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

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Video Games and You – WIF Pop Culture

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Video Games That Are

Part of Enormous

Pop Culture Franchises

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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

halo

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

neverwinternights

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

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 86

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 86

…“That’s right you terrorist fools,” adds the previously apprehensive now animated Francine, noticing that the odds may soon even out…

Related image

Dogs Playing Poker, 1903 – C. M. Coolidge

“As you may have guessed, I am not Gurkhas Dhangotma; in fact, my name is not important. What does matter is that we have you and this female as hostages and we insist that you cancel that silly rescue plane to save your imperialistic friends.”checklist-001

The foreigner’s English fluency is markedly better than he recalls, spoken with the conviction of 10 other automatic weapons.

 

“Sorry Pal! That bird goes off at 11:57 C.S.T. no matter what happens to me, especially since you snakes did such a good job of slithering in under our radar.” Roy is matter-of-fact, having the facts and a lump at the top of his spine.

“You are risking your lives for those of two others so far away? What do they matter?”

“I only speak for me, but I have had it with all you fringe groups trying to have it your way. Jealousy is not a cause to follow; it is a coward’s lot in life… and if you haven’t looked around lately, you may have done-waked-up the good guys.”Related image

“That’s right you terrorist fools,” adds the previously apprehensive now animated Francine rolls the dice, noticing that the odds may soon even out.

With his bluff being called in question, “Gherkin” does not panic or display fear, “We are not terrorists, for if we were such men, we would have opened fire on your rescue vessel with our gunship, instead of bothering with you two. We have no need of furthers deaths when we can accomplish our feat of putting an end to the colonization of space without firing a canon. We will interfere with your silly rescue.”

t-minus-to-launch-001Give the man credit for his utter gall, but as Braden King blares “t-minus 00:20.00 minutes” Roy has achieved his ace-in-the-hole, in gambling terms.

“You are determined Gherkin, I’ll give you that, but at the 20 minutes mark your best laid plans have left you fail-safeempty handed.” Roy walks freely in the brawlers’ circle. “The launch is now in fail-safe mode. Only the mission computers can abort the launch…..and they do not know a gun from a slingshot.”

“You are bluffing.”

“Am I?”


THE RETURN TRIP

poker

by Mollie B

Episode 86


page 105

 

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #282

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #282

…Sara Fenwick knows nothing, has nothing to hide and is simply missing body organs and part of her brain…

My Project 19-001

And then there is the matter of the illusive Sara Fenwick. This one needs no thespian skills in relating her experiences. She does not remember a thing, period. As far as this seamstress-turned-globetrotter is concerned, she just wants to get back for Christmas (1941), even though it’s really 1947.

The same high-ranking officers that questioned Lyn have come to the realization just how futile any interrogation of this enigma would be. She knows nothing, has nothing to hide and is simply missing body organs and part of her brain.

“We will be leaving soon, Sara, I promise,” assures her friend. “Bob Ford is coming back for us.”Blue Ridge Angel-001

“There isn’t any water in the middle of the desert,” Sara correctly observes.

“He has a different airplane, hon. Remember I told you that he and I came from New York to confirm that you were really alive?”

“Of course I’m alive, silly.” She looks at herself in a mirror approvingly. “I don’t feel like I’m 50.”

          “And I feel like I’ve caught up and passed you.”

          “You truly are mad, Lyn. I will always be five years older than you, not that I wouldn’t mind shaving those years off.”

          “I guess always is not as permanent as it used to be.”

          “You haven’t stopped loving me, have you – is that the “always” you are talking about?”

          “Just ignore me, Sara, I’m getting used to having you around again.”

          “Boy, I step out for a breath of fresh air and the whole world goes bonkers!”

  For now, they must rely on the hospitality of strangers and hope that Jupiter and Mars can possibly realign.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Stray Souls - Stolen Memories

Stray Souls (game) – Stolen Memories

Episode #282


page 265 (end ch. 15)

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #279

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #279

… In a weak moment, Sgt. Smith slips, “Some strange things going on around here these days.”…

Starry Nite by Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Nite by Vincent Van Gogh

Safely on the ground and a little worse for the wear, Robert Ford, cargo plane owner and Carolyn Hanes, authoress are greeted by uniformed men — by the score. They are cordial, but seem to be distracted, like they had just seen a ghost.

“Can we inspect your plane?” One of many asks a question without inflection, giving it a HollomanAFBdemanding slant. “Standard procedure.” As if they would know the difference.

          “Yeah, I guess, but you won’t find anything,” Ford says as they are led to a large Quonset hut. He whispers to Lyn along the way, “Act as if we don’t see a thing.”

Before she can even so much as nod, there is a huge explosion, accompanied by a plume of smoke. The sound reaches them seconds later. “….one thousand six, one thousand seven,” Ford times the gap between sight and sound. “One hundred miles northeast… hmmm.”

“What did you say, Ford?” asks a nearby Air Force officer.

   “I was telling Miss Hanes that we covered the last hundred miles with ease. Must be the desert air?”

“Sargent. Smith will guide you from here.”

Without hesitation, the officer joins an armada of military vehicles racing off to the north and east. It is clear that they were not expecting the blast. Two helicopters are dispatched to the scene. They will be at the expected crater long before the ground vehicles.

In a weak moment, Sgt. Smith slips, “Some strange things going on around here these days.” Sometimes one can only shake one’s head. “Come this way.”

They have entered an infirmary type building and are shunted into an empty room – save a table, five chairs and two guards.

“Musical chairs is one of my favorite party games and I believe we need more people to play. How about you guys? ” Lyn is trying to ease the mounting tension. The guards will have nothing of it.

Smith directs them to the two chairs facing the other three, with four feet between them. “Before we begin, I need to warn you that this woman may not have anything to say. She pops in and out of reality. It affects the way she communicates. One minute she seems perfectly normal, totally out of it internal_organsthe next. We have had our best psychological people examine her. The only thing they agree on is that she is missing more than her memory.”

“Missing what?” Lyn wonders.

“One kidney and part of her frontal lobe,” contributes the newest addition to the room. He is dressed mostly in white, distinguishing himself from anyone else they have seen. “With no signs of surgery, I might add. I have heard of people being born with one kidney, but the human brain mass never deviates from its shape… content maybe, but not shape.”

“And you are… who?” Lyn is losing her patience. “We have flown across country, at your invitation and all we are getting are silver streaks, explosions and what seems to be a military runaround.”

“Excuse my oversight, folks, but this case has me baffled.”


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #279


page 261

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Board Game Backstories – WIF Edu-taiment

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Origin Stories Behind

Famous Board Games

The board game market is one of the toughest to break into. Thousands of games are released every year and throughout all of history only dozens have broken through and become mainstream hits. These are 10 of those select few games that somehow managed to become rainy day staples.

NOTE: Since humans have been playing some games like Chess, Checkers, and Mancala for thousands of years, their origins aren’t clear, so they were omitted from this list.

10. Risk

risk

Originally called La Conquête du Monde (The Conquest of the World), Risk was invented by Academy Award winning French film director Albert Lamorisse. Lamorisse, who is most famous for his 1956 short film “The Red Balloon,” invented the game while on a family vacation in Holland. The game takes strategic elements of chess, but the playing area is much more expansive and up to six people can play, which complicates the strategy. Also, with the dice, there is an added element of randomness. Originally, Lamorisse said the game should take 90 minutes to play, but if you’ve ever played Risk, you’ll know that the first 90 minutes of the game are just the set up and opening turns.

Lamorisse took the game to Miro, a French board game company, and they manufactured the first games in 1957. In 1959, the game was purchased by Parker Brothers, who made some minor tweaks and renamed the game Risk.

Lamorisse continued to make movies after inventing the game, but sadly, he was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in Iran in June 1970 while filming.

9. Settlers of Catan

catan

In the 1980s, Klaus Teuber was running a dental lab outside of Darmstadt, Germany, and, in general, he wasn’t happy with his work life. For a bit of escapism, he took up making board games. His first game, Barbarossa (a clay-shaping guessing game), was a hit in 1988 after he won the prestigious Spiel des Jahres award, which is awarded to the best German board game of the year.

After his initial success, Teuber created a few more games, and won two more Spiel des Jahres awards, but he was still working at the dental lab.

In 1991, Teuber was reading about Vikings and the Age of Discovery and it sparked the inspiration for Settlers of Catan. He said a major breakthrough in the game came when he realized he should use hexagonal board pieces instead of square pieces, as this allowed for more areas to play in the same amount of space.

The game was an instant bestseller in Germany when it was released in 1995 and Teuber claimed his fourth Spiel des Jahres award. In 1996, Catan made its way to American hobby shops and slowly gained a small, but devoted following. In 1998, Teuber finally quit working at the dental lab because he was making a living off his games.

Sales of Catan continue to increase each year and as of 2015, it has been translated into 30 languages, sold over 22 million copies, inspired spinoffs, and the rights for the movie and the TV show were purchased.

8. Cranium

cranium

In the 1990s, Seattle-based Microsoft employees Richard Tait and Whit Alexander were trying to think of a business to start. At first, they were thinking a dot-com company, but they thought that the space was already too crowded. In 1997, Tait came up with the idea that would become Craniumafter a weekend of intense board gaming with his wife and another couple. During that weekend, Tait noticed that there was a gap in the board game industry; a lot of games were based on only a small segment of skills. For example, with Scrabble, you need pattern recognition, planning, bluffing, strategy, and a big vocabulary, but not much else. Also, those skills don’t translate well to a game like Pictionary. What was missing was a game that utilized a variety of skills. A single game that challenged different skills would mean that there was a good chance anyone who played it would be really good at one aspect, and completely horrible at another. This would make the game uniquely inclusive.

After coming up with the basic premise of the game, over breakfast Tait convinced Alexander that they should leave their high paying jobs with Microsoft to go make a board game, even though there hadn’t been a massive, hit board game since Pictionary in 1984. With the odds stacked against them, in early 1998, they put $100,000 into a prototype. Then, instead of trying to get it stocked in stores, they took a rather unique approach to sales. Tait had recently climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with a friend of Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, and the friend set up a meeting between the makers of Cranium and Schultz. They ended up playing a few rounds ofCranium and Schultz liked the game. He had been looking for something similar to put in Starbucks, and agreed to put games in 1,500 stores so that customers could play. Through Starbucks, Tait and Alexander learned that people would highly recommend the game. To help spread the word-of-mouth recommendations, they gave games to Starbucks employees and patrons, and by the time the holiday season rolled around, Tait and Alexander couldn’t keep up with orders. Soon, Barnes and Nobles and Amazon started selling the game and it became a runaway hit.

In 2008, Cranium was purchased by Hasbro for $77 million. After the purchase, Tait and Alexander, who held the titles of Grand Poo Bah and Chief Noodler, respectively, left the company.

7. Pictionary

pictionary

Creator Rob Angel first came up with the basics of Pictionary in 1981, and he would break out the game at parties when festivities had reached a lull. He would pick a word out of the dictionary and then try to get people to guesswhat he was drawing. He never really thought much about selling the game until the Trivial Pursuit phenomenon in 1984, when the creators sold 20 million copies in just over a year. Seeing the potential in his game, Angel started to work on it in 1985.

Angel realized that the key to the game was getting the right words. Most people have an active vocabulary of about 20,000 words, but there are 171,476 active words in the English language (a number that continues to grow over the years, as well). Also, not everything can be drawn. That meant just randomly picking words from the dictionary wouldn’t work, so Angel, who was working as a waiter at the time, picked up the dictionary and started reading it. He also had a friend design cards and a board. With a $35,000 loan, they went around to local stores and sold them some copies. Then Seattle based retailer Nordstrom ordered 167 copies. This caught the attention of 58-year-old Thomas McGuire, who was a salesman for the board game company Selchow & Righter. After playing the game with his family, McGuire quit his job to sell Pictionary with his own marketing company, and it was published by Western Publishing Group Inc. By Christmas season 1987, Pictionary was the bestselling game of the year with three million copies sold. In 1994, Western sold its gaming section, including Pictionary, to Hasbro for $105 million.

6. Candy Land

candy land

The quintessential game for children, Candy Land, is full of bright colors and pretty imagery, but its origins are actually fairly depressing. The game was developed by retired schoolteacher Eleanor Abbott in 1948. Abbott was in a San Diego hospital for polio and she, and the children in the ward, were bored. So Abbott used a piece of butcher paper and drew up the plans forCandy Land. The game was popular among children in the ward and they encouraged her to submit it to Milton Bradley, who agreed to produce the game.

The game became a surprise bestseller for the company. In hindsight, there were a few factors that contributed to its success. One reason is that it was easy enough that most children could play it; there’s no reading, no counting, and no real skill involved other than deciphering colors. Secondly, in the Post-War period, Americans had more disposable income and it was the start of the Baby Boom, so toys and games, especially ones directed at very young people, exploded in popularity. Finally, during the polio outbreak of the 1950s, people weren’t encouraged to go out in public, meaning they spent more time inside and away from other people. Thus, games that could be played in the home were in high demand.

Milton Bradley, which was taken over by Hasbro in 1984, kept the origin story of Candy Land quiet for decades because they didn’t want the colorful, upbeat game for children to be linked with a horrifying and deadly disease. The story was finally made public in 1998 when a 50th anniversary edition game was released.

5. Trivial Pursuit

trivial pursuit

The origin of Trivial Pursuit has a bit of a mythical aura around it. Various versions of the story exist, but here is what we do know for sure. It happened on the night of December 15, 1979, in Montreal, Canada. Chris Haney, a high school dropout who worked as a picture editor at the Montreal Gazette, and Scott Abbott, a sports journalist for The Canadian Press, were playing someScrabble. According to some stories, they spent the night drinking like Wade Boggs (years later, Haney said they only had one beer…but since it was Saturday night, and they were newspaper men working in Montreal in the late 1970s, we’re guessing the true number of beers was quite a bit north of that claim). Either way, somewhere in there, an idea for a new game was born.

How Haney and Scott were able to transition their drunken idea into a cultural phenomenon involved a bit of conning and hustling. First, they attended a toy makers convention under the guise of a journalist and a photographer who were doing a story on bringing a board game to market. Through this ploy, they got a lot of insider information for free. Then they spent the next two years writing 10,000 questions before dwindling it down to 6,000.

Finally, the game was released in 1981, just as the United States was going through a recession, which had a massive effect on the cost of production for first the 1,000 copies. It cost them $75 to make the game and they were only selling it for $15. This caused them serious problems when they tried to order more games because they didn’t have the funds. Haney and Scott also couldn’t get a traditional loan because they had been connected with a pyramid scheme. Instead they took on 32 investors, who all chipped in $1,000.

Luckily for the investors, the game exploded in popularity shortly after they handed over their money. People would line up for hours or drive hundreds of miles to buy the game. By 1984, more than 20 million copies of Trivial Pursuit, which amounted to nearly half a billion dollars in sales, had been sold in North America. In 1988, Trivial Pursuit was purchased by Hasbro for $80 million.

With his new found riches, Haney partied hard and developed medical problems later in his life. He passed away on May 31, 2010, at the age of 59.

4. Scrabble

scrabble

Born in Poughkeepsie, New York in 1899, Alfred Mosher Butts was always a good student, and attended the University of Pennsylvania, where he pursued an architecture degree and played on the school’s chess team. After school, he got a job as a draftsman, designing suburban homes.

When the Great Depression struck, Butts’ salary was cut by 20 percent in 1930, and he was laid off in 1931. Like many other people at the time, he didn’t hold a steady job for years. During that time, he tried his hand at writing, did some painting, and worked as a statistician. He found a little bit of success in all them, but wasn’t able to build a new career for himself.

Another project that Butts started working on when his salary was cut was a board game that mixed anagrams, chess, and crossword puzzles. Butts’ first thought was to design a game that involved making words, using letters on tiles. Next, he scanned the newspapers and culled the most common letters in the English language, and devised a point system on their usage. He also thought that drawing letters from a pool would add a level of randomness, which would level the playing field in terms of skill.

In October 1933, Butts started selling the first incarnation of the game, which he called Criss Cross Words, out of his apartment in New York City. Originally, the game didn’t have a board; it was just letters with number values glued onto pieces of plywood, and the tile holders. Over the next 10 months, Butts tweaked the rules and added a board and by August 1934, he had sold 84 copies of the game for $1.50, which brought Butts to a grand total of a loss of $20.43. He tried to get a patent on the game, twice, and tried to find manufacturers, but had no luck. In 1935, Butts’ architectural firm began to get more business and he went back to designing homes.

Twelve years after Butts stopped selling Criss Cross Words, James Brunot, who was the director of the President’s War Relief Control Board during World War II, got in touch with Butts. Brunot was a fan of Criss Cross Words and wanted to buy the rights to it. He would manufacture and market the game under the name Scrabble. For each copy sold, Butts would get two-and-a-half cents, and Butts agreed.

Over the next few years, Butts’ slightly modified game sold moderately well, but it didn’t take off until 1952. That summer, the president of Macy’s was vacationing in Long Island and saw people playing the game, so he decided to stock it. By 1954, they sold 3,798,555 copies of the game, including 100,000 foreign language copies and a Braille edition.

In 1971, Butts agreed to sell the rights of Scrabble to one of the companies that originally turned him down in 1934, Selchow & Righter, for $265,000. Butts believed he made over $1 million on Scrabble, but it ultimately didn’t change his life much. He continued to work as an architect until 1978. After that, he invented another board game called Alfred’s Other Game, but not many copies were sold. In the fall of 1987, Butts was in a car accident that he never fully recovered from, and he died in April 1993.

3. Clue

cluedo

Board games are quintessential for times when you can’t leave the house, and in England during World War II, Britons who were suffering Nazi bombings and blackouts had some very good reasons to stay inside. Anthony Pratt, of Birmingham, was working in a factory and thought that the bombings were killing the social lives of the British, so he invented Clue‘s precursor, Murder! In 1944, he filed a patent for the game.

Pratt’s neighbor had just published a popular game called Buccaneers with Waddington’s Games in Leeds, and this led to a meeting between Pratt and Waddington’s in 1945. Waddington’s liked the game and agreed to sell it with a few minor changes. Notably, some of the characters were changed; there would no longer be a Dr. Black, and a bomb and a syringe were no longer weapons, for example. Also, the name of the game was changed to Cluedo.

The problem with the game was that a lot of materials were needed to manufacture it, and England was still rationing material so the game wasn’t released until 1949. When it was released, it was also licensed by Milton Bradley for overseas sales, sold under the name Clue.

Success didn’t come in the first few years and in 1953, Pratt agreed to sell his royalty on overseas sales for £5,000, which is about £130,000 today ($188,000 USD). In hindsight, this was a massive mistake because the game took off and has since become the second bestselling game of all time, along with spawning a movie and television series. Pratt never got rich or famous from inventing one of the best known board games of all time, and he died in 1994 at the age of 90.

2. Monopoly

monopoly

Monopoly, aka The Great Destroyer of Friendships, got its start in 1903 in Washington, D.C., when it was designed by stenographer Elizabeth Magie. Magie was a progressive, single woman who saved up her money and purchased her own house, which was fairly unusual for the time. At night, she tried to teach people about the dangers of possible monopolies brought on by the large accumulation of wealth by a small group of people, which was going on during the Gilded Age with families like the Carnegies, the Rockefellers, the Vanderbilts, and the Morgans, who gained massive amounts of wealth and controlled major industries. However, she didn’t think she was reaching enough people. To spread the word and show how problematic a monopoly is, Magie designed The Landlord’s Game and patented it in 1904. However, instead of mass producing it, it became a folk game and was passed along from person to person. All someone had to do was copy the board and playing pieces.

For years, the game spread throughout the Northeastern United States. Then in late 1932, an unemployed Philadelphia man named Charles Darrow played the game with friends. He enjoyed it and he drew his board on a tablecloth. He took the game to Parker Brothers, who bought it and agreed to pay Darrow a royalty.

Knowing that Darrow’s game was based Magie’s patented game, Parker Brothers agreed to buy the rights to The Landlord’s Game and two other games created by Magie for $500. Then, in an unbelievable jerk move, Parker Brothers didn’t mass produce The Landlord’s Game, instead releasing Monopolyin 1935. It became an instant success – and one for which Magie was not entitled to receive any royalty or recognition.

Charles Darrow went on to be rich and famous. When he was asked where he got the inspiration, he said it was just one of those amazing freak eureka moments. He passed away in 1978 after becoming the first millionaire game “designer.” Magie passed away in 1948 without being given proper recognition for her work.

1. The Game of Life

game of life

In 1860, Milton Bradley was 24-years-old and owned a lithograph studio in Springfield, Massachusetts, that sold a popular picture of Abraham Lincoln, who was running for President at the time. That’s when something unusual happened, and forever changed American culture. On October 15, 1860, 11-year-old Grace Bedell from Westfield, New York, sent Lincoln a letter, encouraging him to grow a beard, and amazingly Lincoln wrote back…and agreed to do so! When Lincoln grew his beard, not only did people no longer want Bradley’s lithograph, they wanted their money back for the ones they had already purchased.

Seeing his business was in trouble, Bradley, who had worked as a draftsman, started working on a board game that depicted the drastic ups-and-downs that happen in life (gee, we wonder what his inspiration for that could have been?). His game was on a checker board and a teetotum, which is a top, was used for the dice. The object of the game was to collect 100 points by landing on the right squares. You could lose points by landing on squares labeled “Disgrace,” “Crime,” and even “Suicide.” He called the game The Checkered Game of Life.

The game was an immediate success, and in 1864 he launched Milton Bradley and Company, one of the most famous board game companies in history. Bradley died on May 30, 1911. The modern Game of Life was published in 1960, 100 years after Bradley first started selling The Checkered Game of Life…all because an 11-year-old girl asked Abraham Lincoln to grow a beard.


Board Game Backstories

Family Board Game Night

– WIF Edu-taiment

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #144

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #144

…There is no big winner in the “Who’s Calling Game” this time…

Who Calling Game-001

The photography lab telephone reverberates noisily on the wall. The mystery of who is calling is a relatively new game played by two or more people.

          “Jackson!” Harv thinks it is his editor.

          “George!” Judith guesses it is her brother.

          “Herbert Love for Harv Pearson, please,” requests the caller, not recognizing Judith’s voice across a fuzzy, long distance connection.

          “He is right here, Mr. Love.” She hands the receiver to Harv. There is no big winner in the “Who’s Calling Game” this time.

Your-ears-are-burning “Herb, your ears must have been burning,” greets Pearson. “I mentioned your name the very minute you called.”

“Nothing bad I pray?”

“Oh no, Herb, I’m sure you haven’t done anything bad since you wore short pants,” he flatters.

“You are too kind… say, was that Judith Eastman picking up the line? Yes? Good, because what I have to say concerns both of you. I was speaking with John Ferrell the other day and he told me that James was working on his first big project – something about you two lovebirds dreaming up a new news rag. And I mean to tell you, any undertaking that you two are involved in has to be success etched in stone.

  “Then I stopped by the bank and Finley told me that he was scrambling to come up the cash for your withdrawal. There is a reason I know this,” Love assures.

“It is a magazine, not your normal rag Herb, but go on,” Harv prompts, sharing the receiver bell with Judith; familiarly of cheek-to-cheek closeness.

“Without beating around the bush, or sticking my nose where it doesn’t belong, I would like to throw a goodly sum into your initial investment. I hope I am not too bold, folks, but we all know that the more cash you have in the beginning, the greater the chances are for real success.”

Pearson-Eastman, Eastman-Pearson nod to each other.


 

Alpha Omega M.D.

Pearson-Eastman Journal-001

Episode #144


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Complete Listing of Episodes

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