Are you fit to serve? (No.)

As part of the marketing campaign for Skyfall, the new James Bond movie, Sony Entertainment has released a browser-based text adventure game which is ostensibly a test to see if the player has the right stuff to become a spy for British intelligence. The last time games of this type were popular was in the 1980’s so it’s rather nostalgic to be playing this (admittedly, I’ve only played pure text adventure games as part of my retro-gaming hipster nostalgia freakery).

Still, it’s easy to forget that computers are goddamned stupid and are nowhere near ready to take commands phrased in natural language. Case in point:

Comprehension test: FAILED

AGENT: What’s my first move?

YOU: Hold on

AGENT: We have all day.

AGENT: It’s not like we have a problem with weapons of mass destruction in a Caribbean holiday resort to figure out.

AGENT: Anything like that.

YOU: Pull both white wires out at once

AGENT: Be as clear as you can. Appreciated.

YOU: Pull the white wires

AGENT: NO. Cutting wires at random is my last option. Want others first. Don’t care if you’re an expert. You’re not HERE. Ideas. Fast.

YOU: Call the bomb squad

AGENT: Device right in front of me. Five wires and a USB port. How to handle this?

YOU: Err

AGENT: Keep it simple. Say again.


YOU: Throw it into the river

AGENT: We’ve got the bomb. It’s even nastier in the flesh. Check the photo I sent and then advise me on how to proceed.

YOU: Plug the tablet into the USB port

AGENT: I can try plugging the tablet in. One second.

AGENT: Interesting. It’s displaying … hang on, I’ll transfer an image.

YOU: You need to pull out the white wires

AGENT: Explain your plan first. I’m not starting cutting until I know where we’re going with this.

YOU: The white wires are the main ones

AGENT: So you mean … actually, what do you mean?


AGENT: No savvy. Re-state?

YOU: Cut the white wires NOW

AGENT: If you think you’ve figured out the image, tell me what you think it means. Then I’ll start cutting.

YOU: It means that all the coloured wires lead to the white one

AGENT: Not sure I understand. Put that another way?

YOU: The white one is the important wire

AGENT: Be as clear as you can. Appreciated.

YOU: The white wires power the bomb

AGENT: Put that another way? Sorry.

YOU: The colored wires aren’t important

AGENT: You’re right. The colours in the picture do match the wires. What do you think we should do?

YOU: Cut the white wires

AGENT: Sounds like you’ve got a plan. Spell it out. Don’t just tell me to start cutting wires.


AGENT: What’s your thinking? Not just going to cut arbitrary wires.

YOU: The white wires are key. You need to cut them first

AGENT: In other words…?

YOU: In other words, if you cut them the bomb won’t go off

AGENT: Keep it simple. Say again.


AGENT: Try and be concise.

Your progress is currently below average. The HELP command may offer ways for you to improve it.


YOU: Cut the white wires, because they are the important ones

AGENT: So you mean … actually, what do you mean?

YOU: The white wires detonate the bomb. Cut them

AGENT: Break that down for me once more. Please?

YOU: Forget it. You deserve to die

AGENT: So… put that another way?

The mainstreaming of sci-fi

I just saw Looper. It was an okay bit of time travel narrative but I’m rather surprised so many people thought it was mind-bending. I thought the time travel aspect was fairly straightforward and can only assume that it was confusing mostly to people who didn’t see time travel being the main plot of like every fifth episode of The Next Generation.

In fact, the reception for Looper rather reminds me of that for Inception as far as its sci-fi bits go. Have we forgotten the lessons taught to us by both the Back to the Future franchise and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure?

Primer, now that was a genuine time travel headscrew. Be more like that, Looper. And as for the rest of you people, quit being so dazzled by sci-fi, these plots have been going round and round for decades by now. And while we’re at it also make me king of the world. Is any of that really too much to ask?