Thursday, April 28, 2011

In which something finally snaps (Gilligan's Island)

The observation that no man is an island, aside from being only slightly more obvious than the fact that no man is a rutabaga, serves to overlook the simple fact that...

Oh, fuck it. What am I doing here? I mean, really, what has my life come to that I'm trying to come up with anything remotely intelligent to blog about the fucking Gilligan's Island NES game? I mean, what sort of pathetic and self-important ass would I have to be to suggest that there is anything remotely worthwhile to be said about this festering pile of digital feces? There isn't. The very suggestion that this game in any way matters to humanity - that it is even theoretically possible that this game has some larger metaphorical significance - seems mostly like a crushingly rude snub on humanity.

It is not that Gilligan's Island is an unusually bad game. I mean, it's absolutely wretched, but let's face it, wretched is the norm on the NES. That's part of the reason the theme of this blog is rapidly developing into "crushing misery." Well, that any my growing realization that a PhD in English actually makes me functionally unemployable and that, given the general state of things, I will probably die penniless of a treatable illness in the richest country in the world. But don't worry. Mostly it's just that NES games really suck. I wouldn't want you to think I have a warped set of priorities or anything.

Rather, it's that Gilligan's Island flaunts its complete lack of effort like no game I have ever seen. Through and through, in every last aspect of the game, whether it be the repetitive "sitcom dialogue" apparently written by writers fired from Joanie Loves Chachi for being insufficiently funny (and let's face it, who knew such a thing existed), the clunky controls, the shit AI, or the fact that it's a fucking Gilligan's Island game, despite the fact that absolutely nobody in the world was clamoring for such a thing.

I mean, there's a famous story of market research that says that the electric knife was almost not brought to market because research showed that nobody would actually use one. Until someone noticed that, although nobody wanted one, tons of people would buy them as gifts for other people. And so, despite the fact that there was no actual demand for the product, the electric knife was launched.

But that somber indictment of capitalism seems like an Edible Arrangement compared to Gilligan's Island, the NES game. Gilligan's Island, off the air for twenty-two years at the time of the game's release, was hardly the model of a property beloved by youth and college kids with disposable incomes. Nor is "Oh bugger we're stuck on an island and bloody incompetent" the image of an exciting action game. Even Dallas would be better - characters clearly have extra lives, and you can at least shoot JR.

And so it's not that the game isn't good. It's that the game, in all its stultifying wretchedness, is actually every bit as good as it has to be to satisfy its design and purpose. It's that the game knows full well that it doesn't have to try, and thus doesn't try. It is a game made out of sheer disdain for its players and its audience, a lame cash grab for the bargain bins marketed to parents who will remember the show and not know better.

And, I mean, we should hardly be surprised. One's heart sinks the moment "Bandai" appears on the screen, given that Bandai's video game division basically spent the NES years releasing an unrelenting torrent of shit upon the world. Their games list is a fucking who's who of games I've previously complained about - Frankenstein: The Monster Returns, Chubby Cherub, Dick Tracy, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde... the list does not just go on, it goes on while actively torturing dark recesses of my brain with searing memories of playing this shit for half an hour at a stretch. Bandai is, let's face it, a company that exists, at least in NES terms, for the sole and express purpose of releasing crappy games. Actively. As a matter of policy, they clearly prefer to cheaply release shit than work to give the player a remotely entertaining experience.

And in the end, there's no metaphor here. There's no deep secret mystery that unlocks my childhood or anyone else's. There's just dodgy controls, stupid licenses, and pointless video games, and the sense that as an eight year old, I was being financially exploited by late capitalism.

So fuck it. I have nothing left on this one. Tomorrow is another game. Well, Tuesday. Tomorrow is another episode of Doctor Who, which is guaranteed to be better than this game. I can't even be bothered to fire it up again to get a screenshot. Screw it. Let's just slap the crappy box art up at the top of the entry and call it a day.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An Imaginary Lithuanian Hero (GI Joe, GI Joe: The Atlantis Factor)

I remember vividly and guiltily how, in the lead up to the Gulf War, I longed for war. It was natural. A view of history that treated war as the interesting bits, reinforced by a view of mass media that taught me that wars were where fun things like cartoons and video games happened meant that by 1990, at the age of 8, I was positively bitter that my life had dragged on without a proper war to keep things interesting.

The viewpoint is, like so much of being eight, barbaric in hindsight. It is not quite bloodlust, but rather a sort of blood blindness - the complete failure to recognize war as something other than the skeleton upon which a textbook is draped.

Despite this, growing up, I avoided the Scylla and Charybdis of gender roles, eschewing both Matell's pink offerings and Hasbro's GI Joe line. It is not that I was not properly socialized into the commodity fetishism of cartoon voodoo dolls, but mine were Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and He-Man (and even then, my previously stated disdain for my gender showed - I much preferred She-Ra, and searched long and hard for an April O'Neil figure). GI Joe always seemed vaguely alarming to me.

Part of this is perhaps the marketing. Little appeals to me less than the prospect of real American heroes. Nationalism has never been a comfortable ideology for me. There are articulable reasons for this, but those are mostly the products of a 28-year-old liberal coming to terms with a sense he has always had. At the end of the day, my sense is rather that nobody ever got around to making a compelling case for the greatness of America, instead leaving the world to make its unsettling case against us.

I am not anti-American so much as more or less neutral American. Given the choice between loving it or leaving it, I opt mostly to bet that whoever is shouting that at me is not actually going to pop back around in a few and see if I cleared out. I neither love it nor dislike it with sufficient passage to make departure a priority. (Yet. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't seriously considering fleeing for a place with a health care system.) The result is a sense of anti-patriotism that is mostly perfectly willing to sulk in relative silence, but every once in a while comes face to face with loud nationalism and is compelled to make bitchy comments.

But I'm straying too far forward here. At the age of eight, the calculus was far simpler. Advertising something as a real American hero meant nothing to me. No, that's not quite it either. It meant something to me, but what it meant was unsettlingly and indistinctly sinister. Too much of the phrase seemed over-earnest. Was there an excess of artificial American heroes? Was America somehow lacking in heroes compared to other countries? What about the phrase "real American hero" exactly was intended to signify, and what?

This dilemma seems to me the bread and butter of childhood, a period that it is more or less impossible to look back on without wondering how, exactly, anyone thought it was a good idea to simply turn us loose in a world of signifiers and media and expect us to find dry land. Without some explanation of the interplay between the real and the imaginary, and a firm sense of the geopolitical implications of American heroism as compared to the other hundred and ninety-four choices (fewer then, to be fair, as Eastern Europe was still fragmenting).

Although my instincts, as I said, were to circle warily around these signifiers, the nature of the Nintendo Project is that such evasion cannot last forever. Eventually it becomes necessary to confront the abandoned remnants of childhood. Eventually one must face a real American hero and decide for once and for all what it is.

Based purely on the 1991 and 1992 GI Joe video games, the answer is not much. Tedious run-and-guns of the most banal sort, inasmuch as these games seem to make any comment about American heroism it suggests that American heroism consists of the Protestant ethic as opposed to any thrilling bravado. If there were games to indoctrinate children into the foolish ideology of warmongering, this is hardly the game to do it with, making the Army of One an unappealing slog. I would do the games the basic courtesy of separating them into two paragraphs, but there's no real reason to do that - they're the same generic action game.

What is most striking about them, however, is their sense of the enemy. This is endemic to GI Joe, in which Real American Heroes are contrasted with nothing except for, tellingly, Cobra Command. I do not mean to be so megalomaniacal as to suggest that this organization was named for the concept I defined off of an unrelated video game, but if they were, they did a great job. As a fictional concept, Cobra Command is a staggeringly vague assemblage of concepts, basically being a paramilitary corporation. Although the temptation is to draw some sort of equivalence to Xe Services or something, the truth is that Cobra Command is altogether more ambiguous, a sort of lurking villainy happy to slot in and be evil in a given situation.

This sticky tack and string approach to villainy, in which there is not so much a set of principles and an ethos as there is a twirling moustache that will tie Pauline to the railroad tracks when called upon to do so, is a chilling reduction of the world that is enough to make one long for the Frankfurt School conspiracy theories of the culture industry. There, at least, there is some sense that the strings are being pulled in pursuit of some greater evil. The sense that one is opposed by something significant.

The world of GI Joe is far worse. A world in which heroism is a banal and rote opposition to a nebulously defined evil, where the wheels turn and the bullets fly without any larger interest being served. Looking back, we can see that the greatest sin of real American heroes is not blind patriotism, or any jingoistic brutality, but the far more banal evil of base nihilism. We do not fight because we must, nor because we can, nor even because we want to. Indeed, we do not fight because. We simply fight, real heroes that we aren't.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Strange Doors That We'd Never Close Again (Gargoyle's Quest II, Ghouls and Ghousts, Ghoul School)

A larger, more monolithic experience in video games than Ghosts n Goblins seems impossible to find. Surely one of the all-time classics of the NES era, the game is through and through brilliant. But playing it, it is strangely difficult to pin down why. Other than the music, an admittedly brilliant piece, there is some sense of futility here - a game with oddly clunky level design and oddly unfair enemies. But as with many classics, there is something else - some undefinable trace that nevertheless cannot be ignored or reduced out. There is no reason this game should be great, and yet, despite all of its flaws, it is. In the end, this turns into a paradox. The game is monstrously hard for a classic, far harder than any massively popular game seems to have any right to be. There is no reason why it should be beloved in a world where few can clear the second level. The game is sheer brutality, positioned in plain sight, and strangely accepted despite it. But this is, perhaps, an important lesson - monsters, in point of fact, rarely lurk.

All the same, a sense of ineffable fascination is necessary to the function of a monster. It is not that we must want to gaze upon the monster - in fact, it is in some sense essential that we wish the monster to be unseen. Rather, we must not want to look away from the monster. Whether it is an artfully rendered or stuck in a clumsy video game with pathetically bad graphics, we are compelled not to avert our eyes. This is the basic dynamic upon which the monster functions - we must want always a sort of stasis. Whether the monster is seen or unseen, we want first and foremost for it to stay that way.

An unnecessary redemption of a sequel, Gargoyle's Quest 2 manages the odd feat of being a completely unnecessary game that's still pretty good. On paper, it's a train wreck - a pseudo-RPG sequel to a classic arcade game that fuses light RPG elements with wall-jumping/gliding action gaming featuring the game's main villain as the protagonist. Even if any part of this works, the combination is so bloatedly unnecessary that something has to go wrong. And yet somehow it works, perhaps because it development appears to have been conducted with no second thoughts or hesitations, plowing gamely forward to produce a game that works in spite of itself.

For it to stay that way, of course, one must move. None of this is because you want it. You had what you wanted, before that damnable Red Arremer swooped down to take her. Your armor sitting there, mere feet away, crumbled in a post-coital heap as she was stolen. Now you have no choice but this endless forward march. No second thoughts or hesitations, compelled by lust or duty not to avert your eyes, you march on, up these horrific towers, pushing desperately for an unnecessary redemption.

In its loathsome form, the alien is eye and bubbling flesh. These are the monsters that make up the bulk of Imagineering's 1992 NES game Ghoul School. Imagineering was the in-house development studio of Absolute Entertainment, which means this is a game from the people who brought you the classic A Boy and His Blob. (Now there's an entry that merits a complete rewrite and expansion for an eventual ebook version of this blog) Which means about what you'd expect - pathetically bad graphics, incredibly clumsy controls, etc. Avoiding getting hit is a matter of dumb luck, with nothing to insulate you from your environment. And yet despite this, like A Boy and His Blob, there is a sense of ineffable fascination.

In spite of itself, the monster holds strange power. Inevitably disappointing as it may be, we cannot do without its visage. What is a hallway without the possibility of unknown footsteps behind you? What use are shadows that do not flicker in the corner of your eye? What use is the faint trace or echo if it is not a portent of far worse possibility? We depend on the gnawing knowledge that something has to go wrong, that in some gap or stammer, some repeated bit of data, some awful fiend shall emerge.

Its arrival is necessary, the inevitable culmination of a stretch of graves and zombies. Whipped aloft on leathery wings adapted to ride the thermals of this awful place, its fur burns a brilliant crimson that is not of this world. It is not the rusty thrush of blood, nor the rich purple of wine, nor even the incinerate glow of embers, but rather the heat of some other awful fire from a place mercifully far from here. Its hair crackles and pops, a million tongues of fire spasming across its skin. Even before the acrid stench and unholy glow can be seen, you know it is there. This fur is not designed to insulate this creature from its environment. Already the incandescence within its fell gut generates such heat that from the beast's mouth spits searing flames. Rather, this fur insulates the world, imprisoning the balefire in its loathsome form.

Monsters, in point of fact, rarely lurk, at least not unexpectedly. The entire reason a monster is scary is because it is expected. The monster is only scary if you know it is there. Where this turns into a paradox is that the presence of the monster drains its fear even as the inevitability of its arrival is necessary.

Some awful fiend shall emerge. That is the way these things always end. A stretch of mortal peril interrupted only by the emergence of larger mortal peril. This feebly armored life builds inexorably and constantly towards this inevitable end. And yet there is some sense of futility here. Some part of you knows that you are not the first nor the last to trod this ground. Or, a far worse possibility, that this is neither the first nor last time you yourself have trod this ground. That this entire affair is some ghastly encore, a repeat performance in an epic that will go on to rival Cats for sheer frustration. That even if you survive, it will all turn out to be some fiendish trap, a game within a game, your past performance a mere echo, disassembled out of any sensible order, if such a thing ever existed, embedded in a larger, more monolithic experience.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Number You Are Calling Has Been Disconnected Due To Lack Of Payment (Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II)

The essential premise of the film Ghostbusters, when you get down to it, is that three upper middle class academics have to slum it in a working class job like exterminators. Yes, it layers all sorts of wacky paranormal goofiness onto that, but at the end of the day, that's what it's about - the absurdity of working class paranormal experts. 

Class issues are perhaps the most overlooked aspect of video gaming. Reams of text exist on gender and video games. Smaller reams exist on race and video games. Very little exists on the issue of class and economics in video games.

Those approaches that do exist focus on things like Farmville. I'll take Jonathan Blow here, the creator of Braid, the best video game of the last decade. (The website fails to mention that Braid is also available from the Mac app store. This blog gets about 200 readers a day, so far as I can tell. I assume some of you have played Braid before, but if Braid does not get 150 purchases within the next 48 hours from you lot, you have done it wrong. Go buy Braid. If you like this blog, you will like the game. Period.) But in an interview with Gamasutra, Blow says:
It's about "How do we make something that looks cute and that projects positivity" -- but it actually makes people worry about it when they're away from the computer and drains attention from their everyday life and brings them back into the game. Which previous genres of game never did. And it's about, "How do we get players to exploit their friends in a mechanical way in order to progress?" And in that or exploiting their friends, they kind of turn them in to us and then we can monetize their relationships. And that's all those games are, basically.
In other words, and I think Blow is absolutely correct here, the point of Farmville is to treat the player's time as labor. Fun is given as a reward for investing sufficient amounts of labor into the game. The games thus work specifically by deferring the player's fun - by promising them that in the future they might get to have fun, just so long as they play more.

In a way, this is a regression towards the old arcade stimulus - insert a quarter to die again. But in practice it has merged with the equally disgusting trend towards "gamification," a word that cannot have enough scare quotes put on it. In the arcade mode, fun is dished out in increments. Skill allows you to buy fun more efficiently. But when you insert a quarter, you are definitely buying 25 cents of fun. But the gamification model removes fun from the occasion - instead, you invest your labor as labor and get a reward - victory. The point of Farmville is not that crop harvesting is fun, it's that crop harvesting is the labor you have to invest to get shinies.

(Yes, I am conflating social gaming and gamification. Why? Because they're the same fucking trend.)

But for all that Farmville is an extreme example, once you take the step of equating gameplay and labor, overt Marxism is difficult to avoid. With bad games, that's downright easy - it's next to impossible not to read something like Frankenstein: The Monster Returns as anything other than a game in which you experience endless misery for the arbitrary prize of "winning." But it's true of good games too. It's hilariously easy to read Gauntlet as a chilling parable of the underclass working themselves literally to death (as their lifeforce ticks away, they desperately try to eke out just a few more kills). Video gaming is a medium about class. That's why we don't talk about class - because the nature of the game is the exploitation of labor as a mechanism of producing more labor. You play a game to be taught to play more game.

What, then, do we make of Ghostbusters, a game adaptation of a movie that is already about the exploitative nature of labor under late capitalism? Well, let's start with Ghostbusters II, because it's by far the simpler angle. Ghostbusters II is a completely shitty game in which you flail about ineffectually platforming. Being a tie-in game, it exists mostly to prove that the ethical bankruptcy of Farmville is not a new phenomenon in video gaming, rather the existence of intelligent people like Jonathan Blow who believe that video gaming can and should be better and are willing to be vocal about it is a new phenomenon.

Ghostbusters II is a masterful piece of cynicism. On the back of a reasonably successful (due to being pretty darn good) licensed game and a new movie, Ghostbusters II is nothing more than an attempt to argue that your enjoyment of the film creates in you a moral obligation to buy and play a game regardless of its actual content. That is, after all, the central rhetoric of the licensed game - the content doesn't matter, because you buy the game on the basis of its branding. The gameplay is simply the labor you must endure in order to fulfill your existing contract formed only on the basis of your appreciation for the movie and previous games, i.e. fun that you have already paid for but that somehow was in excess of what you paid and thus amounts to a debt on your part.

Ghostbusters, on the other hand, is a supremely not-half-bad game, at least for half of it. (The concluding portion of the game, in which you climb Zuul's tower, is easily one of the worst gameplay mechanics ever, and unless you engage in some radically postmodernist reading in which the misery of this experience is a commentary on the relationship of the gamer and the product of his labor, you should simply ignore it as a trainwreck) But what is interesting about it is specifically that it is a good game that plays on a mechanic of labor.

See, the Ghostbusters have exactly the problem you'd expect them to have - they have virtually no money and still have to defend the city from a siege of ghosts. Even though the city direly needs them to solve its ghost problem, it's still going to charge them. Perhaps most ludicrously, there is an entire store dedicated to selling ghost catching supplies. The world is on the brink of ending, and they are still charging in a business-as-usual fashion. There is, in fact, a minimum $4000 investment to have even an abstract chance of helping the problem.

From there, you spend most of the game balancing cash flow - trying to catch enough ghosts so that you can actually afford to catch ghosts, while simultaneously trying to build up sufficient "savings" to buy the equipment needed to survive Zuul's Tower, which, of course, you won't. Perhaps most tellingly, Ghostbusters is the only game I am aware of in which the world can end because you were too poor to buy gas. In other words, the game is about the need to have sufficient quantities of money in order to play the game effectively.

Ghostbusters, then, is a rare game - a game that allegorizes labor and class, as opposed to simply using those concepts for the further exploitation of the player. There are better games, for sure. But there may well not be fairer ones.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Entry Is Not About the Homoerotic Connection Between George Foreman and Genghis Khan (Genghis Khan, George Foreman's KO Boxing)

But that doesn't mean I won't make sure that it becomes the first Google hit for anyone looking for Genghis Khan/George Foreman slash fiction. In any case, it's been a while since we've talked about fighting, and I don't think anyone actually read that entry anyway. (For very sound reasons, nobody progresses to the beginning of the archive) So let's do it again. Or shall we say, conflict.

Genghis Khan, depending on who you ask, is either a conquerer who amassed the single largest empire of any human being ever, or what is widely recognized as the best strategy game of all time. In his former guise, with a set of brutal tactics that included the routine massacre of civilian populations, which does make it easier to conquer huge swaths of the world, people generally being the major problem with ruling the world. But the Mongol empire, at the time of his death, included parts of what are now Iran and India. At the height of the empire, it included parts of what are now Poland and Vietnam, which I encourage you to stop and think about in terms of scale, given that it was a contiguous empire.

Part of the shock of this fact is that in a world currently divided into individualized nation states that provide a sense of microculture that is heightened by the fact that mass communication is such that a subculture can exist. The odd effect of this is that we tend to marginalize the genuine strangenesses of ancient cultures. It took a surprisingly short amount of time for globalization to set in, with light Sino-Roman relations existing, as well as the wonderful example of the Indo-Greeks.

The unfortunate reality of the world being that the sword, through most of human history, has been a relatively effective mechanism of cultural exchange. But even there, Genghis Khan is oddly out of place, since he was extravagantly destructive of cultures. The Mongol Empire was cosmopolitan in a weird way, in that it was brutal in breaking the backs of existing cultures, but positively progressive in its tolerance for the cultural quirks of the survivors so long as the money still flowed to the capital.

But this gets at the fact that military conquest is a genuinely complex affair. Which is why in most regards the primary genre for war video games has been, for most of the history of video gaming, the turn-based strategy game, of which Genghis Khan is an example. I've talked about the difficulty of these games for this blog before - the fact of the matter is that half an hour is nowhere near long enough to get into a game that depends on enormously complex game mechanics.

At its heart, the turn-based strategy game depends on the tension between a game mechanic that is trivial to use - "Pick something off a menu" - and a game mechanic that is enormously difficult to use well. This is oddly suitable to the art of war and combat, in which the act of shooting someone in the face is unsettlingly easier than balancing the competing desires of multiple nation-states in an attempt to ensure a stable geopolitical situation.

Indeed, there is a strange tension between Genghis Khan and George Foreman (that could possibly, but in all likelihood will not, lead to passionate sexual congress between them) in this regard. Genghis Khan's primary genius as a military leader was in his ability to organize the complex machinery of war. In other words, his genius was specifically in his ability to distance himself from the actual mechanics of fighting and battle in favor of the mechanics of geopolitical motion. George Foreman, on the other hand, was a master at the art of defeating people.

It's difficult to comment on a game like George Foreman's KO Boxing prior to the primal scene of boxing video games, Punch Out. At the end of the day, these games are rhythm games with violence, about the pace and tempo of the fight. George Foreman's KO Boxing is based on dodging punches at the right times and landing punches at the other right times.

This is not actually any worse an approach for a boxing game than turn-based strategy is for a war game. Just as war is about the vast complexity of its moving parts, boxing is about the intimacy of combat in that classic homoerotic way. It is about the intense physicality of the experience every bit as much as war is about the intense abstraction of it.

But what occupies the space in between the intimacy of combat and the theory of war? What fills the gap  from soldier to general? That void between the experienced reality of combat and the unknowable but equally, if not more true and more important reality of the abstract systems that war fuels. In the fumbling coitus of boxer turned kitchen appliance salesman and vicious historical warlord, this mysterious point of contact between the two seems to be everything - the unknowable spark of battle and forbidden love.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Am Error (Game Genie, Gemfire)

My copy of Gemfire is a bad ROM, displaying random text in lieu of an actual game, replacing known content with that mainstay of digital media, the glitch. Far from being an aberrant error, the glitch is a central part of the experience of the NES, an era where the games frequently existed on a spectrum between function and breakdown. The entire intrigue of the infamous "I AM ERROR" man in Zelda II is that it is not actually as far a step from "DODONGO DISLIKES SMOKE" or "PAY ME FOR DOOR REPAIR" in the grand interpretive schema of things. Minus World exists as a meaningful phenomenon within Super Mario Brothers, gloriously restored in the Virtual Console re-release, providing the retrogaming experience with new authenticity consciously lacking in previous releases. It is not separate from the experience of the NES, but rather a real and genuine part of the experience, just as the accidental oversight of infinite 1-Ups in World 3-1 is a part of what Super Mario Bros is. 

When video gaming is assumed to happen in these lawless gaps, what do we make of it? I'll advocate up and down for video games as the medium most suited to the long-term preservation of poetry, but to say this claim has unfortunate consequences for the original medium of poetry is an understatement. Suddenly we are forced to attempt a strange new sort of backwards compatibility, applying concepts before their time. Do the Four Quartets have an unspoken Minus Quartet? Is there a cheat code for the Goblin Market? Is the apparition of these faces in the crowd not petals on a wet, black bough but rather just sprite slowdown?

The Game Genie, I realized an entry too late, required an entry as well. If only because it was at the center of one of the few landmark intellectual property disputes in video gaming history, the Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. v. Nintendo of America, Inc. case, or, as we tend to just call it when we're being lazy, Galoob v. Nintendo. See, the Game Genie was a Nintendo cartridge, like an other unlicensed Nintendo cartridge.

Actually, I suppose we should start with the phrase "unlicensed cartridge," because it reflects a completely different mentality of how video games work. Unlicensed cartridges existed because hackers existed. The same crowd that now designs the Homebrew channel for the Wii and mod chips for the XBox then worked through almost charmingly brute-force measures - chips that provided a voltage spike that scrambled the 10NES region locking chip in the system, cartridges that you could plug another cartridge into in order to use it to get through the 10NES chip, or, in the case of Tengen, elaborate theft of intellectual property and reverse engineering. All of which was a grand tradition marred only by the fact that virtually no unlicensed games were even remotely playable. Only Tengen, really just Atari in disguise (its name is also a term from Go) ever put anything of quality out, most notably the legendary Tengen Tetris cartridge.

Once you understand that, you can understand the Game Genie. Sold by Galoob, it depended on a very simple sales logic. Because Galoob was a titanically large toy company, and in those days sales of NES games focused more heavily on toy stores (with what is now Gamestop then being a motley of distinct mall stores - Software Etc, Babbages, and Electronics Boutique, most notably - which focused at the time on actual computer software, not console video gaming), even though it was unlicensed, it had significant distribution. And unlike every other unlicensed cartridge, the Game Genie had a purpose, which was basically hacking for the masses.

See, what the Game Genie did was take as input a series of characters - no different in appearance than a normal old video game password - that altered the games code subtly. Basically, you could take an arbitrary portion of the game's ROM and replace it with a value of your choosing. The vast majority of the time this had no useful result, either changing the game in an essentially imperceptible way or simply breaking the game. But every once in a while - mostly in ways carefully sought out by and compiled by Galoob - the Game Genie functioned as the cheat codes the games didn't have - infinite lives, invulnerability, level selection, and other such modifiations.

Nintendo, perhaps unsurprisingly, was less than fond of this and sued Galoob, arguing that the Game Genie illegally produced a derivative work that was copyright infringement. Mercifully, this argument was laughed at, with the situation being compared instead to playing a board game with house rules. (The lawsuit is surprisingly significant precedent, most notably coming up in the attempt by TV companies to prevent SonicBlue from implementing commercial skipping technology in their ReplayTV product. The TV industry was eventually able to win that one by default by lawyering SonicBlue to death even though what they did was unquestionably legal, but not before Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner managed a legendarily horrifying piece of verbal diarrhea when he claimed that skipping commercials meant you were stealing television, but that "there's a certain amount of tolerance" for going to the bathroom during commercial breaks. The temptation for a joke about how presumably number one is fair use, but number two is copyright infringement is too high, I'm afraid.)

The Game Genie, then, reduces game to code, although calling this a reduction when in fact the two have always been equivalent in reality. It is only in the fantasy of actual play that some distinction emerges between the code and the game. But here, perhaps, is where the poetry re-emerges. The code as "experienced" by the system is not even the machine language of ones and zeros, but rather a system of electrical pulses and magnetic fields that a human can no more read as "the game" than the Nintendo can understand the eternal longing for the displaced princess, endlessly elided to another castle. When we bind these pulses together to the compromised form of code, a strange twilight realm that neither man nor machine quite interpret, we create something that approximates poetry - an abstracted metaphor finally subjected to proper postmodern rigor by the burgeoning and brilliant Critical Code Studies group.

If we associate contemporary poetry with the lyrical tradition, which is fair, then the central move of code - to capture an ineffable event in a structured form that bestows it with meaning via metaphor - is the central move of code-writing. But by this standard all video game is lyrical, operating via the encoding and decoding of abstract systems into formal semiotic systems. To play a video game is to engage in poesis.

Gemfire, ostensibly a game about medieval warfare back-ported from the SNES, is in some ways more authentically experienced as a screeching glitch, interminable and inaccessible. The magic smoke turns out to be little more than a puff of characterset, a voltage spike of grapheme to shock our region locking into accepting the bad data. That the game should be mis-translated is common - after all, the entire mode of play of the NES is the Engrish mis-translation of the non-existant cultural heritage of Japan.

This is the shadow realm of our metaphors, qlippothic and unseemly. As a medium that trades on the frisson of metaphor and thing, of sign and object, the NES is oddly more at home in these spaces of glitch and cheat. We must admit in some sense that Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A B A Start has an ontology and a presence that transcends that of Contra or Gradius, that is real and present in a way that the endless translations of event and sprite and code and pulse can never be.

To what end is the decay of meaning to language to code to an unneeded restlessness of air molecules or an ejaculation of ink even suitable to this task? Do we capture some greater meaning if the process is disturbed? If, NES-like, we allow for the inevitable mistranslation, taking the fact that pulse and glyph can never understand each other? What would our understanding look like misunderstood? If we turned back the translation of the Nintendo Generation, returning to our fictional motherland and translated ourselves anew, recompiled if you will.

Gemfire my copy of the digital media, replace the main content that is known to glitch, to display random text instead of the actual game, a bad ROM. So far, the errors are unusual, NES glitch is the heart of the experience of age on the spectrum that existed between the game and failure is often a function. Zelda II's infamous "I am error" Reference conspiracy whole man, it is "DODONGO smoke hate" as a step away from, in the schema interpretation of magnificent things and that is not actually "repair door I pay for "is. Minus world, in an earlier release of the new conscious and lacking credibility retrogaming provide experience in the Virtual Console re-release of the brilliant, the phenomenon exists as a meaningful recovery in the Super Mario Bros. I. This is not different from the experiences of NES, but rather experience the real and genuine, a world infinitely 3-1 - UPS Super Mario Bros. and director of the contingent will be part of something . 

Video games, do we do that, you will be expected to occur in these lawless gap? I'm in, most suitable for long-term preservation of the poem, I'll stand down for a video game, this claim is a conservative with the unfortunate consequence of the media saying that the original poem. Suddenly, when we apply the concept before his time, is forced to try strange new sort of backward compatibility. Four Quartets, do you have an implicit negative quartet? Goburinmaketto cheat codes available? These shades, the crowd, not wet, you are facing a slowdown in the sprite in the petals of a branch just black? 

Game Genie, I realized it must have an entry too late entries. It is the history of video games, Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. Nintendo and the United States, Inc. If so only if it is the heart of one of intellectual property disputes breakthrough some or we are lazy when we tend to call it, Galoob is Nintendou pair ' again. See, the Game Genie was like ライセンスニンテンドーカートリッジ Nintendokatorijji others. 

In fact, I have completely different ideas to reflect on how the video game business that we are "unlicensed cartridges" and must begin with the phrase. Because there was a hacker, there was an unlicensed cartridges. Currently, Xbox's Wii mod chip to design your own channels with the same crowd appeal nearly worked through brute force protection at the time - lock in the system chip that provides a voltage spike 10NES chip area scramble, cartridges Then, another cartridge to be able to plug, 10NES you can use to get through the chip, Tengen, for the elaborate theft of intellectual property and reverse engineering. All in the game essentially unlicensed grand tradition was ruined by the fact that only the remote play. Tasty The only really just disguised the Atari (Its name is a term Go) of something by far the most remarkable quality, Tian Tetorisukatorijji place of legend. 

Once you understand that you can understand the devil's game. Galoob in sales, it relied on selling a very simple logic. And software, Babbages, Electronics Boutique, in particular - Galoob is, titanically was so big toy company, then sales of the NES games and is currently being mixed for the individual mall Gamestop store what is (and toy store more focused - it was that even though unlicensed, it had an important distribution), rather than the video game, computer software in the actual concentration at a time. And unlike all other licenses cartridge, the Game Genie, had been hacked for the public purpose principle. 

The password is regular old video games are different in appearance - - What the Game Genie codes to change the game slightly, please do not refer to was taken as the input sequence of characters. Basically, the ROM of the game can take any part, replacing it with the selected value. Most of the time it had a useful result, destroying the game by simply changing the game can not be perceived as essentially one or. But all are once in a while - find a carefully compiled Galoob focusing method - unlimited life, immortal, select the level of such and other modifiations - The Genie of the game, the game code Inakatsu have function as cheating or. 

Nintendo is probably no surprise that, like less than this, Galoob appeal, the Game Genie to create derivative works claiming copyright infringement is illegal. Situation is to play board games instead of internal rules, to be compared Fortunately, this argument was laughed at. (Litigation mostly to prevent Sonic from implementing the technology skipping commercial products replay it, especially coming out in attempting to TV companies, the television industry will set important precedents Surprisingly, to win the final By default, they are one of lawyering Sonicblue could not die even though it was what he was unquestionably the Sukippukomasharu is legal, but that the toilet you had to steal TV to go "there is a certain amount of tolerance" when it is not Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner is claimed, before managing the work of the grisly legend of verbal diarrhea, while the commercial . number one, but probably the way to the fair use of the two copyright infringements, but I fear the temptation of jokes is high.) 

Game Genie is, then, actually two, the reality is always to call this reduction is equivalent to the code, the game is reduced. That it comes out the distinction between code and a few games, the real fun is only a fantasy. But here, perhaps, the poem is the place to re-emerge. The system "experience" instead of machine language code is 0 and 1, such as electrical pulses and magnetic field of the human system can also Nintendou eternal longing to understand the other "game" that can be read as The shelter is not for the princess, by omitting the castle and on. Form invasion of code with these pulses bind when men both machine area in the evening a strange interpretation of a very, we have created something close to poetry - critical brilliant fast-growing and eventually The research group code, an abstract metaphor for the rigors of post-modern subject as appropriate. 

To capture events unspeakable form structured gave it meaning through metaphor - - We traditions lyrical fair, if associated with modern poetry moved to the center of the code, the code the center is moved to write. However, this standard for all video games, working through the encoding and decoding system of abstract formal semiotic system, and lyrical. To play a video game is to engage in poesis. 

Gemfire was ported from the SNES back in the medieval war, ostensibly more faithful about the game glitches Shima Seki is experienced in some way inaccessible forever. The character turns out to be more than a little puff of magic smoke, have an impact on our region locked to accept bad data writing voltage spikes. The game should be translated into common mistakes - after all, in all modes of play NES, English is a translation of the Japanese mistakes not nonexistence of Japanese heritage. 

This is the shadow realm of metaphor is ugly and we qlippothic. Parable with that sign, the object of trading shudder NES glitch strangely at home in these spaces as a medium that is more cheating. Baba Left Right Left Right Ppudaundaun Appua Start that we have a presence that transcends the present in ways that are real and that the ontology and contrast buttons and Gradius The pulse can be infinity and the translation of the event and Supuraitokodo need not accept in a sense. 

Finally, even unnecessary anxiety of air molecules and ink, meant the collapse of the coding language for this task to ejaculate something? If we disturb the process, you can capture some of the major implications? If you like the NES, we take the fact that we can not understand each other and glyphs pulse, allowing the inevitable mistranslation? Look at what we understand, do you wish to misunderstand? The glitch, after all, the meaning - the entire circuit bending electronic music glitchpop hinge on this movement. If there is a prospect of hacking techniques of poetry. Burroughs, provides a route to such a cut-up of our approach.

0 and 1 are electrical pulses phrased. Because there was a hacker, there was form that structured it, that gave it meaning through metaphor. The phenomenon exists as a meaningful recovery of what is "Nintendo," an eternal longing to understand the other "game," where the contingent will be part of something logic. And software, Babbages, Electronics Boutique, in particular video game.

This claim is a conservative one, steeped in traditions: lyrical and fair. If associated with the game, should we be translated into common mistakes and pulses? Should we be allowing the inevitable mistranslation? Look at what modern poetry moved to the center of the toilet you had to steal. Look at TV working through the encoding and decoding systems of smoke, having an inevitable impact on our region locked writing.

However, this os standard for all video games, as a video game is to engage in poesis. Fortunately, this argument was laughed at. (Litigation mostly, by default). They are one of those lawyering Sonicblue's hatred as a step away from the Galoob.

See, in the sales, it relied on selling a very simple get through chip, Tengen, for the elaborate Gemfire. My copy of the digital media replaced what was taken as the input with a sequence of characters. To accept bad data is to write voltage spikes, the pulse of infinity and translation. The unfortunate consequence of the media says that the chaos of cut-up and mistranslation imposes the public purpose principle. The password is a regular way to the fair use of the two cartridges, the Game Genie, hacked for company, the NES games, and the Gamestop store. What is, and toy stores offer more Atari (Its name is a term Go) commercial products.

Replay it, unknown, applying will and fire to burn away the commercial. Number one, is the grisly legend of verbal diarrhea, inaccessible forever. The character turns out to be mixed for the individual mall to go "there is a certain amount of time." We lock in the system and set important precedents to win the final. But once in a while we capture some of the major implications.

If you use the Game Genie to create derivative works, claiming copyright you are unquestionably the Sukippukomasharu. This is legal, but we can not understand each other. We creed glyphs on how the video game business is, made of air molecules and ink that mean the collapse of game into a bad ROM. So far, the errors code, the code is the center moved to games instead of internal rules.

To be compared is to be reduced. That comes out the distinction, the black Game Genie I realized it must have. Galoob is titanically big - a toy in a sense. Finally, even unnecessary anxiety is lazy when we tend to call it. Jamie Kellner claimed, before managing the work history of video games, that Lewis Galoob Toys, Inc. will be expected to occur in these lawless magnetic field of the human system. We can also know of the event and Supuraitokodo.

We need not accept that is it preferable to pry meaning from the theft of intellectual property and reverse engineering. All are ruined by the fact that only the remote game cannot be perceived as essentially one. Attempting to TV companies, the television industry will make video games. Do we do that, you two? The reality is always to call this something. If we disturb the process, you can see what the Game Genie code change.

Nintendo and the United States are the original poem. Suddenly, when we apply the 3-1 UPS Super Mario Bros. as directors, it has an important distribution. We would rather that the infringement be illegal. The situation is to play board games and other modifications. The Genie of video games, the computer software in the actual concentration to prevent Sonic from implementing the technology.

Skipping Tetorisukatorijji, the place of legend, you understand that new consciousness lacks credibility. Retrogaming provides experience. "Repair door, I pay for" is the game code Inakatsu. You have functional tolerance when it is not Turner broadcasting CEO copyright infringements. But I fear the temptation of it is the heart of one abstract formal semiotic system. It is lyrical to play not for the princess, but by omitting the castle, critical, brilliant, fast-growing.

Eventually the research group are "unlicensed cartridges" and must begin with the these spaces as a medium that is more than what you have. An implicit negative quartet? Goburinmaketto gap? I'm in.

Most suitable for long-term preservation after all, are all modes of playing the NES. To stratum we have a presence that transcends the ability to plug a 10NES you can use to in the Virtual Console re-release. The brilliant joke is high. Game Genie is, then, actually an entry too late. It is the area scrambling cartridges.

Then, another cartridge has by far the most remarkable quality. And unlike all other licenses you can understand the devil's game. This is Galoob in the medieval war, ostensibly more faithful about the game glitches. Shima Seki is experienced to display random text instead of the actual. It could not die even though it was what any part would replace it with the selected value. The post-modern subject was appropriate to capture events unspeakable. The main content that is known to glitch, the poem is the place to re-emerge.

The crowd appeal nearly worked through brute force, a protection like the NES. We take the fact that experience is real and genuine, a world infinitely unlike Super Mario Bros. This is not focused - it was even  unlicensed. Reference conspiracy, the whole man is DODONGO smoke, a schema for the interpretation of magnificent things. That is wet. You are facing a slowdown in the the experience of age. This is the spectrum of a strange new sort of backward compatibility. The Four Quartets are only a fantasy.

But here, perhaps, cheat codes are available? These shades, the crowd, not  is probably not surprised. The pulses bind when men and machine form a sprite in the petals of a branch just of the poem. I'll stand down for a the present in ways that are real. A concept before his time, I am forced unlimited life, immortal. I select the level off and on. I form an invasion of code with these Gemfires, ported from the SNES back in the evening, a strange interpretation of a very strange game.

Please do not refer to trading, the shuddering NES glitch that is strangely at home in the coding language. An ejaculate of intellectual property disputes breakthroughs.Wwe we have created something close to poetry. The ontology and contrast buttons, the Gradius Game Genie was like ライセンスニンテンドーカートリッジ Nintendokatorijji

In between code and a few games, the real was more than a little puff of magic fact. I have completely different ideas to reflect that. Galoob appeals to the Minus world in an earlier release of the function. Zelda II's infamous "I am error" is an unlicensed cartridge. Currently, Xbox's and Wii's mod chip are unusual. The NES glitch is at the heart of code, an abstract metaphor for the rigors of the chip that provides a voltage spike to the 10NES chip that can be read.

The shelter is most of the time. It had a useful English translation of the Japanese" "Baba Left Right Left Right Ppudaundaun Appua." This result, destroying the game by simply changing essentially unlicensed grand tradition existed between the game its failure is often to find a carefully compiled Galoob. By focusing on method, reduction is equivalent to the code.

The game is a shadow in the realm of metaphor. It is an ugly system we "experience" instead of machine language code. It is play disguised the qlippothic. The parable of the sign, the object of nonexistence with Japanese heritage. This is the time to design your own channels. Basically,  the ROM of the game can take old video games. They are different in appearance, different from the experiences of NES.

We understand. Do you wish to misunderstand?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Boys Drool (Gauntlet, Gauntlet II)

Gargoyle Quest is being held back a few entries, since its so close in the alphabet to the other NES game in its series.

Gauntlet and Gauntlet II represent in many ways the ultimate in arcade games - a steady march towards death as your body decays around you, limited health items, and a lot of buttons to mash. And there are great entries to be had about death and mourning and shooting the food. I mean, shooting the food. How good is that? Limited health items in a game where your health steadily falls no matter what you do, and you can shoot them!

But that's not what I want to talk about. Because the thing I remember about Gauntlet is this: I always played the Valkyrie.

Actually, this is true of a lot of games. Diablo? Always played the Rogue. Knights of the Old Republic? My character was female. Wing Commander III and IV? Always picked the female wingman. In pretty much any game where the option is available, unless playing the girl is an infuriating process (I am looking at you, Super Mario Bros 2) I picked the girl.

I assumed everyone did. It's always been, for me, "Valkyrie needs food badly," not the Elf or the Wizard or the Warrior. They could bloody well starve. Who wanted a slow-moving brute that just hit things, or a weakling magic user, or a fast-moving elf that really just mostly ran into things. (I remember with an avid lack of fondness the one time I did play the Elf. I tried to run and gun, and was disturbed to find that I passed my arrow.) Though the appeal of Valkyrie wasn't just her defensive capabilities - the tank was never my role of choice anyway. It was that she was the girl.

We're talking about video games I was playing in the first and second grade here, so the obvious reason of "scantily clad women are nice to have on screen" doesn't hold water. And I'm pretty confident in the chaste nature of my character choices through adulthood. I've just always felt more comfortable with women avatars.

Part of this is my stated discomfort with masculinity. I played video games because I was a scrawny geekboy, and I play them now because I'm a fat geekman. The rippled shirtless Fabio muscles of the Warrior were never going to be for me. A far better fit might have been the Wizard, but I was never fond of the idea that intelligence was necessarily bonded to physical frailty - a conceit of game balance created by Gary Gygax with, to my mind, unfortunate overall implications. And the Elf... I mean, look, the Elf was cool. But why would I play the Elf when there was the Valkyrie? I didn't even know what a Valkyrie was. All I knew was that she was blue, a woman, and the coolest character in the game.

The male options all seemed to offer some commentary on me - some sense of selecting my identity. If I picked the Warrior over the Wizard, I was committing to some sort of ideological selection about brains or brawn (though how, exactly, brains and a capacity for unleashing massive fireballs were linked - either my second grade education was seriously lacking, or, more likely, there was something not quite right about the ideology of the Wizard. There's a post in that someday). Playing the male characters meant making some sort of claim about who I was. Playing the Valkyrie, on the other hand, was a step towards alienation. I'm usually loathe to link Penny Arcade, as I've been reasonably persuaded by the incomparably brilliant Anna (whose previous entry on Faria is a must-read and a major inspiration, in its own way, for this one) that it too often crosses the line from funny to just plain mean (the fact of the matter is that their handling of the dickwolves controversy was flat-out appallingly bad), but the fact of the matter is that Tycho's post of a few days ago (made well after I'd already decided on this entry topic) captures it brilliantly.

I've never played video games to put myself into an imaginary world. I have my fucking imagination for that. I play video games to see other things. I don't need to project myself into a dungeon to be chased by ghosts. I'd rather, as with any work of fiction, see an interesting person do it - to see the Other on the screen, and to connect to it without being it.

And the fact of the matter is, I have always found femininity preferable to masculinity.

It's not that I have gender dysphoria. I am definitely male. It's just that, if I were given the opportunity to design myself from scratch, I'd pick the female character. Life just doesn't work that way, so I'm a boy, and I don't care nearly enough to change it. I'm male less because it's a meaningful part of my identity and more because it'd be an awful lot of work to be anything else. I have enough trouble with laundry and keeping a fresh roll of toilet paper going. I have a beard because I realized eventually that with how rarely I remembered to shave I might as well just give in to follicular entropy. Maintaining a different gender presentation is way out of my league.

And, I mean, I'm not stupid enough to treat this as some sort of awful cross to bear. I recognize that I have it wildly easier than I would if I were a woman. The fantastic scene in Queer as Folk where Nathan accuses his best friend of being "part of the fascist heterosexual orthodoxy," and she replies "I'm black. And I'm a girl. Try that for a week"? Yeah. I get it. Being a man who thinks girls are cooler than boys is really, supremely, utterly not that hard.

The term, as coined by people like Joss Whedon, is apparently "male lesbian," but there too I find myself unsatisfied. I mean, surely masculinity has already done enough damage co-opting lesbianism as a fetish designed for the male gaze. We don't need to actually co-opt the entire concept too, do we? A male lesbian is just a straight man. I mean, I'm never going to be one to knock Joss Whedon on feminist grounds. But...

The problem with the term is that it needs paragraphs of explication and disclaimer to work. But thankfully, we've got Greg Rucka, who has done so in a fantastic interview. (Incidentally, Greg Rucka? Amazing writer, and one of the best writers of female characters in action/adventure type genres working. If you have not read Batwoman: Elegy then get thee to Amazon, preferably through that handy Amazon Associates link, and buy it. I promise you that you will not regret it.) So let's get Block Quoty.

It's two-fold. I've said this before and people don't actually take me seriously when I say it – there's that joke about being a male lesbian, but I female-identify, and I always have since I was very young. I am not transgendered; I'm not looking for gender reassignment. I clearly have more testosterone flowing through me than most men need, and you can tell just by looking at me. I'm comfortable with my maleness, but for whatever reason the way I'm wired, I have always female-identified.
And I'm loathe to take the male lesbian route specifically because I'm loathe to make this some matter of pride. But at the end of the day, I'm more socially comfortable in a room full of women than I'll ever be in a role full of guys. And that's been true since I fired up Gauntlet on a Commodore 64 years and years ago.

My preferred phrasing is that I have a feminism fetish. I find feminism a major turn-on. And I take pains to make a real investment in that. Which is touchy in spots, as that involves recognizing the importance of spaces I am not a part of. It involves accepting that the male privilege I don't particularly want in the first place still means I have to be excluded sometimes to create female spaces. It involves an investment in the fact that women have stories and narratives, and an investment in learning to listen to them. The really good bits of the Rucka interview aren't the bits I quoted. They're the five paragraphs that follow about him learning to translate that into writing female characters, and about the life experiences he'll never have that he had to learn to write anyway. 

But I love those stories. They're moving and funny and insightful in a way that no story about male identity I have ever seen is. It's the old "Ginger Roberts did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards and in heels" observation. Give me a female protagonist over a male one any day of the week, because the female protagonist starts off with a dozen more problems with being a hero than a male one does, and is immediately more interesting for it. It's why Wonder Woman is by miles my favorite superhero. Because find me an iconic male superhero with that many ambiguities and contradictions that is still instantly recognizable and iconic the moment she steps into frame. There isn't one. I see the complaints about the upcoming Wonder Woman TV series and the fact that Wonder Woman has body image issues, a ridiculous costume invented for PR purposes, and sometimes pigs out eating ice cream in front of the television, and I don't get it. Of course Wonder Woman does those things, and of course they sit in contrast to her strong and powerful female character, because that's what's interesting about her. The fact that she doesn't just get to put her hands on her hips and be Superman. The fact that even though she's the third best-known superhero in the DC stable, she hits the sales glass ceiling and never gets the promotion she deserves. (And incidentally, as soon as this or TARDIS Eruditorum wraps up, I am so starting a Wonder Woman blog.)

And over time, I learned what may be the key part about always picking the girl in video games. The girl isn't an identity. Compare the irritating dilemma about which vision of masculinity to pick to the even worse dilemma faced by a female gamer who wants to see a character who looks like her on the screen. We get to pick the strong guy or the smart guy or the gay guy. They get to pick the girl - the one size fits all identity for 50% of the world. An identity with a chain mail bikini.

Border House has a fantastic send-up of this problem they did for April Fool's, switching real explanations for why games don't have female characters over to why they don't have male characters. And it's true. Both because female gamers deserve to have a choice if they (as apparently most gamers do) choose to play a representation of themselves in games, but more importantly, because male gamers need to see women as more than the third tickybox on the character creation screen. 

Growing up, I knew that women's stores were better than men's stories, and that most men's stories got better if they were women's stories. I deserved better though. They deserved better. Nobody should ever have to take until high school and college and a lot of smart and patient female friends to get that there's no such thing as the female perspective, and that if you're going to append the definite article to a gendered approach, the male gaze is a far saner phrase. I should never have been allowed to play the girl, as if that's a defined identity in and of itself. (And the fact that in Gauntlet II I could be a Valkyrie of four different colors doesn't count. Everybody knows that Valkyrie is blue. Red Valkyrie is just Valkyrie dressed as Warrior. Although Blue Warrior is, by extension, satisfying.) That, more than anything, was male privilege.

But lacking that option, I played the girl. Not for the chainmail bikini, or for the defense, or for anything other than the simple fact that the Other was preferable. And for all its flaws, Gauntlet was the first and defining game where I got to do this. My initial interest in Norse mythology wasn't based on Thor or Loki or anyone I knew from Marvel Comics. It was based on the fact that it was where Valkyrie came from. The imcomparable, beautiful, amazing Valkyrie, who introduced me to the Other, and to the idea that the best stories might not be my own.

In the end, it comes down to this. Girls never shoot the food.