Archive | July 2013

Fueling the imagination…

I love to create… whether it be a script, short story, or even a poem. I can list off a laundry list of books, comics, RPGs, and such that have inspired me. Those are for another time, for I want to talk about a great influence on my ability to build a world, the wonderful invention called the video game.

I remember being a young lad in the early ’80s, roaming the arcades with a pocket full of quarters looking to play some games; Robotron: 2084, Joust, Ghost ‘n Goblins were some particular favorites of mine. (I could do a huge list of favorite games, but then it would be a bit of a boring read.) The one thing about most of these games from this time period is that they either had no story at all or such a bare bones one, that it’s plot could fit on a matchbook. Now before people start reaming me… but Shawn, they only had like all of a 96k of memory… I know that, that is not what I am talking about though. I never had the problem with the lack of story, because I would make one up for the game myself or build upon the minuscule story provided.

joust-poster

Really, give me the money Hollywood.
Joust Poster by Williams Electronics 1982.

I use to sit down, imagine stories, draw (badly) comics of my favorite games; I would give elaborate back stories to these simplistic, pixelated creatures that captured my attention. One of my favorite games was Joust… I love it not only for the game play, but also for it’s bat shit insanity. The evil Bounders, Hunters, and fearsome Shadow Lords fly on vultures, looking to conquer the kingdom of floating (in some cases unstable) floating rocks. Opposing these minions of doom are two brave and fearless knights on their mighty birds of prey… the ostrich and stork?!? (Now I admit, not quite as cool as vultures, but hey, they were thinking outside of the box on this one.) Then should you slay your enemy, he shall drop a large egg, upon given enough time shall hatch into a full grown knight with a lance. Should you meander too long in your quest, a terribly drawn pterodactyl shall arrive to eat you. (Give me $200 million dollars and Johnny Depp… come on Hollywood, I’ll even let you put Michael Bay on as an executive producer.)

Now me being me, I tended to make up stories for the bad guys more often than not, they were just cooler to me, but there was was one that garnered the most attention from me: the dreaded Lava Troll. Once the bridge was burned away, if one was to fly too close to the lava, the disembodied hand of the troll would reach up, grab the bird by the legs and attempt to drag them to a fiery death. There was no story for him, but he fascinated me; he was a mysterious, murderous, elusive monster that I wanted to know more about. I had no need to be force fed his story or what he looked like beyond the hand that appeared above the lava. I let my mind fill in the blanks, made the story of how the troll came to live in the lava pits, I made him a truly horrifying monster in my imagination, one that even terrified the mighty Shadow Lords.

Needless to say I often give credit to early video games for helping foster my imagination. But as games evolved, more memory was available, and programmers weren’t so limited; I saw a change in the way I imagined the world I was playing in at that time. Before I start, let me say I do love a lot of the new games out now, I really do, there are amazing games, beautifully crafted and fully realized worlds. And there is my problem, the world is so fully realized, I don’t have to imagine a story for the characters or the places I am exploring. The story wasn’t personal anymore, my character had a name and story forced down my throat through enough excessive exposition to fill the next George R.R. Martin novel (come on George, I am waiting for The Winds of Winter). The creators tell you everything about the world and where to go, so that you do not miss a single glorious thing that they have programmed… why thank you Kardon wandering knight of the Wounded Walrus, would you like to help me? I need you to go to a rocky island in the Lagoon of Doom and pick up the Dandelion of Yellowishness that only grows there, so that I can make a soup that will prevent the Mushroom people from eating you. The coordinates are 55 degrees north by 112 degrees west… check your mini map for the big blue triangle to show you where this forgotten, forbidden island is located. If that is too hard, then follow this glowing green arrow trail to your final destination. Okay, maybe it is not that extreme, but you get the point; no exploring, no need to imagine what may await you. Plus all these prompts showing you where to go, kind of takes you out of the game and the story and don’t even get me started about cut scenes (for a while I swear ratio of cut scenes to actual game play time was about 3 to 1). But I shall not get side tracked on that issue right now, I shall save it for a different time.

There goes another controller. Dark Souls by From Software

There goes another controller.
Dark Souls by From Software

I believe I have over analyzed this one a bit, and it is far from being my final say on the subject. But to summarize, I believe that video games are a great way to develop people’s imaginations, if they are allowed to create their own back story in the world the developers have created. And believe it or not, I am not talking about just the older, barely there story games of yonder years. In fact my favorite game at the moment that lets me create characters and fuel my imagination by creating back stories for them is the amazing Dark Souls. (Seriously, the game is awesome, at least when I am not tempted to throw my controller against the wall.) My thoughts on that game will be in a future blog post.

Til next time, tequila is a great substitute for apple juice.

–Shawn

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Damn you Wil Wheaton!!!!

Wil WheatonI was content Mr. Wil Wheaton. I had my video games and internet connection, talking to people over a set of headphones and rage quitting when necessary by throwing a controller and shutting off my Xbox. Sitting in the darkness, with the TV the only source of light, secured that the voices in my headphones had my back. But no, Wil, you had to put on that damn youtube video series TableTop. Suddenly turning on the lights, inviting people over to my place to play games and have fun sounded like a good idea. Now I have to clean up my place, put food in the fridge, and play the gracious host. Plus the only way to rage quit on a board game is to flip over the table, which by the way makes a mess (also you makes you look like an asshole).

For that I say thank you, I forgot how much fun it is to actually play games in a room where you can see everyone’s face, though I can’t give sole credit to Wil. I do have my group of friends that got back into tabletop gaming before me, namely Dave. Every time I go to Dave’s house I see more and more board games, the man is addicted I tell you. He embraces his geekdom with glee, never false about it, always ready to talk about the new game he read or heard about. Dave and I attempt to get together with our friends to game when we can, have a few drinks, eat some food that may or not be fit for human consumption (looking at you cheddar, jalapeno, bacon pizza). Unfortunately we can’t get together as much as we like, as life gets in the way of this simple enjoyment at times.

The reasons I love these game nights, are that they give me a release from the stresses of life, they allow me to blow off some steam in a creative way with friends. Sure not all games go smoothly, especially when trying out a new game, and sometimes harsh words can be said (John and Hank), but mostly good times had by all. We brainstorm ideas  for screenplays while we play, catch up on things we have done, movies we saw… all while face to face without being to the whims of our cell phones or internet connections.

I forgot how much I love the camaraderie and competitiveness that gaming sessions bring out in everyone involved.  So for that I thank you Wil Wheaton, for helping me rekindle my love of tabletop gaming. But for the fact of how much money I am now spending on these games… DAMN YOU WIL WHEATON!!!!!

Just wandering about…

Let’s start off this ramble with a bit about me. I am a former military brat, grew up all over the States and spent quite a few years in Germany. I would not trade that experience for anything in the world, I got to travel, see different cultures, and that all helped shape who I am today. Plus I got to see five countries in one day because my dad refused to stop and ask for directions while looking for a furniture store in Belgium.

I currently live in Los Angeles, scraping out a living working in the entertainment business, and do I mean scraping at times. I am a bit of a nerd and geek, I love comics, video games, horror, and fantasy. I go to various geek conventions with my girlfriend, sometimes to wander, sometimes as a vendor for her art. (Shameless plug time: Diana Levin Art… now go buy something.) I also have a great love for combat arts, mainly mixed martial arts and competitive grappling, though I do have a past love for pro wrestling back in the day. I love hard rock and heavy metal, though at times I have been known to listen to other styles. And horror, I love horror… horror movies, horror books, horror video games, horror comics, even bad ones I will give a chance (much to my detriment at times).

I am an atheist, though with the state of the nation right now, Cthulhu is looking like the guy to follow right now. Politically let’s just say I am an independent, as I read the political news to raise my blood pressure and make me shake my head in disbelief. Both sides are fucking up, neither democrats nor republicans are getting anything right (or done as I scan the latest news stories), so let’s start a new party, the Cthulhu party… who’s with me? No one? Bastards!

So if you made it this far into the blog, which I do appreciate if you have, then I hope you do come back and read some more as I will try to update it on a consistent basis. I will write about things that interest me, people I meet at the conventions (I am a big supporter of indie press), and once in awhile about things that just piss me off.

Til next time, don’t lick your cat’s eyeball… it won’t end well.

-Shawn

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