Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
Computer Game #1: Robosport (1991)
I contend that Robosport is the greatest computer game ever, because it can only be played on a computer. Equal parts chess and S.W.A.T. tactics, players control a squad of programmable robots armed with machine guns, grenades, missile launchers and time bombs. Each turn, you and your opponents plot out all your moves ahead of time, ordering your robots to take actions in advance without knowing for sure what they’ll run into. This guarantees that a) you are forced to think carefully about your strategy each turn, and b) your best laid plans will usually, hilariously, go awry. Robots cackle gleefully as opponents are blasted from ambush, only to be vaporized seconds later while shouting “Ow!” ‘Bots with attack orders bound around corners and instantly annihilate one another, while those with move orders bounce straight past enemy units. Turns play out as mini-movies, and at the end of the game you can watch the fight unfold in one big exploding replay.
Cheeky and eminently replayable, Robosport is the thinking man’s Battlebots. In fact, I keep nursing along an old Mac with System 7 just so I have a machine on which to play it when my brother comes to visit.
Monday, September 30th, 2013
I watched too much television growing up. My dad always warned us that if we didn’t stop, we’d turn into one giant eye — like the CBS logo. And he was right. TV is a drug, a powerful narcotic, and I was an addict. I wasted many many hours on really stupid shows, hours that I wish I had back now to waste on something important.
That said, there was one thing I loved about television, and that was the strange modern custom American networks developed around the launch of the fall season. The TV Guide preview, the annual handicapping of new shows, the ritual sacrifice of the first cancellation. Even if I didn’t watch all the shows (and you couldn’t back then), I loved looking at the programming grid.
Head over to wikipedia and check out the grids for every TV season back to 1946: it is a fascinating time capsule, especially when it comes to shows, concepts and entire networks you’ve probably never heard of (Rhumba dancing in prime time! Something called the DuMont Network!)
It wasn’t just me — there were actually several different board games in the ’60s and early ’70s where players would compete against each other in creating successful programming lineups for fictional networks.
While I generally agree with Marshall McLuhan’s famous assessment of TV, there are a few shows I could watch again (and again in summer repeats) that I have fond memories of, or are just truly great on a literary, cultural or entertaining level. So with that in mind, I give you the perfect Fall Schedule for JPTV.
[click on grid to enbiggen]