Your Move

Board games. Video games. Anything but mind games. KMUW commentator Sam McConnell explores the latest (and the time-tested) world of games.

Your Move can also be found on iTunes. Listen or subscribe here.

It’s easy to play video games on your PC - even if you don’t have a top of the line gaming computer with a $600 graphics card, enjoying indie games or old classics can be done on just about any computer, or, often, even your phone or tablet. But, a tablet’s screen, or a PC’s mouse and keyboard, aren’t always a great way of controlling games, especially classics designed for a gamepad. Fortunately, there are a lot of good options for game controllers available out there.

When I was a kid, most of my friends had a Nintendo. Some of them had an older Atari system, too. And then, there was one friend who just had an Intellivision. The system, made by Mattel, was easy to distinguish from others by its controllers – they were built into the system, and had a 16-direction control disc and a 12-button number pad, looking a little bit like a telephone. The Intellivision also had an add-on that gave games rudimentary speech capabilities. Games were more advanced than you’d find on an Atari, but primitive compared to what was later available on the Nintendo.

One of the worst games never released is called Desert Bus. It was part of a collection for the Sega CD called “Penn & Teller’s Smoke and Mirrors." The disc was planned for release in the spring of 1995, but the publisher went out of business before it could be released. However, several years ago a copy was circulated on the internet. The games in the collection were all basically pranks to play on your friends, and Desert Bus is the longest con of them all.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the Final Fantasy series. I’ve been enthralled by the games ever since I played the Super Nintendo Final Fantasy II on a tiny TV in my bedroom back in 1996, staying up way past my bedtime - sorry, Mom. I’ve loved the complex themes, the dramatic stories, the strategic gameplay, and of course the series’ hallmark music. Since then, I’ve played nearly every game in the series - and have replayed many of them, many times.

Before Robert Downey, Jr. popularized Iron Man, the most well known of Marvel’s superheroes was Spider-Man. He stood apart from other heroes because, when he wasn’t fighting crime, he was a pretty ordinary kid with relatable problems. He’s flawed, and funny, and trying to have a normal life, despite having these awesome abilities.

Last weekend I was browsing a list of upcoming releases for the Nintendo Switch, and I saw a game I never expected to see on the console - or on any console, really.

I consider video games an art form. Some people, famously including Roger Ebert, would disagree with me, and that’s fine. It’s harder to dispute, though, that a large amount of art goes into video games - concept art, 3D modelling, creative writing, musical compositions, and more, all to create one cohesive work. It’s easy to ignore all these parts to focus on the whole, but often times this work deserves to be appreciated in its original form.

In the late ‘80s, one of the most well-known video games was Tetris. Originally from the Soviet Union and released in arcades and on a multitude of home computer platforms, the game was most popular when released for the Game Boy - in fact, it sold more than any other game on the system, with more than 35 million copies produced.

One thing the Super Nintendo is fondly remembered for is its role playing games - titles like Final Fantasy III, Chrono Trigger, or Secret of Mana. These games are story-driven and have you play as a cast of characters usually working to save the world from a great evil. 

Many mobile games have a very short shelf life - they’re hyper-popular for a few months, and then quickly burn out as players move on to the next one. But here we are, two years after the launch of Pokémon Go, and the game has more players than it ever has, outside of its first few months.