So there I was, seven or eight layers deep in a dungeon, when I start losing hit points in all my party members every time I take a step. I'm not poisoned, that's easy to tell... turns out I've been down there so long exploring that I'm starving. Oh shit! I check the map to … Continue reading Ultima 4 
The most infamous puzzle in King's Quest  is the Rumpelstiltskin puzzle. Schematically, this puzzle is strikingly identical to the hideous Odysseus puzzle in Zork : Based only off knowing the general milieu of reference material (fairy tales here, Ancient Greek mythology there) and a loose aesthetic association (between Rumpelstiltskin and a hut made of … Continue reading King’s Quest 
Three off-the-beaten path early 1980s Art Game picks in, and a typology is beginning to emerge. Deus Ex Machina  is largely, through probably not intentionally, a different spin on Lifespan . What both share in common with The Prisoner , besides the obvious self-identification as art, is that their reflections on the medium has … Continue reading Deus Ex Machina 
(Content warning: Slavery.) THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE On August Tenth, 1675, at precisely 3:14 PM, John Flamsteed laid the first foundation stone to renovate Greenwich Castle into The Royal Greenwich Observatory. Who laid the second, the third, the fourth and so on are, strangely, not so well-specified — those would have been, I can … Continue reading Elite 
Text version, for legibility and slow connections.Music: Front 242 - U-Men (Instrumental) 
The screen is enclosed by rainbow flashing that snaps open and shut like a curtain between levels. There's one sound channel but it's overloaded with buzzing and bipping and screaming. There's dozens of robotic enemies closing in on you from all sides, and their colorshifting teletextural bullets travel faster the further they are away from … Continue reading Robotron 2084 
(Content warning: Nazis, genocide.) Wolfenstein is one of the longest-standing names in video games, typically trading off positions on Wikipedia's ranked list with Mario depending on which had the latest release. It has a much stranger path there than anything in that top tier other than arguably The Oregon Trail . The series lays pretty … Continue reading Castle Wolfenstein 
(Content warning: war.) The first thing that strikes me on booting up Galaga  is that it is a beautiful game. Games I've written on up to this point have been eyesores. (They mostly make a virtue of it.) Even the prior entry in this franchise, Galaxian , a visual tour-de-force, looks pretty drab, predominated … Continue reading Galaga 
(Content warning: torture mention.) In the 1300s, there was a game called Obligations. It was played in the early Latin Christian universities by the friars, the bishops, the Franciscans, the students and teachers and such, and its structure informed much of the underlying phrasing and logic of the century's theology and philosophy. Obligations is a … Continue reading The Prisoner 
Humans are such fragile meat, no? And they're past their expiration date... Life itself is proof of guilt.
I have always considered the video game RPG in purely negative terms, and I don't simply mean that I don't like them. What I mean is that I have mostly perceived them as the phantom of tabletop RPGs, or more accurately, their exorcism. By taking the aspects of tabletop RPGs that computers can easily replicate, … Continue reading Rogue 
Not too close, not too close. I'm too big for where. Am I a knight? Right through the neck please. Hercules for a moment, then lament the blue brush. There's no room and there's no rooms. Gives green around the gills. KILL IT. The base place intruder. Regular 6-point figures trace the forever now and … Continue reading Berzerk 
There is no other game of its era or the next one, all the way up to Super Mario Bros , that is anywhere near as celebrated and long-lived as Colossal Cave Adventure [1975/77]. In 1995, Graham Nelson, author of Curses  and of the Inform programming language in which he implemented the port I … Continue reading Colossal Cave Adventure 
(Content warning: Vehicular homicide.) Cliche when it comes to the game is to sensibly chuckle at the quaint moral outrage that made it infamous: all this over some crudely-drawn stick figures! This condescending ahistorical reaction doesn't just sell short humanity's ability to read abstraction and process media, and thus really the medium of video games … Continue reading Death Race 
(Content Warnings: Cannibalism, Genocide.) In these early days of gaming, it’s hard to walk in a straight line without tripping over “firsts.” Looking for the first this or the first that is a hook, it’s exciting to uncover, you feel like something recognizable of our present-day condition is emerging from the strange, foreign world of … Continue reading The Oregon Trail 
Spacewar is still the first video game. Not technically: the developers of Spacewar were already aware of a playable Tic Tac Toe implementation on the very computer they were working on, which by that point was already a more-than-decade-long tradition for computers, not to mention Tennis For Two . (For greater detail on this cascade … Continue reading Spacewar!