Inside Pulse 12

Retrograding 09.06.03

That’s right, this week Alex is advocating literacy. Most of you probably already have developed the hand-eye co-ordination to pull off a reenactment of the JFK assassination anyways, so why not develop your mind for a change! And what better way to do so then with a book?

Now, we all hear it. Video games are played for crazy kids. Rehashed footage of Doom and Mortal Kombat, games that are old and outdated are shown on the news or trotted out by nutty politicians whenever there’s a school shooting or some other violent act by a person 18 and younger. Video Games are violent! Video games breed anger and teach kids the skills that only a postal worker should have! Video games teach us that if you give a Priest a ton of money he can bring you back to life or that you have to eat as much food as quickly as you possibly can before specters come and devour you!

The thing is video games get blamed for everything. Why not? The anachronistic elders doing it have been taught to freak out on something they don’t understand. Something that is strange and alien to them. Look at their parents! When these same ultra conservative adults were kids, THEIR parents and adult community condemned rock and roll as devil music! They tried to ban Elvis’ swinging hips and all sorts of other stuff that are considered passé now! It’s a cycle. It’s growing old and cynical and afraid of change.

AND IT HAPPENS TO US ALL. In some way shape or form. Look at me for example. I don’t watch anything on TV. I don’t find any shows funny or entertaining any more. What do I watch? DVD’s of Black Adder, Frasier, and Count Duckula. I retrogame because I don’t find games nowadays fun. Soul Calibur 2? WAY too easy. Most RPG’s now a days? Plotless piles of tripe connected with pretty graphics. I rarely listen to the radio, and my CD collection consist of bands like Sisters of Mercy, Gwar, and bands that broke up before I graduated college. I find people younger than me that don’t get Kids in the Hall, Transformers, or Deliverance jokes! But the difference between me and people who haven’t grown old gracefully is that although I don’t like a lot of what’s new, I accept it, and most importantly I accept people who do enjoy the cutting edge of technology, music, and pop culture.

We have to break the chain of denouncing that which is strange and different to us. And I have the way to break that chain. Or at least get Washington off the video game industry’s back.

It’s simple. You take that which people can NEVER complain about. And update it. If those Columbine boys had read Shakespeare instead of played video games and listened to Manson, no authority figure or reporter would have said “Falstaff! He’s to blame! Him and those Merry Wives of Windsor!’ Take something like classical literature and turn it into a video game! With the sheep like mentality of today’s casual gaming audience, you can just slap some ultra modern graphics, a little CGI and the sheep will eat it up like people bought Final Fantasy X. And they’ll be none the wiser they’re getting an electronic equivalent of a BA in British Literature.

And so I give to you, this week’s Retrograding: Ten Books That Need To Be Made Into Video Game Form So Overprotective Psycho Middle Aged Members of the PTC Will Back the Fuck Off.

1. Joseph Conrad’s LORD JIM

What better book to make into a Tomb Raider or Devil May Cry style action game? After all, it was described in 1900 like, “Telling an after-dinner story to his companions for eleven solid hours.’ So you KNOW it’s just like Soul Reaver, a meandering plot that would have been good if hadn’t stuck so many jumping and block puzzles in it. But of course there is no real fighting in Lord Jim. Just a lot of babbling and running around. But heck, all a developer needs to do is throw in a lot of CGI scenes and some pretty graphics and Lord Jim will be EXACTLY like a Final Fantasy game: a bad attempt at a plot when it’s really just pointless babbling and some pretty people thrown in to catch the mindless audience’s attention.

Think of the opening CGI scene. Jim is a handsome and strong sailor with high hopes of success in the nautical field. Then he mistakenly believes his ship is going to sink, and cowardice gets the better of him. Jim launches a lifeboat to safe himself instead of wakening the 800 people on board. When the boat doesn’t sink, Jim is put on trial and humiliated. All his hopes and dreams are crushed.

What a great opener! Kids will think “I’m playing as a person pout to redeem himself. I’m going to be going on a quest to renew my honor and repair my good name!’

Of course if you’ve read the book you’ll realize the game play will be more like Animal Crossing or Harvest Moon as you do a crapload of errands helping a group of backwards savages. You’ll be planting crops, dispensing items to make Patina a better community and getting it on with a chick named Jewel. Who hopefully doesn’t write shitty poetry.

And then you get to deal with Pirates! Everyone needs a good pirate video game right! And once Pirates enter the game, Kids will start thinking, “Finally! A fight! I’m so sick of teaching these people.’ But no, there is no fight. At least not one that Jim is in. The huge battle occurs when Jim is not around. So think of the parents faces when they learn there bloodiest, most violent part of the game occurs just as it happens in the novel: You don’t get to see it!

Jim comes back and deals with the fact that his attempt to help the Pirates ended in his people’s horrible slaughter. Again the kids will think “YES! Revenge time.’ But no, Jim merely goes to the tribal leader and offers himself up as a sacrifice, which Dain Waris gleefully accepts! END OF GAME!

And with the pretty graphics, assorted stupid jumping and pushing puzzles and the ultimately false hope of Pirate and Native killing, Kid will never suspect their learning about a book that is totally inferior to “Heart of Darkness’ in every way imaginable! YAY!

And best of all, the people playing the Lord Jim game will walk away the same way readers of the book did. Saying, “What the f*ck was that pile of crap about? Half the game was mindless filler!’

2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner.

Okay. Right away with this classic, kids will be drawn in by the chance to play as FOUR different characters! Benjy the retard! Quentin the overly anal time obsessed suicidal maniac! Jason IV! A boring drip whose life consists of nothing but order and logic! Dilsey, the African American Slave woman! Just think how exciting those characters will be to play! It’d play like Resident Evil 2, but without zombies! Or any violence! Or anything at all really happening whatsoever!

Imagine the hardcore gamers talking about how great the Benjy story line is because of the horrible play control! What? People will want horrible play control? Of course! Benjy is retarded, and the controls will reflect that. Only the most hardcore of hardcore gamers will be able to get past his story with the buttons and controls randomly changing EVERY FIVE MINUTES! And just like the stream of consciousness aspect that comes with Benjy’s section of the book, the story will flip from past to present to future without any warning, making the object of Benjy’s story all the harder to achieve. Only the best gamers on the planet will be able to accomplish Benjy’s goal of FINDING THAT LOST QUARTER! Think of how full GameFAQs boards will be with gamers claiming to have beaten this level even though they still can’t successfully punctuate!

And then there’s Quentin’s chapter. Who need the book final exit, when playing as Quentin teaches you not only how to properly drown yourself, but how to tell time, fold clothes, and also how to pack a suitcase. And even though it’s boring and anal and right before you get to the drowning part, you have to go home and DO IT ALL AGAIN because Quentin has some pretty bad OCD going on, kids will still think it’s the coolest game ever because there’s SUICIDE! Oooh! Taboo! But when thousands of puberty ridden teenagers start hucking themselves off bridges because they saw it in a video game, no decent sane adult would ever think of blaming the great WILLIAM FAULKNER, leaving the rest of us to play Shining Force and Super Metroid.

And think of the fun you’ll have in Jason’s section, something so boring and pointless no one will make it past the first 5 minutes without turning the game off and have a heartfelt desire to ride a bike! But if they do get past the boringness that is Jason’s part of the game, players will learn such important life skills as how to properly weild a belt as a weapon, or how to degrade black people and jews, and most importantly, how to commit bank fraud! How could parents NOT want a child to learn such skills as these?

And then when you get the chance to play as the secret unlockable character, Dilsey…no one will care? Why? Because they just played as crazy old Jason and have learned the important life lesson that both old people and those with different skin colours suck and Dilsey is BOTH! And so what’s the point of telling you her story anyways?

3. Franz Kafka’s The Trial

Like games like The 7th Guest or D or Myst or Lunacy? Imagine the thrilling game play of THE TRIAL! BUM BUM BUM! Nothing compares to the thrill of a video game steeped in EXISTENTIAL LITERATURE!

Your character wakes up? On his 30th birthday he is arrested. And for non reason. And no matter what you try to do player, the character you are play at just decides to go with them. NO CONTROL!

Then it’s your 31st birthday and they come back for you and take you to a rock quarry. Again any button you press makes your character go willingly!

Watch your character sit through long unfathomable meetings with the Court that makes vague and unclear allusions to The Law. Behold as no matter where you go or who you interact with, nothing seems to make sense and everything seems futile! Why does everyone think you are a house painter? Why are strange women throwing themselves at you, then get carried off for no apparent reason? Why does Leni have a webbed hand? What is going on!

It’ll be just like the classic Maniac Mansion, but with even MORE guess and check trial and error button pushing! YAY!

And of course when the game ends, you sit there saying “What just happened?’ And because every other would be gamer on the planet will claim to understand the plot of the game, you’ll feel so stupid and ashamed that you obviously are the only person that couldn’t get the plot of THE TRIAL that you’ll play it again and again in an attempt to be the only guy on your local VG forum who isn’t bullshitting some poseur philosophy about the game! UNLIMITED REPLAYABILITY BABY!

4. George Orwell’s 1984

Although released for all systems, the PS2 and Game Cube versions will exist solely to convince to to buy an Xbox. Because all other systems are pieces of crap and all must own the glorious creation of Microsoft. Xbox Xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox
xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox xbox

5. Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Now this is a tale I can’t believe has never been converted into a video game. God know every line of this poem has been placed onto a M:TG card. Part of the game would play like the classic NES game, DUCK HUNT. Except it’d be an Albatross instead of a duck, and no FUCKING ANNOYING DOG THAT YOU WISH YOU COULD SHOOT OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL THERE IS NOTHING LEFT BUT GORE AND BLOOD. Man’s best friend my ass! I HATE that dog!

Then watch as the game switches to piloting a boat through horrible waters. How good are your piloting skills? Then get your Eternal Darkness skills in check as you have to go toe to toe with Death and Life-in-Death! How full is your sanity meter?

And then of course we go back to piloting the boat, but this time with a crew made up entirely of ZOMBIES! You ever seen a zombie pilot a boat? Talk about a challenge for your driving sim fans!

But the exciting part is when you finally get to land. You then spend the rest of the game, finding total strangers and making them hear your story, which CAUSES YOU TO PLAY THE GAME ALL OVER AGAIN. And again. And again. Endless loop like River Raid baby!

It’s got sailing! It’s got killing birds! It’s got zombies! And storytelling? What other game but the Ancient Mariner could cross so many different platforms!

And of course the clincher would be if you enter Up, down, left, right, a, b, start which unlock the secret for making opium.

6. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment!

Come on people! Look how well GTA: Vice City sold! With a name like CRIME & PUNISHMENT, who WOULDN’T pick up this game. Instant best seller!

Think of the excitement of spending 40 hours into this Shenmue style game only to not have killed anything yet! Watch as players try to figure out what this unknown dead is Raskolnikov’s head is. But at least you get to meet characters like the hilarious alcoholic Marmeladov who when you encounter him, you must sit for an entire hour and listen to his character drone on and on about his pathetic life (Voiced by Dudley Moore).

Sure there will be a bit of disappointment, but once players brutally massacre the pawnbroker and her half sister with an axe, they’ll all be hooked on the game again. Especially by this point you know there’s lots of hookers running around! Time to spend that well earned loot of making Sofya spread her legs!

But of course, those who have read the book, know there’s no more real murdering to occur, and it’s back to Shenmue style gameplay! For the rest of the game, the player must wax philosophically about whether or not to turn himself in, dealing with a new illness everyday…and of course getting some sweet tang from the hooker.

So what if people go schizoid after playing this 300 hour game where nothing happens aside from one brutal double homicide? They learn just what is was like in 19th century Russia and how to obsess about every little detail about one event in your life both before and after it happens. And most of all it teaches you that if you brutally kill someone for no real reason other than you felt like killing, all you need is to catch the flu and fall in love with a prostitute and everything will be better!

And of course, there’s multiplayer online mode to boot!

7. James MOTHERFUCKING Joyce’s Ulysses

Generally considered one of the most bizarre (and thus greatest) books ever written, Converting this book into video game format will make every naysayer of Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat, Doom, or Beat “Em and Eat “Em shut the hell up. People when even crazy old Virginia “I really need to get laid” Woolfe decries this book for being one long, “Cloacal obsession,’ you know it’s gonna be twisted shit. In the 1930’s the US even tried banning this book from being imported into the US!

The book is nothing but allusions, metaphors, riddles and even purposeful misspellings. Watch as gamers become totally baffled by the narration and text on the screen. Watch the line of angry gamers complaining about the fact there was no manual included with game! Watch gamers trying to figure out for hours WHICH pant leg goes on first. Watch as the entire game goes over the heads of 90% of those that try and play it. Especially the last 3 hours of the game.

You know as much as I want to treat this with the same level of dry British wit I’ve been carrying on with the other games/books, nothing I can say will do this justice if you haven’t read the book. Go buy it on Amazon or at Borders NOW people. Then you can come back and have a good laugh at picturing this James MOTHERFUCKING Joyce classic in electronic media format.

8. FAUST

Ah Faust. Imagine the Marlowe version on the Xbox. The Goethe version on the Ps2, and Doctor Faustachu on the NES, a weird RPG where a young 12 year old boy named Fuastachu sells his soul to Mephistopheles in order to become the world’s greatest Pokemon Master.

Hey Eternal Darkness on the Game Cube, YES. Outright promotion of Satanism? I don’t think Nintendo’s willing to go that far, while the M$ and Sony are already in the willing thrall of Beelzebub.

And truly, so kids learn the proper incantations and diagrams for ritual worship and demon summoning? How many parents are really going to blame the Mentor of William Shakespeare and a classing German playwright for the revival of Anton LeVay’s Church of Satan? And hey, in the end it teaches us a valuable lesson about good and evil, and the secret to happiness. But of course the video game version will cleverly disguise that bit with scenes of Faust using his new demonic powers to explode people heads like in the movie Scanners. Because in the end, isn’t that the most valuable lesson of all?

9. The Jim Henson Company Present’s Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot

Think about it people! Everyone loves Muppets! And look at all the Muppets games that are out there! And go back to the Sega-CD and how popular Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective was! Now a new generation will be able to enjoy all the stories that were turned into 3rd rate A&E or BBC made for TV movies! But with Kermit the Frog as Poirot!

Of course the only problem will be that in every adventure, Dr. Teeth will be the killer. But when each chapter of the game stars a different famous 70’s actor, ( Burt Lancaster in the Murder on the Orient Express chapter! Phyllis Diller in Hickory Dickory Dock! Don Knots in Elephants Can Remember!) every Muppets and 70’s retro addict will preorder this game the day it is announced! Who wouldn’t want to see the Swedish Chef accused of murdering Scooter? Or Sam the Eagle talking in a bad German accent? It’s Murder Most Muppet!

10. L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics

Scientology: The Video Game! How can anyone not want this? It can be a FPS where you take down John Travolta, Kirstie Alley and Nancy Cartwright with assorted firearms in order to save the world from their crazy religious beliefs and their combined Hollywood might! And considering most of the people out to stifle the video game market are super religious zealots, a game about blowing up insane heathens would totally appeal to their twisted view of Christianity. Can you honestly see Trent Lott or Dennis Hatcher pointing a finger at Dianetics: The FPS and saying, “That’s what’s wrong with America?” No. Because they’d all secretly have a copy and play it with malicious glee.

Now, if you’ve all missed the complete and total sarcastic nature of this week’s Retrograding, the point is that no matter what, people will always lash out at what they don’t understand. They will revile what the younger generation enjoys and what they can not comprehend. It’s human nature to fear the unknown. Even if the video game industry took these great pieces of world literature and turned them into some sort of RPG or 2D fighting game, people would just move on to something else to point the finger at instead of taking personal accountability. If 99.99% of humanity doesn’t go out and eat babies just because that .01% did, you can’t scour around to find a scapegoat. Some people just suck. Some people are just nuts. Some people are just f*cks. Accept that as the reason why bad shit happens and move on people.

And if you can’t, go read one of these books, because in fact, that’s what they all have in common: That some people are just Fucks. Especially Jim Henson.