Monthly Archives: August 2011
One of my favorite aspects of Portal 2 is its effective use of achievements, those meta-gamey pleasure-center tinglers now ubiquitous across modern videogames via services like Xbox Live and Steam. While the game carries the usual payload of milestone-badges, unavoidably “unlocked” just by traversing its two play modes, it splits the remainder between encouraging various player interactions in co-op mode and inviting a replay of single-player mode in a new context. This latter class of achievements proves most interesting to me, and brings to mind a certain beloved feature of classic text adventure games.
Ascension is a popular game, I personally am hooked on it, and it has an expansion. Therefore: I indulge myself by imagining cards for another expansion.
A coincidence apropos to this week’s biggest technology-news story:
While researching my Pilgrim book review, I discovered that the person Atari contracted to implement the first Breakout prototype in 1975 was Steve Jobs. Yes, the very same.
Naturally, he subcontracted the nitty-gritty work to his friend Steve Wozniak, and Wikipedia relates the eyebrow-raising twist ending to that story.
Somehow I had managed to be the long-time Mac-loving videogame nerd I am without knowing any of this. Frankly, I didn’t believe it when I first read it yesterday, but it seems well cited and corroborated.
So there you have it. Steve Jobs has been both crafting medium-defining technology projects and, ahem, turning absurdly high profit margins for the whole span of my life so far. I wish him all the best, and hope he finds a way to keep at it.
Near the beginning of David Sudnow’s Pilgrim in the Microworld, published in 1983, the author, a Berkeley-based sociologist and polymath, describes his discovery of the Atari VCS at a friend’s party. Missile Command in particular intrigued him so much that he immediately visited a store to buy his own console. That game was out of stock, but the salesperson recommended Breakout instead. He proceeded to play that game obsessively for three months, and then wrote a 160-page book about it. The resulting artifact was unique for its time and remains an unusual work; even as the field of games criticism grows deeper and richer, this book from the previous century has something to teach us.