If We Could Go Back In Time…

Text by A.A. BENJAMIN, Game Demo by JO KIM, Characters by SPARLING

Our fictional Once Upon A Time Machine video game proposal (<–see our powerpoint presentation here) had one obvious blunder. We had a cool game demo but treated our presentation as separate from the demo.

As we talk about hyper-meditation in this English New Media course, finding ways to merge the two would have been an opportune way to express what we’ve learned in the course. However, timing issues and mishaps aside, the highlight of this project was collaboration. Our bouncing ideas transformed into a proposal that mimicked gameplay and a fun intertextual commentary that made gaming attractive to a target audience.

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The Narrator

We built a video game model off of the arcade style and well-known Mario Kart race track design. The premise of the game is that you can choose one from ten playable characters designed from H.G. Well’s novel, The Time Machine. You then race against your friends in your choice of eight vehicles derived from methods of time travel across literature and film to date, all with their pros and cons. Along the courses which follow the novel’s plot, you use items and special weapons to work your way to first place, surviving the clingy Eloi and destructive Morlocks. Our game provided some intertextual game play for intellectuals in their 20s and 30s, as well as sci-fi and steampunk fans. We also took liberties with H.G. Well’s more obscurely described characters to create gender and race-inclusive characters.

The most enjoyable part about this project, to me, was the generation of ideas together and then watching them develop through art and imagery. One thing we would have needed to do if this were a real proposal would have been to fully design our own concepts and/or cite our sources (drawing them would have been super fun). Though we wouldn’t have to consider copyright issues with the aged H.G. Wells novel, we concluded that we could keep the vehicles as direct references under the Fair Use doctrine. Also, as indicated by our classmates, we could have described the functions of more of our characters, vehicles, and levels rather than focusing on one or two, so here some drafts that didn’t make the cut:


Man With A Beard
Man With A Beard–Spontaneous combustion whenever using matches


Time Machine Sled–Can hold endless items. The more you have slower you are. Items attract Eloi, sled itself attracts Morlocks. Enables use of mace
Tardis–Unaffected by villains. Overheats when lighting matches. Your matches don’t work on villains (because you’re in a box. Basically, just avoid matches). Disappears momentarily. Works best with Medical Man
Final Stage Kill Screen: In the old arcade games, the machines had limited space and therefore when players got far enough the graphics began to devolve. The Time Machine ends with the Time Traveller disappearing without a clue of where he went, so the last stage could be a “kill screen,” racing at length until the game graphics begin to deteriorate.

Unfortunately, we are mere undergrad students incapable of rendering the game in such the intricate way that we imagine, so if we were to get a chance to build it, it’d probably be less compelling. But it was fun to dream, anyway. Isn’t that where all great games begin? Progress!

–A.A. Benjamin

Romance and The Hero’s Journey In Ready Player One

By: Sparling Wilson

In Joseph Campbell’s A Hero With A Thousand Faces, he outlines the stages of the hero’s journey. Of these elements, he does not fail to mention romance, which he calls the “Meeting With The Temptress”. Campbell explains that in traditional stories of the heroic kind, romantic encounters serve as a kind of sidetrack or distraction for the hero from his journey. In the sense of accomplishing his mission, these encounters are definitely seen as negative. Ready Player One reflects this view in its portrayal of romantic relationships within the novel.

A comical and salient parody of Campbell's model for the hero's journey.
A comical and salient parody of Campbell’s model for the hero’s journey.

In many young adult novels, one can expect to find romance to be at least a part of the story. In the age of young adult novels that center their plots on romance, but combine their genres (so they are more like YA + dystopia, YA+ paranormal activity), it is strange, but also refreshing, to see a novel take a more classical approach to romance. Ready Player One steps away from the modern notions of romance in novels (hello, Twilight) and moves back towards a more classical approach towards this topic in terms of the hero’s journey. As we talked about it class, yes this novel contains romance, but the whole plot does not center itself on pursuing a relationship or finding love in the midst of dystopia. Like more classical hero’s journeys stories, such as The Iliad or The Odyssey, Ready Player One includes romance as a part of the journey, but does not make it the purpose of the journey.

The basic plot of Twilight and other current YA literature. Also, let it be known that this photo was entitled, "Who Is The Hottest", which I think is very telling of the genre.
The basic plot of Twilight and other current YA literature. Also, let it be known that this photo was entitled, “Who Is The Hottest”, which I think is very telling of the genre.

In fact, the story really emphasizes the classical view of romance in stories of this kind by making Art3mis be the protagonist’s “femme fatale”, if you will. The author literally brings this point forward by having Wade confess his love to Art3mis at a club called the “Neo Noir”. I found that point to be very funny in a film-geek kind of way. In noir, the femme fatale was the love interest of the protagonist that lead him to ruin, and the author makes it clear that Wade’s obsession with her is doing just that (at least in terms of his standing in the competition). Anyway, this reference makes a really salient point that while there is romance, the author does not take a positive stance towards it. Perhaps things will shape up positively for Wade in the end, but so far the author is placing romance purely in a classical view. Ar3timis is the “temptress”, if you will, that puts our hero off of his course.

To me, it is refreshing to see a lovesick teen in a dystopian hero’s journey not have the girl fall right into his lap. I love that in this modern, YA novel, being a borderline stalker does not reward the character. Also, I applaud the author at realizing there are so many interesting aspects to this universe that need exploring rather than just Wade and Ar3mis’s relationship, as well as his clear understanding of the proper structure of literature. You go, Ernest Cline.

Concerning Hobbits: How the Smallfolk Saved Middle Earth

By Thomas Adams

Warning: If you have not seen the rest of the Lord of the Rings series and do not want it spoiled, do not read this post.
After watching the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Ring, I was inspired to finish the rest of the series (again, for like the 5th time). So I went on to watch the extended edition of The Two Towers and The Return of the King. This time, instead of watching for pure entertainment, I was watching to learn – about the world, character development, the motivations of peoples, and many other things. Near the end of The Return of the King, the four hobbits (Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin) start to bow to Aragorn, the new King of Gondor. However, Aragorn stops them and says, “My friends, you bow to no one” and bows before them. The rest of the people around follow suit.

I don’t think it can be understated how true Aragorn’s statement is and how important the hobbits were in saving Middle Earth. Let’s look at each one individually.


At the end of Fellowship of the Ring, Merry is capture by Uruk-hai, along with Pippin. When the Uruk-hai and Orc begin fighting with one another, the two escape into Fangorn Forest where they meet up with Treebeard, a tree-herder. Once Merry learns of this new race of trees, he tries to get Treebeard and his ent company to fight against Sauron and Saruman. Eventually, the council of trees decides that this is not their fight to fight. When he begins taking Merry and Pippin back home to the Shire, Merry convinces Treebeard to take the south route, which goes right past Isengard. Merry says this would make the most sense, since Saruman would least expect it and Treebeard obliges. As they continue on the path, Treebeard comes to an opening in the should-be forest. He realizes that his tree friends have to cut and burned down to fuel the fires of Isengard. Unsurprisingly, this angers him greatly, and Treebeard calls upon his tree friends to fight Isengard. The destroy a dam, flood Isengard, and win the battle to take control of Isengard. Merry’s part in the story here cannot be understated. He single-handedly convinced tree beard to take the route that would lead him to see the destroyed forest and make Treebeard realize that this was their fight. If Merry had not convinced Treebeard to turn around, Isengard would have been left unscathed and many of the following events would have never occurred and the rings may never had been destoryed.


in The Return of the King, Pippin accompanies Gandalf to Minas Tirith to convince the Steward of Gondor to ready his armies for battle and call to Rohan for aid. This battle would be the last battle to determine the survival of Men in Middle Earth. After a conversation with the very stubborn steward of Gondor, Gandalf is unable to convince him to light the Beacons of Gondor, which would signal to Rohan that Gondor calls for military aid. Gandalf has another plan. Using Pippin’s size to their advantage, Gandalf instructs Pippin to climb the beacon’s spire and light the flame himself. Pippin is able to do this successfully and alert Rohan to their need for help. Eventually, the message reaches Rohan and they ride out for battle. If Pippin did not accompany Gandalf to Minas Tirith (the reason for which is another story in itself) and if Pippin was not able to successfully light the beacon unseen, Rohan would have never made it to the battle for Minas Tirith, and the Realm of Men would surely have fallen.


There’s so much that can be said about Sam that it is really difficult to focus on one particular instance that had the most influence. But after watching the Return of the King, there is definitely one that comes to mind. After Sam is banished from the quest by Frodo (for supposedly eating all the lembas bread and wanting the ring for himself), Frodo and Smeagle venture into the Spider’s tunnels. Smeagle did this so the Spider would eat Frodo, and Smeagle could then take the ring for himself. As Sam is venturing back down the Stairs, he sees the lembas bread remains that Smeagle threw over the edge. This was the turning point for Sam, as he knew Smeagle had ulterior motives and would end up killing Frodo for the ring. Sam starts back up the Stairs to save Frodo. Sam gets there just in time to stop the Spider from eating Frodo (who is paralyzed at this point). He battles with the spider and eventually wins, defending Frodo for the time being. Unfortunately, some Orc come near, Sam hides, and they take Frodo’s body to their nearby tower and Sam follows. Once again, the Uruk-hai and Orc begin fighting among each other. Sam takes this opportunity to head up the tower and defeat a few foes before getting to Frodo just in time. Had Sam not gone back to help Frodo, and successfully fought off the Spider and Orc, Frodo would have never made it out alive and the ring would have not been destroyed – and worse, would have probably fallen right into the hands of the Enemy.


Since Frodo’s main purpose is to carry the ring and destroy it, it would make sense that this is his most important task. Frodo did not have as many “breakout” moments as the other hobbits in the movie. On the contrary, he slowly just became more and more corrupted by the ring and eventually tried to take the ring for himself while standing at the edge of the fires of Mt. Doom. However, against all odds and with the help of a few friends, Frodo was able to get the ring to Mordor and get the ring destroyed, ending the battle against Sauron and his forces – solidifying the victory for Man. Frodo was never suppose to make it to Mordor alive, much less actually destroy the ring, but he did it. And that’s the most important thing that could have been done.

When the Men of Gondor bow to the four hobbits at the end of the Return of the King, it is very much deserved. Their actions throughout the story single-handedly turned the tides of battle back into their favor and eventually ended the war. Had they not been successful with their respective tasks, Middle Earth would have surely been taken over by Sauron and his evil forces. Of course, many other characters had influence on the outcome of Middle Earth, but it is most certainly true that the smallest persons had the largest impact.

To the Moon: Review








To the Moon is a RPG (Role-Playing Game) produced by the indie company, Freebird Games. It is both their fourth product and their first commercial product. This game was developed using the RPG Maker XP Engine.

Game play:

Just like most other games created with the RPG Maker XP Engine, To the Moon incorporates the top-down view in the game. The controls are very simple as well, only requiring the arrow keys and the z/x button. Unlike most other games, the game play in To the Moon mainly focuses on exploring a character’s memories to collect his important memory pieces. This does not involve fighting enemies nor solving puzzles. You simply walk around in the map, interacting with people to gather clues and the obtaining the necessary objects. Once you have collected all the pieces in the surrounding area, you can combine the memory pieces (which requires a bit of puzzle solving) and move further into the character’s childhood (you go back in time). Once you have gathered all the objects in the places ranging from Johnny (the dying character)’s old age to infancy, you can then begin to manipulate this memories to create a new “fake future” for him. Overall, the game play is extremely simple and enjoyable (a bit repetitive, but the cut scenes and the story makes up for it).


The story mainly focuses on the interaction between the Sigmund Corp. Employees, Dr. Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, and the characters in Johnny (the dying character)’s memory. The Sigmund Corp. offers artificial memories their customers, using a special technology. Because this requires you to interfere with your real (actual) memory, this service is offered to dying customers only. Our main customer is a character named Johnny. He asks the doctors to send him to the Moon, but when asked why, he answers that he doesn’t understand why he wants that himself (only that he has wanted it for as long as he can remember). In the process, the doctors, for strange reasons, fail to manipulate Johnny’s memory with ordinary means, and the mystery deepens as they go further and further back into Johnny’s memories. Overall, the game offers a melancholic yet sweet story that is EXTREMELY enjoyable.


Unlike most RPG Maker Games, the soundtrack in this games are extremely beautiful.

Here is an example: 

Throughout the game, these excellent BGMs synchronizes with the heart-wrenching moments to create a mesmerizing story.


To The Moon offers an extremely enjoyable story (it takes around 3-4 hours to complete the game) for its price $9.99 on steam. Though I have not bought the game myself (I got it from a friend), I’d think it was worth the price if I had purchased it for myself.


– Jo Kim

Living in a Galaxy far far away

Sometimes, despite all the technology we have in today’s advanced society, one might yearn for more. It’s human nature, to want what you can’t have; thus, I think if I had to choose a fictional world in which to live, I’d choose the world of Star Wars. Sure, Facebook and smartphones are nice, but they pale in comparison to starships and bacta tanks, not to mention lightsabers and blasters.

More than just being able to “live in space”, I’d be able to fly around wherever I felt like and explore planets in a starship. If I was feeling like gambling, I’d head to Mos Eisley on Tatooine; if I felt like taking a vacation, I could head to the city of Theed on Naboo. Just the ability to go to these various places in the blink of an eye is tantalizing, and the possibilities for success are endless.

The obvious jump when one talks about living in the world of Star Wars is to become a Jedi; of course, that would be great, but even if I couldn’t do that, I could become a smuggler or bounty hunter. Sure, there are other professions, (I even could potentially take sides in the war between the Empire and the Rebellion) but hunting down bounties or smuggling spice throughout the galaxy would both also be awesome and fulfilling, adding to the amazing appeal of the Star Wars universe.


-Spencer Smith

Life on the Citadel

This may be the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. Ok, not really, but it’s up there. The question is, which video game or movie universe would I pick to live in? After some very critical thinking (and some coin tossing) I’ve decided that if  I had to choose a video game universe to live in, it would be Mass Effect’s.

Mass Effect is set in the indeterminable future where an “Element Zero” has been discovered. This element created a negative mass field, meaning that a particle (or vehicle) affected by this element can be accelerated past the speed of light. With FTL travel, colonizing distant planets became easy for humans. Also, several alien races are introduced in these games. A main trading post for all races is the citadel, pictured below.

I personally feel this would be an amazing place to live. Each of the 5 “arms” are actually huge cities, and the ring in the middle houses the government and a lake. Gravity it artificially produced by rotating the entire citadel. because this produces a centripetal force inward of velocity squared over radius, the normal force would act like gravity. Enough science (for now), so why is this world so appealing?

First, I want to be a physicist. And as a physicist, if humans somehow figured out how to travel faster than light, it would open up a whole new realm of scientific exploration. Imagine the advancement possibilities of lengthening human life and meeting new races (in the mass effect universe of course). But there is a more selfish reason I would enjoy this universe scientifically. I love space, and am utterly fascinated by it. It has always been a dream of mine to be able to ride through the galaxy looking at the magnificence and beauty of Creation.

Another factor that made my choice clear was thinking about how freaking awesome it would be to be able to meet Commander Shepherd. Or even if I didn’t get to meet him, if I was able to experience his amazing salvation of the citadel. While he doesn’t have “superpowers,” Shepherd is freaking awesome. He is a true leader and a hero that, I’m sure, everyone envies. I mean all in all what’s not to love about the Mass Effect universe? You get to meet aliens, be saved by Commander Shepherd, and fly around space.

But I must admit now, that my conscious is torn. I feel my heart truly lies in a very different world. One where science has been replaced by a much more mysterious force. This is the world of Harry Potter, Hogwarts, and magic. While it is true that the video game world I would live in would be Mass Effect’s I couldn’t possibly not take time fictional universe I truly yearn to be a part of. From first seeing The Sorcerer’s Stone up to reading the last words of The Deathly Hallows, Hogwart’s magical world has captured me. I long to go to Potion and Transfiguration, to talk with Professor Dumbledore, to meet Hermione, Harry, and Ron.

But alas, I suppose that’s why we have video games and books and movies. In order do, in some degree or another, experience a place like no where on earth.



Snakes are, in a literary sense, cunning, deceitful, and devious masterminds with their own overarching agendas.  That’s why I immediately took note of the seemingly random serpent watching over our heroes in the following panel.

Why did Kevin O’Neill, the illustrator, place this creature in the foreground, pushing the protagonists to the back, out of focus?  An artistic choice, maybe, but I believe there’s more to it than that.

Throughout the novel, “Mr. M” has been there.  Not directly, not in the thick of things, but watching over the rapidly unfolding events from a safe distance.  He slithers above them, unseen but seeing all, as they make and execute their plans.  On page 97, however, we know none of this.  O’Neill consciously, in my opinion, drew this snake to foreshadow what the minimalistic dialogue could not.  It is because of little things like this that I hope the graphic novel never dies.  It is a completely different experience from reading a book, and a refreshing break from the walls of text.

-Deathly Hallowed