I keep plunking away on this story. The next scene isn't quite done so I didn't add it to the website. I did a bunch of work and planning for upcoming scenes though, to better fit a more episodic structure. Since this update is only a handful of words and some edits I briefly considered posting up a synopsis, but just giving away the whole story doesn't seem very fun. So, for now, you will just have to make due with this small change. You can also safely skip this one and wait for next week when I will have the first part of chapter 3 done.
Best Games - Missile Command
There are a lot of games that are tests of endurance. Most early video games had no victory state, no point at which you could say that you had beaten the game. You could play the game until you could not ,or did not want to continue. You could play until the game stopped working, or you ran out of money. Arcade owners were hoping for the last option. It was a competition between you and the game to see which one could last longer. Games with the design sense and basic play cycle of Missile Command were not uncommon. It was a product of the artform and arcade business as it was in 1980. It was also a product of the late stages of the cold war.
Art is a reflection of it’s time. Surrealism and dadaism in the 1920’s sprung from the hyper-rigidity of a europe mechanized to sustain the first world war. It is a release valve of pent up emotion and a rejection of organized logical thought. During this same time there is the rise of art deco and science fiction, art forms that embrace the technological leaps that the war demanded, but repurposed them in the pursuit of aesthetic beauty and optimistic vision. Two very different, very human ways of dealing with the trauma of the preceding decade.
During the 1980’s, the cold war was coming to a close. One way or another it was going to end and the pervasive anxiety of the hows, whys and whens of that ending fueled a lot of art.
Maybe you could say that Missile Command is a little too on the nose. A little too representational and not nearly allegorical enough. Maybe you could say that it was too pessimistic in not including a victory condition. Games are supposed to be fun right? They are supposed to foster joy.
Missile Command offers you one choice, Defend these six cities, or don’t. That’s it. The truth is, you can’t and won’t. No matter how good you are at the game, no matter how well you use your limited munitions, no matter how well you defend the cities, you will fail. One falling bomb will get through. One attack will succeed. One city and all of its inhabitants will be lost. It will be your fault. The next city will fall. Then the next. They will all be destroyed and there is nothing you can do about it. When you ultimately lose your final city, Missile Command doesn’t present the customary Game Over, subtly inviting you to play again. Missile Command says THE END. There is a finality to your failure. You can only delay the inevitable.
In 1980 that’s how it felt. Inevitable. Not an all out nuclear war, but a change. The change from breathless hostility and geopolitical stasis to something else was inevitable. You just had to have hope that the world would choose a change toward peace. Stability. Art has the luxury of choosing both outcomes, or many outcomes. Art can be surrealist and reject rigid, lock step of progress, but can do it with the wide eyed optimism and hope for the future embodied in science fiction. Both can be true. For some art both must be true.
Missile Command is ultimately a positive and optimistic work. Your only job is to defend. You protect your cities, you preserve life. Never are you tasked with attacking an enemy. Never are you asked to destroy. You act as a shield, not a sword. The mechanics and business of the arcade demand that you eventually lose the game, but Missile Command suggests to you that maybe, if you don’t lose hope, you will succeed. You will save your cities and outlast the onslaught raining down on you. And maybe, just maybe, no one else has to lose for you to win.
If any work of art could so succinctly sum up the frozen emotional turmoil of the early 1980’s, it was Missile Command. Missile Command is one of the best games.
I continue to slowly work away on my story over here. The writing app I have been using (Quoll Writer - quollwriter.com/) happily informed me, completely unprompted, that it is currently a novelette, and I'll probably be straying into novella territory soon. Of course more words doesn't mean they are good words, so there will be a lot of editing to do, but having the program tell me 'Hey, you wrote this much!' has actually made me want to write more. I mean that first chunk of words was tough, but not impossible. Like a long walk, jog, or bike ride, if you keep going forward you will make it to the end. There is really no other option. You keep going forward and you will get it done. It could take a long time. It could be bad. It will be done.
Excited to see what the next milestone is.
Best Games - Tetris
It won’t be news to anyone that Tetris is one of the best games ever created. Not just video games. Games. All games. Tetris is one of the best Games ever created. Tetris is that good. If the devices exits to play it, tetris will likely be played in much the same form as it is today well into the next century or further. Tetris will persist.
Tetris is as good a game as Poker.
Video games are a technology driven artform constantly chasing better, more vibrant visuals, sharper fuller audio, more intelligent and challenging adversaries. All of this progress demands new programs and techniques and new silicon for those programs to run on. Tetris, by contrast, is an experience driven work of art. To Tetris players the look and sound of the game doesn’t matter much at all. It only matters that it plays like Tetris.
Teris is as good a game as Auto Racing.
You can spectate a game of Tetris exactly once, and understand how the game is played. You can play Tetris exactly once and start to develop strategies to improve your next game. You can continue to improve at it, but Tetris can’t be beaten. It is a game that test your skill, no matter what level that skill happens to be.
Tetris is as good a game as Golf.
No matter what device you are currently reading this on, you could also use that device to play Tetris. That version of Tetris will play pretty well. There are definitely controls that people prefer, like joysticks or gamepads or different configurations and sizes of buttons, but even most touch screen versions of Tetris play just fine. It’s so good what you play it on almost doesn’t matter.
Tetris is as good a game as Trivial Pursuit.
There are a lot of different variations on the original game and you can choose to play most of them against the game or against another person. They are all slightly different experiences, but they share the same simple mechanics. No matter how you play it, no matter what version you play, Tetris is all about preparation. You have to prepare for the moment that the one piece you need is drawn randomly from the small group of available pieces. It’s about using what you know of the system to plan ahead, but being ready to improvise when you need to.
Tetris is as good a game as Chess.
Tetris is as good a game as Soccer.
Tetris is as good a game as the 100 meter dash.
Tetris will outlive its creator. Tetris will outlive its creators generation. And the next generation. And the next. Tetris will outlive the memory of its creation.
Tetris is one of the best games.