Apple Thief

January 18, 2011

I know my last post was about dreams, but I needed to get this awesome idea out of my brain and onto the internet.

I had a dream last year (that’s right, it’s so brilliant that I’ve been sitting on it for a year) that involved me playing a video game, although I wasn’t “playing” it so much as I was living it. You might call it a virtual reality game. Anyways, it turned out to be one of the coolest things I’ve ever done (asleep or otherwise) and I wanted to share my experience with the world.

The premise of this game is simple: The main character (the player) has no distinguishable features other than the fact that they wear shabby clothing, like a medieval peasant. The player begins in a rectangular field slightly larger than a football field, which is surrounded by an unending forest. Across the field from where you start, a troop of boy scouts is returning from a mid-day hike, each of them carrying a beautiful, shiny red apple. Your ultimate goal as the “Apple Thief” is to thief those apples.

At first, this might sound like an easy task. Go up to some weak little kids and use your large adult muscles to take their apples; simple, right? Wrong. Because guess who’s travelling alongside that troop of boy scouts… A SQUAD OF COLONIAL-ERA REDCOATS, WITH BAYONET RIFLES!

That’s right, those puny boy scouts are being escorted by 18th-century British soldiers who want nothing more than the satisfaction of shooting your Yankee ass to hell and back, and then to hell again. NOW WE’RE TALKIN’ BABY!

But you can’t defend yourself against guns, right? You’re just a simple Apple Thief who runs through fields wearing peasant clothing; you have no weapons! Wrong again. You have two weapons: 1) Your sneaky mind, and 2) An active camouflage suit which makes you invisible for roughly 10 seconds before shutting down.

So here’s where it all comes together. Using a combination of stealth, speed, and your active-camouflage, you must navigate the field towards the boy scout troop, steal one of their apples, and escape from the pursuing redcoats with your life. If you are shot once by a soldier you may be able to escape momentarily, but if you are shot repeatedly or are mutilated by a bayonet, you die, and the game restarts.

Since I remember the layout of this whole dream pretty vividly I drew a detailed map of the playing area, so you can get a better feel for the gaming experience. Here’s a top-down view of the field:

I hope you enjoy this picture, because it took a long friggin' time to recreate this field from memory. There are still details I left out, for time purposes.

The dotted red line at the bottom represents the area where the Apple Thief begins at the start of the game. Likewise, the arrow and apple at the top represent where the boyscout troop and redcoats are entering from.

The structure in the middle is a shed, which I could never seem to get into. There are no doors, only windows which are boarded up. If I’d tried I might have been able to smash my way in. But as they say, hindsight is 20-20. The shed has a barbed wire fence on either side, which doesn’t seem to serve a purpose other than making life difficult when I’m trying to scale a fence in order to escape capture, and my hands get all shredded up. Ouchies.

The thing on the left that looks like an almond, or a weird vagina, is actually just a really muddy area. I assume whoever owned the shed used to spray a hose into one spot of his/her field, for fun, and thus a plot of mud was born. It’s not the strongest theory, I admit, but I don’t know what causes mud so for now we’re going with that.

The sticks on the bottom right are giant wooden logs. Maybe the shed’s owner was a logger? Or perhaps he bought the logs with the intention of building a new shed, since the first one had to be boarded up for some reason.

Regardless, the owner of the logs and the muddy spot and the shed has vacated the premises. With no one to tend to the field there is very tall grass growing everywhere (hence the green squiggly lines). The green circles, if you couldn’t tell, are trees, which would provide momentary shelter from the redcoats when I got far enough from the thieving point.

Taking into account the fact that I still actually left out details from this field, not wanting to spend more hours in Microsoft Paint than I needed to, and the fact that you have an unlimited amount of lives should you perish, there are most likely an infinite amount of ways to try to escape the redcoats with the fruit of your labor (ha).

Maybe I’m just biased because this was my dream, but I thought this game was fucking awesome and I would play it every single day. Being a virtual reality game, it was incredibly immersive. I felt like I was going to fucking die every second, but it was awesome since I would immediately re-spawn anyways and could try again and again and again if I failed, which was convenient since I always failed.

That’s right. I, Mike Cowell, subconscious designer of Apple Thief, have not yet beaten Apple Thief. And it pains me.

Please, someone, anyone, make this game. I need to win.



Video Lames

October 14, 2010

Sorry I haven’t posted for a while. Writing blogs comes naturally to me when I’m passionate about an idea, but for the past ten days I haven’t been inspired to talk about anything in particular. I always prefer to wait it out and write something decent than to spit out a crappy blurb about how boring my life is. But I digress, here’s some blog.

Much to the liking of my Bellingham friends and much to the chagrin of my UMass friends, I am a gamer. I absolutely love playing video games. Granted I play them infinitely less than I did in middle school and high school, but it’s still a habit, one that I’ll probably never kick.

My life as a gamer began in my childhood with the onset of the Nintendo 64. Eventually I moved on to a Sega Dreamcast, and then in 2001 to an Xbox, which is when I discovered my favorite series of all time: Halo. Boy did/do I ever love Halo.

It may help to put things into perspective if I admit that for the majority of my life I never had any friends. I’m not saying I didn’t have a lot of friends, I’m saying I had no friends. None. I didn’t hang out with anyone in particular at school, I never went over to other people’s houses, and I certainly never dared to try and meet new people. Only in my junior year of high school did I emerge from my proverbial shell and start making friends; so if I was 16 then and I’m 19 now that means I’m talking about 84% percent of my life.

Damn. I never even noticed how shitty that is until I looked at that number. 84%. Shit. Anyways that’s just background information. Rest assured I’m very happy with the friends I have now.

Under the circumstances I’m sure you can understand how a recluse like me could have easily latched onto video games as a means of entertainment: it only requires one person to enjoy it. I played a lot of video games because I couldn’t make friends, and I couldn’t make friends because I played a lot of video games. It was a vicious cycle, but from behind the controller it didn’t feel vicious at all.

What most people see when they look at a person playing a video game is pitiful: someone sitting on a couch, motionless, staring vacantly at the TV. Such an observation is understandable, but ignorant. The sight of ones body while playing a video game is deceiving, because every little bit of joy or excitement that person feels due to the game is totally in their head. It’s similar to the way a person might watch a compelling movie but appear emotionless, though to an even further extent. Playing a video game is like watching a movie, except you are participating as the main character. Your second-to-second decisions matter, and if the game is really good you’ll feel like you’re actually living in the virtual world. As the real world begins to blur away, all of the real world’s problems fade as well, and the only issues you have to deal with are “Oh shit this is a really sweet car.” or “Oh shit I have to kill this cool looking alien.”

Another thing most critics tend to neglect when they talk about video games is the thing that makes them so dang popular. The one and only reason people pick up their controllers is to do things that they can’t do in real life. Whether it’s driving the most exotic car ever conceived, blowing up a spaceship, or defeating an army of zombies, people play video games because literally anything is possible.

Grand Theft Auto is a perfect example, and a common one at that. I own Grand Theft Auto 4, and one of the first things I do when the game starts is get into a car and run over fifty people on the sidewalk.

Now, anyone who knows me personally knows that I’m not a violent person. I’ve never hurt a soul and I don’t have any sort of closeted rage against anyone. However, someone observing my actions as I play this game might be inclined to sign me up for some intensive psychotherapy. In the virtual world, however, the difference is in the intent.

What I find so fun about the game isn’t that I can murder people on the street; that would be a horrific thing to take pleasure in. What I love is the fact that I’m getting a free pass to do literally whatever I want with no consequences. It’s every person’s fantasy.

The video game is a platform on which people can forget their troubles and live their dreams at the same time. Sure, we may get lost in the worlds created for us once in a while, but what’s so bad about that? We’re certainly not doing any harm, and we’re having fun! Even better, the social aspect of online gaming has exploded over the past decade, and now owning a game console at my age is as common as owning a car. Half the time people spend playing video games is now spent with other human beings, whether it be online or in person, and I think we can all agree that that’s a step in the right direction.

So go ahead and tell me I’m a nerd for playing video games. I can’t hear you over the sound of my plasma grenades anyways.