I still remember with fondness the first video card I ever bought: the Voodoo 3. I saved up around $300 dollars to buy it (yes, this was a very long time ago) in order to play Half-Life. I remember seeing the intro to the game on my friend’s computer, and it instantly had me hooked. The (now infamous) hero, Gordon Freeman, is guided through a cinematic first-person tour of the Black Mesa facility, then jumps right in and starts an experiment with disastrous results. It soon had my heart pumping as machinery exploded and aliens jumped out of space-time rips to attack me, while I had only a crowbar to defend myself. It changed gaming forever.
Why it rocked:
1: The immersion– By today’s standards, Half-Life’s graphics look like cardboard boxes glued together. That’s why the level of immersion in this thriller was such a feat. The story, the environment, and the sound combined to create an adrenaline-driven nightmare. Head crabs jumped at your face in ventilation ducts, fluorescent lights flickered to reveal eerie flashes of zombies raising their grotesque claws, and the music always kicked in at just the right moment to tell you something horrible was coming.
2: The sequels– Half-Life is the father of today’s first-person legends. Of course, Half-Life 2 and its own sequels are a lasting legacy that revolutionized gaming with great plots, gorgeous graphics, and ground-breaking physics. But this series is just a small example of Half-Life’s influence on the gaming world. It spawned multiplayer titles like Counter Strike and Team Fortress, which are still some of the most played games at LAN parties. It influenced independent mods, like They Hunger, a brilliant zombie series. It even led to the creation of the Portal series, the most amazing and playable puzzle games I have ever laid hands on (and the mother of countless internet memes). I even bought the short expansions to Half-Life (Opposing Force, Blue Shift, and Decay). While lackluster as full games, they added to the legacy of Half-Life and created a depth of plot lacking in many modern titles.
3: It is the original first-person game– I know, right now people are saying, “What about Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake?” Yes, those are all beautiful games, and I have played them thoroughly, but Half-Life’s unrivaled brilliance forever changed the genre. No other FPS series has been as prolific and influential. None have had the same replayability. None can rival the level of nostalgia people like me have for it. Those of us that grew up on Half-Life see games like Halo and cringe. We can see the simplistic rip-offs taken from the Half-Life series, and shake our heads at the elements they have left out.
Half-Life created a generation of gamers and die-hard fans, and I am one of them. The silent protagonist, Gordon Freeman, is our role model. G-men put ice in our stomachs, and crowbars are our best friends. If you love Halo and have never touched Half-Life, I implore you to pick it up. I still dust off my copy from time to time, and it never gets old. If you want a self controller, then you can build your own PlayStation controller at home. It will be free of cost in playing and enjoyment can be taken for long period.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters is a documentary about classic gaming competition, finding the dedication to be the best, overcoming unfair obstacles, and, mushy and cliched as it sounds, realizing that you don’t have to win to be a winner. All that in an 80 minute movie about this little guy that jumps over barrels and chases a big, pixelated ape? Sounds hard to believe, but it’s a charming true story that I think will appeal to anybody – not just gamers. So whether you wear gamer shirts or not, you will definitely love this amazing movie and at the same time, learn something from it.
After being laid off from his job at Boeing, Steve Wiebe finds solace in his old passion – playing Donkey Kong, arcade-style. When he comes across the record score, thought unbeatable, set in the 80s by Billy Mitchell, uber-gamer extraordinaire, he sets out on a quest to top it and cement his name in the history books. What follows is an unbelievably engrossing and poignant tale of fierce competition, treacherous backstabbing, and uplifting achievements as a bunch of middle-aged male nerds (and one dear 80 year-old Q*Bert mistress) do whatever it takes to get to the top of their hobby.
Even though the movie, in the end, is about much more than gaming, it also does a great job of telling the history of competitive arcade gaming, although it stays firmly in the camp of classic coin guzzlers (Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Galaga, etc.) and doesn’t touch the modern world of LAN fests and Smash Bros. tournaments with a 10-foot pole. I confess I had no idea this brand of gaming competition was still alive and well, but the movie convinced me of that, and cleverly depicted its transition from the early 80s heyday (the footage from that era is priceless) into its resurgence with the dawn of the Internet (see www.twingalaxies.com). The inhabitants of this community, such as World Game Referee Walter Day, “Mr. Awesome” Roy Schildt, and Billy Mitchell prodigee (some would say suck-up) Brian Kuh, are all intriguing and often humorous characters, and you want to know what makes them tick. And there’s more to them than gaming – Walter strums guitar on his Iowa farm, Steve is now a science teacher, talented musician, and devoted family man, and Billy is a hot sauce mogul with a possible Jesus complex.
But they are all fierce competitors, and the ensuing continent-spanning conflict shows that, unlike myself and many other gamers, they take their desire to be the champ very seriously, perhaps to a fault. The movie effectively shows that, no matter what the organization, those on the outside seeking entry into the Promised Land will always have to overcome barriers set by the entrenched powers-that-be. To what extend one should fight, and knowing what you should and shouldn’t sacrifice for greatness, is the crux of the movie. It’s just a well-executed, humorous tale that, without preaching at all, tells a lesson with applications from the workplace to politics.
The DVD includes some nice extras, such as footage from film festivals, more classic reels from the 80s, extended interviews, and a side-by-side comparison of the strategies used by Billy and Steve to achieve their records. This is just a great movie; I highly recommend anyone – whether gamer or not – to check it out. Then go play some DK.