Op-Ed

Op-Ed
This Week in Gaming History

Nova Barlow | 13 Oct 2008 21:00
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For the week of October 12 through October 18 we'll take a look at a few strange topics in videogame history, games that are well liked, one especially infamous title, and an unusual medical study involving Tetris.

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In 2000, Harvard Medical School scientists used Tetris to study dreams of patients suffering from amnesia. The findings, reported in the New Scientist this week in history revealed that the dreams during 'stage one' sleep rely on abstract, subconscious memories. All seventeen players who reported dreaming at least once in the hour after they slept said they dreamed of falling Tetris blocks. There were no reports on what else they dreamed about, however.

Also sharing this week is the 1982 debut of Mystique's Atari porn title, Custer's Revenge. Mystique filled a certain niche by becoming known as the main adult game developer for the Atari 2600 by putting a porn spin on other games' mechanics. Custer's Revenge was a bit of an exception, as its gameplay - dodging arrows to reach an Indian maiden and "rescue" her - wasn't a direct copy of an established game. Attention was swift and negative, with most sales being attributed to the amount of press attention the game received. Attempting to be lewd with graphics that could only best be described as crude, Mystique swiftly went out of business with the console crash and Custer's Revenge went down in history as a no-brainer addition to any future 'worst of the worst' games lists.

A more popular and entirely less controversial game, Flight Simulator X, was released this week in 2006 to generally positive reviews. The culmination of nearly 25 years of the franchise, the game was exclusively released on two DVDs due to the amount of content, a noted first for the series. As of January 2008, Flight Simulator X continued to place highly on sales charts, reaching 280K sales in 2007 and ninth place for top selling PC games of the year. FSX has been well supported by Microsoft since release, providing fans with both the 2007 expansion (Acceleration) and multiple service packs.

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2006 wasn't entirely controversy free, however; this week with the launch of Rockstar's Bully on the PlayStation 2. While industry critics and self-appointed watchdogs tried to tag the title with colorful labels like "Columbine simulator" pre-release, the media collectively shrugged, industry analysts underestimated the popularity of the title (with one Wedbush-Morgan analyst famously eating his words later by saying, "I thought it would be stupid, and it was fun"), and estimatations placing it over one million units sold. The San Francisco Chronicle went on to comment, "While it has many structural similarities to Rockstar's most notorious title, Bully is, at worst, Grand Theft Auto with misdemeanors. And it exposes the ridiculousness in much of the hysteria surrounding videogames, which keep pulling a bigger share of the entertainment dollar but are still misunderstood by a large segment of the public and the media."

Wrapping up this week with an industry notable that is definitely no bully, eight years ago the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) announced the appointment of a new program director, Jason Della Rocca. Since then Della Rocca has gone on to do many things within IGDA, but today serves as a tireless, positive voice for the game industry in his role as Executive Director.

Research Manager Nova Barlow has dreamed of many things, but never of falling Tetris blocks.

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