Impossible Mission: The Story Of A Research Paper

      In 1984, a Commodore 64 game called Impossible Mission was released. In the game, you take on the role of a secret agent who is trying to stop a diabolical mastermind from tampering with national security computers. The security of the nation depends on you! There's not much more to the story than that, but at that time, an in-depth and engaging story was not necessary for a successful game. And indeed, Impossible Mission was very successful, winning much acclaim and many accolades. Not only was it an impressively fluid and challenging platformer-puzzle hybrid, it was one of the first games to utilize digitized speech. When the game first starts up, the evil Professor Elvin Atombender taunts you with his now legendary line: "Another visitor. Stay awhile. Stay... FOREVER!" Today this very day, that line holds a very special place in the annals of pop culture. However, when Dennis Craswell wrote, and Epyx published this delightful bit of programming, they didn't know, they couldn't know, that two decades later, their game would be a frightfully accurate depiction of an act that happens thousands upon thousands of time every day, an act that every student will have to endure at multiple points in their educational career: the process of writing a research paper in the 21st century. So open your eyes and come with me on a journey through a game that was a harbinger of things to come. Along the way, you'll learn how to write a research paper.


1. Technology Is A Fucking Fickle Friend.

      Modern technology is both a blessing and a curse. Sure, it eliminates the need to possess or attempt to feign legible handwriting, but there are so many ways that it will fuck you straight up the ass at the most inopportune moment. It's the night before your paper is due. You waited until the last minute to finish it of course, because you're a lazy fucking bastard. So you sit down at your desktop computer to write. Unfortunately, the bevy of pornography you've downloaded in recent months has infected your hard drive with more nasty shit than all the STDs of every gaping vagina in all those dirty videos combined. No worries. You'll run your computer in safe mode, transfer the necessary files to your flash drive, and work on your porn-free laptop. The only problem is that after watching your pirated copy of Watchmen last night, the battery is completely dead, and good fucking luck finding the power cord in that shithole of a mess you call a living space. Again, this is not the end of the world; you can just go the campus computer lab and work there. So you head down to the lab and find a computer that works, has a keyboard that's not missing any keys, and a mouse that still has its scroll ball. It's also best that you find a seat far away from the pervasive stench of the foreign students who all but live in the lab and even farther away from the overweight mouth-breathing "hackers" who are using proxy bypass sites to get around school firewalls to look at hentai. So you log onto the school network, plug in your flash drive and, praise be to Allah, it actually reads. You try to save a copy of the file to your personal drive on the network, but because the computer resources department got their funds cut in the last budget, they decided not to increase anyone's personal drive space, and you've got no room left to save it. So you are left running from and saving to your flash drive. Five hours later you're done. Annotated, bibliographied, you've polished this turd into a fucking diamond; Time to print it off. Unfortunately the $0.19 you have in print credit isn't going cover jack shit, and of course you didn't bring any change, so you're going to have to go back to your room to get some. You save your work, shut everything down, and dash off to get some scratch...

Okay, let's fast forward a bit. You're back at the computer lab, your print credit is up to snuff, the paper is loaded back up and ready to print. You hit the button and hear the machine in the back of the room whir to life. You go to check on it and, sweet Vishnu, there's your cover page in all its majestic glory. You back to log out, but the computer won't let go of your flash drive. Being as it's now 7 AM, you're a little tired and pissed, so you yank the bastard out and go back to the printer to retrieve your paper. What you find however, is that the ink ran out after the first page, and you've just paid for seven lovely blank pages. Oh, and that improper hardware removal? Yeah, you just corrupted everything on your flash drive, asshole. So you're fucked. Feel that sharp pain in your anus? That's the feeling of e-Sodomy.

      Impossible Mission is sort of like that. Professor Atombender has two types of robots that are programmed to systematically dismantle you atom by atom. The first type of robot looks something like a giant, four-foot grenade, and has varying levels of randomly assigned intelligence. Some are stationary, some move in a pattern, some charge at you if you get close, and some will move toward you regardless of where you are. Luckily, these robots are confined to their platforms. If you are unlucky enough to touch one, you die. Instantly. Some robots randomly have laser weapons as well which, again, will fuck you up. Instantly. The other type of robot, which appears in less than half a dozen rooms, is a large, floating, electrified ball which either flies around in a pattern or stalks you with Voorhees-esque methodology. In addition to being killed by robots, you can also die by falling down a lift shaft, and every time you die you lose ten minutes of game time. When you only have six hours total to beat the game, you'll quickly discover why the game is called Impossible Mission.


2. You Will Search. Oh, How You Will Search...

      The internet is big. Really, really fucking big. And while Wikipedia is generally a wonderful source of information on virtually any topic you could possibly want to research, if it's the only thing listed in your bibliography, you're going to get fucking reamed by your professor. You need multiple sources, culled from the internet, from respected journals, and from other assorted publications. Not only are you going to have to actually use half a dozen sources, and use them well, you're going to have to FIND them. That means combing through page after page on the internet, often finding nothing fucking worthwhile, and reading abstract after abstract on different articles, again probably finding nothing with any damn relevance to your paper.

      In Impossible Mission, Professor Atombender's fortress is rather expansive. Various pieces of furniture are strewn about the premises, and you will need search to each and every fucking one to find all 36 pieces of an elaborately designed puzzle. Everything from desks to bookcases, to recliners, to toilets must be searched. Most will contain nothing; some will be very difficult to reach. You can be damn sure that the ones that are the hardest to reach will contain nothing, because life generally likes to reward your time and effort with a faceful of fuck you.


3. When You Can, Cheat.

      Now, don't misunderstand me here, I don't condone plagiarism, because that's a shitload of fuck that you just don't want to be involved in. Most educators today have access to sophisticated programs that will cross-reference your paper with works online to see if you just did some copypasta. However, you are working under a deadline, and you are going to want to get that bitch extended as much as humanly possible. The important thing is to make it seem as if you have been working on it gradually, and that you are not a lazy fuck who waited until the last minute to start. You also don't want make it seem like your entire project is gone and you have to start all over. Say that your computer suffered a critical failure and you had to restore the system to a previous configuration, and lost some of your work. Don't try this line on a computer professor though, because it's complete fucking bullshit. Another good method of extending that due date is to play the emotional tragedy card. Dead relatives, real or imaginary, living or actually dead, are excellent fodder for tugging on a cantankerous professor's heartstrings. Just be sure to keep track of who you said died, when you said they died, and who you told it to. Because if schizophrenic uncle Merl dies twice, your World History professor isn't going to be very happy.

      In Impossible Mission, you are also working against the clock. Luckily for you, there are a few things that can help you out. Sometimes when you search a piece of furniture, you will find a Lift Reset or a Snooze. These can be used at any computer terminal, and there is at least one terminal in every room. Lift resets are useful if you use a lift to reach a higher level, and then fall through a hole and can't get back up. Of course, you can reset the lift anytime by dying, but dying takes ten minutes of your time away. Snoozes are even more useful; they shut down all the robots in a room for a short time, allowing you to walk past them without dying. Flying orbs will still kill you if you touch them, but they won't move. There are other ways to earn Lift Resets and Snoozes, which we'll get to next.


4. Music Is Your Friend.

      They say that music soothes the savage beast, and having to write five pages of uninspired drivel on some subject that I don't give two shits about for a course that I'm only taking because it's required for my fucking minor, makes me kind of angry. Playing some music you enjoy will make the process of researching less stressful, and the process of writing more fluid. Songs are also great sources of deep, meaningful cliches, so if you throw in a random Zeppelin quote who knows, maybe you'll score some extra points.

      There are two rooms in Impossible Mission that contain ridiculously large, checkerboard computer screens. The first time you access one, it will light up three squares, each with a different tone. Your job is to push the buttons from lowest pitch to highest pitch, and when you do it correctly, you'll win either a Lift Reset or a Snooze. Each time you access one of these computers, the number of notes you need to put in order increases by one.


5. I Know The Pieces Fit...

      Now, I may not be an English Literature teacher, but I can say with utmost certainty that if you hand in a paper that's little more than a clusterfuck of quotes and opinions, you won't be getting that "A" that you desperately need to bring your average back up and keep your scholarship. Your paper needs to make sense, it needs to flow. One idea needs to lead into another, citing outside works to support your opinions while simultaneously and systematically dismantling a plethora of counter-arguments. Inability to do so will result in terminal failure and the deaths of millions of civilians. Wait, no, that's what happens in the game. At least, that's my assumption...

      Once you've searched through all the furniture in the professor's lair, you will find yourself in possession of 36 puzzle pieces. You must now take these puzzle pieces, and put them together to form nine solid card-type objects. The only thing you have working for you is that the patterns can't overlap. The game will let you combine pieces that don't belong together, so you could have three pieces together, only to realize that you don't have a fourth piece that looks like what you need, and have to start from scratch again. Oh, but it gets better. The pieces aren't all in the right orientation either. You can flip the pieces horizontally and vertically too, so in reality, you have to pick four supplementary pieces out of a possible 144. Did I mention you only have six hours of game time?


6. The Reward Is Often Underwhelming.

      Writing research papers is a grueling and arduous process that will inevitably take years off of your life that you will never get back. Impossible Mission is also grueling and arduous, but depending on your level of skill, it probably won't take that long to lose. However, if you successfully manage to avoid being demolecularized and collect all 36 puzzles pieces, and if you actually manage to put solve all nine puzzles before time runs out, you will be in possession of the nine letter password to Professor Atombender's control room. So what is your reward for stopping the evil Elvin Atombender, for this triumph of epic proportions? It's much the same as your reward for handing in that term paper: a professor screaming, "No. No! NO!"


Posted by: Valdronius