This weekend, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art opened an exhibit on The Art of Video Games. I hugely recommend it; though physically small, it’s enormous in scope and successfully curates the entire four-decade history of video games into a manageable, hour-long primer that sums up the artistic limits and triumphs of the game medium.
Most interestingly, the opening ceremonies included a series of panel discussions with notable video game dignitaries such as Hideo Kojima and Ken Levine. I had the honor and privilege to attend the first panel, a discussion of the halcyon days of computer and video games featuring some of the key figures in the development of early terminal games and the Intellivision, as well as Rand Miller, the creator of Myst. Apart from the novelty of hearing from such distinguished professionals, the panel offered a few tantalizing insights. Namely that all the early days of game development were indeed chaotic, improvised, and eked out under the technical limitations of the day. » Read more about In which I meet Rand Miller: The Obscuritory goes to The Art of Video Games
The Labyrinth of Time is a beautiful, forgotten game. Luckily, the artist is still going at it, and he has a new book coming out! But he needs some money before he can start publishing it.
That’s where you come in. If you have some spare change, please send a little money to Bradley W. Schenck’s Kickstarter project! He has 30 days to raise $7,800. Any amount you can kick in will help the effort – and as with all Kickstarter projects, the money won’t transfer until he’s raised it all.
As I’ve harped about, Schenck’s art has greatly personally affected me. It’d mean a lot if whoever’s reading could send over a few bucks.
Don’t let the 80s stock photo scare you away!
HoverSki has the foundations of a great top-down racing game. You get a track, a jet-ski, and you go fast. It’s pretty simple. But the game shakes that modesty and tip-toes into the world of extreme sports, and that’s a big misstep. » Read more about HoverSki
Planner programs are one of the many relics of 90s computing. Nowadays we default to Google Docs, Outlook, iCal, or whatever we have on our phones, but before we synced up with the cloud, there was competing planning software. If computers could do nothing else right, they would still store contacts and remind you about your appointments. Each planner had to outdo the others with a richer feature set or a more exciting interface.
Enter Seize the Day. Forget the “daybook” part of this program. The biggest and best feature is its rotating gallery plug-in. Seriously, it’s beautiful. » Read more about Seize the Day
Playing Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong Nou for the first time is a life-affirming moment. In a world where games from big publishers need to be marketable, along comes one so nearly incomprehensible that I mistook it for a fevered dream for nearly a decade afterward.
Eastern Mind is, unquestionably, the strangest game ever made. This is mainlined interactive surrealism. It’s also a deeply spiritual game. The game ruminates on the purpose of the soul while jumping erratically from moment to moment. It defies explanation.
…but let’s try. » Read more about Eastern Mind: The Lost Souls of Tong Nou
Not many simulation games from the 80s earn their genre’s moniker like Big Rig. The creator, Bill Pogue, must have had a thing for freight trucking when he set out to recreate an accurate cross-country cargo trip. For goodness’s sake, this is a text-based driving sim that keeps track of the weight of your fuel. To the game’s detriment, all that engaging detail reminds you how monotonous the subject matter is. » Read more about Big Rig
Star Wars: Pit Droids is a kids game based on the comic relief characters from the podracing segments of The Phantom Menace. Given the hype around The Phantom Menace, the target audience would have good reason to play it. Given the response to The Phantom Menace, you’d be excused for passing it over.
Against expectations, the designers at Lucas Learning put together a decent Lemmings-style game. » Read more about Star Wars: Pit Droids
At age 12, I had this deep obsession with wanting to get a roller coaster video game. The object of my affection was Ultimate Ride because of a glowing write-up in some computer magazine that made it look incredible and extensive for its time. There was no theme park administration involved, just building roller coasters, which was perfect for me. The demo took a full day to download on my dial-up connection, but in spite of my enthusiasm, my old desktop computer didn’t meet the system requirements.
Flash-forward a few months to a trip to Office Max with my family. While rifling through the bargain racks, I found a copy of ValuSoft’s Roller Coaster Factory, which looked pretty awesome from the jewel case. It would have to do.
It did not do, not at all. Roller Coaster Factory is awful. It seems to be, somehow, bored by the idea of roller coasters. It screws up the fun qualities of playing a coaster game in the first place, and along the way, it loses something deeper.
(This one is a little personal, don’t mind me.)
» Read more about Roller Coaster Factory
Despite its low profile, MissionForce: CyberStorm is one of the greatest turn-based strategy games of its time, an absolute milestone for the genre. The game creatively plays with genre mechanics, then uses them to demonstrate the dehumanizing effects of technology and war. » Read more about MissionForce: CyberStorm
Haunted houses never get a fair rap. They might be cheesy and schlocky, but you’re getting what you pay for. Sometimes you just want cheap scares and creepy decorations.
So thank goodness that Don’t Go Alone doesn’t put up any pretensions. It takes place in a haunted house, and you fight ghosts. Doors burst open and scary things crawl out. There’s a fairly fun RPG here, even without the corny spookiness, and it does justice to the roadside attractions and B-movies that inspired it. » Read more about Don’t Go Alone