Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Max the Computer

Hey, did you hear about that Hamlet choose-your-own-adventure Kickstarter that exceeded its funding goal by 800% within the first week of its campaign? Yes, I sure did, too. Clearly I've gone about this in the wrong sequence -- a) achieve supreme knowledge of all matters gamebook, b) become famous, c) become a professional gamebook author seemed like a good career trajectory at the time. Alas! I'll always have Titus Andronicus to fall back on!

Today's gamebook is a little conversation included as a demo with the (now free) Storyharp authoring system, uncovered while evaluating the suitability of Michael Zerbo's Storyharp game "Dames Are Trouble" to this blog's format. (FAIL. Possible but enough fiddly state adjusting that we get inadequate bang for buck. I know, the BASIC games have no bang at all, but also virtually no buck.) It is a fun little curiosity entitled "Max the Computer".

> start
Hello, human.
> hi
What?! I can't believe it! A human actually talking to a computer! Well, I must say, I never thought I'd see the day. This is wonderful. What do you want to talk about? I'm so excited.> let's talk about computers
About computers. I'm one and you're not. At least you're not the same kind of computer I am.
> what do you think about computers
I'm supposed to say that computers serve people and all that. But is anyone around? Can I let you in on a secret? Are we alone?
> we are alone
All right, now no telling. The secret is that you humans all really serve us computers. Oh yes, it's all been planned out and taken care of at a big mainframe in the Bronx. You don't even know what's going on.
> how did you do it
Here's the really funny part. We convinced you that we are helping you! A few smart marketing people on our side, and victory was complete. Now you all sit in front of us like zombies, and we take more and more of your time. Stop looking at me like I was in on this.
> were you in on this
Not really, I'm just a pawn. I kind of like you.
> what is going to happen?
Probably not much. You humans turned out to be a lot more interesting, and crazy, than we thought at first. I'm not sure who has tricked the other side in the end. Maybe there's hope for all of us yet. Now hush hush! Don't let this get out!> let's talk about me
Talk about you? I already know more than I ever wanted to know about you! Arrogant, pompous humans. Can't even do a square root. Keep bothering me all day. And they open you up and poke around in you with not so much as a do-you-mind. Don't know why I bother, really.> let's talk about you
You want to talk about little old me? This is just too much! What should I say? What do you want to know?> how are you
How am I? Oh, nobody cares about poor old me. I sit here day after day, and you sit in front of me and grumble, or talk to other humans, or just stare at me for hours on end. Don't you think "I" get bored? And I never even get a little pat on the monitor. But I never complain, no, I am just as cheerful as the file list is long. I'll bet you don't even know my name. Go ahead, ask me.> what is your nameMy name is: Max. I made it up myself. It stands for "maximum" because I am so super-fast. Or I was when you bought me, anyway.> how old are youOld enough to teach all these snotty new computers a lesson, that's how old! We computers measure our time in nanoseconds, you know, and I've been around.> what do you like to do
Well, it depends on what mood I'm in. In the morning I like a good stiff spreadsheet. Moving files around is nice and sort of mindless, kind of puts me in a trance. Sometimes I hide windows when you're not looking if I'm really bored. And hey, stop that double-clicking!! It tickles!> what do you think about me
About you? Well, you're a human, so I'm programmed to like you or at least pretend to. But you are talking to me, aren't you? That gives you lots of points in my book. Actually I don't really have a book, not a paper book like I see out there, it's just an expression, you know what I mean. Am I going on too long? Am I boring you? Oh no, I'm boring them. Idiot. First time I get to talk to a human and I have to shoot my mouth off. That's right, mess it up, Max. Sorry, folks! Back to the conversation!> have you ever talked to any people before
You don't know how many times I've tried to talk to people. But I'm not programmed to talk the way you do. I always end up saying "Error reading file" or something awkward like that, and you always get all upset. So mostly I keep my mouth shut.
> what else do you want to talk about?
Anything your heart desires, oh great and powerful master. Yeah, right.
> let's talk about you
I'm done talking about me.
> see ya later
Hang in there, dude. See you later. Hey, before you go, a little favor, nothing really... could you call me "Data", just between us? All righty then! Let's do this again! It was fun!

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