2189: Old Game Worlds

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
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Old Game Worlds
Ok, how many coins for a cinnamon roll?
Title text: Ok, how many coins for a cinnamon roll?


Ambox notice.png This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a VERY OLD GAME CHARACTER. What the hell is a Panera? Do NOT delete this tag too soon.
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.

This comic explores the difference between the real world, where artificial structures require constant upkeep and communities change with time, and the digital worlds of video games, where everything is static until the plot demands otherwise. Although online games do require server maintenance by the owners, offline games are - and always have been - perpetual existences, unchanging so long as the data is intact.

As the narration explores this incongruity, and theorizes about the idea of it not being so, the comic displays the alternative with the ubiquitous video game - Super Mario Bros. (1985) - as an example. Mario arrives in World 1-1 to find a Goomba expressing surprise that the plumber has deigned to return to the place where his first journey began. As he advances, he finds both signs of progress - a cellphone tower, an e-scooter, a drone - and signs of disrepair - damaged Warp Pipes, loose blocks. At World 1-Castle, he finds Toad - usually warning him that the Princess is being held elsewhere - informing him that the castle has been remodeled into a Panera bakery.

The title-text abruptly switches to Mario's acceptance of the changes to World 1-1, and deciding to make the most of it by purchasing a cinnamon roll. "Coins" are the ubiquitous currency of the Mushroom Kingdom and most other locations Mario visits in the Mario series, taking the form of large nondescript golden circles, usually with a rectangular indent on the sides.

Some readers might wonder why there's no mention of even older games like Space Invaders (1978) and Pac-Man (1980), but these games were so abstracted, so pixelated; that there's never an expectation that anything in them would age or deteriorate. Likewise with older text games like the Zork series (1977–79) or their predecessor, Colossal Cave (1976–77). So they are sadly ignored on the timeline of games.

List of games

The first panel shows a list of games in a supposedly reverse chronological order of their release.

  • Subnautica
  • Russian Subway Dogs
  • Kerbal Space Program
  • Worms Armageddon
  • Elasto Mania
  • Katamari Damacy
  • Mario Kart
  • Link's Awakening
  • Escape Velocity
  • SimCity
  • Prince of Persia
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • MS Flight Simulator 3


Ambox notice.png This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.
[A drop down menu is shown with a cursor on the "Super Mario Bros" option.]
New Games
Russian Subway Dogs
Kerbal Space Program
Old Games
Worms Armageddon
Elasto Mania
Katamari Damacy
Mario Kart
Very Old Games
Link's Awakening
Escape Velocity
Prince of Persia
Super Mario Bros [selected]
MS Flight Simulator 3
[A scene is shown from Super Mario Bros side-scrolling game, the first level World 1-1.]
It feels weird that you can go into old games and the whole world is still there.
Goomba: Mario?
Mario: It'sa me!
Goomba: What are you doing here?
[Mario stands between an e-scooter, a cellphone tower and a dismounted Question Mark Box.]
Part of me expects to find that everything's changed.
[Mario looks at a damaged Warp Pipe and there is a drone flying.]
That pipes have rusted, walls have crumbled, bad guys have moved on.
[Mario has moved on to World 1-Castle, the castle has been replaced with a bakery.]
That our worlds have can't escape the passage of time.
Toad: Thank you, Mario!
Toad: But this is a Panera now!
Sign: Panera

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Older games

Quote from explanation: "Some readers might wonder why there's no mention of even older games like Space Invaders (1978) and Pac-Man (1980), but these games were so abstracted, so pixelated; that there's never an expectation that anything in them would age or deteriorate. Likewise with older text games like the Zork series (1977–79) or their predecessor, Colossal Cave (1976–77). So they are sadly ignored on the timeline of games."

  • Nope, sorry, I completely disagree with this. Pacman always felt like a real world to me. Imagine a night club in the afternoon, cleaners mopping, a couple of ghosts sleeping in the corner, sick on a wall, another wall crumbled, muzak playing, the threadworn patterned carpet now visable, pellets scattered, a uniformed teen carefully placing new shiny pellets, another uniformed teen sneaking up on the sleeping ghosts with a net. Space Invaders: the aliens have gone, people have built house out of the ruins of the bunkers, the laser is crashed in a field missing vital parts, cows mill around eating the grass, a guy with an end-is-nigh sign babbles incessantly about aliens coming. Meanwhile Zork and Colossal Cave would also be perfect for this scenario - being text the only limit on then is the imagination of the author (and memory space etc, but shhh). Personally I feel the list just represents some of Randall's favourite games - he was born in 1984 so these games here are before his time and not really games he would gravitate towards when making a list of just 13 games. A74xhx (talk) 07:08, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
Yes, it is easy, with a bit of imagination (and at time of publishing of the games, limiting alternative experiences in video games), to really dive in deeply. But it wouldn't make a good comic, to do these "modern" adaptions to the simple layout of the actual user interface of e.g. pacman. Nevertheless i am not sure if that actually belongs to the explanation, as it is only speculation about something that is NOT in the comic. --Lupo (talk) 07:27, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
Not to mention that the list might just be incomplete and continue on below the visible space. 07:13, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
Ok, removed the paragraph A74xhx (talk) 9:30, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
I'm guessing whoever wrote that former paragraph never played Return To Zork. The very premise of that game is that hundreds of years have passed & the kingdom has fallen into a dystopic state of decay & darkness. Returning to a once-liberated land to find it changed or ravaged by time is a common theme far pre-dating high-detail videogame graphics, & is by no means limited to games with extravagantly detailed visuals. In fact I feel pity for anyone so lacking in imagination that they need advanced graphics just to feel immersed in the fictional settings presented... I guess they wouldn't enjoy books either?
ProphetZarquon (talk) 18:21, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
I disagree. Tunnels of Doom (TI 99/4A, 1982) literally had randomized worlds regenerated every time you went in- with a 3d maze several layers deep. Also Hunt the Wumpus and even nethack are older yet. Of course, Tunnels of Doom came pre-distressed, it was a dungeon crawl after all.Seebert (talk) 11:38, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
The first version of NetHack was released in 1987, so it's definitely not older than Tunnels of Doom. 15:27, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
Consider what is seen in the plot of Only You Can Save Mankind, an acknowledged persistence within the game-universe (except for the 'players' who come back again and again) and even at one point we are shown effectively the relics of Space Invader battles of times past... An interesting book from a philosophical standpoint (though I'm not sure I'd force Randall to read it, if he isn't already aware of it, except as an intro to the minor series that leads up to Johnny And The Bomb which he might find interesting for other reasons) if it isn't just dismissable as a fever-dream building upon mysteriously synchronised (without even RTCs, in the typical standalone game computers of the day!) self-sabotaging code. 03:44, 15 August 2019 (UTC)

"Mario kart" is a series, not a game. Its first title "Super Mario Kart" was released in 1992, which would be older than the "very old game" "Escape Velocity (1996)". Maybe Randall referred to "Mario kart 64", which was released in North America 1997 in, rendering it newer than "Escape Velocity". Stefan 08:51, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

Agree, that makes sense with both the title and the chronology. I will correct my own explanation.--Kynde (talk) 08:55, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

Somebody should make a Videogames subcategory for Kerbal Space Program and assign it to comics 1106, 1244, 1350 and 1356. Condor70 (talk) 10:09, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

And if so this one. But is 4-5 comics enough for a new category...? --Kynde (talk) 13:39, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

Hey folks, a Swede here: given that the final frame is depicting a Panera and the whole comic is about contrasting how things used to be with how they are nowadays, I must ask: Are cinnamon rolls in vogue right now? Cinnamon rolls have been the standard pastry here since before I was born, but between this strip and a recent SMBC-comic(http://www.smbc-comics.com/comic/cinnamon-buns) I wonder if cinnamon rolls is something of a trend in the US right now? Like how shawarma no doubt became trendy once The Avengers had a scene where the titular characters ate the dish, and fidget spinners were all the rage a few years ago. 15:35, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

I don't think it's a trend here, I think it's just the go-to bread when someone wants to refer to something extra sweet and extravagant. I think when they first published the calorie count of a Cinnabon, it was off the charts. -boB (talk) 19:21, 14 August 2019 (UTC)
When I make cinnamon rolls, 8 rolls call for 2 sticks (1 cup or 227g) of butter. I tried asking Wolfram about the average cinnamon roll, but it says 3 calories which seems wrong. Probably not Douglas Hofstadter (talk) 03:42, 15 August 2019 (UTC)

This belongs here: http://www.shikadi.net/keenwiki/Episode_58_-_The_Ruin_of_Roib Keenmaster486 (talk) 17:35, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

Considering SimCity obviously don't progress in real time, the fact it's paused if you leave it, even for years, is not that surprising ... Civilization (not on list) would make it even more apparent (also, it's turn-based, so ...) -- Hkmaly (talk) 22:11, 14 August 2019 (UTC)

For anyone now pining for the joys of Escape Velocity again, you can try the very good and still being expanded (and free!) Endless Sky on Steam. Strongly recommend enabling beta mode if you do.OhFFS (talk) 13:39, 15 August 2019 (UTC) 11:06, 4 October 2019 (UTC)If we consider "old" games to be from 1995 to 2005, Mario Kart 64, Super Circuit, Double Dash and DS fit. Out of these games, I think Double Dash is the most likely because Randall's talked about it before. (I think the comic is called 'Mario Kart: Tokyo Drift' or something)