- How long have you been playing video games?
Wow, almost thirty years! Definitely since our trip to Disney World in 1976....
- What's the earliest video game that you can remember playing?
Pong and Tank were the two games on offer then. Later, we had an Atari at home, and around 1980 or 1981, I started pestering my folks for quarters for arcade machines.
- What, if any, video games are you playing now (these days)?
GTA: San Andreas, Xenosaga II, Final Fantasy II (on the GBA), Netrek, The Battle for Wesnoth, the open-source version of Star Control II, and many of my old favourite arcade games under emulation on the GBA. Despite the length of the list, I'm really not playing games very much lately -- I don't have time, and the weather is too nice. (Exception: FFII makes a nice time filler on long trips and in line-ups.) I'm also writing When Kansas Bleeds, for entry in this year's IFComp if possible, or as a general release game if not. In any event, right now is the 149th anniversary of the events in the game, and I definitely want to release it in time for the sesquicentennial.
- What's the last video game that you bought?
Xenosaga II, but I haven't touched it since late February.
- Name three video games that you played in the past five years that you think were particularly notable, and talk about why.
- City of Secrets, by Emily Short: I've been picking at writing IF for a dozen years, and Emily writes exactly the sort of games that I had hoped to have written by now, with very strong characters and plots. CoS completely turned me around on the question of menu-based conversations in interactive fiction versus use of "ask", "tell", and other such verbs, and on the value of being able to control the graphic design of your IF game. The separate frame with the list of responses is a neat way to give the PC some characterization and allow for intelligent conversations while walking; I plan to use it in my own games.
- Grand Theft Auto III: I had worked my way up from a small-time crook and done every odd job on the island except one: a sniping mission that was my ticket to being a big time Mafioso. I decided to go jogging one morning along the elevated train tracks. As I did, the sun came up across the water, and I stopped for a moment to look at the sunrise reflecting off the gleaming towers downtown. I wanted to get out of my industrial slum and into the better life across the water so badly that I could taste it. Say what you want about the violence or the sophomoric humour, but emergent gameplay like that is just brilliant. So is the biting social satire.
- Netrek: It's just such a brilliant game design, refined and perfected over decades, and one of the few games that's as social as pen-and-paper RPGs. Until a couple of months ago, I had never played Netrek on a public server over the Net -- we always had private games in university and company computer labs, among teams of friends. Tying army movement to current kills is an utterly brilliant mechanic: everyone has something interesting to do, and beginners can screw up as many times as they need to without being kicked out, but there's a reason to care whether you live or die.
- Name five classic or nostalgic games that mean a lot to you and talk about why.
- A Mind Forever Voyaging, by Steve Meretzky: For Thanksgiving of my sophomore year at Georgetown, I was stuck on campus, and spent the weekend playing the game through to completion. I cried and fell into a fit of depression when I got to 2081, and the game gave me nightmares -- the first time (and one of just a handful) that a game has had such a profound emotional effect. This was the game that opened my eyes to the possibility of IF as a serious art form. Meretzky got the sense of immersion just right, and the lead-in story did a great job of providing enough PC characterization that I really had the sense of being the character. The epilogue felt completely false to the character, but the game was still a revelation, and one that I've been trying to match ever since.
- Atari Adventure, by Warren Robinette: this was the first cartridge that we got for our Atari, and it was my very favourite. It was linuxspice's favourite back in the day, too (she used to play with her brothers), and we shared a rainy afternoon in March playing it in an emulator on our PS2. (Amazingly, she had never seen the easter egg!) To think that the whole thing fit in 4K. Later, I became addicted to the original Crowther and Woods game that inspired the Atari cartridge, on the Apple II at the medical office where my Mom worked. We also had a "Deerfield Adventure" at DA, which was an action game that anticipated The Legend of Zelda, set on campus.
- Lunar Lander, both the Atari coin-op version that caught my attention as a kid (and major, major Apollo lunar landing fan), and the console-based version in BASIC that was the first program that I wrote for fun on our school PDP-11/44 at Deerfield. Inspired by the coin-op version, I added ASCII graphics to mine, and it became the addiction in the terminal room for a couple of weeks until Andy Tepper (of A Tale in the Desert fame) finished his first version of Astro.
- Mattel Football II. I grew up in Western Pennsylvania in the late 1970s, when the Steel Curtain-era Stillers were the best football team in the universe, and everyone was addicted to their exploits. Video games were just getting popular, and Football II was the best handheld sports game, and one of the best handheld games period for its day. The combination of the two factors made it our generation's Game Boy -- we'd play it in my elementary school, especially on trips to away soccer games.
- Defender and its sequel Stargate. Defender was so far ahead of its time back in the day, and I had a Stargate machine in my apartment in Cleveland when I was an undergrad (and during my first abortive transition). It had the worst user interface I've ever seen, though; I never mastered flying the ship in the original. I did much better at the Atari cartridge, which was controlled by a single joystick. I have a copy for my GBA, and I'm still no good at it....
epi_lj's video game survey
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