Michelle Parnett-Dwyer

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Pinball: Two Pieces of American Culture

L. Frank Baum's classic novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, captivated generations of audiences with its iconic characters, adventurous storyline, and captivating setting. Published in 1900, the novel inspired countless adaptations in a variety of mediums including stage plays, films, novels, and video games. The Wizard of Oz film, released in 1939 by MGM, remains a legendary title and cultural icon. This summer, visitors to The Strong’s Pinball Playfields exhibit have the opportunity to play The Wizard of Oz pinball.

Video Games Showcase the Human Experience

Storytellers help listeners to connect to experiences. Current storytelling projects such as The Moth, Story Corps, and Human Library showcase human experience through various media platforms. Video games today demonstrate how storytelling continues to evolve. The format allows players to interpret the game and to make in-game decisions that affect the fate of the characters and the plot of the story.

Video Games Explore Ancient Myths and Folklore

Scholars’ perceptions of mass media’s impact on folklore and mythology are complicated. Some scholars believe that tale dissemination via movies, television programs, and video games encourages viewers to rediscover classic stories. Others argue that film adaptations of folk and myth narratives may create “definitive texts,” which threaten to “replace the more fluid oral variants.” What is at stake when we adapt folklore and mythology to mass media?

B-movies: From the Silver Screen to the Video Game Screen

A local movie theater recently hosted an “Indoor Drive-in” series to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the original drive-in theaters. First opened by Richard Hollingshead in 1933, drive-ins became family destinations. People paid a minimal fee to enter a gated parking lot with a huge movie screen located at one end of the grounds. Hollingshead intended for guests to watch the movie from the comfort of their own automobiles. When technology permitted, guests rolled the window part-way down and attached a tethered speaker to the car.

Rock and Roll Video Game

I recently went to a Guns and Roses concert. Axl Rose, the only original member, proved a bit soft around the edges and failed to hit the high notes like he used to—during a few songs, I thought of the 1984 mockumentary, This is Spinal Tap. I also realized heavy metal, glam rock, and hard-pop from the late 70s and early 80s prove resilient. That reminded me of some particular video games that featured bands from that era.

Poe, Thoreau, and Dickinson as Video Game Avatars

Henry David Thoreau advised his peers, “Let us first be simple and well as Nature ourselves, dispel the clouds which hang over our brows, and take up a little life into our pores.” Thoreau’s contemporaries professed similar emotional, individualist, and idealist sentiments. I respect authors of the American Romantic and Victorian period of literature; however, I don’t always enjoy wading through their sometimes ornate language. I recently discovered a few video game titles that provide a new format to interact with work from this period.

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