Wednesday, March 8

'Try going there'

Despite the infinite naughty possibilities, Hugo never had the gorditas to go for it. Any of it.

Because everything's more fun when it's done in a video game, there's an RPG that teaches journalism skills. Oh, kids these days with their candy corn and their hula hoops and their journalism-mimicking pixels.

The game is a modified version of "Neverwinter Nights," which sounds slightly less interesting than a game about journalism.

"When we initially did the game, it still had lava pits, the editor looked like an ogre — stuff like that. The librarian had breastplates," said Nora Paul, director of the university's Institute for New Media Studies.

The team, which includes game designer Matt Taylor and journalism professor Kathleen Hansen, have now modified the game graphics to look like a modern town, the fictional Harperville. A train has derailed, spilling toxic ammonia, and the players are sent out to cover the story. They dig up information by going to the library, government offices or talking to a retired train engineer at the bar.

The journalist has to go into the community and talk to people, choosing from a set of attitudes ranging from assertive to tentative. Interview subjects, if rubbed the wrong way, can tell the reporter to beat it, and effectively provide a stumbling block for the story.

This reminds me of a game called "Whodunit: Hugo 2," which came on my family's very first PC back in the early '90s. The entire game was done using something like eight colors, and you had to type in a prompt to get the main character to do anything. Half the time your prompt wouldn't be understood by the computer, so Hugo would say stupid or sassy things in reply. You'd type "Walk to the chair and sit down," and the computer, not understanding, would reply "Try going there."

Naturally, I spent my adolescent computer time trying to get Hugo and his girlfriend Penelope to make out. And when they would kiss chastely, I would sick Hugo on the maid. And then later, when Penelope disappeared, I'd sick Hugo on the big burly gardener, who, surprisingly, wasn't terribly offended at Hugo's advances.

I have no clue about the state of RPGs today, but I imagine they're much less clunky and frustrating. And a lot prettier now that pixel and polygon counts or whatever have decaquadrupled. I never finished "Whodunit." I never even got the matches past the bridge or into the maze. All I managed to do was make it into the secret passage and walk out to play with the gardener's tools. And it seems like I remember something about a parrot ...

Dork that I am, this journalism game sounds interesting. Of course, I'm totally into mundane games where the action is all about human interaction. It's my way of pre-empting the inevitable brain pan.

The team had initially planned to have a crowd of game characters milling about the accident scene, but the game wasn't amenable to that. A bug in the program meant that any time a player approached a group of people, he was immediately attacked and killed.

Seems like a relatively accurate bug to me.


Blogger phallicpen said...

Did you ever play "Leisure Suit Larry?" I was told you could get them to have sex, but it never happened. I guess I'd be bad at impromptu voyeurism.

Wed Mar 08, 11:58:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

We had that on our computer but my parents, upon hearing about its naughty potential, had it deleted. We also had a game called "Darkseed," which had artwork by HR Giger in it, and we were all convinced it was satanic.

It was about a dude with an alien baby in his head, for god's sake!

Thu Mar 09, 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger nashgirl said...

Man, I had that computer game, Hugo's House of Horrors. I never thought to tell Hugo to do dirty things and eventually quit after not being able to figure out what commands to give him. Perhaps the kissing command would have gotten me further in the game.

Thu Mar 09, 12:10:00 PM  

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