A magical ritual to pay our rent

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. Kiki Basco
    April 5, 2017 @ 9:37 pm

    “There are two discrete traditions that make up what we call “video games” today, and a lot of the tension in video game culture probably stems ultimately from this[…]”

    Um… I and many others would argue the U.S. military is way more relevant to the development of video games than bricolage couture. The binary you’re setting up here isn’t wrong necessarily, but in the context of a series literally subtitled “Flight Simulator” it’s kind of awkward to not mention the military at all. (Unless you already have in a previous installment.)


    • Josh Marsfelder
      April 6, 2017 @ 1:02 am

      I’m fairly certain I’ve mentioned the old radar games in a (much earlier)previous entry. If I haven’t, they’ll at least get a nod somewhere. They are important.

      I was thinking more about the split between computer hobbyist and arcade game cultures here as I found it more pertinent to the topic at hand.


      • Josh Marsfelder
        April 6, 2017 @ 4:27 am

        Also, Tennis for Two very clearly fits into the category of “real-time action”. I thought that was obvious.


  2. Steve
    April 6, 2017 @ 2:13 am

    Well, after all that build-up, I had a sad when I realized where you were going. I played this game in 1996, and even though I was terrible (I was eleven, and never very good at any videogame), I loved it. The Chodak and the Garidians and the Krindar(sp?) Astrogation Block will forever be in my “headcanon.”


    • Josh Marsfelder
      April 6, 2017 @ 2:18 am

      No, A Final Unity is super fun. Like I said in the last Spectrum Holobyte entry, this is the kind of thing TNG should have done more often. I just wish I had more to say about it.


  3. dm
    April 6, 2017 @ 8:56 am

    On the compatibility front- I managed to get Destiny of the Doctors to play on my old late-2011 MacBook Pro, but it took about a week of tinkering with various emulators- and even then, at least I had the advantage of it being a Windows-based game.

    Why I though DotD was worth a week of tinkering is beyond me…


  4. Sleepyscholar
    April 7, 2017 @ 9:57 pm

    This confused me, because I remember playing A Final Unity, and writing a review of it when it came out, which is odd, because by that stage I had been in Japan for 4 years, and therefore 4 years past working for a computer games magazine.

    But my recollection of the game differs very much from yours: I found it infuriating, especially the ‘spectacular’ video sequences. Part of this may be that I was 31 at the time, and looking for gameplay in preference to visual wows. But not entirely. I was amenable to visual wows, and was impressed by the first few minutes of A Final Unity. But I found that the repetitiveness of the video inserts dragged, and therefore began to feel like annoying interruptions to the actual gameplay, which undermined their impact.

    I do recall being impressed by the way that the game was controlled by choosing which order the captain would give: it seemed a brilliant way to drop you into the TV show.

    I should note, by the way, that I simply didn’t play console games, so I judged A Final Unity purely in terms of the PC games I received (mostly for review): games like Alone in the Dark, Ecstatica, Grim Fandango and even 7th Guest (which my wife loved, and which is surprisingly easy to run under emulation on a modern PC).


    • Josh Marsfelder
      April 7, 2017 @ 11:19 pm

      With the admission a fair portion of this essay was tongue-in-cheek, I tend to feel FMVs are annoying interruptions in general.

      Spectrum Holobyte were clearly trying to make this look as much like a TV episode as possible. Whether or not that was advisable or not is up to your personal preference, and I tend to prefer my video games to be as unlike movies as possible.


      • Sleepyscholar
        April 8, 2017 @ 7:23 am

        I think you’re bang on with the suggestion that they were trying to make it look as much like a TV episode as possible. And that was where things went wrong, as TV episodes don’t just ‘look’, but have structure, feel etc.


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