How We Spent the Last Month Examining ‘The Thing’

Our latest Waypoint 101 project was a 2002 survival horror video game—and revisiting the two (!!) films that inspired it.

Most retrospectives involve playing a video game you already know is excellent, or revisiting a piece of nostalgia to work through its context in the present. That has represented most of the games that have been part of our ongoing Waypoint 101 project, but with The Thing, I wanted an opportunity to visit, for the first time, a game I’d been hearing about for decades.

But when I first pitched The Thing, part of what made it interesting was a chance to rope in other Thing-related activities, like rewatching (or, in Ren’s case, watching for the first time) John Carpenter’s 1982 film The Thing. We even had a chance to pilot a new piece of content for Waypoint: a commentary track for 1951’s The Thing From Another World. It was a blast.

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As for the game itself, well—a mixed bag. It’s full of incredible promise, but ultimately, it’s a pitch document for a game that doesn’t exist behind the opening hours. It’s a video game that, done properly, could be made today and could be incredibly interesting. From my piece “The Video Game Version of 'The Thing' Is an Empty Promise Worth Playing,” where I tried to deconstruct my thoughts on its flawed design:

“Because on paper, this sounds compelling and in-line with the exciting AI and systems experimentation happening on the PC side of things during the same era, with games like Deus Ex. And to The Thing’s great credit, the opening hours are a surprisingly solid execution of these ideas, as the game walks you through carefully crafted sequences of action and tension that slowly introduce all of these ideas into the mix, clearly building towards the game removing its hand-holding and allowing the systems to do their work.

This culminates in a set piece near a kitchen, where the player finally has multiple squadmates with varying roles and different ways of dealing (or not dealing) with stress, and the seemingly very real threat that any one of them could transform at an inopportune time. One squadmate ran away after a firefight, another transformed into a thing. I was guiding a squadmate from one room to another to try and calm them down for a minute. And it was at this point while streaming the game with Rob, we turned to one another and went ‘look, if the rest of the game builds on what they’ve got here, we could be in for something special.’

Sadly, we were not.”

Though only I suffered through the rough back half of The Thing holding a controller, everyone spent enough hours with it to wrap their head around what it was trying to do, which became the foundation for our podcast. You can listen to 10 minutes of that here, while the rest is on Waypoint+:

In total, here are all the ways we thing-d over the course of the past month:

Next up is…to be determined! You voted for Natalie’s choice of System Shock and System Shock 2, but she’s busy finishing up a dang video game, so we’ll have to revisit that later. We’re also waiting to see if Square Enix announces a Final Fantasy Tactics remake as rumored, which might shift our timetable. We’ll take a breather between now and then, and come back with a plan in a few weeks. (I mean, we gotta finish King’s Field IV, anyway.)


Waypoint 101s are enabled by Waypoint Plus, where our audience subscribes for access to a premium podcast feed with special episodes like our Waypoint 101 discussion of Sid Meier's Gettysburg. Those subscriptions also support all of our streams and the time we take to examine games and subjects outside the current mainstream discourse. Learn more at waypointplus.com

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