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April 4, 2012 / jwaxo

Captain Comic (Endings)

It’s pretty crazy that I see pictures I’ve drawn when I look for reference pictures nowadays.

I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just repeating the same old song-and-dance before writing this post up and I stumbled upon an interesting figure: namely, that this blog has been fully operating for just over one full year now. That’s pretty crazy! This is actually my 107th post (although only really the 104th because of a couple placeholders and such). And that’s a pretty high number!

These facts have absolutely nothing to do with today’s topic.

Recently a pretty large video game trilogy came to an end, one that has been ongoing since 2007, and whose ending has a great deal of debate: Mass Effect. I really don’t need to talk about the events that happen at the end of Mass Effect 3 and the numerous things that everyone seems to think is wrong with it, but it did get me reflecting on the endings of games, and how they have evolved through the years, and the different things we’ve learned from them.

This naturally brought me back to the first game that I ever saw the “true” ending to. A game with no save feature, lots of backtracking, an inventory, and one heck of an ending.

That’s right. The original. The first. The initial game I can remember ever playing.

Captain Comic.

“Hey! That’s the blog’s avatar/logo-thing!”

I have no idea how we got the original Captain Comic. As far as I can remember it was always there, sitting on that diskette, ready to be played. It was a hard little game, one with limited lives and doors that could be opened before you were supposed to go in them and enemies that were pretty gosh-darn mean. It wasn’t nearly as forgiving as its sequel, which had a save feature and some pretty extensive exploration. It wasn’t a very easy game, but it was colorful and pretty and challenged my hand-eye coordination.

In other words, the perfect game to learn about games from.

It even had a story, a simple one that my four-year-old brain could comprehend: you, as the eponymous Captain, must track down the lost treasures of the planet Omsoc. So little was known about the captain that, with the years of playing the game over and over, I started to fill in the bits myself.

He was a loner, a mercenary hired by the royalty of Omsoc. He had a small ship, but no real supplies other than his extra lives and a single can of Blastola Cola, and no direction to go other than “the castle on planet Tambi”. From there he set out on his lonesome quest of returning those lost items. A radical, outer-space version of Indiana Jones.

Most similarities end there, I guess. It’s not even canonical, so don’t get too upset.

The thing is, that’s what we had to do with all of these games. Computers were generally too limited to have much of a story without having the entire game be in text, or having huge amounts of text hidden in them. So, with the years and years of playing piling up on each other, the story only grew bigger and more epic in my mind. The space station that you go to was used by the evil people of Tambi to conduct horrible space experiments. The trees in the far background in some screens looked like they were moving because they were–Tambi spies were everywhere. When the Captain finally got everything back, he would be hailed as a hero back on Omsoc, and there would be an awesome animation of celebration.

Then, finally, with some help from my dad, I managed to beat Captain Comic. And I was rewarded with a high score (not recorded anywhere) and a screen telling me that Captain Comic had succeeded, but more trouble awaited him in the sequel.

That. Was. It.

What’s hilarious about this, what’s absolutely, knee-slappingly great about it, is that I didn’t care that it was a crappy, empty ending. I didn’t. I had beaten the game! It was finished! Captain Comic’s adventure was finished, that book closed on my (and his) life. So I didn’t see what happened after the end, assuming I never played the sequel. That was okay. The important parts of this game were finished, and I was satisfied.

I don’t really know when games started becoming so story-oriented. I’m definitely not saying that “things were better back in the day” or even that I prefer my games with no story; I’m pretty sure my recorded history begs to differ in a million different ways. What I’m saying is that sometimes the ending you want, no matter how much more complete it would be, may not be the point of the game. Sometimes the point of the game is the actual game that you play until it ends.

And that’s kind of a lesson about life, I suppose.

Also, Mass Effect ends with Commander Shepard fighting a bear. True story.

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