Into the depths of code. Algorithmic archaeologies and cave fantasies in video games

The full article (by Angelo Careriis) in French, but there is an English abstract, and Google Translate is just a few clicks away. By examining a mixed body composed of video games linked to the American hacker culture (Colossal Cave Adventure, Rogue, Dwarf Fortress), and some academic research that examine these objects with an experimental and transdisciplinary approach (speleology, archaeology), this paper deals with the metaphor of cave exploration applied to computer programing. Colossal Cave Adventure, a text-based game that was created by an experienced spelunker after a series of expeditions in the Mammoth Cave system, plays an important role…

Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death

Simulations are powerful tools for understanding our world. Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death explores the surprising intersection between craft and forensic science. It also tells the story of how a woman co-opted traditionally feminine crafts to advance the male-dominated field of police investigation and to establish herself as one of its leading voices. Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) crafted her extraordinary “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death”—exquisitely detailed miniature crime scenes—to train homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.” These dollhouse-sized dioramas of true…

Reuben Klamer, designer of Trek’s “phaser rifle” and Milton-Bradley’s “The Game Of Life” dead at 99

Although more modern-looking rifles appeared as props in ST:The Next Generation and later iterations, the iconic phaser rifle only appeared in the second pilot, the first to feature William Shatner and the character James Kirk. Reuben Klamer, the inventor of Milton Bradley’s The Game of Life board game and the designer of a Starfleet phaser rifle for the original Star Trek TV series, died at his home in La Jolla, California on Tuesday at the age of 99, according to the Toy Association. Klamer was commissioned to create The Game of Life by the Milton Bradley toy company, now owned…

Brett Favre Urges Ban On Youth Tackle Football, Pleads For No Hitting ‘Til 14

Concussions in sports often a topic my students pick for their researched term papers. Most seem to put their trust in mandating better training for coaches, funding for better equipment, education to make sure players are wearing their equipment properly, or better treatment for players who end up disabled. The idea of fundamentally changing the sport to make it safer (at least for kids) rarely comes up, so here’s a notable endorsement. Brett Favre is calling for a ban on youth tackle football … saying he believes no child should participate in live, full-contact games until at least the age of…

He couldn’t get over his fiancee’s death. So he brought her back as an A.I. chatbot

The death of the woman he loved was too much to bear. Could a mysterious artificial intelligence website allow him to speak with her once more? […] There was nothing strange, he thought, about wanting to reconnect with the dead: People do it all the time, in prayers and in dreams. In the last year and a half, more than 600,000 people in the U.S. and Canada have died of COVID-19, often suddenly, without closure for their loved ones, leaving a raw landscape of grief. How many survivors would gladly experiment with a technology that lets them pretend, for a moment, that their…

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The Game (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 6) Cadet Crusher vs Fun Risian Gadget

Rewatching ST:TNG Cadet Crusher visits the Enterprise on a break from Starfleet Academy. He’s happy and doing well in school, and quickly befriends the happy and hyper-focused Ensign Leffler (Ashley Judd). The opening scene with Riker cavorting on Risa is just odd. Of course what he does when he’s off duty is his own business, but it’s certainly a clue to us when the bumpy-headed babe he’s chasing around a hotel room playfully throws his communicator pin out the window. Likewise, when Riker brings her happytime fun headset onto the Enterprise, we know it’s bad news. Young Crusher is annoyed…

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

In June, 2001 it seems I only blogged three times…

I’m not sure what else I was doing during the month of June 2001, but I only blogged three times. All three links were dead, like tears in rain. As is my habit with all items I feature in my “I was blogging about…” series, I’ve replaced the broken links with archived content from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Author “used up all the hardship” from her youth in her first novel (Satire from The Onion) Sci-Tech Web Awards 2001 (Scientific American picks what it things are the best websites) Violent video games encourage violent behavior (Contemporary Pediatrics)  

1993: Curses (Aaron A. Reed’s “50 Years of Text Games”)

The latest in Aaron A. Reed’s monumental project” 50 Years of Text Games” focuses on Graham Nelson’s programming language Inform, and in particular his game “Curses.” “You have to get a coin from the temple of zeus to buy the ekmek,” explained one responder. “To do that you need to use the rod of luck. To use the rod of luck you have to change the nature of the universe.” Gradually more and more people decided to give this new game a shot, downloading it via FTP and running it on their InfoTaskForce interpreters just to see what all the…

30 years later, Sierra’s Laura Bow mysteries are still a treasure

When I was in college and grad school, a couple of times of year I would stay with my sister in her apartment for a long weekend, and we would splurge on junk food (often Keebler Fudge Sticks) and video games (often the latest Sierra point-and-click adventure). I remember playing The Colonel’s Bequest in my senior year in college, and The Dagger of Amon Ra while I was in Toronto getting my Ph.D. When I got stuck in a puzzle, I actually typed out and snail-mailed a letter to Sierra Online asking for help, and about two weeks later I…

Narnia board game — enjoyable family activity (but it’s weird that the Pevensies compete against each other)

It’s weird that in the Narnia board game, the Pevensies compete against each other. I thought it would make sense that they would have to work together to defeat the White Witch, but no. Why do they all work against each other? In the book, Edmund betrays his siblings — but they don’t betray him! Before Edmund’s visit to Narnia, we read, “The others who thought she was telling a lie, and a silly lie too, made her very unhappy. The two elder ones did this without meaning to do it, but Edmund could be spiteful, and on this occasion…

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

In April, 2001 I was blogging about interactive fiction, Roget’s Thesaurus, John Lennon, HTML Frames, and C.S. Lewis

A student newspaper article about interactive fiction (quoting Emily Short and me) Blaming Roget’s Thesaurus Finding the URL of a framed HTML document My visit to the John Lennon Artificial Intelligence Project HarperCollins re-issuing the works of C.S. Lewis Dave Winer on “The Web is a Writing Environment“

What is a CRT and Why Don’t We Use Them Anymore?

I remember when I started seeing political cartoons that began depicting office workers using flatscreen LCDs instead of bulky CRTs. I inherited a handful of CRTs as people I know upgraded. I still haven’t bought a new LCD TV — I’ve inherited several hand-me-downs from family members. The next time I offer my course on the history and culture of video games, I’ll have to include this article so my students understand how the medium of a video screen affects the genre we are studying. With CRTs on the endangered species list, there is some fear that we may lose touch…

Why Were Old Video Games So Pixelated?

I get all my news online now, but I grew up with TV news and my father’s daily copy of the Washington Post, so I can appreciate how changes in the medium have changed journalism. Likewise, I was a kid in the 80s and an avid gamer through the 90s. On the rare occasions when I play a game now, I often stop to wonder at the amazing graphics, even in casual platformer games. When I teach interactive fiction, I do go over why the blocky graphics of the 80s weren’t all that enticing to gamers who wanted immersive stories,…

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

In February, 2001, I was blogging about computer nostalgia, Napster, a horror typing game, usability, and web blurbs.

In February, 2001, I was blogging about Computer nostalgia and text adventure games.“Walking into a room rendered in the Q3 engine can be lovely and impressive, but when you’ve only 16K to tell a story, you have to rely on the gamer’s imagination to provide the details. Just the words ‘you are on a beach’ can summon vistas no game can provide.” — James Lileks Napster. File-sharing was destroying the economic model of the recording industry. Here’s a screenshot of what the Yahoo News “Technology Full Coverage” section looked like on February 23, 2001. The Typing of the Dead: A…

NASA’s Perseverance lander brought some Easter eggs with it to Mars

It’s a bit of a stretch to call this Teddy Roosevelt quote “encoded,” but it’s still fun to notice. We’re told to be on the lookout for more surprises as the mission develops. Systems engineer Ian Clark used a binary code to spell out “Dare Mighty Things” in the orange and white strips of the 70-foot (21-meter) parachute. Only about six people knew about the encoded message before Thursday’s landing, according to Clark. They waited until the parachute images came back before putting out a teaser during a televised news conference Monday. […] Another added touch not widely known until…

Mesmerizing Video of a Printer Terminal Running “Adventure” on a PDP-11/45

After spending several days clicking buttons and ticking boxes and waiting for pages to refresh in my school’s content manager, I really, really miss the command line interface. This video shows the 1970s computer game “Colossal Cave Adventure” running on a printer terminal (that is, its only display is text that it prints out on a long roll of paper).