Friday, 12 January 2018

Computer games

I have been playing computer games, on and off, for getting on 40 years.  The first game I came across as a young and enthusiastic computer hacker, was called Colossal Cave, and was invoked on the computer I was using by the command ADVENT.  You couldn't call it Adventure because the computer only recognised capital letters, and program names had to be no longer than 6 characters. You can get a flavour of this game here.   Computer games have come a long way since then.

I suppose it started at uni, with Dungeons and Dragons.  This rôle-playing combat and treasure-hunting game is based on a map, figurines and rolls of the dice.  And lots of rules, looked up in a book, for how armour, weapons, magic spells, and everything else in the fantasy world actually work.  (How much time, magical energy and money does it take to develop a micro-fireball oven?)  We'd collect together of an evening around the boards, dice and a considerable amount of beer, and play through the night. I remember thinking that it could all be made much simpler using a computer.  I didn't conceive of what a graphics-oriented PC could do, since they hadn't been invented yet.

The first "modern" game I played on a "multi-media" PC (that is, one powerful enough to play music, and have reasonable graphics at the same time) was Myst. An early first-person exploration/puzzle game, you were transported to a very different and realistic world where you had to figure out how things worked in order to finish the game.  My wife and I played it together and we still do, with games of this type.

I was transfixed for a while by the first real-time strategy game I played over one Christmas holiday (it was a present).  Called Command and Conquer, you play a General, deploying ever more powerful forces in increasingly challenging situations, leading to eventual conquest.

There are now many well-understood categories of games: first-person exploration and puzzles, first-person shooters, real-time strategy, simulations and so on.  I touched on simulations in my last post; they often go well beyond the concept of a game: they can realistically simulate driving a formula 1 car, piloting Concorde, driving a train and so on.  They have become valuable training aids.  There are also multi-player online games where many players interact and there is a social element as well.

At the moment, my wife and I are playing a first-person exploration and puzzle game called The Witness.  It's good.  You find yourself on a island where various puzzles of different kinds first teach you how to solve them and then require some lateral thinking to progress.  The puzzles are always very logical but are not always what you think they are.  We play it on the Steam platform that allows us both to interact with it, her on her PC and me on mine.  It is interesting to see how our different creativities and puzzle-solving techinques apply in different situations.  We make a good team because our differences allow us to get into the heads of the devious bstds who invented the puzzles.

I post this photo of the Tour Montparnasse in Paris that I passed the other day.  The top fades into the mist, and the tree traces paths across the windows.  It reminded me of The Witness, where some of the puzzle solutions require tracing the shadows of tree branches onto a grid.  Or not.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

At home

What to do at home?   By which I mean, what is the leisure activity that you do when you have the time and space to do it properly, with all your concentration, at home?  For me, it's music, either playing or listening, and the financial investments I have made in my stereo and its music collection, and my flute and sheet music over the years reflect this preference.

For my brother-in-law, his leisure activity is playing computer games, specifically driving simulators.  We have played football simulators and other game types over the years but it's driving simulators that capture his imagination.  So now that he has done all the house improvements and other DIY projects that need doing, he has invested in a proper driving simulator.  It mimicks a racing car cockpit complete with stick or paddle gear shifts, pedals, sound and vibration effects, etc.

He has done the "career path", starting on go-carts and progressing to formula 1.

I tried it, it's good, not that I'm competent on it.

Friday, 29 December 2017

London dusk

In London the other week, my walk to Top Wind, the flute shop near Waterloo, took me over Westminster bridge.  I thought that London at dusk was looking pretty.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017


On our way to join a friend for lunch, and being a little early, we took a detour to Bosham.  Such a pretty little village, and seeming quite active with a busy café, and an artists' gallery and shop amongst other attractions.  The sailing club is in what seems to be an old water mill, and the church is quiet and interesting. 

Bosham is featured in the Bayeux tapestry, mentioned as a stopping point for Harold and his army on the way to meet William (later "the conqueror").  This reproduction of a section of the tapestry is on display in the church. 

I wouldn't give much for the survivability of the place when the sea levels rise though, and the lintels at the garden gates in the village speak of high tides from time to time.

Monday, 25 December 2017

Christmas day

On this special day, I thought I'd share with you the garden decorations put up by one of our neighbours not too far away.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Rocking horse

I came across this rather strange and magical rocking horse/chair in a house that is for sale in the village.  It looks like someone has taken a piece of driftwood and made a dreamworld rocker out of it.

It has bedsprings at all four end of the rockers, I guess to stop it tipping too much forwards or backwards, and wings as armrests.  I wonder who played with it, or sat in it, and where they flew with it.

Thursday, 21 December 2017


The two opening paragraphs of this newspaper item struck me as quite funny.  It was in The Times, 14th December.

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