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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.

metroid_ending.png

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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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”


Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”


But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.

via GIPHY

It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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