Down With Nazis!
A screenshot from the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man
I swore off most serious PC gaming months ago, as I got sick of being a repeated victim of games that spawn more error messages than bad guys. Every time I try to run any game, I invariably crash to the desktop before I can see my first green colored light or battle my first zombie mummy possessed sniper soldier from Hell or Christmas Island. It got so bad that I gave up attempting to game on the PC entirely, instead choosing to play poorly translated Japanese Playstation 2 games. If you were wondering which games I was referring to, I can safely say, "all of them." I don't think there is a single Playstation 2 game in existence which wasn't produced by Japanese businessmen who consider "fluent translation to English" to be less important than "making sure the game's plastic shrink wrap is edible to pelicans and trout." I remember the good ol' days of Intellivision and Atari 2600, a time when you could play games and not have to be reminded every nanosecond that they were manufactured and produced in Japan. This was mainly because you couldn't tell what the hell was going on in any of those games. The gameplay style was best described as "nine rectangles that somehow interact with each other while 600-inch wide numbers appear in random locations." When the Atari 2600 programmers wanted to get really snazzy, they also included a colorful rainbow background that was supposed to represent some mass of land. Sure it looked like the Earth was composed from a big shit that God took after eating a crate full of Skittles, but we all grew to love and accept this because it was the Atari and we had nothing else to do all day. Back in the early 80's, your free time could be spent doing the following things:
Playing Atari and trying to guess what cartridge was inside the unit by distinguishing between the color of enemy rectangles,
Watching sports on one of those wooden-paneled TVs that weighed 14 tons and had a tuner knob the size of a dinner plate,
Jogging (everybody jogged in the 1980's until they realized that no matter how much they jogged, they would invariably end up back at home),
Being worried about the Russians taking over their town's water supply and replacing it with acid or poison or poisonous acid,
Saying how glad you are that the disco era was over and all the tacky horridness was in the past, shortly before purchasing a new pair of parachute pants and Jams t-shirt with more colors than paint factory after being gangbanged by surrounding convenience stores.
A screenshot from the Atari 2600 version of Asteroids.
So it was only natural that people flocked to the Atari 2600 like the way people flock to stamp on each other's skulls during European soccer matches. Note that I didn't say "football" matches, which is what they call it in incorrect countries. "Football" is a sport where large black men run into each other while attempting to protect small white guys. It is a sport where the only person who kicks the ball is the guy who drinks strawberry spritzers at all male bars on the weekends. Everybody else drinks motor oil and gasoline. "Soccer" is a sport where grown men cavort and prance. The only action in the game is the action that occurs in the stands when opposing fans get tired of watching sissies run back and forth for nine hours so they decide to start beating up each other and provide at least SOMETHING interesting to watch. And before you soccer fans start signing me up for gay porn mailing lists and composing your angry email accusing me of being another ignorant American who is uncultured and highly ignorant, let me point out two things. I'm already subscribed to every gay porn mailing list in existence and I don't really care what your opinions of soccer or football are. Hell, I don't even care what my opinions of soccer and football are. I might be confusing soccer with amateur circuit hopscotch for all I know.
Back to the Atari. During its peak of popularity, there were over 1.9 million titles being produced for this game system every day. Every day! On weekends there were probably more because all the game developers had easier access to heroin then. That's how they were able to produce such gems as the following:
Video Olympics - Choose from over eight different sports to compete in! No, we don't know what these sports are, but your competitors usually have neon orange skin and a box skull that obscures half the screen! Do you have what it takes to earn the gold medal? Probably not, but that's okay because the "gold" medal is the color of asparagus! And it flashes!
Haunted House - A spooky supernatural treat that puts your courage to the max! While adventuring inside a haunted house, your character soon realizes that he is adventuring inside a house that is haunted! Using only a flashlight and some objects that produce random distorted square wave screeches, can you escape? The game's producers are hoping you can't because they never got around to finishing the game! In fact, as much as 90% of the game is incomplete, including a plot, any discernible gameplay, and a way to keep the television from continually producing sounds that resemble a Casio keyboard being shoved into a garbage disposal.
E. T., the Extra-Terrestrial - The ever so mass-marketable alien from the 80's needs your help to escape scientists and promote shitty candy. Guide ET and / or Elliot as you travel through hundreds of seemingly identical screens, separated only by a random splotch of color that is used to represent a tree or a bush or a hot air balloon or the producer's niece. Try to rack up as many points as possible on the way, although nobody's really sure as to how that's done. Our best guess involves making the orange rectangle collide with the red one (or possibly vice versa).
With choices like these, is there any wonder how dopey people were in the 1980's? If you want to blame video games for something, give up trying to pin youth violence on them. Blame the entire goddamn 80's on them. Miami Vice. Golden Girls. Max Headroom (although Matt Frewer is still my personal hero). Gigantic poofy hair. Iran Contra. Well just Iran I guess, "Contra" came in the 90's. And as bad as the 80's were, they were a lot cheerier than the 90's, a decade portrayed by youthful hipsters defining their angst and individuality by doing whatever the hell all the other people defining angst and individuality were doing. I'm going off on a yet another tangent here, which is actually my second consecutive tangent. Believe it or not, this article was originally going to be about "Return to Castle Wolfenstein," hence the Nazi reference in the title. But I find the 80's more exciting than Hitler, so bear with me.
A screenshot from the Atari 2600 version of Star Wars.
The successor to the Atari 2600 was the Atari 5200, a system which I was lucky enough to own. Atari shrewdly elected to "upgrade" their control paddles for this system, producing some ham-sized monstrosities that required 5200-pounds of pressure to activate the trigger buttons. This is no exaggeration either; these controllers were made for people from Jupiter that had vice grips for hands. The fascination with pleasing native Jupitarians didn't stop Atari from releasing their cruddy 5200 unit since they wanted to cash in on the wild success of the 2600. And, after all, the number 5200 is like twice the number 2600, so people would be stupid to not buy it! In addition to that, it was featured on the hit Dabney Coleman movie, "Cloak and Dagger!" I spent 40 weeks trying to get ahold of the goddamn Cloak and Dagger video game and nobody anywhere carried it. I became so angry at Jack Flak that I refused to watch that stupid Dabney Coleman sitcom he was in on Fox, where he was some grade school teacher who molested his students for 30 minutes until "Herman's Head" came on. The 5200 had a bunch of good titles including "Football," a game that you could score 700 points against the computer by simply calling running plays and then jogging along the sidelines until your player hit the top of the screen. The Atari 7800 came after this unit and nobody bought it because Atari decided they didn't want to sell them to people. Atari decided they instead wanted to concentrate all their efforts on a completely different system that nobody would buy, the Atari Lynx.
Compared to the rival handheld systems in that time period, namely a bunch of shit LCD games produced by Tiger and some other crud that I can't remember offhand, the Lynx kicked ass. I don't remember why nobody bought it, except perhaps they were all tired of playing Zaxxon on four consecutive Atari models. In fact, I don't remember jack shit about the Lynx except that back in high school my friend Steve had one of them. Steve also got thrown out of school for tossing a canister of tear gas down the hall. Were these events related? Perhaps, which would explain why so many people refused to purchase them. If the tear gas manufactures would've stepped up to the line, Atari wouldn't be in the huge hole they are now. And I assume they're in a hole since I don't recall seeing Dig Dug on any consoles lately.
In conclusion, I think "Return to Castle Wolfenstein" is an excellent game and is worthy of a place in any gamer's library. Small complaints such as shortness of gameplay time can easily be overlooked by large complaints such as suits of armor falling over and crushing you to death when you kick them. Yet throughout the entire game, these complaints took a back seat to the intrigue and mystery which revolved around the American general's refusal to look at the movie screen while they're briefing him in the cutscenes. Did any other of you guys notice that? He never looks at the damn screen! Here they are, the Clark Kent guy and the pseudo-British fatass going on and on about zombies and Hitler and God knows what, and the American general doesn't even have the courtesy to turn around! He just sits there like a goober, staring at the pansy British weenie and flailing about as if ghosts had possessed his underwear. Maybe I'm just mad because the Grey Matter clowns didn't put my idea of a giant Nazi zeppelin into the game. Isn't it illegal to have a game about Nazis that fails to include a zeppelin? If not, it probably should be. Fucking Nazis.
As we're going to do every Friday (or at least until we forget), we're presenting the best and most hilarious Photoshop Pheatures phrom the phorums. Okay, this stupid "ph-" gimmick is getting on my nerves. As I was saying, we're going to feature what we consider to be the best Photoshopping threads from the forums, which are currently subscriber-only. I made them into a paid subscriber area because they were simply taking up too much bandwidth and server CPU when they were public. In addition, it cut down on the number of trolls and gimmick posters who registered accounts just to annoy me. So if you'd like to register an account and check out the other great material, grab yourself an account.
This week's Photoshop Phriday feature is based off a series of cheesy sci-fi novels that the forum goons got their grimy hands on and thoroughly mutilated for your pleasure. I present to you, the worst science fiction tales never told!
And you wonder why it took this long for the stories to be told. Head on over and check out the other works of science which also happens to be fiction!
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The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.