Zork! Old text-based games are the hot new thing

Do you remember the game Colossal Cave? How about


parsely-1 Anything? (If you’re under 30, ignore this question.) You may also know it as Colossal Cave Adventure or even Adventure. Colossal Cave was one of the first (if not THE first) of what are known as text-based adventure games. Created back in the ‘70s, these games were at one time the cutting edge of computer gaming and the sentences above will cause many an elder geek to wax nostalgic about evenings of Doritos® and Tab®. These games used a simple verb-noun parser to interpret these instructions, allowing the player to interact with objects at a basic level, for example by typing "get key" or "open door". Well guess what? They’re making a comeback, digitally and in-person. There’s even a documentary about them.

The ones I have had personal experience with are from Memento Mori Theatricks. As a whole, the series is called Parsely (parse, get it? Of course you did.). Memento Mori has turned these into more of a party game. One person gets the instructions and map and gets to play as the parser (a role that’s more fun than you might think) while the other people take turns giving very simple commands as they try to complete the adventure. I have played with 70+ people (at ConnectiCon) and with two other people while driving in the car, both times it was a hoot.

Around the same time Colossal Cave came out, the print equivalent was coming out in the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books. Each of these books was written in the second-person and at the end of each page the reader was given a choice to make. If you chose A you turned to one page, if B then to another page. The decision tree was seemingly endless and not a few of us didn’t so much play them as just read all the possible outcomes. Edward Packer, the creator of these games, is now updating them for the modern era as iPad/Phone apps called “U-Venture.”

The basic idea of the choose your own adventure books has had a profound impact on the development of PC/Video games. Do a news Google of the phrase and you get a surprising number of results – many from the recent ComicCon. But, if that’s not cutting edge enough for you, consider this headline from TechCrunch: Foursquare’s Next Game: Choose Your Own Adventure? 

Additionally there is now a documentary called Get Lamp, about the history of the computer versions. It has a genius tag-line: “Before there was the first-person shooter, there was the second person thinker.” DAMN THE VIDEO CARDS! Yesterday, HERE WE COME!!!!!


Who’s winning the World of Warcraft vote?

While McCain’s ad hominem attack on Dungeons & Dragons earlier this year would seem to put him at a distinct disadvantage, the poll results are surprising. And incredibly funny.

Thanks to Mike Elgan who writes the wonderful blog Raw Feed for this one!

The real question about Sarah Palin

I do not care about her kids. Anyone asking how she couldn’t be home with the new born and/or oldest daughter is a sexist idiot. I hope the experience with her eldest makes Gov. Palin give a long rethink on the topic of abstinence only education, but that is an issue that is for her and her heart and not germaine to what it is she will be asked to do.

I am fascinated by the fact that she is the only candidate who will get a raise if she wins. The governor of Alaska currently earns $83,280. The veep gets $208,100.

The chief reason I think she shouldn’t be a heartbeat away from becoming president has nothing to do with her gender. it is that she is a creationist. If she herself doesn’t believe in creationism she has said that it should be taught in schools. If you are going to teach creationism as science — as opposed to teaching the Bible as literature which I am all in favor of — then you must also teach the Cthulhu Mythos and Flying Spaghetti Monster as science.

Still there is one essential question that I am positive was overlooked in the vetting process: Has the governor or any one in her family ever played Dungeons & Dragons?

C’mon you intrepid journalists! This one has Pulitzer all over it!

The tea leaves continue to suggest that things are not going well for Sen. McCain. David Frum, NPR’s token conservative, said that the Palin pick came about because McCain had seen some troubling internal poll numbers that said he had to make a big risk if he wants to win.

Also Political Wire says

My prediction: This is not going to be close in the final count.

McCain blows saving throw in attack on Dungeons & Dragons

I’ve tried to be bipartisan in both my support and bashing of the two presidential contenders but Sen. McCain has just crossed the line. His campaign is trying to say that playing Dungeons & Dragons is a BAD THING!!! In a blog post on McCain’s site some NPC named Michael Goldfarb wrote:

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

T-shirts & bumper stickers may be purchased here.

Nor is this the first time that McCain’s campaign has tried to make D&D the equivalent of being called a “pinko.”

In an earlier post Goldfarb described the editors of the NYTimes as having “all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother’s basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons.

After that first ad hominem attack scads of Wingnuts stood up and proclaimed that they too were out and proud about playing D&D.  Mr. ‘Farb responded to one of them (Ace of Spades) with the following:

If my comments caused any harm or hurt to the hard working Americans who play Dungeons & Dragons, I apologize. This campaign is committed to increasing the strength, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, wisdom, and charisma scores of every American.
–Michael Goldfarb

Not surprisingly Mr. Spades is now doubting the sincerity of that apology.

T-shirts & bumper stickers may be purchased here.

I think there is more outing to do here. I think that Mr. Goldfarb is covering for the fact that he, too, is or was a D&D player. This fits into the classic behavior pattern of closeted homosexuals joining with gay bashers in an attempt to deny their own behavior. It is time for some enterprising journalist to get their hands on a copy of Mr. Goldfarb’s high school yearbook and start making some calls! C’mon, doesn’t this look like the face of someone who cried when his 10th level magic user died after failing to check for traps? I find it difficult to believe that this man has NOT spent many Saturday nights playing with his 20-sided dice.

Gotta say Mike, Dungeons & Dragons is not going to be the next “limousine liberal” or “brie-eating” in the political lexicon. This is especially poor timing given that the pale and the (usually) dateless like myself are still mourning the death of Gary Gygax.

Mr. Mencken’s quote was never more apropos: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” I wonder how many attack die that hobgoblin gets?

A moment of silence for one of the greats … Gary Gygax — co-inventor of Dungeons & Dragons

gygaxHe and the game became true badges of nerdidty (that’s him between Stephan Hawking and Nichelle Nichols as part of Al Gore’s uber nerd squad on Futurama). I discovered D&D long enough ago that I once looked suspiciously on the advent of Advance D&D. It was and is a game that managed to be collaborative and competitive. Mostly D&D taught me that games are really just long periods of laughter punctuated by periodic bouts of dice rolling. When I was in high school, Bill Kenower, Peter Kang, Evan Schrier, Dave Gray and the other members of the Birds of Prey even put together a session so my mom could find out what this was all about. I don’t remember if she was an elf or a hobbit, but I do remember she had fun. (I was a half-orc with impressive personality issues. Like you had to ask?) Someone needs to write a cultural history of the impact of D&D, for it is truly huge.

Also at some other time I will tell you the story of how Mrs. Collateral Damage got me to come out of the geek closet. The punch line, though, “How many Friday nights do the you have to spend playing D&D with the guys from Worcester Poly before you admit you’re a nerd?”

In the words of one of my favorite t-shirts: I am not a nerd. I am a 12th level paladin.

Go with grace Gary. You always rolled 20s in my book.

UPDATE: Just because he helped invent D&D doesn’t mean Gygax knew from dice.  BoingBoing has this from an interview with the man:

Q. As far as you know, what was the basic evolution of polyhedral dice? If they existed prior to the creation of Dungeons & Dragons, what were they used for?To the best of my knowledge I introduced them to gaming, en masse, with D&D in 1974. I found sets of the five platonic solids for sale in a school supply catalog back in 1972, and of course ordered them, used them in creating the D&D game.

D20Actually 20-sided dice were being used by the ancient Egyptians. I got a copy of one at the Louvre gift shop.

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Shaolin monks fight losing battle over brand

China‘s Shaolin Temple, the cradle of Chinese kung fu, is demanding an apology from an Internet user who said its monks had once been beaten in unarmed combat by a Japanese ninja.

Hell guys, walk into any biker bar or dungeons & dragons game on a Friday night and you’ll hear at least two guys claiming they beat you AND a ninja.

The real question is could they beat a pirate?

The ultimate geek food: 20-sided dice made of pecan pie

You know it’s time to stop playing Dungeons & Dragons because the dice is gone. Click here for full instructions.

“Can I have my critical hit with some whipped cream?”

Side dish: Hexagonal Tortilla Chips.

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When dragon sausages are outlawed, only outlaws will eat dragon sausage … what?

Bureaucrats in the UK apparently know something the rest of us don’t. They have decreed that Welsh Dragon brand sausages must be renamed Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages so consumers won’t think they contain meat from an animal previously believed to be fictitious.*

The warning letter from Powys council’s trading standards department, who analysed the sausages, read: “The public analyst has stated that the name Welsh Dragon Sausage is not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food.”

WAIT! Does this mean all those Dungeons & Dragons books actually contain … ?

*If not fictitious, then really really really shy.

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