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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”
“Metroid”

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.

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Sega Master System
Action Genre
“Shinobi”
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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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.