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

Ready or not…

To be honest, this isn’t my first choice (Harry Potter) or even my second (Pokemon), nor is it even something I would choice at all.  But it would be interesting, that’s for sure.

I like zombies.  My friends and I, back home, knew exactly what we would do in case of a zombie apocalypse.  Ian would drive to my house in his pick-up truck, bringing various supplies including his machete.  Michael would do the same, zipping down the less popular (and thus less travelled) back roads with his Louisville Slugger. We meet up, I get Ian’s machete in addition to my own, and he takes my hand axe.  Michael and I hop in my car (2002 coupe Audi TT, outfitted for the track), and Ian takes the lead, blasting any zombies out of our way in his truck, again, down a pre-chosen route of back roads.  We head north, picking up Ronnie on the way, who has taken advantage of the extra time and isolation (he lives in the middle of nowhere, relative to us) to pack more substantially.  He has his 8 person tent, impressive first aid kit, and many other essentials all in three separate piles, ready for our backpacks, his own already packed.  He too will have his bat ready and will be on the roof, looking for our approach and acting as lookout as Ian, Michael and I pack and go over our mental checklists, insuring nothing is forgotten.  Michael now joins Ian in the truck and Ronnie and I follow in the TT as our little caravan makes its way north, a list of survival stores as our targets.  Depending on what our radios tell us, we make our next move.  If the situation seems to be under control (or as under control as a zombie apocalypse can be), or appears to have an end in the very near future, we hole up at the first store on our list that hasn’t been looted and is zombie free.  If things appear grim, we gather as many supplies (guns, ammo, outdoor living supplies) as we can, we head north, and we don’t stop.

Think we’ve put too much time and thought into this? We probably have.  The odds of a zombie apocalypse are astronomical.  And we don’t anticipate one.  It’s just fun.  That’s why I’m choosing the world of Left 4 Dead.  If there’s going to be a zombie apocalypse, we better pray for slow zombies.  Smart zombies?  Fast ones?  No thank you.  And again, I wouldn’t willingly walk into a world where I’m almost certainly going to be torn limb from limb and devoured, where nearly everyone I ever knew is dead, but it’s interesting to me.

And if the zombies do come?  I’ll be ready.

Deathly Hallowed

He clearly didn't have a plan...

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.


Wingardiam Leviosa!

Which video game or movie world would I like inhabit?  Easy.  The wizarding world of Harry Potter.  Where else could I cast spells to my heart’s content, taking classes on things like charms and defense against the dark arts?  The advantages to being a wizard are hard to pass up.

First off, there is flying.  How awesome would it be to be able to fly around on a broomstick whenever you pleased?  Traffic?  I don’t think so.  Getting from place to place would be a thousand times easier, not too mention incredibly fun.  Not only could I fly from class to class and town to town, but I could also participate in the coolest sport ever invented.  Quidditch.  I like to picture myself as a beater, wizzing around on my broomstick and using my club to protect Harry from the wicked bludgers.  There is no other sport that is nearly as thrilling or intense.

Fighting Lord Voldemort, evading dragons, and defeating basilisks would be all in a day’s work.  The excitement providing by living in the wizarding world is second to none.  If I went to Hogwarts I would obviously be in Gryffindor, naturally becoming the fourth member of Harry’s crew.  We would pal around during the day, drinking butterbeer and sharing laughs, and fight crime by night.

Another major bonus to living in this enchanting wizarding world would be all of the delicious and exotic candy that would be available to me.  Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans would allow me to eat anything I wanted in jelly bean form.  What could be better than that?  Not to mention chocolate colored frogs, cauldron cake, and fizzing whizzbees.  The variety is unmatched.

I cannot think of another fantasy world I would rather live in than the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  Not only could I play quidditch and eat delicious candy, but I could also cast spells and help take down the evil Lord Voldemort.  Being a wizard would be hard to pass up.

-George de Roziere

The Lord of the Rings vs. who?

Tyler Gilcrest

When asked to compare the Lord of the Rings to another fantasy movie, the first thing I have to do is simply think of another fantasy movie.  The trouble is, that’s the trouble.  It’s hard to think of another movie in the fantasy genre the readily comes to mind other than the Lord of the Rings, let alone find one that is comparable.  After a bit of thought, I come up with a couple satisfactory choices, namely the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if those were the two that most people picked to write about.  But I think to myself, I want to be unique.  I search the archives for a little longer and Eragon (not a memorable movie experience by any means), the Golden Compass (which may not score high on the fantasy scale) and Reign of Fire (of which I can only remember that it contained dragons).  None that jump out at me for sure. 

Which makes me think, why is the Lord of the Rings such a prominent fantasy movie? Why did the Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King win all 11 academy awards (including best picture, which no other fantasy movie has done) for which it was nominated?  And why does the Lord of the Rings have such sincere, what can best be called, “replayability”?  I think most of this comes from the world that the movie immerses you in.  And it truly is immersion.  Harry Potter’s Hogwarts and the world of Narnia are simply places in which you watch people interact.  In the Lord of the Rings, you  feel like Middle-Earth is a world that could actually exist.  Part of the reason for this could definitely be the amount of time that you spend in such cinematic experiences.   The Lord of the Rings extended edition reminds me of  Lawrence of Arabia and the era of movie intermissions.  The amount of time that the movie has to acclimate you to the world gives the director that much more time to immerse you in the story and the characters. 

Another advantage the Lord of the Rings has is its origin.  J.R.R. Tolkien did a wonderful job imagining Middle-Earth and then describing it in his books. Compared to his Tolkien’s works, the Harry Potter books are juvenile stories of teen angst written on a napkin in a coffee shop.  C.S. Lewis, on the other hand, was a very accomplished writer and his books do compare to those of Tolkien’s, considering they were friends who imagined fantasy worlds together and pledged to bring them to the mainstream public.  But I think the Lord of the Rings movie outdoes the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe through better characters, and better use of both development and interiority, and battles that can only be described as much more badass and epic.  So asking me to compare the Lord of the Rings to another fantasy movie is a tall order indeed, since in my opinion the Lord of the Rings stands alone on top.

Harry Potter 6 or The Lord of the Rings 1

by Theo Dentchev

Which movie is better?

Some might say that the answer is entirely subjective, and so you cannot conclusively say one is better or worse. That’s true enough, but I’m not asking, “which one do you like more.” Rather which one is objectively better? I suppose to make that kind of judgment we will need to define a set of criteria for determining which is indeed “better.” I propose we look at and compare the following four characteristics commonly used when evaluating film: coherence, intensity of effect, complexity, and originality.

Let us omit discussing complexity and simply assume that both films are sufficiently complex. That is, they both engage us on several different levels and have relatively intricate systems of relationships. Let us also omit intensity of effect, as that covers a range of subjects which are more subjective than I would like, such as how vivid or emotionally powerful the film is.

Then let us begin with coherence, or unity, which refers to how well or clearly everything is presented in a film, and if all the loose elements are tied up by the end. Now, being installations in a series, both of our films don’t conclude their stories and naturally leave certain things unaddressed (left, we assume, for the sequel to pick up on). Though we have to keep that in mind, we can still compare the way the rest of both films are structured. In The Fellowship of the Ring all of the characters and events clearly and logically relate to each other and serve a purpose. Those that don’t are either being left for the next film, or are negligible and require careful viewing to catch. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince it is more fragmented, as though not fully completed, and in a way unrelated to the fact that it is to have a sequel. There are scenes and places which, in the context of the movie, make little sense and are unclear. A striking example can be found at the end of the film, when Dumbledore is confronted by Draco Malfoy atop the astronomy tower and eventually killed by Snape. Harry is hiding in the vicinity the entire time yet does nothing until after Dumbledore is already dead. His inaction does not make any sense and is completely dissonant with his character as well as with the nature of his relationship with Dumbledore. In the book his action is explained by Dumbledore immobilizing with a spell which does not wear off until either he dies, but in the movie it is simply illogical.

That last example is a good place to bring originality into the discussion. Yes, both films are adaptations of books and as such one might be inclined to say that the films cannot be original, but even in films which have a frequently used subject, originality can be found in the way that subject is presented. Likewise both these films display originality in the way they relate the story which they are adapting. Both do depart from the text, sometimes changing minor details, sometimes going so far as to omit entire portions of the book. However, the changes and omissions that are made in The Fellowship of the Ring are done so that the viewer is able to more easily and quickly understand the plot, as superfluous characters and events which serve to unnecessarily complicate the plots are shorn off (such as Tom Bombadil, who never appears in the movie, and the corresponding scene in Rivendell where it is suggested that the ring be given to him). The end result is a more streamlined work that, while differing in some places from it’s source, still tells a complete story and gives the viewer all the information they need to understand and appreciate it within the length limitations of the film meidum. In contrast, Harry Potter omits vital scenes (such as several memories of a young Tom Riddle which offer insight into his character’s motivations and also give more information about the horcruxes), while adding completely irrelevant scenes which do do nothing for the story other than complicate it (such as the burning of the Burrow, which never happens in the book and which goes on to appear again in the seventh book). The end result is that those who are not familiar with the source text will find it difficult to understand everything. While undoubtedly both have elements of originality, just being original without a purpose has no worth. The Lord of the Rings is original in a way which has a clear purpose and achieves the desired effect, while the originality of Harry Potter is haphazard and only undermines the film.

From those two respects The Fellowship of the Ring emerges as the “better” of the two films. Having not covered half of the criteria I suggested in the first paragraph, I could certainly see someone making an argument that Harry Potter is more complex or has greater intensity of effect to the extent that it makes up for its deficiencies in the other areas. Such an argument would have to be very convincing, and I myself am rather skeptical as to the possibility of such an argument existing. But maybe that is just my personal bias, and regardless of what objective judgments we might render, in the end they likely won’t be the determining factor in which film you enjoy more.


Harry Potter vs. LOTR

By: Matt Almeida

       I have not seen many fantasy films so I have very little with which to compare Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. One film which with I think some interesting comparisons can be drawn is Harry Potter. In many ways the two films or film series’ are very similar. Both were adapted from novels and broken up into multiple films. Also, both depict powerful struggles of good vs. evil filled with much temptation, violence, death, and destruction.  In the case of Lord of the Rings  it’s film adaption was done in a much more efficient and well thought out way. The film itself was produced to cater to the viewer and recreate Tolkien’s novel in film form. The film is easy to follow and provides extensive information to give the viewer a very solid idea of what is going on. This can be seen immediately from the start of the movie with the extensive introduction and continues to persist throughout the film through events such as flashbacks.

            Having both read the Harry Potter series of books and having seen all the movies as well it is easy to draw many comparisons between the two. In designing the movies it seems that the director’s cut out many essential details, assuming that the vast majority of the audience had read the books as well. The character development and background information in these movies is not every extensive at all and without it many viewers are left with questions unanswered. However, in the Lord of the Rings the background story and character development is much more extensive. In the beginning many of the aspects of the film are introduced. The events leading up to the movie are clearly depicted and described and the struggle between the orcs and the humans is introduced. Maps and vast depictions of varying landscapes are shown to give one the idea of the drastically different races and lands as well as where they are positioned relative to each other. The main ideals of the movie and the power behind the ring are also strongly introduced, preparing the viewer for what is to come in the rest of the movie. On top of this characters are developed thoroughly before the plot really begins to develop. The viewer is brought to the shire and meet Gondor, Frodo, and many other characters, leaving one with a  strong sense of what is going on before being overwhelmed with action.  Having not read LOTR before I still thoroughly understood what was going on.

            Another interesting but specific comparison between the two movies is the interesting roles that Frodo and Harry play as heroes of the films. Both characters are depicted as somewhat weak and innocent. Neither seems to be overwhelmingly strong or brave as you would expect out of a hero. Instead they play a different hero who does not necessarily give the viewer a sense of great confidence, but one that they can identify with and watch develop throughout the films.