This is the electronic version of the paper fanzine about strange videogames and the people who make them and play them.
Contact: chris at thisurl.
Oh, and just so we're all on the same page: Everything here represents my opinions only (except the comments), and does not reflect that of my employer (Microsoft) in any way shape or form. Got it? Good!
There’s been a lot of demand to release the audio of this cassetecast. Maybe a Kickstarter could fund the difficult, harrowing technical work involved in digitizing this analog tape? Alternately I guess I could just put up the digital audio files that were the source for the tape, but that seems like cheating.
Lots of famous people made games for the recent Ludam Dare 48-hour online game jam, but my favorite is probably George Broussard’s The Road, a minimalist life journey punctuated by excellent end-of-the-road messages. It’s a free web game, so like, play it.
I don’t believe anyone has lived past 35 yet, can you do better?
So I went to the Living Computer Museum in Seattle and they have a Altair 8080 running Bill Gates and Paul Allen’s BASIC off of paper tape. And you can screw around with it! So I wrote a very simple program that still managed to have two bugs in it.
In the olden, olden days computers didn’t have screens. All the I/O was handled via a printer. Pretty crazy, huh?
I pretty much wish I could read Japanese all the time, but never more so than now, when I am faced with the untranslatable website for the Ahoge game jam in Japan. Loosely translated Ahoge means “Stupid Game.”
This edition’s theme was moon, and the best pick — which I spotted first on indiegames.com — is Man vs Moon, where you need to destroy a falling moon, Asteroids style, by shooting your nail clippings at it.
Let’s say that again, just so we’re all on the same page: You need to destroy the moon, Asteroids style, by shooting your nail clippings at it.
The nail clipper controls take a bit to get used to, but the satisfaction when you do nail a moon shard with your nails is pretty excellent. It’s not quite clear to me who made this game, but obviously they are geniuses.
Also, many of the other games at that link are explicitly NSFW so please, browse carefully.
There’s no VO of a person screaming at you in Japanese trying to mess you up in the US version of this arcade puzzler. And, unlike the Japanese game show version (and possibly the Japanese arcade version, although I haven’t gotten confirmation of that), you don’t receive a painful electric shock if you fail. But other than that, the core play is the same as the Japanese original — basically scrolling Operation, you need to keep a metal stick from touching the sides of a narrow metal maze.
The game was not-quite-a-tech-demo for the Dual Shock controller, but it is an early example of a console videogame that really requires analog control to work — with rumble providing a nice replacement for physical pain when you mess up.It’s also a fun abstract PlayStation puzzler, so if you can track it down — it’s not super rare — it’s a good addition to your collection.
This may also be my favorite game name of all time.
It’s hard to remember now, when “armed extremist” usually conjures up images of religious zealots plotting destruction in a cave or making bombs in a crummy one bedroom apartment someplace, that only a generation ago, attempting to wage violent insurrection and incite global revolution was as popular with first-world college students as dropping out to start dubious dot.coms is today…
The 70s were a weird time. You had open religious warfare being fought on the streets of Northern Ireland with guns and bombs, while dozens of armed left-wing organizations with names like the Weathermen, Red Army Faction, Bader-Meinhoff Gang, and the June 2nd Movement all worked to foment world-wide revolution (when they weren’t fighting each other.)
While a full discussion of the origins and implications of the nascent left-wing 60’s and 70’s terror movements is beyond the scope of a stupid videogame website, allow me to assure you: shit got real.
Japanese college students were not immune to the siren song of violent revolution. The Japanese Red Army Faction led the Lod Airport Massacre, where 26 tourists were murdered at an Israeli airport, as well as hijacking two planes, resulting in 100 fatalities.
Another Japanese communist cell that was related to the JRAF, United Red Army, specialized in killing its own members — more than half of the 29 core members died of “defeatism” (AKA being beaten to death or tied outside to die of exposure) between December ‘71 and February ‘72.
When two ideologically impure members escaped the URA’s training camp and went to police, resulting in arrests, the rest of the United Red Army did the only logical thing: They took over a strongly-build moutain vacation lodge nearby, filled it with guns and bombs, took the caretaker’s young wife hostage and waited for the Revolution to begin.
The ensuing week-long siege and eventual rescue attempt — known as the Asama-Sanso Incident — was Japan’s first modern media circus, with hours of live TV coverage of the police attempts to root out the terrorists and free Yasuko Muta. The rescue took days to coordinate, both because of the lack of preparation by the police for hotage situations in what amounted to a nearly impregnable mountain fortress, and futile efforts to get the terrorists to surrender peacefully.
The siege tools in the police arsenal included a baseball pitching machine. It was loaded with rocks to ensure a constant noisy assault on the building, keeping the terrorists on edge. More effective tools were firehoses and a massive wrecking ball, or Monken. The wrecking ball breached the strong exterior walls and the firehoses ground away at the interior of the lodge during the eight hour assault. Even so, it eventually took a fatal charge to subdue the terrorists who had holed up on the top floor. Two police were killed in the final assault, along with a civilian who had wandered too close to the action, but Yasuko Muta was rescued, and the final five URA members were captured. (The incident also firmly turned the Japanese public against radical left-wing causes.)
Now a super-team of Japanese developers is immortalizing the incident by bringing it to a new generation in game form: Monken. You control a anthropomorphized wrecking ball, Monken, as it works it way through a Showa era town, smashing buildings to free hostages and destroy terrorists. The gameplay itself features some of the momentum connservation of Tiny Wings and swinging judgement that recalls Tower Bloxx - you don’t just want to smash buildings randomly, but need to hit the windows where the terrorists appear. That’s because Moken the wrecking ball is holding on to the crane by his hands. Each hit weakens him and eventually he drops off, causing a game over. Of course, a good measure of Rampage ties things together.
Although I haven’t played the game yet, the system itself sounds super compelling, and the video has me very excited for the final product.
Grand Slam, the team behind Monken has a great resume, with titles like Tail of the Sun, Aquanaut’s Holiday, Harvest Moon, and Virtua Fighter to their credit. The team is apparently still raising funds to complete the game, which was shown at James Mielke’s BitSummit MMXIII (and brought to my attention thanks to Lena LeRay’s thoughtful wrap-up on Gamasutra). You can get the latest info at the team’s English webpage.
Sad news today that iconoclastic Japanese designer Kenji Eno died of heart failure at 42. His seminal horror game, D, marked a turning point in Japanese game development, but I was always most fascinated with Real Sound for Saturn (and later Dreamcast), a game designed to be played using audio only, with no reliance on video. Sadly it was never localized into English, but 1000 copies (along with Saturns) were donated to charities for the blind and directly to some of D’s blind fans.
My favorite personal memory of Eno happened after D shipped, when he was arguably the hottest game developer in Japan. His company, Warp, had no new project to show, so he took his booth at Tokyo Game Show and turned it into a mini Japanese festival, complete with paper laterns, women in traditional clothes and lots of sake. It wasn’t open to the public or anything: Just Eno and Warp having a party for 8 hours a day in the middle of TGS.
UPDATE: Shane Bettenhausen and James Mielke, both of whose names I just misspelled, did the definitive interview with Eno at 1up about a decade after he left the game industry. You can find it here.