January 13th, 2006

Losing Games

Seeing as I’m ostensibly a game scholar (and not just a reader!), I should probably write about games occasionally, huh? Being on break and away from the lab, I’ve done a lot more reading than playing, but I still do play games just about every day. Mostly it’s for fun, right now, but I’m always on the lookout for interesting game properties that I might end up thinking and writing about.

Right now I’m playing Chuzzle, which is a game basically designed for OCD people like myself. It’s a standard casual game based on the Bejeweled model of making matches based on color. The twist here is that you can slide cute little fuzzy guys on either the horizontal or vertical axis to make groups of three or more instead of just swapping adjacent pieces. In other words, each Chuzzle moves like a rook in chess, but pushing all the other Chuzzles in its row or column ahead of it. This makes board position rather important, particularly as only getting “combos” (one or more groups of three with a single move) or “supers” (five or more Chuzzles in a group) can stave off the “locks” that prevent certain rows or columns from moving until they’re freed.

Collapse )

Reading List: The Golden Compass

Read: The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman.

This is a very nearly perfect book, and I only say very nearly because it failed to go on forever. On the surface, it looks like a standard young adult fantasy novel, complete with a Young Girl Who Has A Destiny. Really, though, the book is far more profound, but it manages to be profound without ever forgetting to be entertaining.

Pullman is a brilliant world-builder, which is perhaps his greatest strength. He doesn’t over-explain the universe he creates, but every piece of it seems to fit coherently with the others. Witches who fly through the northern night on branches of cloud-pine, talking polar bears whose armor is their soul, atomcraft and anbaromagnetism and the Consistorial Council of Discipline - it all feels familiar, as if one had simply forgotten that all these things were, yes, of course, a part of the world we know.

Collapse )

Reading List: The Subtle Knife

Read: The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman.

The second book in Pullman’s His Dark Materials series, unfortunately, does not quite live up to the promises of the first. Not that it’s bad, by any means! Pullman’s worst work is better than the best efforts of most other fantasy writers! But while The Golden Compass was a nearly perfect work of fiction, The Subtle Knife develops character and structural problems which make it only very, very, very, very good.

Collapse )