Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Scenes from a Planet (or Proof That Video Games Don't Rot Your Brain)

I've established previously that, while we lived in Kiester, I did not have many people my age I could call good friends. I shared a variety of interests with the ones that I did have. One of the things that we all seemed to be able to enjoy together was video games.

My family had a Commodore 64 at the house. In between sessions of my mom learning the spreadsheet program, or learning assembly code, my brothers and I would spend hours playing games of all kinds on the machine. Of course, back then, loading games from 5.25 inch diskettes took a not insubstantial amount of that time. This in turn gave us more incentive to spend more than a couple of minutes with any game that we managed to get loaded. A far cry from the "instant" availability of apps on our smart phones.

I spent hours on exploration games like Phantom of the Asteroid, shooters like R-Type and Gradius, and arcade ports like Pole Position and Bubble Bobble. Sometimes I would play a game until I finally finished it (assuming there was an ending), but more often than not I played until I got to a particularly frustrating part, and went on to something else, usually after throwing a controller across the room. I was, however, known to put multiple hours into games because I just needed to see where they went.

My friends allowed me access to systems and games that I wasn't able to play at home. One friend had a TI-99/4A, and we played tons of unique games there. His father had an IBM PC, and we spent a fair amount of time playing the original King's Quest point-and-click game. He also had a Commodore computer (a C-128), and we spent a particularly sleepless summer weekend getting as far as we could playing Ultima IV.

Another friend was the owner of the coveted (at the time) Nintendo Entertainment System. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, in our adolescent minds, it was the ultimate form of entertainment. Finally we had access to games that were as good as the ones we were playing in the arcades, at home! I couldn't begin to count the hours that we spent playing games on the NES. We completed Super Mario Bros without using warps. We completed Contra (even though we used the infamous "Konami code" to do it). Sessions of these games interspersed with Rad Racer races and Duck Hunt hunts kept us busy when we weren't outside wandering around town.

I think my ability to focus my attention on these games for long periods of time in order to get good enough to complete them, or at least to not completely suck at them, helped me to be able to continue with Furble, even when the creative going got tough.

Strip 40/166 - Look ma! No TV!

With the first pane of this strip showing the front page of the local Furbulian newspaper (and being surrounded by gallery strips), you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was just another gallery strip. But it actually fits into the narrative of Furble at home on Furbulia. The confusion is further compounded by the fact that this is the sole strip dealing with "everyday life" for Furble as he's visiting his home. I originally intended to make the stay on Furbulia much longer. I know I did, because I can recall many of the ideas that I had for the strip at the time. But, once again, inexplicably I changed course, and in a couple of weeks we head back to Earth.

Strip 41/166 - Fascinating!

The real question that this gallery strip poses: why is there a need to make the perfectly flat (and rectangular) Furbulia appear to be a normal round planet? Was there actually a round-Furbulia conspiracy group responsible for all of these contrivances, trying to convince the populace that no, they won't fall off the edge of the planet, even though it's apparent that they will? It's the kind of thought process that really doesn't merit further consideration. Furbulia is flat. The Furbulian equivalent of Pythagoras rolls in his grave.

Strip 42/166 - Evolution goes "boink" (to paraphrase Watterson)

We end with a call-back to the weird evolutionary development on Furbulia that seems to defy the time-space continuum. Boink, indeed.

But, something is coming to change the course of Furble and FC's journey...

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