Text game news

Joseph Weizenbaum, who created ELIZA in 1966, died earlier this month at the age of 85. Across the internet, many were the impromptu memorials formatted as dialogues with the landmark software. (And how does that make you feel...?)

Eliza is more of a toy than a game, but it's perhaps the first widely seen use of a computer program masquerading as a human. It no doubt got a lot of people thinking, despite how thin that particular mask was. Allow me to assert that the text adventure games that would start to appear ten years later were descendants of ELIZA, and so therefore is much of the modern digital game landscape.

(Much less significantly, I once wrote a Perl script that had Eliza analyze the "Jeeves" persona of askjeeves.com (which is now ask.com), and put a transcript of their session on my website.)

But as my friends and Gameshelf watchers already know (because I never shut up about it), text-based games continue to live on, like Neanderthals among the Homo Sapiens. Except these are the crafty sort of Neanderthals who moved underground, refusing to become an evolutionary cul-de-sac, quietly carving out obscure empires largely unknown to the surface-dwellers in their shining cities and their Half Life 2 game engines.

Um. My point is that the 2007 XYZZY Awards happened this month and Admiral Jota's entirely charming Lost Pig, chronicling an unusual adventure in the life of an orcish peon, took top prize. I played this game last year and enjoyed it a great deal. You should play it too.

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