‘I saw the possibility of what could be done – so I did it’: revolutionary video game The Hobbit turns 40

.. Realising that statistics wasn’t for her, Megler answered a newspaper advert for a part-time programming job at a local software company called Melbourne House. It was 1980, and she was halfway through a course that focused on designing operating systems and developing programming languages. “The day I was hired, the first thing my boss said to me was, ‘write the best adventure game ever,’” she remembers. The eventual result of this instruction was The Hobbit, a landmark 1982 text adventure game that’s still fondly remembered today. Though the 20-year-old didn’t have a lot of experience with video games, she’d…

Perspective | Could ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ really be done? We found out.

The three of us approach them in our very obvious costumes and ask if I can hop on their float. Not only do they agree, but they tell us they were looking for a Ferris! Everything is going our way — just like in the movie. I jump aboard, and they cue up the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.” It’s thrilling and a bit unnerving standing on the float (try twisting and shouting on a moving vehicle), but now I’m fully in character. I hear cries of “Save Ferris!” from parade watchers and apartment windows as we glide down Lincoln Avenue.…

The Enduring Allure of Choose Your Own Adventure Books

I didn’t realize how involved the children of divorced dads Packard and Montgomery were in the creation of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” gamebooks. (The children of divorced dad Will Crowther were one motivation for, and were early playtesters for, Crowther’s original Colossal Cave Adventure; the history of parser text adventure games and branching path gamebooks overlap in time and theme.) You were a girl who wanted to choose your own adventures. Which is to say, you were a girl who never had adventures. You always followed the rules. But, when you ate an entire sleeve of graham crackers and…

Chess robot grabs and breaks finger of seven-year-old opponent

Last week, according to Russian media outlets, a chess-playing robot, apparently unsettled by the quick responses of a seven-year-old boy, unceremoniously grabbed and broke his finger during a match at the Moscow Open. “The robot broke the child’s finger,” Sergey Lazarev, president of the Moscow Chess Federation, told the TASS news agency after the incident, adding that the machine had played many previous exhibitions without upset. “This is of course bad.” Video of the 19 July incident published by the Baza Telegram channel shows the boy’s finger being pinched by the robotic arm for several seconds before a woman followed by three men…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In May, 2002, I was blogging about… typefaces in period movies; poets Paul Dirac and Stewart Conn; web usability; fired for making a satirical game

In May, 2002, I was blogging about Rating historical movies on how accurately they represent period typefaces The average UK reader spends 17 minutes a day reading a newspaper, compared to 11 minutes reading a novel. Paul Dirac, honorary poet laureate of modern physics. Student web project on poet Stewart Conn’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party” Fired for making a game (a government meat popsicle creates a satirical game that his superiors never bothered to play) Creator of Nancy Drew dies at 96 Why won’t we read the manual? Put a search box on your home page, not just a…

Move Along Home (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 10) Hopscotch Cringe Shenanigans

Rewatching ST:DS9 I was kind of dreading rewatching this “trapped in a board game” episode, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. But that’s not saying much, because I remember it as a cringeworthy mess. I liked Sisko’s attempt to bring up “the talk” with Jake by likening a first contact to a first date with a girl, and I liked that he got interrupted quickly — we can imagine how the rest of that lecture would have gone. Sisko’s resolve to do the first contact thing right fades after the Wadi play games at Quark’s for six hours.…

Inform 7 is now open source

Inform is a design system for interactive fiction based on natural language, and consists of a core compiler, together with extensions, kits and other resources, a number of outlying tools, and documentation, along with applications presenting the system in a friendly way on MacOS, Windows and Linux. This software had been used extensively since 28 April 2006, but by 2016 its source code was in considerable need of modernisation. In part that was wear-and-tear, but it was also the effect of years of experiment in which the code was often built without a full understanding of the concepts it was…

Q-Less (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 6) Shenanigans with Vash and Q

Rewatching ST:DS9 In the teaser, Bashir is monologuing for an evidently awestruck Bajoran woman, while O’Brien looks on scornfully.  A barely functional runabout has just made it back through the wormhole. Dax has picked up a passenger, whom O’Brien recognizes as Vash.   I enjoyed Vash’s chemistry with Picard in her first appearance (TNG s3e19 “Captain’s Holiday“), and though the Robin Hood sequence was the occasion for some great comedy in her return (s4e20 “Q-Pid“), this episode that hinges on the Q / Vash relationship just doesn’t work for me. Q needs to be credibly menacing in order for it to…

Captive Pursuit (#StarTrek #DS9 Rewatch, Season 1, Episode 6) O’Brien Befriends a Nervous, Hunted Alien

Rewatching ST:DS9 Sisko is listening to a sexual harassment complaint from one of Quark’s employees when an unexpected ship arrives through the wormhole — the Alpha Quadrant’s first visitor from the other side.  The ship’s pilot is jumpy; O’Brien gets him to relax a bit, but when asked his name, species, and job, the new arrival says only “I am Tosk.” When O’Brien deposits him in a guest room, he immediately asks the computer where the weapons are stored.  O’Brien tells Sisko he thinks the ship was fired on. Later at Quark’s (where O’Brien annoys the proprietor by calling him…

Mobile is a “really punishing format” for indies, says inkle’s Jon Ingold

Mobile is a really punishing format for independent developers. It used to be that the App Stores drove users to find games in viable quantities – 80 Days certainly benefitted enormously from Apple’s Editorial featuring – but that process has largely stopped. To be big – which is to say, to be viable – on the App Store now, a game needs to have a lot of push behind, a lot of other strategies for finding users and keeping them. That all means up-front money, investment, and ultimately a loss of creative independence. There’re plenty of studios thriving in that…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In April, 2002, I was blogging about an autistic person’s guide to asking a girl on a date; The Inform 6 Beginner’s Guide; broken links;

In April, 2002, I was blogging about Instructions for “Asking a Girl on a Date” (autistics.org) The Inform Beginner’s Guide (I edited this book on programming text adventure games in Inform 6) Broken Links: Just How Rapidly do Science Education Hyperlinks Go Extinct? (yes, the link was broken but I linked to the backup on the Internet Archive) Faking It: Sex, Lies and Women’s Magazines “Prenatal memory and learning” (language acquisition begins before birth) “Did I Miss Anything?” (poet’s creative response to a “question frequently asked by students after missing a class”) A Salon article mocking the New York Times…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In March, 2002, I was blogging about…

In March, 2002, I was blogging about The coming era of participatory news The “Worst Manual Contest” Ancient “Domesday Book” outlives electronic version (that article is also gone… but here’s contemporary coverage from Slashdot) My own text-adventure game “Fine-Tuned: An Auto-mated Romance“ PBS special “Merchants of Cool” (early observations about the cultural feedback loop as teens engage with, internalize, and mirror back the images marketers use to sell products) The Gettysburg Address on PowerPoint Star Trek Chaplains? (and religion on Babylon 5) Turn of the Century (the standardization of screws) William Shatner’s Blog

The beauty from some Olympic skaters was not worth seeing a child emotionally broken on live television.

I didn’t watch any of the video, and I have no desire to. This article was painful to read. “I hate it! … I don’t want to do anything in figure skating ever in my life! … Everyone has a gold medal, and I don’t!” One can forgive a teenage girl for having an emotional response to disappointment in a high-stakes situation, but Trusova’s reaction was an ugly display of poor sportsmanship, happening mere feet from a devastated Valieva. Trusova would later have to be coaxed into even coming back onto the ice to accept her second place finish. As Valieva…