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The Purloined Letter and scientific knowledge
I’ve rented Jedi Starfighter for the PS2, and it doesn’t come with any guide. I’m pretty good at figuring out games on the fly, but given the obtuse subtleties of something like JS, I wound up realizing I needed a walkthrough. So in about ten seconds online I found a guide at gamefaqs.com, and I’m off to the races.
Which is when I realized: After years of using game-fan walkthroughts as my de facto tech support, I’ve grown to love the literary style of a walkthrough. It’s like halfway between a tech manual and a love letter. Fans spend weeks crafting these incredibly tightly-written explanations of the game, including nuances so slight that the gamemakers themselves are probably only dimly aware of them. When they’re written for a terrain-based game — like one of the Tomb Raider series — walkthroughs are suspended so beautifully between descriptive text (what you’re looking at) and where-to-go-what-to-do functionality (what to do when you get there) that they read like the travel literature of the damned:
ROOM WITH TRANSPARENT BRIDGE & MUTANT INCUBATOR: Here you’ll find a room with a lava pit below a transparent bridge with a gap in the middle. Down in the gap is an incubator. Walk to the right side of the bridge and take a standing jump to grab the crevice in the wall. Drop and grab the bottom of the doorway below. Pull up and follow the tunnel to a switch. Pull it to open the red door on the far side of the bridge. Continue to the opening, pick up 2 sets of Uzi clips and take a standing jump down to the bridge. Take a running jump across the gap to grab the other side of the bridge. As you pass the incubator, the egg will hatch, releasing a winged mutant. Pull up and head for the doorway. You can kill the mutant from here or, if you don’t want all the kills, just keep going. (PlayStation users get a save crystal in the passageway.)
I'm Clive Thompson, a writer on science, technology, and culture. This blog collects bits of offbeat research I'm running into, and musings thereon.
Currently, I'm a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. I also write for Fast Company and Wired magazine's web site, among other places. Email or AOL IM me (pomeranian99) to say hi or send in something strange!
May 20, 2011 » 02:28 PM
From Christopher Kennedy’s very droll book “Neitzsche’s Horse”.
July 28, 2010 » 07:35 AM
“Wr” - S
July 06, 2010 » 10:05 AM
My Xbox broke, and I was trying to Google some possible technical solutions, when I noticed that Google appears to be encouraging me to make a typo. I suppose it’s possible that Google’s algorithms know that typing “wont” instead of “won’t” would produce better results.
June 29, 2010 » 05:00 PM
On the other hand, when I tried the test for multitasking, I was pretty abysmal. I performed worse than people who identify themselves as heavy multitaskers, and those who identify as low multitaskers.
June 29, 2010 » 04:58 PM
I finally got around to trying out the interactive “test your distractability and multitasking” page at the New York Times, which they put up alongside their story earlier this month about how computer distractions are eroding our lives.
According to the test, I guess I have good focus — I’m not very distractable!
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