Hey Everyone, it’s been a fast three weeks. In fact, It feels like it was earlier this week that I was assigned to my group. It feels like it was a couple days ago that I passionately argued against making a came about the cold war. It feels like it was yesterday that I sketched out the plans for our title screen, but today was the day that I finally had to say goodbye to the wild ride of video games and history. We’ve learned a litany of information from how video games were made to the different viewpoints on the geopolitical climate of the cold war. Furthermore, this information was churned into a wild action adventure RPG that included time travel, a giant mechanical version of the spirit of England, and the Red Czar himself.
We were able to create a compelling commentary on nationalism and how it influences our thoughts about both the Revolutionary War and the Cold War. Both time periods clearly had similarities and the game does a good job of making this apparent. Religion, economic freedom, America has always been able to find reasons to alienate those it deems “other”. Military enemies are largely communicated in this way, and it shouldn’t be a shock as to why. As we can see in doom, it’s much easier to kill a demonic monster than another human being. Fortunately, the people I was privileged to work with weren’t like the communist or redcoats in our game. They were real hardworking genuine people, and I’m lucky to have gotten to know all of them. Thanks to everyone in Team Bad Company, everyone else in the class, and Professor Harney. It was a great term and a great three weeks, even if it only felt like a couple of days.
Time Travel as a Medium in Story Telling
Hey everyone, today I wanted to focus my article on how time travel is portrayed in storytelling. Since time travel is a big part of the story in our game, it felt appropriate to talk about it as a medium, and some of the influences we used for how we structured it in our game. I will use two specific examples from pop culture. These examples include Doctor Who and The Terminator. Though there are more great examples in literature and video games, these two examples are some of the more iconic.
Doctor Who uses time travel to the greatest extent humanly possible. The Doctor is an alien from a race of “timelords” that are immortal, and he/she travels around in a ship that can go anywhere in space and time. The ship is called “The Tardis”, and yes, it is overpowered. Because The Tardis can go anywhere in space at any time, it essentially functions as a huge plot device. The Doctor also iconically takes a human sidekick along with him/her, who doesn’t understand time travel and is jolted into a life of adventure. The people or creatures the doctor interact with change pretty much on an episode basis (this is what is so clever about the show). However, there are some villains or characters who run into The Doctor on multiple occasions that understand who he/she is and what he/she does. The show is famous for its campy atmosphere.
In this 80’s era Scify, a robot comes back from the past in order to kill Sarah Connor before her son John Connor can be born and save humanity from a future where machines have taken over the world. In order to stop this, the John Connor of the future sends back Kyle Reece, a human soldier, to save his mother. In this movie, Kyle is aware of time travel and the future that will happen. Sarah, on the other hand, is not and must put her faith in a stranger in order to stay alive. Time travel is used as a plot device in this movie, but unlike Doctor Who, it is more limited. Kyle doesn’t have a portable device or vessel that he can travel through time with, so it acts as a one-time plot development. Like in Doctor Who, the dynamic of the duo is similar in The Terminator. Kyle is more experienced and explains the sinister plot to his “companion”.
Cold War: 1776
Our game incorporates elements from both these classic time travel stories. The idea of Kennedy coming to the past in order to prevent a change in the future is a concept that our team borrows straight from The Terminator. We also include a level of camp that is comparable to the Doctor Who series. The difference being that we borrow from movie tropes and history for our camp, as opposed to the established continuity that the show uses. We additionally use the storytelling idea of a wise time traveler to explain the context of the story. This is adapted from both shows, and it is very effective for explaining the overall plot.
Hey Everybody, today I decided to talk about The Space Race. More specifically I will be focusing on why the Americans shifted their aim towards putting a man on the moon, and how we will reflect that in our game. I wanted to do so as The Space Race is how my group and I are explaining the time travel used in our game. In our canonical universe, The Space Race was a cover-up for a race between Russia and the U.S. to successfully engineer time travel. The Russians wanted to use time travel in order to keep the Americans from winning the Revolutionary War, so that they would have no large enemies to compete with after World War Two. The U.S. then utilizes time travel to keep this alternate future from happening. Our game will mirror the actual space race by having the Russians initially ahead of the United States (why they are able to go back in time first) and then having the U.S. beat the Russians (beating the British and Russians will be almost symbolic of the U.S. going to the moon). Kennedy’s use of propaganda speech in the game will allude to his motivations for getting a man on the moon.
In reality, the U.S. did technically start the space race, but they were behind the Russians at every step of the journey up until the moon landing. Kennedy, the president who famously pushed for putting a man on the moon, had initially been very dismissive about the importance of continuing to fund NASA’s research and development. Given America’s firm spot at second place to the Russians and Kennedy’s lack of approval, it is hard to see why he would support such an expensive allocation of his administration’s resources. However, Kennedy needed The Space Race in order to maintain public approval. After the Bay of Pigs failure, Kennedy was desperate to win back the public. By choosing to go to the moon, not only did Kennedy’s administration pick a task far enough into the future that the Americans could possibly beat the Russians, but they were able to generate enough American propaganda to save the presidents approval rate.
For anyone who has grown up in the American public education system, gilded ideas of the Cold War and how we triumphed over the Russians were dominant. The Apollo Moon landing, The Miracle on Ice, and the fall of the Berlin wall are all seen as victories for lofty ideals such as “freedom” and “liberty”. The idea that Kennedy could have possibly had his doubts about beating the Russians in the space race is problematic for the narrative that Americans are expected to believe. it is in this way that it joins The Vietnam War and the Bay of Pigs. The particular era is looked at through rose-colored glasses in a very similar way that the Revolutionary War is. The moon landing is very comparable to the Boston Tea Party or the signing of The Declaration of Independence.
Why We Would Rather Smash than Brawlout
Last week I finally decided that it was time for me to finally do what I had been holding out on for the entirety of the first semester of my sophomore year at Centre. I bought a switch. The main thing that had held me back from buying the console was the fact that a port of smash 4 hadn’t been released for the console. The thing that convinced me to finally make my decision was an indie game called Brawlout. The game had been released for switch, and though virtually a clone to smash bros, something about the game didn’t live up to the iconic coach fighter. Although game mechanics could have been a factor to the game not living up to smash bros, it is because its lack of meaningful and familiar characters that is its real weakness.
In any videogame the player must embodies the character that they play. For fighting games in particular, these different characters have to stand out from the other characters. On the surface, they do this through stats, dialogue, appearance, and gameplay. For Smash Bros, this is really all you need, as we can rely on pre existing characterization and storylines from all the character’s own unique games. Brawlout, on the other hand, lacked this same ability to grip to previously made material for most of their characters. The two successful characters being guest characters from other indie games (Hyperlight drifter and Juan from Guacamelee). Most of the cast though visually good looking lacked anything special in terms of lore. The campaign given to the player, though showing little dialogue here and there, doesn’t explain any of the characters back story. The online description of the characters though giving them some back story, doesn’t spend more than a couple paragraphs doing so. The fact that the player has the chore to go online and off of the game to find out why they should care about any of the fighters, is a serious downfall of the game.
Fighter games aren’t alone in the need to properly characterize the characters in their game. Halo combat evolved created an entirely new universe in a single game, by making supporting characters that players could care about. Cortana and Sgt. Johnson acted in specific ways, and their personality and backstories directly influenced their behavior. Mortal Kombat famously created the rivalry between Sub-Zero and Scorpion that made the player able to identify with both characters regardless of who they were beating up. Good characterization is essential for the playability of a game.
This isn’t to say however that we cannot borrow from preexisting ideas. Very famously, the Wolfenstein games borrow from a pretty popular characterization of the Nazis. The Civilization games borrow from a particularly western view of history as a linear progression. By using concepts that people are familiar with a developer can attract an audience. They can also use these preconceived ideas and spin them on their head like the creation of the characters of Wario and Waluigi, or when a game like Octodad has you attempt to do mundane western fatherly tasks as an Octopus in disguise.