Letters to the Editor

Can You Dig It?


In response to “Can’t Catch ’em All” from the Escapist Forum: This is a great commentary! I’ve never completed a full pokedex without cheating; back in the Red/Blue days I did manage to get 150 and then we “duplicated” a Mew that a friend of mine had got at an event by doing some link cable voodoo. (In a sense this link cable voodoo was also a special kind of awesome.)

Kids everywhere were talking about a 3d pokemon adventure on the N64 and I’m sure if a decent one was released it would sell like crazy and probably shake the whole console market quite a bit. Sadly, all we got was Pokemon Stadium, in iself another of the games you could get pokemon from. All you’d get from completing the elite league was the opposite of the fossil you picked in that cave though, unless you disconnected your GBA connector thingie. I think it was possible to get the starter 3 in PS1. It was not a very great game though.

Then Gold/Silver came out and I got gold too. I don’t remember how many pokemons were in the game, but I never had all of them. I did manage to voodoo myself a celebi though from another friend who had been to another event someplace. By this time the magic was still there, I still enjoyed playing Pokemon, and I think I made a sincere effort to get all of them, but I fell short by maybe 10-20 creatures…

Then Ruby/Sapphire came out and it just wasn’t as fun anymore; I hastily jogged through the storyline, never really considering collecting all of the pokemon. Was it because I had grown up? Was it because the games had changed? Maybe both. After this I stopped playing Pokemon for a good while, but I recently picked up that Gold remake. I played it for some hours but I didn’t even complete the storyline.

I kind of have a feeling this is related: http://www.ted.com/talks/barry_schwartz_on_the_paradox_of_choice.html

Again, great(!) commentary.


Lemme bring up another point. When I “completed” Painkiller – that is to say, found every secret, obtained every tarot card, and killed every single enemy – I felt “empty”. (As I described it on this forum.) I think part of the reason for it was that, because I had to use the Internet to do it, it didn’t feel like a “proper” victory.

And yet some of those secrets are literally impossible to find without the Internet – “City on the Water”, for example, requires you to jump out over a deadly drop, AROUND a wall that meets the edge of that drop, and double back into an alcove on the other side of the wall. Unless you actually try it, there is absolutely no clue to tell you that the alcove’s there; and you can’t look for it without, yes, jumping out over the deadly drop. If the alcove wasn’t there, you’d die, instantly and unavoidably. And there is no way to know that the alcove is there without making a leap of faith.

It strikes me that that kind of game design is something of a flaw in Painkiller itself – why put in a “secret” that is impossible to find without using the Internet? But then this kind of thing has been happening since Doom and before that. (Anybody else remember how to get the rocket launcher on level 1 of “Doom 2”?) Why do you put something like that in your game? Just to make the people who actually know about it feel more “elite”?



In response to “Playing on Planet Google” from the Escapist Forum: Wow, so you could, say, play ‘Missile Command’ with your local cities or best friends’ houses or whatever? That would be cool. Though I can see the issues around mapping conflict-based games onto the real world.



In response to “No Gods, No Devils” from the Escapist Forum: What a great read about one of the best and most underrated LucasArts adventure games. The game itself was like a fresh breeze at its time, and it would still be today. I love the whole setting, the twist that comes with the whole idea that all these characters are actually dead and just try to deal with their situation.

I wish there were more games like that, games that walk beside the mainstream and encourage the player to contemplate themes like life and death.

I remember that Grim Fandango was dismissed back in the day because of the unconventional control scheme (only keyboard, no point and click). It put people off and many gave up after the first few minutes, some not even giving it a shot at all. To which I have to say: Please PLEASE give it a real shot, you’ll get used to the controls soon enough and what awaits you then is a truly epic (this word is overused these days…) journey, a heart-warming love story and adventure full of humor and drama. Manny Calavera is one of the most endearing protagonists in gaming history. The style is just so unique for a game (very much inspired by movies like casablanca and mexican culture and art deco).

Anyways, great to see Grim Fandango get some spotlight again!


That afterlife sounds like the Chinese Celestial Bureaucracy. You’ll get to where you are going eventually, but first fill out these 9250 forms in triplicate and may Kuan Yin have mercy on you if you make a mistake or have to cross something out, because the Celestial Emperor WON’T.



In response to “Second-Hand Elf” from the Escapist Forum:

Let’s not forget that the only race Tolkien invented were the Hobbits. The Elves, Dwarves, Trolls and Goblins all came frm Germanic myths. Orcs? Orc or Orch were just Elven words for Goblin. Remember Thorin’s sword? Orcrist, the Goblin Cleaver. Tolkien never claimed to have invented them, but he personalized them, fleshed them out with his own history and color. It’s ok to use Elves. Just make them unique. Don’t make them Tolkien Elves. Definitely don’t make them D&D Elves.

I wish people would keep this much in mind whenever screaming “UNORIGINAL”. Though I’d go even a step further…

Not to say that I wouldn’t prefer to see a bit more of a diverse array of fantasy worlds…but you know what? I loved the Warcraft universe and its standard tropes just fine during the time of Warcraft RTSes. I liked it, because with Warcraft 3 they decided to spin it into a direction that I was genuinely invested in.

I also ultimately liked the Dragon Age universe, because for all the crying about the many tropes it borrowed (moreso from Thrones as was mentioned before), it also surprised me with things like Broodmothers or Awakening’s final decision and actually giving the Darkspawn some context as opposed to just painting them in the style that I saw Orcs presented in LOTR (ala THEY’RE EVIL! PURE MINDLESS EVIL THAT WAS ONCE GOOD!).

For me art is ultimately about exploring something unfamiliar or about exploring familiar themes in a different way. So there is nothing wrong with a universe starting with the familiar. What is wrong, however, is that you don’t take that universe somewhere genuinely interesting. And that is something that can only be shown time and again rather than through an in-depth critique of a single example.

So please… withold your thunderous judgements and cries of “YOU STOLE THAT FROM X” next time. It’s getting moreso tiresome than the unoriginal approaches you criticize tbh.


The thing to remember about Tolkien is that he didn’t just take elves, orcs, dwarves and goblins wholesale from Norse Mythology: he did a lot of alteration, to the point where they cease to be the same things anymore. Look at Norse dwarves, for example: in pre-Christian norse Mythology, sure they dwelled underground, were great craftsmen and smiths, and they loved gold, but they were also the same size as humans, they had pale corpse-like skin, jet black hair, and sunlight is deadly to them. Does that sound anything like Gimli? Compare Norse elves, goblins and the like, and you’ll find they have similarities as well as weaknesses.

The truth is, Tolkien’s Middle-earth is the “Elder Scrolls” to Norse Mythology: taking some familiar elements, and radicalizing them into something new and exciting. There is a vast gulf of difference between what Tolkien did with Norse mythology, and what later writers have done with Tolkien.

To be frank, I’m sick of fantasy settings that have elves, dwarves, goblins and dragons at all, yet somehow it’s gotten to the point where a setting that doesn’t have those things or their equivalents it stops being “fantasy” altogether. It’s all the more jarring considering there are lots of fantasy worlds that don’t adhere to the Standard Fantasy Setting, but because people just want to deal with the comforting and familiar, they aren’t willing to take a chance on them, and even argue that it would be impossible. To which I would respond with two words: Planescape Torment.


About the author