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This poignant video game about the Tōhoku tsunami will ravage your heart
11:51 am



Video games are in an interesting place right now, on the cusp of becoming an interactive narrative art form that can accomplish virtually anything. Game are still just barely constricted by certain encumbrances such as points, leveling up, stages, bosses, and so on, but with every passing day each of those elements gets ever so slightly less necessary, and as processing power and screen quality steadily increase, the options for a distinctive story or emotional palette become correspondingly wider.

There have been elegaic, winsome, cryptic games for a while now, but a game like 9.03m packs an emotional wallop that no “improvements” on Candy Crush Saga or Fruit Ninja could ever achieve. The name 9.03m is a reference to the magnitude of the earthquake that occurred just off the Japanese coast on the 11th of March, 2011, triggering a horrendous tsunami that devastated an enormous swath of northeastern Japan. The Tōhoku tsunami took nearly 19,000 lives and caused an immeasurable degree of dislocation and property damage. It’s an unimaginably tragic event, and 9.03m attempts to grapple with its emotional toll.
Tohoku tsunami damage
Created by the Scottish gaming company Space Budgie, 9.03m is brief and (essentially) pitched as the easiest point-and-click game ever created—it’s somewhat reminiscent of the mid-1990s game Myst or 2012’s PS3 game Journey. it’s not intended to offer heart-palpitating gameplay in which anyone could ever lose him or herself in the heat of competition. It is purposefully game-as-remembrance; to concoct a truly challenging puzzle would be to miss the point utterly.

For 9.03m, Space Budgie ingeniously shifted the action to Baker Beach in San Francisco, where the moon has rendered the ethereal landscape a gorgeous blue hue as the iconic Golden Gate Bridge looms benignly in the distance. The task is to collect butterflies that are embedded in objects strewn on the beach, each bit of debris representing a single victim of the tsunami’s incomprehensible devastation. Each object is braced by a silhouette of a person, which dissipates into mist by the time you can interact with it. (The first item, a soccer ball, may be a reference to the soccer ball later found off of an Alaskan island that was traced back to a Japanese schoolboy.)

That last detail should provide a clue to the gut-wrenching emotional power that 9.03m can evoke. (The slowness of the game and the tinkly piano score may drive some users up the wall, but that’s okay.) The game costs $1.99 on Steam, and (once the company’s expenses are recouped) all of the proceeds go to Aid For Japan, a charity for children who lost their parents in the Tōhoku tsunami.

via RocketNews24

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Taxidermied mice chess set
12:15 pm



Don’t worry, I’ve got your holiday gift ideas covered this year: What about this delightful handmade taxidermy mice chess set by Etsy shop TheCurious13? There’s only one available and it’s retailing for $550.00.

According to the write-up on Etsy:

The set includes 16 light colored mice and 16 dark mice, in various sizes, pawns being the smallest. Set comes complete with wooden hand painted chess board, and storage case (not pictured).

Now I’m curious what the chess board and storage case look like.



With thanks to Gail Potocki!


Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Christmas Tinner: 3-course meal in a can for gamers
03:18 pm



The Daily Mail (natch) is reporting this 3-course meal in a can for gamers—by artist Chris Godfrey—as a new (and real) thing. I, however, have the sneaking suspicion that this is just a clever viral hoax as there’s nowhere to actually buy this 9-layered vomit feast online. You know the drill: You can’t give someone money for something? It probably doesn’t exist.

According to the Daily Mail (don’t hate):

The Christmas Tinner has been trialled in the Basingstoke store, and the firm said it plans to sell it in stores across the country if there is enough demand.

Research from Domino’s Pizza recently found that gamers will do anything in order to carrying on playing.

Almost half of male gamers admitted they have turned down sex to continue playing, while a fifth of female gamers said they’d missed weddings and hen dos.

If this is believed to be true, then it’s the perfect stocking stuffer for that certain special immobile couch potato gamer in you life.

BTW, we’ve blogged about Godfrey’s puketastic 12-course meal in a can earlier this year.

Via Nerdcore

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
‘The Shining’ in the style of an 8-bit video game
02:00 pm



The Shining 8-bit
CineFix does a very good job here of translating the unforgettable images and motifs of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining into the halcyon days of about 1989, when the most effective hack to fix your malfunctioning cartridge was to blow into it.
The Shining 8-bit
The game that CineFix shrewdly chose to mimic here appears to be the old LucasFilm (later LucasArts) game Maniac Mansion—the title alone is an almost perfect recapitulation of The Shining, and the gameplay appears to have been too.

I want to play!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Frankie Goes to Hollywood: The Commodore 64 game
09:34 am



Frankie Goes to Hollywood video game
In 1984, Frankie Goes to Hollywood was a very big deal. Americans, inclined to write off the weirdly self-important and prurient dance-pop act as a one-hit wonder, may not be aware of just how big they were. Their 1984 singles “Relax” and “Two Tribes” respectively clock in as the #6 and #21 best-selling singles in UK recording history. They were never going to last, but at their peak, nobody in the landscape sounded like Frankie.

A year after those two mega-hits happened, Ocean Software Ltd published a Denton Designs game called Frankie Goes to Hollywood for the Commodore 64. Judging as best I can from a detailed YouTube simulation of gameplay, it looks like a pretty good game for what it is—and also kind of ridiculous too (it wouldn’t be a Frankie game if it weren’t a little ridiculous). 
Frankie the computer game
In the game, you play a monochromatic (often blue) homunculus whose task it is to fulfill the four life aspects of game, pleasure, war, love, and faith. These are represented by four corresponding icons: a pair of spermatozoa, a bullet (to me it never doesn’t look like a condom—this is clearer in the picture below), a heart, and a cross. You start at 0% and as you make your way through the various levels, “Frankie” rewards you with “pleasure units” and you eventually make it to 100% and win the game. Seriously, the gameplay repeatedly informs you with messages like “Frankie give you 2500 more pleasure units - you have 47200 and you’re 55% a real person.” Just think: if you achieve all four life aspects you can become a fully realized human being—just like Holly Johnson!

Actually, it’s high time I quoted from the manual:

You begin this extraordinary experience devoid of personality, an amorphous shape in the land of the mundane. Behind the facade of flying ducks and kitchen sinks however lies a giant web of drama and intrigue spun within the pleasuredome. Scruntinise! Investigate! Probe! Objects you take for granted may be your passport to success; clues can be discovered everywhere. In this game of games you will need the skills of Arcade King, Adventurer, Super Sleuth, Mastermind and more. Frankie say Relax. Use the Power of Zap to build the equation (4 icons at bottom right corner are (left to right) Pleasure, War, Love,and Faith) to its peak when, if you respond brilliantly, you may enter the heart of the Pleasure Dome

It’s all a little silly, and couldn’t be more pretentious in a stilted 1980s way, but, as I mentioned earlier, the game was surprisingly forward-thinking for the day. For one thing, the game is pleasingly non-linear; you definitely have goals to achieve and so forth, but basically you can wander around and do what you want to do, to some extent. The game seems to have been admirably short on roadmaps to explain what you were supposed to do.

Furthermore, the various stages of the game were quite varied and diverting, as far as I can tell. In the first stage you have to solve a murder, there’s an odd stage in which you are superimposed on Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam from the Sistine Chapel (only with a cheeky devil replacing God) and you have to dodge the arrows emanating from a squadron of cherubim. For reasons that aren’t explained, in the “Raid over Merseyside” stage you have to defend Liverpool (Frankie were from Liverpool, doncha know?) from some kind of WWII air blitz, and later on, in “Talking Heads” (I think), you engage in a weird Pong-like battle between Reagan and ... maybe Chernenko? The final stages of the game occur in some kind of anomic computer laboratory vaguely reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey or perhaps the original Tron.
The concept of the game is strong, as is the writing. Here is a sampling of some of the more memorable messages that pop up during the game:

“The jacket will free you from pain”
“You now have a herring”
“20 flowers make a bunch”
“The killer is a Taurean”
“You now have a bag of money”
“Mr Dull has always voted Tory”
“Joe Public hates to part with a penny”
“You now have a thirsty cat”
“Ms Bland adores a hot beef curry”
“The killer is an atheist”

Frankie’s music is the only element that is conspicuously lacking throughout, although predictably, the big reward for achieving full 100% humanity is a tinny rendition of “Two Tribes.”

Thanks to reader Ossian Sunesson for calling my attention to this game.

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Have some shitfaced Halloween fun with the ‘Dark Shadows’ drinking game
05:20 pm



Dark Shadows board game
If you’re skipping the Halloween parties this year, preferring instead to stay home and drunkenly hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, might I suggest a classic board game to liven up your night? Get your spooky self over to eBay and purchase one the the two varieties of Dark Shadows board games! (By the way, don’t you think a kid’s board game based off of a horror soap opera would cause some pearl-clutching nowadays? How G-rated has childhood become?)

I say combine game-play with a show marathon. Dark Shadows is the best thing to watch in a social setting. It’s streaming on Netflix, so the soap opera format allows the audience to drift in and out or pick episodes at random. And of course all the episodes were shot live and low budget, so despite the high quality of the acting, there’s a ton of line-flubs and technical mistakes. In addition to the actual game, you can start making up your own rules along with the show. For example, every time you see a microphone in the shot, take a drink! Every time a piece of scenery collapses, take a drink!

Just remember folks, every game is a drinking game if you’re inventive!
Dark Shadows board game
board game


Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Astronomia: Beautiful 184-year-old card game
02:53 pm



It’s surprising that someone at U.S. Games Systems hasn’t reissued the obscure Astronomia card deck, an astronomically themed Victorian Georgian card game published in 1829. Surely someone should have turned it into a Tarot deck or children’s educational video or board game by now. Zazzle sells clocks, iPhone covers, Nook decals, handtowels, notebook covers, and other items featuring the Luna card image, but not the actual cards. Mostly intact decks cost thousands of dollars, but curious as I am, I don’t want to learn how to play the game that badly.


The George Glazer Gallery describes an available $2400 deck:

A highly sought-after astronomically based card game, Astronomia, with beautiful illustrations by Henry Courbould, was created by F.G. Moon in 1829. Deck of educational astronomy cards pertaining to the solar system. Zodiac constellations, planets, the sun, comets, and asteroids are decoratively and scientifically rendered in shades of black and white as if the night sky were being viewed through a draped window flanked by pillars.

Bonhams Auctioneers described a similar lot in a catalog listing, which sold for $903 two years ago:

An attractive and scarce pack of cards on an astronomical theme. The pack is divided into the four seasons: Summer (pink, Autumn (yellow), Winter (white) and Spring (blue). The zodiacal sign cards of or a greater value than the other cards. The suits are made up as follows: Spring- Aries, Luna, Jupiter, Saturn, Herschel, Tellus, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Pallas, Juno, Ceres, Vesta. The remaining suits are composed in the same way, except for the first two cards: Summer: Cancer, The Sun; Autumn: Libra, The Comet; Winter: Capricorn, The Orbits.

More scans of the cards can be seen here.

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
Big in Germany: ‘Farming Simulator’ is the David Hasselhoff of computer games
05:22 pm



Landwirtschafts-Simulator 2013
Ned Donovan over at The Kernel informs me of something of which I was not aware: there’s a computer game that’s a massive blockbuster in Germany but in no other major market, and it’s a game that sounds to the rest of the world as dull as dirt—literally. The game is Farming Simulator 2013 (or Landwirtschafts-Simulator 2013, as it’s called in Germany). It and its previous versions are mainstays on the top ten list in Germany, whereas in the UK, the country that manufactures it, it’s more likely to be found at rank 243.

Farming Simulator is the David Hasselhoff of the computer game industry.

The Kernel piece is titled “How Germans Do Escapism,” and it’s a worthwhile subject to ponder. Donovan points out that many of the people who enjoy the game are farmers themselves, and even ferrets out this fabulous quotation from “I am fulfilling my childhood dream.” The kicker, of course, is that the man who offered up that explanation is himself a farmer.

Farming Simulator is made by UK computer game company Excalibur Publishing, which also publishes—I’m not making any of this up—Chemical Spillage Simulation, Airport Ground Crew Simulation, Road Construction Simulator, Camping Manager, Stone Quarry Simulator, and Underground Mining Simulator.
Grand Theft Auto Farming
In America we favor GTA 5 and Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption, violent adventures in which the player is encouraged to “act out.” Donovan points out that Call of Duty in particular is notably unpopular in Germany. Remember, we often make fun of the Germans for being so martial. Maybe we need to rethink our assumptions here.

Here’s what I think. I think Americans like dull games as much as the Germans do. Donovan goes out of his way to present these Excalibur games as being essentially identical to the office life many of its players endure in the daytime, but anyone who has ever gotten addicted to The Sims has surely wondered why it was so important to keep the Sims’ goddamn plants alive even as the actual plant in the actual living room slowly turns brown. Lots of “action” games rely on very repetitive actions, such as reloading weapons, looting corpses for ammo, and the like. I can vividly remember playing Red Dead Redemption and spending untold hours scampering all over Cholla Springs and Tall Trees in search of plants like Hummingbird Sage and Wild Feverfew.

Why? Whether it’s Tetris, Farming Simulator, or Call of Duty, it’s all about the oxytocin hit. We like piling up accomplishments, and we like leveling up, it’s good for one’s self-image. I don’t want to play Farming Simulator, but I can understand its soothing appeal.

For the curious, here’s 24 goddamn minutes of someone baling hay in Farming Simulator 2013 to a driving dubstep-ish soundtrack:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ Commodore 64 computer game, 1985
12:13 pm



Rocky Horror Game splash screen
In 1985 CRL Group PLC (whoever that is) released a game for the Commodore 64 system based on the classic midnight movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Do you wish to be the “asshole” or the “slut”?
In the game, the player can play as Brad or Janet. It’s a bit difficult to follow, but the task seems to be to construct a machine that will counteract the effects of the Medusa Transducer, pieces of which (and keys to open various portals) are scattered all over the castle, in order to free your partner from stone and escape the castle before it blasts off for the planet Transsexual, in the galaxy of Transylvania. The castle’s freaky denizens attempt to block your progress by stealing your clothes and your inventory (but more interestingly, your clothes—your character spends big chunks of the game “starkers”). Riff-Raff has a deadly laser gun, and Eddie can run the player over with his motorcycle, and so on.
Naked Janet in the Rocky Horror castle
Janet in the Rocky Horror castle

Considering that six years had passed since the introduction of Adventure for the Atari 2600 system (in which the player runs around a series of rooms avoiding dragon and picking up keys etc.), the gameplay of The Rocky Horror Show Computer Game is disappointingly crude.

The presence of Richard O’Brien’s name in the title—the actual name of the game appears to be “Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show Computer Game”—certainly lends the proceedings a veneer of credibility, but the slight alteration in the title prompts the speculation that perhaps this game was not officially licensed? Or maybe they were playing with the fact that since this was not a movie version, it can’t be a “picture show”?

Here’s a brief video showing some of the dysfunctional gameplay, complete with Max Von Sydow soundalike commentary:

This video is longer and presents a more thorough exploration of successful gameplay—however, no amusing commentary:

via William Caxton Fan Club (a.k.a. John Darnielle’s Tumblr)

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Does ‘Dancing Outlaw’ Jesco White have a cameo in the new Grand Theft Auto?!?
02:27 pm



Talk about your “dog whistle”! Is this hillbilly clog dancer Jesco White dancing up a storm in the new Grand Theft Auto game? Ha! Sure looks like it to me!

I wonder if that’s Mamie White and the rest of the hellraising White clan in the background?

One piece of advice to GTA players, Jesco will cut you if you try to serve him slimy, sloppy eggs!

With thanks to Julien Nitzberg, director of the must-see documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia (on Netflix)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
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