Monthly Archives: September 2010

Five Games to Play When It’s Too Hot to Live

Despite being weeks into Autumn, Southern California is currently hotter than it was all summer. There’s no breeze, no cloud in the sky; no respite from the fist of the fiery death-orb that oppresses us all and stops me from going about my daily routine.

Also, I have no air-conditioning. Continue reading


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Not Just Another World: Apocalyptia

I want to start this entry in Not Just Another World by giving some credit where credit is due.  If, in my desperate dig for ideas, I hadn’t remembered Doug Otto’s recent Bitmob post on the post-apocalyptic wasteland in games, I probably wouldn’t have overcome my writer’s block for this post.

The term “wasteland” gets used all-too often in reference to games that take place in a post-apocalyptic setting.  I’m not saying that it gets used incorrectly; certainly, scorched earth and radioactive atmosphere constitute a wasteland.  But not every post-apocalyptic world is a wasteland and, likewise, not every wasteland is what it seems.

For such worlds I’ve created a new (as far as I’m aware, at least) term: Apocalyptia is a world that is at an end, whether that’s the end of the world or merely the end of a cycle.  Upon concocting this term, two games jumped into my mind: The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Continue reading

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Not Just Another World: The Final Frontier


The final frontier: strange new worlds, exotic alien life forms, bizarre cultures and civilizations, the wonders of creation. For good or ill, I never feel like I’m experience these wonders when I play hard sci-fi games, such as Mass Effect. Usually, I only feel the thrill of exploring alien worlds when they’re found right here on Earth, such as Biohock’s Rapture or Red Dead Redemption’s American west. Continue reading

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Not Just Another World: Home

When I think of “home” (at least, as far as fictional worlds are concerned) two game worlds immediately spring to mind: Mario’s ubiquitous Mushroom World and STALKER’s Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

The Mushroom World is not a good example of worldbuilding. Details pertaining to its history, mythology, inhabitants and cultures change wildly and with no explanation. The land of talking mushrooms, pipe-based public transit, evil turtles, imperiled princesses and mustachioed plumbers is probably one of the most inconsistent, amorphous game worlds in history. Why, then, does a world that’s never consistent always feel so familiar?

Starting with the original Super Mario Bros. for the NES, the Mushroom Kingdom got off to a fairly good start. The instruction manual for that first game delves into details of the Mushroom World that would never be seen or heard of again, remembered only by those of us old and nerdy enough. Continue reading


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Not Just Another World: Intro

Worldbuilding has always been a favorite subject (and hobby) of mine; I even took a class on the subject in college. The result of that endeavor was an exercise in confused mediocrity; a Pokemon-esque MMORPG set in a world based on my very shaky and ignorant understanding of mutation, evolution and symbiosis. A fairly solid concept, if I do say so, that I needlessly burdened with pirates, mages and jack-booted totalitarian armies. Hey, it was only my second attempt at the craft (no need to delve into the knot of convoluted fantasy tropes that was my first).

For the past couple weeks, Chris Dahlen’s been writing a series of posts on the subject at his Save the Robot blog. Dahlen has investigated worlds from various media and real life, mostly analyzing their details and dissecting their successes and failures. If you haven’t read them, you really should — they’re awesome. He also got me thinking about some of my favorite game worlds and, naturally, wanting to write about them.

In the interest of not simply copying a much better writer than myself, I’m going to take a slightly different approach: I’m going to come up with a theme and investigate seemingly contrasting worlds that fit that theme (or maybe some that fail to). Then, I’m going to try to analyze how these disparate examples come together. I’m going to do something dangerous: try to express my own subjective experience and then back it up with objective analysis…or maybe it’ll be subjective analysis, I don’t know, we’ll see — it’s an adventure! Basically, where Dahlen dissected whole bodies, I’m dissecting individual organs. I want you, the reader, to provide your own disparate examples fitting (or failing to fit) the same theme.

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