Tag Archives: Atari

Tempest (1981)

Tempest_arcade

A different kind of tension.

The grotesquerie of the subconscious is not what makes nightmares scary. It’s one’s lack of control in their shaping, the manifestation of private, impossible fears tricking the mind and convincing it that this horrible shadow of existence is a genuine reality. A nightmare isn’t really a nightmare unless its host feels completely powerless as it plays out, a slave to whatever torture his mind conjures before his sleeping eyes.

So I never understand some people’s need to undermine a slasher film or a survival horror game by commenting that “I wouldn’t do that” whenever a character makes an illogical move. The whole idea of nightmarish terror originates in these “I wouldn’t do that” moments, when people open doors that they shouldn’t or run into a dark forest with a masked killer on the loose. Fear is not a logical, measured emotion, and its origin can almost always be traced back to a sense of circumstantial powerlessness. A good, scary moment in any story terrifies precisely because it shouldn’t be happening, but the audience is unable to stop the inevitable.

Really, all fiction is a bit nightmarish when you think about it. It finds its base in reality, but abstracts and simplifies its logic, forcing audience members into a passive role where the story subjects them to its whims. Continue reading

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Pong (1972)

pong-box-art

Pong is about the beauty of synchronization, a tribal dance so rudimentary and primal that it’s impossible to ignore its rhythm. It’s a war of movement, an intense mano-a-mano trial of reflexes so often determined by a fraction of an inch. It spoke to the dawning of a new era, those rectangular paddles an obvious homage to the mystery and grandeur of 2001‘s (released just four years prior) evolution-baiting monolith.

Nah, I’m just messing with you. Pong is Pong, and if you’ve stuck with me so far, you probably have a pretty solid grasp on what it is and why it’s important. There’s no need to get too loquacious about the thing; I doubt many film surveys spend much time analyzing the finer points of Fred Ott’s Sneeze, either. Pong turned forty this month, and while retrospects abound, they wisely focus more on cultural impact than taking Paddle 1 and Paddle 2 for another lengthy spin. Outside of that celebration, the most you’ll usually hear about the game these days is when some half-informed news reporter does a story about whatever new blood-clogged war simulator just grossed $600 million in a single day, and concludes, with a smirk, “Whatever you think about that, video games sure have come a long way since Pong!

Why write about Pong? It’s not a title anyone would find conspicuously absent from this blog, not a Half-Life or a Legend of Zelda (someday soon, I promise!) necessary for this sort of retrospective. Continue reading

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