Friday, March 30, 2007

Ode To Videogames Of Days Of Old

I just finished my proofs for the May/June issue of Creative Screenwriting Magazine - where I interviewed comedic genius Judd Apatow about Knocked Up and did my Lost Scenes column on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - which showed moments and pieces of dialogue wisely removed from the final film as found in the production draft.

So - what now? Of course I have to finish generating my questions for tomorrow's Hot Fuzz screening/podcast but it'd be great to mellow out and play a video game.

Sadly - That'll probably have to wait a full day or so as I'm fresh out of time.

For me videogames are like comic books a long yearned after respit from the grind that I rarely have time for. Don't worry - I'm not going to launch into a rant about the next generation of first person story-telling via videogames (too obvious - will save it for a later date) yet as a kid of the '80s I do still have a soft-spot for classic videogames - so you can imagine how psyched I was when I found the work of a brilliant Swiss artist, Guillaume Reymond, who did short films which stage classic '80s videogames with human beings instead of pixels.

Lots of filmmakers post shorts on the web - but it seems that less and less of them are original or inspired. This is a smart concept, well executed and worth a look.

Starting with the 1970s classic game Pong - check out what Reymond did for the Game Over Project:

Of course after Pong, the world fell in love with Space Invaders - and here it is in a whole new light:

The third and final short from this series is from the first big driving game Pole Poisition.

As videogames took off they were advertised on TV and this Pole Position Ad took its lesson from the kids toy ads of the '70s and early '80s in which it seems from this ad that Pole Position is the most incredible game ever made - but alas most of what you see has little to do with the gameplay - still - it's quite amusing to watch and funny in a counterculture way as it subjects a boring preppy family into some wild times.

As ads followed so did the birth of corporate giants within the videogame industry and one of the early innovators of course happened to be the fine folks at Activision. Check out this goofy corporate ad from 1981 or 1982 which proclaims their bright gaming future.

Now if you're a youngin' or not well versed in '80s videogames why not have TV's
Mr. Rogers show you how Donkey Kong works as he literally takes apart the machine.

As far as writers are concerned, Infocom was a great '80s company that created games for home computer users in the days before ANY sort of graphics were available (beyond an Atari or Intellivision - which was a different piece of hardware than a home computer). Infocom created a series of games which were completely text based. Thus without graphics these were like computerized choose-your-own adventures. You would read text and type in limited commands to play the game. Author Douglas Adams was involved with the designing and writing of this game based on his book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the BBC has revived a free playable version of the text game online and did a contest to have artists add graphics to the game that would appear in a nearby window.

Some folks were annoyed that graphics were added as the text games would encourage you to imagine the settings and adventures in your mind - so there've been arguments against quantifying or limiting your imagination with someone else's graphics. Hell, I'm just glad they brought it back. You still type and read the game, but now also see much of what you're doing. It's a fun game - a great place to spend some time and you can check it out at:

That's the homepage for the game - pick Edition One or Edition Two and you're ready to go (the art is different in these two editions - the game is the same). There's instructions there and you can find cheats and hints on the site if your skills are lame - but I'll give you your first hint. Once you start the game - your first command should be TURN ON LIGHT after you see a prompt telling you, "It Is Pitch Black." Kinda like a fade-up for the beginning of a great adventure.

Hmmm... maybe after all this typing maybe I shoulda popped in one of my own games....