgameguy says:

    i am extremely relieved to see that my overnight shipment of catnip to soupy made it on time.

  4. DrFlimFlam says:

    Richard Dawson has always made me uneasy.

  5. stakkalee says:

    Welp, let’s just get to it.  The most commented article this week was the first Digest with John and Evan which came in at 224 comments.  The Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments were:
    1) With 23 likes, Unexpected Dave (@twitter-493417375:disqus) goes hard on for a pun!
    2) @Merve2:disqus gets 16 likes bragging about his screenshots.
    3) In third place is @Merve2:disqus again, getting 12 likes for imagining Utopia.
    3) And tied for third, @Logoboros:disqus discusses Puritanical pukes!
    4) And we have a 4-way tie for fourth!  With 10 likes apiece, @Professor_Cuntburglar:disqus presses the wrong button, @Jackbert:disqus pays a compliment, @Raging_Bear:disqus talks characterization and @Fluka:disqus comments on criticism.
    Well Top 5 was a bit of a misnomer that time, huh?  No matter, onward!  We’re welcoming 3 new members today, so come on down and get your plaid jackets @Flying_Turtle:disqus, @OhHaiMark:disqus and @WarrenPeace325:disqus!  And as for our returning members, @boardgameguy:disqus and Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi (@facebook-698650979:disqus) get their first stud for their second mentions!  @Mr_Glitch:disqus gets a second stud for his third mention!  @feisto:disqus gets a fourth stud, @Moonside_Malcontent:disqus gets a fifth, and @caspiancomic:disqus nips at @Effigy_Power:disqus ‘s heels with his 20th stud!
    For the assists, Zach Handlen (@twitter-18700305:disqus) gets his lavalier mike with his first assist!  @His_Space_Holiness:disqus is at 3 assists, @HobbesMkii:disqus is at 9 assists, @Fluka:disqus and @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus move up to the Omnidirectional level with 10 and 11 assists respectively, and @caspiancomic:disqus cements his lead, mocking us with his 23 assists and his SuperScope microphone!  And finally for the linkdump, Aaron Diaz of the webcomic Dresden Codak was inspired by Anita Sarkeesian’s Tropes Vs. Women videos to put together a pitch for a Legend of Zelda game in which Zelda is the protagonist.  It’s well thought-out, the art is gorgeous, and let’s face it, each and every one of us would play this game in a heartbeat; this is a game that needs to get made.  So that’s it for this week!  Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4 says:

       The week on GS sure beat the week in the real world.

    • George_Liquor says:

      Hey, you forgot me! I worked really hard on that incoherent, rambling mess of run-ons.

      • stakkalee says:

        Dammit I did!  I’ve got you in my notes and everything!  My shame knows no bounds.  You’re getting your ninth stud, congrats!

    • duwease says:

      The way Zelda looks there makes me realize how androgynous Link is anyway.. perhaps a ROM hack that just changes the name would be a cheap and easy approximation? :)

      Hell, Nintendo basically supports it.. look at the reward for doing so in the very first LoZ!

      • George_Liquor says:

        I’d like to see a Zelda game that didn’t revolve around rescuing anyone. Maybe Zelda finally gets sick of getting kidnapped, so she heads out to kick Gannon’s back-bacon.

      • stakkalee says:

        Plus with 8-bit graphics and those little sprites you really need to work to make gender noticeable – in the first game Link is only male because the manual says so.

      • Girard says:

        Such a hack does, in fact, exist. It was inspired by the recent ‘Pauline’ hack of Donkey Kong.

        I think Link’s androgyny, and the similarity of his look to Zelda’s in those drawings, actually kind of highlights a shortcoming of Diaz’s design – he basically just turned Zelda into ‘Purple Link.’ There would definitely be other ways to make Zelda a hero than to just have her ape her male rescuer. It seems like they could push the Sheik/Tetra-stype stuff more, and have her carve out her own distinct brand of heroism.

        • Mr. Glitch says:

          This has probably made it ’round these parts before, but there’s an SMB hack that puts Daisy in the lead role. From what I can tell, “Hi, I’m Daisy” is not uttered once.

          The nod to Gamelon is kinda cute, but yeah, if you’re developing your own game in the Zelda universe, why retread the same tired ‘X must rescue Y’ formula? The biggest complaint lobbied against the official series is that it lacks originality.

    • Fluka says:

      Hey, speaking of Tropes Vs. Women, when are we getting the next one, anyway?  I am looking forward to internet arguments again!

      • rvb1023 says:

         Give her another 7-months to make another 20 minute video, these things take (a lot, apparantly) time.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          Well, she still has to find a way to store all the money Kickstarter gave her. ^_^

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          I can’t think of anything worse than starting my own Kickstarter and having it be that successful.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      When I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray.

      Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Canto I, lines 1-3

      Translation: Fucking hell, another week without mention. Time to go into extreme pandering mode and draw a Digest comic with nothing but cats in it.

    • WarrenPeace says:

      Woo hoo, I got a plaid jacket! Now I can compare myself with John Teti, in my mind if not in real life.

    • Flying_Turtle says:

      Well, thanks! This is probably the all-time high point of feline-testudine relations. Hooray for cross-species understanding!

  6. Chum Joely says:

    I managed to go pretty much the whole week without posting at all on Gameological, or even reading more than the first paragraph of any of the (frustratingly intriguing-looking) articles! Hooray for rush time!

  7. Spacemonkey Mafia says:

    Weekend Prompt!
       I am up to my ass in unseasonable Minneapolis snow.  It is making me a terrible person, an excessive drinker and minus my utter lack of physical prowess, a good candidate for becoming a Sith.  Darth Grumpus wouldn’t even have to try.  No elaborate decade long political maneuverings to slowly encircle me into the trap of influence.  He’d just say, do you want to kill a bunch of shit because your feeling pissy and misunderstood?
       And I’d say yes.  And I don’t even have to worry about lava because everything if slush here.
       Slush… it’s so runny and it gets everywhere.  Now I will force levitate some hotdish into your mouth.
       So what I could really go for right now is a visit to Mario 64’s Jolly Roger Bay.  The beach, the muted cool color scheme, that soothing music.

       What video game level do you want to vacation in? 

    • The_Juggernaut_Bitch says:

       The Jagged Coast region of the MMO “Tera”.  It’s a tropical beach beside a crystal-clear ocean, bright sands, and a kind of pirate-themed town right there by the beach.  It’s also just a healthy sprint away from Castanica, the Shadowed Rose, which is Tera’s version of Las Vegas.

      Even though the whole region is a quest hub, there are *plenty* of places to find private, monster-free beachside to kick back on, and with either pirate-theme-town or Castanica within easy reach, booze never needs stop.

    • George_Liquor says:

      I can sympathize. That storm sat on my head & shat for three days straight, leaving me seriously loopy. I found myself kicking around Battleship Bay beach long after the game stopped giving me reasons to be there.

      • Merve says:

        Without thinking about it too much, I’d love to vacation in Battleship Bay. It’s sunny, it’s beautiful, there seems to be an endless supply of cotton candy, and it’s in the freakin’ sky!

        On the other hand, I’m not white, so that might pose a problem…

        • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

             You could try and get a job up there cleaning up the pools of caustic, electricity-generating liquid that seem to spill everywhere.
             A waste of someone on your educational path, maybe.  But rules is rules.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Even though I hate tropical everything, I could live with hanging out in the El Nido Archipelago. A vacation to Termina would be nice, and you could hit Arni Village to really get out of the real world.

    • rvb1023 says:

       I feel your pain. Up in Duluth we just got another slushy 6 or so inches. In April no less.

      And I would probably go to Cinnabar Island. I’d like to imagine a beach where Magmars serve me drinks.

    • EmperorNortonI says:

      What an interesting question!

      I don’t play MMO’s or Adventure games much, which cuts down on the number of danger-free zones I can think of.  But presuming that the bad guys and monsters take a bit of a break, I can think of a few places I’d really love to visit.

      The first thought that came to mind was the Chozo Ruins from Metroid Prime.  That was one of the most beautiful games of its generation, I thought, and as a former Archaeology grad student, it’d be totally awesome to hang out around a bunch of ancient ruins on an alien planet.

      I’ve always had a real soft spot for the desert, and middle of nowhere locales, so provided the bandits would clear out, I’d love to hang out for a while in the Badlands, or The Dust, from Borderlands.  Maybe I could adopt a baby skag, and teach it some tricks.  That would be kinda cool.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Chozo Ruins with all the invasive flora… yeah.  I’d happily set up a lawn chair there.

    • Effigy_Power says:

      The Shire in Lord of the Rings Online is just gorgeous and the epitome of “pastoral” serenity.
      Bubbling brooks, fields swaying with grain, trees full of birds, Hobbits strolling through the sunshine, smoking pipeweed and thinking about lunch. If you take out all the giant spiders, nasty goblins, brutal raiders and the threat of Sauron, it’s the most calm and peaceful place ever. (Well, without ANY of the dangers any place is the most peaceful, but you know what I mean.)
      Putting up a nice Hobbit Hole in Hobbiton or Mitchel Delving, time to read and plenty of mead to drink… forget ye not about the excellent pipe-weed that makes even wizards hanker for the chronic… Sign me up.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

        Truly.  I like to fancy myself an elf in my mind, but the way I live is pure hobbit.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          Gardening, eating, hanging out at parties, drinking of ale in a bucolic hilly region… yeah, i could do that forever.

    • ProfessorFarnsworth says:

      I always wanted to vacation at the citadel.  In any of the games…I always enjoyed the fun atmosphere and the really neat ships that would fly around.

    • stakkalee says:

      I think it would be neat to spend a few weeks on the quarian homeworld Rannoch – post reconciliation, obviously.  Since the quarians left the geth simply acted as caretakers of the planet, repairing the ecosystem and rebuilding ancient ruins.  It’s warm and dry like the southwest US, I bet there would be plenty of opportunities for exploration, plus, according to the wiki article I read to remember the name of the planet, it has no insects.

    • Jackbert says:

      I’d go for The Gardens world in LittleBigPlanet.

      Grass evocative of a suburban lawn competition, beautifully relaxing music, and Stephen Fry. It’s basically the perfect garden party.

    • Girard says:

      Thanks in part to Weird Al, but mostly to Sam & Max, I would totally love to visit the Biggest Ball of Twine in the World. (This is a dream I can actually make a reality – though it wouldn’t be the Sam & Max twine ball…)

      Expanding the scope, I would love to visit Sam & Max’s America from Hit the Road. A lengthy road trip punctuated with weird bits of folk culture and Americana would be hella interesting.

    • His_Space_Holiness says:

      I’ll go with Camp Whispering Rock from Psychonauts. It’s a lovely little wooded valley with a great lake for swimming and boating, and the everpresent opportunity to develop amazing mind-powers. Now sure, the bears are telekinetic and there’s that pesky brain-stealing lake monster to contend with, not to mention the slight possibility of going completely insane, but even with all that I would have been thrilled to spend my summer vacations there. Come to think of it, the summers I spent at Boy Scout camp were pretty similar, with the merit badges and all. Just not so much with the amazing mind-powers.

  8. OhHaiMark says:

    I’ve dreamed of this moment for so long.