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  • Writer's pictureJude Austin

Let's Blast #0: The Story Behind The Blog

So why am I doing this, anyway? Apart from the fact that I'm an avid gamer and spend far too much time on Steam than is really good for me?

Well, to understand that, we're going to need to go back a little bit. See, my husband and I are huge fans of the UK Apprentice, series 16 of which aired earlier in 2022. On February 3, there was an episode that centered around making a video game.

As someone who grew up on video games in the late 80s (when industry giants Sierra and LucasArts ruled the gaming world) and as someone who has done a decent amount of indie game development myself and who fantasized endlessly about moving to California to work at Sierra in person, I glommed onto this task like a limpet with abandonment issues.

Team 1 made a generic, "Wrongfully accused woman Amelia Stone must escape from jail to clear her name by bashing her way out and killing those who stand in her way, be they hostile inmates or prison warders." Because appeals and due process are for suckers, and the quickest way to convince the judge that you're an innocent who wouldn't hurt a fly is by killing a bunch of people and going on the run, amirite? Games like this always remind me of The A-Team TV series, where the titular Team would always save the heroically struggling little businesses, but cause tens of thousands of dollars worth of destruction and damages in the process before vanishing and leaving their clients to tidy up after them. Credit where credit's due though; Amelia Stone is a kickass name for a heroine.

Team 2, however, went down the conservation route with a view to educating children about saving endangered species and protecting the environment.

Okay. My ears pricked up a little at that. It was to be called, "Arctic Savior," concentrating on rescuing animals found in the Arctic and doubling down on the education element. Good idea, with a potential for spinoffs (Amazon Savior, Savannah Savior etc). My Gamer Sense is a-quivering! Finally, someone who can show the world that games are far, far more than just "blow stuff up and kill people." Huzzah! On to Arctic Savior's title screen!

Ladies and gentlemen, Britain's Best Business Brains!

Now, okay, we all make typos. I've made plenty myself and will make plenty more. Heck, my beta reader pointed out that I'd misspelled "livor mortis" as "liver mortis" in Nowhere to Hide, thus saving me from severe embarrassment. And as typos go, "A-R-T-I-C" to "A-R-C-T-I-C" is a very easy fix. What's more, it occurred at the beginning of the task, meaning the team could easily spare the 4-5 seconds it would take to mend.

So, since this whole blog is all about games, and I'm all about audience participation, let's play a game now!

What do you think the Team Leader said upon viewing this title? Was it:

1. "Oops, we made a mistake! Let's fix it quickly before we pitch it to the professionals!"

2. "Hey, maybe one of us should go online and double-check the spelling."

3. "I know! Let's ask a bunch of random people on the street how they spell Arctic, and I bet lots of them will say A-R-T-I-C too! Then we can go to the pitch meeting and say that the spelling mistake isn't an issue, because the average person on the street doesn't know how to spell Arctic either!"

If you guessed either 1 or 2, then you clearly don't know how these TV shows work.

Anyway, like I said, they thought it would be a brilliant, innovative idea to create a platformer set in a snow-and-ice themed world.

Gee, never seen THAT before!

Your character, a Good Scientist, had to run around collecting seals, penguins and polar bears in the Arctic while bad guys squirted oil at you. Unfortunately for the educational dreams of Team 2, they failed to realize that only two of those three animals can actually be found in the Arctic (forgiveable in a generic ice level; less so in a children's educational game) Team 2 also kept insisting that no game focusing on conservation and/or the environment had ever been done before.

This is complete BS; there was Wolf, WolfQuest, Lion, Ecoquest 1, Ecoquest 2, Captain Planet and the Planeteers...the list goes on, and yes, that last item was a game as well as a cartoon show. Heck, even Sonic the frickin' Hedgehog had an environmental slant, particularly the early games and the SatAM cartoon. (To summarize one of the biggest, most developed game franchises very, very simply: the Big Bad Evil Guy of the Sonic games is a human who's set on conquering the world via robots. Polluting it isn't his intent per se; it's just a side effect of all the construction and factories that he's not interested in fixing. It's also telling that apart from the aforementioned BBEG, the only enemies you ever fight are robots. There's no actual killing in the Sonic games, as the few live boss opponents you have are shown to be A-OK).

"Artic Saviour" did have one useful effect, though: it made me think that there are still plenty of people out there (my beta reader is one) who aren't gamers and who firmly believe that games are all about killing and violence. Since I also get a kick out of ripping into stories and pointing out plot holes, I figured I could combine the two, and Let's Blast! was born. I focus mainly on the games I played growing up, examining the good and the bad and adding my authorial eye to see what works in the story and what makes precisely zero sense.

So if you're a fellow fan, welcome! If you're new to the old-style gaming world, I hope you'll stick around a while.

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