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Posts tagged “History

A History of Santa Claus in Video Games

Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas one and all! ‘Tis the season to be jolly and all that, so that means the man in red will come back out, gracing our rooftops with Reindeer droppings. He’ll fall down a chimney like the world’s clumsiest rooftop repair man and he’ll then have the audacity to eat your mince pies and drink your milk, beer, baileys, expensive wines or otherwise. After all, Santa Claus knows how to have a good time; even if he is a good fellow at heart.



Video Game History of Casinos

Video games have been known to divulge into the sometimes dangerous world of gambling, that much is fact. Whether or not you’d like to admit it, gamers are targeted with gambling and other vices. Whether you’re playing a game of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in the Casino Night Zone, playing some of the classic Leisure Suit Larry’s Casino, or you prefer to actually play some online roulette or play and win real money, gambling is a very serious discussion in the real world.


Whitechapel – An Unexpected Horror Series

The Ripper returns to Whitechapel, the London district in which the almost mythological serial killer eviscerated five women, possibly many more. A new straight-laced detective inspector joins his new team in time to catch the start of the investigation, struggling through the mistrust of his down-to-earth sergeant even as he tries to sell them on the notion of a new Jack the Ripper, as a noted “Ripperologist” and street-tour guide shares everything he knows.

The series ran on ITV between 2009 and 2013, four short seasons of one of the best procedural crime dramas I’ve ever seen, but not merely because of the subject matter. The show began with Jack the Ripper, moved on to London’s gangster family the Kray twins, and goes darker and darker as they introduce more stories into the later seasons. Tension, fear, and paranoia run through the show, and the viewer is hurled through an experience more akin to a horror film marathon rather than Law and Order or The Mentalist. (more…)

Top 10 Cows

GeekOut Top 10s

Mooo-ve over goats, it’s time to pay our respects to the bovine beasties of the world with our next list. Trot on over to your seats ladies and gentlemen, as it’s Saturday and that can only mean it’s time for another strange collection to graze through. Selected by you, we’ll prove we’ve got no beef with this weeks choice. We’re not playing around when it comes to milking these puns today, it’s time for our Top 10 Cows!

Top 10

10. The Tauren – Warcraft


“Moo, are you happy now?”

Ah yes, the Tauren of Warcraft are an incredibly nomadic people. These huge humanoids resemble cows and bulls, akin to that of a Minotaur. The difference with these folk are their shamanistic and druidic ways, as opposed to a typical Minotaur view of solitude and isolation, making the Tauren a lot more of a herd mentality that we’re used to from cows in general. The Tauren are a noble people, who sided with the Orcs and their Horde.

One interesting point about the Tauren is their strange relationship to the Night Elves. On the one hand, war separates the two, yet they’re both keen on the protection of the Earth. If only these two races kept to themselves; perhaps fel energies wouldn’t be so present there on Azeroth. Coming in only at number 10, the Tauren are one of the more neglected, but certainly lovable aspects of Warcraft.

9. The Brazen Bull

Brazen Bull

Torture is a terribly creative affair, it’s incredible the ways we find to bring each other pain. The bronze bull or Sicilian bull was devised a means of executing prisoners by imprisoning them in a metal sculpture that is slowly heated until the victim is cooked to death, oh but that’s not the creepiest part. Smoke was allowed to curl out of the beast’s nostrils, and a series of pipes and tubes made the horrified screams emerge as the enraged howling of the bull.

If you want to see exactly how horrific that can be, watch Immortals by Tarsem Singh, it’s a rather superb take on a classic Greek tale, but it’s also rather gruesome. Magic: the Gathering also brought out a Brazen Bull card entitled Deserter’s Quarters. And as if Amnesia wasn’t creepy enough, there’s even a haunted Bull in the torture chambers that still screams when a fire is lit beneath it.

8. Cow – Cow and Chicken

Cowandchicken Cow

The cartoon series that featured the grotesque and childish mishaps and happenings of the brother sister team, hard-done-by 11 year old Chicken and his overly emotional 7 year old sister Cow. While Chicken largely tries to ignore or berate his sister he cannot escape the fact that he is literally overshadowed by the big, fat and ugly cow he is charged with protecting.

Cow is massive, loving, easily brought to fits of hysteria or bouts of tears, either accompanied by an emotional moo. Considering their neglectful and unhinged parents it’s little wonder that the unlikely siblings have issues of their own, although it probably doesn’t help that they share a creator with Ren and Stimpy.

7. #241 Miltank – Pokemon


When Miltank was released upon the Pokemon franchise, at first I thought it was going to be a bit of a joke Pokemon, not really understanding the meta-game importance it would achieve. Even to this day, a well trained Miltank can seriously soften a blow for a team that needs the time to set up. This beefy, tanky cow is able to withstand some really devastating attacks from many different types.

Miltank isn’t anything special really; but the fact it was such a sturdy tank for so long and can still soak up the damage is testament to how well this bovine Pokemon has fit in with the franchise. Whether it’s surviving by the skin of its teeth and drinking… Er… It’s own milk to recover health, or if it’s the surprisingly useful move set that jumps out at you, don’t worry: Miltank will never be forgotten as one of the greatest assets from Generation 2.

6. The Secret Cow Level – Diablo 2


If you’ve never heard of the Secret Cow level, then you’ve either never played Diablo 2 or you’ve never used Google before. The Secret Cow level is an Easter Egg of mythical proportions, a secret passed down from player to player and even from Diablo to Diablo (only it sometimes changes forms to other things, such as rainbow unicorns and ponies in the process).

The Secret Cow Level requires you to get the Horadric Cube and to place inside of it Wirt’s Leg, a seemingly useless item from Tristram and with it, put a Tome of Town Portal in there with it. Transmute the items together and a red gate will appear, as if conjured up by hell itself. This only happens when you’ve beaten Diablo and are taken back to the Rogue Encampment for the first time. Do not select a higher level of difficulty, for you’ll have to beat that ones Diablo. Be prepared, as these cows are tough, wielding halberds and polearms of all sorts… But the treasures beyond the portal are immeasurable.

5. Ballistic Cow/Fetchez la Vache – Monty Python and the Holy Grail

We have a Holy Grail, it’s very nice, but you cannot come in to see it. Now go away or we shall taunt you a second time! Or hurl livestock at you via trebuchet, or possibly mangonel.

In the same way that this flung cattle is the opening salvo in a barrage of assorted debris, clutter and livestock, this is one of the many, many, many many, manymany MANY jokes from Holy Grail that would seemingly live forever in the form of a wide variety of weaponised cows, many of whom appear on this list! It may not be the most famous part of the scene, but it’s perhaps the most parodied.

And this one is for your mother.

4. Cow Launched – Earthworm Jim

Considered one of the weirdest plot devices in all of video game history, Earthworm Jim is about an earthworm, named Jim, who becomes super powerful whenever he puts on his intergalactic suit. With the universe in danger from Queen Slug-For-A-Butt, Jim sets out to go and save Princess Whats-Her-Name and to hopefully steal a smooch from her. Little did he know, his dreams of smooching the damsel would be completely smooshed.

In a weird twist, the princess is flattened by a cow that falls from outer space. Jim, beside himself, leaves the scene… Only to return to steal her crown after the land has cracked away at the cow and the princess. But why would a cow fall from space like that? Back in the first level, a trap is set up to force you to progress the game. The trap forces you to launch the same cow into orbit, where you see the cow travelling by at insane speeds throughout the game. Crazy, silly ending, for a crazy, silly game.

3. Cows & Cows & Cows and Moo – Cyriak

Cows & Cows & Cows is a video featuring a large bunch of cows in a field, perhaps even a whole herd of cows. They start to moo in a rather catchy rhythm, mooing cheerily, but somewhat eerily too. They then start to bounce around in silly manners – Oh the joy in those moos. But then, suddenly, the joyful bouncing turns into weird shapes, such as spider cows… And even puddle cows. Very odd. Moo is just as odd, featuring aliens and cows fighting it out for… Something.

It’s really hard to explain what makes these videos (and thus Cyriak) such a highly talented piece of animation. But hey, Cyriak’s YouTube ventures, including both Cows & Cows & Cows and Moo saw his animation expertise be snapped up by both the BBC AND Adult Swim. Who would have ever thought that making some cow-monstrosities would create such an impressive career?

2. Angel/Demon Cow – Black and White


Black & White was a highly anticipated game by Lionhead Studios, who recently shut down for good. It’s a shame, as Lionhead produced some amazing games, such as Black & White and of course, the legendary Fable series. WIth this said, the cow in Black & White was hilarious in many respects. This was a cow that could be bigger than a mountain; or “only” as tall as a building. This was a cow that could be good and heal the sick, or be rotten by healing the sick… then eating them. It could inflict pain like no other, or it could help those who truly were in need. This cow was not only a godsend: It was a literal avatar of a god put on Earth.

This was a close call, having almost made this our number one pick… However, it just loses out because this simply isn’t as well known as our number one choice. That was the only determining factor between the avatar of a god and our next choice…

1. Minotaur – Mythology


Asterion, the bull of Minos, was the misbegotten child of Pasiphae and the Cretan Bull, sent as a curse upon King Minos for failing to sacrifice the bull. In his dispair Minos commanded Asterion imprisoned in a labyrinth, to be slain years later by Theseus, a son of Poseidon. The minotaur is also one of the first things most people think of when they hear the words Greek Myth.

Minotaurs have entered gaming circles as an entire species of evil carnivores bent on destruction. It may be a misappropriation of the source material but it’s one that’s spread throughout the fantasy genre and has built something of a mythology around themselves. A playable race in D&D, a pivotal race in Magic’s plane Theros, and in the mythology based RPG Titan Quest you can fight your way through a horde of the beasts to kill the original beneath the palace of Knossos.

Was there really another choice for geekiest cow? Well yes, it got pretty close with the Avatar in Black and White. In the end it was the far reach and cultural impact of the bullheaded maneater that won out the number one slot.

Honourable Mentions

That wasn’t so bad now, was it? Now that these Moo-vers and shakers have been shuffled along, it’s time for two more to be mentioned. There’s always a couple of layabouts in a large herd. So whether it’s all about being punny, or it’s all about hoofing over another ‘potential’ for our list, here are two more that just deserved to be mentioned.

Bison – Street Fighter

YES m bison


I am so sorry. Bad pun it may be, but it is nerdy, and it’s kind of an interesting piece of trivia. The powerful crime lord in the red military garb is actually named Vega in the original Japanese, the masked fighter with the claws is named Balrog, making the original M. Bison the pugilist we know better as Balrog. The name swap was brought about by the unapologetic similarity to Mike Tyson.

But no matter which Bison you know, both are almost comically exaggerated combatants, and regular antagonists of the series. The boxer is a dirty fighter, and cheats to land bigger paychecks, but the head of the operation has a real god complex that has driven him to pursuing the dark Psycho Power beyond his physical limits.

Not exactly cows, but we couldn’t resist.

Mad Cow – Worms



Amongst the wide variety of brilliantly ridiculous weaponry at the disposal of the heavily armed invertebrates are a collection of barnyard animals, including the sheep, super sheep, concrete donkey, and of course the Mad Cow.

Not the most devastating, not the easiest to control, but a rather interesting balance of the two. Point and shoot to unleash a stampede of wildly trampling cows that detonate on impact, y’know, like cows do. The problem is what they might make contact with, one badly angled launch can be result in a devastating backlash or a heartbreaking waste, but I have seen some rather effective uses by dropping cows from a grappling hook.


I’ve gone mad from all of this cow-talk. So give yourselves a pat, you’ve seriously made us need to farm through the banks of our memories for this one. But don’t think you’ve defeated us, because once again we rose to the occasion and we’ve come up with a list that is definitively GeekOut and is as barn-y as we are. Oh, I really should stop with milking these puns. Take a moment to help us pick our next Top 10:

Don’t have a cow man, that’s the end of our list for this week. Whether or not you had fun trotting through this list, or if you now have some personal beef with us for forgetting your favourite cow, let us know in the comments below. Do you agree with our ordering of these shapely creatures, or do you think we’ve forgotten one all together? Alternatively, share your bovine frustrations with us over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.

Rewriting History

On Sunday, Tim discussed world building from a far more broad perspective than I did in my article DMing 101 – World Building. By and large we have looked at these things from the perspective of creating new worlds, fantastical, fictional, completely fabricated, when in fact we have our own rather stunningly rich history filled with incredibly weird and wonderful characters, places of incredible natural beauty, and complexities beyond comprehension. Many of the worlds we create heavily draw from the real world for inspiration for that exact reason.

I’m not a fan of reality, that’s why I play in fantasy worlds and devise new marvels, wonders and weave such rich tales as I am able, it’s escapism, a break from a world that annoys me, but sometimes you really have to sit back and acknowledge that there are parts worth looking into. If you – like me – simply cannot bear reality as it stands there are ways of making it more enjoyable with only a few little tweaks. (more…)

Geeking Out Hard – Christmas



I love this time of year, and yes I’d go so far as to say that I get more than just a little geeky around about now. Hard to blame me, it’s a time of year where families come together to share food and presents, and while for many of us that’s a time that generates stress, conflict, and bankruptcy, I shamelessly adore Christmas.

If you think it’s a commercial thing, you’re spending too much in too short a space of time. If you think it’s lost all meaning, you’re a couple of thousand years too late. If you hate Christmas, you’re either doing it wrong or have a very grave and indisputable reason, you have my condolences, you deserve a Merry Christmas more than most.


Saturnalia, pulled from the Roman adoption of pagan solstice, is the source of most of our traditions at this time of year, especially in Britain, Europe and America. The feast, the evergreens, the lights, all stem from assorted Viking, Gaelic, and Celtic rituals along with dozens of others, comprised of the rituals in celebration of many religious figures, Yule, Odin, Horus, and of course Jesus.

Santa himself has deep roots in the same mythologies, hence the frosty abode and eternally full beard. However, he’s not the only mythic beasty roaming abroad, and not all of them are giving out presents. We all know Krampus snatches up children in a sack with many a rattling of chains, but there are some parents out there who may prefer a visit from the Christmas Ogress Grýla, a horror from Icelandic lore who eats bad children, except for her own brood of seasonal tricksters, the Yule Lads, a band of trolls who steal food and things over Yuletide.


There is the ever-famous Zwarte Piet (Black Peter), who in certain cultures is the politically incorrect Robin to Santa’s jolly-old Batman. As the name might imply, Peter is most often depicted as being black-skinned, originally because he was a messenger to Saint Nick who sent reports of mortal behaviour via the chimney, but later with a retelling of the medieval book Golden Legend, Saint Nicolas gained a miracle to his name, the saving of a slave boy. All perfectly innocent, but so were the black and white minstrels at one time. Things have a tendency to change with the passing of time.

Same with Christmas…

December 25th Around The World

The amalgam of holidays and rituals that come together at this time of year are not merely limited to the gathering of families, and sharing of home, hearth, food and gifts. And in places where winter is not a near-fatal experience that drives those to resort to sacred rites invoking the return of the sun, gathering together for survival is less essential than beating each other half to death to settle old scores.


In fact most cultures do something sometime around midwinter, most commonly on the 25th, and though the course of the calendar has shifted a little over the centuries so that the year’s shortest day (in the northern hemisphere) no longer falls on the exact date, it’s still incredible to think that almost everyone on the planet is coming together to celebrate at once. Some are political (India’s Good Governance Day, Taiwan’s Constitution Day), others are historic (Quaid-e-Azam Day, Malkh Festival), some atheists celebrate Newtonmas, the birthday of Sir Isaac Newton.

Famously, Axis soldiers invited Allied soldiers to a few games of football in no man’s land on Christmas day 1914, (Weihnachtsfrieden, Trêve de Noël) along with gift exchanges and photographs. Sadly the impromptu celebrations were not universal, and many soldiers suffered worse than foul-play during the truce, and the unsolicited camaraderie resulted in harsher orders coming down from the powers that be for fear that the common soldiery would start to doubt the war. Does that make the legendary day any less special? The incredible power of a single, universal day of joy shattered rivalries and broke the absolute rule of the officers and joined to nations at war at their most basic level.


I start my shopping in August, often before Christmas starts showing up in the warehouses of shops (although not much before, tinsel starts showing up before August is even over) so I not only spread the cost across months, I’m also immersed in presents for about a third of the year. I’m spreading cost, saving myself some effort in December, and thinking about other people more than I should as a retail worker. Yesterday I suffered with people coming to me with last flailing grabs for Christmas presents (a laptop is not an afterthought you over-paid halfwits) and resenting me for not having it in stock! Imagine the smugness I felt.

And yes, I like getting presents! My gaming group always get me the most awesome stuff, doesn’t matter how much they spend, be it a couple of pounds or a couple of dozen, they know me, and know exactly how to make me smile. I like to think I do right by them, this year I put together a kind of Loot-Crate style box of mini-presents, some generic, some specialised, sounds like I’ll be doing the same again next year, although with different stuff inside.


Oh, and thanks Tim for my present, you mean a lot to me too. It hasn’t stayed in the kitchen, it just photographed better against the kettle than the mantelpiece.

Top 10 Painful Backstories

It’s not easy being a fictional character, just ask characters such as Bruce Banner who becomes The Hulk through a tortuous metamorphosis. Whilst some characters have clearly got it bad now that they’ve developed, other characters had it bad before they became who they are today. With this in mind, we thought we’d pay homage to those characters who happen to have some particularly painful backstories.

Whether it’s emotional or physical, no stone has been left unturned. We’ve spoken to the professionals on this matter and they’ve informed us that these are indeed some painful backgrounds. So let’s get on with it, our Top 10 for this week!

Top 10

10) Jackie Estacado, The Darkness


Characters like Jackie aren’t exactly the most “pained” background, compared to some of the guys in our list, but he did have a very emotionally challenging journey. His wife was killed early on and he became rather… Let’s just say bitter.

He became one with a powerful entity only known as The Darkness, but if that wasn’t bad enough, he himself has died on several occasions. Challenging and unsettling, Jackie is out there to get vengeance on those who did wrong.

9) Hellboy – Dark Horse


It’s never going to be easy being half-demon half-witch,  but it’d surely be an awful lot simpler if your arm is not immediately sliced off and replaced by a weapon of incredible destructive power. It’s probably no fun to be cast out of hell before your father is encased in ice for his treachery. Fortunately the mortal world is full of loving souls who will gladly show you the finer things in life, people whom you in turn will love and protect, and outlive, and be forced to watch grow old and die, all the while knowing that you are destined to bring about their doom.

Anung Un Rama has a pretty easy life amongst the people who he serves, generally regarded as a hero by those who know him at all. But hanging quite literally over his head is the constant reminder of his heritage, the big curly horns he pulled off by hand in order to denounce his father.

8) Aang, Avatar


Yeaaah, we don’t need to say much about this one. When he was a boy, he was told that he would have the weight of the world on his shoulders.

He’s was taken away from a normal life as a boy at the young age of 6 who would become the Avatar, however he was told that he would have to bare the issues of the world. Isolation, important duties and never being able to be a real child… Now that’s sad.

7) Runcible – Titansgrave


I enjoyed watching Wil Wheaton’s AGE system RPG. I’ve seen him in a players seat before, and briefly DMing too, but Titan’s Grave was full of rich characters, an interesting world, and a fun and compelling narrative that was unafraid to go dark.

Oh and dark was exactly where it went. The idea that immortality is a curse is best summarised by the poor lonesome toy, designed to be the best friend of a young man who died years before, who wanders alone without anyone to play with or repair his scratches or jumpy motors. When the players arrive in the abandoned mansion where he lives, he is so terribly lonely that he insists they play a game with him before he helps.

A half robot teddy bear wandering around an empty mansion demanding that hard-ball player characters play children’s games is profoundly creepy, and Hank Green is understandably freaked out by him, but alas poor Runcible only has goodness in his heart. He may be permanently cheerful, but he’ll break your cold, shrivelled heart.

6) Zidane Tribal, Final Fantasy IX


So this guy is a Genome, which is pretty cool. He was sent to Gaia as a destroyer of the planet… Which again is pretty damn cool. However, he kinda crash landed and managed to forget everything. However, what happened next could only be described as harsh.

He was adopted by a man who lived out in the middle of nowhere… And this man would beat him whenever he went out to go and find out who he is. Boots. Fists. Belts. Ouch… Harsh. Guess what? He basically gets Stockholm Syndrome, too.

5) Dr. Gregory House M.D.


More widely acknowledged as the best modern interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, House has one particular driving force that he does not share with his inspiration. Not many people have the dubious fortune to experience the death of muscle. His stubborn refusal to have his leg taken from him results in the decision to remove a chunk of his thigh muscle, leaving him lame, increasingly bitter, and famously addicted to Vicodin.

His suffering began long before that of course. His step-father was abusive, as was his grandmother. His doting mother seems almost obstinately oblivious to her son’s suffering, and House spends years tortured by his inability to confront her over it. The experience has left him jaded and misanthropic (odd for a doctor, but never mind), made far worse by the constant pain in his leg.

4)Rorschach – The Watchmen


Problematic children are a general theme of the painful backstories. However Rorschach had a very abused childhood who was the son of a prostitue. Abuse rife in his childhood, Rorachach wanted to see justice in the world.

Becoming increasing voilent through the rest of his childhood until he was taken in by a home for problem children, he became better… at boxing and being violent! But no matter, he enjoyed a specific fabric and made himself into a form of super hero because of it. Hurrah!

3) Harvey “Two Face” Dent – Batman


Gotham’s public saviour, district attorney Harvey Dent had fought for years against his own bipolar depression and hereditary schizophrenia (inherited from his abusive father) to rise through the political ranks in his crusade to end the reign of the criminal families of the city. Better known for his hard-line stance on organised crime and good looks at the time, the incident changed it all for the polar opposite.

Be it the acid thrown at him by Sal Maroni, or the fire that engulfed him in the Joker’s plot, the newly emerged “Two Face” is so badly disfigured that his mind finally gives in to the latent madness. Permanently marked by a constant reminder of how his conquest failed, and his revenge drive took him into the darkest recesses of his own mind. Ultimately he became everything he fought to destroy, within and without.

2) Yamask, Pokemon


Yamask is a Pokemon. But it’s actually a dead human being, who can remember everything about his or her past. Now, that’s not so bad… Until you realise that it carries around a mask which is an exact copy of its real living face.

Whenever it looks at its face, it cries. Uncontrollably! It remembers everything about its past, including any family it had and now it has to be in the power of some child who believes he is the very best.

1) The Weapon X Project


Once again we were hit with indecision!

Wolverine has been alive for an insanely long time. In that time he has fought alongside friends in every major historical war, and watched them all die, but he felt no loss more keenly than the respect that was lost in the franchise films – I mean the death of Silverfox his first wife at the hands of Sabertooth.

Deadpool has cancer of the everything. Just everywhere…

Either way, the most brutal and terrible part of their life is involvement in the Weapon X program. The terrible, government-sanctioned illicit experimentation on human and mutant subjects to create ultimate soldiers and compliant weapons for the United States taking place at “The Facility” have no regard for morality or the resultant mental torture, only the destructive power of the end result.

Logan was kidnapped by the project and infused with adamantium, the molten metal adhered to his skeleton while he was still conscious. His boundless healing allowed his body to accommodate the augmentation.

Wilson on the other hand was artificially imbued with the same healing factor that Weapon X stole from Wolverine as a “cure” for his cancers. It failed, instead his body is now locked in eternal war with cancer, he lives his life permanently disfigured and entirely insane – or possibly the most sane of anyone alive.

The Weapon X project is a catalogue of pain, torture and emotional distress, so which of these classic cases suffered most? Cast your vote!

Honourable Mention

Kane, WWE

Kane being Kane

The wrestler Kane is a character filled with bad intentions, but also a dreadfully sad background. He doesn’t make our list as he’s not really y’know… Geeky… But he is to me damn it! Brother of the Undertaker, he’s a masked menace who has been terrorising the roster of the WWE for many years and hopefully more to come.

Growing up, he was subjected to setting the family house on fire, as well as accidentally burning his mother alive. His father, Paul Bearer, more or less disowned him. The worst thing of all? He burned his face which required him to wear a mask, plus then the most tragic thing of all… He had to have a robotic voice for a while. That was dreadful.

Sir Integra Fairbrook Wingates Hellsing

There are better ways to discover that you have inherited an immeasurably powerful vampiric servant than bleeding to death while you hide in its’ cage, but its’ one hell of a way to put a stop to your murderous traitor uncle.

When her father died Sir Integra found herself at the head of the foremost agency in the world for the hunting and slaying of inhuman monsters, which may be a heavy burden at the age of twelve. Certainly Uncle Richard felt so, but was the pistol and mini-lynch mob entirely necessary? Ultimately this event finds a twenty-two year old Sir Hellsing with a five century old vampire bodyguard and attack dog, but that kind of thing can really leave a mark.

Did you agree with our list for this week, or did you think we should be put on one of those chairs that give you an electric shock, y’know the ones from the arcades but just super-vamp it? If you felt we missed the mark with this one, let us know. If you feel we did justice to the poor men and women who suffered before they became who they are, then let us know again… Or if you just disagree with our order or you feel a character has been omitted in error, let us know in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter. Please remember to hit that like button and vote for next weeks’ Top 10 and for who wins between Wolverine and Deadpool for the most painful backstory.

Huge thanks to all of the members of the GeekOut meetup on October 10th. They helped us write this list and we hope you enjoyed this list too. As always, let us know what we’ve done right ((and more importantly, what we did wrong!))

Roleplay History – Play By Phone

The more I delve through my new collection of magazines the more I learn. The 80’s were a weird and alien time, a world practically without computers or mobile phones, where hair was something to be experimented on in perverse and potentially dangerous ways, where music was never better or worse depending on who you talk to.

And my own favourite hobby was in the process of exploding, but on it’s way to maturity, it went through some odd phases.

Play By Phone

Amidst the vast array of PBM adverts and groups looking for players, I discovered a genre that boggled my mind. Play by phone adventure gaming is exactly what it sounds like, players call and play out a game, interacting via the dial-pad, receiving feedback via narrative and sound effects.


F.I.S.T, Fantasy Interactive Scenarios by Telephone was a game created by Steve Jackson of Munchkin and GURPS fame, it boasted a medieval fantasy world of terror, trapped within a dark labyrinth riddled with the undead, filled with realistic sound effects. The first F.I.S.T was Castle Mammon: Lair of the Demon Prince, and was released in 1988. It proved successful enough to produce a sequel, F.I.S.T 2 The Rings of Allionand were both based heavily on Jackson’s Fighting Fantasy novel series, a choose-your-own-adventure style game with greater gameplay focus.

The game included a broader range of options than the format might suggest. Aside from the options presented by narrator Tony Jackson, players could listen again at any time by pressing 0, and even save the game to the game’s server, hear their inventory of items and hear other options by pressing 9. Calls were not cheap however, and the first game also required players to sit and pay to listen to the long introduction scene at 38p per minute (with the sequel offering hard-copy books to read to start the adventure).

F.I.S.T was not alone, Steve Jackson also released a gladiatorial combat game where the number pad correlated to locations on the body to strike or defend. Much beyond that it’s hard to find other examples of play by phone games, the format died rather rapidly despite it’s success, an investigation of BT by the Competition Commission caused major problems for the operating company – Computerdial.

How Things Have Changed

I’ll go into this further at a later date, but computer games changed, and were changing dramatically. The realism and diversity of options offered by F.I.S.T gave way to increasing visual immersion and fewer limitations in gameplay, and sound quality improved faster than anything else.

Unlike play by mail, play by phone can’t really claim much by way of a lasting legacy, except that Steve Jackson continues to create new and interesting games, bringing his own unique stamp to board games and role-playing, and in some way these games must have furthered his already impressive career. The idea of an audio only form of gameplay may seem interesting, but really only as a novelty these days, certainly nothing that anyone would pay 38p per minute for, even taking inflation out of the equation.

Sadly, the grand summation of F.I.S.Ts legacy may well be a few obscure wiki pages, and these adverts in old magazines.

Cosplay, a history

Whoo boy, this won’t be a small post now, will it? This is a very brief summary of the history of cosplaying and what cosplaying is like today, along with some resources/websites to get your feet wet with the fandom.


Cosplay, ladies and gentlemen. A pass-time of many a geek. It’s also the pass-time I am starting to explore that keeps me away from being in front of a monitor 24/7 (work, games, studies).

See, I have always been a gamer. To extend my gaming to another medium, such as dressing up, is my way of expressing myself and my interests to those who ordinarily wouldn’t know about my interests. It is immediate, fun and very social.

So, how did it all start?

Cosplay, humble beginnings

Early days of cosplaying! Though it was just “Costumes” then! Thanks Wikipedia for this one!

Actually, we always tend to associate cosplay with Japan, thanks to anime and manga being such a booming industry. In theory, before Japan started to suit up, there was America!

Yes, although back then it wasn’t cosplaying. It was simply some people dressing up like a character to express their love for their interests. Cosplay, the word, was supposedly coined at the World Fantasy Summit, when an artist was admiring the fans who turned art from comics, animation or series to a physical representation.

This Japanese man, Nobuyuki Takahashi, was a part of the anime studio called “Studio Hard”. The words he used to describe these people who made costumes themselves from all sorts of bits and bobs, were “kosu” for “costume” and “pure” for “play”. When translated back to English, we literally get Cosplay. Nice. (Just as a little note to those who aren’t sure how that happened, the Japanese are known for taking two words and joining them together to make another word. Don’t believe me? We’ll use our good friend Wikipedia!)

In Japan, cosplay even affects the street fashion! In western worlds, a bit different, but cosplayers often incorporate other “Dressing up” hobbies, such as Live Action Role Playing (LARPing), Fursuiting and many other similar interests.

Cosplay, today

Pretty incredible!

Due to the success of anime and manga, Japan helped to make cosplaying a very normal thing to do at a convention! The idea behind going to a convention suddenly expanded from the super fans and people who wanted to find more of their interest, to the very vocal and eager to participate fans we see at many an anime convention today!

As well as this, competitions are set up for cosplayers, with different categories. One of the largest cosplay competitions is the euro cosplay championships. With participants all over Europe, this is where the best of the best are picked out and are judged by a panel. Prizes are available for the different categories and more and more people enter these championships as cosplaying gets ever bigger!

Cosplayers don’t limit themselves to conventions, however! Sometimes, they meet up as a social get together. Even here, in Bristol, there is a cosplay clubnight for cosplayers to get together and par-tay! But how do cosplayers work today? Cosplayers have a few avenues to go down, depending on how much cash they have and their interest in the DIY aspect:

  1. DIY – So yes, DIY Cosplay. This is where a cosplayer will work on his/her costume him/herself. Wigs are usually bought by specialists, however some cosplayers who’ve been cosplaying for some time will make even the wigs themselves! I am a DIY cosplayer, in that I don’t really ever want to “buy” my parts. I want to make all of the parts. I made a mistake on my first cosplay event, in that I gave myself almost no time to do it in, however the fan base were very supportive and very nice. Many even complimented the character (Even though practically the whole costume fell apart! Clubnights in cosplay… Wow… Pretty hot!)
  2. Commissioned pieces – As I mentioned earlier in this post, some people actually have made a living out of this! I.E they take commissions, make the costume for someone else with specifications and tailor make the costume for an individual. This is quite a popular avenue, albeit more expensive than routes 1 and 3. Sometimes, route 1 (DIY) is more expensive than commissioned pieces, but this would be down to the experience of the cosplayer in their craft and/or the materials being used.
  3. Store bought – There are some stores that sell whole pieces in a “ready to wear” fashion. Simply ready to ship, these are mass produced for people who want to cosplay, however don’t want to spend hours upon hours making their costumes. Also, store bought costumes can, sometimes, be cheaper than the DIY route.

So, if you’re going to do a cosplay costume and you want to Do It Yourself, how do you do so?

Cosplayers have to learn many a new technique. I went into cosplaying not knowing how to sew. I now know (kind of) how to sew and can piece some things together. Not yet in a “great” way, but hey, it’s better to start small and learn slowly but surely. For my next costume, I had to learn how to mould thermoplastics (Worbla’s).

The internet has provided the world of cosplayers a much easier time to start off. We share our experiences, we help others get started, we can ask one another for suggestions and tips. Social media has brought people together in a big way, including cosplayers. It’s well worth checking out some of the bigger websites (For the UK, try Cosplay Island) just to see what the fandom is like for this.

Interested in anime conventions, but not cosplaying?

Even if you decide to never cosplay but are interested in anime conventions in general, do not hesitate to go to one. They’re great fun with an excellent and supportive fanbase who want to talk to one another, share their interests and… Make… Skits… Like the below…