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.

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