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Gaming History You Should Know – The Rise and Fall of the Comic Empire May 21, 2017

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It’s Sunday, and you know what that means, it’s time for this week’s Gaming History You Should Know!  Since last week was Free Comic Book Day, I was reminded that the gaming industry owes a lot to comic books. For decades, the comic industry has told tales of superhumans living among us doing good, doing bad, and were otherwise relatable to regular people.  This made them a perfect medium for the video game industry to adapt, and over the past thirty years there have been numerous cases of comic book inspired video games with various degrees of critical and financial success.

I grew up in the 90s, referred to by many comic historians as the dark age of comics. I know that there have been many people over the years, myself included, who wondered what was going on behind the scenes at these companies, and why they told the now-notorious stories that they did.

Internet legend Chuck Sonnenburg, who is better known online as SF Debris, did an incredibly detailed history of the modern comic book industry.  The video is in fifteen parts (including its introduction and epilogue) so I’ve embedded his official YouTube playlist. You’ll have to set aside some time to watch this, but it’ll be totally worth your Sunday.  Enjoy!

If you’d like to see more videos by SF Debris, visit his website. It is now fully back up and running after recently upgrading his video player.  While he is mostly known for his weekly reviews of Star Trek episodes (with a new one out every Saturday) he also does great film, video game and television reviews.  He’s also chronicled the history behind the loss of 108 classic Doctor Who episodes, and the ongoing quest to recover them. Trust me, when you visit his site you’re going to find yourself unable to leave until you’ve watched every one of his videos!

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Gaming History You Should Know – Dungeons and Dragons Hysteria May 14, 2017

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Welcome back to the return of our regular Sunday staple, Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight and feature some of the best content from across the web. This week, we’ve been talking a lot about the greatness that is Dungeons & Dragons, but I felt the need to tell you about a time when D&D was under attack.  Video Gamers should be plenty familiar with this tactic, as video games were attacked in nearly the same way a decade later.

A lot of what laid the bedrock for what became the Western RPG can be attributed to Dungeons & Dragons.  It was a game which sparked the imagination of many young people and promoted essential social skills and team-building exercises.  However, to the small-minded layman who had never had any actual contact with the game, hearing it included content like demons and magic spells was misconstrued as immoral…somehow.  This misguided moral crusade ended up getting picked up by the mainstream media who was more than happy to spread it like wildfire.

YouTube user Phil, who calls himself El Conquistadork, did a great job chronicling this dark time in gaming.  You should totally check out his well-researched video called The History of Dungeons & Dragons Hysteria!

I don’t think I need to put into words just how stupid this fear mongering was. In fact, in this day and age, actual psychiatrists with actual degrees have openly welcomed using Dungeons & Dragons as a tool to help them with diagnosis and treatment.  Here’s a TED Talk about it:

Hopefully, in the future the mainstream media will excercise better restraint before covering utter nonsense and demonizing an entire generation of people just because of something completely harmless they chose to do with their spare time.

Special thanks to Phil for letting me feature him this week!  You can check out his YouTube Channel here!

Gaming History You Should Know – The History of the D-Pad April 30, 2017

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The D-Pad, an abbreviation of the term “Directional Pad”, is a universally included feature in any modern video game peripheral’s control device.  However, it wasn’t always like that.  In the early days of gaming, player control was done with joysticks and buttons. Even controllers for early game consoles like the Atari would follow suit and offered a joystick or dial-type controller.  It would not be until Nintendo launched the NES (or Famicom in Japan) that the D-pad was featured on a console controller, and by the time the Game Boy was released, it was obvious players could not live without it.

So who is responsible for creating the D-pad?  That would be the great Gunpai Yokoi.  Yes, the late father of the Game and Watch and Metroid can be credited with creating the most important controller feature in the past thirty years.

I’ll let Norman Caruso, better known to the internet as The Gaming Historian, take it from here.  He has an incredible YouTube Channel filled with a plethora of well-researched videos on the history of gaming and I encourage all of my readers to check it out!  So sit back, relax, and enjoy his tale of the history of the D-pad.

The only comment I think I could add about this that the Historian didn’t mention is that I remember seeing a commercial for a third-party NES controller that referred to the D-Pad as a “rocker switch”.  It was likely called this due to the fact the button rocked back and fourth on each axis.  I don’t think it would be officially regarded as the D-pad until after the 16-Bit generation launched.

Gaming History You Should Know – Video Game Inspired Game Shows April 23, 2017

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It’s Sunday and we are back for more Gaming History You Should Know.  Let me tell you about the YouTube Channel Grid 19 Productions. It features a fantastic ongoing series called The Game Show Reviewer, where a man trapped in space and time reviews some of the most memorable game shows in the history of television.  You name the show, he’s probably reviewed it. Jeopardy, The Price is Right, and Press Your Luck are just a few examples of adult game shows he’s reviewed. Heck he’s even reviewed memorable kids game shows like Legends of the Hidden TempleGUTS and Double Dare.

You’re probably wondering why I would feature The Game Show Reviewer on a website devoted to video games, and to answer that I need to take you back to the 90s.  When I was growing up I always had a thirst for new information, regardless if it was historical or pop culture related, and two shows were about to air that would change my life.

By the early 90s there was no escaping the phenomenon that were the Carmen Sandiego PC video games.  Created by Brøderbund, Carmen Sandiego was a thief who stole the world’s most precious historical artifacts while leaving a trail of clues in her wake. Depending on the game, following the clues and solving each case required a knowledge of history and world geography. This focus made it a perfect fit for the PBS network who adapted the video game into a daily game show I used to love watching it after school every day.  Later on, the series actually got a sequel show. Here’s his review of the Carmen Sandiego game shows on PBS. Now, I finally can say what I’ve always wanted to say, “Do it Rockapella!”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the dial, the first kids’ network Nickelodeon was dominating children’s programming with an influx of unique sitcoms, cartoons and game shows. It was the early 90s and the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis consoles were dominating with their superior graphics and sound. Competitive gaming was being openly discussed among people who never even played video games before and Nickelodeon had plans to capitalize on the craze.  However, if they were going to make a tv show about games they weren’t just going to show kids playing video games, they were going to put kids IN THE GAMES!  With that in template mind, the show Nick Arcade was born and here is his review.

Hope you enjoyed this look at the classic game shows that made up my childhood. Special thanks to The Game Show Reviewer for letting me feature him on this site, I can’t wait to see what videos he has in store for the future.

Gaming History You Should Know – Eric and the Dread Gazeebo April 16, 2017

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It’s Sunday, and that means it’s time for another story of Gaming History You Should Know.  The pen-and-paper RPG series Dungeons & Dragons has been around for decades and like with anything popular among nerds it has inspired its share of humor.  That’s right, in fact it has inspired so much humorous content it would take me a week just to feature everything I could find in a single Google search that I thought was funny!

Among all of these jokes and all this humor, people wonder what is the story that is probably the most recognized in all of D&D lore?  The answer to that question would be the story of Eric and the Gazebo, or as its more often called online, Eric and the Dread Gazebo.

The original story of Eric and the Gazebo was written by Richard Aronson and was printed in 1985 or 1986.  It detailed a team of adventurers who come across a gazebo for the very first time. While the story is fictionalized it was based on real events from a D&D session Richard had once played.  It was later copied online some time in the 1990s under the name of Eric and the Dread Gazebo where it was further recopied and spread like wildfire.  If you aren’t familiar with the story, here’s a pretty good version of it presented as voice over.

So there you go, the history behind Eric and the Gazebo, that same story your RPG group will occasionally reference during games.  If you’d like us to highlight more of our favorite Dungeons & Dragons inspired humor, post a comment below!

Gaming History You Should Know – The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter April 9, 2017

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It’s Sunday and it is time for us to bring back our now weekly feature Gaming History You Should Know, where we highlight the great work of content creators from all across the internet.  Today, we will be discussing something pretty special, a theme park attraction.  Let me tell you a story about ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, one of Walt Disney World’s most controversial and yet still fondly remembered rides over a decade after it closed for good.

Back in the mid-90s the then CEO of Disney, a man named Michael Eisner was bringing the company back from a near bankruptcy and into a whole new era of dominance.  Disney owned bi-costal theme parks, and while they were considered by many to be the finest theme parks in the world, Eisner felt they could be doing even better.  He wanted to build thrill rides that would appeal to teenagers inside the Magic Kingdom and had some bold ideas for making it happen.  In 1994, Disney unveiled their plans for what would become the scariest ride in the Magic Kingdom, the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.

This Sounds like a lot of information, but I have to admit that’s just a tiny sliver of the ride’s complete history for you.  I’ll let Rob from the YouTube Channel Rob Plays talk about the full history behind the ride.  Rob really did his homework and you can tell he misses the ride when you hear him talk about it.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter went through several changes as the imagineers fine tuned it for the general public. I’ll let the guys from Park Ride History tell you more about it.  It’s a very detailed video which breaks down the ride’s history and even includes examples of the new audio which was added to improve the ride.

ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter opened in 1995 and after such a massive promotional campaign, there was no shortage of people who wanted to ride it.  For those of you who didn’t get the chance to go on the ride while it was in operation, here’s a look at the full ride and preshow courtesy of Martin’s Videos.

The video is fantastic but video alone really can’t get across how scary it was to actually sit in one of those chairs.  After the ride opened to the public, everyone was talking about it.  How many people were people I knew talking about this ride?  Let me tell you something, I remember my sixth grade science teacher talking about it during class one day, and she had enjoyed it too!

What does this now defunct theme park ride have to do with gaming? In retrospect, a whole lot!  The same technology which helped make the ride such a thrilling experience is now very commonly found in home gaming setups.  The ride’s atmosphere was a lot more than what you saw when you walked in, sound played a big part in the experience. The creative use of stereo speakers built into the theater’s chairs could easily make a ridegoer believe a hungry, vicious alien was hunting them down.  Nowadays I don’t know any gamers who won’t play games without surround sound equipment of some kind, and speaker equipped gaming chairs can easily replicate that same type of setup!

One other thing to remember is both Rob Plays and Park Ride History talked about how Alien Encounter could have been an interactive shooting game similar to MIB: Alien Attack at Universal Studios Orlando.  We don’t know how long that design was in place, but it made me wonder if this experience could be replicated with modern VR headsets?

Now you’re probably going to ask me if I was lucky enough to go on the ride myself, and sadly the answer is no.  I visited Disney World in 1995, when Alien Encounter was just beginning operation, but I didn’t go on it. By this point the word was out just how scary this ride was, and thought I was way too young at the time to enjoy it.  I had heard stories later on about parents dragging their kids onto this ride, but my parents never forced me to go on it.  I planned to eventually check it out a few years later when I was older, but I didn’t go back to Disney World again until 2007, and by that point the ride had been replaced with Stitch’s Great Escape, one of the worst rides in the history of the park.  Take my advice, if you get the chance to go on a ride, take it because you’ll never know how much longer it’ll be around!

With Stitch’s Great Escape now getting put into a high capacity only phase, people have started to talk about what will replace it. I say they should bring back Alien Encounter. Disney still has nothing like it on any of their properties, and the demand is there from people who would take a trip to Florida just for the chance to experience the ride for the first or even next time!

What do you think Disney should do?  Post a comment below with your thoughts and thanks again to everyone who contributed to this article!

Gaming History You Should Know – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Buyers Guide April 2, 2017

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CT GamerCon Day 2 starts in a few hours and among the video games being played at the event is a loyal segment of pen and paper games.  I’ve been trying to get into the legendary pen and paper RPG Dungeons & Dragons for at least a few years now. In fact, I recently picked up the 5th Edition Starter Set with the intention to finally begin playing the game, but after buying the Starter Set I had no idea what 5th Edition books I should buy next.  Thankfully, someone online has produced a great video of exactly what I needed to know, and that person is WASD20.

This 5th Edition Buyer’s Guide video includes a deep look at all of the current books published by Wizards of the Coast, including the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and several different modules. I highly recommend it to prospective role players interested in 5th Edition, so give it a watch!

Thanks so much to Nate from WASD20 for posting this video because it has pointed me in the right direction for which books I should seek out.  You can check out his YouTube Channel here.

If you’d like access to the PDF files featuring the 5th Ed Players Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide mentioned in the video, you can find them to view, download and print right here.  These files are hosted on the official Dungeons and Dragons website and Wizards of the Coast freely offers these files to view, print and copy for personal use only.  If your computer can’t read the documents, you might need to download the Adobe Reader.

Gaming History You Should Know – Video Game VHS Tapes March 26, 2017

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I wasn’t planing to make the Gaming History You Should Know series a Sunday staple on this website but I’ve been so impressed by a lot of great video content that has been coming out recently, I may end up making this a weekly feature.

For as long as video games have existed, there has always been a supplemental market for game videos. These game videos can function either to promote upcoming games or to assist players in completing a game that’s already out. Producing a video back in the 90s was no small feat, and so gaming-centric videos required some production value and a unique style which should be further explored.  Let’s face it, showing live game play on video is a great idea.

Nowadays, when video game publishers want to drum up interest in an upcoming game, they’ll simply release a video of it online, but that hasn’t always been an option. You have to remember this was before the wide adoption of the internet and even people who had internet access at the time suffered with unbearably slow download speeds (trust me I know).  What to do?

Well, while not everyone had decent quality internet access in the 90s, practically everyone had a VCR.  After winning the format war against Beta, VHS was the dominant media format for home video, and because of that the format had a very high home install base.  VHS tapes were cheap enough to mass produce at this time, and the prices of new VCRs were quite cheap throughout the decade.  It was the perfect time to release video game content on VHS.

My Life in Gaming did a really in-depth look at video game VHS tapes that were released in the 90s. These guys really did their homework, as they got their hands on nearly every VHS promo tape I had heard of, and even talked about some videos I was completely unaware of.

If you have any interest in 90s nostalgia, you should give this video a look.

If you want to see more of this VHS content, My Life in Gaming has archived all of it on a backup YouTube Channel.

Gaming History You Should Know – Halo…Years Later March 19, 2017

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I absolutely love watching independently created video game retrospectives, and recently I have been addicted to watching the …Years After video series produced by Raycevick.  The series was originally released on the COGconnected YouTube Channel, but it has now become a staple of Raycevick’s personal YouTube Channel, and new episodes are being released on a regular basis.

In this unique series, Raycevick looks at every single part of a game, and talks about what worked and what doesn’t work. Whenever he can, he will shed some light on the history behind the game’s development to try to figure out why a game has turned out the way it has, and if it still holds up so many years later.

So without further ado, here is his analysis of the first Halo game, Halo: Combat Evolved.

Here’s his analysis of its sequel and my personal favorite game in the franchise, Halo 2.

Here’s his video about Halo 3.

After he concluded his look at the original Halo trilogy, he talked about the other two Halo games produced by Bungie, and the first was Halo 3: ODST.

The final game produced by Bungie Studios, Halo Reach.

Now we are going to get into the work done by 343 Industries, here’s his look at Halo 4.

And most recently, here’s his in-depth analysis of Halo 5: Guardians.

If you’re a fan of Raycevick’s videos, I recommend checking out his official YouTube Channel to watch his new analysis on the Mass Effect Trilogy!  With the imminent release of the new Mass Effect game, Mass Effect Andromeda, this is the best time to give those videos a watch.

Halo 5: Guardians Title Update Released March 8, 2017

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A major patch filled with bug fixes has been released for Halo 5: Guardians on the Xbox One.  Windows 10 users will also notice the Halo 5: Guardians Forge app has also been updated as well.

The new update is referred to as the March 7th, 2017 Maintenance Update and weighs in at around 2GB. It contains no new content or map packs, but a whole lot of bug fixes and optimizations. Check out the full list of updates here.

Halo 5: Guardians is out now exclusively on the Xbox One. The dedicated Halo 5: Guardians Forge Editor is out now on the Windows 10 Store.