Monday 3 August 2015

Day of the Tentacle History Lesson: Part 2

Part two of my little guide to increasing your enjoyment of Tim Schafer's and Dave Grossman's seminal adventure game classic DAY OF THE TENTACLE. The game makes many a reference to a somewhat mythological version of American history, which is great if you're an American. But what if you're not?

Here's a bunch of completely true, and no way wrong, commonly held American historical myths that are referenced to in Day of the Tentacle. Ok, so maybe some of them aren't actually true (of course Benjamin Franklin didn't discover electricity), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't use this website as a reference to back up your next pub argument.

Part one is here!

Thanks to the awesome people at the Double Fine forums for helping out with this list!

Betsy Ross

...and the American Flag

Betsy Ross, a modest and self-reliant seamstress, is approached by the founding fathers to see if she could produce a national flag for the new country, based on their design patterns. She was apprehensive, but willing. "I do not know but I could try; I had never made one but if the pattern were shown to me, I do not doubt of my ability to do it." It took the founding fathers a few attempts to get their designs right, but Ross was successful, and so history was made.

Key takeaway: Betsy Ross made the United States national flag from the founding father's designs.

Benjamin Franklin

...and electricity

Benjamin Franklin did something with electricity with a kite that had a key attached. It's all very complicated and weird, and nobody really understands it, but basically by flying a kite in a storm, with a key attached, Franklin discovered electricity.

Ok, while that does appear to be the general understanding on this myth, here's a little more information that makes it make more sense: Franklin's experiment was actually an attempt to prove that lightning and electricity (which was still poorly understood at the time) were one and the same thing. To prove this, he sent a key up into the air on a kite during a storm. Eventually lightning struck the kite and Franklin brought the kite down to earth. If his argument was correct, the key would have a ton of static electricity stored in it, just waiting to zap the next person who decided to touch it, and lo, if he wasn't right.

Key takeaway: Benjamin Franklin "discovered" electricity with a key tied to a kite in a thunderstorm (leading to the kite being struck by lightning)

...and the National Bird

Benjamin Franklin was not convinced that the United States should be represented by a bald eagle, and believed the national bird should have been a turkey. He wrote that he found the bald eagle to be of "bad moral character", as it lazily poaches its food from other animals, and is a "rank coward" as it can be driven from an area by a bird no bigger than a sparrow (the kingbird).

He concluded from this that, "the bald eagle is therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and honest America", and instead looked at the turkey more favourably: "The turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and additionally a true original Native of America, and a bird of courage."

Key takeaway: Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey to be the United States national bird

The Pony Express

The Pony Express was the fastest mail service in the United States, and became legendary for the speed of its delivery across the country.

...and the red flag on the mailbox 

Don't forget, when the flag it up on a mailbox, it means that there's outgoing mail inside waiting to be picked up.

This I've missed something? Comment and let me know! And don't forget to read Part One!

Sunday 2 August 2015

Day of the Tentacle History Lesson: Part 1

Fans of classic LucasArts adventure games will know that Tim Schafer's and Dave Grossman's seminal adventure game classic DAY OF THE TENTACLE (which is due for a Special Edition some point soon) makes references to a slightly-exaggerated (but still very popular) version of American history. There are some great references to get if you're American, but what if you're not?

With that in mind, here are a bunch of completely true, and not in anyway exaggerated or simplified, commonly-held American historical "facts" that are referenced to in Day of the Tentacle, for us non-Americans.

These are the stories you would have heard growing up as a child if you were raised in the US (that you'd later learn as adult were a bit more complicated). They are the shared folklore of the United States, and they are referenced to heavily in Day of the Tentacle.


Some basic scene-setting

During your time in the world of Day of the Tentacle, you'll meet some founding fathers of the United States; George Washington (soon to become the first President), Benjamin Franklin (famous inventor), Thomas Jefferson, and John Hancock. They've declared Independence from Europe, but now they're trying to write a Constitution for their new country.

See also: Part two!

Thanks to the awesome people at the Double Fine forums for helping out with this list!

George Washington... 

...and the Cherry Tree

A six year old George Washington was given a hatchet to play with (hey, it was the 1700s, things were different back then), and it became one of his prized possessions. He would enthusiastically hack at just about anything he could get his hands on, but usually his mother's plants.

One morning, however, he got a little bit carried away with his hacking, and, while nobody was watching, chopped down a beautiful young English CHERRY TREE in his family's back garden.

As it turns out, the tree was a particular favourite of his Dad's, and when he saw what befallen (heh) it he was very angry. He called over his favourite hatchet-happy son, and began the interrogation.

"George," said his father, "do you know who killed that beautiful little cherry tree in the garden?"

George realised he was in serious trouble, but braced himself for punishment and told the truth anyway: "I can't tell a lie, Pa ; you know I can't tell a lie. I did cut it with my hatchet!”

His Dad was so surprised and impressed with his son's honesty in the face of inevitable punishment that he immediately forgave him. "A son's honesty is worth more than a thousand trees!", he said, and gave him a big hug.

Key takeaway: George Washington likes cutting down cherry trees.

...and Valley Forge

Later in his career George Washington commander of the US Army, and things weren't looking good. The British had just taken control of Philadelphia, and were close to victory. Washington's troops were so close to collapse that he had no choice but to retreat to Valley Forge in the hope of getting them some much needed supplies and rest. Unfortunately they found anything but.

Congress had been unable to get supplies through, so his men suffered an incredibly harsh winter at Valley Forge without clothes, blankets, or appropriate food.

Washington refused to give up, however, and forced his men to stick together through the cold, hard winter, despite the terrible conditions. If he hadn't, it's considered that it might have been the end of the Revolutionary War.

Key takeaway: George Washington can handle a bit of cold weather

...and his wooden teeth

George Washington had false teeth... made from wood. Yes, really.

Thomas Jefferson

Hey, it's that guy from the nickel!

John Hancock

...and his massive signature

John Hanock's signature on the Declaration of Independence (and other documents) is always so damned big.

Remember: All of the information here is completely true and in no way a simplified or exaggerated version of history.

Read part two now!

Saturday 1 August 2015

This just in... from 2050

A few years back the BBC started a season of speculative fiction called "What If?", and these funny short news reports, purported to be from 2050, were part of that broadcasting.

I think they're rather brilliant. They feel very real (even if, aesthetically, they've already dated), and I can believe the reports coming true at some point in human history. They just ring true, but with a bit of a cheeky wink. Very clever and amusing.

Will they be loosely accurate, or will they say more about today than about 35 years from now? I hope I live to 2050 to find out!