Today I’ve been mainly amusing myself with a copy of 33 Adult Games For BASIC. Sadly disappointing in that it doesn’t deliver any sexy content at all but what it lacks in sexy it more than makes up in narrative punch.
Old programming books are funny anyway, there’s pretty much a type in book for just about every subject, from kids games to space games to Halloween games and whatever obscure topic you could possibly think of. 33 Adult Games For BASIC is the first time I’ve come across Games For Relationship Breakdowns.
As the introduction points out, “the electronic games of today are geared towards the young. There are not too many adults that will go to the corner arcade to play the latest video craze, wo why not have games that adults can relate to?”. It all sounds like a perfectly fine plan and for a while, yes, it seems to be going perfectly smoothly. Opening with an introduction to sound routines on the TRS-80 (we don’t need to know about the IBM sound routines as “the IBM is a born musician!”) it all seems perfectly ok. Nothing wrong here.
From then on in, we’re into the realms of videogames for grown ups proper! The programs are split into 5 seemingly innocuous chapters “Skill & Logic” – a fairly typical thing to see, “Games of general interest” wherein we start to scratch our heads at the titles of the games listed “Where’s the necessary room?”, “Troubles”, “General Store”, “Respect Your Computer”, “Love One Another”, “Date Service” and “Key A Date”. I dunno guys, this is starting to sound a little weird now but ok, I’m sure things will be fine. Just fine. And I’m hoping “Key A Date” is nothing like keying a car or this could get really weird.
Next up we have “Games that span the ages!” which seems to be once again, fairly normal fare (although “Rain Of Terror” does jump out from the listings as perhaps something to be scared of) and then it’s onto the next chapter. “Games to keep you alert or put you to sleep”. Wait. Hang on. Who on Earth wants games to put themselves to sleep? Aside from me but that’s another blog post. Never mind, I’m sure it’s just a title and we’ll get there and it’ll be alright.
I must say though, by this point, having got no further than the contents, I’m already starting to dread “Games for parties or friendly get togethers” but hey, we can roll with this. I think.
First up then, skill and logic. As an adult, it must be said that I love skill and logic and can relate to skill and logic in ways that children cannot possibly comprehend. So obviously, I’m really super excited to find out what we’ve got up for grabs.
Pretty normal stuff, don’t you think? I mean, aside from the weirdly specific use of “family car” in driver’s test, nothing of real consequence here.
“The Course” is what many people will know as “a Cassette50 special”. It’s *that* car game. The one anyone of a certain age has typed in at least six times, the one that somehow found its way onto too many C90′s when you were expecting Monty Mole Steals Buckets. You know, this one…
I’m sorry if that brings back nightmares. I truly am. Next up Words-Zit. Words-Zit just asks you to change some letters around to uncover a secret message or twenty.
Secret messages like “All the tides and a full moon could not stop you now”. Secret messages like “A zebra must have stripes for the FBI files”. Secret messages like “Perhaps you are beginning to dehydrate”. Secret messages like “Perhaps you have to work tomorrow”. Yes. Perhaps you do. Perhaps you’d have never known that were it not for the secret message.
Following this is Math-A-Code. Which is Words-Zit:Maths Edition. Only really notable for displaying “Natural Born Quitter” if you choose not to continue solving problems. Master Code is Math-A-Code only with beeps. Fantastic. To round off the chapter we close with the up-to-10-players Driver’s Test. Which is, umm, that driving game again but this time you’re supposed to stay in a single lane like a good grown up. After all, you don’t want to “become another highway statistic” do you? (I assume this means death rather than you contributing to the building of yet more highways just by typing in, playing, then failing at the game). You don’t? Good. Then we can scrape out of this alive and move on to What Is It?
“You just might be saying ‘What is it’ to yourself after completing the game!” proclaims the blurb in a rare moment of self awareness. Up to four people can take part in guessing what the computer is thinking of via the medium of obscure-o clues. The answer is probably “snake”. With that, we come to the end of the first collection of games pretty much fine. We did OK there, didn’t we? Nothing too weird, nothing too crazy. A little bit curious at times but no more.
Onto Chapter 2. What can possibly go wrong?
Oh. So “Where’s the necessary room?” is a game about trying to find the pisser whilst incredibly drunk. I’m not saying there’s a stark contrast in style between this chapter and the last chapter or anything but… oh hang on, yes, I am. We’re in bat country now.
This is a bursting for a piss simulator that predates Don’t Pee Yourself by many years thus proving that there truly is no new ideas under the sun. Only variations.
Oh. Let’s get this straight. I’m in a bar. I’m incredibly drunk. I need a piss. At this point, I ask my computer for directions. It’s 1983. My computer is a TRS-80. So I’m in a bar, I’m incredibly drunk, I need a piss and I’m carrying a TRS80, a monitor, a keyboard and whatever else. To the toilet.
And as if that isn’t enough, my computer is also pretending to be drunk and calling me “Lush”. This is truly a game that adults can relate to because we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
I dunno, this is all getting a bit strange. I’m tempted to question why the author has, at this point, decided to put himself into the shoes of a lady called Greta who needs a piss (and carries a TRS80 around with her to bars…) but y’know, I don’t want to know. I also don’t want to know how someone intends to finish breaking my face (Ms. Foul Mouth is, I guess, not related to Ms. Pacman?) or whether the author is writing from first hand experience here.
No. Right now, I just want out and onto the next game.
Or do I? Suddenly, I’m not quite so sure about this… I do like the olives with the flagpole, mind. Nice touch.
Troubles! Oh trouble. A game about unburdening yourself to your computer who’ll help you with some fine advice. The computer will use logical deduction to help you because that’s what computers do. They logically deduct. Let’s have a look at the example given in the book…
“I can’t get enough response from women”. The jokes. They write themselves.
It’s OK, the game isn’t just concerned with sorting out lady trouble, it can help you with your health and financial welfare too.
It’s that easy! In deep cash related shit? JUST SEEK A HIGHER PAID JOB, YOU IDIOT.
That’s all quite curious stuff but not quite so curious as this, sitting tucked away at the end…
Painfully glaring grammar and punctuation issues aside, is anyone else starting to notice a certain, I dunno, “computer as psycho” sort of pattern here? I mean, amongst the women trouble, the family troubles and the alcoholism, natch.
Thankfully the next game, General Store, is relatively safe. Add up the price of groceries as fast as you can to win points. For the record the groceries you’ll be purchasing are: Milk, bread, meat, meat, meat, fish, candy, candy, candy, vegetables, vegetables, poultry, poultry, lettuce, onions, spinach, cigarettes, cigars, bacon, tablets (paper), pens, batteries, batteries, furniture polish, carpet cleaner, hand soap, hand soap, crackers, meats, sodas (case).
You meat can meat make meat of meat that meat what meat you meat will. Meat.
Respect Your Computer is next. You know that thing I was saying about “the computer as psycho”? Yeah, that then…
In “Respect Your Computer” the computer is always thinking of the one number between one and ten that you’re not thinking of. For this reason, you must RESPECT YOUR COMPUTER. Or it will fuck you up with a beer bottle when you need a piss or something. Yes. That’s precisely what Aretha Franklin used to sing about and stuff, that.
Things take an even more disturbing turn with Love One Another. Love One Another is a game in which you’re asked a few simple questions to begin with about your current relationship status. Are you married? What is your spouse’s name? That sort of thing. It then asks you to input up to ten complaints you’d like to see dealt with (in three or fewer words to keep things easier to manage). The examples given are “relatives, communication, smoking, going places, relatives”. Yes, it really does list “relatives” twice. Relatives are like meat, clearly.
Once you’ve filled in your list of complaints, you can then rate them out of ten according to what sort of priority they should take. 1 being the least significant and 10 being the most significant. NO FRACTIONS.
After you’re done, the computer will ask you to bring your partner to the computer and for you to nob off. Your partner will then input their problems too and also rate them according to what sort of priority they should take. NO FRACTIONS. In this case, the example given from the partner is, perhaps unsurprisingly, “relations”. And umm, that’s it. That’s their only complaint. So let’s be clear, Mr Man Inputter has problems with “relatives, communication, smoking, going places and relatives” and Mrs Woman has problems with “relations”. I cannot possibly think why that would be. Anyway!
The complaints have been printed out. They have been ranked and rated. The most important issues separated. Now we’ve gone through all this, how will the computer propose we solve these issues?
Yes! Can you guess what happens when you press enter? That’s right, it tells you the next problem to discuss and tells you to discuss the problem between yourselves now then press enter again. Until all the problems are solved. Right there, like that. It’s that fucking easy. Why didn’t you think of that?
There’s a slim possibility that the problems weren’t resolved but don’t worry, it’s covered. Every possible base has been covered…
Don’t do that, obviously. It won’t work. The computer is fucking with you.
Following the divorce-court-avoid-em-up of Love One Another, Date Service sees the computer-as-Cilla matching you to your perfect date. You and 9 other people (of the opposite sex, none of that gay sex here please, this is a computer book!) answer a series of questions and the computer decides who will be the perfect match. Let’s have a look at the author’s questions and answer session:
We’ll just leave that right there, eh?
The final game in this chapter is “Key A Date”. Key. A. Date.
Yes, for our final game in this chapter we’re going to be building up a database of names. A secure database of names that will self destruct if anyone tries to poke their nose into it. For those of us who aren’t married. On the bright side, it’s got no equivalence with keying a car but still, y’know…
Now, maybe it’s just me but I can’t help but feel that this whole chapter has strayed a bit from the game department and really, despite the claims of the chapter, I’m not entirely convinced this stuff is of “general interest” either. It seems like awfully specific interest to me.
Let’s just recap here. You start off drunk in a bar desperate for a piss, being battered by ladies whilst assuming a girls name. You unburden your troubles onto the computer but end up doing your own groceries. For meat and soda (crate). Then you sit down with your computer (who you’re fully aware tricks you and demands your respect) and try and talk out your problems with your partner whilst using the machine as an intermediary. And then you find yourself rating prospective suitors whilst keeping a secret database that self destructs if anyone else tries to glance at it.
I was wrong, it’s not the computer as psycho we’re looking at here… this is someone’s idea of games adults can relate to. It’s just the games aren’t the ones in the book, are they? This isn’t just a book of type in listings, it’s a tragedy. It’s the type-in-listing-as-relationship-breakdown. Fuck.
“Squares” where you can move in any direction you want. Freedom of movement. The freedom to move where normally you have none. Hold time, if only we could all just do that. Be at the right place, the right time. Stop time because this dangerous affair, it could lead to you losing everything. But it’s so good. You’ve got to be prepared. If you stand still, if you stay in one place, the bomb will drop… can you get out of this without harming any innocent people? No good people must get hurt. Keep moving. Always moving.
It’s all starting to make sense now but the end isn’t a happy ending, clearly. The penultimate chapter takes an even darker turn for our hero…
The lies are coming home to roost, it’s getting harder to concentrate, you have to move fast to avoid getting caught, it fills your thoughts, don’t get caught, it’ll burn. Make sure you’re in the right place at the right time, make sure everyone is in the right place and then… farewell. Death by snake – the smoking gun from the first chapter. Just concentrate on the numbers as it all slips away.
The final chapter? Games for parties or friendly get togethers, the funereal regrets and recriminations. Games for the left behind.
33 Adult Games For BASIC is the saddest story ever told via the medium of programming. Goodbye cruel world. Life and death in BASIC. The games adults play. Stick that in your art and smoke it.