Oh, yes. It's time to whittle those quills, refill those ink pots, and iron that parchment for another round of one-paragraph short stories! The theme for this year's contest is alternative game back stories. Start with a simple arcade game such as Tempest, Q*Bert, Arkanoid, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and so on, and invent a unique back story to explain what's happening on the screen. The goal is to be as creative as possible, radically re-interpreting the graphics and gameplay to invent a completely new way to look at the game. You may safely disregard cabinet art, marquees, manuals, cartoons, and so on; only the on-screen graphics are to be considered.
Thus, if you choose Space Invaders, don't just write a story about an alien invasion. Perhaps what's really happening is a "Fantastic Voyage" situation. Or maybe you were popping bubblewrap one day and it came alive! Now you must pop the monster bubbles before they manage to poop on you. Be as silly, serious, scary, or sarcastic as you like.
Hint: Don't choose games with lots of dialog, text, or back-story present in the game, such as Zork or The Secret of Monkey Island (unless, of course, you find a creative way to alter its meaning--perhaps all that text is a lie!). However, Ultima is fine, since a large part of the back story is contained in external material (manuals, maps, etc. that came with the game). It might be easier if you choose a game with wacky and highly abstract gameplay, such as Dig Dug, Mr. Do, or Zoo Keeper.
The winner will receive a very special prize. We look forward to reading your entries! Just post them as comments below this post. You may enter as many times as you like. The Armchair Arcade editors will select the top five, which will then be voted on by the entire community. The word limit is 300 words within a single paragraph. The deadline for entering the contest is October 24th. The winner will be announced on Armchair Arcade Radio--with a dramatic reading of the story!
NOTE: The Armchair Arcade editors are not eligible for inclusion in the contest, but will still participate.
Pooyan by Bill Loguidice
Grandma Pig had often told Mama Pig the story of the Big Bad Wolf. She said he huffed and he puffed and he blew all her sons' houses down. All of their houses that is except for Mama Pig's father's, whose brick house had been the Big Bad Wolf's undoing. Now with piglets of her own, Mama Pig knew that the Big Bad Wolf’s return was imminent. As the army of ravenous wolves approached, Mama Pig pulled out a brick house of her own. She oinked, exhaled softly, then drew back mightily on the well worn bow.
Atari Adventure (game 3) by Steve Maibock
A golden square awoke in a golden bed, his head sweetly upon a golden pillow. His bedroom adorned with golden tapestry, which revealed a golden door. The golden door opened out into a golden hall, which is naturally located in a great golden castle. You may have heard wonderful stories of this golden square, but this tale, dear readers, is not about dragons, wicked bats, nor confusing mazes. No the tale we shall focus on, is how our golden friend loses his golden chalice, almost each and every day. You see, the golden square is not in love with a fair maiden locked up in a castle. Our amber gleaming box is not all that adventurous (despite the title of this fine game), nor does he rightly fancy slaying massive dragons. Quite simply, our fine fellow adores his golden ale. The golden ale, flows from a great golden vat, which sits high above his golden kitchen and flows freely, like a waterfall, down a brightly golden spout. And how shall our golden friend capture this delicious golden ale from a brightly golden spout? From a magical brightly colored golden chalice, of course! But this is where the crux of our fair friend’s problems resides. He drinks his golden ale, and then drinks some more. Perhaps he lifts a few more after that. He drinks all day to his merry heart’s content until he begins to wander the fair (but harsh) kingdom and loses track of his senses. Inevitably our golden hero awakes in his golden bed only to find that he has left the brightly colored chalice somewhere, anywhere, in this kingdom that he lives - and off again he goes to find his golden drinking cup!
Tetris by Matt Barton
Joe Block was to garbage what Da Vinci was to art; a man of technical skill and unique vision. His presence at the landfill was worth 40,000 waste collectors--and that's what had made him the richest man on Earth. Who else but Block could cram so much junk into such small spaces, preserving the planet's last few garbage-free zones from instant destruction? Who among the elites, those fortunate few whose trash were collected and whose toilets still flushed--who among them did not invite Joe to all their parties, assuming this sanitation superstar had the time for any of them. For each minute of his day was worth more than lesser men earned in a year. Deep down--did Joe fear the end was coming? For so many years he had worked those cranes like a terrifying, tentacled beast, his brain whizzing with geometry and whirring with physics, his hands sweaty on the controls, his hardhat heavy on his head, the camera focused on his hard, unshaven face--a television station in Rhode Island broadcast nothing else but this. But the trash these days was coming faster than ever before, ever faster. The camera zoomed in on his eyes--what fury! And the moment the garbage rose to the lip of the landfill--disaster! At last it happens!--camera in even closer, the eyes narrowed, back away, the hands flicked fast--and crunch! Down went the line of junk, down, crunch, down, crunch. Back up to Block's face. A smile? Yes, Joe Block was grinning, that madman, that god of the garbagemen. Somewhere in Providence, a housewife fainted, a half-empty martini in pieces on the floor.
Donkey Kong by Craig A. Meyer
As the United States and the world was recovering from WWII, a plan was hatched to launch Albert, a Rhesus monkey, into space—the first primate with the distinction. Albert’s V2 rocket launched without incident, but it was soon discovered he died of suffocation. Or so it was believed. But now, the true story has come out. Albert, while orbiting over thirty miles above the Earth’s surface, unexpectedly absorbed a radical amount of galactic cosmic rays that transformed him. When Albert returned to Earth, it was assumed he was dead, but he was actually in some strange stasis, as of yet, unexplained. The search party that found the V2 capsule preserved it but casually discarded Albert’s limp body in a ditch not knowing he was still alive. After several days of cooler summer air, the effects of the radiation aided Albert and he slowly recovered. As he nibbled various leaves and insects, Albert slowly realized what had happened and how his trainer, Mario, had sold him to NASA to be sent into space where he would certainly die. This new awareness became the driving force and he sought revenge on Mario and all other bipeds. Over time, he made his way to a shipping yard and began eating various types of food from wooden barrels. After nearly eating his weight each day for months and moving barrels weighing nearly a thousand pounds to reach new sources of food, he grew several feet in height and added countless inches of muscle mass. When the dock workers noticed strange noises and huge deposits of human-like excrement, they contacted a local primate expert for advice. The expert came to investigate, his name was Mario, and Albert remembered.
On a planet called "Pac" in a galaxy far away, there lived a prosperous race of creatures called the "Pacs." Of course, as on any planet with many creatures and races, there was an underdog class of citizens. These were the Ghosts, and they had been oppressed for centuries, suffering quietly throughout the ages. But as the years went on, a new group emerged that questioned the Pac regime and vowed to regain what was rightfully theirs. This elite group consisted of four members: Blinky, who was adept at hunting down enemies; Pinky, a sweet transvestite who could anticipate her enemy's moves; Inky, a master at faking out enemies; and Clyde, who had been the leader of the pack until he suffered a tragic accident that affected his mobility and reasoning abilities. Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde had worked feverishly for many years to build intricate underground lairs, which would be used to store power pellets recovered from the Pacs. The group knew if they collected enough of these pellets, they could assemble them to create a super weapon that would turn the tide. The task had been arduous and fraught with many obstacles, including an unfortunate incident in 1980 where they had to take out a Pacman who had wandered upon one of their lairs while spelunking. But the light was almost at the end of that proverbial tunnel, and all that finally remained was for the weapon to be assembled. But just as they were about to hunker down to tackle the task, the wife of that Pacman appeared. She looked vulnerable with her pink bow and ruby red lips, but she was hungry for revenge.
Bump 'n' Jump by Rich Knight
Billy Bygone just wanted some hydraulics for his car. Something that would make his car bounce up and down like Snoop's in those old Dr. Dre videos. But what he got, due to tampering from a secret government spy with a hidden agenda, was the new B714 (Codename: Leapfrog) installed in his car, which, at the press of a button, would send him hurdling into the sky. Of course, the government can't allow something of this magnitude to be revealed to the public. Just think of all the people trying to escape traffic with this device if it was known. Just think of all the havoc it would cause to the insurance companies when all these flying cars come landing down on unsuspecting drivers. Just think of the children! So agents have been sent out to KILL Billy Bygone to keep the secret from being known. But Billy won't give up without a fight. Oh, no. Billy Bygone is going to bump and jump his way to survival, picking up strangely placed oil cans (From a counterspy?!) on the road and driving his way to an answer. Will Billy Bygone be able to solve the mystery of who installed the B714 before he's roadkill? Find out in next week's exciting episode of Billy Bygone, Bump 'n' Jumper!
K.C. Munchkin! by Mark Vergeer
KC - as friends called him - just wasn't the same after his cousin (Pac-Man) started to act like he never even existed. Since then KC had become withdrawn and contemplative. Pac-Man had suddenly acted like he was all that and even thought he was above the law. Pac-Man started dealing drugs and got arrested thrice for shoving power pills to minors and he repeatedly got away with it only paying minor fines. Within weeks life had become very boring and uneventful. Gone were the days of running around the mazes together playing tag with the ghosts and Munchers. KC tried several times if his old pal would come out and play in the mazes but he was ignored. KC was sad, he'd lost a good friend. KC suspected his big and very competitive uncle - Atari - had put Pac-Man up to it but he couldn't prove it. Finally on a sunny afternoon KC gathered all his courage to confront his uncle and took some freshly made White and MultiColoured Munchies - baked by his mother Mrs Magna Vox - as a peace offering. But it all went sour as his uncle had KC arrested for trespassing. KC didn't get a fair trial and now spends his days officially shelved while his cousin is still parading up and down his maze...
The Gloglord was an old King who ruled over all of the lands. He was a savage man in his youth, but with his old age he had become more docile and - if you were to believe his guards - sometimes even a little bit kind. He stayed in his throne room most days, even though it was extremely hot in there, due to terrible ventilation and the water heater and drying machine blaring at full blast in the corner. "At least it smells nice" was a bit of a catch phrase for the old Gloglord.
One day, the Gloglord blew his whistle, the sound of which summoned Tomothe, his fanciest and most noble guardsman. Tomothe skipped into the throne room, unsheathed his spear, and greeted the king.
"How may I serve you, my Liege?" asked Tomothe.
"Firstly, you can get me a Dr. Pepper." replied the Gloglord, hesitantly.
"As you wish, my lord." replied Tomothe and he began to skip over to the refridgerator, which was also filling the throne room with a somewhat loud buzz.
"Ah - Tomothe?" said the Gloglord, his voice cracking. "Tomothe, there's something else."
"I see, my lord. Well, do you still want the Dr. Pepper?"
"Well, yes, but I drank the last can late last night."
"Oh, well, would you like me to travel to the shopping center and-"
"No, Tomothe. Well, maybe, but in a few minutes. Right now I want to speak to you."
"My Liege?" said Tomothe, and he sat down in front of the Gloglord, indian-style.
"Yes, Tomothe. I haven't told anyone about this yet, but... well, it appears in my old age I have developed... powers."
"Powers, my lord? Such as what?"
"Well, so far, I definitely have snow powers."
"Yes. Snow powers. I can shoot snow out of my fingertips and I am extremely good at making snowballs and even snowmen."
"I see." replied the guard. "My lord, can we try this new power of yours now?"
"Absolutely." said the Gloglord with a great smile.
The Gloglord rose, said some magic words, and began to fire snow-beams at the floor, covering the dank dungeon floor with a thick blanket of snow. The Gloglord and Tomothe the guard then played for hours and hours, making snowmen, snow angels, and having snowball fights. They were very happy.
"Hey Tomothe?" Asked the Gloglord, holding off on throwing his latest snowball. "Can I come with you to the store to get more Dr. Pepper?"
Tomothe's eyes widened and a great smile crossed his face. "Of course you can, my liege! It'll be fun! I have a bonus savings card and if it is on sale we will experience great savings!"
This news pleased the Gloglord. "Tomothe, you are a good guard. Let's be best friends forever."
OK, Keith, I'll bite, what game is "The Gloglord" and how is that one paragraph? ;-)
The Gloglord is a very rare character you can meet in the Famicom game "100 World's Story: Tales on a Watery Wilderness." I highly recommend you check it out. He also appears as a bit of an easter egg in "Faxanadu". Apologies about the length, I got carried away. I'll see if I can trim it down.