A response to Cargo Cult Nostalgia

A response to “Cargo Cult Nostalgia” by Peter Silk (maker of the amusing nautical exploration game “The Wager”). You should read that article first (edit: and be sure to read Peter’s comments below), else this probably won’t make any sense.

I essentially agree that the Cargo Cultists might be sometimes fooled by the feeling of nostalgia and focus on the ‘trappings’ as a proxy for the real attributes that they enjoy in a game. But I also think it’s unfair to dismiss all their requests as driven by purely ‘nostalgia endorphins’. Some of these requests no doubt come from their dissatisfaction with design decisions taken for many modern point-and-click adventures that aim to broaden their target market and as a result fail to satisfy a certain type of player.

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My “GET LAMP” DVD arrived !

I don’t get nearly enough time to play with interactive fiction (aka “text adventures”), but the genre and it’s history really appeals to me .. hence the reason I bought Jason Scott’s new doco – GET LAMP.

Jason (of http://textfiles.com fame) has put some real effort into getting some classic cover art on the DVD, and included a little “feelie” – a fairly weighty numbered coin (as was a common marketing tactic back in the days when Infocom sold boxed versions of it’s games). Here’s a few pics:

I haven’t watched all the content on the DVD yet, but many of the interviews contain little gems of experience on game design issues that early interactive fiction authors encountered, most of which also applies to graphical games as much as text-only games.

Pixel art : just nostalgia ?

Pixel art seemed to capture the attention of parts of the blogosphere earlier this week. Lots of people were asking the question: Is pixel art just about nostalgia & video game fanboyism, or is it something more ? In my opinion this ‘debate’ is about as dumb as the “Are videogames art ?” debate. Of course videogames can be art, and of course pixel art is about more than nostalgia. Duh.

Anyhow, here’s a little link-o-rama with some views ….

(a shoutout to the memecore blog, run by a GrandMasterPixel player that found this video right about the same time I did)

And .. in response, a series of tweets, in reverse chronological order, by Sean Howard, the creator of the web comic A Modest Destiny and sharer of wicked cool ideas in game design.

sqorgar tweets:

Point 5: Nostalgia is certainly part of pixel art, but it is not the purpose. It doesn’t justify it, explain it, or define it.about 3 hours ago via web
Point 4: Rather than pixel art being an abstraction of reality, pixel art is a self contained reality in which the art happens.about 3 hours ago via web
Point 3: For some people, pixel art is a type of expression. For others, it is a type of autism. It makes sense in ways other forms do not.about 3 hours ago via web
Point 2: Consoles weren’t the only things to game on. I learned pixel art from Fat Bits on a Mac Plus. My pixels weren’t blurry.about 3 hours ago via web
Point 1: Jason Rohrer is always wrong. His opinion has anti-meaning. It’s not even correct by accident. It sucks beauty from the world.about 3 hours ago via web

I don’t quite get the antipathy towards Jason Rohrer. I like his work, although I haven’t heard him speak much. Sean has a point though about consoles vs. computers – I never had a real gaming console, but I did play with non-blurry pixels on a computer as a kid.

Ars Technica also chimes in with some views – summary: pixel art remains popular because it’s an interesting art form and a useful form of communication – the nostalgia factor is just a bonus.

Highlight games at the Game On exhibition

The Game On exhibition has been on at ACMI in Melbourne (Fed Square) for about 4 months now. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to exhibit our Atari 2600 collection as part of a collectors event … unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of it in a glass museum case. It was fun spending an afternoon chatting to other collectors (several that collected Japanese games and paraphenalia, one guy who collected old boxed Sierra PC adventure games, and a jacket with just about every Activision patch ever released etc). We played on my Sheen Pong console with kids and parents that came by to chat about our collection, which was a blast. The organisers at ACMI were kind enough to give us free passes to the exhibition (where you can play 120+ games) and a copy of Atari Classics Evolved signed by Al Alcorn (creator of the original Pong arcade machine) !

So, the other day we got a chance to use our free passes to the Game On game exhibition. I would have been happy to pay entry … we played games for 5 hours across basically every platform that mattered in the history of video games !

Highlight games I’d never played, but liked:

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8-bit : the film

I went to the Australian Premier (and I expect only screening) of the film 8-bit last night at ACMI last night. It’s essentially a film about the intersection of 8-bit 80 culture video games and art, with a distinct focus in chiptune performers in New York city and various parts of Europe.

I was great … a wicked chiptune soundtrack, lots of video of guys playing Gameboys as synthesizers live, nostalgic “Cracked by … ” title screens from the old BBS cracking days, and some smart (and some wanky) digital art. I stayed around for the Q & A with the Director (who incidently doesn’t own any videogame consoles, or a TV). Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the thumping 8-bit sample infused intro music performed live by DJ Trip (that wasn’t part of the actual film, just a special live set for the ACMI screening).

Well worth a look if you get the chance … the film doesn’t have distribution yet, so I’m not sure where you can actually see it (it took ~ 2 years to make it to Australia, but still seems to be touring various video game and film festivals). Maybe check the screenings page at the official 8-bit site. There was also some pre-screening coverage at Kotaku which has some more info about the film.