How I Voted For “The Art of Video Games,” Part 2

How I Voted For “The Art of Video Games,” Part 2 (photo)

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The Skinny: The Smithsonian gathered votes for its upcoming Art of Video Games and this week, I detail what I threw my weight behind. Part one is here. Today, I talk about my picks from the Sega Master System/ Nintendo Entertainment System era.

Era 2: 8-Bit

The reason this era’s so important is because it’s where you start to see technological advances affecting the video game medium. The advent of home computing created another space for games to be created in and driven towards. It’s also where you start to see just how much specific hardware can impact the execution of graphics and gameplay. That thread continues throughout Individual creators start to get name recognition and credit for their creations, and some even send games through the mail to customers. Of the systems listed in this era, I owned the Commodore 64 and the Sega Master System and had access to a Nintendo Entertainment System via my next-door neighbors. (What up, Abrams family!) Ok, then, here’s how I voted.

Commodore 64

Action Genre
“Impossible Mission”

So, yes, while I owned a C64 in the mid-80s, the games nominated here weren’t the ones I was crazy for. (Where’s “Beachead”? Or “Epyx Summer Games”?) Of the games for the beloved beige computer that show up on the ballot, I played “Raid on Bungeling Bay,” “Boulder Dash” and “Impossible Mission.” That last one–a secret agent action game with puzzle elements–was a highlight of my C64 days, even though I realize now that I wasn’t smart enough then to beat it. Sentimentality–and remembering the groundbreaking use of digitized voice–gets me voting for “Impossible Mission.” As the game’s villain said, “Stay a while… Stay foorevvvvver!” Word.

Sega Master System

Target Genre
“After Burner”

This aerial combat game tried to cash in on the success of “Top Gun.” The enemy squadrons I spent hours fighting on the home version of this game escalated in difficulty, but mostly I remember how hypnotic the combo of music and gameplay was. Also, they made gameplay out of having to refuel the fighter jet, a bit of realism that made it stand out.

Adventure Genre
“Phantasy Star”
As a comic nerd growing up, the only people I felt superior to were the D&D players. I never went in for the twenty-sided dice drama, even though I understand that as an adult the storytelling power of role-playing games. It was “Phantasy Star” that introduced me to that power.

I played it for weeks, exploring a planet in peril and amassing a merry band of adventurers. But, I’ll never forget how dark that final boss battle was, and you could only win it through a secret alchemy of items and skills that you blindly stumble upon. (Darkfalz scared the s**t out me, too. The elation I felt after beating “Phantasy Star” showed me that I did and could invest RPGs as an idea. But, I probably couldn’t do it in another student’s basement, poring over graph paper. Sorry, Dungeon Master.

Nintendo Entertainment System

Target Genre
Adventure Genre
“The Legend of Zelda”
legendofzelda-boxart.pngI didn’t take a count as I voted, but I think that Nintendo was in the upper percentiles of representation when it comes publisher/developer entities. And, digging even deeper, “The Legend of Zelda” probably shows up in more eras than any other franchise. The first game is one of those canonical games that show everything that can be right about a game. Wit, a sense of epic journey and adventure and music that stayed lodged in players’ heads for years are just some of the reason “Zelda” captured the hearts of gamers. Those elements–and new ones–have shown up in subsequent installments of the iconic series but the first “The Legend of Zelda” marks the start of a great franchise on rock-solid principles

Action Genre
“Super Mario Bros. 3”
“Mega Man 2”

This slate offered no angst to me. It’s “Metroid” all the way. Nintendo’s game captivated a whole generation of gamers with its massive, varied and interconnected levels. From a design perspective, it introduced that same generation to non-linear and recursive game architecture, too. (“Mega Man 2” was non-linear as well, to be fair.) “Metroid” made you go back to locations to open up previously unreachable areas once you acquired new weapons or upgrades. And the experience of playing “Metroid” was moody and lonely, much more evocative than other games of the era. And the reveal that protagonist Samus Aran was a woman remains a surprise ending for the ages.


Sega Master System
Action Genre
Who doesn’t want to be a ninja? This vote’s all about nostalgia, as I remember how bad-ass the “Shinobi” arcade game was. It’s the 1980s and it was the height of America’s (first? Second? infinite?) ninja obsession. Still, this was the first game that I can remember that made me feel lethal and stylish in the same breath. Teenage Evan couldn’t do either back in the day, so thank you “Shinobi” for filling the shuriken-shaped void in my heart.

Tomorrow: the Great Nintendo/Sega Wars!

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.


IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines


The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.


Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.


A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.


Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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