Monday, 31 August 2015

What’s Your Story - The Mara

Answers: The Mara
Introduction and captions:  Ilmari

If there has been one commenter of this blog that everyone knows, it must be Canageek - that eager critic of silly adventure game plots, voracious hunter of CAPs and lover of all things geek. Of course, he hasn’t always kept up with the progress of the blog, but like a Phoenix, he has always risen from the ashes renewed. But just around the time when Trickster gifted this blog to his followers, Canageek was getting more and more behind the blog schedule. This time it was serious, this time something had got him. And that something had a name - Mara.

Just as we thought we had lost our fine Canadian fellow for good, a voice appeared in the posts of old. We had gained a new reader, for Canageek had convinced Mara to take up the challenge of reading the whole history of our blog. In the months to come, she moved gradually, post by post, nearer to this day. And now the time has come to introduce you to Mara properly.

Fascinating, she would appear to be from Vulcan

My home country is… the US, though I currently live in Canada.

My age is… 23

The first adventure game I played was…Putt-Putt Travels Through Time. And now the theme song is stuck in my head. Dammit, it's been almost twenty years!

Anthropomorphic car and a brontosaurus? This I got to see!

My favourite adventure game is… I really don't have one. I have no special attachment to any adventure game I’ve played. I am, though, a big fan of Homestuck, a webcomic which
began as a parody of adventure games.
It does seem to capture the bold spirit of adventuring

When I’m not playing games I like to…read. I used to read a lot of novels, but recently I've been spending more time reading blogs and webcomics. I listen to a lot of podcasts and watch educational Youtube videos and Twitch game streams, and I knit obsessively. I'm also getting a master's in linguistics, but that's less something I like to do and more something I've committed to and need to finish.

I like my games in (a box, digital format)…My initial answer to this was "in frequent small doses," since I didn't quite understand the point of the question. I then promptly decided to play some Kirby's Adventure, only to find that my arthritis was acting up. Now that I've thought about it some more (and now that my wrists are not currently in pain), I'm gonna say I prefer my games digital because they're easier to get and to carry around, and I really don't have any experience with games that have manuals or feelies.

The thing I miss about old games is… I don't really. The computer games I played as a kid were either educational or based on books I liked, or came free with a Windows OS. I feel nostalgic about specific games, like Chip's Challenge and ClueFinders 5th Grade Adventures, but not about old games in general.

Try to chip your way out of this conundrum!

The best thing about modern games is… I have two. First, they don't feel limited to a closed class of dedicated "gamers". Second, graphics have developed to the point where games can be as much an aesthetic experience as a narrative one.

The one TV show I never miss is… I don't have one right now. It was Doctor Who for about four years, and then last year the new episodes stopped being fun, so I stopped watching new episodes.

Did it have something to do with Cardinal Richelieu taking over the TARDIS?

If I could see any band live it would be… the Beatles

My favourite movie is… Monsters, Inc, or possibly Yellow Submarine.

One interesting thing about me is… I recently designed and knitted a scarf for a charity craft auction. I had to steam block the scarf to finish it, and I'm kind of proud of myself for figuring out how to do it right.

Did it look anything like this?

Not so fast Mara, did you think it was all over? Well, we designed some special questions, just for you!


1. Knowing that you are a Doctor Who -fan, does your name hail from the series?

Yes, it is a Doctor Who reference, but also a funny coincidence. My real name is Mara, and the friend in university who introduced me to Classic Doctor Who found it amusing that I shared my name with one of the show's memorable villains.

For those of you Who don’t know: this is what a Mara looks like

2. So we are probably all dying to know, how did you two meet?

Here's the official story: Canageek and I live on the same floor in the same dorm. We met at a dorm games night shortly after I moved in, and bonded talking about Doctor Who and webcomics. (The unofficial story has more kissing in it.)

The blog

3. How did Canageek convince you to take on the challenge of reading through the entire content of this blog?

It went something like this: "Now that I'm spending a lot of time with you, I don't have time to catch up on blogs and webcomics anymore..." (he repeated this several times, until finally:) "Hey, you might like The Adventure Gamer. Maybe if you're busy reading it, I'll have time to catch up!" And now I read TAG when I have free time and/or want to procrastinate, and I'm still catching up faster than he is!

4. What do you think of our community of adventure game lovers? Have you got into the mind of our weird set of commenters?

It mostly seems like a fun and welcoming community, but I have to admit I'm not interested in achieving the level of troll that some of you have! Freshest in my mind is the "resurrection card" incident in Les Manley, when you all decided it would be fun to see the look on Trickster's face when he realized he couldn't win the game without the card, and this was somehow not breaking Trick's rule about telling him when he was dead-ended. Other than that sort of troll-y thing, I've been having fun hanging out in the comments with you guys, and it's always nice to see someone respond to a comment I made on a years-old post. I feel more welcome knowing people are paying attention.

Lot of us are still repenting this

5. Having just read the entire run of blog's life, what do you think have been the biggest changes during the years?

I think the biggest and most important change in the blog was very early on, when you (possibly mostly Canageek? I don't remember) convinced Trick to add more detail about what he was doing to his posts. That made the blog a lot more fun to read and is a big part of why I've stuck with it. The other big change has been the gradual takeover of the blog by its fans, which I think started at least as far back as Zenic's first guest game. The fact that at least six of you jumped at the chance to help run the blog after Trickster announced he was leaving is a testament to how cohesive the community has become.

6. Do you see something in the blog you'd want to improve?

I go back and forth about how much I like the practice of blogging about two or three games at once. On the one hand, it can be a relief from a bad game to switch to a better one (or another bad one with a different story). On the other hand, it's sometimes hard to follow that many plot lines at once (and may get harder once I'm reading posts in real time, depending on how much time there is between posts about the same game).

The adventure games

7. What have been your experiences about adventure games before starting to read the blog?

Pretty much all of my adventure-game experience happened before I was thirteen. I played the Putt-Putt games (and don't think I finished a single one of them), beat the first Pajama Sam (does anyone remember the Salad Liberation Front?), and played varying amounts of decreasingly-good Harry Potter tie-in games (which I'm told don't actually count because they're action-adventure). I've always preferred non-interactive fiction, mostly in the form of books, to video games in general. But then there's the games that gave me gaming anxiety. Watching friends play Oregon Trail gave me an overwhelming sense of "I can't make decisions for these people! What if I screwed up and they all died?" And then that anxiety was confirmed by Nancy Drew: Secret of the Old Clock, in which I couldn't figure anything out and died repeatedly in increasingly freaky circumstances. I didn't much want to continue playing adventure games after that. Reading this blog a decade-plus later has been eye-opening in a good way: I've learned there are games that, rather than punish you for your mistakes, use deaths as an opportunity either to make the player laugh or to give hints (or both). Some of them even look like I'd have fun playing them--though I'm still content to watch from the sidelines and get the story without the anxiety.

 I understand you completely, since I am not sure
I could have played any Nancy Drew game to its completion as a little kid.
How could you risk a death of a fictional character you have a major crush on?

8. Have your views about adventure games changed during your read? Has there been any surprises?

The biggest surprise I've had is that I'm not the only person who's ever been frustrated by an adventure game. (In my family, I sure felt like it--my sister never understood why I didn't want to finish that Nancy Drew game.) In fact, it seems to me that frustration is a key part of playing adventure games--so much so that I sometimes wonder why one would continue playing them when there were nice satisfying books and movies out there. (Note that this is the life path I took in this regard.) I'm glad you guys are having fun with them regardless.

9. Based on your experiences, what do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of adventure game?

I would say that the strength of adventure games is that they're a storytelling medium that gives the player agency by making them part of the telling of the story. However, the games that do this well are few and far between (though I could say this for any storytelling medium). The weaknesses seem to mostly be in how these games deal with player input--there always seems to be word-hunting or pixel-hunting going on, either due to technical limitations or human error in designing the game. I want to see a parser-based game using current natural language processing technology, or a point-and-click that has the graphical fidelity of today's triple-A games. Probably both, so I can compare them and finally decide whether I prefer parser games or point-and-click games.

10. We know one of Canageek's pet peeves has been the lack of serious plots in the early games, have you find this distracting?

Nope--I think the bigger problem is that early developers often seemed to have trouble letting players explore, instead shoehorning them into plots that the player character might have no motivation whatsoever to follow. On the other hand, there's occasionally a problem with developers treating games that work well without plots as though they're supposed to have plots. Neuromancer looked like an awesome sandbox game.

11. Do you think there might be potential for adventure games finding new audiences in the future generations?

Yes, but I see a lot of "old shames" standing in the way. A lot of what's memorable about old adventure games is either the technical things that went wrong with them, or the Al Lowe-style taboo humor. These aren't things that game developers want to associate themselves with, nor will they (I think) endear them to an audience who doesn't feel nostalgia for them. Adventure games have the potential to be a great storytelling medium on par with television, if not cinema, but they need a public image that's family-friendly and fits in better in this century. It will take time.

Definitely not family-friendly

12. If you had the chance, what would you choose as a theme of an adventure game?

I don't really have a sense of what kind of adventure game I would most want to play. I'd like to try to come up with a story that works better in an interactive medium than a passive one, but I don't have any good ideas and I don't think we as a culture have come up with many good ones (hence all the shoehorning). In the absence of that, I'm going to make a shameless plug for my favorite webcomic, Homestuck (currently on hiatus), which is in large part a parody of adventure games (including gur sehfgengvat qrnq raq gung lbh qba'g svaq bhg nobhg gvyy unys na ubhe yngre!) and will soon have its own tie-in point-and-click adventure game, Hiveswap, set in the same universe but not about the main characters of the comic. I'm going to use my wish to wish that Hiveswap live up to the hype.

It certainly seems well-made

And a final bonus question:

If the life of this blog would be made into movie, which actors would be cast into which roles?

I don't think I can do the bonus question justice, so I'm not going to answer it.

Fair enough. Can you do what Mara could not? Send us your take on a good casting for the Adventure Gamer -movie. All participants will get 5 CAPs, and the best answer, chosen by Mara, will get 25 CAPs extra.


  1. I like the new questions!

    As for Doctor Who, I agree that Twelve had some challenges getting out of the gate. The first episode (with Jenny and Vastra) was hard on characterization as he was supposed to still be acting like a mix of Eleven/Twelve but it just came off poorly. And then a few episodes where he was abusive to Clara just turned me off. BUT-- I stuck with it and by the end of the season I think he works better. The arc that they do with Danny is very touching and plays off of a similar arc a few seasons ago (but to say more would be a spoiler). If you want to skip ahead, the Christmas episode this year is very good and by that point the characterization is where it should be.

    1. Funny you should call the Doctor abusive to Clara. My problem was just the opposite--that Clara was abusing the trust of not just the Doctor, but also Danny. I stopped watching when she started lying to them, and I don't think I want to start watching again. Also, what they did to Danny was uncalled for. We finally got a male Companion who can stand alone as a foil to the Doctor...Also, I read a transcript of the Christmas special and it made me sad for a number of reasons I won't go into here.

    2. Well, I hope you will continue to give the show a chance. After 50 years, there's bound to be something that everyone doesn't like.

  2. I agree that running two mainline games, sometimes with a Missed Classic, can make it somewhat difficult to follow. Truth is that none of us are as awesome as Trickster and we can't consistently pull off more than one post per week individually, at least not consistently.

    How about if we linked back to the previous post at the top of every new one? Or should we perhaps start writing "The Story So Far..." blurbs at the top of the subsequent posts as a reminder?

    1. The Story So Far sounds like a good idea.

    2. I think that would help: One of the reasons I fell behind during Kenny's tenure was I kept getting lost due to how complex that game was.

    3. So, for my upcoming posts, what I may do is skip the "Captain's Log" section and do a "Story So Far" section and see how that goes. Or do you really like those little in-character summaries?

    4. I love the in-character summaries, but perhaps it could be combined with the concept of a story so far and instead of summarizing the post being written, it could summarize the previous posts...

    5. Perhaps we can play with it and see. I find that I like to read them more than I like to write them.

    6. Yeah. Sorry. The Scoop is definitely freaking challenging and it's the only Adventure game thus far to still have a LOST! status in it (and not because of game-breaking bugs!). If some other smarter players could go tackle it, I'd be tickled pink... or at least be really appreciative of wherever I'm being tickled at. Hopefully around the erogenous regions.

    7. I was also going to suggest that you do the previous history in-character and see how that goes, as I like the in-character stuff.

      Kenny: You did your best, it was a hard game to do. My only suggestion would be to summarize more, but that is hard to do as you play, and with that game in specific.

  3. has a few of the games (Putt Putt, Pajama Sam) listed here on the cheap for mobile with an option to upgrade to Steam keys, if anyone's interested.

    I'm still repenting for my sin of Les Manley, alright? It was a (highly successful) CAPs grab gone wrong. I played BAT, and consider that punishment well deserved. Still, in spite of it being one of the most incompetently put together games I've ever seen, I still feel it's a game that has to be played - and finished - even though it clearly isn't possible without a walkthrough. That's like letting someone kill Henri in The Colonel's Bequest and consider it the correct ending!

    1. This must have happened before I joined the blog. What happened?

    2. I convinced people to pay CAPs to get Trickster to play Les Manley, a game full of horrible puzzles, poorly managed parser and dead ends a plenty. He tried to quit out (twice?) and we peer pressured him into sticking it out, notably on the last 'puzzle' of the game (achieved by receiving a 'resurrection card' in the first area of the game by sexually harassing a fortune teller and then prodding a toy lizard on her desk, neither of which have any in game hints as to how to acheive.)

    3. Mara was VERY annoyed with me when she read that series of posts, and I was all "What? That was years ago, I don't even remember it!" >.>

      That said, I think it helped give Trickster the impression of just HOW bad that game was, I'm not sure you can understand that kind of frustration without experiencing it first hand. That said, I'll help out with dead ends once we get to Limbo of the Lost; that game is just unfair in EVERY aspect of its design.

    4. I don't remember that happening either. Probably just my memory failing me though.

      The funnest part of Limbo of the Lost was reading about them stealing most of their art from popular games. To potential lazy thieves - if you're going steal art, at least steal from games nobody's played - you might have a chance of getting away with it then!

      I'm very surprised that it's still actually for sale...

      Though I think the only reason people buy it is to make fun of it and see the train wreck for themselves.

    5. @Canageek - It's a good thing I had absolutely nothing to do with that terrible incident then. I'd never do such a horrible thing as to troll an innocent player into getting stuck and running around in circles only to inevitably fail in a very spectacular and awesome fashion.

    6. I remember the Les Manley incident. Yes, you guys were terrible and Trickster was pretty pissed (and not just about the score).

    7. It's the herd mentality - you know you are going to far, but you just have to follow the crowd.

      That said, I think many of the guilty parties have done awesome job helping to keep the blog going.

    8. So this entire program of taking over and running the blog with "fan" reviewers was just because you felt guilty for tricking "Trickster"? Wow.


    9. (Now all we'd need after this communal self-flagellation is Trickster appearing full of forgiveness and atonement).

    10. I should probably agree to blog an easy game when I have time to do some penance as I think I was one of the instigators of that.

    11. This comment has been removed by the author.

    12. As the written record of that most shameful incident will attest, I was one of the few who valiantly faced the mob of evildoers with only Compassion and Reason as my allies (although it's very likely that my memory is coloring what amounted to little more than a brief lapse of hesitation)-- only to meet a fate comparable to that of the priest that approaches the martians in that old War of the Worlds movie.

    13. I think it was me who started with posts like "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if Trickster suffered through one of the most frustrating dead ends in adventure gaming", and then everyone went along with it after realising that the game warned about all missing items but the card. So yeah, I'm probably one of the more guilty ones.

    14. Yup! You, Canageek, Ilmari and Lars! Terrible human beings!

      By the way, can anyone put a link to those incriminating pages? I have some posts to delete...

  4. I'd like to point out that Mara's avatar is from El Goonish Shive which she is now a big fan of despite having to talk her into keeping reading it after the first few (pretty terrible) arcs.

  5. Nice to meet you, Mara! It's good to have another girl around. :)

  6. Hey, nice to see someone else the same age as me!

    Speaking of reading through the blog, at one point I started reading through the old posts until I hit Zak McKracken, which I wanted to play first. Then Trickster left and I lost the motivation to do that at the time, though I will do so in the future. I haven't followed the blog very actively in the past month or so either and still have to read the Larry 5 posts.

  7. At some point Mara grew burnt out on the adventure gamer blog. About a year later I've got her reading The CRPG Addict, some she enjoyed the blog more with one consistent narrator. I'll try and lure her back in, possibly when she catches up with Chet. In good news she completed her degree and we now share a very nice apartment. :D

    1. Yeah, I think she left us couple of months after this point. We've surely missed you both, nice to hear what's going on in your lives!