Kentucky Fried Zine Fest 2017

This Saturday, I’ll be attending the Kentucky Fried Zine Fest for the second year in a row. I’ll be sharing a table with my wife, Malinda Jane O’Quinn. While I sell issues of The Backlog, my wife will be selling prints of her artwork (click here to check out her Instagram, and here to check out her Flickr page).

The Kentucky Fried Zine Fest in Lexington, Kentucky is in its fifth year. Originally the Ephemera Fest, the fest’s mission is “to showcase DIY zines, comics, book & paper arts, and the work of independent publishers, with an emphasis on zine creators from the Kentucky/Southern region.”

This year’s fest will be at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center. Continue reading Kentucky Fried Zine Fest 2017

Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone

Cloth Map‘s Drew Scanlon explores Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone through the eyes of video game interactions. He compares the real life experiences of a real life post-apocalyptic wasteland to scenes in games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl and The Last of Us.

A Strange Feeling

Hallway

Throughout the video, Scanlon tries to pinpoint why he feels strange, whether it’s the radiation or something else. “When we entered an apartment complex,” he says, “I couldn’t put my finger on why it felt so strange until I realized it’s odd to be walking through a large building and feel a breeze.”

Continue reading Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone

Virtual Tour of California Extreme

Cloth Map released a 360 degree video of California Extreme, one of the United States’ largest arcade and pinball expositions. On a computer screen, you can click and drag the mouse in order to look in a 360 degree arc around the camera, as well as up or down. On a phone, you can move the phone to look around. The video also supports Google Cardboard.

Drew Scanlon, founder of Cloth Map, walks with Steve Lin, founding board member of the Video Game History Foundation. They look at various machines while Lin explains eye-catching videos.

Cloth Map is a video series that explores how games affect communities around the world. Scanlon announced in April that their first in-depth documentary would be about Ukraine. While the Ukraine gaming documentary has yet to be released, Scanlon did release a video about his experience in Ukraine at Eurovision.

Related Links

The Themes & “WTF?” of Metal Gear & Metal Gear 2

Quadruple Guess (The Themes)

Deception will become the most common theme throughout the series. Big Boss’ goal was to feed the US government bad information. Gray Fox becomes an enemy to Snake in MG2, hinting that he might have known Big Boss’s true intentions in the first game. So was he really kidnapped in the first game? Or was that all a part of Big Boss’s plan? So, if Big Boss’s plan was to confuse and deceive, then what if everything went according to plan? AHHHHHHHHHHH! From the very beginning, Metal Gear makes you second, triple, and quadruple guess everything you thought you know.

These games also introduce the idea of Science Fiction as an explanation for the unexplainable. In MG2, OILIX isn’t a magic alternative to oil: it’s algae! While “sci-fi explanations” are relatively realistic in this game, they will get crazier as the series continues. Continue reading The Themes & “WTF?” of Metal Gear & Metal Gear 2

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!

Related Links

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

 

Video Game Communities & Education