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kottke.org posts about video games

Watch an AI Break Tetris

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 23, 2021

With nearly instant reaction times, superhuman button tapping frequency, and an inability to fatigue, an AI called StackRabbit can play Tetris better than any human player. But how much better? Well, it can play all the way to the end of the game, which…did you know Tetris ended? I didn’t. But before that happens, it plays flawlessly through hundreds of levels while the game itself is throwing up weirdo color schemes and scores from random places in its memory — the game’s creators didn’t imagine anyone or anything would get anywhere close to these levels. Also, I got surprisingly anxious watching this — it was just so fast with so much constant peril! (via waxy)

Combining 5000+ Super Mario Bros Speedrun Attempts Into One Video

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 29, 2021

YouTube user FlibidyDibidy took 193 hours of footage of his Super Mario Bros speedrun attempts (that’s 5162 separate attempts) and merged them all into one five-minute video.

This was not easy to do. For instance; when you have 41 million frames — even if something takes only one second — you’re looking at well over a year of computer time alone. Most frames were processed in much less than a second, but some had to be done by hand to train the system and oh man I could go on forever on how it was made.

Here’s a making-of video where you get to see the custom software he built to make the merged speedruns. The best comment on YouTube:

There’s a real “Hundreds of Sea Turtle hatchlings trying to survive their walk to the ocean” vibe to this video

I love these sorts of videos…I did a whole post on “time merge media” back in 2008. (via waxy)

Nuclear Powered Game Boy

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 20, 2021

Using a small quantity of tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen) and a pair of solar panels, Ian Charnas built a nuclear powered portable game system (a knock-off Game Boy) that is capable of playing Tetris. The tritium puts out an incredibly small amount of energy, so the system uses tiny but incredibly efficient batteries that were able to power the game for an hour after charging for two months.

If you’re interested, Charnas is raffling the nuclear game system to benefit Chernobyl Children International. (via @pomeranian99)

Just How Badly Do You Want That Replacement Atari Console Part?

posted by Tim Carmody   Jul 09, 2021

Best Electronics store copy describing its catalog and rare parts for sale, written in an old, text-heavy HTML style

Vice has a sometimes less-than-flattering profile of Best Electronics’ Bradley Koda, a persnickety entrepreneur who has an unrivaled catalog of old-school Atari console parts and a reputation for shutting out buyers who get impatient with doing things his way:

Among Atari fans, Best is almost as famous for ignoring and blacklisting badly behaved customers as it is for selling Atari parts. A first attempt to buy from Best Electronics is a sink-or-swim proposition: learn the rules, or accept your fate…

Koda is a monopolist, of a sort, but he’s no Jeff Bezos. Best Electronics has no virtual shopping cart, or any other Amazon-esque conveniences. The store’s website looks the same as it has since the early 2000s: it’s a lengthy, multicoloured text scroll, as if Jack Kerouac quit the novel-writing business (but not the benzedrine) and started typing about Atari…

Anyone who can’t figure out this system risks being deemed a time-waster. In emails to customers, Koda often laments his busy schedule, and he seems to take distractions personally. He would rather lose a sale than suffer someone who hasn’t learned the rules.

Best has been in business more than 25 years. Its equipment is mostly unused Atari originals, not salvaged parts. The company’s catalog was printed more than 20 years ago (and is available only in print); corrections (including changes in price) are only available online. His customers both love him and fear him.

In short, it’s a throwback to old-school nerd retail, the kind lampooned by The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy. What, did you think finding first-rate replacement parts for your forty-year old video game machine would be like buying AA batteries?

A Revolutionary NES Tetris Technique Gaining Steam

posted by Jason Kottke   May 03, 2021

The NES version of Tetris has been out in the world for more than 30 years now. Somehow, using the same controllers and human hands that have been in use all this time, a new technique has been invented that’s resulting in scores and maneuvers that no one using The Old Ways could have dreamed of. One YouTube commenter sums it up:

The fact that we are still out here revolutionizing the mere concept of pressing a button on a controller that is almost 40 years old. I love this community.

This is a great illustration of innovation in action. There’s a clearly new invention, based on prior effort (standing on the shoulders of giants), that allows for greater capabilities and, though it’s still too early to tell in this case, seems likely to shift power to people who utilize it. And it all takes place inside a small and contained world where we can easily observe the effects.

See also Jacob Sweet’s piece from the New Yorker a couple of months ago, The Revolution in Classic Tetris, which contains this unbelievable tidbit:

Dana Wilcox, one of the highest-scoring players on the Twin Galaxies leaderboard, discovered that she’d played for twenty years without knowing that the blocks could be spun in either direction.

(via robin sloan)

Delightful Acapella Versions of Familiar Jingles

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 04, 2021

This is a fun discovery, via Laura Olin’s newsletter: a Korean acapella group called Maytree that does impressions of famous cultural jingles and sound effects. In this video, they perform a number of movie intro tunes (20th Century Fox, Paramount, etc.):

Watch until the end…the Netflix one is *kisses fingers*. Here they do the music from Super Mario Bros, including the overworld, underworld, and underwater themes:

Tetris (which gets unexpectedly dramatic):

And finally, a bunch of sounds and jingles from Microsoft Windows:

Kids Talk About Gaming During the Pandemic

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 01, 2021

Concerned that recent articles like this one about screen time panic were not adequately capturing the perspective of the kids themselves, Anne Helen Petersen asked a group of parents and caregivers to conduct interviews with kids about gaming and screen time.

So I wanted to hear them talk about their own relationship to the games they play: what they like about it, when they like to play, how games make them feel, who they like to play with, and how they respond to anxiety about their gaming/screen time.

I pulled out a few quotes from the kids but the whole thing is worth a read.

When people say that screentime is bad, I want to say, hey, I want to be more social at the moment and it’s hard to do that right now and I can only do it with technology.

I feel annoyed and angry with the “too much time playing video games argument,” because people don’t really understand. They don’t play these games. They don’t have any experience themselves, and they’re judging what we do based on what they’ve heard or read. Gaming is so new that there’s no conclusive evidence yet to prove if it’s actually harmful. It feels like they’re just trying to control us and tell us what to do.

When adults say that kids play too many video games it makes me kinda angry and confused. We’re already stuck at home and it feels like they’re trying to cut us off from our friends even more. So it’s kinda annoying.

Honestly I don’t really worry about spending too much time game at all. I already spend almost all my time on there anyway and it doesn’t seem to have any negative side effects. Key word “seem.” People need to make sure they don’t get correlation and causation mixed together.

Like many other parents, we’ve been struggling mightily with games, devices, and screen time during the pandemic (although for us this is an issue that carried over from The Before Times). As Petersen says, this is a complicated challenge and I am sympathetic to both the arguments these kids make (which mirror what I’ve heard from my kids) and parental concerns about too much time on devices (the effects of which I’ve seen in my kids).

What we’ve done, imperfectly, is prioritize the social aspect of gaming time — playing with friends, gaming clubs, playing together in the living room — over manically grinding away for hours on end in a dark room. We try to meet them on their terms — ask them what they did today in Minecraft or Among Us, show real interest about their progress, etc. I empathize and commiserate when I can — I grew up playing video games and I still get a little too into them on my phone or iPad sometimes. But we also encourage them to get outside and move their bodies, find ways to connect with friends that don’t involve killing virtual people, and try to get them to recognize some of the worst effects of too much screen time (they do, if you catch them at the right moment about it). Keeping a good connection with your kids around gaming & screens is the key bit, I think. With that in hand, in theory it’s at least possible to keep kids and parents alike safe and sane during all of this.

Softbody Tetris

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 02, 2020

I thought you could use a video of some fuzzy Tetris bricks that automagically ease/ooze into their proper places. That’s it. That’s the post. (via @Remember_Sarah)

The Game of the Year: the 3D Virtual Walkthrough of 8800 Blue Lick Road

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 28, 2020

This week’s fun internet plaything has been the 3D virtual house tour of this three-bedroom house at 8800 Blue Lick Rd. in Louisville, KY. If you take the tour, you’ll quickly see why: from the standpoint of physics, the house doesn’t seem to make any sense. You think you’re in the basement and then head up some stairs to find yourself…still in the basement? It’s all very Inception crossed with the Winchester Mystery House with a side of How Buildings Learn.

So of course people turned it into a game: find the oddly located bathtub. They even started speedrunning it.

Resident internet meme sleuth Andy Baio called the owner of the house and got the scoop on the puzzling residence.

A larger question remained: what’s the deal with this place? Whoever owned it, they were too organized to be hoarders. The home appeared to double as the office and warehouse for an internet reseller business, but who sells a house crammed floor-to-ceiling with retail goods?

Internet sleuths unearthed several news articles from 2014, outlining how police discovered thousands of stolen items being sold online during a raid at the address, the result of a four-year investigation resulting in criminal charges for four family members living and working at the house.

But it didn’t add up. If they were convicted for organized crime, why was there still so much inventory in the house, with products released as recently as last year? Why is it still packed full while they’re trying to sell it? And what’s with the bathtub!?

I had questions, so I picked up the phone.

He also explains why the bathtub is no longer viewable in the 3D walkthrough.

Behind the Scenes Footage of Mortal Kombat

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 23, 2020

Released on the heels of the success of Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat was one of the earliest games to make extensive use of human actors as models for onscreen action. You can see this proto-motion capture in action in the video above, which features actors & martial artists performing the moves for each of the fighters in the first version of the game. Each pose or motion was recorded and then turned into actions by the onscreen avatars. In the first few seconds, you can even see the actor doing that subtle rocking motion thing that video game avatars do now. (Does this motion have a name? The ready stance?)

See also the making of several subsequent versions of the game — the capture techniques obviously get more sophisticated as the tech improves.

Reprogramming a Game By Playing It: an Unbelievable Super Mario Bros 3 Speedrun

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 17, 2020

After a fellow named Zikubi beat the speedrun record for Super Mario Bros 3 with a time of just over three minutes, speedrun analyst Bismuth made the video above to explain how he did it…by changing the game with the gameplay itself.

The first couple minutes go exactly as you’d expect, but the speedrun takes a weird turn when, instead of using the second warp whistle to go to level 8, he uses it to go to level 7. And once in level 7, Mario races around randomly, letting opportunity slip away like a blindfolded birthday boy unwittingly steering himself away from the piñata. It’s only later, during the explanation of how he got from level 7 to the final screen so quickly, that you realize Mario’s panicky idiot behavior is actually the player actively reprogramming the game to open up a wormhole to the ending. Watch the whole explanation — it’s a really fascinating little hack.

See also Bismuth’s explanation of a Super Mario Bros world record speedrun, which includes a short argument by me about why video game speedrun breakdowns are interesting to watch even if you don’t play video games.

In the video analysis of this speedrun, if you forget the video game part of it and all the negative connotations you might have about that, you get to see the collective effort of thousands of people over more than three decades who have studied a thing right down to the bare metal so that one person, standing on the shoulders of giants in a near-perfect performance, can do something no one has ever done before. Progress and understanding by groups of people happens exactly like this in manufacturing, art, science, engineering, design, social science, literature, and every other collective human endeavor…it’s what humans do. But since playing sports and video games is such a universal experience and you get to see it all happening right on the screen in front of you, it’s perhaps easier to grok SMB speedrun innovations more quickly than, say, how assembly line manufacturing has improved since 2000, recent innovations in art, how we got from the flip phone to iPhone X in only 10 years, or how CRISPR happened.

(via @craigmod)

It’s Rain in Games

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 08, 2020

From Jez Burrows, 30 minutes of rain from video games like Uncharted, Batman: Arkham Knight, Donkey Kong Country, Spider-Man, and Animal Crossing.

A supercut of video game characters taking a break from solving crime or shooting people to enjoy a meditative minute of miserable weather.

(via @kellianderson)

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 03, 2020

As a huge fan of Mario Kart (and a relatively recent owner of a Switch), this looks absolutely amazing (if it works smoothly). In Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit, you race a physical kart (against other peoples’ physical karts if you want) through your actual house, controlling it via onscreen AR on your Nintendo Switch (the onscreen view comes from a tiny camera mounted on the kart). Here’s what Nintendo says about it:

Created in partnership with Velan Studios, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit brings the fun of the Mario Kart series into the real world by using a Nintendo Switch or Nintendo Switch Lite system to race against opponents using a physical Kart. The physical Kart responds to boosts in-game and in the real world, stops when hit with an item and can be affected in different ways depending on the race. Players place gates to create a custom course layout in their home, where the only limit is their imagination. Race against Koopalings in Grand Prix, unlock a variety of course customizations and costumes for Mario or Luigi, and play with up to four players in local multiplayer mode.

Watch the trailer above…it does look totally cool.

Lego Nintendo Entertainment System

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 15, 2020

Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System

As a child of the 80s, this Lego set of the Nintendo Entertainment System activates a very ancient and primal region of my brain. As you can see in this short video, the set includes a controller, a cartridge that you can put into the machine, and a vintage TV with a hand-crank that you can use to “play” Super Mario Bros.

Pok√©mon Grandpa’s Incredible Phone Array

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 25, 2020

Chen San-yuan, a Taiwanese man who has been nicknamed Pokémon Grandpa, has affixed an array of 64 phones to his bike in order to play dozens of simultaneous games of Pokémon Go.

Pokemon Grandpa

When I first posted about Chen back in Nov 2018, his mere 15-phone setup looked like this:

Pokemon Grandpa

How much bigger can he go? He’s averaging adding ~2.5 phones per month to the array (assuming linear growth, which I’m not sure we can, but let’s start there) so he could reach 100 phones by August 2021. Stay tuned!

The Origin of 8-Bit Arcade Fonts

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 13, 2020

Aided by Toshi Omagari, who wrote Arcade Game Typography, Vox’s Estelle Caswell explores the origins and history of 8-bit arcade fonts. From the description of the book:

Video game designers of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s faced color and resolution limitations that stimulated incredible creativity. With each letter having to exist in a small pixel grid, artists began to use clever techniques to create elegant character sets within a tiny canvas.

As the creator of a tiny pixelated typeface, I find this stuff infinitely fascinating.

Universe Sandbox

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 14, 2020

Universe Sandbox is a interactive space & gravity simulator that you can use to play God of your own universe.

You can create star systems: “Start with a star then add planets. Spruce it up with moons, rings, comets, or even a black hole.” You can collide planets and stars or simulate gravity: “N-body simulation at almost any speed using Newtonian mechanics.” You can model the Earth’s climate, make a star go supernova, or ride along on space missions or see historical events.

I found Universe Sandbox after watching this video about what would happen if the Earth got hit by a grain of sand going 99.9% the speed of light (spoiler: not much). This game/simulator/educational tool is only $30 but I fear that if I bought it, I would never ever leave the house again.

Recommended Soundtracks from Mobile Games

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 30, 2020

I am always on the lookout for good music to write, design, and code to and video game music is definitely one of my go-to genres. Chris Gonzales wrote up a pair of guides to Mobile Games with Fantastic Soundtracks (part 2). Represented soundtracks include those from Monument Valley, Alto’s Odyssey, Gorogoa, and Stardew Valley.

Andy Cheung made a Spotify playlist of all the recommendations:

One that I listen to a lot that’s not on either list is Ben Prunty’s Ftl soundtrack (on Spotify).

iPhone Case Is Also a Playable Game Boy

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 18, 2019

Game Boy iPhone case

Here’s a thing I just found out about: protective iPhone cases that are also playable Game Boy-style handheld gaming console. Here are a bunch of different ones on Amazon for different phones in a variety of colors that come preloaded with games.

Buyer beware on these though — the reviews are just ok, many of them likely don’t come with actual NES or Game Boy games, and who knows if they’ll actually protect your phone? The CaseBoy claims to come preloaded with games like Super Mario Bros, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Galaga, Contra, and the like, but it seems unlikely that Nintendo (or anyone else) licensed these games to them. The Verge panned one of the cases in this review (so did MacWorld).

I scrolled to “E” to find the Frogger knock-off, in which I maneuvered a single block through rows of moving bricks. The letter “D” let me play a Galaga clone, although I had to imagine the missiles since they didn’t show up on screen. Games I-Z are all variants on Tetris, ranging from the standard tile-matching puzzler to one that made the stack of blocks move to the right every few seconds.

As for its actual effectiveness as a case? It depends.

Fun idea though! Has anyone used one of these? I’m tempted to order one just to see how bad/good it is.

Logos of Video Game Consoles from 1976 to the Present

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 14, 2019

Video Game Console Logos

Reagan Ray has collected the logos of video game consoles from 1976 to the present. He ignores the first generation of consoles because there would have been too many to include. (Historical interlude: I didn’t know gaming consoles were broken down into generations. Apparently we’re in the 8th generation now — Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch.)

See also Ray’s collections of classic airline logos, record label logos, 80s action figure logos, American car logos, etc..

Urban Tetris

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 30, 2019

Urban Tetris

Urban Tetris

Urban Tetris

From graphic designer Mariyan Atanasov comes Urban Tetris, in which apartment buildings in Sofia, Bulgaria are turned into a massive game of Tetris. If you’ve played a bunch of Tetris in your life, just looking at these images should trigger the familiar theme song in your head. Next: make this actually playable. (via colossal)

Animated Pixel Art Map of the USA

posted by Jason Kottke   Sep 18, 2019

Animated Pixel Map of the USA

A fellow by the name of David who goes by PixelDanc3r made this animated map of the United States in the style of 16-bit video game graphics; it seems like the most direct inspiration is the overworld map in Super Mario World. He’s done similar maps of Brazil, Venezuela, and his home country of Argentina. You can check out more of his pixel creations on Instagram and DeviantArt. (via the morning news)

Mario Kart Tour for iOS

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 27, 2019

I don’t talk about it much on the site for some reason, but Mario Kart is one of my all-time favorite video games. So I am very excited that Mario Kart Tour is coming out on iOS on September 25 (just in time for my b-day). You can pre-order it here — the game is free with in-app purchases to unlock more gameplay (just like Super Mario Run). Here’s a short trailer that shows how the gameplay works:

Playful Chess Variants

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 23, 2019

Gravity Chess

From experimental game developer Pippin Barr, several variations on the game of chess that makes the game more interesting (or at least weirder). In “Clone” mode, every time you move a piece, a copy of that piece is made. In “Chance” mode, selecting a piece causes the piece to change randomly to another type of piece (e.g. from a pawn to a rook) that you can then move. In “Gravity” mode, pieces fall to the bottom of the board unless they’re blocked by other pieces. In “Quantum” mode, a new piece is spawned in each possible new position of a selected piece.

Mario Royale

posted by Jason Kottke   Jun 23, 2019

Mario Royale (now renamed DMCA Royale to skirt around Nintendo’s intellectual property rights) is a battle royale game based on Super Mario Bros in which you compete against 74 other players to finish four levels in the top three. Here’s what the gameplay looked like when it was still Mario-branded:

Kotaku has coverage:

And because Mario Royale is partially a race, there are all sorts of ways to play. Do you try to get items and destroy the competition? Do you speedrun through levels? Do you take it steady and win through careful progress? These are all viable options. There’s a silliness here that makes each option a wacky spectacle, even as each option is also a worthwhile strategy. It only takes a handful of minutes to play a match, but you always walk away with a cool story.

Introducing the Playdate Gaming System

posted by Jason Kottke   May 23, 2019

Playdate

Playdate is a new handheld gaming system from Panic, the makers of FTP software. Hold on, what?! From the press release:

Playdate is both very familiar, and totally new. It’s yellow, and fits perfectly in a pocket. It has a black-and-white screen with high reflectivity, a crystal-clear image, and no backlight. And of course, it has Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB-C, and a headphone jack. But it also has a crank. Yes, a crank: a cute, rotating analog controller that flips out from the side. It’s literally revolutionary.

The crank made me laugh out loud — in delight, mind you. Who puts a hand-crank on the side of a handheld video game console?! A very playful Nintendo-esque touch, designed in collaboration with Teenage Engineering. There’s more info, including photos of their first prototype, in this Twitter thread.

The old school tech blogging community1 is fired up about this thing in a way I’ve not seen for years. John Gruber writes on Daring Fireball:

The idea of a new upstart, a company the size of Panic — with only software experience at that — jumping into the hardware game with a brand new platform harkens back to the ’80s and ’90s. But even back then, a company like, say, General Magic or Palm, was VC-backed and aspired to be a titan. To be the next Atari or Commodore or Apple.

In today’s world all the new computing devices and platforms come from huge companies. Apple of course. All the well-known Android handset makers building off an OS provided by Google. Sony. Nintendo.

Panic is almost cheating in a way because they’re tiny. The Playdate platform isn’t competing with the state of the art. It’s not a retro platform, per se, but while it has an obviously nostalgic charm it is competing only on its own terms. Its only goal is to be fun.

And from Anil Dash, Putting the Soul in Console:

I’d been given a hint a while ago that something like this was coming, but the final execution is even more delightful than I’d imagined it might be. (That crank!) More importantly, it’s captured the imagination of so many, and seems like the kind of thing that could inspire a new generation of creative people to think, “Hey, maybe good tech is something we can make ourselves.” I’ve seen it happen on Glitch, and now I see it happening around Playdate after just a few hours.

That idea, that maybe things like our gaming devices or the websites we visit should be created by people we know and like, instead of giant faceless companies, seems more essential than ever. We would never settle for replacing all of our made-with-love, locally-grown, mom’s recipe home cooking with factory-farmed fast food, even if sometimes convenience demands we consume the latter. And we shouldn’t compromise any less on making sure that some of the time we spend playing games with each other, and delighting in the promise of technology, comes from people who’ve been diligently working for years to make well-sourced, organically grown, made-with-love technology.

Playdate starts shipping in early 2020. Supplies are probably going to be limited, so if you’re interested in getting one, you should hop on their mailing list.

  1. I.e. the folks who write about technology (software, gadgets) because they love it, not the folks who write about technology (IPOs, funding rounds) because it makes them money and gives them power.

The Legend of Nixon, a Data-Driven NES Soundscape

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 19, 2019

Brian Chirls took the approval ratings for Richard Nixon’s presidency and using sounds from The Legend of Zelda’s classic Dungeon Theme, he made a data-driven soundscape of the public perception of Nixon’s tenure in the White House. Here’s what his approval rating looked like:

Richard Nixon Approval

And here’s the resulting audio track:

The sound effects mostly represent actions the protagonist Link takes like the “sword slash”, things that happen to him like a grunt when he gets hurt, or the status of the game like the low health alarm that beeps when Link has only half a “heart container” left and can only take one or two more hits before he dies and the game is over. The goal of this project is to create a piece of audio that sounds like a typical playthrough of the game and also accurately tells the story of Nixon’s fall as represented by the data.

What a cool example of using the familiar to explain or illustrate the unfamiliar. If you’ve ever played Zelda, you can clearly hear Nixon doing more and more poorly as the track goes on — he’s taking damage, the dungeon boss sound chimes in right around when Watergate is ramping up, and he’s gaining fewer hearts. It’s like he’s a novice player armed only with the wooden sword trying to defeat the level 3 dungeon without a potion…the end comes pretty quickly.

How to Play Pac-Man

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 11, 2019

The highest score a player can get in Pac-Man is 3,333,360. In a fascinating recent article on the game, Cat DeSpira doesn’t tell us how to play the digital game on the screen but instead shows how people interact with the physical artifact of the cabinet while playing Pac-Man. Specifically, she notes that the particular pattern of wear on the sides of Pac-Man machines arises from the nature of the game.

Pac-Man wear pattern

Pac-Man is more of a driving game than a maze game. As you’re playing, you’re jamming that joystick left and right, up and down, movements that shifts your right shoulder forward and back, rocking your body side to side. When the going gets tough, and the ghosts start closing in, all of this rocking motion compels you to lean into the game and, whether you realize you’re doing it or not, you’re going to grab onto the game. You actually need to get a grip…on something. You’re either going to lean hard against your left palm as it rests on the control panel which isn’t comfortable for very long or, like most people, you’re going to grab the side of the game and hold on tight. You have to or you’ll lose your balance. You can’t take the sharp corners smoothly and quickly without doing this, ether. You need the extra stabilization to move Pac-Man around the corners accurately.

Many owners have “restored” the worn sides of their games so they look like new, but DeSpira argues that covers up a vital aspect of gaming history:

Pac-Man’s worn left-side is part of the game’s provenance. It’s unique only to Pac-Man games, including Ms. Pac-Man. It’s evidence left by “Pac-Mania” and also evidence of how the game was really played. It’s a time signature left by a generation of the first gamers. It’s history that should be preserved intact. It tells a story that we’ll never see written again.

Why anyone would want to destroy something that reflects a cultural phenomenon in gaming boggles my mind. It’s confusing even more to me that people can’t see it, can’t see the worn side of the game and know exactly what put it there and find it beautiful — hands. Thousands of human hands. Millions, even. Hands of many colors, many sizes; white collar hands, blue collar hands, no-collar hands. Hands that put a quarter in a machine that was attacked by the press as being “addicting” and “unhealthy”. Ordinances were passed that helped kill the video craze off early because of Pac-man, because a generation of newly risen gamers couldn’t keep their hands off it and, in a free country, shouldn’t have been expected to anyway. That scar was put there by an act of defiance.

(thx, s. ben)

Paper Mario Bros

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 11, 2019

I love the aesthetic of Paper Mario Bros, a hand-drawn stop motion animation of World 1-1 of Super Mario Bros. The artist, @KisaragiHutae6, drew the world in their notebook and shared some behind-the-scenes techniques on Twitter…how they crumpled the paper for stomped-on Goombas, etc.

Paper Mario How To

(via digg)

Why Video Games Are Made of Tiny Triangles

posted by Jason Kottke   Jan 11, 2019

For Vox, Cleo Abram explains why game designers use triangles when designing 3D animated games (and not, say, circles or rectangles).

Triangles are a key part of how these gorgeous, detailed games appear on your screen — the hidden heroes we should all thank as we play. This simple shape helps keep the number of computations needed for each detail as low as possible, allowing the player’s computer to process these elaborate games.

I like how the arms race among game developers to create more and more realistic objects out of smaller and smaller triangles mirrors the process in differential calculus of finding the slope of a curve by — wait for it — using smaller and smaller triangles. The game designers are going to have a problem truly getting to infinitesimally small triangles though…