Tag Archives: Double Fine

The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)


You’ll probably never hear me say this again, but I wish this game took itself more seriously.

Well, that’s only a half truth. I’m glad a game exists that’s as irreverent as The Secret of Monkey Island. I’m especially glad that for a brief period, the game industry had a gang of consummate court jesters in Lucasarts-employed weirdos Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer, and Dave Grossman. (And with their recent successes — like Schafer’s upcoming adventure game that launched a thousand Kickstarters and Gilbert’s soon-to-be-released comeback opus The Cave — it seems like these guys have finally found their rightful place amongst video game legends.) In a world by and large content to rehash the same tired Tolkien-isms, to grant players the same handful of dungeon keys and magical spells until they’re about as exciting as finding loose change and Starbucks receipts in your jeans pocket, designers who are more comfortable finding esoteric uses for rubber chickens and ghost-dissolving root beer are not just welcome but necessary.

The Secret of Monkey Island exists in a state of almost pathological fear that players will mistake it for one of the stuffy, straightforward semi-graphic adventure games Sierra Entertainment cranked out throughout the 1980s; stuff like Mystery House and King’s Quest was surely well-meaning and innovative in its day, but it’s no wonder Monkey Island appeared as such a breath of fresh air to computer geeks in 1990. Continue reading

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Psychonauts (2005)

How should game developers rectify that players will forever exist in two universes at once, remaining in the real world while engaging with a virtual one? Even the most elaborate role-players still must sit on the couch with controller in hand; no matter how much you want to fully take the leap, one foot stays planted in reality. Many games acknowledge this problem by creating similarly dichotomous settings, from the terrifying secrets within the pristine walls of Aperture Science and Black Mesa to the Zelda series’ obsession with a “dark” world lurking beneath our own. Smart games embrace a disconnect within their universes, recognizing that true immersion is easier said than done. However, these games often cast us as soldiers of truth, the only ones who can see behind the curtain and expose the world’s falsities. Far fewer titles look inward, embracing that our own perception might be just as flawed as everyone else’s. Engaging with a game – wanting to explore the fictional space of another’s creation – expresses some desire, no matter how slight, to disassociate one’s point of view from the rules of reality. Tim Schafer’s Psychonauts¬†takes place almost entirely in this space between “truth” and perception. Continue reading

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