Thursday, 26 April 2001

Computer games

Listening to:

Duke Ellington, Rocks in my bed, sung by Ella Fitzgerald. This is from a CD titled Ella Fitzgerald day dream: best of the Duke Ellington songbook.

Games I’m playing

I have been playing a bit of Age of Empires II recently. Over the last two nights, I have found myself completely stuck on the sixth scenario of the Joan of Arc “campaign”. Earlier in the week, I had another go at my previous gaming bête noire, the Novgorod scenario in Panzer General II. I did better than in my previous attempts, but I still failed. Sigh. Really, this phenomenon is a good one; games shouldn’t be push-overs, but it's doing no good for my image of myself as an armchair general extraordinaire.

I am unwilling to admit that these games require practice to acquire the necessary skills. I want to be an instant expert just from doing a little bit of thinking “on the spot”, and figuring out what the right thing to do is. I don’t think that I should be able to play Chess like this, and it took me a good while to get to the level of skill I have at Go (about 5 kyu), so why are my expectations different with computer games? Perhaps it’s because they present such a seductive interface, one that gives you a gratifying illusion of control over vast armies. It’s hard to reconcile this superficial picture with the need to actually do some learning.

Heck, I even get given a good run for my money by the standard Windows game of Hearts every time I play it. I can only console myself with the fact that my Go skill makes me stronger than any extant computer program. See this page from the American Go Association, and this nice article from the New York Times (extracted somewhere else so probably a copyright violation, but not thereby subject to their new restrictions on access to old content).

Finally, something nice from David Chess’s log. I can attest to Canadians’ hardiness with respect to swimming outdoors. As for writing about real people, my intention is always paranoid; nobody else is identified here. Perhaps this makes things a bit anonymous, but hey, I plough my own furrow.