A while back, Rob posted an essay by John Brownlee about "roguelikes," which are simple adventure games that take place in multilevel dungeons filled with monsters and treasures.
I first came across Rogue in 1988 or 1989, when someone at a company in Colorado I worked for gave it to me on a floppy disk. It ran on DOS, and used ASCII characters to draw mazelike dungeons and populate them with monsters, spells, potions, weapons, and armor. It was very primitive, but the gameplay was tremendously exciting. I never made it all the way down to the lowest level of the dungeon, but sometimes I would get pretty deep before a nymph or other powerful foe would smite me.
I played the game off and on for years, obsessing over it for weeks at a time, then cooling off for a number of months before returning to it.
After I started using Windows (and later a Macintosh) I stopped playing Rogue, except for the version I had on my PalmPilot. When I got rid of the PalmPilot, Rogue just became a fond memory, and my sister and I would fondly reminisce over it (she was a fan of the game, too, and I think it was the only computer game she played).
Then I read Brownlee's essay, in which he mentioned a game called the Sword of Fargoal, a remake of a 1982 Commodore C-64 roguelike dungeon crawler that's available for the iPhone, iPad, and OS X. I bought the iPhone and iPad versions a few weeks ago and have been playing them an awful lot ever since. The graphics are gorgeous, with a nod to its retro-origins. The soundtrack by Daniel Pemberton is spooky. Wisely, the creators kept things pretty simple. Earlier this year I tried World of Warcraft and its lush 3D world didn't hook me, not like the Sword of Fargoal has.
I like to play the iPad version of Fargoal while I ride a stationary recumbent bike every morning. It makes the time fly. In fact, I usually ride 10 minutes longer than planned, just because I want to fully explore a level before calling it quits for the day.
What makes roguelikes much fun for me? Part of it is finding potions and spells inside treasure chests -- a popular phrase with people who fish is, "the tug is the drug" --and there is a similar surge of euphoria when I happen upon a Detect Traps spell, a Restore potion, or a Reflective shield. The sense of discovery as I crawl through a dungeon level, pushing away the fog as I do so, compels me to keep exploring, and killing a nasty monster whets my bloodlust. The difficulty level of the game is perfect -- my character has died at least a dozen times, requiring me to restart at the beginning each time. But it's not so difficult that it's discouraging. As soon as I start a new game (the levels, monsters, and goodies are randomly generated so that no two games are the same), my level 1 character is faced with challenges and rewards suited to his experience.
If and when I finally retrieve the titular sword and bring it to the top level of the dungeon, I wonder if I will want to play the game again?
On September 14, 1987, Garry B Trudeau ran the first Doonesbury strip that mentioned Donald Trump, in which his characters marvel that New York’s “loudest and most visible asshole” had floated a political trial balloon, hinting that he would run for president; thus began 30 years of marveling at, mocking, and skewering Der Drumpf, so rattling the Short-Fingered Vulgarian that he felt the need to issue a series of wounded denunciations. Now, just in time for the election, Trudeau has released a collection of his Trump-themed strips, Yuge: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump, just the thing to put the Republican nominee on tilt.
Since 2015, our family has been in love with Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn books, a kind of modern take on Calvin and Hobbes, only Calvin is an awesome little girl, Hobbes is a unicorn, and the parental figures can see and interact with the unicorn, but are not freaked out because she generates a SHIELD OF BORINGNESS. Now, the insanely prolific Simpson has released the fourth collection in the series: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure.
It’s been more than 20 years since the publication of Making Book, Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s collection of essays, mostly drawn from the pre-online days of fanzines and letters columns; this year, in honor of Teresa’s stint as Fan Guest of Honor at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, NESFA Press has published a second volume: Making Conversation, a collection of essays drawn from the online world on subjects as varied as moderation and trolling, cooking, hamster-rearing, fanfic, narcolepsy, the engineering marvels of the IBM Selectric, and more.
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