VICE Pinball Documentary

In August 2015, VICE released a video called “Pinball: From Illegal Gambling Game to American Obsessions”. The video was part of VICE’s series called American Obsessions.

The video includes interviews with Zach Sharpe, President of the International Flipper Pinball Association; Walter Day, referee for and founder of Twin Galaxies; Roger Sharpe, known as “The Man Who Saved Pinball”; and Michael Schiess, founder of the Pacific Pinball Museum.

The video also covers the history of pinball and how it was banned in major US cities because of gambling. Roger Sharpe managed to prove that pinball was a game of skill (not chance), thus decriminalizing it in many US cities. Decades later, Schiess had to talk with his city council in order to get pinball legalized for his museum. Near the end, Zach Sharpe competes in a pinball tournament at the Chicago Pinball Expo.

The video was recently shared on VICE’s Facebook page, which brought this to my attention, and I wanted to share with the Maze Rats readers!

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What’s an MSX?

Before the Xbox, Microsoft created the MSX. Released in 1983, the computer system was an attempt at creating a “standard” for home computers. Before the popularity of standard operating systems, disks were unreadable between operating systems, but all MSX disks worked in any MSX machine.

The MSX demonstrates a fascinating cultural difference between the East and the West: unification vs competition. The MSX never became popular in the West because Westerners prefered competition more than a “standard”. Similarly, in the early 2000s, Japanese mobile gaming became popular years before the advent of the iPhone because Japanese phones were more standardized.

This could also explain why PC gaming has never been as popular in Japan. PC games can work on one PC and not on another because of minor differences in hardware. Why not just buy a box that plays all of the games for that machine?

Discussion

However, I’m not an expert on Japanese culture. If you have some insight, or or want to add to the conversation, please comment on this article below!

Heaven & Algae: The Gameplay & Stories of MG & MG2

The Gameplay

The early Metal Gear games are played from an overhead view that is angled, also known as a “Three Quarters (¾) Perspective”, which allows them to navigate the avatar along the X and Y axis in a seemingly 3D world. That avatar is Snake, a bandana-wearing action hero with dark hair and dark clothes. The player can assign two items to Action keys, such as a weapon, a health item, a key card, or anything else. As the player navigates the world, they will encounter enemies that won’t immediately see Snake, so they are encouraged to navigate Snake around enemies in order to avoid confrontation. If Snake is “spotted” by an enemy, an alarm sounds, which floods the screen with more enemies until Snake successfully hides for a few minutes or dispatches all of the enemies. Continue reading Heaven & Algae: The Gameplay & Stories of MG & MG2

Spoiler Warning (Part 1)

Some games are intimidating. Dark Souls is known for punishing players who aren’t patient. Games like the Persona series require a daunting time commitment. Then there are some franchises that have been around for so long, and have such tangled narratives, that they are incomprehensible to players that haven’t done the homework. Nothing perfectly encapsulates the latter than the Metal Gear series. In an epic tale spanning 28 years, Hideo Kojima crafted a masterpiece that covers everything from heavy political topics (such as nuclear disarmament) to deep philosophical ponderings (like the nature of consciousness and the illusion of free will). It also contains poop jokes and constant objectification of the female form. It is a series that I often criticize more than I praise.

The series, as a whole, sounds like something a 13-year-old boy scribbled into the margins of his middle school notebooks. Yet somehow it was adapted into a multi-million dollar spectacle created by hundreds of talented artists and hard-working programmers. The series takes its story more seriously than it should while still making fun of itself at every opportunity. In many ways, the complete Metal Gear saga represents how a visionary artist duped the corporate world into telling anti-capitalist, anti-war stories by veiling them in gun fetishism, US military soap operas, and anime tropes. Not only that, but it popularized fourth-wall-breaking “mindfucks” for video games and catapulted its creator to “rock star” status. In order to truly understand the culture created by this series, you have to play every game. But sometimes you don’t have the time.

In a rare mini-series of The Backlog, we will attempt to understand Kojima’s 30-year masterpiece, starting with games on the Japanese MSX2 computer system and ending with modern consoles. Since the games can be appreciated in many ways, each issue is split into three categories that explain the story, the themes, and the mind-bending narrative hooks that have kept Metal Gear players asking the all-important question: “What the fuck?”

The Pokémon Go Fest Fiasco

Developers of the popular Pokémon Go, Niantic, had a rough time during the first day of Pokemon Go Fest in Chicago because of server issues.

Polygon‘s Allegra Frank reports widespread server issues caused attendees to boo at Niantic CEO John Hanke and yell “Fix the game!” and “Fix the servers!” Shortly after that, Frank reported that Niantic promised attendees $100 worth of Pokécoins at a later date. Dani Deahl of The Verge also added that Niantic added the game’s first legendary Pokémon, Lugia, to attendees’ accounts.

During its release last year, Pokemon Go became such a cultural phenomenon that The Verge‘s Emily Yoshida asked acclaimed director Werner Herzog for his thoughts on the game. As a result, mainstream media sources are reporting on Pokémon Go Fest’s problems; CNBC’s Chris Welch also covered the story as well as USA Today‘s Edward C. Baig.

Other Stories

featured image by Dani Deahl and is believed to be used in accordance with fair use

 

Final Fantasy XIV Documentary Explores Hubris, Failure, & Redemption

NoClip has released their newest series of documentaries on Final Fantasy XIV (2010, 2013). FFXIV is an MMORPG that had a bumpy launch and received a large backlash from the gaming press as well as fans. In an effort to maintain their reputation, Square Enix opted to completely recreate the game from scratch over the course of three years. This documentary uncovers why the game underwhelmed their fans, how the company responded, and how they went about saving the franchise.

Danny O’Dwyer interviewed several key members of the Final Fantasy XIV dev team, including English Language Localization Lead Michael-Christopher Koji Fox, Engineering Team Leader Hideyuki Kasuga, Square Enix CEO Yosuke Matsuda, and Producer/Director Naoki Yoshida.

You can view all of NoClip’s videos on YouTube. You can view all videos in the Final Fantasy XIV series here.

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