Traveling and Lies in 16-bit

You might have read something referring to me as a traveling games journalist. Maybe you’re wondering what that means. Well, let me tell you! It’s a lot like a ticket. On that ticket is printed the following:


See, I’ve got my Dad’s genes. My Dad spent his life enjoying such retarded misadventures as flying a hot-air balloon across Africa, poking around some caves under Iran (then Persia), crashing an airship in the south of England and supervising the building of a steamboat and riding it down the Amazon, all while getting married and divorced three times. Most recently he tried to get together a team of octogenarians to ride a raft made of oil pipes across the Atlantic, but they only got as far as an appearance on the Richard and Judy show before the funding fell through. I think the companies involved realised they were going to have their logo stamped on the side of a project that was, statistically, going to feature death.

The point is the man cannot sit still and neither can I. This worked out alright for him. As an adventurer by trade, he spent his life making documentaries, seducing natives and discovering species. But I am a videogames journalist. I’ll be clutching backpack-straps in some strange new city and the only thing on my mind will be how the fuck I’m going to review this new 360 release without access to a 360, or a TV, or a roof.

But this braindead combination of traveller and gamer has LEARNED ME A THING OR TWO.

I spent my youth playing 16 bit RPGs, each one tingling like pepper in my bloodstream. Secret of Mana, Illusion of Gaia, Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, Landstalker, Earthbound, all of them magical stories of growth, love and hardship. I existed in these games, and now they exist in me.

These were games with themes of traveling, and it connected with me on some deep level.

But you know what? It was all BULLSHIT.

I hereby present to you a choice selection of the lessons I had to learn. These are the lies of the 16-bit era.

  1. On a real adventure, you will not find the lowest-level enemies first. Low-level enemies must be found through trial and error.
  2. Warthogs are not low-level enemies.
  3. Bandits are not low-level enemies.
  4. Rats are DEFINITELY NOT low-level enemies.
  5. Sleeping in an inn will only recover your health 30% of the time.
  6. Inter-party romances do exist, but they will never involve you.
  7. You still want to routinely buy the most expensive equipment you can afford, but must balance it with the additional mechanic that really powerful armour will cause people to call you a fag.
  8. Paralysis cannot be cured by an item.
  9. Blindness cannot be cured by an item.
  10. Poison can be cured by an item, but you won’t have it.
  11. Fear can be cured by an item known as booze, although this also causes Confusion.
  12. Darkness cannot be cured by an item, but can be cured by having sex.
  13. Stone cannot be cured by an item, but can be cured by taking less drugs.
  14. Sleep cannot be cured by an item, but can be cured by extremely long overnight bus rides where screaming children ask you for money all fucking night.
  15. Oil can be cured by washing.
  16. There is no quest.
  17. There are levels, but going up one only means a slight rise in constitution and a new dialogue option that’s just “Leave me alone” in a different language.
  18. There is no ending.
  19. You will have to fight random battles with every single person who joins your party.
  20. You will never be cast out of your hometown for causing or being involved in some terrible tradgedy. Your hometown will always exist and features a system whereby it dynamically gets dirtier, more depressing and more of your old friends can be seen wearing slacks.
  21. Similar to Quest Items, some objects will be placed in your inventory and you won’t be able to use them or drop them. These are called Souveniers, or Useless Sentimental Shit.

All this said, giving in to the urge to dress like a character from an RPG will go a good way to keeping you sane. This is me in Tibet:


LEGEND OF DOUCHEBAG. You can just see the fighter pilot goggles around my neck, there.

That’s all for now, kids, except (‘case you missed ’em!) a link to my Eurogamer retrospective of God Hand, my appearance on the latest Rock Paper Shotgun podcast and my recent column on Demon’s Souls.

Be good, now.



  1. Herre, that’s some funny-assed shit.

    There should’ve been a reference to potion shops somewhere in here.

    Zephyr — a superhero webcomic in prose

  2. This is a good thing, this thing here.

  3. Jae Armstrong says:

    Darkness cured by sex? Do we want to know?

  4. @jae – because woooow wooow his sex is on fire?

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