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?

This is my rifle, this is my gun

I’m kind of obsessed with playing Dust 514 right now. It’s a multiplayer game set in a distant science fictional future where you get to shoot other people. It’s also got aspects of role-playing games in it and I’m a complete sucker for the Skinner box reward structure of the genre, what with all the numbers and flashy virtual items you get awarded for doing stuff. I cannot say more than that, since the game is still in closed beta and I’m bound by the pesky Non-Disclosure Agreement.

I can say that I’ve discovered a second level to the game beyond mere violence and statistics. On the game’s online forums I’ve now started dropping as much homoerotic innuendo as possible into my posts. All the misspellings and competitive posturing can get rather tiresome so now I’m seeing how many times I can insert phallic imagery into my replies.

For level 2 of this meta-game I think I’ll see how well I can make subtle connections between fighting other players and having sex with their avatars. “Have you ever been penetrated by another player’s hot lead injection and been disappointed that you couldn’t return the favour?”

Well, we’ll see how it goes.

Where have you been, Billy boy, Billy boy?

Where have you been, darling Billy?

Dear god, I practiced that tune more times than I can remember on the piano. With the span of years separating me from those times, however, I’ve come to reconsider my grudging resignation to playing the piano and wouldn’t mind messing around on one again. However, now I don’t have a piano to practice on.  Isn’t that just how it goes?

Oh, and in answer to the question, I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption. Yes, I know it’s two years old. I don’t care. It’s new to me and it was a lot cheaper than when it was new to everyone else, plus it’s way more fun because a lot of the bugs have been fixed by now. The breadth of actions you can do in this game are astonishing. For example, you can tie a woman to some train tracks, but there won’t be any snivelling heroes to interfere and you can pretend to twirl your moustache while you watch a train run her over. You can also do that to anyone who tries to steal your horse, though it’s not as satisfying, but if you punish the no-good horse rustler more appropriately by lassoing them and dragging them to their death as you gallop over the plains you end up losing honour points. I think my favourite thing right now is to hogtie everyone in a saloon and stand around listening to them shout impotent threats at you, then calmly walking away to hunt some deer or something.

Also, when I’m not playing that I’m playing the beta for Dust 514. Also fun, but in a different, kill-other-players-who-are-trying-to-kill-you way. I’m not sure how much leeway the beta’s Non-Disclosure Agreement allows me to say so I’ll just leave it at that.

So yeah, video games. Yeehaw.

Nick Carraway, Action Hero

The Great Gatsby - Press Start

Ever wonder what The Great Gatsby would have been like as a mid-80s Japanese video game? Yeah, neither have I. But a couple of enterprising chaps have answered the question that was burning in no one’s mind. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The fake manual and fictional provenance propels it further into the heights of absurdity, but the cut scene where Gatsby teleports while gazing at the green light from Daisy’s house is already sublime in its awful glory.

You’ve got to love the fact that you have to fight Meyer Wolfsheim’s Jewish gangsters along with hobos, flappers, and the Black Sox. But where is the ghost of the Dutchman from? I don’t remember that from the book, but admittedly I haven’t read it in a long while.

Video game trivia: the titular character of The Legend of Zelda video game series was named after Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, wife of dear old Francis Scott.


Holy crap, some company made Gatsby into an adventure game. It’s not a parody like the game above, it’s an actual thing that’s supposed to make money and everything. It looks like one of those classic inventory games where you click on everything trying to find the object you need to solve the puzzle you’re stuck on. Pretty pictures and you even have a GOSSIP action, but I wonder if the game makers kept Tom’s fascination with racist literature?

A girl in a white dress named Jordan is having a meal on a veranda awash in sunlight. She smiles at the camera as she holds a glass of red wine. In the background the veranda is held up by classical Greek columns covered in ivy, while in the distance is a garden path leading past Greco-Roman statuary and ending in a gazebo. On the top of the picture is a text box where Jordan remarks, "Don't talk . . . I want to hear what happens."
The pic is from the adventure game, not the fake 80s parody from above