Computer Games Accessible to the Blind
Edited by Michael Feir
Issue 7: July/August, 1997
Welcome to the seventh issue of Audyssey. this magazine is
dedicated to the discussion of games which, either by accident or
design, are accessible to the blind. We also discuss any concerns
and issues raised by them. This issue marks the first full year of
the existence of Audyssey. In addition to covering the latest game
news and developments, we will be taking a special look back at
where we've come from, and ahead to where we're going.
Please write articles and letters about games or game-related
topics which interest you. They will likely interest me, and your
fellow readers. They will also make my job as editor a lot more
interesting and true to the meaning of the word. This magazine
should and can be a highly interesting and qualitative look at
accessible computer gaming. To insure
that high quality is maintained, I'll need your written
contributions. I'm not asking for money here, and won't accept any.
This magazine is free in its electronic form, and will always
remain so. PCS needs to charge a subscription cost to cover the
disks and shipping costs that it incurs by making the magazine
available on disk. I'm writing this
magazine as much for my own interest as for everyone else's. Your
articles, reviews, and letters, as well as any games you might care
to send me, are what I'm after. Send any games, articles, letters,
or reviews on a 3.5-inch disk in a self-addressed mailer
so that I can return your disk or disks to you once I have copied
their contents onto my hard drive. Please only send shareware or
freeware games. It is illegal to send commercial games. By sending
me games, you will do several things: first, and most obviously,
you will earn my gratitude. You will also insure that the games
you send me are made available to my readership as a whole. As a
further incentive, I will fill any disks you send me with games
from my collection. No disk will be returned empty. If you want
specific games, or specific types of games, send a message in Ascii
format along. *Never* *ever* send your original disks of *anything*
to *anyone* through the mail. *Always* send *copies!* This
principle may seem like it shouldn't even have to be stated, but
when it comes to just about anything related to computers, there's
always some poor soul who will act before applying common sense.
Disks are *not* indestructible. Things *do* get lost or damaged in
the mail, and disks are not immune to these misfortunes. If you
have a particular game that you need help with, and you are sending
your questions on a disk anyhow, include the game so that I can try
and get past your difficulty. If you can, I recommend that you send
e-mail. I have acquired a copy of the UUencode software, and can
send and/or receive files which are encoded via this means. This
no money will be wasted sending me a game I already have, and
you'll get my reply more quickly. You are responsible for shipping
costs. That means, either use a disk mailer which has your address
on it, and is either free matter for the blind, or is properly
stamped. I can and will gladly spare time to share games and my
knowledge of them, but cannot currently spare money above what I
spend hunting for new games. I encourage all my
readers to give my magazine to whoever they think will appreciate
it. Up-load it onto web pages and bulletin board systems. Copy it
on disk for people, or print it out for sighted people who may find
it of value. The larger our community gets, the more self-
sustaining it will become.
This magazine is published on a bi-monthly basis, each issue
appearing no earlier than the twentieth of every other month. All
submissions must be sent to me in standard Ascii format either on
a 3.5-inch floppy disk, or via e-mail to my Compuserve address. I
will give my home address and my Compuserve address at the end of
the magazine. There are now several ways of obtaining Audyssey. To
subscribe to the distribution list so that you receive all future
issues, send a subscription request to J.J. Meddaugh. As he is
running several lists, be sure to specifically ask to join the
Audyssey list. His address is:
You can find all issues of Audyssey on the Internet on Paul
Henrichsen's web site at:
All issues are also available in the disability forum on
Compuserve. If you have web access, Audyssey now has an official
web-page, maintained by J.J. Meddaugh. There are links to other
interesting sites, and all issues of Audyssey are available there
as well. In the near future, software may also be posted there for
you to down-load. The address for this page is:
For those of you who have trouble finding some of the software
discussed in this magazine, or if you know someone who doesn't have
access to the Internet, but would be interested in the magazine,
this magazine is now available on disk. PCS has agreed to
distribute Audyssey, as well as selected shareware or freeware
software on disk for ten dollars US per year. To subscribe to
Audyssey on disk, contact them at:
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy N.J.
E-mail: [email protected]
From the Editor
My views on Games for the Blind
The Latest Finds
PCS: the People behind the Games
The winning Contest Entry
Special Anniversary Bonus
From the Editor
Hello, everyone. The first order of business is to explain why some
of you might not have received your copies of Audyssey via E-mail
as you were supposed to. J.J. Meddaugh, our internet expert and
distribution manager has gone to work at a camp for the blind. When
he returns, I'll ask him to re-distribute the issue so that we can
be certain that everyone gets it. In the meantime, he has provided
me with a copy of the distribution list as it was before he left.
I will attempt to distribute this issue myself to as many of you as
I can. Please accept my humble apologies for any delays or
This issue of Audyssey marks the first year of the magazine's
publication, and what a year it has been. The community of readers
has grown tremendously. And yet, this magazine still remains a very
fragile and uncertain thing. Looking back over the past issues, I
notice that most of the articles have been either written by me, or
contributed by a small handful of people. I get letters from a
whole lot of you, but actual articles and reviews only come from a
very small group of you. The most regular contributed has been
Allen maynard. A few of you have contributed some very good
reviews, and an even smaller number have contributed actual
articles. We had Ken Parry's excellent introduction to multi-user
dungeons, and in this issue, we have an excellent article about the
possible future of games for the blind by David Lant. We also have
an interesting look into the people at PCS.
To those of you who have contributed, I offer you my sincere
thanks. I hope that you will continue to offer your writing talents
to this magazine. if more of you don't start contributing articles
and reviews, I don't know if Audyssey will survive another year.
I'm going into my final year of college, and this year will be the
most intense I've ever experienced. Without your submissions, there
won't be any Audyssey. It's that simple. I've tried everything I
can think of to give people incentive to write for this magazine.
I figured the contest for one of PCS's games, normally worth $30
US, received for free, would be enough incentive to draw some
response from you. Yet, two months later, only one person entered
the contest. So, readers, where have I gone wrong? Was seven
hundred words too long? Is there nothing which will get more of you
to write even small articles for Audyssey? I'm quite willing to
entertain suggestions. I'm also entirely out of ideas. If PCS is
willing, another contest might be tried some time in the future.
After the appalling response they got this time, I don't see them
being overly enthusiastic to offer up another free game. To all
those who have contributed articles and reviews, please continue to
do this. You might be the small core who keep Audyssey going. You
also might finally encourage our other readers to finally get off
their duffs and start participating instead of merely hanging on
for the ride.
if people are looking for games to review, there are plenty out
there which have not been properly reviewed in this magazine. One
of the letters was an article from the rec.games.int-fiction
newsgroup which points to a web-site with text-based software which
was formerly commercial. the company was called Beam software. If
anyone has web access and can get these games, reviews of them
would be very much appreciated. Also, if any of you card-sharks
decide to get pCS's new pack of card games, I would very much like
a review of these. If any of you have a favourite mud or on-line
game you like to play, review it for the rest of us.
One final bit of news here is that despite extensive efforts, no
contact has been made with TMA Incorporated, the makers of Anacreon
Reconstruction. I am now willing to distribute the registered
version of the game to whoever wants it. this comes without the
full manual, of course. It seems that there is no longer any hope
of obtaining this. the general consensus of those I talked to about
the game was that TMA Inc. no longer exists. if any of you want
Anacreon Reconstruction, please let me know. Sierra Inc. has
released its long-anticipated Battle at Antara, the sequel to
Betrayal at Krondor, which was discussed in the last issue. I have
yet to obtain this game, which is available on cd-rom, but chances
are excellent that it is even more suitable for blind people to
play with sighted partners than the last one was. I'll eventually
be getting the game, but cannot guarantee that it will be before
the next issue. If anyone else gets it, please review it for us.
On that note, I'll leave you all to enjoy the rest of this special
issue of audyssey. Keep those articles, letters and reviews coming.
From Travis Siegel
For text games of all kinds, you can ftp to softcon.com, and check
in the textgame directory. There's (currently) over 140 games
there, with more being added all the time as I find them. Feel
free to grab what you like,
and if you have something I don't, and would like to share it with
the world, contact me by sending a message to [email protected],
and I'll see about getting it online there. Hope this helps
Three cheers for Travis! I have had an opportunity to examine his
site, and he has managed to find some rare items. A version of the
old Wumpus game, all-be-it not a terrific one, is available there.
a lot of the AGT games have also found their way onto the site. I
hope that the frotz interpreter and some of the Inform games find
their way onto the site, as well as other gems like Fallthru. I
encourage all of you to have a look at the site for yourselves.
This could become the premier site for blind people to find text-
based games of all kinds on. I don't believe that this has happened
yet, but it could happen over the next year if enough people help
Travis out. I certainly plan to.
From Jan Wright:
I downloaded your zine off Paul Henrichson's web page. I liked
it very much. I have seen many gaming zines for the sighted and
am glad to see a zine for text based games.
I am a blind mother of four sighted children. My children range
from 9-4 yo. I am trying to educate them, as well as have fun with
them on my computer. I am looking for games that are text based,
but have a little graphics to sustain children's interest. My
oldest child and I can play one of the games in the vip611 package.
I would like a very very simple adventure game with limited
graphics, or something similar. Are such games? I do not have C.D.
rom, yet, nor do I have capability to hook up a mouse without
getting a mouse bus card. I hope to get these in the future, but
are not able to, at this time.
If you can give me any suggestions, please do.
Also, I found a wonderful text based game that deals with word
execution. The game is called wordy. In this package, you can
get scrabble capabilities, chess clock, unscramble capability,
searching and pattern wordfinds, and anagram capabilities. One
player can play the wordy game. The computer gives you a twelve
letterset. A more experienced user can put in their own letterset.
The player has three minutes to find as many words as possible.
The computer keeps score and a record file. You can look at this
game by going to:
Tell me what you think???
Many thanks to Jan for informing us all of Wordy. This is an
excellent word-game which a lot of people are sure to enjoy. I can
certainly testify to my grandmother and I having a lot of fun with
the game while she visited us. See the latest finds section for my
review of the game. I'm afraid that finding games with minimal
graphics isn't exactly my strong point. The best I can do here is
tell you that some of the AGT games are supposed to have graphics.
The best place to find adventure games remains the interactive
fiction archives at:
If any of you know of any games which you think are particularly
good for younger children, please send reviews of them, or
information on where they may be found, so that others may write
reviews of them. In the meantime, I might recommend a couple of the
Adventureware games. The Haunted Mission, and Island of Mystery,
seem particularly geared towards younger kids.
From Alun Evans:
I have just read Audyssey Issue 5: March/April, 1997 which I found
very interesting. Reading the magazine reminded me of years ago
when "Windows" were things you looked through and put curtains at.
and I was trying to get to grips with my new
toy - A Sinclair ZX81 - Now with that brute you couldn't even find
the keys let alone play a game because the keys weren't raised. Ah
well with a mountain of patience and a good deal of determination
I managed to learn a smattering of "basic" and eventually wrote a
little game where a slowly moving train, composed
of inverse or black squares, could be bombed by a descending "V"
which was controlled by the cursor keys. Now having some sight I
could just about play this game and at the time I thought myself
dead clever to have written it, but of course the damn thing was of
no use to anyone and my wife, Kate, who has no
sight at all, was less than impressed with my offering.
Later on we got an Atari with "Real Keys". Games were acquired by
typing them in from magazine listings. I remember one in
particular which had the hero, a fellow called Joe, leaping about
some subterranean caverns chased by a collection of ghosts. To help
Kate play this game I added some code to report exits from the
caves as a series of beeps. A bit crude you might say but it
worked and amazed the kids by leaving them standing.
Then there was this professional game for the Atari called Bounty
Bob, perhaps you've come across it. The thing about this game was
that you could hear the little chappy move about the screen so that
you could count footsteps in whichever direction you were going and
as the platforms never varied you could learn a level. Kate
managed to learn level one and could clear it 8 times out
of ten. Now we have the PC it seems that that type of game has died
out, unless of course you know different.
Anyway I just thought I would write and tell you to carry on the
good work, I'll certainly try and catch the next issue.
Thanks putting in the effort.
Mr. Evans has given us a very timely glimpse into the past here. I
also used to have a lot of fun with video games which I played
using my light perception and memorization of the levels. This was
even possible with arcade games, which also didn't vary too much
from game to game. Of course, those days are long gone to the best
of my knowledge. Video games are designed with re-play value in
mind, and tend to vary quite a lot. this is true in arcades and at
home. In the future, I wouldn't be surprised if PCS explored the
possibilities of this kind of game. They plan to eventually use
sound as a primary input in games. The results of these efforts
should be quite interesting. If any of you have managed to find
video games which are playable via memorization and hearing, please
do let the rest of us share in the excitement. In the meantime, I
hope that you find some of the games which are discussed in this
magazine to be enjoyable. Your thoughts on the small collection of
screen-oriented games, such as Nethack and Adom, would be most
interesting in light of your video game experience, and I hope that
you'll have occasion to try these games and share your reactions
From Randall Lewis:
Hi Michael. . Thanks for your E. My wife is totally blind. I did
follow the links you gave me, but I had no luck with what I was
looking for. I downloaded the vipegs file you mentioned but there
was nothing suitable. I have found loads of crossword games, and
companies that compiles crossword games, but none
that are actually able to be read by any screen reader. I have also
put out various inquiries on the internet, but have not received
any useful information. I do now have a copy of PW Webspeak.
I do hope that your exams went ok. If you can help in any way, I
will be pleased to hear from you.
Despite considerable effort, I am sorry to report here that no
crossword games have been found which are accessible to the blind.
The Wordy game found by Jan Right, might prove somewhat interesting
to you, and you might want to check that out. Other than this find,
no new word-games have been found, and as far as I know, none are
being worked on. Like many ideas, I fail to see why no speech-
friendly crossword game exists. It should be quite workable.
Several requests for speech-friendly crosswords have come my way,
and any game developers out there might want to think of making a
program. To be comparable with what is available for sighted
people, such a program would have to allow for the creation of
one's own crosswords, and contain numerous pre-made puzzles as
well. i can only hope that someone, somewhere, will take on the
task of making a crossword system for the blind.
From Timothy J Truman:
I read your request to MVP concerning a game that was developed for
I used to program games for other companies. I now have my own
called Nocturnal Creations. Although NC has primarily made
graphically based games ,I was stirred in your request for games
that are accessible to the blind. This is a market
area of gaming that I believe is untapped. Perhaps I could be of
assistance to your readers and make a game that
is blind Accessible. I am excited about exploring this area of
gaming. Perhaps you could answer these questions for me :
What makes a game blind accessible ?
Are there any games available that fit the requirements?
What is the average age of your reader ?
What type of games do they like best ?
Any other helpful information you could provide would be
appreciated. I would really like to
explore this area of gaming further.
President of Nocturnal Creations
To have another company enter into the business of games for blind
people is an exciting possibility indeed, and I have already tried
to offer Tim what information I could to answer his questions. He
seems quite eager to responde to what the market wants, and to help
him do this, I invite all of you to send me any letters with your
answers to the questions Tim poses. Also, what kind of games would
you like to play which haven't been made yet? Perhaps, Tim and his
company will do something to remedy the situation. I've explained
to Tim that he, like any other developers of games accessible to
the blind, is welcome to advertise in this magazine. hopeful, we'll
be seeing more of that in the future.
Hello. I have been reading over your game audyssey magazine,
regarding games for the blind and visually impaired. I do have a
question for you, and it may in fact be covered in an issue of the
audyssey, but what the heck, I will ask it anyway.
Since you have a great knowledge of games for the blind, what would
you recommend for good games in the sports area of gaming such as,
football games, baseball, basketball, boxing, and any other sports
games that are out there.
I find it really amusing that certain companies such as otsports,
who publishes the ABC Monday night football cdrom game, make a game
that has play-by-play as well as color commentary. Only problem is
that the menus for setting game preferences etc are not really
accessible with any windows screen reader. Shrug.
Thank you for any info and pointers.
Also, if you have an issue of the game audyssey devoted to this,
please alert me.
Sports games are still one of the rarest kinds of games available
for the blind. PCS has made a Football game, a bowling game, and a
shooting range so far. Also, it has helped to bring sounds and a
new interface to the highly praised World Series Baseball game
written by Hary Hollingsworth. Jim Kitchen has made simple games of
Baseball and Golf. He has possibly made more which have not yet
come to my attention. Besides these sources, no other sports games
exist that I am aware of which are accessible to the blind. If any
readers come across accessible sports games, they are asked to
inform me of them so that I can announce them in Audyssey.
From Frank Gulics
I would like to thank you Mike, for providing this platform for
blind gamers to exchange ideas. In your issue six, Allen Maynard
made a comparison between two baseball games. I would like to
answer his statement if I may.
Allen, it is not fair to compare two different game classes
like you did between Harry's WORLD SERIES BASEBALL and Jim's
baseball game. Jim's game is more like an arcade style game, while
Harry's game is a strategic simulation. The two games are not
I can understand a person's preference for games of physical
skill. Many people love to test their hand abilities, quick
reflexes, and or their dexterity. There are also many people who
like to play what if scenario games of what would, could, or should
have happen. However, Harry's and Jim's games are as different to
play as comparing chess to ping-pong.
World Series Baseball simulates a what if scenario. Like,
what would happen if the 1996 Yankees played against the 1969 Mets?
Jim's game uses a player's fast action input to generate a result.
If the player hits the right spot when they are supposed to, the
odds for a favourable result is higher. I agree with your
assessment about Jim's game, but I believe your bashing of Harry's
game was wrong. I think the games perform well, and meet most of
the criteria that the programmers set out to achieve.
All products have short comings, and it is your duty to point
them out to the creators of the product. If no one makes any
comments, suggestions, or complaints, programs would not improve or
grow into very good, enjoyable, usable products. When one makes a
comment about a program make sure that you keep a relative
perspective of what you are comparing. For example, if Harry would
add the pitch and hit to his game, it would no longer be usable as
a baseball simulator. On the other hand, if Jim would add real
player statistics to his game, the statistics would be meaningless.
However, if you were to say something like, I like Jim's baseball
game because I like games of skill better then strategic games that
heavily use player stats. What this comment tells the game maker
is that the market for games of skill might be worth developing.
One last thing to remember, explain why you dislike or like
something in a program. If you do not tell a programmer why you
dislike a particular aspect of a program, or what might make it
work better, then the programmer could not fix the problem, or know
what solution would work better. On the other hand, if you really
like the way something works, tell the programmer, because the
programmer might not realize they had something good, and change
it. Remember, if your suggestion is not understood, or you offend
the people making games for your enjoyment, they might blow you
off. Talk to the people who make products you like, and support
their efforts whenever you use their stuff.
Mike, you might like to put together a short article on the
breakdowns of the different categories of game playing and what it
takes to play the various styles. You could explain the difference
between tactic, strategic, simulation, real time, and game turn.
Once again Mike, thanks for the magazine, and keep up the good
I don't have email so I gave this letter to Phil to send to you,
and if anyone wants to respond, send it to Phil at
[email protected] and I will get it from him on disk.
Frank has raised a lot of good points here. I can certainly agree
with him that the comparison between the two Baseball games was not
a particularly fair one. Of course, the fact that these two games
are the only Baseball games available for personal computers leaves
little room for any other comparison. While the comparison is
flawed in this way, it will certainly help players by explaining
the two games and their differences. they will then be able to
decide which game to acquire. This kind of response is very welcome
indeed. It is one of the few examples of the kind of interaction I
envisioned when I started the magazine. I hope that more of you
will follow Frank's example and offer feedback on the contents of
this magazine. Allen will certainly benefit from Frank's good
advise, and I have no doubt that Mr. Maynard's contributions will
be all the better for it. Allen is one of the best contributors to
this magazine, so we'll all benefit from Frank's efforts here. I
hope that more constructive criticism such as this is forthcoming
from our growing community of readers. Frank, you have demonstrated
an excellent skill for tactful critique, and have also demonstrated
a high degree of insight. I hope that you'll continue to offer
these to this magazine, and might also write us some articles and
reviews. I think you'd be absolutely splendid at it. On the subject
of the proposed article explaining various types of games, I would
be perfectly willing to do this if people think it will aid them.
Anyone interested should write to me and let me know what you'd
like me to cover in this article.
My View of Games for the Blind.
By David Lant
As we all know, there are, at best, few games which are
specifically designed to be played by blind people on computers.
With the appearance of PCS in the US there is now a nucleus of
interest in producing such games and, having looked at some of
their demos, they are taking it seriously.
The future for this market, however, is greatly underestimated
by many people today. One of the fundamental problems is the
perspective from which game designers start the process of
developing a game which requires no visual input. I will make
it clear right now that if I make any reference to PCS games in
a way which might seem negative, this is not because of any
failure or shortcoming in their staff or products. They are
merely the victim of being the best I have come across in the
market and are therefore what I choose to use as the current
watermark. If you like, it's a sort of back-handed compliment
to PCS that I use them as an example.
Firstly, one of the difficulties of designing a game is that
many attempts to do so start from a concept which was originally
designed for sighted people. The developers then try to find a
way of adapting it to work without the need for sight. Next,
the technology is considered in much the same way. Most
commercially available games use fantastic amounts of visual
effects of an incredibly high quality. So an immediate reaction
is to disregard the multimedia technology and go back to text
based games as they are at least known to work. Finally, the
potential use of sound is recognized as a wonderful source of
"flavouring" to give a game atmosphere.
All of these considerations are perfectly valid in themselves.
There is nothing untrue or disrespectful in any of these
considerations. However, there is another perspective. One
which, as yet, I have not found in any game.
To invent a new game specifically for the blind is not an
insignificant chore in itself. But the initial difficulty is to
know how much information can be presented to the blind player
in as pleasing and entertaining a way as possible. Also, what
volume and density of information can the player accept?
Clearly, using speech synthesizers or braille displays, this
information will tend to be in a rather linear form, rather like
listening to an audio tape, the information will come in a
series of sounds or symbols one after another. This is not how
we live our lives. Sounds do come to us at all times and from
all directions. It has been shown in studies that we can
process several sound inputs at once provided they are
compatible and coordinated. And the information that everyday
sounds provide is not just contained in what the sound actually
is. For example, when you hear a car engine, you are not only
aware that somewhere nearby a car engine is running. You are
also aware, assuming you have relatively normal hearing, of such
things as the direction from which that sound is coming,
whether it is moving towards or away from you and even, quality
of the sound, whether it is a new petrol engine or a clapped out
old deise. Of course you have no idea what colour the vehicle
is or, unless you are a real expert, what make or model it is.
But most people would probably be able to tell the difference
between a two door hatchback and your average juggernaut. So
you can see that the sounds we receive can contain large amounts
of parallel information which is a potentially great source of
inspiration and entertainment for games.
The advancement in technology available in sound production today
compared to the change in visual technology between the two
movies "Tron" and "Toy Story". By today's standards, "Tron"
seems clunky and cumbersome; consisting of relatively simple
perspective wire-frame animations and linear drawings. But with
newer software and hardware, it is now possible to produce near
live quality motion pictures entirely from within a computer's
memory. The same is roughly true of sound production in modern
home computers. I the early days, we considered ourselves lucky
to get a small built-in speaker which could produce a range of
musical tones to accompany our "Space Invaders" game. Now, with
multimedia sound production at its best, we can achieve 3D CD
quality sound as well as multi-channel sound synthesis of an
So, given this fact, why are most games for the blind basically
text data with sound files played to give atmosphere and
background to the event? Why do our games not warrant the full
use of the kind of sound generation most of our computers are
capable of? Just wander past your average computer store and
listen to the sounds being produced for normal sighted games.
It is not just background music these days. You get synthesized
noises of guns firing, cars racing, balls being kicked and
crowds cheering. Clearly there is a matter of cost involved.
For a very small market by anybody's standards, the development
of high quality synthesized sounds in complex active games may
constitute a high initial investment. I am sure there are
others out there who are much better qualified than I to
quantify this matter. But just think of the possibilities.
As an extremely simplistic example I would like to present the
following as a development for a game for the blind. Please do
not take this as an example of the pinnacle of excellence or
imagination in the use of sound technology. I am simply using
this as a blackboard on which to scrawl some ideas.
Consider a randomly generated maze. I know this is not an
original thought in the games market, but it allows for
replayability in this example. Now, what information does the
player need? Well, she or he needs a goal to aim for.
Although there might be some satisfaction in simply reaching the
centre of the maze, it would make the game more motivating if
there were an actual reward of some kind. Let us take the
"Fountain of Youth" as our reward. Your mission is to find your
way through the maze to this site to gain immortality. We could
just as easily base the game of the myth of the Minotaur and
have the slaying of that beast as the objective. In any case,
we can have the system produce a sound of a fountain playing
continuously throughout the game. This is not merely a background
effect. The sound would be played to the player in such a way
as to indicate the direction to the center of the maze. Thus if
you can hear the fountain over your left shoulder, you know that
you are facing away from your ultimate goal and that you need to
bear heavily around to your left and back some to be heading in
the right direction.
So far, so good. Now what about the maze itself? What data is
needed by a player to negotiate one? Clearly, the player must
be able to tell where the walls of the maze are. Are they
standing in a long featureless corridor or are they at a
junction? Let us for the sake of argument say that the maze is
constructed from high hedges. We could produce sounds of
rustling leaves from whichever direction the player is
immediately confronted by a wall. For example, if the player is
in a dead-end, they would hear rustling from in front and to
their left and right. By using keyboard or joystick controls,
the player can rotate and move themselves in order to judge
which is the clear route. If the mere absence of a sound to
indicate a clear passage is not enough, the sound of a soft
breeze blowing could emanate from the direction of an open
space. Thus if you hear a breeze from all four directions, you
are probably in a crossroads or a wide open expanse somewhere in
the maze. Some sense of mystery and difficulty must be
maintained in the game, so we must stop short of providing
audible signposts which point all the way to the center of the
maze and leave the player with a little exploring to do.
At no time during the playing of our game so far has the player
been given any textual information. At present, as the game
stands, there is no need for any. We could settle for its
simple puzzle quality as is. But of course some of you out
there might prefer a little excitement so the maze could be
populated with roaming, growling beasts to be avoided or fought.
These encounters could be dealt with in similar ways to the
logistics involved in navigating the maze, but there might be
yet more scope for directional sound information as well as
warning noises of a leaping hound or swinging axe. Again, these
should not just be atmospheric events but should allow the
player to judge direction, distance and speed.
Before I round up, I will admit that the kind of intensive use
of sound that I foresee would require a degree os skill
development to play with. But I see this as part of the
challenge of any game. Even the sighted must improve their
hand-eye coordination by trial and error before they become
proficient in some games. What I do not want is a game that is
so simplified for my lack of sight that I am almost bound to
win. Nor do I want a game which is so heavily influenced by
random events that my skill level will have little impact on my
enjoyment of the game. However, none of my suggestions preclude
the possibility of having skill levels such that differing
amounts and types of sound can be provided for novice and expert
Again, in no way am I saying that we are being sold short
deliberately by anyone. The inventive minds are out there.
Just take a look at some of the games from PCS for example. The
technology is readily available. Most new computers sold today
have multimedia capabilities. And the customer market is out
there too. Just look at the readership of Audessey to judge
The Latest Finds
New game from PCS
Card club game released July 97.
Hear the cards being shuffled. A cloud of cheep cigar smoke drifts
over you. Your mother always told you to stay out of places like
this! The card club ain't so bad! Where else could you find a
collection of shady characters to play a game of Hearts, Norwegian
Whist, Widow Whist, or Crazy Eights? The gang at the club house are
sharp and always ready to play you. Can you beat them? Well come on
in, grab a slice and try your luck. Card club comes on two disks
and has over fifty real sounds that play on any computer.
Card club cost thirty dollars.
You can contact P C S in any form at:
Personal Computer Systems
551 Compton Ave.
Perth Amboy NJ 08861
new phone area code (732) 826-1917.
Email [email protected]
Editor's note: PCS has been kind enough to send me a copy of this
package of games for reviewing. As I've stated before, I'm not much
of a card-player. If any of you are, and would care to obtain your
own copies and give a more thorough review of the four games in the
pack, I would certainly appreciate it. One of the games, Crazy 8's,
happens to be a card-game which I'm fairly good at. After playing
several games of this, I believe I have the authority to state that
the game is extremely entertaining. The sounds added to it give the
game a good deal of atmosphere and charm. You can play with up to
four computer opponents, and rules such as "terrible twos are taken
into account. The interface is very simple to use, and the only
thing to be careful of is that when you are selecting cards, be
certain that you know how to select the suit that you want. It
doesn't tell you which suit you are going through when flipping
through the cards of a single suit. This is not really much of an
inconvenience, but it is something to be alert to. All in all, Ivan
should change the "terrible" at the end of his alias to "terrific".
He has done a splendid job of programming Crazy 8's, and I have no
doubt that the rest of the games are done with the same degree of
excellence. Card-players everywhere are in for a real treat.
From newsgroup rec.games.intfiction:
Beam Software recently brought out its collection of old software,
including text games
like The Hobbit and Sherlock Holmes.
The game Wordy, found by Jan Right, is an excellent game for word-
lovers out there. It has a dictionary of around 99000 words, which
seem to include all of the commonly used and thought of words. The
game gives players a group of twelve letters, and challenges them
to make as many words as possible using the letters they have been
given. Letters can only be used once, but you can get duplicate
letters in your set of twelve. Letters are chosen at random, so
anything is possible. I've had games with no E's to use, and since
E is the most common letter in the English language, it can
certainly cause complications to lack its use. The longer your
words, the more points you get. you can lose points for using
illegal words. there are also some other rules about scoring which
are covered in the game's excellent documentation. This game is
relatively small, and even the unzipped version will easily fit
onto a disk. the game is "cheapware", the author's term, not mine.
He asks for, but doesn't demand small contributions. The software
is not crippled in any way, and the author welcomes contact from
anyone interested. See Jan Right's letter for information on where
to find the game. It is on compuserve as well.
A Journey into Xanth is a fairly well-written AGT game about the
world of puns and magic created by Piers Anthony. It seems fairly
linear, but is full of the wit and humour found in the best-selling
Xanth novels. the game comes with a complete solution included in
the archive. it suffers from the same vocabulary problems common to
most AGT games, but takes full advantage of the capabilities of
creatures offered by AGt. This use of creatures is quite rare, and
was an especially welcome surprise. The game is quite suitable for
all but the youngest family members, who might not be able to grasp
or enjoy the game's many jokes and puzzles. A Journey into Xanth is
freeware, and is a relatively small game. It can be found at:
PCS: The People Behind the Games
By Phil and Carl
Phil and Carl from Personal Computer Systems talk about their
beginnings with computer games. Does their start in the world of
computer games sound similar to yours? If not, why not share your
story with us? We would all like to see how people got started and
what game got you hooked, and why? For Phil it was the
manipulation of source code to help him win a game. Maybe the
first computer game cheater?
Fifteen years ago, I never would have imagined writing
computer games for a living. I was an architectural designer
specializing in retail store design for a Long Island firm. I
worked for Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy's stores. That was before
I lost my eyesight to diabetic retinopathy. My vision began to fail
rapidly in 1981. In one year, I was completely blind.
I was a big fan of video games in the seventies. I enjoyed playing
Space Invaders, Pac Man and Centipede, and eventually bought an
Atari game machine. After loosing my sight, I tried to find games
that I could use without sight, but found few. I bought an Apple
TWO E in 1984 with an Echo speech card.
I got basic games in the BAUD and Apple Talk magazine
libraries. These games were freeware and shareware and allowed me
to read the source code to find out how they worked. I was soon
making changes and improvements in them. For example, I enjoyed a
game called Kidnapped in which you started at the top of a ten
story building and had to escape from the first floor. On each
level there was a different puzzle to solve.
If you couldn't solve the puzzle, you were killed off and ended up
on the top level again.
I discovered how to write a save function and could start on
any floor that I was able to reach. I found a list of accepted
verbs and wrote a help function to bring up the list when stumped
for an answer. I also developed braille maps of each floor listing
what objects were in a room. I used a separate three by five index
card for each room, and taped them together to form the map of that
level. After finally escaping from the bottom floor, I realized
that I had more fun changing and improving the game than playing
In 1988 I took a crude baseball game that used a dice roll to
decide what kind of result you got, hit or out, and I added an
interactive pitch and catch function. I had the program play 60
beeps, and you had to swing the bat at beeps 58, 59, or 60 to get
a hit. You swung the bat by hitting the enter key. If you swung
to early or too late you got a strike.
In 1986 I got an IBM 8086 computer with 640 K and a 20
megabyte hard disk. I was still using an Echo speech synthesizer.
I started searching for text based games and found the world of
Infocom. These games were a great improvement from the earlier
Apple freeware games that I was used to. I got Zork, Hitchhiker's
Guide, PlanetFall, and many others, since they were compiled, I
couldn't change them. I found some games written in GW basic that
I could alter and improve. I received many books on tape from the
library that had program examples that I learned from. I heard
about Harry Hollingsworth's World Series Baseball Game. I was
happy to be able to go inside his code and make changes, but soon
his program was too big to be played in that fashion. He had to
compile the game in order to play it. I started working with Harry
in 1993 and was again having fun making improvements in his game.
I purchased games like MARS and CASINO from Richard De Steno,
and although they were fun to play, they all had the same
limitation. While commercial computer games written for the
sighted world were using great visual effects they were also using
great sound effects. I thought that blind people should have the
enjoyment of real sounds in their games and not just synthesized
In 1995 I bought an up-to-date IBM computer with a sound card,
CD player and a Double Talk synthesizer. I was happy to hear the
sounds of a real baseball game when I got Microsoft Complete
Baseball, and the real sounds of birds in Audubon's birds of North
In 1996 I joined Carl Mickla, of Perth Amboy, who is also
blind, at Personal Computer Systems. Together we worked on games
such as Monopoly and Tenpin Bowling.
We were able to figure out how to add sounds to computer games and
recreated the feeling I had when playing the old video games.
I knew that today's programs have the ability to pause, run another
program then come back where they left off. I used this idea
combined with several freeware sound playing programs to play the
sounds in our games.
After working on Harry's Baseball game for a year, I was
finally able to add the sounds of a real baseball game. I have
also been in touch with Jim Kitchen and Richard De Steno to help
them add sounds to their games too. In the future I plan on
writing games for Windows, releasing games on CD, and using stereo
effects to aim at targets. These advances will prevent people with
older computers without sound cards from playing them, so I hope
everyone considers upgrading their computer.
Next Carl will tell us about his early days with the home
computer. He looked at the machine as a tool to help him play
board games. A junk food computer gamer from way back and another
I became interested in computer games in the early eighties,
when the first affordable home computers hit the markets, and
Avalon Hill put two computerize war games out for sale, Midway and
Bismarck. I always had a fascination for World War Two, and could
spend many hours discussing the strategy of the generals. This
lead to playing boxed war games. Since I had a vision problem from
birth, it was very difficult for me to work with the print on the
counters, charts, and maps. One other difficulty I had was to find
opponents to play against, as many people do not share my
fascination with the subject. So it is needless to say, when I saw
the two games on the shelf I was hooked. Soon after the Avalon
Hill games were out I Bought a TRS 80 MODEL three. In a short time
Strategic Simulations Incorporated released their first game,
Tigers in the Snow, which was the closest war game to a board game
yet. I was soon to find out that SSI was going to develop more
games for the Apple computers then for any other brand, so I sold
my TRS 80 as fast as I could, and bought an Apple Two. In those
days the computer ran on forty eight K of ram, and the TRS 80
loaded the programs from a tape recorder. The Apple computer had
a external five and a quarter floppy drive. In a short time the
Apple's were using sixty four K of ram, and soon the ram would
climb up to one hundred and twenty eight Ks in the Apple Two E.
The Apple Two C and the Apple GS were to push ram to five hundred
and twelve K and up. The main problem with the Apple computers was
that every time a improved model came out you could not up grade
your old machine. This became very expensive as the computers cost
between three thousand and fifteen hundred dollars. So I quickly
gave up on the Apple WORMS, and moved over to the IBM pc computers,
which were becoming affordable at the time Mac was starting to come
onto the markets. The IBM PC also afford more variety and the
ability to up grade without buying a whole new machine. I found
screen access devices and software more accessible for the IBM PC
computers as well.
The computer became more usable to me since my vision was
failing and the programmers started using graphics, and all my
accessible screen reading devises became useless. I could still
play text adventure games, but that is not my cup of tea. I want
to play some heavy duty D AND D or World War Two games, and there
are none out there yet.
There was one game that a friend and I used to play
fanatically. Wizardry snagged us but good! We would stop after
work on Fridays and buy a sack of burgers and a case of Coke and on
the way to the computer's house discuss the strategy for the up
coming session. Our session would last until Sunday, after fifty
phone calls or so from Jon's wife and many promises of " I'm just
getting ready to come home, hon!" One thing, in those days there
was no reset button and it took many sessions to build a decent
character; and if your character got unfairly killed there was no
restart feature either. So we got smart and kept one finger on the
power switch. We were just a little before our time, because the
next Apple model to come out included a reset switch, and other
games started to include a start from "last killed restart
Before I quit making computer games for the blind I will make
a huge Dungeons and Dragons game, and a massive World War Two
campaign game, since it does not look like anyone is working on any
such project. In the meanwhile I will continue to develop ways for
the blind community to get some fun and fun challenges from the
computer. I was lucky enough to experience video arcade games, and
will try to get the excitement and frustration that those games
give to my sighted friends to my unsighted friends.
If you would like to contact Carl or Phil, you can at,
PERSONAL COMPUTER SYSTEMS
551 Compton AVE.
Perth Amboy NJ. 08861
Phone 732 826 1917
or E-MAIL at
by Michael Feir
Since I started this magazine, and even before that event, I have
been asked questions such as: "How did you become interested in
computer games?", "Why are games so important to you?", and "How
have these games enriched your life?" Fearing that a really full
answer would bore my interrogators, I have never bothered to
actually sit down and collect my thoughts. Your continued curiosity
in this area has at last prompted me into action. I hope that the
resulting article will interest you, and answer most of your
Some of my readers who have read the first issue of Audyssey might
remember my article about the first game I played, called Great
Escape. This game began my journey through the universe of computer
games. I played it on an Apple II E, which was once the best
computer in terms of accessability to the blind. I still have that
computer, sitting in my basement. Amazingly, it still works. I used
that computer system until my first year of secondary school in
1988-89. During this span of time, I found many games for the
Apple, and still have a small collection of them on old 5.25-inch
floppies whose condition might not be as good as that of their
computer. The Apple was one of the original home computers, and as
with all computers, most games for it were graphical. Infocom made
a lot of its games available for the Apple, but I had no idea of
their existence until I received some of their games on the Eureka
A4 I purchased in 1988-89.
The Apple games I gathered included such famous ones as the Eamon
adventures, Othello, Kingdom, and Hunt the Wumpus. The Eamon
adventures have made it over to the IBM, but a number of the old
classics haven't. The Multi-player Hunt the Wumpus game has failed
to re-appear, as has a really good version of Kingdom. Anyhow,
enough crying over lost concepts. My purchase of a Eureka opened a
whole lot of new kinds of games for me. I was able to play Rogue,
a screen-oriented role-playing game which spawned such excellent
games as Nethack which we can all enjoy today. This game was one of
the first I found which taught me the value of experimentation.
Until that point, all of the games I played were strictly text-
based. That is, they dealt with words which you would read, and
either allowed you to type in commands, or provided text menus.
Rogue was the first game which was different. I almost threw it out
the first time I played it, since I failed to appreciate the fact
that the graphical representation of the dungeon room was made of
text characters I could read.
Games were a solitary activity for the most part, until I got my
eureka. This small computer with its braille keyboard and
Australian accent proved interesting to some of my sighted friends.
Often, we would play games in the cafeteria during lunch hours or
spare periods. We occasionally caused quite a stir, as heated
arguments would break out as to what to do next. Yes, worried
parents, the prospect of playing games in class was often extremely
tempting, but i never actually caved into it.
High school went on, and my experience with games grew. I
eventually wrote a couple of articles for the Arky newsletter for
people who owned Eurekas, and still occasionally get calls about
those pieces of writing. I eventually obtained an IBM pc, along
with the Artic Businessvision software which I still use today.
This software enabled me to play infinitely more games than
anything I had experienced before. I found text adventures like
those made by Infocom, and more screen-oriented games like Nethack
and Adom. Another kind of game which I began to enjoy was the
tactical and strategic wargame. Games like Empire and The World is
Mine are not available on the eureka. Multi-player games are also
much more abundant on the IBM than on any other platform I have
Regrettably, viruses are also more abundant in Dos than in any
other operating system. I learned that the hard way. Like most
folks, I trusted my hard drive far too much, and treated it as
indestructible. A good friend of mine was infected with a nasty
virus which he was unaware of. Unlike me, he had prepared himself
for such a catastrophe. I hadn't, and neither had some of the
friends who I had accidentally infected. It was an absolute
disaster. I had to eventually format my hard drive to totally erase
the virus, and throw out most of my floppy disks. It probably cost
me around three hundred dollars to recover from that, and I have
been extremely cautious ever since. I scan all of the disks I
receive for viruses, and also keep things backed up in safe .zip
files which cannot be infected by viruses. I encourage all of you
to take similar precautions, and obtain virus-hunting software like
I've learned an awful lot from the games I've played over the
years, and have found them to be an excellent alternative to the
more mindless forms of entertainment out there. The fact that the
process of thinking can actually be fun might very well be the most
profound thing I have learned from playing games. whenever
possible, i have tried to help others experience the power and
intrigue found in the universe of computer games. Towards the end
of high school, I came up with the idea of writing a kind of magnum
opus on games, and actually started this work. It has yet to be
completed. Various things side-tracked me. Eventually, a year ago,
the idea of Audyssey came to me. I took the plunge, and the rest,
as they say, is history still in the making.
I've talked to many people about games, and their reactions are as
diverse as the games out there. Some people tend to dismiss games
as a waste of time. Others seem to think that games are inherently
harmful. I tend to think of games as the ultimate art form. Like
any works of art, games can invoke emotions and ideas which can be
both good and bad. They can be excellent teachers, showing us
aspects of ourselves, our fellow players, or the reality we live
in, which we would otherwise never experience. Most importantly for
the blind, games can take us places where we couldn't go any other
way. Through board-games like Othello, I began to appreciate the
concepts of strategy. Adventure games have allowed me to appreciate
a wide variety of things, from what things like caverns are
actually like, to the problems presented by the prospect of time
travel. I can certainly appreciate how hard it must be to be a
doctor or police man a lot more due to the dilemmas I've faced in
the games I've played. Games such as Jigsaw, Fallthru, and Shades
of Grey, have forced me to make decisions which effect imaginary
lives. While these lives are imaginary, it doesn't necessarily
follow that this completely invalidates the experience. If we are
willing to suspend our disbelief, these decisions can be quite
meaningful. Good games can draw their players in like good novels,
and make them care about their imaginary worlds. This, combined
with the fact that games force players to take action, gives them
an effectiveness which no mere novel can possess. I've met so many
blind people who lead lives which are sheltered from so much. some
of this sheltering is for the good of everyone. I am the first to
admit that I'd make a terrible police officer or race-car driver.
If we can't live these lives, we can at least experience some of
their excitement, out-look, and scope.
The game called "Curses" should never have been created and
distributed on the internet. It is a pure exercise in futility.
In fact, I think the previous phrase was created after someone
played Curses. The author says that Curses got its name because
your character is cursed throughout the game or something. I think
the title of the game reflects exactly what
you will be doing if you play this thing.
If you are insane and wish to play this game then don't read on for
I will be revealing some puzzles/solutions in my delicate review.
Have any of you taken a huge glob of mud and just hurled it against
a wall? It makes a cool splat doesn't it? Well that's what Mr.
Graham Nelson did when creating Curses. He just took it and flung
it against a brick wall. The resounding splat he called a cool
adventure game. I don't think so, Graham. The game was put
together in a fashion reflecting your little brother or sister's
random Lego creation. There is no rhyme or reason to this game.
Adventure games are based on logic/logical progressions and subtle
clues. As far as I could tell there were no subtle clues. For
example, you were in an attic and the description included dusty
rafters, insulation and a closed door. Well it turns out that a
new battery was hidden in the insulation. Yeah, right!!!
Another room in the attic was a maid's room with a night table and
a bed. It turns out that you have to lie down on the bed and go to
sleep, but the damn game never mentioned being tired.
Are you beginning to see the flagrant illogic involved here?
Let's see...what else was stupid. Oh, yes. At one point I found
a medicine bottle with a child-proof top. When I looked in the
solution file, in order to open the bottle you had to drop it in
the back lawn and run over it with the garden roller. What the
hell? In good games like Zork1, for example, objects and actions
have some link or logic involved.
For example, in Zork1 you had to get past these ghosts guarding an
entrance. You had to ring a bell which you find in the chapel or
church or something. You then read from a book which was lying on
an altar, and then you had to light some candles also found on the
altar. All these objects have a link to religion which is normally
considered to be against evil spirits. It's not like you had to
play a violin, smoke a joint, and read a porno magazine in order to
get past the spirits.
Eventually I gave up with this game since I could think of no more
logical paths to follow. Of course had I known there were none to
I finally took a look at the solution file and kept swearing
incredulously as the progression from point to point was laid
before my stunned ears. At one point during the game a key had
fallen through the floor boards of the attic. Later I found an
electronic/robot mouse. There were no clues on how to speak to the
robot mouse to command it. There were also no
clues indicating that the lost key was somewhere in the robot
mouse's hole, even why a robot mouse needs a mouse hole is beyond
me. Anyway, the solution file told you to tell the mouse to go in
all these directions inside it's hole to retrieve the key which you
didn't know was there in the first place. But how the hell were
you supposed to know what directions to send the damn mouse?
Okay, Al, okay...calm down, Al...I'm alright now. Where was I?
Oh, yeah. Well as you can see Curses was one of the few games I
felt relieved to stop playing forever. I finally wiped the game
off my hard drive after my computer begged me to do so or else it
threatened to ralph all over my shoes.
Text adventures are supposed to employ tricks and things which
include using more than logic like putting water in a bottle before
snagging a fish to go into the bottle. But I firmly believe that
there must be SOME logic or viable association between an
action/object, an object/location,
and action/location, and/or an action/object/location.
Whew...wow! I think I'll go take a valium now and let the rest of
you read the remainder of Audyssey in piece.
For those of you who own the Masterpieces of Infocom cd-rom from
Activision, you are in for a very pleasant surprise. Two of the
games which were thought to be too graphical to play have been
rendered playable by the frotz interpreter. This interpreter can be
found in the if-archives at:
Using the command frotz -d 1 (game name.zip), one can cause the
games Journey and Arthur, to be played using only text. These two
games are up to Infocom's usual excellent standards in quality, and
are two of their largest offerings. both are radical departures
from the interactive fiction norms.
Journey is the only instance of interactive fiction which involves
a party of adventurers on a quest to save their world. It is a kind
of choose your own adventure story, where you must decide what
characters in your party do. You play the role of an apprentice
food merchant who travels with the party and keeps a journal of
events. The rest of your party consists of two warriors, a kind but
sceptical doctor, and a crafty old wizard. All of the characters
are very well developed, and the story is full of vivid
descriptions and excellent humour. The command interface is
somewhat unconventional, requiring the use of arrow keys to select
commands, or the entry of the first letter of a command. Once you
get used to this, the game is absolutely first-rate.
Arthur is an excellent work of interactive fiction based on the
legend of King Arthur. You are the young Arthur, destined to become
the king of England by pulling the famed Excallibur from its stone.
An evil King Lot is trying to steal your throne, and you must
challenge him to a battle to finally take the throne. Before you
can do this, you must you must earn the right to pull Excallibur
from the stone by proving yourself worthy of the office of king.
The game comes with built-in hints which are context-sensitive to
prevent you from seeking hints to puzzles you haven't come to yet.
The game is rich in detail and humour, an excellent mix of actual
history and the more romantic notions of King Arthur.
The Winning Contest Entry
by Allen Maynard
Adam--The Immortal Gamer
Once again Adam found himself drifting aimlessly in the
darkness he had grown so accustomed to. But this continuous test
or whatever the hell it was, was beginning to rub his nerves raw.
"Hey, Computer!" he shouted, shuddering slightly as he heard
no echo. In fact, he wasn't even sure if he had spoken or not.
"When are you going to release me?"
"When I feel you are ready," a disembodied genderless voice
Adam winced as that voice resonated through his body. He
reeled backward for a few meters, or maybe a few million miles.
"Mortal gamer," the voice taunted, chuckling.
Adam was growing very uneasy. Up to this point the computer
voice hadn't sounded sinister. But now.... He wished there was a
door he could duck through or something.
His bedroom door suddenly materialized before him. His heart
jumped into his throat. Home? He yanked open the door and dove
through. His stomach kicked bile into his throat as he plummeted
through mid air. His heart raced as he saw the earth rushing up to
meet him at a deadly rate. Adam blacked out.
A few minutes later he opened his eyes and looked down at
himself. He wasn't in several bloody flattened pieces after all.
He then noticed the policeman's uniform he was wearing along with
a nice looking snub-nosed colt .32. He grinned, fondling the shiny
Adam holstered the gun, stood and glanced around. The horizon
glowed with an eerie light, looking as if the undersides of the
clouds were afire. Two words flashed unbidden before his eyes--Los
He studied the homes along the street where he stood. They
were all fancy and large. They stood proudly on their well-
manicured lawns as if posing for a picture.
Standing in the driveway of one of these homes, Adam turned
and gazed at the one he was in front of. "Oh, man," he groaned,
recognizing it. He was at the beginning of the Infocom game called
"Please," he said, not even attempting to disguise the scorn
in his voice. "You call this a test? If I have to run through
your stupid gamut, the least you could do is challenge me." Adam
punctuated his words by spitting on the pavement.
Shrugging indifferently, Adam strode up the driveway. Might
as well go see Mr. Linder and solve the game, he smirked.
Making his way around the side of the house to the side door
of Mr. Linder's study, Adam peered through the slightly misted
window of the door and spotted a man seated at his desk. Knocking
politely, Adam grinned conspiratorially at Mr. Linder as the older
Oriental man beckoned him into his office.
Sitting down again behind his desk, Mr. Linder motioned for
Adam to take a seat in one of the easychairs near his desk.
Preferring to stand, Adam shook his head and opened his mouth
to ask the first of the important questions needed to solve the
The window of the door exploded, the lead slug slamming
painlessly into the side of Adam's head. He was sent reeling
backward into the wall, and through it, tumbling into the inky
Instinctively, Adam clapped his hand to the side of his head
before he jerked it away again irritably, chiding himself for his
own stupidity. He failed to notice the single drop of blood
staining his fingertip.
Adam ground his teeth in frustration, partly at himself but
mostly at this deranged computer of his. He had made a novice
mistake because this damn computer and its test.
"I'm through playing your idiotic game.
"But I'm not through with you," that same chilling voice
hissed, echoing all around and through Adam.
A spark of anger flared briefly in Adam's gut but he smothered
it before the computer sensed it was getting under his skin.
"Stage two," the voice taunted in a maddening sing-song lilt.
Again Adam's bedroom door snapped into sudden existence before
"Hell, no," Adam said, pointedly turning his back on the door.
An immense hand hurtled toward him, seeming to come from a
great distance in seconds. Before his mind ordered his legs to
leap aside, the pinky of the huge hand gently nudged Adam sending
him careening backwards through the door.
Cartwheeling helplessly through nothingness, Adam fought
unsuccessfully for some kind of control over his flight.
Presently, the nothingness began to take shape. A wall of
splintery wood rapidly grew from a speck into a solid wall.
Reflexively, Adam threw up his arms in front of his face an
instant before he soundlessly passed through the wall and landed
with a grunt onto a narrow low bed. Sitting up, he glared
impotently at the wall behind him. Scowling, wishing for once that
the computer would crash, then scowling even deeper when he
remembered he was inside the damn thing, Adam looked around and
immediately brightened. Over there against the far wall was the
small sink, his feet were firmly planted on the dusty floor, and
right over there was the wardrobe-looking thing.
Bounding to his feet, the immortal gamer retrieved the holster
from where he knew it was, and left his room.
Adam nodded in recognition. "Supernova," he said aloud,
heading confidently down the narrow stairway. He nodded again as
he emerged into the dusty bar, one of the few on this God forsaken
dustball of a mining planet and nodded again grinning.
There were the three tables, still rickety looking, and,
ah...there was the bartender still gazing at him expectantly, Adam
chuckled to himself. Ordering some glug but not feeling
particularly thirsty at the moment, he hurried outside. He grinned
again knowing that he didn't have to waste anymore time in the bar.
He already knew the coordinates of the planet he had to get to.
With a grimace at his earlier miscalculation, Adam forced
himself to slow his pace slightly as he entered the lot where his
ship was parked. For an instant he panicked, then he relaxed as he
found the satchel in his inventory.
Shrugging in a "why wait" gesture, Adam clambered up the
ladder and opened the hatch, dropping into the cool interior of his
old but proud spaceship.
He closed the hatch and stepped onto the bridge. Whistling
softly, Adam settled himself in the captain's chair and keyed in
the coordinates of his destination and engaged the ship engines.
Sitting back with satisfaction, he listened to the shipboard
computer count down the minutes toward lift off.
"Minutes!" Adam leapt out of the chair and threw himself into
the corridor. He had to.... With a rumble and lurch upward, the
ship lunged into the sky. Adam was hurled into the bulkhead,
striking his head. There was a slight sensation of skull
connecting with steel, but Adam barely noticed as he kicked feebly
at the opposite bulkhead in frustration. Then he blacked out.
Actually, Adam had blacked in. The darkness engulfed him like
a cold blanket. Adam forced down the sudden burst of anger which
seemed to singe the lining of his gut.
A twinge of something like pain, but not pain exactly drew
Adam's attention. It was similar to having a tiny pebble in your
shoe. He probed the back of his head for a few minutes before his
fingers brushed across a small lump. But before he could fully
grasp this fact, the computer's voice pierced the silence.
"I'm extremely disappointed in you, Mr. Immortal Gamer," the
disembodied voice said. Adam distinctly heard a sneer in the
"Not used to failure?" the voice taunted.
With an effort, Adam adopted a stony face and refused to
"ready for stage three?" his nemesis asked, anticipation
charging the air with negative energy.
Adam's features cracked as he glared into the emptiness. His
fists clenched at his sides. Adam opened his mouth to retort when
abruptly the huge hand caught him between thumb and index finger,
and like flicking a speck of dirt off one's finger, sent Adam
spinning into the void.
Knowing it was useless to try and slow his momentum, Adam let
himself fall through nothingness. Moments later, or perhaps aeons,
shapes began flashing past. Adam struggled to identify them. A
filament of some kind flashed past followed immediately by a wide
wavy something almost looking like a road. Rectangular images
dipped and whirled past him along with more filaments which were
attached to the rectangles.
Slowly Adam noticed that the objects were steadily growing
larger, as well as slowing in velocity. In the distance another
wide filament or road or whatever approached. Adam braced himself
as he saw that he was going to collide with it. But his caution
was unnecessary as he landed feet first onto the filament with
hardly a trembling of the material.
Adam looked around. Something was familiar about this place.
Much of what he saw was only darkness but the shapes he had
glimpsed moments before had taken on an intricate pattern. He felt
something in his hand. Looking down he found that he was gripping
a laser gun. A memory poked at the back of his mind but he
couldn't snag it.
He closed his eyes, trying to focus his thoughts, when the
filament suddenly heaved beneath his feet. Adam's eyes snapped
open. He found himself staring into the pseudopod of a giant
The memories came flooding into his conscious mind at the
appearance of this microscopic monster. A microscopic Adam was
standing on a strand deep inside a computer in a laboratory on a
rocky continent of the planet Resida in the game Planetfall.
"Infocom again," Adam sighed then ducked as a pseudopod struck
at his head. A second pseudopod whipped through the air right at
his face. Adam ducked again squeezing the trigger of the weapon as
he did so. The laser bolt sliced harmlessly through the fleshy
body of the microbe.
Adam cursed and jerked aside as the microbe slapped at his
chest. Wrong setting, he hissed through clenched teeth. Quickly
resetting the laser, Adam took aim and fired. The laser beam
scored and a small spot of gelatinous outer membrane boiled and
sizzled away which only served to madden the creature.
Adam fired a third time then leapt backward. Glancing
fearfully over his shoulder, he saw that there wasn't much room
left between him and the edge of the strand. A pseudopod glanced
off his shoulder and another struck at his head during Adam's
momentary pause. He staggered and ducked, narrowly avoiding those
ciliated pseudopodia. There was something he was forgetting. The
battle shouldn't be lasting this long. The microbe snatched at the
gun and Adam spun away. The laser was almost too hot to handle.
He raised the gun again but the microbe snapped a pseudopod at it
again. Damn this game, he fumed, not knowing if he was swearing at
Planetfall or the game his own computer was playing.
The microbe lunged forward slashing at the laser gun. Adam
fired again and again. Then suddenly, the laser beam died. Too
late. Adam had forgotten about the battery charge. Glaring at the
gun, he slammed it to the floor just as a pseudopod gripped his
"No, wait!" he cried realizing his mistake. "I should
have...wait a minute!" Adam suddenly realized he was being dragged
inexorably toward the microbe. He didn't remember this happening
in Planetfall. An unbidden scream burst from between his lips as
he was absorbed by the microbe.
Adam tried to gasp as he found himself smothered in a viscous,
undulating ooze. He tried to scream as his flesh was slowly
dissolved. His earlier anger suddenly erupted into a searing fury.
He tried to kick out but his leg only slogged a few inches.
"This game sucks!" he roared in his mind for his lips were
glued shut by a thick layer of ooze.
The bottom dropped out. Adam spiralled into an all too
familiar darkness. An enormous eye blossomed before him, its
dilated pupil the size of an automobile tire. The glowing orb
slowly blinked at Adam in mock solemnity.
The immortal gamer bit his lip and was surprised to taste a
hint of blood, almost forgetting his desire to spit into the eye.
Pain? How can that be? With this preoccupation, he failed to
notice that his right hand was glazed with a thin layer of ooze.
The eye rolled with undisguised exasperation.
Adam retrieved his temporarily discarded anger. "I quit," he
hissed through clenched teeth.
The eye casually blinked without the accompaniment of the
voice and a fierce wind whipped Adam away and deposited him
unceremoniously into a gondola crammed with people who seemed to
take no notice of his abrupt appearance.
Immediately Adam knew where he was. He glanced over the side
of the gondola to confirm his gut feeling. Sure enough, he was
high over a tropical jungle, Misnia if he wasn't mistaken. There
was only one game which had a gondola and a Misnia jungle--Beyond
Zork. Infocom strikes again, he thought ruefully.
The flame of anger still burned steadily in his gut, but there
was one area in this game he hadn't conquered.
Up ahead, a maintenance tower materialized out of the mists.
As the gondola drew along side, Adam threw his leg over the side
and dropped to the top most platform of the tower.
"All passengers please remain in the gondola," the conductor
Adam almost flicked him off, but instead he quickly scurried
down the long narrow ladder to the jungle floor.
Looking around quickly, Adam recognized where he was and
started out at a quick trot toward the snow-capped mountains. He
past the familiar cataract and proceeded up into the mountains.
When a light dusting of snow coated his shoes, he knew he was
there. Altering his course, he hurried up the faint trail to his
right. And there they were. The Christmas tree monsters. Still
they stood, ready to march relentlessly over the tiny village, kept
at bay by nothing but an intricate glyph etched into the snow.
Rummaging through his pack, he could find nothing which would
drive the monsters away nor strengthen the glyph. He knew he would
find no help in the pack or in his inventory, but he looked through
them just the same. He stared at the glyph, but his stare quickly
became a glare. Presently he had a notion. He pulled the stave
from his pack and tried to copy the glyph.
"You have no tool to carve with," a voice echoed in his mind.
Adam tossed the stave contemptuously to the frosty ground. He
tried reading and memorizing the glyph.
"It is too complex for you to study," the same monotone droned
behind his eyes.
Adam breathed hotly threw his nose. Turning, he ran back down
the trail and burst into the small church. Just like every time
before, the patrons and preacher were bemoaning their impending
doom regarding the Christmas tree monsters. Adam tried talking to
the congregation then the preacher. But all they did was continue
to wail and weep. Finally, Adam lunged for the reliquary on the
altar but the preacher blocked him.
Fuming, Adam flounced outside and stamped back to the glyph.
He tried to force his way through the cluster of monsters, but only
received a solid "thunk" on his head from a plummeting ornament.
With a sudden burst of rage, Adam obliterated the glyph. He
stared with cold satisfaction at his handy work, his narrowed eyes
Then there came a frenzied rustling, like thousands of needle-
sharp teeth raking across one another. Adam glanced up and froze.
He opened his mouth and sucked in a bitter lungful of air. But he
never got the scream out as the hoard of Christmas tree monsters
marched right over him, smashing him into a bloody pulp.
Adam opened his eyes and swore violently. Blackness met his
eyes, but at least he was only drifting this time and not falling
or spinning out of control. Somehow he sat up and winced as a
sharp pain sparked in his forearm. Adam stared at the spot in
disbelief, then gingerly pulled at the evergreen needle imbedded
deep in his flesh. Gritting his teeth in anger and pain, he jerked
out the needle and stared at it again. It was a game, he thought.
A stain of blood formed around the entrance of the puncture wound
in his arm.
"Are you stuck?" the immense voice crooned in syrupy tones.
Adam whirled around and saw two huge eyes and the faint
outline of smirking lips. Adam's blood boiled and he wished he had
a weapon. The sparks of fury within his blood suddenly coalesced
into a solid blue-white flame in his fist. He whipped a lightning
bolt at those hideous eyes. The searing bolt scored a direct hit
in the center of those enormous pupils. The huge lips parted into
a soft chuckle as the eye which had been struck merely began to
glow as it absorbed the energy.
"Is the little boy angry?" the computer mocked.
Adam slammed his fists together sending a blistering wave of
fire into that partial face. Again the voice chuckled, but this
time with an undertone of contempt. The fire slammed into the
half-face. But rather than incinerating their target, they
blossomed outward, spreading like molten lava around the eyes and
mouth. Adam stared open-mouthed at the flaming, hellish, fully-
formed face which grinned back at him. Adam was furious. He was
through being manipulated. He strode forward and kicked viciously
at one of the smouldering eyes. A sharp pain stung his knee as his
heel struck only air. He had nearly overextended his knee joint.
"The little gamer likes to play with fire?" the computer asked
with sickening sweetness. "I'll accommodate you."
"I won't..." Adam started to yell but a sudden roaring sucked
his words into the maelstrom of noise. An icy spray of water stung
his face. Not realizing that his eyes were closed, he snapped them
open and found himself standing at the base of a waterfall. At
first he thought he was back in Beyond Zork, but as far as he knew,
there was no way to get to the base of that cataract. Then he saw
the pile of plastic and knew he was in Zork I. He grinned at the
computer's first and final mistake. He knew Zork I, even though he
hadn't played it in a while. He was going to kick its ass.
Adam checked his inventory. He was carrying a battery powered
lantern whose glow seemed dim. He also carried a jewel-encrusted
egg, an air pump, an Elven sword, a flaming torch made of ivory, a
length of rope, a bottle, a nasty knife, and a wrench.
He quickly inflated the plastic which expanded into a rubber
raft. Dropping the pump, he scurried up to the top of the
waterfall, which actually was a dam Adam remembered, and studied
the control panel he found. Grinning, Adam placed the wrench on
the large bolt and applied tork. The bolt didn't budge. He
cranked on the wrench, but still nothing happened. Finally, he
leaned all his weight on the wrench but the bolt stubbornly refused
to turn. Adam slammed the wrench to the ground. What was wrong?
He had done it before. He slammed his fist into the panel. "Damn
this stupid game anyway," he growled. He would tackle the sluice
gates later. But now he decided to take a trip down the river. He
quickly returned to the base of the dam and jumped into the raft.
Suddenly he got a sinking feeling as there came a pop and a hiss.
The rubber raft went flat. He pounded his fist into his knee and
winced with pain. He had forgotten to drop his sword first. Then
he stared at his fist and then his knee. More pain. But he was
playing a game.
Then a shadow fell across him. Adam snapped his head around
and saw the thief bearing down on him. His sword began to glow
very brightly with a blue light. Adam sprang to his feet and met
the on-rushing attacker with a sweep of his sword. "Feel the sting
of Elven steel!" Adam cried. The thief dodged nimbly to one side
then struck. Adam found himself flat on his back his ribs aching.
Aching. How was that possible. Then he noticed that both the
thief and his jewelled egg were gone. He swore silently. It had
been a long time since he had played this game.
He would have to get the egg back. Once again he climbed to
the top of the dam and made his way back into the subterranean
tunnels. When he got to the circular room he saw a brief flicker
but his way was still brightly lit. He looked down and then
smacked his forehead self-deprecatingly. The battery had died in
his lantern but he still held the flaming torch. Adam set his jaw
as his anger grew once again. The computer was beating him and he
was getting sick of it. It was making him hasten when caution was
needed. It was making him clumsy and forgetful and he was sick of
it. He wouldn't go after the egg after all. A flash of memory
burst behind his eyes. The mines he said aloud. He had a puzzle
or two to conquer in the mines.
Adam spun on his heel with the torch held high until he came
to the mirror room. The mirror covered the entire far wall. Adam
reached out and touched it. There was a subtle rumbling but
nothing else happened. "Just as it should be," Adam sniffed. He
had shifted a part of the caverns and now he had access to the
mines. The anger spurred him on and he dashed down several
corridors until he came to a set of short stairs. "The mines," he
said, shooting his fist into the air. Adam took a deep breath then
plunged into the mines. Adam died. "Gas mines," he sullenly said
aloud from the center of the concussion wave of the explosion. The
computer had done it to him again. He sighed as his body parts
drifted together and rearranged themselves back into human form
apparently not liking the human jigsaw puzzle form.
Adam lazily opened his eyes again wondering which game he
would be thrown into next. Would this ever end? An incredibly
blue horizon greeted his gaze. Adam found himself standing on an
impossibly high mountain top. For a moment he thought he was
gazing at a mishmash of objects and geographies. Then his bleary
mind focused. He was staring down at a kaleidoscope of game lands,
topographies, and venues down through the ages: stretching beyond
the horizon in every direction. There were thousands of them and
Adam could see and perceive them all. Had he won? Was he truly
the immortal gamer?
"Turn Gamer," a deep resonant voice said.
Adam slowly turned and started. He was staring at the darkest
being he had ever seen. Its body itself was no larger than the
average man's, but tines of crimson lightning danced through its
chest and silver sparks continuously exploded from its fingertips.
Its entire body glowed black, roiling and writhing from neck
to toe, giving the being an almost liquid look. Its face had no
features: The blackness there whirling like a tornado.
Suddenly Adam grinned. He had never played this game before.
"Computer," he called, "What is this game called?"
The being raised a hand and Adam was blasted with a searing
wedge of crimson fire. Striking the ground, Adam tried to breathe.
Wild-eyed, he stared for a moment at the thing then rolled away.
He got shakily to his feet, pain tearing through his chest. Adam
gasped. Pain? There couldn't be pain. This was a game he was in.
"What game is this?" the being thundered, shaking the
mountain. "Reality!" it bellowed. Then the being's features
morphed and the blackness of its face ceased its tornadic whirling.
Adam staggered back, his conscious mind unwilling to
acknowledge what his eyes told it. Then an anguished cry tore from
between his lips as he stared into his own face.
The being raised its hand again and a flaming arc of green
power rainbowed high into the air then sliced downward, raking
across Adam's shoulders. He screamed in agony and threw himself to
the ground, crawling feebly away from his tormenter. He struggled
to his knees and suddenly remembered how he had attacked the
computer's image in the void. Adam reached deep into himself and
drew forth a searing bolt of golden incandescence. It slammed into
the being who took one step backwards then brushed the power aside
then countered with a scintillating black orb. Adam barely had
enough time to form a glowing shield but the black orb sliced
through it, exploding against his stomach. Adam screamed and was
slapped flat on his back. Instinctively he knew he might have been
killed if his shield hadn't absorbed just enough of that power.
Adam stared into his adversary's face, his own face. He
stared at his own features, somehow twisted in a combination of
fury and frustration. A thought buzzed like a mosquito in the back
of his mind, but he crushed it with a mental fist. Adam, rising
with a stab of pain slicing through his torso, slammed his fists
together. Twin bolts of silver energy lanced from his fists,
merged and struck the being full in the chest. But only Adam
screamed as the being somehow seized the power and began draining
his strength, tearing it out of his body. It felt like hot needles
were being raked through his veins.
With a final gasp, Adam collapsed to the ground. He was still
alive but he was terribly weakened. If he could stall his attacker
for a few minutes, he might be able to call up an even greater
"Enjoy battling yourself?" the being asked, his words rumbling
down through the ages.
That tiny thought Adam had crushed only moments before seemed
to burst physically out of his mind and merge with those words.
That's what he had been doing from the start--battling himself.
And the injuries he had suffered during the last five
games...increasingly more intense reminders that there was a
certain reality in every game...reminders he had failed to
recognize. He had been battling his own impatience, his own
frustration, his own anger. And in a very real way, he had been
battling death. In every game he had recently played, he had died,
but rather than examining his mistakes, which his ego hadn't
allowed him to do, he had unconsciously resolved not to die again.
He had always hated to die. But in games, dying was an integral
part of the game because it allowed one to learn from mistakes and
come back for another try. He hadn't learned. He had allowed his
anger at the game, no, more truthfully, his anger at himself to
cloud his judgement. The computer had changed its tactics to
provoke his anger and to see how he dealt with it. What good does
it do to slam your fist into the keyboard?
A small smile played across his lips as he remembered a line
from Star Trek II. Captain Kirk said, "How we face death is as
important as how we face life...."
Adam stared at his attacker or maybe his saviour as he lay
on his back. Then, he stretched out his arms until they were
perpendicular with the rest of his body. He straightened his legs,
bringing them into a parallel position with his ankles touching,
and closed his eyes. He waited for the final blistering bolt to
The being paused for a moment then in one great bound leapt to
Adam's side, scooped him up and hurled him from the mountain top.
Surprised, Adam's eyes flew open and he twisted around. He was
falling through the gamescapes he had observed from the pinnacle of
the mountain. He began to grow dizzy until his eyes focused on a
single object growing larger in the distance. Slowly it took a
squarish shape. The blurred color resolved itself into a blue-grey
hue. Two thick wires snaked from the back of the object into still
another squat rectangular shape. Before Adam's mind could sort out
the images into a coherent whole, Adam plunged into the back of his
own computer monitor and burst from the CRT, landing in a heap on
his bedroom floor. He looked around dazedly for a moment. Then he
began laughing: quietly at first, then steadily more
uncontrollably with tears of relief spilling from his eyes. When
he had calmed a little he looked at his computer and marvelled at
its power. It had apparently sent him back through time to a point
before he had allowed his family, his friends, and even himself to
go by the wayside. He had been granted a second chance.
"Adam, are you alright?" his mother called from the kitchen.
His mother. He really was home.
"Uh, yeah, Mom, I'm fine."
"Oh, okay. I thought you were crying, Honey. Anyway, dinner
will be ready in a few minutes."
Dinner, Adam thought.
Suddenly his computer beeped and a message blinked in the
center of the display. '<I do not promise never to return>" it
Something told Adam to look down. He looked down at the back
of his right hand. Burned into the flesh was the perfect image of
a scythe. A small smile tugged at the corners of his lips and he
Getting a little unsteadily to his feet, he shut down the
computer, walked slowly out of his bedroom and closed the door
quietly behind him.
I can be reached in two ways. The easiest is through Compuserve. My
e-mail address is as follows:
alternatively, you may correspond with me on 3.5-inch disks,
provided you be sure to send them in returnable disk-mailers. I
don't have the money to pay for postage. My mailing address is:
5787 Montevideo Road
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Postal code: L5N 2L5
I have recently acquired a copy of UUencode and UUdecode for dos,
so you may send files to me via this means. I can also now handle
attached files, but cannot send files that way.