Michael Clune and I have several things in common: we’re about the same age (I’m a bit older), we’re both English professors, and we played many computer games during our youth, adolescence, graduate education, and perhaps even now. Gamelife: A Memoir is not so much about the games themselves but rather their formative effect on the author. Though I also spent many hours playing The Bard’s Tale II, Suspended, and few other games cognate to the ones Clune writes about (Ultima IV instead of III, Doom instead of Castle Wolfenstein, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri instead of Pirates!), they did not affect my lifeworld to the same extent.
About five years ago, I swore that I would finish Rhem 4 without hints. Though I haven’t been trying the whole time, I worked on it quite hard over the last week or so. I failed, yes. I’m going to take this opportunity to brag about what I solved without hints and complain about the two puzzles that I didn’t. First, the complaining, as suits my nature. After finishing the game, I read through some reviews, walkthroughs, etc., and I was satisfied to find that most of them mentioned one of these puzzles as being exceptionally difficult, though not for the reason that I found.
I earlier wrote about my experience with Knut Muller’s Rhem 2, and I gave the third game a shot over the last few days. I came infinitesimally close to solving it without any hints. No puzzles or missing information thwarted me; I merely failed to see something in plain sight. I don’t know if my last post captured how complex the game is. Here are some notes I made while attempting to solve a problem with incomplete information: Needless to say, all of this turned out to be wrong.
That’s what I am feeling after failing to solve Rhem 2 without consulting the walkthrough. What is Rhem 2 and why should anyone care whether or not I solved it without a walkthrough? Well, Rhem 2 is a self-produced (more or less) puzzle game in the tradition of Myst created by Knut Muller. I first learned of the Rhem games from reading Andrew Plotkin’s review, and I purchased the first Rhem in 2005.
The Departed is the worst Oscar Best Picture Winner I’ve ever seen, by a considerable margin. (There are many, needless to say, that I haven’t, but still.) I scanned the reviews in IMDB, and they were all, with the possible exception of Hoberman, very wrong. I accepted the PS3 challenge. It came with a game called Metal Gear Solid 4. When I heard the Lady Octopus’s origin story (she was victimized for living in a Scandinavian village where, “unlike the rest of Europe,” villagers enjoyed eating octopus), I realized that much more was lost in translation than I had suspected.
I’ve been fascinated with this concept at a distance for some time now, though I can’t help but to regard it as faintly ominous. Having recently read Jane McGonigal’s Modern Drama article “SuperGaming: Ubiquitous Play and Performance for Massively Scaled Community,” I’m wondering again about the technoutopianist slant of the concept, mirroring, as it does, the demotic gnostic nightmare of Dick. I’ve taught “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” and The Magus (and eXistenZ, come to think of it) over the last few years, and I’ve always asked the students to compare them with the ARG/LARP phenomenon.
That’s the title of my course this semester. I’m thinking possibly of substituting Primer for eXistenZ. I think Primer’s engagingly baffling, and it’s also one of the best movies about engineers qua engineers I’ve seen. I did ‘solve’ Rhem, and getting the bridge to rise is really just the start of it. Clancy bought me the sequel as a present, and I’ve vowed to get through it without looking at a walkthrough, which I admit I did out of frustration two or three times in the first game.
Neither del.icio.us nor del.irio.us have allowed me to register for their services. I don’t expect I’m missing something. I just never get to where I’m able to add the bookmarklet. None dare call it treason. Via Grand Text Auto, I found Florian Cramer’s Word Made Flesh, a book that seems to touch upon several of my more obscure research interests at the moment. Perhaps I’ll have a chance to post more about it later.