Baroque

It is amazing what you can find on the internet. There is a chess variant game called Baroque that my older brother Steven and his patrolleader Scott Turpin once showed me in my youth. I showed this game to my oldest and youngest boy, and both have played it with me and against each other.

For years and indeed for decades, through all my youth and almost all of my adult life,  I thought he and Scott had made it up out of their own heads. I cannot tell you the sense of disorientation it created to discover this was not the case.

Only quite recently, a year or two ago, did I discover that the game was invented by the mathematician named Robert Abbott (who has a web page here http://www.logicmazes.com/ and an article on how incredibly stupid modern video games are is here http://www.logicmazes.com/s7g2k/video.html). The game was first published in Recreational Mathematics Magazine in August 1962, under the title ??? since Abbott had not yet given it a name. A contest was run, and Baroque was the winning name.

I do not think my brother and Scott were trying to deceive me, it is just that as a small boy I no doubt paid no attention to the origin the things, and the topic of who invented the game never came up, and I never met anyone who had ever heard of it.

There is also a description of the game here, http://www.chessvariants.org/other.dir/ultima.html where it is called Ultima, a name that makes no sense, and was added by some editor in later years. This page also has moving illustrations of the capture moves.

There are only minor differences between the game my brother taught me and the game as described. For example, we called the Immobilizers ‘Freezers’ and called the Pawn ‘Squeezers’ and called the Withdrawers ‘Reversers’  — all of which, in my humble opinion, are much better names. For example, ‘A frozen Squeezer can squeeze the Freezer freezing him’ is more fun to say than ‘A frozen Pawn can pinch the Immobilizer immobilizing him.’

I did not know about the frozen suicide move rule, which would have prevented a stalemate in the last game I just played with my son, and I also thought the point of the game was to capture all enemy pieces, not check the King.

So, if you want to play a game that is played regularly in the Wright household, and do go something with the kids not involving an electronic screen of some sort, here from the original article are the rules to Baroque. (I still think you should use my names rather than Abbott’s, however.)

The pieces are set up exactly the same way as for chess except each player should place a piece of tape on the rook on his left or in some way mark it to distinguish it from the other rook. This marked rook is called the “immobilizer” in the game. The knights are called “long leapers,” the bishops are called “chameleons,” the queen is called the “withdrawer,” the king is still called “king” and the rook on the right, the one that is not marked, is called the “coordinator.” The pawns are still called “pawns” for want of a new name.

Our game is to a large degree eclectic, and its basic idea came about through readings in the history of games. It can be noted that there are very many different forms of captures used in the various games throughout history. However, each particular game uses only one form of capture. Chess, for instance, has different moves for its pieces, but each piece captures in the same fashion, by moving onto the same space as the piece it is capturing. Checkers has one form of capture, the short leap, even though the men and the kings have different powers of movement.

The basic concept behind our game was to construct a game that used several different forms of capture. Thus each of the seven different pieces uses a different form of capture. There are, however, only three different powers of movement in the game.

With this in mind I can proceed to an explanation of the movements and means of capture of each piece.

KING: The king moves and captures in exactly the same fashion as the chess king. The object of the game is to capture this king. The same rules for declaring check apply as in chess.

PAWNS: The pawns can move any number of unoccupied squares orthogonally (horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally). Thus their power of movement is the same as the rook in chess. The pawns use a form of the “interception” capture. This is the oldest form of capture found in war games, predating the replacement capture of chess games and the leap of alquerque and checkers. Interception was the form of capture used in ancient games such as the Saxon Hnefatafl and the Roman game Latrunculi.

If a pawn moves onto a square that is orthogonally next to an enemy piece, and if there is a friendly piece (any friendly piece, not necessarily another pawn) on the other side of that enemy piece, then the enemy piece is captured and removed from the board.

As an example, if the pawn in Figure 1 moves up to the head of the arrow, it captures the enemy withdrawer. (In these figures the friendly pieces are represented by letters and the enemy pieces by letters enclosed in circles. The pieces are represented by the first letter of their name, except for the chameleon which is arbitrarily designated by “S” to distinguish it from the coordinator, “C”.)

To use this form of capture, however, the piece that does the moving must be the pawn. If the long-leaper in Figure 2 moves to the head of the arrow, it would not capture the immobilizer, even though the immobilizer is now between the pawn and the long-leaper. The long-leaper uses a different form of capture, and in this game, it is the piece that does the moving that determines what form of capture may be used.

A pawn may capture more than one piece in a move. If the pawn in Figure 3 moves to the head of the arrow, it captures three enemy pieces, the withdrawer, the coordinator and the chameleon. It does not capture the enemy long-leaper, since it has not moved to the square orthogonally next to it.

A piece may move to the square between two enemy pawns without fear of being captured by them on the enemy’s next turn.

LONG-LEAPER: This piece is named after its capture, a variation of the long leap which is found in Polish and Spanish checkers. The long-leaper may move any number of unoccupied squares orthogonally or diagonally (as the queen’s move in chess). In addition, if it can approach an enemy piece by a legal move, and if the next square beyond the enemy is vacant, it can leap over the enemy piece to that vacant square. The piece lept over is then captured.

The long-leaper in Figure 4 could capture the enemy coordinator by leaping over it to space 1; it could capture the immobilizer by leaping over it to space 2; or it could capture the withdrawer by leaping over it to space 3. This last move might be called a short leap, but this is also a capture the piece can perform. The long-leaper in the figure cannot capture any of the enemy pawns, since there are no vacant spaces on the other sides of them.

A long-leaper can capture only one enemy piece in a turn and it cannot leap over friendly pieces.

WITHDRAWER: The withdrawer can move any number of unoccupied squares in an orthogonal or diagonal direction. It can capture a piece next to it by moving any number of unoccupied squares directly away from that piece.

Thus the withdrawer in Figure 5 could capture the coordinator by moving any number of squares along the arrow marked 1, or it could capture the pawn by moving along the arrow marked 2, or it could capture the chameleon if it moved along the arrow marked 3, or it could capture the enemy withdrawer by moving along arrow 4.

This withdrawal capture was found in the description of a Madagascan game called Fanorona. I have not seen it in any other game. COORDINATOR: The coordinator uses an original capture not found in other known games. The coordinator can move any number of unoccupied squares in an orthogonal or diagonal direction. When it finishes its move, it captures any enemy piece that is on an intersection of the orthogonal lines that pass through the coordinator and through the friendly king.

In Figure 6, if the coordinator moves to the head of the arrow, it captures the enemy pawn; for this pawn is on the intersection of the vertical dotted line, which passes through the king, and the horizontal dotted line, which passes through the point where the coordinator finished its move.

A coordinator can also capture two pieces in a single move. In Figure 7, if the coordinator moves up one space, it captures the enemy chameleon and long-leaper. The orthogonal lines that run through the king and through the coordinator at the end of its move are drawn in the diagram.

Moving the king, instead of the coordinator, does not effect a capture by the coordinator even if enemy pieces would then be on the intersection of coordinate lines. The coordinator must be the piece that moves if you wish to effect the coordinate capture. It might appear difficult to anticipate an attack from the coordinator. However, if a player watches what pieces he has on a line with the enemy king, he will be able to see which are vulnerable to the coordinator.

IMMOBILIZER: The dread immobilizer is another original sort of piece. The immobilizer does not capture its victims, for it does not remove them from the board, but instead paralyzes any piece it is next to in an orthogonal or diagonal direction. Any enemy piece the immobilizer moves next to, or any enemy piece that moves next to the immobilizer, loses its powers of movement. The powers of movement, however, are restored if the immobilizer moves away or is captured. The immobilizer can move any number of unoccupied squares in an orthogonal or diagonal direction.

In Figure 8 the immobilizer moves to the head of the arrow and paralyzes the enemy king, withdrawer, coordinator and three pawns. However, by this same move it frees the enemy long-leaper which had previously been immobilized. It is not necessary to announce check before immobilizing a king.

A piece may move past an enemy immobilizer without being paralyzed, but if it finishes its move on a square next to the immobilizer it loses its power of movement. If the two immobilizers come together, they immobilize each other as well as any enemy pieces in contact. Neither immobilizer thus can move unless the other is captured.

CHAMELEON: The purpose of the chameleon can be simply stated. It does to pieces what they do to other pieces. It captures an enemy piece in the manner that the enemy piece captures. When it is not capturing, it may move any number of squares in an orthogonal or diagonal line. However, when it captures it can move only in a way that the piece it is capturing could move. Thus the chameleon in Figure 9 could move to the head of the arrow and capture the pawn by interception, the pawns’ method of capture. However, the chameleon in Figure 10 could move to the head of the arrow, but it could not capture the pawn since it has moved diagonally, a move that a pawn can’t make.

A chameleon can do many things in a single move. In Figure 11 the chameleon leaps over the long-leaper to the spot marked “x.” It thus captures the long-leaper; it captures the withdrawer (by withdrawal); it captures the coordinator by placing it on the intersection of the orthogonal lines through the chameleon and the friendly king; it captures the three pawns by interception; and it gives check to the king. A chameleon can give check to a king by moving onto the space next to the king, for on the next move it could act as a king and capture the king.

A chameleon can immobilize an immobilizer by moving next to it, or an immobilizer becomes paralyzed if it moves next to a chameleon. In either case both pieces become paralyzed and neither can move unless the other is captured. The immobilizer in this case continues to paralyze any other enemy piece next to it, although the chameleon of course lacks this ability.

A chameleon cannot capture another chameleon.

There is one special move in this game, that of suicide. A player may use a turn to remove from the board one of his own pieces (except his king) that is immobilized. This is sometimes a valuable move since it may clear the way for an attack on the immobilizer. However, a player cannot return a piece to the board which he has removed in the suicide move.

Object of the game

Baroque is won by checkmating or stalemating the opponent King.

44 Comments

  1. Comment by bear545:

    Some years ago I did research into historical games that perhaps we and the kids could play. We found a bunch that were a lot of fun. I don’t remember this version of chess, although I remember several others. I did want to whip up a board to play byzantine chess, which is played on a circular chess board. Never go around to that. I did make a simple Hnefatfl board although the kids didn’t care much for that one. I tried to follow the rules of rithmomachia (“the war of the numbers”) which Thomas More mentioned in Utopia, but the rules were beyond me. I thought it would be cool to play a game that was popular amongst the medievals and Utopians, but, alas, no. As a man who is considered educated by the standards of our time, I found my inability to understand a game that was popular amongs the educated of the Middle Ages to be humbling. I always knew they had clever, complicated minds, but this game gave me a sense of just how complex the medieval mind was, and how, in many ways, I do not measure up.

    If you will forgive the change of topic, I just bought a copy of the Hermetic Millenium, and I wanted to thank you for mentioning me by name as your Latin scholar in your acknowledgements. It was immensely gratifying to see my name in print, even if just once. I am looking forward to reading the book.

  2. Comment by Zen:

    You may also want to consider Arimaa.
    I was interested in the possibility of a version of chess, or a chess-like game, that people could play, but computers would have a difficult time competing with us. It does this very well. If anything, the rules feel simpler than chess, but no less challenging.

    If the machines are going to take over, I see no reason to make it easy for them.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Thank you! I have played my first game of Arimaa with my boys, and lost the first game, outsmarted by a sneaky rabbit. My two boys are playing now. My eldest just killed the other boy’s elephant by kicking away the piece protecting the trap square.

  3. Comment by Sean Michael:

    Dear Mr. Wright:

    This chess variant, Baroque, certainly seems interesting, if complex. But that might be due merely to needing to play Baroque and the rules will be plain enough, I hope.

    And I respect how you try hard to be a good father, one example of which is simply to do things with one’s children, such as playing chess/chess variants. What do you and your sons think of “ordinary” chess?

    H.J.R. Murray, in his massive and classic HISTORY OF CHESS (1913), discusses and reviews many variants of chess, Western and Eastern. As, well, of course, as tracing the history of what became “standard” chess. Highly recommended, with some minor reservations.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      Mr. Brooks,

      It may be easier if you mentally approach it as a whole new game rather than a chess variant. That did the trick for me.

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Hi, Pierce!

        Your suggestion is reasonable, and one I should try to adopt should I ever play Baroque. Altho the many resemblances to “ordinary” chess may make that difficult.

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      What do you and your sons think of “ordinary” chess?

      I have a standing bargain with my youngest son that, if ever he wants to play chess with me, if I am not sleeping or writing a novel, I will drop what I am doing immediately and play him a game or two. He is still at a beginner level, although he can beat his older brother. The other brother was in chess club at school, but it is hard to get him to play a game.

      • Comment by Sean Michael:

        Dear Mr. Wright:

        Good! I’m glad your youngest son likes chess and you are so willing to play it with him, with the two reasonable qualifiers you cited. Hope the other lad comes to like chess better! (Smiles)

        You have an adopted daughter from China, I know, and that reminded me of the Chinese variant of chess, altho I don’t recall its name. But Murray discussed it in detail in his HISTORY OF CHESS.

        Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

        • Comment by bear545:

          Is chess popular in China? I know their biggest strategy game is called weiqi or go. It is simple in rule and complex in expression. Last I checked, they still hadn’t come up with a computer that could beat the top masters.

          • Comment by ChevalierdeJohnstone:

            I can’t find the gscholar link, but I know I’ve read an article about the history of Cold War diplomacy in which the comparison is made that Russians played chess and Americans played poker. I’m not really a fan of either, but while the calculable future moves in a chess game make apparent its incredible complexity, poker is far more complex while at the same time its degree of complexity resists definition.

            Pretty much anything associated with Western intellectualism as well as pretty much anything else associated with Western culture is extremely popular in China if you look at “number of people” who engage in the activity. Out of a country of several billion people, yes there are a whole lot of chess fans. If you want to define popularity strictly in terms of “percentage of the total population who engage in said activity”, the only thing popular in China is eating rice. Heck, speaking Chinese isn’t even “popular” by that definition!

  4. Comment by PNG_pyro:

    Is it odd that I’ve never considered doing anything with a chessboard besides playing chess?

    The best thing about cards is that they’re useful for so many games, and yet I never considered re-purposing my other games. Maybe my brain is a little inflexible. Baroque seems interesting. I’ll store it in my brain for a rainy day.

    I did find the article on computer games amusing; it’s like the author was surprised Sturgeon’s revelation applied to video games. Of course there’s a lot of bad ones out there. There’s a lot of bad EVERYTHING out there.

    • Comment by Pierce O.:

      I was chuckling at all the straw I saw being thrown around, until I reached the bottom and saw the essay was dated 2001, and he may have had a point (I can’t speak much to the 3D games of the early millennium apart from Zelda, since all I played back then was top down Pokemon on my GBC). I wonder what he would make nowadays of Portal, Bioshock, Knights in the Nightmare, Zelda, Final Fantasy Tactics, etc.

      • Comment by PNG_pyro:

        Oh, hum. That does put it in a bit more perspective. I was a bit confused since a new Donkey Kong game was released literally a few weeks ago to mostly positive reviews.

        In the period he was writing, I do think there was a higher percent of bad 3D games, since for it was pushed for novelty value when neither the art or hardware were very developed. Few grasped the principles needed to make a good game with those limitations.

        Even accepting a large percent of games aren’t good, I’m still confounded by the sheer stupidity of what some people play. Have you ever ‘played’ cookie clicker? I hesitate to call it a game; it’s a process with no redeeming value, only distraction. No puzzles, no story, no point…just, click. And people play it! And claim to enjoy it! My mind is boggled.

        • Comment by Christopher:

          Look in the video game news:

          ‘Goat Simulator’.

          • Comment by takashi_kurita:

            “Goat Simulator” is a joke game. It was made by an internal team at Coffee Stain studios as part of a 7-day “game jam”. They’ve been continuing to work on it since then in their spare time, while also working on Coffee Stain’s actual releases.

            They were the Studio that released Sanctum, and Sanctum 2, which are hybrid FPS/Tower-Defense games. They’re extremely complex and require a great deal of planning and logic during the planning/building phase, and then some rabid-weasel shooting reflexes during the attack wave phase of the game. Those phases alternate throughout each game.

        • Comment by David_Marcoe:

          To quote Sturgeon’s Law (named after sci-fi writer Theodore Sturgeon), “Ninety percent of everything is crap.” Skimming the article, I could tell Mr. Abbott was a drive-by commentator, not sufficiently familiar with what he was criticizing. Even circa 2001, one could’ve given a long list of games that fell outside of his critique and have artistic merit. Today, one could can look upon his article as two-thirds risible and none-third dated. At best, he only demonstrated that the field of video games passed through an artistic dry spell. How is that any different than comparable times in art, music, or literature?

          And as a self-avowed middlebrow, why is John so quick to commend an article attacking a form of popular entertainment? I’ll be the first to criticize vapidness in video games, and wish to see it grow as a field and industry to new artistic heights and horizons, but the medium is different from what is done with it, and the last twenty years have at least justified games as solid entertainment, if not high art (though I could point out some true examples of artistry).

      • Comment by JoeCool:

        Even in 2001, we could play games such as Grim Fandango and System Shock 2. And his description of what he calls “the majority of video games” ignores every strategy game ever, which, as I recall, were just as popular, if not more so, in 2001. Starcraft, Civilization, and Age of Empires were all the rage around then.

        But the article is even more risible, now, with the explosion of the indies. To name some of the recent, popular games out there, generating press and buzz: Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons; Papers, Please; Gunpoint; The Stanley Parable; Minecraft; Terraria; Kerbal Space Program; and Braid, to name a few. Not a single one of those conforms to his description of current video games.

      • Comment by ChevalierdeJohnstone:

        Legend of Mana was published in 1999/2000. Final Fantasy Tactics was 1998. Based only on those two, Abbott’s screed is full of crap. Pac Man, which he mentions as an older and presumably “not stupid” game, is in fact both a masterpiece of game design and incredibly stupid. It’s just a test of spatial awareness with moving objects. There’s nothing particularly intelligent about that; hawks do it in 3D.

        I certainly commisserate with the sentiment expressed by Abbott, but his analysis is a load of baloney.

  5. Comment by Zjerzy:

    I’ve visited Robert Abbott’s website and started reading. Condemning stupidity and shallowness of contemporary video games has my approval. However, then I came to this passage and my enjoyment suddenly died: “They consider modern art to be an aberration. Fortunately there are art critics, and indeed an entire academic discipline, which has shown that painting, can be more than just a representation of something. Of course, the ignorant still think a painting should just look like something.” Now I’ve got a problem with this, because it is painfully obvious that modern art IS aberration. Is this some quirk peculiar to mathematicians to see reality as something lower that abstraction?

  6. Comment by CPE Gaebler:

    Interesting variation!
    If anybody here has played the card game “Dominion,” someone I knew in college has created a game that is a hybrid of Chess and Dominion called “For The Crown.” It’s fairly amazing; the variety in special-move cards and pieces – not all, or most, of which are available in a given game – means that each game must be planned for and strategized uniquely, and that two players can look at the setup and come to completely different ideas about how to approach the game, not just on how to move the pieces but even which pieces to purchase. (Players only start with a King on the board; all other pieces must be trained and deployed as the game progresses.)

  7. Comment by Christopher:

    The problem with Abbot’s criticism is that he argues that limitations of the camera somehow relates to the limitation/lack of reason and the freedom of camera leads to greater use of reason. Even contextually, Nintendo prior to the articles publication engaged with a few major hits on the Nintendo 64 (Mario 64, Zelda Ocarina of Time, Zelda Majora’s mask) even the plethora of platforming games and puzzle games on consoles such as the Playstation, and even the PC. Most titles referenced ‘follow the hero’ yet utilise reasoning rather than ‘twitch reflexs’ which certainly do exist.

    Another problem with the article is the criticism of repetition in games such as shooters or racing games such as Mario Kart, yet cites Pac-Man and Tetris as better even though they are also games of repetition.

    He is correct in the stupidity of video gamers today however, Iwata raised criticism that most video gamers cannot complete the first level of Super Mario. Video Games look to be ridiculously easy, no health bars, checkpoints, follow, follow, follow. But that has nothing to do with camera limitations.

    • Comment by takashi_kurita:

      Iwata was criticizing modern game’s relative lack of difficulty, not their stupidity.

      Anyways, his criticism is basically invalidated by who he represents. There’s a reason the phrase “Nintendo hard” exists. Nintendo games (mainly the Mario games) tend to be insanely, hair-rippingly difficult and require a really wierd set of reflexes that many gamers simply don’t have.

      I can (or could, when I was young) finish the game Contra without using the Konami code. I finished all three Ninja Gaidens without using Continues. Anyone who knows old games will tell you those were no easy feats, even in that era where extreme-difficulty was king.

      I never beat Super Mario brothers. Even finishing the first level almost had me in tears sometimes.

      (Conversly, my sister loved the Mario games and seemed to find them easy. I only got her to try Contra once, and never again.)

      • Comment by Christopher:

        ‘We watched the replay videos of how the gamers performed and saw that many did not understand simple concepts like bottomless pits. Around 70 percent died to the first Goomba. Another 50 percent died twice. Many thought the coins were enemies and tried to avoid them.’

        Iwata was certainly criticising the lack of difficulty, but issues like bottomless pits, and coins being enemies is beyond difficulty issues. Games like Contra and Ninja Gaiden do not suffer from the issues that plague modern blockbuster FPS’, namely the pseudo-on-rails behaviour. The very idea that games tell you where you must go (quest markers), limit the route to the target so it is linear, may very well contribute to the issues of stupidity precisely because it lacks the approach that Deus Ex implements.

        As to reflexes, ‘Cat Mario’ looks to be a nightmare.

      • Comment by Raphael:

        I was able to get through the first two worlds of Super Mario Brothers with my toes. How’s that for reflexes?

      • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

        Finishing the first level? Or the first world? I have the first two levels of the first world almost memorized, myself. I didn’t find them that hard, and I’m a wimp at that kind of thing. Now, that next level in the first world is a different story —

        — also, you might appreciate this.

  8. Comment by PNG_pyro:

    Well, there’s definitely a market for stupid and simple games. I cite Cookie Clicker. But you need only look at the success of Dark Souls and Flappy Bird to find there’s also a market for very, very hard games, or the Europa series, if you want an intelligent game. I think what’s going on is more like…in the past, people played what was available, and this did not always reflected what the players actually wanted.

    The rise of the ‘indy’ game industry has shown pretty clearly that there’s a large market for games outside of what the big companies provide; they are marginalizing sometimes significant parts of the market.

    ‘Dumb gamers play dumb games’ looks more to me like ‘gamers play whatever comes out’. This definitely has some elements of ‘dumb’ in it; if they look harder, often better games are available. But this isn’t always obvious. The game market hasn’t reached the saturation point yet, I think; especially since the fast pace of tech-driven turnover means what’s current is a much smaller slice of the market than what’s available.

    Personally, I don’t think gamers have gotten dumber. Now, dumber games are available, and gamers sink to their natural level. If these games were out ten years ago, people would have played them then, too.

    Nostalgia is a funny thing; it skews our viewpoints in oddly specific and subtle ways. I don’t know if my analysis is correct, but I’m innately distrustful of anything that starts with ‘back in my day’, or the equivalent. I really don’t think there is anything new under the sun, and people don’t fundamentally change.

    • Comment by Christopher:

      ‘Personally, I don’t think gamers have gotten dumber. Now, dumber games are available, and gamers sink to their natural level.’

      Would that not then confirm that gamers are getting dumber in some sense that because the game does not offer a challenge, gamers then will not be used to harder titles? Quest markers for example telling you where to go precisely.

      Also, you recommended the Europa series, have you seen Age of Wonders 3?

      • Comment by PNG_pyro:

        Eh, maybe?

        I guess, the gamers start out dumb, and through the challenge of games, develop their skills. They’re then replaced by new gamers, who are not challenged the same. So…the demographic gets dumber? Yeah, maybe. But the older gamers are still around, still playing games; if they can find anything they like, and haven’t outgrown them.

        The waypoints thing is a good example, but it’s important to discern bad game design from well-crafted difficulty. I think every frustration in a game should be specifically placed there by the designers, and modulated into the ‘flow’ of the game. Some games use waypoints as a crutch, while others would be infinitely less aggravating if they had them. Consider the pixel-hunting in old adventure games; it added nothing but pointless annoyance. But…well, there can be games that are smart or dumb, and easy or hard in any combination, I guess.

        I just watched the trailer for Age of Wonders, and now I’m curious. I’m not a big fan of RTS games, but a select few are very nice. Supreme Commander is one of my favorites; I’m eagerly awaiting Planetary Annihilation, and desperately hoping my computer will run it.

        You know, there are enough people who hang out here, this place could almost do with a dedicated forum. I don’t think it will ever happen, but it could be fun.

        • Comment by The Ubiquitous:

          Mr. Wright: I agree with this commenter that having a dedicated forum would also be very awesome. You could let a few regulars moderate, and it would cost nothing but the Web hosting you’re already paying for, and it would also be a kind of self-promotion. Any other votes for forum.scifiwright.com/ ?

          (MyBB is probably the simplest to set up. If you pay a Web goblin already, that might not be relevant, but if he is a volunteer, it would be.)

  9. Comment by Raphael:

    When I was a kid I loved the text-based Infocom games, which I played on my C64. Zork II was my personal favorite, and probably the best of them. I also loved the Zelda and Final Fantasy games on the NES and SNES. There was a certain tessellated beauty to 2D games that’s largely been lost.

    I haven’t played games in a very long time. Not because I don’t like them, but because I find them addictive. They drain the pleasure out of life, and keep me from accomplishing things worth doing. Sometimes I think about trying out Minecraft, because my boy would really get into it. But I don’t know. I like to make things with my hands. There are all kinds of frustrations that you have to get past when working with physical materials that are completely wiped away by computers. It worries me that he wouldn’t ever learn to deal with those things. He’s just in kindergarten, but we play chess together, and talk about numbers at dinner, and things like that. I’m afraid of losing that. People I know boast about how smart gaming makes their kids, but I find that I can’t even engage such kids in conversation; the rare kid who lives without television or games will really talk to you.

    One thing that strikes me about chess vs. video games is that, while somebody somewhere must have invented chess, no one “runs” it. You and your opponent just set up the board and play. The rules are objective and known to all; there is no arbitrator. But with a video game you’re always jumping through someone else’s hoops, solving puzzles that someone else has arranged for you, making use of things that someone has provided for you. It’s a bit servile.

  10. Comment by takashi_kurita:

    Even within the “stupid” realm of action games (and some of them *are* very stupid, though still enjoyable in a popcorn way) you can find sudden examples of brilliance.

    Take, for example, the game Portal and Portal 2. To someone unfamiliar, it might appear to be just another First Person Shooter.

    Except that in Portal, you cannot shoot anything but Portals. You don’t have a gun, or a weapon of any kind. You have only a Portal-gun that can make bridges across space and time, which you must use to escape through bizarre three-dimensional labyrinths full of traps, dangers, falls, shifting floors, changing gravity intensity and direction, and enemies who *do* have guns and who feel neither pain nor fear nor fatigue and never stop.

    It’s a masterpiece, demanding higher level logic and spatial awareness *while killer robots are trying to kill you*, a situation that strains the brain. You can feel yourself becoming more intelligent as you play it.

    Quantum Conundrum fits into the same category, except that instead of portals, your only tool shifts you through a handful of different alternate realities where the laws of physics are all different, and you must cleverly use those properties to navigate your way through the labyrinth.

  11. Comment by takashi_kurita:

    And of course, the entire Strategy genre of video games has always been replete with extremely deep, complex, intelligent games. Everything from Panzer Generals to Civilization to Europa Universalis to Dwarf Fortress to Rome: Total War demands higher level thinking and strategy, as well as quite a bit of resource-managing.

Leave a Reply