The NULL Solution = Episode 100

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The NULL Solution = Episode 100

…Chasonn has tracked Collapsar Axis as it hopscotches its way from one sentient culture to the next…

Image result for hopscotch gif

Some societies have better things to do than solving inane riddles, even if it does concern a neighboring planet. The Seljuk, specifically Chasonn has a more urgent challenge to resolve. While Earth wrack their brains over word games and Eridanus digs into its long gone past, Chasonn has been watchful, ever vigilantly monitoring the progress of what he has come to know as Collapsar Axis; the sum total of once was the Ÿ€Ð home world.

The wily leader of all things Triangulum, has long since stopped wondering by what means this hulking mass {10 M cubic cubits} is propelled. Chasonn estimates that it may be the single largest object in the known Great Expanse, which is not a planet. Unlike a planet, this Ÿ€Ðian creation is not held back by any particular gravitation.

Lumbering best describes its movement. Questionable are its intentions.

Of all the technological challenges he has faced in the past, none is more daunting than the plan he is hatching.

There is a rooting self-interest in the inexorable Ÿ€Ð progress. He has tracked Collapsar Axis as it hopscotches its way from one sentient culture to the next. Whether it is a primal culture or one dipping its toe in the mighty ocean of dark matter, the colossal colony is scrutinizing each one of them, without fail.

Lumbering is more than slightly misleading. It may take the faith of a powerful God to move a mighty mountain one foot, but only days to bring Collapsar Axis from one star system to the next. Like a predator on the hunt, so does it prowl.

There is one distinct difference in the Ÿ€Ðian approach to space travel this time around. Gone is the divide & conquer mentality of Chasonn’s father’s day, when the Ÿ€Ðian marauders stripped away leaders, to weaken a potential foe… or what they perceived as a future threat to their territory.

Not so, in this time and space. They are looking but not touching.

{It must be quite an unsettling sight: imagine a stone-age people, hunting for their next meal, seeing Collapsar hovering above. Would that not cause them some considerable pause?}

…It is on to the next… and on and on and on they go.–


The NULL Solution =

Episode 100


page 101

Expensive Toys for Wealthy Boys (or Girls)

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Ridiculously Expensive Toys

for the Rich

(Not me)

When money isn’t an issue, one can indulge in some very cool and very expensive toys. These include gadgets, vehicles, and toys that are similar to things people with average wealth own, just taken to the extreme. There are also some toys that rich people own that most of us have only seen in movies about the future. Then there are other toys for the rich that are just downright bizarre, but no less expensive. But these toys are all very real and for sale, if you can afford their hefty prices. We’d say that with Christmas coming up you could just ask Santa but let’s be real here, no one has been this good this year.

Expensive Toys for

Wealthy Boys

A MONOPOLY on Board Games

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Interesting Facts

About the Board Game

Monopoly

Monopoly was first produced in 1935 by Parker Brothers, and has been ruining friendships and tearing families apart ever since. Despite how frustrating the game is, it’s considered the world’s most popular and, as of 2009, over 250 million copies have been sold.

 While the game is meant to be played by people of all ages, it is meant to show the dangers of a small group of people accumulating all the wealth. If you’re playing the game, and someone builds hotels all over the board, and you have a house on Baltic Avenue? You have to borrow money before ultimately going bankrupt and losing. It’s annoying in the game, but it would be tragic in real life.

10. Are You Playing the Game Correctly?

Have you ever taken the time to read the rules of Monopoly? Probably not, because an overwhelming amount of people don’t follow the official rules while playing.

One rule that many people didn’t know existed is that if you land on a property and choose not to buy it, the property goes up for auction. The opening bid can start at any price and the highest bidder pays the bank. This speeds up the game and when playing with these rules, it lasts about an hour to 90 minutes. (Another hint if you really want to speed up the game, but isn’t in the official rule book, is to deal out all the properties at the beginning of the game.)

One reason that so many of us play Monopoly the same way, which is different from the official rules, is because Monopoly is so popular, and many people are taught how to play as children. So for generations, no one read the rules, and older generations just taught younger generations to play the way that they were taught. Think about it – do you even remember learning how to play Monopoly? If you can, did you read the instructions, or were you taught to play by someone who already knew?

As for why no one plays the game according to the official rules, it could be because the game is often played by children, and the auctions may have led to fights, so parents omitted the rule and it simply got phased out as the rules of the game were handed down generation-to-generation.

Another common house rule, which isn’t an official rule, is that when fines and taxes are collected, they go into the center of the board and whoever lands on Free Parking wins the jackpot. However, in the official rules, nothing happens when you land on the Free Parking space.

Finally, some people play that you can’t get money while you are in prison, but there is no official rule against that.

Since the house rules and official rules are so different, Hasbro did a study and ended up releasing official House Rules of the game.

9. Three Most Landed on Spots include Illinois Avenue, GO, and B&O Railroad

One thing that might be helpful to winning the game is getting the square that is landed on the most. According to computer scientist Truman Collins, who built a simulation of the game, the square most likely to be landed on is In Jail. This is for several reasons. The first is that if you land on the Go to Jail square, technically you go straight to jail (duh). Secondly, people roll to get out of prison. All of this in addition to landing on the prison square, and you’re just visiting.

The second most landed on square is Illinois Avenue. This is followed by Go, New York Avenue, and rounding out the top five is B&O Railroad. As for the least likely squares to get visits? Those would be the three Chance squares, the Community Chest Square, and Mediterranean Avenue.

When it comes to the most expensive property, Boardwalk, it’s the 18th most likely square to be landed on.

8. The Characters

In Monopoly, there are several different characters and all of them have their own name. The first one is Mr. Monopoly. He is the iconic character who has a three piece suit, a top hat, and white hair. Also, a lot of people seem to remember him having a monocle, but he has never worn one.

It’s unclear who the inspiration for Mr. Monopoly is. Some people think it is famed American banker and financier J.P. Morgan. It certainly would make sense because they look and dress similar, and both are businessmen.

Others believe that it is based on a salesman at Parker Brothers who had business cards with over-the-top caricatures of himself printed on them. Often times he would be wearing a top hat, or riding a train. Finally, it could be based on Little Esky, which is a former mascot of Esquire magazine.

The character wasn’t given a name until 1946, and even then, it wasn’t announced via Monopoly. Instead, he appeared as the mascot on a different game called Rich Uncle. In the game, the Daily Bugle identifies him as Rich Uncle Pennybags, and he is the man who runs the town.

However, in 1999, Hasbro conducted a study and found that many people didn’t know that Rich Uncle Pennybags was his name, so they changed it to Mr. Monopoly.

Of course, there are other characters in the game. On the Community Chest and Chance cards, there is Mr. Monopoly’s wife, Maude, and his three nephews – Randy, Sandy, and Andy. Finally, there is Officer Mallory, who sends people to jail, and Jake, the Jailbird.

7. People Have Killed Each Other Over the Game

If you’ve even been near a group of people playing Monopoly, you know that players can easily get frustrated. All it takes is one flip of the board to end a friendship.

While most adults don’t resort to violence when it comes to their frustrations over Monopoly, some games have spiraled violently out of control. One such game happened in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on October 25, 2011. 60-year-old Laura Chavez and 48-year-old Clyde “Butch” Smith were playing the game with their 10-year-old grandson. At some point, Chavez caught Smith cheating. A fight ensued and the grandson was sent into a bedroom, and that’s when the grandparents got violent.

Smith hit Chavez with a wine bottle, and then she went at him with a knife. He was stabbed and slashed around the chest, neck, and face. Luckily, he survived.

Another tragic fight that stemmed from the game happened on July 19, 1991, in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Two best friends, 25-year-old Marc Cienkowski and 31-year-old Michael J. Klucznik, were playing Monopoly when a fight broke out. It got physical and several punches were thrown. Cienkowski grabbed his compound bow and an arrow, and told Kluvznik to leave. Kluvznik left, and when he was seated in his car, his best friend fired an arrow into his chest. Kluvznik ended up dying and Cienkowski was sentenced to nine-to-25 years in prison. We like to think the judge told him to go directly to jail, to not pass GO, and to not collect $200 at his sentencing.

6. You Can Win a Game with 2-players in 21 seconds

Games of Monopoly are notoriously long, and can drag on for hours, or even days. On the other end of the scale, Daniel J. Myers, a professor of sociology at Notre Dame, and his son have figured out the quickest way to end a game of Monopoly. It’s just four turns and nine rolls, and the game lasts 21 seconds.

How it would have to work is that player one rolls double sixes and lands on Community Chest, where they receive $200 because of the “Bank error in your favor” card. Next, player two has to land on the Income Tax square. The next turn involves player one getting double twos and landing on Park Place, where they purchase it, and then double ones to land on Boardwalk, which they need to purchase as well. Since they got doubles, then they roll again and pass GO, collecting $200. Once they are past GO, they need to purchase three houses for Park Place and two for Boardwalk. Player two would then land on a Chance square and pick up the “go directly to Boardwalk” card. When they do, they won’t have enough money, and the game is over.

Of course, the chances of this game happening in real life aren’t exactly good. According to a Columbia professor, it would happen once every 253,899,891,671,040 games. So he’s saying there’s a chance.

 5. Best Way to Win

As we’ve already mentioned previously, and will probably continue to mention throughout the article, playing Monopoly can be downright frustrating. However, if you really want to ratchet up the frustration level among your opponents, and win in the process, you should follow this strategy to win, which comes from a Reddit user named Elfie.

Basically, the diabolical plan revolves around the houses. There are 32 in the box, and once the houses are sold out, then no one else can buy one. So the plan is simply to buy up as many houses as you can.

Early in the game, buy a set of properties and build all houses on it (not a hotel). It can also be any set of properties. Later in the game, get a second monopoly and build up houses on each of those properties. If you get two monopolies containing three properties, then that only leaves 8 other houses out there among the rest of the players.

Limiting the number of houses is important because houses are needed to build hotels. By monopolizing the houses, it makes it harder for people to progress, and then you simply outlast them.

Evil, right?

4. The Real Creator was a Woman Who Didn’t Get Credit For Her Invention

The person credited with inventing Monopoly is Charles Darrow, an unemployed heater salesman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. While Darrow created the Monopoly we know today, he ripped off the idea. The real inventor was a stenographer named Elizabeth Magie, who lived in Washington D.C.

Magie worked at night trying to teach people about the evils of monopolies. She was concerned with the accumulation of wealth and power by a small group of families during the Gilded age. She thought that this type of control by a small group of people could lead to monopolies, which could have devastating effects on everyday Americans. The problem was that her message was hard to spread because many people simply weren’t interested in listening.

Looking to spread her message faster, Magie developed The Landlord’s Game in 1903, and got a patent on it in 1904. The game was never mass produced, and instead, the game spread through word-of-mouth. Usually someone would learn the game, and then they would make their own copy of the board and the pieces. In turn, they would teach it to someone else.

One of those people who learned to play the game was Charles Darrow. He pitched the game to Parker Brothers and they eventually bought the rights to it, and gave Darrow a royalty. However, Parker Brothers knew that Magie actually owned the patent on the game. So they contacted Magie and bought the rights to The Landlord’s Game and another game that she developed for $500. But in a massive jerk move, Parker Brothers never intended to mass produce The Landlord’s Game. Instead, they released a few hundred copies of it, but mass produced Monopoly, which became a massive hit. Beyond the $500, Magie didn’t get any other payment or credit for the game. She died in 1948 and her contributions to the game weren’t publicized until the 1970s. Darrow died a millionaire in 1978.

3. The Unusual Story of Marvin Gardens

 There are localized versions of Monopoly, but the original game, and one that most people in North America are familiar with, has all of the properties named after streets or areas in Atlantic City, New Jersey. With one exception, that is: Marvin Gardens, which is supposed to be Marven Gardens.

While it’s a small mistake, it actually shows the interesting history behind Monopoly. When asked why he chose Atlantic City, instead of Philadelphia, where he was born and lived, Charles Darrow said it was because it was his favorite vacation spot.

However, what we know from the last entry is that Darrow didn’t invent the game, he just signed a deal with Parker Brothers to sell it. Before Monopoly’s publication, when people made their boards for The Landlord’s Game, they would localize the street names. Darrow was taught to play The Landlord’s Game by a couple from Atlantic City and when Darrow was given a copy of the board by the couple, it contained the wrong spelling of Marven Gardens. In turn, Parker Brothers copied Darrow’s incorrect board. Making Darrow not only a thief, but a lazy one at that.

In 1995, Parker Brothers apologized to the people of Marven Gardens for the misspelling. However, they have never credited Magie’s contributions to the game. Just wanted to really emphasize that part again.

2. Monopoly was Rejected by Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers

After Magie developed the game, she didn’t get it mass produced because she didn’t want to. She took it to Parker Brothers, twice. Once in 1910, and again in 1924, and both times it was turned down. The reason they gave was that it was too political.

Jump ahead to 1934, and Darrow pitched his version of the game to both Milton Bradley and Parker Brothers. Both of them sent back rejection letters. Part of the creation myth is that Parker Brothers rejected it for 52 fundamental reasons. However, there is no real evidence of that and it definitely does not say it in the rejection letter. The game was rejected unanimously by the executives of Parker Brothers because they thought it took too long to play and was too complex to be popular.

Instead, Darrow used his own money to make 7,500 copies, which sold well in stores in Philadelphia, and Parker Brothers changed their mind and struck a deal with Darrow. From there, the game grew to be the biggest board game in history.

1. Escape Maps Were Smuggled to British POWs during WWII

When it comes to making maps for war, paper is a terrible material for many reasons. For example, it can’t get wet, it rips, it crumples, and so on. A better material for maps is silk, and it has been used for hundreds of years.

During World War II, a printing company that had mastered printing on silk was John Waddington Ltd. The company was used by the British secret service unit MI9, which was the secret service unit for escape and evasion, to print silk maps. Waddington was also the printer of Monopoly for the United Kingdom. An MI9 agent named Christopher Clayton Hutton came up with the idea to put maps and other materials into board games that would be sent to POW camps. Games were often brought into POW camps by humanitarian and charity groups, and the games wouldn’t have drawn too much attention from the enemy.

Inside the Monopoly boxes were hidden compartments that contained compasses, tools, maps, and under the money were real bank notes. There were six different maps created for areas around German POW camps, and other maps for Italy.

They marked the special Monopoly boxes by putting a red dot on the Free Parking space. Also, to figure out where the maps should go, periods were added to the end of specific properties. For example, if it was going to Germany, there was a period after Mayfair, and if it was going to Italy, there would be a period after Marylebone Station (since the game was the UK version, the properties were named after streets in London, not Atlantic City).

Some historians believe that thousands of POWs used the Monopoly games to escape. Since the war, all of the Monopoly escape kits were destroyed.


A MONOPOLY

on Board Games


 

The NULL Solution = Episode 21

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The NULL Solution = Episode 21

…the mystery sphere suddenly disappears from the scene completely, with not so much as a goodbye, how do you do, or clue as to its origin…

Gus McKinney is pondering on where God lives or where in the infinite Universe this relatively tiny round intruder comes from.

Stellar Explorer was never meant to be anything but a point-to-point prototype. Here and now he is being asked it to be a scout cruiser. To complicate matters, he has lost communication with Mission Control. He won’t be speaking with them until he comes from around the bright stationary furnace.

The “dark” side of the Sun never used to be a hazardous place, seeing that at any given time, about ½ of the solid solar system contents lay on opposite sides of the glowing anchor. That the mystery sphere he is spying seems to be concealed contradictory to Earth cannot be a coincidence.  If it were completely stationary, it would have been seen by someone by now.

No human has ever laid eyes on this thing. Even Messenger, the NASA made probe designed to give the world a close look at Mercury and then meter solar flares & such, had not found it because the people who control the cameras weren’t looking for anything else.

Gus’ eyes are young and just fine. His fleet ride’s sensors aren’t attuned to analyze anything other than those related to navigation. “Jeepers creepers, if that isn’t the damndest thing!”

Not only that, it is moving away from Stellar Explorer like it has seen a ghost. The feeling is mutual.

Not only does it move, but it suddenly disappears from the scene completely, with not so much as a goodbye, how do you do, or clue as to its origin.

“Now that is downright impolite.” Out of sight – out of mind, there is no reason to linger. He expresses his suspicions to himself, “I wouldn’t know a wormhole if it bit me in the butt, but that is where that puppy had to go!”

Borrowing trouble is not on today’s to-do list. Roy’s instructions were to do a sun flyby and come back to Earth when Harper Lea Bassett was on her way back to D.C. So, with a wry smile on his face, and the love of a good wife in his heart, Gus McKinney guides Stellar Explorer from out behind the yellow dwarf star.


The NULL Solution =

Episode 21


page 25

The NULL Solution = Episode 4

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The NULL Solution = Episode 4

…How about the old shell-game… they’re there, no they’re not here, they’re in the air… do you see where I’m headed…

“I just got word that the President is on her way Roy, should arrive in the morning,” Francine Bouchette-Crippen gives her husband the news.

“She doesn’t take NO for an answer, does she?” His best efforts to control the message are about to be neutered. “Do you have any suggestions on how to handle this? She’ll want to congratulate the newest space heroes and Deker will be conspicuous by his absence.”

How about the old shell-game… they’re there, no they’re not here, they’reRelated image in the air… do you see where I’m headed?

That strategy will have to do.

Until Harper Lea Bassett’s untimely arrival, Roy needs to rehash some of what he knows, in an attempt to crack the vexing missing Deke McKinney mystery.

To that end, he must remove emotion from the equation and get down to the nuts ‘n bolts: the Stellar Explorer {SEx} itself. To do so, he goes as far as to kick Fletcher Fitch away from his obsession of dissecting the differences between the old ship and the new mysteriously improved version. There will be plenty of time for that later.–

— Any machine made by man’s hand has a “feel” to it, an intangibility that may defy conventional acumen. With all the interior lights glaring or the busy busyness of the SOL hangar at the Galveston Launch Facility {GLF} it is difficult to separate the mental from the metal.

“I want this hangar cleared. Everybody go home, come back tomorrow and when you do, please wear your official NASA SOL polo shirts, the President is dropping in for a visit.” Former President Roy has a way with his underlings, an assertive manner that inspires, not inciting. As he addresses the semicircle of men and women, he looks directly at each and every one of them, “And when the topic of the McKinneys comes up you don’t know nothin’, which if you are like me, is not far from the truth.  I’m telling you to fib for the good of the program. Our honesty policy will be back in effect the day after tomorrow. See you at 0500 hours.”


The NULL Solution =

Episode 4


page 10

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 275

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 275

…feeling alone, even though he is among his closest ties, Gus tries to hide the hurt he works so hard not to show…

The whole Cerella/Deke event itself is a big to-do: #First comes the marriage, which will happen without fail – next comes the child: an Eridanus fairy tale #Image result for magic eight ball gif

Just when that is going to be, is up for much discussion, on both sides of the equation.  Because this conception is a product of two different species, it seems even the most experienced physical physicians cannot accurately predict the final outcome… #It could be tomorrow or ten cycles from now#

“Let’s start a pool on when the Cerella actually delivers and another buck on the sex. Two guesses per person, two bucks a throw and winner gets the entire pot,” why not make good sport of it all, Sampson.

Ekcello thinks, somewhat correctly that a buck is an Earthly animal and ignores Sam like he often does, #The child should be forever known as “Crettano”, heir to the heiress of Eupepsia# believing he gets the honor of naming rights.

“We were thinking along the lines of “Reggie”,” Sampson weighs in on the baby name game. “Reginald Braden McKinney, child of the stars, heir to intergalactic exploration,” should be his lengthy Earthly moniker, being positive that it will be a boy and he will win the pool, “… or Regina in the unlikely case that I am wrong.”

Fortän and Celeste make mind-to-mind contact, each deciding to relinquish their respective control over the matter, secure in the knowledge that, from this day forward, the intertwining of the two worlds is irreversible. What was once thought as impossible…?

Standing alone and inexplicably feeling alone, even though he is among his closest ties, wondering just how he had been spirited away from the love of his life, Gus tries to hide the hurt he works so hard not to show.

  • Where was HIS “Mom, Dad, I’d like you to meet the next Mrs. Gus McKinney.” moment?
    • The day when Mom’s hug would choke a grizzly bear
    • Dad would shake his hand until his arm falls off
    • And how they would accept Mindy McDonald into the family, every bit as joyfully as Cerella

None of the above is on the long-range radar right now and the pressure inside his irresolute mind is building, a crescendo not to be ignored. The abstract notions that flash in and flash out at an increasing rate, cause him to seek out the parents he has rediscovered. He tells them each, “Just what it has meant to see them again and be a part of their lives”. They are flattered by him sharing, but cannot imagine what has brought this on at this, his private pivotal moment.

Gus McKinney has something cooking in his brain and he lavishes his heartfelt affections toward brother Deke, which is not a stretch, because Gus is an emotional guy. It’s the timing and intensity of that affection that is.

As for his interstellar acquaintances, who have become accustomed to emotional outpourings, they equate him to his father; one and the same, cut from the same cloth.

Could anyone possibly trace this comportment back to the root of his discontent?


THE RETURN TRIP

The Cloak of Discontent by Margo Schopf – Johannesburg, South Africa

Episode 275


page 319

Contents TRT

Video Games and You – WIF Pop Culture

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Video Games That Are

Part of Enormous

Pop Culture Franchises

wif-pop-culture-001

Though not all agree, video games can be considered as being a new art form. Moreover, video games are seen by many as a form of art with which one can actively interact. From the breathtaking landscapes, to the incredible soundtracks and general atmosphere, as well as the enticing plot, some video games can bring together much of what other mediums already have.

In fact, some video games out there were inspired by various bestselling novels, or in turn generated a whole book series with thousands of fans of their own. Some video games have even inspired movies. Be it a strategy game, a shooter, or a role-playing game, it doesn’t really matter as long as it has a good back story, a whole universe, and an extensive lore surrounding it. Here are 10 such video games, even though many others also deserve a spot in this list.

10. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Developed by Headfirst Productions and published by Bethesda Softworks, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was released in 2005. First came the Xbox version, and then a PC version one year later. The game is an action-adventure/survival/horror genre that perfectly combines a first-person perspective with many stealth elements. The story is set mostly in 1922 and follows a mentally unstable private detective hired to investigate the fictional town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Unlike many other FPS games, Call of Cthulhu features no heads-up display, and everything from the player’s condition to his ammunition and other stats are represented as realistically as possible. A broken leg, for example, would be shown as the character limping, while a broken arm by a loss in accuracy. Each injury needs its own type of remedy and the player even needs to count the ammunition he’s got left.

All in all, the game received only positive reviews from critics and was considered by some to be among the best horror video games of all-time. However, the game itself was an economic failure, with the planned sequels being cancelled when Headfirst Productions went under. In recent years there has been a revival of the series, and in 2017 a new video game is expected to be released. Dark Corners of the Earth is inspired on H.P. Lovecraft‘s 1936 novella, The Shadow over Innsmouth. Lovecraft was also author of The Call of Cthulhu and several other related stories all within the Cthulhu Mythos.

 A recurring theme in Lovecraft’s works is the complete irrelevance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors that exist in the universe. Cthulhu himself and other cosmic deities exist, but have fallen into a deathlike sleep. After Lovecraft’s death in 1937, August Derleth took on the challenge to synthetize and expand the Cthulhu Mythos.

9. Mass Effect

Mass Effect is a sci-fi/action/role-playing/third person shooter first released in 2007. Two later installments came out in 2010 and 2012. A fourth game is expected to be released sometime in 2017. If you’re a fan of this style of video games, it’s almost an impossibility to have not already heard about or played Mass Effect. Developed by BioWare, the trilogy starts off in the year 2183 and revolves around Commander Shepard, who’s entrusted to save the entire Milky Way galaxy and all its inhabitants from a mysterious and overwhelmingly powerful race of machine beings known as the Reapers. And while the plot and story itself are quite complex and enticing, there is an extensive lore surrounding the game series.

To date there are four novels centered on various protagonists other than the ones in the video game. But the plots take place around the time of the games themselves. These not only better explain ambiguous facts from the game, but also expand the history of the Mass Effect universe. A fifth novel, Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiation is set to be published sometime in 2016. Two more books are scheduled for 2017 and 2018. There is also a fan written, interactive novel circulating out there called Mass Effect: Pick Your Path, from 2012, as well as numerous other comics. Also in 2012, an anime film version was released, and there are even talks of a Hollywood production in the works.

8. Mortal Kombat

 This fighting game has been around for a very long time. Originally developed by Midway Games, Mortal Kombat hit the arcades back in 1991. Its idea was thought up even earlier, in 1989, along with its storyline and game content. Mortal Kombat is a fantasy/horror themed fighting game, renowned for its high levels of gore and bloody violence. One of its most notorious parts, the finishing moves, also known as Fatalities, are in part responsible for the founding of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). Modeled after movies like Bloodsport and Enter the Dragon,Mortal Kombat aimed to be a bit more realistic and serious than its cartoon fantasy-style counterpart, Street Fighter.

After Midway’s bankruptcy, Mortal Kombat was bought by Warner Bros. and rebooted in 2011. The game became highly popular among young people and is now one of the few successful fighting franchises in the history of video games. Since its inception it has spun off into a series of comic books, card games, a theatrical live tour, countless game sequels, two TV series, and two movies. These two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat (1995), and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation(1997) grossed in $122 and $51 million, respectively. While not particularly good, the movies gathered a cult following; especially the first one. The second installment, however, was poorly received by both critics and fans alike, resulting in it bombing at the box-office. Though entirely unofficial, an 8-minute short film was released back in 2010, revealing that a new Mortal Kombat movie is being planned in Hollywood.

7. Warhammer 40K

warhammer

Without a doubt, the Warhammer 40K franchise has among the richest lore and backstory in video game history. That’s because the whole idea of this fictional universe first came into being way back in 1983. Back then, the game was known simply as Warhammer, and was created by Games Workshop as a tabletop war game. That game still exists, and continues to expand even to this day. Then in 1987, a futuristic version was developed, sharing many of the game mechanics. This is the 40K, which stands for the year in which the fictional action now takes place. We won’t bother going into detail with the original Warhammer games, since they deserve a top 10 list of their own, and instead try to focus on what’s at hand; namely their video game versions of the 40K universe.

The story takes place during the 41st millennium in a fictional, gothic-looking dystopian universe. The Imperium of Man, as it is called, is a galaxy-spanning human interstellar empire, dominating most of the Milky Way, though it’s not the only power out there. The most iconic and finest warriors of the Imperium are theSpace Marines, a combination between sci-fi super-soldiers and fantasy knights, who are sworn to defend their empire from all the other alien races in the galaxy. The Warhammer 40K universe has a total of 31 different style video games. The most notable of these are eight real-time strategy games and expansions, part of the Dawn of War series.

Four novels have been published alongside this series, somewhat following and better explaining the actions taking place in the games. But the entire list of novels, novellas and other short stories surrounding the 40K universe is humongous, enough to completely fill up a big personal library. And that’s without mentioning itscomic book series. In 2010 the CGI Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie was released to DVD. Terence Stamp, John Hurt, and Donald Sumpter, among others, voice some of the Space Marines.

6. Resident Evil

Making its debut in 1996, the Resident Evil series first appeared for the PlayStation. Initially called Biohazard in Japan, its country of origin, Capcom’s director decided to change its name since it was impossible to trademark it in the US. An internal contest was held within the company regarding the game’s name, finally settling on Resident Evil. Even though the director believed it to be “super-cheesy,” it makes reference to the original game, which took place in a mansion filled with evil monsters.

In its 20 years of existence the franchise has expanded into 11 main games and 22 other spin-offs. As of 2015, Resident Evil has sold over 61 million units worldwide. Originally, the game series was more of a survival horror genre, based mostly on horror film plotlines, exploration and puzzle solving. Since Resident Evil 4, however, the series took on a more third-person shooter approach, focusing on gunplay and weapon upgrades.

The plot revolves around the sinister Umbrella Corporation, a worldwide company with ties to every major industry, and which secretly makes extensive research into bio-engineering. More exactly, they are aiming to create an extremely potent virus that can transform any individual into a super-powerful, yet perfectly obedient being. However, most of these experiments were wildly unsuccessful and have backfired with some truly gruesome results. In their several attempts to create the perfect weapon, the Umbrella Corporation initiated a series of viral outbreaks and mass infection of the civilian population, transforming humans and animals into mindlessly aggressive zombies. Players take on the role of various characters trying to survive and unravel the Corporation’s many secrets.

 The Resident Evil movie series loosely follows the same plot, even though much of the original content is missing or has been changed. The main protagonist, Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, was a security operative working for Umbrella. But with the start of the first movie, she becomes an enemy of the Corporation. Though the movie received poor reviews from critics and fans alike, mostly because of the inconsistencies between it and the game series, the Resident Evil film tripled its budget, and got four more sequels over a span of 10 years. A last installment,Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, is set to premiere in 2017. A more faithful CGI animated movie series also exists, and another film, Resident Evil: Vendetta, will also be released next year. Moreover, the franchise also has its own seven book series.

5. Halo

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Halo is a sci-fi/first person shooter franchise set in the 26th century, in which humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel speed and colonized numerous other planets across the Milky Way. The series centers itself on an interstellar war between humans and an alliance of aliens known as the Covenant, also inhabiting the galaxy. The player takes on the role of Master Chief John-117, a member of a group of super-soldiers known as the Spartans.

Since its first release in 2001 with Halo: Combat Evolved, the franchise has been praised by many and is considered to be among the best FPS video games played on a console. Managed and developed by Microsoft Studios under one of its subsidiaries, 343 Industries, Halo benefited from a tremendous marketing campaign and four more original sequels and their respective DLCs. In total the franchise sold over 65 million copies and earned a record breaking $3.4 billion from the games alone.

These incredible sales and its increasing fandom have allowed Halo to expand into other media as well. Besides the various spin-offs of the game, including a real-time strategy installment entitled Halo Wars, the franchise boasts its own five-part TV mini-series, called Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, released in 2012. Another miniseries was released in 2014, called Halo: Nightfall. A full length movie adaptation was set in motion back in 2005 by 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios, but due to financial reasons, the project was dropped two years later. However, a future TV show on Showtime is said to be in development, though the exact details of the production are still largely unknown. In any case, up until that moment arises, fans of the video game series can also expand their knowledge of the Halo universe by taking a look at its 13 novel canon.

4. The Witcher

The Witcher started off as a series of fantasy short stories written by Andrzej Sapkowski, which are now collected into two books. The first of these stories, entitled simply The Witcher, was written in 1986 as part of a contest held by a magazine, winning third place. The subsequent five novels, which became known asthe Witcher Saga were written and published throughout the 1990s in Poland, and later translated into English and other languages. Before gaining international notoriety with the release of the first video game in 2007, the saga was adapted into a movie and television series in 2001 and 2002, respectively, with both being called The Hexer. In fact, this was the preferred translation of the first story’s title by the author. But with the release of the first video game, however, the publishing company CD Projekt RED decided on the name Witcher instead.

With two more video games in the series, the story follows the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, (a sort of travelling monster-hunter for hire) as he struggles to regain his memories and prevent the destruction of the world. Set in a medieval fantasy universe, The Witcher is an action/role-playing hack and slash video game. The use of Geralt’s amnesia in the game allows the player to make decisions that the character from the books would not have necessarily made. It also permitted the developers to introduce those who weren’t familiar with the backstory with certain aspects of the Witcher canon.

Sapkowski uses a tone that is slightly ironic and with subtle links to modern culture in the books, which are also apparent in the games. Unlike most other similar fantasy stories, The Witcher also emphasizes the duality of human nature, with nobody being 100% good or bad. These aspects have helped both the novels and the video games to be widely claimed by fans as the best of Polish fantasy. Back in 2011, President Obama received a copy of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings video game from the Polish prime minister in one of his visits to the country. Obama later confessed that he didn’t actually play it.

3. Assassin’s Creed

 Another video game series that’s made frequent headlines in recent years is theAssassin’s Creed franchise. With a movie set to be released in December, the series made its debut in 2007, and has since released another eight sequels, 17 spin-offs, several short films, as well as a number of other supporting materials. Developed predominantly by Ubisoft, the various games can be played on almost every platform conceivable, and its gameplay, varying only slightly from game to game, is set in the historic action-adventure genre, with a particular emphasis on combat, acrobatics, free-running, and stealth. The protagonist of each sequel changes, as the action takes place in different moments and locations throughout history: from the time of the Third Crusade, to the Renaissance period, the Colonial Era, the French Revolution, and the Victorian Era among others.

The overall plot of the series revolves around the centuries-old, fictional struggle between the historically-accurate Order of Assassins and the Knights Templar, who each desire world peace but through different means and ideologies. On the one hand, the Assassins believe in peace through free will, while the Templars consider it achievable only through world domination. Inspiration for the games came from a Slovenian novel, Alamut, written by Vladimir Bartol, as well as from concepts borrowed from the Prince of Persia series. In all, the Assassin’s Creed series has been very well received by critics and fans alike, and as of April 2014 over 73 million copies have been sold, making it Ubisoft’s bestselling franchise. Aside from the comics, Assassin’s Creed also has a book series. Each of the eight novels are tie-ins to their respective video games, following the various assassins throughout the centuries, in their ongoing war with the Templars.

2. Warcraft

No list like this is complete without mentioning the Warcraft universe. Developed byBlizzard Entertainment, the franchise is made up of five core games, the most notable of which are Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, a real-time strategy game, and its expansion pack The Frozen Throne, as well as the infamous World of Warcraft (WOW), a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and bestselling title here. At its peak in 2010, WOW had 12 million simultaneous subscribers worldwide, becoming the world’s largest subscription-based MMORPG.

The latest title in the series, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, is a digital collectible card game. Another notable game in the franchise, though only a mod for Warcraft III, is Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a multiplayer online battle arena. In this game, two teams of players are pitted against each other in an attempt to destroy the enemy’s heavily guarded structures at opposing corners of the map.

All of the games in the series are set in or around the high fantasy world of Azeroth. The story begins by focusing on the human nations that make up the Eastern Kingdoms and the Orcish Horde that arrived to Azeroth through a dark portal, igniting the great wars between the two. Over the years, and with the subsequent game releases, the developers have expanded the planet by creating new continents. With them, there’s been the emergence of other new playable races.

 Unsurprisingly, the series has since spawned its own sizable collection of novels, covering a broad range of characters in various timelines, vastly expanding the lore and backstory of the Warcraft universe. Many comics have also been published alongside these books, delving even further into the canon. In June 2016, its first Hollywood movie was released by Universal Pictures. With only 5.5 million subscribers to WOW as of 2015, the film arrived a little too late, and bombed in the US. However, it did manage to gross over $422 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing game adaptation of all time.

1. Neverwinter Nights

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Neverwinter Nights is a third-person role-playing video game developed by BioWare, and was released in 2002. In the following years the game got several expansions and premium packs, and due to its growing popularity, a sequel was released in 2006. It, too, had its own series of expansions. The story follows the player’s character as he tries to stop a plague from sweeping over the city of Neverwinter. The city is located along the Sword Coast of Faerûn, in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons. As it is in the original tabletop D&D games, players of Neverwinter Nights are able to create their own character from scratch at the very beginning of the game. Everything from gender, race, character class, alignment, abilities, and name can be customized to suit the preferences of each individual player. Overall, the video game was met with positive reviews and universal acclaim.

GameSpot referred to it as “one of those exceedingly rare games that has a lot to offer virtually everyone, even if they aren’t already into RPGs,” while PC Gamer called it “a total package—a PC gaming classic for the ages,” and said that its “storyline [is] as persuasive as any I’ve encountered in a fantasy roleplaying game.”  It has its own collection of books entitled the Neverwinter Saga, written by R.A. Salvatore, which is made up of four novels. However, these are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of literature surrounding the Forgotten Realms universe, since the saga itself is just part of an even larger, Legend of Drizzt series. And for those who really want to immerse themselves into the canon of “The Realms” and probably never emerge out again, the entire book series is a whopping 302 novels.

 


Video Games and You

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– WIF Pop Culture