Bandai’s Joy Family

A Japanese toymaker's role in the history of board games If you played NES in the 80s, watched Power Rangers in the 90s, or dipped into the world of Japanese toys in the past five decades, you've likely heard of Bandai. Established in 1950, the toymaker managed to insinuate their name into the American consciousness like many other Japanese companies of the time—via toys, television, and videogames. Though much younger than the House of Mario, Bandai's own rise to toy stardom ...

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The Future of Videogames, 1977

In January 1977, the Electronic Engineering Times organized a three-day gathering of designers, manufacturers, consultants, and suppliers hailing from the nascent electronic game industry. Eighteen talks from this First Annual Gametronics Conference were later collected in the Gametronics Proceedings, archiving a fascinating glimpse into the diverse and exciting future of electronic games, comprising everything from coin-operated arcade machines to touch-based input devices to the then-new 'programmable' (i.e., cartridge-based) TV games pioneered by Fairchild's Video Entertainment System (VES). At this point ...

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Don’t Call It A Remake

The latest announcement of the Final Fantasy VII remake’s episodic structure has triggered the expected blowback from those who hoped their beloved JRPG would never stray from the perceived perfection of the original. Square is in a no-win position, both trying to update the dated aspects of a strange and sprawling game while also honoring the spirit, scale, and narrative of the original. But what’s more interesting than both developer and fan rationale and reactions is the general willingness ...

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Knots & Loops

Images of Videogame Narratives The following paper was originally delivered at the Readers' Advisory Forum of the American Library Association in Washington D.C., June 2010. As you may notice from the title of my discussion, I have, through a minor prepositional adjustment, taken on today’s theme in a slightly oblique manner. The prescribed topic should be ‘Images in Videogame Narrative,’ a suitably rich source of conversation, since games are certainly involved in visual storytelling, but I am far more interested in ...

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I AM EXTRA: Manic Compression

How Donkey Kong's programmers used compression to save ROM space. The following section is one of I AM ERROR’s oldest—it appeared in the initial drafts of chapter 2 (which I wrote first) in early 2012. It also remained intact until quite late in the manuscript process—at least until mid-2014—lodged between the 'Missing Pies' and 'Binary Kill' sections. As such, it made it through numerous revisions and copyedits. In the end, I cut the section because it felt supplemental. Though compression is an ...

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I AM EXTRA

Cuts, corpora, and commentaries from I AM ERROR. Good writing means making sacrifices, and editing is among the hardest tasks that a writer will face. During the nearly four-year process of pitching, researching, drafting, editing, revising, and finally publishing my first book, I AM ERROR, I wrote over 160,000 words and included over 100 images. At its most bloated, in August 2013, the book was over 600 pages long. And it would have been a poorer, more boring book if ...

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I AM EXTRA: The Super C Helicopter Boss

How Konami's developers used the MMC3 scanline counter to create large moving enemies. The following section was originally intended to directly follow the Mega Man 2 Mecha Dragon discussion in the 'Big Boss' section of chapter 6. According to my notes, I began dissecting the Super C Area 1 boss fight on September 9, 2012, though I recall that it took me several days to understand how the scanline counter worked and translate that into readable prose. (I also planned to ...

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Bravely Default’s Temporal Strata

Videogame time is weird. Though all manner of clocks and timers, whether computational or diegetic, drive play, time rarely operates in games as it does in real life. Even games that pride themselves on 'realistic' day/night cycles—games as varied as Assassin's Creed, Minecraft, and Forza Horizon—tend to compress these cycles into tight loops. A few years back, I gave a presentation on videogame time and narrative called 'Knots and Loops' where I compared the temporal structure of many videogames ...

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Stencyl Tutorial Series: Blockade (Part I)

For our introductory tutorial, we will use Stencyl to replicate the 1976 arcade game Blockade. Blockade is an early precursor to Snake and its ilk, minus the touch-an-item-to-grow mechanic. Each player controls a growing wall, or blockade, steering its leading edge around the screen in an attempt to avoid colliding with itself, the screen border, or the opposing blockade. Players score a point by surviving longer without a collision; first player to reach six points wins. The game is ...

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Unforeseeable Sentences

Last month, professor and media theorist Jay Bolter wrote a short post called 'Browsing culture' that rebuts a refrain commonly heard from fans of physical books. He writes, 'One of the criticisms one hears over and over about the digitization of the library is that it will eliminate the element of serendipity...Yet one wonders whether these critics have ever gone online to look for anything.' He contends that the web, as indicated by its primary interface, is structured around ...

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