Category Archives: Narrative vs Gameplay

Of Spinach and Shrooms

The secret to Popeye’s strength is not a well-kept one. Everyone knows that he’s “strong to the finish ‘cos he eats his spinach”. But the reason for his affection for this leafy green is more obscured. One popular myth claims he’s in it for the iron.

The myth goes like this: a 19th century German chemist misplaced a decimal point on a nutritional table, prompting the iron content of spinach to be grossly over-rated. This putative ferric potency of Spinach then convinced cartoonist E. C. Segar to make it the go-to food for his character Popeye.

This story has been promoted by many well-respected journalist and scientists as an example of the influence small mistakes can have, and the importance of checking your facts. Ironically, the story itself is spurious. It has proliferated because none of it’s promoters bothered to fact-check their allegory about fact-checking. James Sutton has the full story here.

Vitamin A, Exhibit A!

Vitamin A, Exhibit A!

But there’s another popular working man with a vegetable super food. It’s a-Mario, and he always eats his mushrooms. While not as widely cited as the Spinach story, Mario’s penchant for fungi does come with its own popular myth. Like Carroll’s Alice, people seem to think that Mario is on drugs. Continue reading

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Apokelypse Now

Imagine a nuclear bomb went off in the Pokemon universe. Maybe a meltdown in Cerulean City’s power plant. The once verdant plains become a barren waste. Pokemon have survived, but have turned rabid and savage, some mutated into hideous facsimiles of their formerly cutesy selves. Civilization is in ruin. Team rocket roams the wastes Mad Max style, terrorizing any survivors.

"Houndour, I choose you!"

“Houndour, I choose you!”

In an isolated village, 3 youths come of age. They have heard of the disaster, and felt it in their now polluted fields and sea. There are no fish, and nothing grows anymore. The elders of the village are sick and feeble, soon to die. So the youths depart for the wastes, with six Pokeballs on their belts, and a dream in their hearts. A dream… to catch them all. Continue reading

Gathering Grue: 3 Treatments for ‘The Giver’ the Game

A film version of Lois Lowry’s award-winning 1994 novel The Giver was green-lit a while ago. The release date and most of the cast is yet unknown, but of one thing I am sure. Where there’s fire there’s smoke, and where there are teen fantasy productions there are video game tie-ins.

Some of which are better than others...

Some of which are better than others…

For the fun of wild speculation, I offer three possible treatments of the book and its utopian/dystopian universe. And if you’ve never read the book and still intend to, I must warn ye; here be spoilers. Continue reading

Bad Games People Still Play: Risk

Risk is another one of the board game classics for people too afraid to try new things. The game is overly long, tedious to play, and far too luck-dependent for a putative strategy game. It also gives an advantage to eliminating players, which means people will be killed early and excluded from most of the game. How is that fun?

Worse still, having more territories means gaining more reinforcements, and having more reinforcements means you can more easily capture territories – resulting in a feedback loop. Whoever’s feedback loop spirals out of control first typically wins the game. Unfortunately you can always see this coming 5-10 turns away, so there isn’t even a climatic feel to the endgame. The winner being known in advance deflates any suspense that might have built.

Well, at least they haven't flipped the board.

Well, at least they haven’t flipped the board… yet.

 But without continuing in too much detail about the shortcomings of Risk, I’d like to highlight a major source for many of the game’s problems. Continue reading