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Video Games: A Cultural History - #1 Wonderboy In Monster Land

by Tim Clare

After over three decades of ignorance and indifference, cultural commentators are finally beginning to recognise the video game as a serious art form on a par with dance, sculpture, and haberdashery. Over the following weeks, months, and, yes, years - for, dear reader, this is no picayune undertaking we embark upon together - I hope to play some small part in coaxing the cattle of scholarly endeavour to graze upon this lushest of fields of enquiry.

We commence with Sega's 1987 elegaic quest saga, Wonder Boy In Monster Land. The game is a countercultural parable that subverts the classic 'beast slayer' narrative, replacing the hero qua independent actor with anthropomorphised revolution propelled through society by a clandestine network of ideologically-aligned co-conspirators.

Here, the titular 'Wonder Boy' enters a door, and receives an eloquent entreaty from a grinning saurian petitioner:

Next, sword in hand, Wonder Boy drops into a local tavern to shake down the barman for information on the ominous 'DRAGON':

The barman's hot tip-off leads Wonder Boy to a liaison with this shrewd anti-DRAGON dissident:

At last, Wonder Boy tracks down the old man in the villa, who provides information crucial for vanquishing DRAGON. Note the tenderness with which the frail gentleman's palpable fear of reprisal is conveyed.

More next week.