Tag Archives: history

The Super Mario Timeline

Speaking of silly dreamers, how about this gem. I like the idea of Donkey Kong leading to Mario Bros. I especially love the part where Bowser throws in the towel and Mario becomes a sports tycoon.

[Via Polygon]

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IGN’s Top 125 Nintendo Games of All Time

To round out their 125th Nintendo Anniversary celebration, Nintendo has released their Top 125 Nintendo Games of All Time, complete with a Let’s Play video for each game (the same Let’s Plays I’ve been thoroughly enjoying for over a month).

IGN:

Nintendo merely publishing a game that was developed by a third party does not make it eligible – for a game to be considered a “Nintendo game” in our eyes, Nintendo has to have had a hand in the development process itself. This excludes games like Golden Sun (developed by Camelot and published by Nintendo) and Meteos (developed by Q Entertainment and published by Nintendo).

The lack of third-party games published by Nintendo never crossed my mind. A truly impressive catalog from a truly revolutionary company. Again, a story I can believe in.

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Stats v. Story

Love this.

John Gruber with Ben Thompson on The Talk Show:

JG: I have a good friend, Matt, who’s a fellow Yankee’s fan. His theory is that there’s two types of sports fans: Stats fans and story fans. Now, anytime you try to say there’s only two types of people, of course there’s a grey zone. Some stats guys are a little bit into the story side and some story guys are still interested in some of the stats. I’m a story guy though, in his telling. I just don’t get into the numbers that much. I believe in clutch hitting. I believe in clutch performance. I know that’s one of the stat’s guys’ things, like the baseball prospectus guys (Bill James, etc.), that there’s a theory they try to backup that there’s no such thing as clutch hitting.

You say there’s no such thing as clutch hitting, and I say Derek Jeter. I don’t see how you could deny it.

The whole Jeter “Farewell” thing is just chock-full of all sorts of statistics and stuff like that. But one of the most amazing ones is (and this is off the top of my head, I’m not going to look it up), he’s played 158 post-season games. A regular baseball season is 162 games and most guys would be lucky to play 158. Even players who aren’t insured take a game off here and there. So he’s played easily the equivalent of a full regular season, all post-season. Which by definition is only against the very best pitchers and opposing teams. Every post-season game is against a team who was good enough to make it to the post-season. And he’s got like a .320 career post-season batting average. Enough that it would win the batting title most years. And that’s in the post-season.

BT: That’s really impressive because batting averages drop significantly in the post-season.

JG: Right. Because the pitching is so much better. So much better. Really, that’s the way to win post-season baseball games, is to have amazing pitching.

Remember the White Sox, when they won in 2006? Whatever year it was. Whatever year the Chicago White Sox won a decade ago, they won the World Series in four games. Their four pitchers pitched four complete games. It was unbelievable. They had four pitchers who caught fire, were just unhittable, and they just went “one, two, three, four. The World Series is over.”

BT: It’s like having a hot goalie in hockey or something. You can just shutout everything else.

JG: And tech is exactly the same. There’s story guys and stats guys.

Reading it back, I am reminded of Jon Hamm’s brilliant opening monologue to the 2013 ESPYs.

I am also reminded why I remain focused on the games industry. I have been fortunate enough to grow along side a budding industry from its toddlerhood (1985) to the behemoth it has become. The video game industry has yet to shake it’s growing pains but its effect on pop-culture at large has been breathtaking to watch. (While writing this, Pharrell released the video game inspired music video for “It Girl”, (and it may be a good indication of what is wrong with the culture).)

Over the course of the next-gen launch, the focus has been on story. None more so than Nintendo. Focus all you want on stats, Nintendo’s story is still one to believe in.

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Digital Amnesia

A must see 50 minute documentary on digital record keeping and our history.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle, Digital Amnesia:

We’re going to want archives of every form, of all of the different generations: Physical form, the micro-film form, when they lived on CD-ROMs, when they’re on hard drives, when they’re on the next optical polygraphic whatever. We’re going to want to keep each one of these generations to make sure that we have a way of knowing what really happened and not make it so that people can go and change the past.

I am all for digital goods and less physical clutter, but there is something so fleeting about it. I recently wrote about my theory of technological rubber-banding; a craving for analog technologies in an increasingly digital world.

I’m not sure if I’ve brought up my practice of buying physical (preferably hardback) books once I complete the ePub version. Why not start with the physical version? Reading books has always been a personal challenge. I find it less daunting to visualize and feel one page at a time on a static tablet rather than see exactly how much more I have to read in physical space. Then why the physical version? I use it as a trophy and physical memento of the book. Too quickly do I forget the contents of books. Seeing one that I have completed on my shelf is a positive reminder that I have not only finished reading the book but that I had actually read it at all.

Over the past few years, I have grown deeply concerned over the preservation of digital history, beginning with early software including video games and code printed in the backs of magazines. It became even more alarming when I heard the following quote from Blake J. Harris, author of Console Wars, on the HarperAudio Presents podcast:

When you’re a kid, you’re not always conscience of how you choose your interests. I always felt like it wasn’t a choice to play video games. It was part of your lifestyle.

Getting a Genesis for my birthday a few years ago reminded me of all of that. I hooked it up, thinking it would be sort of nice and nostalgic to play these games again, but I found that not only was it that, but these games were still very enjoyable and very challenging.

Knowing that this was such a big part of my life and that there were so many hours spent and so many entertaining games and aspects to the culture, I went to Barnes & Noble on 86th Street. It’s an enormous Barnes & Noble. I asked where the video game history section was, assuming it would be near the film history or music history sections. The woman pretty much laughed at me. That it was pretty amazing. For an industry that’s bigger than music and film, there was not only a video game history section but when I asked for one of the books on Sega and Nintendo, the woman told me there was no such book that they could even order. The only thing they had on video games in the entire store was walkthrough guides.

That was kind of shocking to me. It wasn’t like a light went off and I thought, “I will fill this need!” But I did.

Even more shocking is the vanishing of historical online events in MMOs and the like; events that are completely digital yet full of human, communal interaction. This is one of the most re-listenable podcast episodes I have found. I still have a hard time not tearing up during the close:

Stanford University gaming curator Henry Lowood on the Library of Congress commissioned “Preserving Virtual Worlds” project, as heard in A Life Well Wasted: “Gotta Catch ’em All”:

In terms of practical projects, there are basically two things:

One is preservation of games. We have, for example, the Cabrinety Collection. We have roughly 25,000 games from before the early 1990’s.

Also, a lot of work that we are doing is on how the heck we’re going to be able to make sure people have access to games and especially the multiplayer networked games and things that happen in those games 50, 100, 200 years from now. How are we going to save that history knowing that for other media such early film much of that early history of was lost?

Jason Scott, digital historian, Digital Amnesia:

The half-life of software is insane. The fact that we go from “this working” to “this not working” in not just the span of a lifetime but in the span of less than a generation. And I mean unreadable. Like unreadable, physically unreadable because the signal is gone. Or physically unreadable because there’s no device to read it or the documentation is gone.

Earlier this year, a friend of mine and I rounded up as much audio content from our time playing in bands in the early 2000s that we could find and launched the Altamont Archives. (Written article here.) While we were able to scrounge together a majority of the content, much of it was lost to bad CDs, no backups, no access to master recordings, and low-kbps audio rips. It’s gut wrenching to remember that there were songs you loved that you will never hear again. Complete memories lost.

I am less concerned about changing the past and more concerned about forgetting the story of the Information Age. I recently had a nostalgic back-and-forth with game designer Pete Vigeant about hearing our first MP3. Until then, we were convinced computers would only ever be capable of MIDI output and unable to deliver high-quality organic sound. It was a blip in time that will likely be forgotten or at the very least delivered as a footnote in a grade school history textbook. But to our generation, it was (to use Vigeant’s words) “sorcery.”

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‘There and Back Again: A History of The Lord of the Rings in Video Games’

Alexa Ray Corriea, Polygon:

The Tolkien Estate still firmly holds the score of books and snippets that fill out the world of Arda beyond The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit — called Tolkien’s legendarium — close to its chest. Christopher Tolkien upholds his position as keeper of the keys to Middle-earth; the IP remains split; and The Silmarillion is still locked away, out of reach from those who might adapt Tolkien’s deeper mythology.

But after more than 30 years of video game adaptations, things don’t seem to be slowing for developers like Turbine and Monolith Productions. With The Lord of the Rings Online still bringing in players and Shadow of Mordor poised up against other major franchises like Dragon Age and Assassin’s Creed, it looks like the industry will still be talking Tolkien for years to come.

A fascinating dive into The Tolkien Estate. Tremendous piece by Corriea.

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The Cat Mario Show

In 1988, Nintendo distributed a first-party magazine called Nintendo Power full of reviews, previews, strategies, and tips and tricks. With the eShop channel, and programs like The Cat Mario Show, Nintendo seems to have found a great alternative to the magazine.

I’m very happy to see a focus put back on tips and tricks. Bolting to drug store magazine aisles to read GamePro, Nintendo Power, and EGM while on errands with my family remains one of my fondest memories. I remember flipping directly to the tips and tricks sections to see if any of the games I owned were being featured. In the event I found on, I’d scribble down the code or attempt to embed the button combinations into my muscle memory. In all honesty, clever tips and tricks were enough to sell me on a games I did not own; more so than actual previews and reviews.

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Historic Gaming

Colin Moriarty, IGN:

Indeed, players have to do very little in Valiant Hearts other than get through its short campaign, and even if you opt to do only that, it seems impossible not to get caught up in its passion and emotion. Valiant Hearts really resonates not only as a game, but as a wonderful teaching tool, one that makes history interesting and fun, just like it was when we played The Oregon Trail as young kids.

Hopefully, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a sign of more good things to come not only for those of us who love video games, but for those of us that understand the amazing power of history, too. History doesn’t have to be boring or dry. In fact, it never is, if it’s presented right. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is all the proof you need.

Interesting read after yesterday’s Assassin’s Creed Unity piece by Chris Plante.

My high school summers were spent taking history classes. This was in an attempt to get ahead in my curriculum and to condense my history lessons into shorter timeframes. Needless to say, I hated history until playing in the fictional world of Assassin’s Creed… even Uncharted for that matter.

If there is one educational avenue games and simulations have succeeded in, something I too learned from Oregon Trail, it is their ability to immerse us in and teach us about the past. Even the most stripped down gameplay or overly embellished fictions can be successful in delivering historically accurate lessons and stories that stick. Like Plante, history is the reason I am drawn to the Assassin’s Creed games. Not neck stabbing.

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1987 Nintendo

Excerpt from “Console Wars” by Blake J. Harris:

[Peter] Main’s approach to sales and marketing coincided with [Minoru] Arakawa’s overarching philosophy of “quality over quantity.” As Nintendo exploded, there were plenty of opportunities to make a quick buck (hardware upgrades, unnecessary peripherals), exploit the company’s beloved characters (movies, theme parks), or dilute the brand by trying attract an audience older than Nintendo’s six-to-fourteen-year-olds. But these kinds of things didn’t interest Arakawa. He wasn’t driven by making money, at least not in the short term. What propelled him, what kept him up at night, was a desire to continually provide Nintendo’s customers with a unique and flawless user experience. As proof of this never-ending obsession, he set up a toll-free telephone line where Nintendo “Game Counselors” were available all day to help players get through difficult levels, and he initiated the Nintendo Fun Club, which sent a free newsletter to any customer who had sent in a warranty card. Both programs were very costly and could have been offset by charging small fees or obtaining sponsorship, but Arakawa believed that doing so would compromise Nintendo’s mission.

Not a whole lot has changed.

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A Life Well Wasted

An internet radio show about videogames and the people who love them.

I am revisiting Robert Ashley’s A Life Well Wasted. If you’re a fan of Radiolab, the music of I Come To Shanghai or Jim Guthrie, and culture and history, you should be listening too.

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