Results tagged “obituaries”

Remembering Diana Wynne Jones

Back in my season of IF interviews, a few months ago, I was asked about my influences from outside the game-design world. I said:

...Diana Wynne Jones describes the fantastical by grounding it in the reader’s unconscious knowledge of the real world. I try to do all these things. (-- interview in Black Clock, Jan 13, 2011)

I learned on Saturday that Diana Wynne Jones has died. She has been ill for a couple of years now, a fact that I kept remembering and then thrusting from my consciousness. Such things make no sense. She has been in my library and in my head for three-quarters of my life; I might have been ten when I stumbled into Dogsbody. I might have been younger.

More and better writers than I are writing remembrances this week. I can only say that on my shelf of most-important books, The Homeward Bounders and Fire and Hemlock and Archer's Goon are untidily lined up.

Diana Wynne Jones insisted on the rough, solid, believable, ordinariness of life -- and that includes life lived in Elfland, life in a walking castle, life at a science fiction convention, life in the future or past or outside of time. All of these are as solid as the house you grew up in, or the time your brother pushed you into the snow, or the butter pies you dreamed of eating. Fantasy has moved on to boy wizards at school (really?) and heroes who turn into wolves (really?), but Diana Wynne Jones just kept telling us how to do it, over and over.

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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