I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Don’t give up the ghost

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

Do you know how difficult it is to get your hands on trailers for video games before, say, 1995? The short and boring answer is: pretty difficult. If we wanted to present a trailer for one of the Ultima games featuring the Guardian, the series’ long-time antagonist, we’d have to resort to an ultra-low resolution video for Ultima IX, and that’d be in no one’s interest. (Also, we already posted that one last week.) So instead, here’s a very loosely related trailer for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II, which didn’t just feature one Dennis Hopper, but also Bill Johnson, who would later voice the Guardian. These days, we get the likes of Willem Dafoe and Liam Neeson in video games, but in 1992 we had to make do with the guy who played Leatherface.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #23: The Guardian

Okay, to get this out of the way first: no, this entry in our weekly Six Damn Fine Degrees feature is not about the centre-left British newspaper famous for its idiosyncratic spelling abilities. Instead, it is about the main antagonist of several instalments of the classic series of computer role-playing games Ultima, a transdimensional being of immense power bent on conquest, a villain to match the likes of Marvel’s Thanos, DC’s Darkseid or the First Evil from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Or, as some fans of the Ultima series like to call him, the big red muppet.

This was the face that emerged from my screen when I started to play Ultima VII.
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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Hungover cops can’t jump

Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.

1994 saw a great disturbance in computer games, as if thousands of geeks suddenly cried out in disappointment and then fell silent – most likely because their Avatar had just failed to successfully jump from one small rock to another. Back then, reloading a save game wasn’t just a matter of seconds: it was a commitment, and the more time you’d already sunk into a game like Ultima VIII, the less likely you were to stop playing, especially if you’d paid close to a hundred dollars, and doubly so if you were a fan of the Ultima series of computer role-playing games. This week, Eric wrote about his memories of his first big computer game disappointment, and it is a pain that many fellow geeks felt at the time.

This was before computer games received trailers, so instead, let’s start this week’s post with the trailer issued for its sequel, and the final single-player Ultima game – which (wait for it) turned out to be even worse in some ways. But hey, at least it wasn’t quite as much of an active exercise in masochism!

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #22: Ultima VIII

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

Imagine a game that set you loose to roam a mediaeval world under the influence of a shadowy religious cult, that let you discover how to bake bread or milk cows while trying to save the world just because you could, a game that was dead serious yet could look upon itself with the wryest of smiles, a game that was shot through with a sense of familiarity and wonder in equal measure.

Now imagine a game that has none of that at all.

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The Corona Diaries: Raptured away

We’ve had this before: video games can be many things, but one thing they are particularly good at is escapism. A video game can be extremely effective at taking you out of your current situation, when you need something of a getaway.

So, after replaying Journey and finding it an exceedingly solitary experience of quite limited escapist value during these pandemic times, what do I do? I go and replay Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture (2015), in which the player walks a Shropshire village that is deserted – but everywhere there are traces of the people who are gone after a mysterious epidemic has struck. Oh, and the world has ended.

D’oh!, as the kids say.

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The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Pilgrim: revisiting Journey

In 2012, a game called Journey was published on the PlayStation 3. It was pretty much the consummate indie art game: there were no puzzles, no boss encounters. Heck, you couldn’t even shoot anyone. What you could do is control your avatar, a figure in a red robe, to walk around the desert dunes. You could jump and even fly, in very limited ways. And you could sing. And as you crossed the desert, you could bump into other robed figures and communicate with them – by moving around, jumping, flying and singing. Whoever you were, and whatever you were hoping to achieve in this desolate yet beautiful landscape: you were not alone.

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The Corona Diaries: Parallel play

Mid-February in the Swiss capital: as the pandemic grinds on it’s definitely getting to me more. Differently from many, it’s not the relative lack of social contact: I’m not the most social animal at the best of times. I would even say it’s been quite good for me and my wife that we’ve both been working from home for much of the last year, which means that we don’t just see each other in the morning when we’re still tired and in the evening when we’re tired again. I have been seeing a friend once a week for coffee, but beyond this I don’t acutely miss going out and meeting people in larger numbers than what I can count on one hand; I can get most of the social interaction I need via Skype, Zoom and Tabletop Simulator – the latter of which allows us to rule at the boardgame Pandemic during an actual pandemic. What times we live in!

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They create worlds: Paper Beast

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

So many video game world I’ve experienced were inspired by the aesthetic of cinema, and mostly by a fairly narrow range of movies: Star Wars, Aliens, James Bond, the Lord of the Rings movies and these days obviously the Marvel behemoth. Which isn’t a bad thing: I’ve greatly enjoyed inhabiting movie-inspired pastiches of New York and Los Angeles, I’ve had good times fighting my way through space stations, mansions and snowy castles. I’ve been wowed by the worlds that games create for their spectacle, but mostly it’s a familiar kind of awe: this is the best-looking Nazi stronghold or Death Star-alike I’ve ever sneaked through, this feels just like Blade Runner‘s futuristic Los Angeles or like Peter Jackson’s version of the Mines of Moria.

It is rare that a game world feels truly different, unexpected and surprising.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #2: Garfield

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

We started our free-fall association into culture with Julie’s sublime entry on John Garfield. We continue with a sudden, nauseating lurch towards something rather more ridiculous. Have you ever had a close look at the things you liked as a child… and shuddered?

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They create worlds: Hades

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Stroppy teenagers. Authoritarian dads. Absent mothers. Intrusive family. Oh, and myriads of monsters, mythological creatures, divine powers, mythological weapons, snark, flirtation, style, and the best tunes this side of the river Styx. Who’d have thought that the underworld could be this much fun?

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