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15 Years of QuotesBy Charles Ardai

(quotes from Charles Ardai's articles, originally meant for CGW's 200th anniversary issue in 2001)
  • “Computer gaming has changed a great deal since that first day Pac-Man was featured on the six o’clock news. So, for that matter, have computer gamers. The slick, dark-eyed marathon Defender player of old has gone the way of the slick, dark-eyed kid who could solve Rubik’s Cube in under 30 seconds. Today’s games are complex, intricate and creative. Today’s computers have capabilities that would have sent gamers from the Atari VCS era into shock.” (“Year in Review,” December 1986)

  • “1986 saw the renaissance of the strategy-adventure game, for instance. What dedicated gamer will soon forget the opening to the long-awaited Ultima IV?” (Ibid.)

  • “Clearly, 1986 has been a good year for computer games. New innovations kept surfacing throughout the year and changing the way we look at our software. For instance, this was the year we introduced the third dimension to computer chess.” (Ibid.)

  • “Barbie, a reprehensibly sexist and empty-headed toy” (Titans, part I)

  • “...computer games are not interactive movies any more than movies are filmed plays, and it is likely that it will take about as long for software to separate itself from what has come before as it did for directors to stop turning their cameras on at the footlights and sitting back for two hours. The change will come...and when it does, computer games will be as radically different from what we currently enjoy as Starflight is from Space Invaders.” (Voices of the Future, March 1988)

  • Alan Dean Foster: “He sees sophisticated graphics as the key to the entertainment of the future. ‘One of the great advantages you have with computer animation...comes when you achieve a semblance of reality, because you can do all sorts of things a camera can’t.’....Foster also predicts that future movies will use more computer animated characters. ‘To completely simulate an artificial environment -- the people in Hollywood want to do it for real.’ (Ibid.)

  • “Hold on a minute! I can see you smirking out there. On-line libraries? Fully simulated realities?...Are these guys for real?” (Ibid.)

  • “...the fecund and only slightly twisted minds at Lucasfilm Games” (“The Doctor Is In” - Maniac Mansion, 5/88)

  • “When the characters speak, their lips move. The movements are not synchronized but, heck, Lucasfilm can keep that effect on file in case they ever write a tribute to kung-fu films.” (Ibid.)

  • “If I never see another collect-the-crystals adventure, it will be too soon.” (Big Zak Attack -- Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, 10/88)

  • “...the game is being sold as being much longer than its predecessor...Zak is longer, no question about it but...is the extra poundage an improvement?...Juggling ten balls is not always funnier than juggling three.” (Ibid.)

  • “The result is a simulation that feels flat, like a movie town made of propped-up facades or a State tour in Russia. You can only go where the story wants you to go, and it won’t let you forget it.” (Ibid.)

  • “...in adopting a cinematic mode, today’s games open themselves up to criticism on a cinematic level. It is not enough to achieve movie-quality software; one must also achieve quality movie-software.” (Popcorn Not Included I - David Wolf, Secret Agent, 12/89)

  • “On the level of game type...David Wolf and Ms. Pac-Man are fundamentally the same.” (Ibid.)

  • “Frankly, David Wolf: Secret Agent is not an Interactive Movie. It is, at times, interactivc, and it is, at times, a movie, but never both at once. Players can in no way affect the plot. They can merely advance it or fail to advance it.” (Ibid.)

  • “...almost all of the movie’s quasi-religious plot has been extracted from the game. This might seem, at first glance, to be an improvement, but it isn’t. In fact, it is a sort of auto-evisceration, the first instance I know of computer game hara kiri. Having a weak plot is bad enough, but remove...that plot and all that’s left is a vacuum. .... Star Trek V is the Jay Gatsby of computer games: visually opulent, yet empty and self-denying at its soul. .... If nothing else, it will surely be a collectible one day. It could have been so much more, though, than ten minutes of excitement followed by twenty years in a display case.” (Klingons, Go Home! - ST V, 3/90)

  • “It has been argued from time to time that computer games offer players little more than an opportunity to revel in violence and bloodshed; that they tease out into the open strains of aggression better left suppressed; and that they do so in a moral vacuum, rewarding acts not because those acts are justified or praiseworthy but solely because they have been executed properly. Bad Blood will do little to dispel this image. ... As a game, Bad Blood fast becomes dull; as a narrative it is cliched; and as a moral entity it is suspect.” (Of Mutes and Men -- bad Blood, 9/90)

  • “Synapse’s Mindwheel, carefully crafted by poet Robert Pinsky, was both exquisite and exquisitely boring; Telarium’s line of science fiction collaborations had their heart in the right place, but little else; and even Douglas Adams’ second foray into computer game design, Infocom’s Bureaucracy, flopped like a Babel fish out of water....What they are is sincere, dedicated attempts by fans of a given work to translate that work to the computer game medium. If this does not usually work, it is because sincerity and dedication do not, by themselves, make good games.....Some designers hew so close to the original that they may just as well have typed the original text into an ASCII file and left it at that. Others are so bold that they attempt to inject their own ideas into the author’s work -- a hubristic misstep, since such accretions invariably announce themselves to be just that, by blending into the author’s universe as inconspicuously as a stripper at a wake.... The Lord of the Rings is a bright and enjoyable and perfectly harmless game which would have benefitted greatly from an active, rather than a posthumous, collaboration with the author.” (One Ring to Rule Them All - Lord of the Rings Vol. 1, 4/91)

  • “...Sid Meier’s genius lies in dreaming up stylized, out-of-the-ordinary play mechanics which are hard to describe and are more fun than they sound...” (Ardai Admires Meier’s Spies - Covert Action, 5/91)

  • “Meier wants to make Covert Action both realistic and topical, but he keeps pulling back, apparently as a sop to the ‘Games Ruin Young Minds Brigade’ and various Anti-Defamation Leagues. One one hand, for instance, one gets to use real-world weapons; but on the other one is told that ‘the rounds [they] fire...are a recent, secret development that stun the target rather than penetrate.’ Nonsense! Uzis kill people and spies kill people. To dance around this fact (the graphics certainly seem to indicate killing) is condescending and insulting. Another example is that while the Mafia is called the Mafia in the game...the PLO is here known as the “PFO” (Palestinian Freedom Organization) and the PIRA is known as the “PIFA” (Provisional Irish Freedom Army). Who do the designers think they are fooling? Instead of this disingenuous game of peekaboo, Meier should have given some attention to the fact that out of twenty-six villains, eighteen are black, hispanic, or Middle-Eastern.” (Ibid.)

  • “Trying to create a Sega-style game for the IBM is a little like trying to cram a pig into knee breeches: there’s no good way to do it, and nothing one does will result in a good fit.” (Cybergenic Ranger.)

  • “Computer gaming needs another visit to good old Britannia like the movies need another visit from Freddy Krueger...” (Seventh Time’s The Charm - Ultima VII, 1992)

  • “The trouble with multi-game value packs is that too often they are nothing of the sort. Nothing is of less value than three, or five, or 20 obsolete games one doesn’t want to play. Three bad games for the price of one good one is not a good deal.” (Three runs, Two Hits, One Error - Magnetic Scrolls Collection, 1992)

  • “Unpredictable is good; incomprehensible is not.” (Ibid.)

  • “Bad espionage games can be very bad indeed. Having said this, I feel no hesitation in saying that Floor 13 is the most unpleasant espionage game ever made.” (Unlucky 13 - Floor 13, 12/92)

  • “Did Voice Casting Director Sher Alltucker (who, in a fit of inspiration, cast herself as both the villain and the heroine of the story) think it was clever to have the singularly untalented Roxy Ragozzino supply the voices for all of Willy’s female relatives? In the most ill-advised triplecast since NBC’s showing of the Summer Olympics last year, Ragozzino gives readings as Willy’s mom, big sister, and little sister that are as subtle as a kick in the pants and as enjoyable to hear as a car alarm at three in the morning. (Mom is a whiny yuppie, Tiffany is a whiny valley girl, Brianna a whiny toddler.) Sitting at a dinner with these three harpies is like dying and waking up in Sartre’s No Exit. Did Michael Zibelman, who struggles along bravely in the role of Willy, never ask politely whether the game might not be that much better if he screamed ‘Yahooey!’ a little less often? Did no one play the game before it went out to the stores to see whether anyone could stand to listen to it?...There is little in the world more cruel to the ear than the sound of presumably normal adults gurgling in thick-tongued googly-woogly voices. The worst offender here is the Narrator (played by Ed Ragozzino, further proof that in the Ragozzinos Dynamix has turned up a family whose calling ought to be mime).” (Become CD-ROM, My Beamish Boy! - Willy Beamish, ??)

  • “...the game provides an original soundtrack which, though it won’t sell any records, won’t sell any earplugs either.” (Where No Carmen Has Gone Before - Where in Space..., 93?)

  • “Sierra boasts of a cast of ‘internationally famous actors’ but neglects to name even one; players are entitled, I think, to a measure of cynicism on this point.” (King’s Quest VI.)

  • “Not only does the game have its share of gnomes, crying cabbages, and sassy, talking sticks, it also introduces the player to such mythical creatures as an honest pawnshop owner and a sea captain who, though nominally a rogue, waxes rhapsodic over how ‘pure’ the princess is. I kept waiting to meet a polite New York cabbie or a truthful politician around the next bend.” (Ibid.)

  • “In the time it takes for Jake Ryan to walk across a screen, a real cop could have arrested a perp, beaten him up, and stood trial for brutality.” (Unnecessary Force - Blue Force, 93)

  • “While playing Blue Force I was reminded of Capstone’s Stephen King-derived game, The Dark Half, which loyal CGW readers will recall I deemed the worst adventure game of the past ten years. While Blue Force is not in that category, that’s a little like saying that pneumonia is not as bad as cancer -- true enough, but one wouldn’t want to get either.” (Ibid.)

  • “If the Zork legend had to rest on this game alone, there probably wouldn’t be any Zork legend...” (Little White Houses For Grue and Me - Return to Zork, 93)

  • “Frankly, if I were Electronic Arts, I would dismantle The Labyrinth of Time and sell it cut-rate for clip art.” (Through The Corridors of Time - TloT, 12/93)

  • About King’s Quest: “...the adventures of Prince Pubescent in the Land of Cute...” (Voices In the Knight - Gabriel Knight, 94(?))

  • “...using Nazis as your villains and then accusing them of no worse than ecologically destructive acts is, to my mind, like using the Huns but accusing them only of mistreating their horses, or using Jeffrey Dahmer but only accusing him of keeping the wattage of his refrigerator turned too high.” (Hitler Was a Litterbug -Kronolog, 94(?))

  • “To leap from the stunning visuals of the movie sequences into the crude and clumsy battle sequences is to leap from a champagne bubble bath into a trough full of mud.” (Is This Another Bug Hunt, Sir? - Quantum Gate, 94)

  • “...is it too much to ask that when you spend a hundred dollars to buy one character’s watch and shovel he not still be holding the shovel and wearing the watch when you see him in the next scene?” (One For the X Files - The Psychotron, 10/94)

  • About Mission: Impossible: “...as memorable as yesterday’s horoscope and as spicy as chipped beef...”

  • About Cybergenic Ranger: “Some computer gamers say that [videogames] are to sophisticated computer games what a Quarter Pounder with Cheese is to a filet mignon...[but] some of us like to eat at McDonald’s (at least some of the time)...”

  • About The Castle of Dr. Brain: “Each sequence is like a delicious morsel, so playing The Castle of Dr. Brain is like wandering through a candy store, sampling a goody from each tray.”

  • “There is more ham on display in [Inca II] than in a Boar’s Head factory tour.”

  • “Once you’ve spent the half hour it takes to learn how to do all the things the game permits you to do...you’ll want to get to the meat of the game. As a wise philosopher once said, ‘Where’s the beef?’ Alas, you’d have better luck finding pork in Haifa than beef in this game. Killing Moon is crammed to the gills with the sort of talent you can buy, but all too obviously deficient in the sort you cannot.” (Moonstruck -- Under a Killing Moon, 1/95)

  • “I hope this game sticks in people’s minds as a monument to arrogant presumption. Heaven save us from game designers so blinded by their ability to craft spectacular technology that it makes them think they can write and act, too.” (Ibid.)

  • “Putt-Putt Goes to Mars it ain’t; it’s more like Putt-Putt Goes to Sing-Sing, with just enough Putt-Putt to frighten away some gamers and enough Sing-Sing to scare off the rest.” (Playskool Visions and Psychedelic Dreams - Relentless, 1/95)

  • “...the quality of the actin in the game declines in in direct proportion to how much skin an actor has to show. Jessica Youngblood is quite good in her incidental role as a hooker wearing a teddy under a trenchcoat; the Succubus (Brittney Lewis), who flashes a nipple in the first scene, seems to be reading her lines off misspelled cue cards; and as for Stiletto (Hope Marie Carlton), who shows off an obvious pair of implants in a bizarre topless scene, all I can say is that this is an actress whose career is unlikely to take off unless they start making ‘Porky’s’ movies again.” (See You In The Funny Papers - Noctropolis, 2/95)

  • “If, as he claims, self-styled ‘virtual cinema’ pioneer Greg Roach wants interactive movies to attain the level of mainstream success and acceptance long since granted to movies, television, and novels, he’ll have to start making interactive movies you don’t have to be stoned to appreciate.” (I’ll Have the Roach He’s Smoking - The Vortex, 2/95)

  • “Why make a game called Voyeur and have people in it half-undress and half-kiss and flirt tentatively like teenagers on a first date? Making a game that is a little bit sexy is not a way to please everyone -- the prude will still be offended, and the libertine will go away unsatisfied. If you want to make King’s Quest, make King’s Quest. If you want to make an interactive movie about lusty, nefarious, backstabbing scalawags, drop the towel, fling the bra on the floor, and be done with it.” (Here’s Peeping at You, Kid - Voyeur, 3/95)

  • “Worst of all, the writing is astonishingly bad. Scenes drag on endlessly, long past the point at which any sane listener would give up listening. The dialogue is convoluted and incomprehensible; at a certain point, you stop hearing the words as bearers of meaning and start hearing them just as sound, a sort of fluffy verbal quilt that’s being knit around your head.” (Speak of the Devil - Hell, 3/95)

  • “...the thing ate quarters like a starved poodle turned loose in an Alpo factory.” (Hot Graphics, Cold War - Cyberia, 3/95) -- about Firefox arcade game

  • “Sometimes you have to drag your lead-bottomed targeting sight all the way across the screen in a fraction of a second....Gamers who have no joystick have no choice but to struggle through the scene with the keyboard, which is like trying to drive a nail with a Q-Tip.” (Ibid.)

  • “The game doesn’t star Keanu Reeves, but that’s more or less the best thing you can say about it.” (Don’t Let It Go To Your Head - Johnny Mnemonic, 8/95)

  • “Sooner ask a caveman to imagine the Concorde, ask Guttenberg to imagine his bible inscribed on the head of a pin, than ask a boy in 1975 to imagine what he would see on his computer screen just twenty years hence.” (The Mysts of Time - Journeyman Project 2, 11/95)

  • “There is no way to move backwards; there is no way to move sideways. This is a pain. When you’re trying to race out of Richard the Lionhearted’s bedchambe before his guards discover you, it’s a royal pain. And when you’re in the castle stairwell with a knight waving his blade at you, I’m afraid it can turn out to be a bloody pain.” (Ibid.)

  • “[It is] painful to see what a banal waste of magnetic media Byron Preiss has turned the book into in this endlessly titled adaptation, Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles Adventure Game. The Martian Chronicles is an adventure game of the worst sort....astonishingly ripe material....why would anyone bother to license a work like The Martian Chronicles if all they’re going to do is shovel tired old tripe like this onto the disk?....it is as devoid of affection and skill as any game I have ever seen....First of all, the game is ugly....The Bradbury interview, in which the author looks like Brando and talks like Yoda, may interest his old fans but isn’t likely to win him any new ones....Someone who gave a damn about Bradbury -- or about making good games -- would not have let this one out the door.” (Every Man Has His Preiss - Martian Chronicles, 1/96)

  • “It’s hard to find fault with the storytelling of a writer as successful as Michael Crichton, but I’ll tell you, it w ould be nice if with all his money he could buy himself a new plot once in a while....It’s all professionally done, but it’s paint-by-numbers: this patch red, that patch blue; this patch gorillas, that patch booby traps.” (Rainforests Revisited - Congo, 3/96)

  • “...you get to face off against four or five dozen of the tamest puzzles it’s ever been my pleasure to encounter....What I want to know is, when did adventure games become so beautiful and so dull? Over the past 10 years we’ve gone from Dorothy Parker to Pamela Anderson. Do we really have to abandon the cleverness, style and wit or the former in order to get the voluptuous visual appeal of the latter?” (Four Funerals and a Wedding - Zork Nemesis, 8/96)

  • “For years, computer companies have been trying to sell desktop computers to businesses on the grounds that they increase worker productivity. This is a lie. Not since Culligan started peddling water coolers has there been a technology more given to draining a worker’s productivity than the desktop PC.” (Hands Solo - solitaire, 12/96)

  • “Dress a pig up in spats and a frilly shirt, it’s still a pig. Dress a trivia game up with extravagant sci-fi graphics and animation, it’s still a trivia game. [I]n both cases one questions the judgment of the couturier. But it’s the latter case that’s more troubling. You can always strip the pig and make ham of him; stripping the good trivia parts out of MicroForum’s MindGrind is impossible.” (Trivia Torment - MindGrind, 12/96)

  • “This is a game for a Casio wristwatch, not for a CD-ROM. How can someone buy the Spider-Man license and then squander it like this? Someone needs to tell that Rumpelstiltskin of computer games, Byron Preiss, that his gold-into-straw act is getting tired very fast.” (World Wide Web-slinger - Spider-Man: The Sinister Six, 2/97)

  • “The whole concept of a virtual dice cup that uses a precise simulation of the physics of dice throwing -- Yahtzee’s main attraction -- borders on the obscene. Simulating brain surgery, driving a car, or building a city makes sense. Simulating a dice cup is preposterous. It’s a brilliant simulation, but why in the world would you buy a computer game that brilliantly simulates throwing dice?” (Hasbro Overactive, 4/97)

  • “Callahan’s is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful game, and I’m not just saying that because I get paid by the word.” (Puns of Steel - Callahan’s Crosstime Saloon, 9/97)

  • “Why, then, do so many computer games display the sensibility not only of a preteen, but of a particularly creepy one?....the focus is not merely on the violent, but on the repulsively so....There is nothing wrong with making games that will appeal to kids....There is something wrong with making games that appeal to the worst in our kids and in ourselves, and something more subtly wrong with perpetuating the public misperception of computer gaming as a hobby for the Faces of Death wing of the Dungeons and Dragons set.” (Toys For Boys, 9/97)

  • “Except for a few slumming visionaries who have been willing to participate in a game for the hell of it, the dramatis personae in games tends to be a Who’s Who of has-beens, never-weres, and never-gonna-bes. Sometimes a game surprises you with good casting, but then, sometimes an airplane crash surprises you by yielding survivors.” (Hollywood Hooey, 10/97)

  • “Gubble is ugly and plastic-looking but obviously designed by a committee of marketing geniuses to push the needle on the Audience Reaction Cute-ometer.” (You’ve Got Gubble, My Friends - Gubble, 11/97)

  • “I could have died happily without seeing another version of Tangrams, the Chinese shape-building classic, but Smart Games has robbed me of my chance” (It’s Puzzling - Smart Games Puzzle Challenge 2, 1/98)

  • “...this is brain food of a very high order, caviar for the cranium. It may not make anyone smarter, but, by heaven, it will make a lot of smart people happier.” (Ibid.)
  • “Where The Legacy of Time succeeds is where the best adventure games always succeed these days, in the showcasing of stunning graphical effects that immerse you in a believable three-dimensional environment. Which is great, and guaranteed to hold your interest for about five minutes, maybe ten. But how long can you spend oohing and aahing over realistic textures and smooth animation? Yes, it’s a magnificent accomplishment -- every brick looks like a brick and the streaming sunshine gets in your eyes just like real sunshine -- but really, who cares?....Legacy of Time has a story as fresh as wilted lettuce. It’s the sort of thing you’d expect to see on the Sci-Fi Channel as an original cable movie starring, say, Lorenzo Lamas....My suspicion is that the root of the problem is that game publishing is run by people who don’t know the first thing about storytelling....My friends, we are the parents of some very ugly, clumsy babies, and we do them and ourselves no favors by telling ourselves otherwise. A game that is gorgeous by stupid is an ugly baby. An adventure game that is slick and polished and has special effects that make you go ‘Wow!’, but which has characters you can’t remember and a plot recycled from the dumpsters outside Warner Brothers, is an ugly baby.” (It’s the Writing, Stupid, 3/98)

  • “It’s a shame, because Douglas Adams is such an enormous talent[,] but it seems highly likely that this Titanic’s success will resemble that of its nautical, rather than that of its cinematic, namesake.” (Lost in Space - Starship Titanic, 9/98)

  • “As many casino games as Sierra foists on the public, you’d t hink the company was based in Las Vegas.” (Sim Vegas, Leisure Suit Larry’s Casino - 10/98)
  • “I’m not sure whose brilliant idea this was, but he deserves a Vegas-style bat to the kneecaps. A casino game consisting entirely of simulated slot machines? Poker, okay; blackjack I can understand; even roulette has some pretense to being a game of skill; but to pack a CD-ROM with nothing but slots approaches clinical insanity....What’s next on the simulated gambling horizon -- Lotto of the Fifty States?” (Caesar’s Palace Slots, 2/99)

  • “For any gamer who has ever wanted to play solo Bingo, Slingo should be a welcome treat. For the rest of us, it’s about as welcome as Sominex in your morning coffee.” (Slingo, 3/99)

  • “Learning to play a game shouldn’t require as much study and practice as learning to play the flute.” (Mob Mentality - Gangsters, 4/99)

  • “...by the time writer Hal Barwood has sent you scurrying into a floating neverland out of William Gibson’s subconscious, you realize it isn’t inspiration so much as expiration.” (Lara Who? - Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine, 2/00)

  • “For a game that prides itself on its state-of-the-art graphics, Interplay’s Messiah is awfully ugly.... Not since Origin’s 1995 bomb Bioforge have I played a game that revels so much in its own vileness. That game opened with a torture sequence and went downhill from there, but it was an episode of Teletubbies compared to Messiah.” (God Awful - Messiah, 7/00)

  • “One person I know who falls clearly into the ‘veteran flier’ category (to protect his anonymity, let’s call him my editor) tells me he completed the first five missions in under an hour. Another person I know who has logged far fewer hours behind a virtual throttle (for the sake of argument, let’s call this person me) kept veering into mountains, losing speed during over-aggressive ascents, mixing up ground and sky at critical moments, and generally making it seem like the cockpit was under the control not of Errol Flynn, but of Jerry Lewis.” (Flier Tuck - Crimson Skies, 12/00)

  • 1990: “The Punisher is wish-fulfillment of the highest order, a Death Wish revenge fantasy mixed with an honest cry from the gut for justice....I predict strong sales of The Punisher in urban areas of the country, for reasons of catharsis alone.”


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