Friday, June 24, 2011


Back in the early days of computer games, few people played them.  Those games that did have graphics were blocky, blinky, and slow (ironically, those were the nicknames of the ghosts in Pac Man).  It took decades for games to evolve the mass appeal they have now, where they are eclipsing the film, television, and music industries.

Back in the late seventies and early eighties, however, a few of us were entranced and saw the potential that games had.  We were geeks and nerds.  We were insulted, beaten, and ostracized.  But the games were ours and they catered to what we wanted for entertainment: intellectual challenge, imagination, and cleverness.  You would hardly recognize those games in compared with the graphic-obsessed, violence simulators they are today.
It looked like this.

Let me give you an example: Trinity.  It is because of Trinity and the power of its story, that people began to see games as an art form (although Mr. Moriartywouldn’t agree).  Trinity is a text adventure created by Brian Moriarty at a company named Infocom.  A text adventure is a novel made interactive.  You have to read to understand what’s going on.  You have to write to tell the game what you want to do.  Trinity has no pictures, no guns, no half naked women with breasts larger than their heads.

There are, however, explosions, lots and lots of explosions.
Ah, crap.
Trinity begins right before the end of the world.  As World War Three erupts around you, and nuclear bombs rain down on the planet, you manage to escape to a magical world somehow tied to the development of nuclear warheads.  You travel through time and space to see the devastation and horror cause by the bombs, mainly by meeting those about to be killed.  A dolphin plays catch with you right before being vaporized.  A pack of lemmings get driven over a cliff.  A little girl’s face is burned off.  In trying to save the world, you have to kill as well.  For example, on the instruction of a caged, talking crow, you fish a small lizard (called a skink) out of a cave wall and strangle it to death.

Why do I mention Trinity?  Because you can kill that crow I mentioned above.

Title: Trinity
Severity: 1 (one bird death, one aggravating factor, but many mitigating factors)
Genre: Game
Date: 1986
Description: There is a bird in a witch's cottage. If you put the correct ingredients together in a cauldron in the cottage, it explodes, killing the bird.
Mitigating Factors: You can let the bird free so it doesn't die. Also, during the course of the game, you strangle a skink (a small lizard), trap a large bee in a venus flytrap, and feed a lemming to a snake. In addition, another bird (a roadrunner) helps you several times and never dies. In short, the birds do better than most of the animals in the game.
Aggravating Factors: The bird gives you a formula you need to help you win the game, so you are killing it after it helps you.

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