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2:46pm on Wednesday, 2nd November, 2011:

Old Games


Every year, I give my CE217 students some homework: play a set of classic, old-style computer games. Partly this is so that they can see what old games were like and partly it's because they can see how some new games derived from old ones, but mainly it's so that I can guarantee that there is a corpus of games that I can legitimately involve in examination questions. The games I get them to look at are: Pong, Frogger, Zork, Rogue, Asteroids and Tetris. I don't expect them to play them all the way through, but I do expect them to be able to create a token interaction matrix or whatever where appropriate.

Each year, I also ask the students which of these games they liked and which they didn't. The favourite by some way was Asteroids, with Zork coming in last. It's amazing to think that text adventures were the dominant form of commercial computer game up until about 1986. Tetris was also popular; Frogger ("I'm a frog, why can't I swim?") and Rogue ("There's more than one level to the dungeon?") might have done better if they'd come with playing instructions. Pong was liked by people who were good at it and despised by people who were hopeless at it (of which I'm one myself).

After that, I split them into groups and made them design games using one of the following as materials: several hundred business cards; 150 jokers; 100 Penguin book covers; 15 incomplete packs of cards; a bag of Lego pieces, all red roof tiles (rule: no sticking them together!). It served them right for not liking Zork...

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Copyright © 2011 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).