HomestarRunner.com was a crucial portion of my middle school Internet diet. I frequented the simple yet elegant website almost religiously back then. The phrases “Strong Bad E-mails,” or “Trogdor the Burninator” (for those unfamiliar with the site, click here: http://www.homestarrunner.com) elicit hearty chuckles from me, even though it has been a decade since I last visited the site regularly. Understandably, watching Strong Bad E-mail #94 was a nostalgic viewing pleasure.
In this particular episode, Taylor from Queen Creek, AZ (AZ of course meaning “Alcatraz” to Strong Bad) asked, “…I was just wondering what would you be like in a video game, and what it would be like?” This sparks a tangential, hilarious response from Strong Bad, who describes a series of possibilities for his video game. We see his idea of a PacMan-esque game, a vector-based Pong-like game, a text-based adventure game, and finally a “super high-tech photorealistic” game, similar to colorful side-scrolling RPGs. In essence, he provides a history of the predominant video game forms in the last few decades.
I could not help but reflect upon how the games I played growing up coincided nicely with the history provided by Strong Bad. As a five year-old in New Delhi, India, I would often accompany my grandfather to the local arcade, where Pac-Man, Asteroids, and Space Invaders would immerse me into their fantastical yet simple 2-D worlds.
Moving to the United States, I discovered two additional classes of games. First, I utilized the up-and-coming Internet to play simple 3-D vector based games. This allowed me to uncover games such as Curveball, a Pong-like game that still provides me with countless hours of fun and frustration, and various first-person shooters. I also began to enjoy text-based games, especially Sleuth – a game in which the player must examine a house and its occupants to ascertain the identity of a killer.
My discovery of the Super Nintendo, however, heralded the arrival of “photorealistic” games described by Strong Bad. Games such as The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Super Mario provided days of seemingly endless fun, with decent color graphics to boot. Yet this is where Strong Bad’s response ends.
When the Nintendo 64 (N64) hit the shelves in 1996, it took the words “fun” and “photorealistic” to an entirely new level through incredibly smooth games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. The success of the N64 roared the slumbering video game industry to life and sparked development of the new, visually stunning games that exist today.
Strong Bad covers many of the bases in his discussion of the history of video games. Yet, he misses some of the best contemporary games, those with the capacity to immerse its players in their 3-D worlds like never before. Perhaps their intricacies will be fodder for a future Strong Bad E-mail. Regardless, watching and reflecting upon Strong Bad’s video was a great opportunity for me to relive my middle school days as a frequenter of homestarrunner.com.