Tuesday, 21 August 2012

What's Your Story? - JosephCurwen

Its been a while since the last What's Your Story post, but I still have quite a few waiting in the wings. Today is JosephCurwen's time to shine, and while I always assumed that was his real name, I now realise that's not likely to be the case. A quick Google brought back the following:

"In Lovecraft's novel The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Joseph Curwen is a necromancer who comes back to corporeal existence through his descendant Charles Dexter Ward."

Maybe the man himself can confirm if Lovecraft was the inspiration behind his online name?

JosephCurwen: His avatar requires no guesswork and suggests he's among friends here.

My home country is… USA (Washington DC)

My age is… 32, which makes me just a tad younger than Trickster (Ed. - Rub it in why don't you!)

The first adventure game I played was… (tie) Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood (owned by the girl down the street) and King's Quest III (bought at a yard sale). I can't remember which came first. First game I finished was King's Quest IV ... thanks to massive help from the Sierra Hint Line, which I would love to hear about here.

Al Lowe's Winnie the Pooh game avoided my list, but certainly had an important role to play in the adventure genre

When I’m not playing games I like to… study for the bar exam, ugh. Running, biking, writing music, watching TV or movies, cooking, too many other things to write here. Renaissance man.

I like my games in (a box, digital format)… same as Trickster. I used to love the big old boxes, but lately I've been paring down my life, and selling off a lot of my excess stuff. Digital is lean, and appreciated.

My favorite adventure game is… Quest for Glory IV: Shadows of Darkness. Secret of Monkey Island and the Longest Journey are also very highly ranked by me as well.

Quest for Glory IV: I honestly don't recognise any of the screenshots for this game, yet I'm quite sure I played it

The thing I miss about old games is… the creativity. The genres were still more or less wide open, so the developers had a lot of leeway. Hence things like hand-drawn backgrounds, interesting scores, and a LOT of quirky humor which is largely missing these days.

The best thing about modern games is… maturity. Back in the day, games like The Witcher just weren't really possible, and adult subjects were glossed over or ignored entirely. Very few "complex" moral choices were possible, a la the Mass Effect games. Etc.

The Witcher: Very high on the "games I would play if it wasn't for this blog" list!

The one TV show I never miss is… Mad Men.

If I could see any band live it would be… Who knows, these days.

My favourite movie is… Citizen Kane.

Classic films seems to be another common interest for lovers of adventure games.

One interesting thing about me is… I have an MFA in creative writing.

Interested in sending your answers and getting 20 CAPs for you trouble? Email theadventuregamer@gmail.com.


  1. I suspect that the reads of this blog like classic films because we don't care about shiny graphics. So what if Dawn Patrol has pretty bad special effects, the acting is great.

    1. I'd suggest it might be because good films are good no matter how old they are (and we forget about all the bad/mediocre ones), and as a group we're probably less likely to dismiss something just because it's old.

  2. Hey, it's a neighbor in the grand scheme of things. D.C.'s about 200 miles from here. My aunt lived there growing up and my sister lived there until recently, so I've been quite often.

  3. OK, it's confirmed: The name indeed comes from my favorite Lovecraft story. Maybe my favorite short story ever, actually. Or novella, if that's what Case of Charles Dexter Ward classifies as. Whatever it is, it's way up there.

    For anyone that hasn't read it, Joseph Curwen is a 300+-year-old (at least) wizard who sets up shop in Rhode Island in the 1700s, and then is eventually chased off Dr. Frankenstein-style by the local citizenry after many, many disturbing things come to light. He eventually induces a descendant, by means of a magical diary, to resurrect him so he can continue his extremely nefarious actions in the modern day (that is, the 1920s or so).

    Cush1978 - What did your aunt and sister think of it?

    Also, I can happily update that I am no longer currently studying for the bar exam - I took it July 25-26, and am waiting for the results, due back in November. Now I'm working any odd job (law-oriented or not) that will pay me, while looking for more permanent employment.

    Also, good choice of screenshots for Kane!

    1. I've read quite a few Lovecraft stories, but not that one! I'll have to track it down.

      And to mix classic film and Lovecraft for a second, here's the H.P.Lovecraft Historical Society's film version of "Call of Cthulu": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHuY2wXTd0o (it's actually quite good, all things considered!)

      Also on a bigger budget there's Dagon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yAnVNy27co (Which I also enjoyed!)

      And finally, a bit of xmas music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tTHn2tHhcI

      Ok I'll stop now!

    2. Yay for Lovecraft!

      HPLHS also finished last year The Whisperer in Darkness, which is certainly worth watching if you liked their Call of Cthulhu.


      There's also a recent German film, Die Farbe. It's based on The Color Out of Space, and I thought it was very good.


      I would recommend both for any Lovecraft fan. They are obviously made with a small budget, but with a lot of love. And craft.

    3. Seems like we can add interest in Lovecraft as a common theme for our commenters - I've also been an avid fan of his stories for a long time. My favorite Lovecraft story is probably Outsider - not very Cthulhuan, but has a nice twist ending.

    4. Both loved D.C. when they lived there. My aunt lived there until she got married and moved out west. My sister lived there three or four times. She got out of college and went to D.C. Went to get a Masters degree in London. Came back to D.C. Took a job in NYC. After that job, back to D.C. Now she has the same job that she has in D.C., but she's moved to London and works out of their London office. Each time, she lived in D.C. "proper", not Fairfax or Alexandria, or another city where people tend to say they live "in D.C."

      Somewhat on topic, I think we're going to try to get up there for a day this coming week to see the "Art of Video Games" exhibit at the Smithsonian.

    5. I may be a rarity on this blog, in that I am not at all interested in Lovecraft because I don't like feeling small. I actually prefer Welcome to Night Vale, in which the eldritch horror is something you have to deal with on a daily basis and _it's okay_.

    6. Thanks for the tip The Mara. Welcome to Night Vale seems pretty interesting so far.

  4. I saw (and loved!!!) the Call of Cthulhu movie. A++

    I did NOT see (or even know about) the Dagon movie!! So thank you very very much for that.

    I have always been an avid reader and writer, since I was a child. Yet I never discovered Lovecraft until really late - my late 20s. What a joy! Glorious purple prose, a really intense and rich world of his own, memorable plots and characters (Joseph Curwen... Wilbur Whately... Randolph Carter... Herbert West... Dr. Munoz... Keziah Mason... the list goes on and on), I could go on and on. Virtually overnight, Lovecraft went from being a vaguely known nonentity to one of my four or five favorite authors.

    I'm actually not sure why I chose Curwen as my online identity. I'm not an evil sorcerer stealing secrets of the dead... I'm not 300+ years old... I have no intention of bewitching my descendants. I just really, really liked him.

    In my early 20s, my online identity (especially in Counter Strike:Source on Steam) was LordOfMisrule, which was a sly reference to an English holiday festival ritual I had read about years before.


    I must have played Counter Strike for ~1000 hours, and it was interesting to see how people interpreted the "Lord of Misrule" ... only a handful of players ever knew it's actual meaning.

    Before that, I was "scholar768," 768 being the number of pages in the original edition of Joyce's Ulysses.

    1. Always been fascinated by Lovecraft, yet never managed to read anything. I've been listening to audiobooks lately (so I can listen while walking around the city), so I might see if any of his popular books are on audible.

    2. No idea about audible, but there are several on LibriVox. I'm not sure "walking around the city" is the right environment to listen to them, though ...

  5. To get back to games, I'd recommend Dark Corners of the Earth to all Lovecraft fans. It's actually based more on the kind of atmosphere and plots found in the pen & paper role-playing game (Call of Cthulhu), but still really cool. It's also heavily bugged so make sure you get all existing patches.

    1. Though I never beat it, I was a big fan of The Lurking Horror when I was a kid.

  6. Now while were in an adventure game blog, have you JC played Shadow of the Comet? How did you feel about it? I guess there are also some other Lovecraft-inspired games (at least Prisoner of Ice, and Alone in the Dark I think. Are there others as well?).

    I remember Shadow of the Comet making me really frightened when I played it during nighttime (at least when I was a lot younger..) Not too many other games that managed the same. I think an important factor was the soundtrack...

    1. QFG 4 had a Lovecraftian feel, and in text adventures, there's Lurking Horror.

    2. And for non-commercial IF, look no further than Anchorhead:

    3. Yes, re: Lurking Horror - I played it as a child, was scared out of my wits (never made it past the janitor!), and never beat it (as mentioned above).

      Shadow of the Comet ... my copy was glitched or bugged, and crashed at a certain part every time. But I remember gorgeous graphics, and a good plot.

      QFG4 definitely had Lovecraftian overtones... until the bizarre finale, which I won't get into here since we'll be getting to it eventually in the blog.

      I never played Prisoner of Ice or Alone in the Dark!

      Has anyone here played The Dark Descent?

    4. If you mean Amnesia: The Dark Descent, yes. Scariest game ever. Still haven't finished 'cos I can only play for about half an hour at a time before needing a break from the intensity.

    5. I started Amnesia, but got a bit bored with it. I'm not a huge fan of first-person-puzzlers, and I lacked the motivation to stick with it.

      At what point does it become scary/compelling/amazing? I didn't really give it a fair shot, so I'd be willing to retry it.

    6. The atmosphere worked for me from the very beginning. It helps that I don't play unless I can do it alone at night with the lights out and no interruptions (part of the reason I still haven't finished it)

      It does get more intense after a while. To me a big part of it was just not knowing when I was in danger.

      I'd say if it isn't doing it for you after giving it a full hour or so it just might not be for you. If you're ready to quit and haven't frra lbhe svefg rarzl naq orra guebhtu gur jngre frpgvba I'd suggest sticking with it for a little longer unless it's really boring you to tears.

    7. I played Amnesia with a friend. He had played the game a bit before, and I knew it was a horror game. Initially I did what I always do with a game that has physics: I tried to break the game. I threw items around and tried to get the doors stuck etc. My friend was somewhat annoyed that I wasn't giving the game a chance. Despite the ignoble start, by the second level I was already scared.

      The point about Amnesia is that you really should play it in the dark. There are many things that are sensitive to their surroundings. You can listen to Beethoven in a subway from a boombox, but you shouldn't. You can play Amnesia like any other game, but you shouldn't.

      While unrelated, the youtube game The Dark Room was, well, unfair, but also fascinating.


  7. Today's Cracked article is on the hardest video game puzzles.

    Warning, SPOILERS inside each discussion.


    1. Great article, although I only a read four of them (because I've already played them or don't expect to). The Longest Journey puzzle had me stumped for ages and I can't even remember whether I ended up solving it or resorting to a walkthrough.

      I plan to have articles just like that one in the future, but it seems a bit silly to do so when I'm only 20 games in. I'll definitely wrap up the eighties though when I get to the end of it.

      Once again I apologise for the slowdown in my progress. I'm still having a very busy time at work, with two major deadlines coming up in the first week of September. I should be able to get a Zak post out in the next day or two though.


      Pink and blue, I don't like you
      Torture's what I love to do
      A mix of mammal and reptile
      Tourists make me so hostile

      Who am I?

    2. Considering that the link had a reference to D. Adams' work, I'll guess Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz. At least he likes torture and hates hitchhikers, and vogons are a mix of reptile and humanoid.

    3. I'm afraid that's incorrect.


      As covered earlier in this blog,
      At least a part of me is hog.

    4. I'm with you, Ilmari. When I read your answer I was sure you had it! Didn't get the pink and blue reference, but I hadn't read Hitchhikers for years so thought it was something I'd forgotten.

    5. Now I think I got it! It's Snarl from Tass Times. (Part pig, part crocodile, part raccoon; pink and blue, because that's what he looks like in CGA.)

    6. Correct! I'm giving you 15 points for that. I've decided that each hint I have to give adds 5 points to the reward for solving a riddle. So the longer a riddle goes unsolved, the greater the reward for doing so.

  8. I'm thinking about listening to this when I finish my current book.


    It's The Dark Worlds of H. P. Lovecraft, Volume One. It seems like a good place to start my Lovecraft experience. But, as if you haven't gathered yet, I like to do things in the right order. Is there any good or bad order to the Lovecraft universe?

    1. I've only ever read his stories as various collections. I don't think there's any of them that are intended to be read in a specific order, although with the Cthulu ones and Innsmouth/Dagon it might be best to read them in the order in which they were written/published (Wikipedia has the appropriate dates here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._P._Lovecraft_bibliography )

    2. Ah, that is an excellent version. I keep meaning to buy it, but it is so expensive.

    3. Sounds pretty good, but I'm not really happy with the DRM... why can't they just sell MP3s? Might see if I can get them on CD instead.

  9. I'm not really sure I would recommend any particular order. I would probably extend Andy Panthro's rec of "in the order they were written," from the Cthulhu/Dagon stories to all of them, since his writing did progress noticeably from first stories to late ones. Otherwise, just have at them. The universe he creates doesn't require linearity - it coheres via vague sideways reference and general threatening atmosphere.

  10. Also, there are a few earlier stories he clearly references: "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood, "The Great God Pan" and "The White People," by Arthur Machen, "The Yellow Sign" by Robert Chambers, "Out of the Depths" by Walter de la Mare, Lord Dunsany generally, and I make the controversial case, M. R. James.

    James isn't traditionally associated with Lovecraft, although Lovecraft references him in an essay or two, but no other author so finely and carefully works intense horror into the fabric of everyday life... which Lovecraft certainly learned from, since virtually every story involves a regular situation which gets subtly insidious... and sometimes openly so.

  11. And after a break from old adventure game creator kickstarters - here's Broken Sword 5


    Still haven't played BS3 or 4 yet but I liked BS1 and 2.

    1. Added to the list, and 10 points coming your way TBD.

  12. I've always wanted to play the Broken Sword games. I'm going to have to start them up now that I have some free time. After the dozen or so games in front of them...