January 29, 2020

The Stories Streets Tell

Those who saw him hushed. On Church Street. Liberty. Cortlandt. West Street. Fulton. Vesey.

—Colum McCann, Let The Great World Spin

Despite having lived in New York City for most of the 2010s and worked in Lower Manhattan for a few of them, I still didn’t know where these streets were when I was reading Colum McCann’s novel at the end of 2019.

Knowing the names of a city’s streets has always been meaningful to me, despite its waning utility. But aside from being useful if the internet happens to be down or if one’s GPS is on the fritz, streets somehow make me feel connected to a city in a way that I find important. The denizens of a place have so little in common with one another aside from their shared geography, and it sometimes disappoints me that the simple act of asking for directions is a dwindling reason to have a conversation in the age of the smartphone. But at least it’s still a valid one.

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February 1, 2016

Passage, Emscriptened

A friend and I were recently reminscing about a poignant 2007 game by Jason Rohrer called Passage.

It’s hard to describe the game without spoiling anything, but since it literally takes five minutes to play, I encourage you to play it online right now.

The thing is, until today, you couldn’t play it online.

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November 29, 2014

On Gaming And Media Narratives

On December 13, 2013, I sent the following email to several of my friends who play videogames:

Hey, if you're receiving this it's because you're on my Steam friends list. I don't send spam out often but right now I am frustrated with the collective hatred of the internet and this is the only way I can think of fighting back.

Earlier this year, I played a web-based game called Depression Quest. It's not particularly "fun", because it's about depression, but it is very good at building awareness about, and empathy for, a serious mental condition.

The creator happens to be a woman and has been harassed by the internet. The game, while free, is trying to get on Steam and a bunch of internet assholes are down-voting the game because misogyny.

So, if you either like the premise of the game or despise misogyny (or both!), I encourage you to vote for the game on Steam Greenlight using the link below:


That is all. Thanks for reading this, and apologies if this is spam to you.

The above email was the only “mass email” I’ve sent in at least the past two years. I was pretty frustrated at the time.

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August 15, 2011

Hacking The Web With Interactive Stories

I recently made The Parable of The Hackasaurus, which is a game-like attempt to make web-hacking easy to learn through a series of simple puzzles in the context of a story. The parable is really more of a proof-of-concept that combines a bunch of different ideas than an actual attempt at interactive narrative, though. The puzzles don’t actually have anything to do with the story, for instance. But I wanted an excuse to do something fun with the vibrant art that Jessica Klein has made for the project, while also exploring possibilities for the Hack This Game sprint and giving self-directed learners a path to understanding how the Hackasaurus tools work. ... Read more

January 8, 2011

My Minecraft Adventure

I did not expect to enjoy this game. My friend Mike was completely obsessed with Minecraft, and Dave Humphrey blogged a bit about all the amazing things people had done with it: creating replicas of the German Reichstag, the U.S.S. Enterprise, working CPUs. All creative uses of cognitive surplus. But I still didn't think that it was for me. When visiting Washington, D.C. in the last days of December 2010, I finally sat down with Mike and he showed me how to play. ... Read more

August 26, 2010


The New York Times recently wrote that The Web Means The End of Forgetting. I never kept a copy of my first public software project with me—yet because I put it on the internet, it eventually made its way into an FTP archive, many mirrors of which still host the files sixteen years later, when a casual conversation with a friend prompted me to search for them. In 1994, I didn’t like Macintosh computers, so I decided to replace the explosive barrels in DOOM with them. ... Read more

November 13, 2008

That Empowerment Thing

One of the really interesting things about the social-network-oriented website for the Obama campaign, my.barackobama.com, was the fact that it was essentially an online nexus that connected people who were interested in political and social change. And as Henry Jenkins mentioned in February, what Obama has created over the past year has not been a campaign, but a movement that would have lived on even if he’d lost the election. ... Read more

August 10, 2008

Parchment on the iPhone

I recently spent time making Parchment work properly on my new iPhone 3G. The iPhone has been my first foray into the world of the mobile web, and getting Parchment to work well on it was an interesting experience. Some of the challenges I faced involved getting the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard to display properly—Parchment doesn’t actually have any text input fields on it, so by default the iPhone didn’t think that users had to enter text—and modifying some processor-intensive JavaScript code so that the iPhone didn’t think that Parchment had gone into an infinite loop. ... Read more

June 15, 2008

Introducing Parchment

A few weeks ago, I started a small project to create a user interface for something called a Z-Machine: a virtual machine created by Infocom in the late 1970’s to run their text adventure games—the most famous among them being Zork, which is apparently what the “Z” in Z-Machine stands for. These games, as their name suggests, are completely text-based; Infocom’s 1984 masterpiece The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, for instance, opens with this passage: ... Read more

April 24, 2008

Information Complexity and the Downfall of the Adventure Game

Back in 2005, I wrote a tentative article for The Game Chair titled Information Complexity and the Downfall of the Adventure Game, but due to some annoying legal issues, it never got published there. A little under a year ago, I contacted my favorite gaming magazine, The Escapist, to see if they’d be interested in publishing it, and they were. It was subsequently featured in issue 116 last September, but I just realized that I never mentioned it here. ... Read more

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