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Ludography

The story of the first game I played is also the story of the day I learned my first curse word.

My brothers had gotten hold of a rather illegal console, the Family Game, which was very popular in my home country of Argentina.

The game was an 8-bit platformer from Japan with a name we couldn’t decipher. It had very primitive graphics. You played as a pixelated blurb that could generously be described as a goblin. My brothers called him “El duendecito ch*to.”

I startled my mother by screaming I wanted to “Play with Ch*to!!” because I didn’t know that “Ch*to” is a very vulgar slang word that means “dick.”

I was six, or seven years old. I’m thirty-one now, and still very slow at guessing what slang words mean.

The same console gave me my first heroine.

The game was a Japanese beat ‘em up. You fought ninjas. The heroine, my avatar, had a flowing red mane.

This game was important to me, not only because it starred a girl, but because it had an intro that showed you pictures and words.

I solemnly stared at the screen without pushing any button, because I wanted to understand what it was going on.

I couldn’t read what was written, but the game wanted to say something to me. There was a reason we were doing this.

The game was ridiculously hard, though, so I never made it to an ending.

I wish I could give you a screencap, but googling “8 bit red haired ninja” is not as helpful as I want it to be.

During the 16bit era, we were Sega country. I heard rumors of rich kids owning SNES, but never met any—they were always the friend of a friend.

I owned a Sega. This one was mine, not my brothers,’ although they did hijack it often to play Mortal Kombat.

Around this time I became aware of the existence of gaming magazines.

The best ones came from Spain. I had very strong opinions about them.

TodoSega was boring. They always liked all the games, and they wasted too many pages giving “cheats” for the games. I didn’t want to read about combinations of buttons to be pressed. I wanted to know about games. Who you played as, what you were supposed to do.

Hobby Consolas was better. It was a bigger, longer magazine. But I found the writers a little too stuffy and formal. (Later, they would have sections about manga and anime, and they would win back my approval. But these were the early years.)

Then there was Mega Sega, and, yes, this was the good one. This was the one to be read. It was irreverent! It was funny! The letter column was run by a guy who traded insults with the letter writers! It was metal. It was for rebels. It was for me.

(Please keep in mind that at this point in time I was a ten, maybe eleven year old girl with braids and thick glasses, who wore lots of floral dresses and never said “bad words.” Well, except for ch*to, but we’ve covered that before.)

Mega Sega also had a section for RPGs alone.

I wish I could explain this to you in a way that made you see how I felt. The RPG section helped gamers who were stuck with puzzles or battles in games like, say, Shining Force. It spoke to people already in the thick of it.

I had never seen a role playing game, let alone played one. But here they were. The solution to problems in these games involved talking to people. These were games where you were meant to travel in a group of adventurers. There where who’s. There where why’s.

At this point I didn’t worry about how games were made. But I knew there were better, more interesting games that the ones I had access to, and I wanted them in my life.

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I learned their names and started hunting for them. Finally, I got my hands on one. Landstalker.

But when I went home to play it, it didn’t work. Was it broken?

Burning with righteous fury, I ran back to the store

It was then I found out that my copy of Landstalker worked only on Megadrive consoles.

My console was a Genesis.

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Geek Flea 8

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This post goes out to all of you Videodamers in and around North Jersey—Unwinnable’s eighth Geek Flea is this Saturday!

The Geek Flea is pretty much as awesome as it sounds: it’s a flea market for and run by people of the geeky persuasion, plus there will be raffles and music. Stu Horvath, editor in chief of Unwinnable, promises cookies in his post and that flyer up there also promises food, so hey—snacks.

SNACKS!

What the heck’s Unwinnable? Glad you asked. Unwinnable is a super cool, Videodame-approved gaming website and weekly electronic magazine that features great content and an even better sense of humor. The Geek Flea helps support it:

“Unwinnable organizes Geek Flea for two reasons. The first is simply to hang out with our local North Jersey geek scene and have a good time twice a year. The second is to support the website—every dollar of profit we earn at Geek Flea through table rentals, merchandize sales, raffles and our two tables of collectables goes directly into maintaining the site and supporting our editorial budget. That said, we thank you for your patronage!”

Head over to the Facebook event page for sneak peeks at the wares some vendors will be hawking and to find more info about sponsors and music, then prepare to get your geek on this Saturday!

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Coming Apart at the Seams: Marginalia

A simulated walk in a dark and creepy wood, Connor Sherlock and Cameron Kunzelman’s collaborative horror game Marginalia presents as a cousin or even a sibling to Dear Esther, a game some thought dull but I found more than a little affecting. Which is to say, any detractors of Dear Esther probably won’t find much to change their minds here, but for those who did enjoy the narrative-driven stroll around Dear Esther’s island—don’t hesitate to pick up this tense and atmospheric short story of a game. It’s available for a $5.00 download here.

Told in voiceover narration after the events of the game, the story is revealed to the player (the narrator) as they explore the woodland valley of Kestlebrook. It’s a place with a bizarre past and apparently, hardly any present to speak of. With the exception of a few fireflies, you’re the only living creature moving through the tall, windswept grasses and looming pines, though someone or something has left lit waymarkers for you to follow. Each of these lights creates a warm little island of temporary respite from the tension of the game, which is amplified by the excellent sound design. You can usually see ahead to one lamp when standing in the glow of another, though Marginalia rewards players who venture away from the obvious path to find arrangements of darker, colder flames burning atop black candles.

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Saying “No” Does Not Make Good Conversation

The internet was something I taught myself. In a lot of ways, I treated it how I treated real life. Never really interacting or making meaningful conversation, being on the outskirts of lively debate and useful information was enough. There was nothing lively about me when I was young, and I skated just so, under the radar.

However, very much unlike my real life, I grew comfortable. It came to the point where I could express myself to the fullest extent. While I struggled with severe anxiety, I effortlessly led raids and was an extremely active member in guilds across many different games online.

It was through these online adventures with actual people that I did a lot of growing up. I wanted to add “unfortunately” to the end of that sentence, but it was probably the best place to grow up. Those games provided me with an avatar, who I painted as being someone other than the self I was extremely uncomfortable with. We acted the same, however. Our hearts were kind and noble, and our talents were more like powers. But as I began to see value in myself, I began to become disvalued in the eyes of some particular people around me.

I was really taken aback with how some of my own guild members would harass me during quests or other activities. Even people I didn’t really know well would make inappropriate comments, either in passing or as a regular thing. However, instead of standing up for myself at that time, I just played along with whatever they wanted. One of my ex-guild leaders said that he had a fondness for girls who were “people pleasers” or “couldn’t say no”. He felt like he needed to protect them. However, he didn’t protect me. If anything, I was his favorite punching bag, but he made it seem like an honor to be abused by him. This became a recurring theme. He warped my thinking so that it became difficult to leave. I felt like I didn’t stand a chance of escaping.

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Sunday Funday 9.28

Welcome to the first installment of Sunday Funday, Videodame’s curated collection of short, free-to-play games you can play right in your browser.

This week’s collection leans towards the drier side of fun—Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest kicked off my search for other games that similarly explored uncharted territory, at least in the world of gaming. While some may question whether games about depression, Alzheimer’s, or failed relationships and the like can really be all that “fun,” I was impressed how all five of these games succeed at placing the player in the shoes of someone experiencing these various facets of life, and while I didn’t recognize myself in all of them, I recognized others or pieces of myself.

“Playing Depression Quest isn’t ‘fun,’ like watching Schindler’s List isn’t ‘enjoyable.’ They’re important for different reasons, and it’s okay if they exist for the small audiences who will appreciate them as they are.”—Patrick Klepek, Giant Bomb [Depression Quest]

“Alzheimer’s disease, and any form of dementia, can place a great burden on those who love and care for someone suffering from it. The brief, poignant flash game Alz tries to tell the other side of the struggle: what it’s like to go about the day when your memory is so displaced and filled with gaps.”—Owen S. Good, Polygon [ALZ]

“The writing strikes straight at the bittersweetness of moving house, the way we struggle to define ourselves through possessions and despite them. Hamilton has a deft way of plucking these moments out of the mundane, such as the way your pile of things ‘looks small for something that weighs two years,’ or the recognizable twinge of meaningless memory captured by a phrase like ‘the jar that once held sugar.'”—Aaron Reed, Tilt at Windmills [Detritus]

“As we replay adolescence in pixels, Freeman’s games challenge us to revisit the moments that create social identity: sexual discovery in How Do You Do It; shopping for clothes in Ladylike; hording snacks in My House My Rules; pillow talk in Perishable.”—Jason Bell, Full Stop [Ladylike]

Loved, in all its simplicity, expresses a strange kind of love, and effectively communicates the feelings of mirth one can experience when pleasing that special someone in their life, even if it means engaging in destructive behaviors in the process.”—Brittany Vincent, G4 [Loved]

If you’d like to play some games that skew more towards fun for fun’s sake (and fair enough!), try Monday Funday, the post that spawned this (hopefully) bimonthly feature.

There’s like, swords and guns and shit in those.