Tetris effect

People who play Tetris for a prolonged amount of time may then find themselves thinking about ways different shapes in the real world can fit together, such as the boxes on a supermarket shelf or the buildings on a street.

Wow. It’s a real thing. IT’S REALLY A REAL THING! I’M NOT CRAZY!

Nintendo Affection

Today I finished Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America. Longtime Nintendo fans can skip this one because they probably already know about the history of the company. For everyone else, like many corporate stories, Nintendo in 2013 faces a whole new climate than the one that got them where they are today. They don’t have a stranglehold on distribution anymore. Developers have other options and better deals.

In other words, how does Nintendo fit into a world where you can buy Tetris for your phone for $1?1

The easy way out of this is for Nintendo to throw up their hands and declare “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!” and start making games for other platforms. On the other hand, why should Nintendo get into the red ocean of app stores? Could an official version of Dr. Mario do well for $5?

One quote that struck me had to do with how Nintendo didn’t threaten others who had used their property for Adobe Flash versions and other variations on their intellectual property.

Why not? Iwata’s explanation is commonsensical. “[I]t would not be appropriate if we treated people who did something based on affection for Nintendo as criminals.”

In the spirit of affection for Nintendo, I thought I would see if there are any apps paying tribute to Nintendo and searched for Nintendo properties in the Apple iOS App Store. I think some Nintendo titles, particularly the puzzle games, would do very well on the app store.

Others agree.

Let me be clear. This is what you find when you search for Nintendo games in the app store.

Dr. Mario


Doctor Vs. Virus


Flame Out


The Reactor


Donkey Kong

Banana Kong

Looks inspired by Donkey Kong Country.


Monkey Trouble

Looks inspired by Game & Watch.


Mario Bros

Super Squirrel Bros


This looks more like a ripoff of the Chip N’ Dales: Rescue Rangers game.


Super Island Bros


Like Adventure Island. Also from the same guy who does Super Squirrel Bros.

Adventure Island 10


Mighty Monsters


By the way, this one has a number of in-app purchases, going as high as $99, that a little kid could easily make without knowing it.


Star Fox


Wing Force


It appears that whether or not Nintendo decides to make games for iOS may be irrelevant. They’re already there. Others have already done it for them.

  1. About 6 years ago I bought Tetris for my DS Lite at around $25. That’s $25 Tetrises today! 

Roger Ebert’s Silent Hill Review

I had a nice conversation with seven or eight people coming down on the escalator after we all saw “Silent Hill.” They wanted me to explain it to them. I said I didn’t have a clue. They said, “You’re supposed to be a movie critic, aren’t you?” I said, “Supposed to be. But we work mostly with movies.” “Yeah,” said the girl in the Harley t-shirt. “I guess this was like a video game that you like had to play in order to like understand the movie.”

I guess.

I watched the Silent Hill movie today. It is bad.

BUT, as I ranted about on Twitter, I don’t know if the movie is bad because it’s a bad movie in and of itself or that it’s bad because it’s based on a game series that…isn’t really that great—at least when presented in any format other than a game.

Think of Ebert’s criticisms against the Silent Hill movie. It’s hard to figure out what the hell is going on. Plot lines don’t make any sense.1 The dialog is lousy. The acting is too.

Sounds to me like he could be describing the games, too.

That, and the movie is set up for gamers, but tries to set a tone much like The Ring in, I assume, an effort to appeal to a mass audience. It didn’t work. This was a gamer’s movie, like many other movies based on games.2

This is why I’m always skeptical of movies based upon video games. Video games are enjoyable in game form, but in movie form they haven’t figure it out yet.

  1. Ebert writes:

    Rose has come here with her daughter Sharon because the girl has taken to sleep-walking at night, and standing on the edge of high cliffs while saying “Silent Hill” in her sleep. Obviously the correct treatment is to take her to the abandoned town itself. 

  2. I would argue the same point about other movies based on games, like Resident Evil, DOOM, Street Fighter, Super Mario Brothers, Double Dragon. I haven’t seen the Hitman movies, so maybe there’s a glimmer of hope there. Also this:


Indie Game: The Movie

A couple thoughts on Indie Game: The Movie.

I have a lot of indie games to play

This whole movie made me think of the backlog of indie games I’ve gotten from the Humble Indie Bundle. Since watching it I’ve started working on Braid again.

Thinking of building a Steam box now.

Artists talking about art can get boring

There’s one section in which one of the Super Meat Boy developers is talking about tutorials and how they teach players how to do things without explicitly having a tutorial level. I like that stuff. That may have been the only scene in the movie like that.1

Experience Points had an episode about this movie. They weren’t so keen on it. They bring up some good points regarding the over-dramatizationatized shots and some of the other, more interesting, stories the filmmakers could have explored, but didn’t.

Lots of beards

And facial hair. I think this is a early/mid-20s guy thing.

  1. This online extra is a good example. 

A Look At Negative Game Mechanics

I was thinking of writing about how the point of old-school arcade games are NOT fun. Their purpose is to get people to pump quarters into a machine, so they employ all these design mechanics to ensure that they get a steady flow of coins. It sounds like Zynga games.

But this article is better than what I would have written.

Most machines were designed around metrics to determine how far someone should get on a single quarter, and then the mechanics were tweaked to meet those metrics. One of the early examples of negative mechanics was in beat-em-ups, in the form of special attacks. Special attacks were designed to cost the player some of their energy with each use, bringing the player closer to death faster. Items that would restore health were few and far between, meaning that the player will usually die before finding more health.

Nintendo Power

I’ve been thinking of how Nintendo Power is closing its doors. I just sent some New Yorker article about it to Instapaper, so I’ll try to not write some long-winded article about it. Instead, I’ll just share an observation and a story.

Who moved my princess to another castle?

A whole generation was raised on Nintendo.

I believe that many kids who grew up in the mid 80’s and early 90’s were touched in some way through Nintendo and Nintendo Power. Family gatherings, sleepovers at friends houses, Nintendo was a big part of our childhoods. Ask friends of yours. Sure, maybe there are a few times when Nintendo was the source of all their problems, like low grades, or turmoil because nobody wanted to share. But there’s a good chance that they have a heartwarming story from their early life that may not have been possible without Nintendo.

Read the letters that Nintendo Power printed every month. This was a company that was completely aware that, although they had readers of many ages, they were for kids.

For all the weird, and perhaps unethical, business practices that Nintendo used back in the 80’s (like price-fixing, the licensee program, and making it so that they created a healthy cart-manufacturing business for themselves by ensuring that only THEY could create carts for their machines, and if you didn’t want to pay to play there’s the door – you could leave) you can’t ignore that at least they embraced that they were a family company.1

I would write letters to Nintendo Power offering tips to the game counselors that maybe they didn’t think of yet. I wrote them letters like “Hey, did you guys beat Jaws yet? I did! Here’s how you beat2 the shark!”

And they would write back! Not just some form letter either. I wish I saved some of these letters. They made me feel awesome as a little kid. None of this “we’ll certainly take your idea into consideration” garbage. The responses were more like “WOAH! Sounds like you could give Jeff Hansen a run for his money!”

You might not know who Jeff Hansen is, but if you read Nintendo Power, or Sports Illustrated, you may know that he was the 1990 Nintendo World Champion. He was 11 years old. He also did the best during that Super Star Fox Weekend.

Anyway, if I got an envelope in the mail with a Nintendo logo on it it made my day. Maybe my week.

I think of those times and how kids today might not get to experience that. Before the Internet, Nintendo Power created a kid-safe-Haven. It would show up once a month. You (read: me) would see it waiting to be read after getting home from school. I’d flip through the pages, read the letters, read the comics, read Classified Information—the section with cheats and codes. I can’t remember the last time I read a magazine cover-to-cover without skipping anything.

Today we’re in the age of instant gratification, Gamefaqs, Xbox Live, Call Of Duty, and racist 10-year olds with headsets.

I used to think that Mortal Kombat changed all that. Mortal Kombat was the first huge title that led Nintendo to bend their core values: games that the entire family can enjoy.

I used to think Mortal Kombat changed that, but nope…maybe it was NARC—a game in which you play as cops with rocket launchers you could shoot at dopeheads and blast their body parts everywhere. To little kids, these are addicts and dealers, not people. So it was okay.

But then Mortal Kombat came out and, well, these kids must be saved.

While Nintendo tried to protect its brand with its edited version of Mortal Kombat (that’s sweat, not blood! Things are gonna be fine!) Sega came out with a Genesis version of Mortal Kombat with a blood code. Due to market pressure, Nintendo relented. Mortal Kombat II would be the first incredibly violent game on a Nintendo system. Blood. Fatalities. No kid was safe, because even to this day Mortal Kombat II is the best MK game ever made.

It was a blast, but also a turning point. I, and all the other bloodthirsty teens, made them become something they didn’t want to be. Nintendo tried to protect me from myself and themselves from a changing, growing audience.

I think this is why as an adult I’ve been sitting on the sidelines of the mainstream video game market, picking and choosing a title here and there, and I watch with interest at what the indies are doing. Machinarium. Sword & Sorcery EP. VVVVVV. These indie games remind me of what video games were like when I was a kid. Strange. Different. Weird. Innocent. They hearken back to what I believe to be the golden age of games. They aren’t like today’s games: a slight update of the previous year’s game. Maddenization didn’t exist back then.

I feel old.

Nintendo Power taught me to enjoy reading

In first grade I had a lot of problems learning to read. I didn’t do well in school. I remember reading sessions where we’d all sit in a circle, in broken off groups, and take turns reading. I always had problems.

Around that time my family brought home a NES. I think my teen sister had played it at a friends house and asked our parents for one. I don’t know how it went down. We had an Atari before. We didn’t ask for one. My dad bought it.

Nintendo packed Nintendo Power subscription cards with games. my parents bought me a subscription to Nintendo Power. They must have thought, “Well, he doesn’t like what they’re using in school, and he’s playing these games anyway…”

They bought games that were heavy on text. 1990-era me completed Final Fantasy, read through all that text, explored many dungeons, and expanded his vocabulary. Today I don’t know if I’d have the attention span for it.

In Shadowgate I beat the evil wizard and the behemoth, but I didn’t say “Bee-Hee-MuTH” – I said something more like “beh-heh-moth”. I didn’t know any better, but it was progress.

Nintendo games and Nintendo Power carried me through my early school years and instead of being an illiterate weird kid I became a weird Nintendo-freak kid who could read.

I stuck with Nintendo Power for a long time, until 1996. That’s when I let my subscription lapse. Shortly after the N64 came out I felt like we had become different people; me with other game consoles and Nintendo Power with its coverage of disappointing N64 titles. It was a major life decision.

Without Nintendo and Nintendo Power I may not have the skills I need to perform the responsibilities I have at NASA today.3

  1. Check out Hypercritical #48 for parallels between Apple and Nintendo. 

  2. By the way, you never KILLED anything in a Nintendo game. You beat something, or defeated something, or destroyed something, or conquered a game. 

  3. I don’t work at NASA. 

What you’ll think 10 minutes into playing Limbo

I’m at this part, with a slug on my head—which messes up all the controls—and I have to wait for water to fill up this whole area to jump to a floating platform and onto safety.

BUT I can’t get to that platform because of the slug making left right and up down, and there’s water, and I’ll fall in the water, and this kid JUST SINKS LIKE A ROCK AND DIES!


“Angry Words” by Reeves Wiedeman

I’m late to the iPhone word games (like Scrabble and the Zynga game that’s clearly a ripoff of Scrabble and then somehow makes you buy tokens or something). You think all these games are better electronically since you don’t have to clean up and you can’t lose pieces, but it’s way too easy to just keep guessing until you find a word that works.

Also, I thought reading books would expand my vocabulary, but if that’s your goal you should just play Scrabble. I haven’t thought “the computer cheats!” since I was a little kid with a Othello on Nintendo. In this example I’m playing against the computer on Easy. With the first turn I play car. The computer follows up with unary.

IMG 0029

(esp. of a mathematical operation) consisting of or involving a single component or element.

That’s easy mode.