GOT LAMP

10/24/2010

 
I just finished Jason Scott's IF documentary GET LAMP.
  • After the intro, I thought, "Wow, an old computer turning on, then a bunch of old guys talking about caves. That'll keep 'em on the edge of their seats!" I suppose this isn't meant to be marketing or evangelism, but it still could have opened with a hook.
  • IF people are very articulate (and the interviews were well edited). Often these documentaries include a lot of gushing and undirected verbiage, but not with this crowd. As Brian Moriarty said of early IF, it had a "friendly, smart-people feel about it."
  • Were blind players the only minority in the documentary? Not a criticism, just interesting that it falls out that way.
  • GET LAMP made the point that early IF provided an immersive experience under tight technological constraints. In fact, that is part of why it was financially successful and even drove computer sales: interactive text was much deeper than the simple games and graphics of the times. And as Richard Bartle argued, text coupled to our imaginations will always be superior to any hardware. Early IF authors innovated around their constraints to accomplish as much as possible. Some of it worked, some didn't, but they kept trying. It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and that constraints can fuel creativity. I sort of feel that since hardware limitations have been removed, IF has been content to stagnate, ignoring the restrictions of market forces, reader demographics, streamlined interfaces, etc.
  • The interviewees seemed pretty convinced that puzzle is the enemy of story, at least for modern readers. On the other hand, solving good puzzles in IF is an experience unparalleled in almost any other medium, and IF junkies will keep chasing that 'aha!' high. But it seems new players need a gateway drug.
GET LAMP was very well done, and I enjoyed it, even the reminiscing about about early computers (I goofed around on my folks' TRS-80 when I was seven). I had hoped it would be a catchy introduction to the medium, but liked it for what it was, and it should hold up well for future audiences.
 


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