Saving Puzzle Games for Posterity


[Image courtesy of Medium.]

One of the coolest things about the Internet is how it facilitates the gathering of information. Not only does it connect you to valuable sources around the world — experts, researchers, scholars, and collectors — but it grants you access to libraries and repositories of knowledge unlike anything the world has seen before.

I mean, think about it. Looking for a famous text? Google Books or Project Gutenberg probably has you covered. A movie? The Internet Movie Database is practically comprehensive. Different fandoms and franchises have their own individual Wikis that cover episodes, characters, and more.

Although there’s no single repository for all things puzzly — though we here at PuzzleNation Blog certainly try — there are some online repositories of puzzle knowledge available, like XwordInfo, the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project, and Cube Index.

And other place online that’s helping to preserve puzzle history is The Internet Archive.


[Puzzling out a jailbreak in The Secret of Monkey Island with a curious piece of equipment. Image courtesy of Final Boss Blues.]

The Internet Archive is a nonprofit digital library that archives computer games, books, audio recordings and videos. In terms of computer games, that means everything from text adventures to more well-known ’80s and ’90s games, and even early experiments with 3D modeling.

Recently, more than 2,500 MS-DOS games were added to the Archive. Adventure and strategy games were among the numerous entries included in the latest update, as well as a fair amount of puzzle games, both famous and obscure.

“This will be our biggest update yet, ranging from tiny recent independent productions to long-forgotten big-name releases from decades ago,” Internet Archive software curator Jason Scott wrote on the site’s blog.

In addition to Sudoku, Chess, and Scrabble games, there were loads of Tetris variants (like Pentix), a crossword-inspired game called Crosscheck, and even TrianGO, a version of the classic game Go played on a hexagonal field.


[Image courtesy of Google.]

In this update alone, you can find virtually every kind of puzzle to enjoy. If you like building Rube Goldberg devices, there’s The Incredible Machine 2. If you’re looking for a puzzly version of the beloved Nintendo game Bubble Bobble, then try Puzzle Bobble.

You can building dungeon romps with The Bard’s Tale Construction Set or crack challenging cases in Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Serrated Scalpel. You can find your way out of maze-like platforming traps in Lode Runner or enjoy the tongue-in-cheek humor and devious point-and-click puzzles of one of my personal favorites, The Secret of Monkey Island.

There are even iconic horror puzzlers like Alone in the Dark and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream if you’re looking for something a bit spookier and more sinister.

This is a treasure trove of old puzzle-game content, and it’s all available with the click of a button. These games will be joining such previously archived classics as Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and The Oregon Trail in the Internet Archive’s vast and ever-growing library.

And thanks to their efforts, more than a few puzzle games will be saved from obscurity or oblivion.

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Pencil vs. Pen: Not that big a deal

With conventions and clubs and the all-access nature of the Internet, it’s easier than ever before to connect with likeminded people who enjoy the TV shows, books, films, and activities that you do. Fandom isn’t simply alive and well these days, it’s positively thriving.

Any devoted fandom will have its talking points, its hot-button issues, and sometimes, its schism-inducing disagreements. (Star Wars vs. Star Trek is probably one that will never ever die, no matter how much we might want it to.)

One prominent example is the recent backlash at conventions and on the Internet regarding “fake geek girls.” Now that many nerdy pursuits have found their way into the mainstream (thanks to Comic-Con, Game of Thrones, The Big Bang Theory, Doctor Who, and many other outlets), lady nerds have been ostracized as not being true fans.

As a proud member of numerous nerdy fandoms — Dungeons & Dragons, Star Wars, and puzzles being but a small sample — it’s distressing to see fans turn on each other for stupid, petty reasons.

The only requirement of fandom should be enjoying something. Period.

The band The Doubleclicks have put together a marvelous video that not only celebrates geekdom in all its forms, but abolishes the ridiculous notion of “fake geek girls” in one fell swoop:

And the puzzle community is hardly immune to such ardent feelings and emotional reactions.

There are entire blogs devoted to dissecting the New York Times and Los Angeles Times crosswords on a daily basis, decrying unfair, misleading, or just plain wrong clues and entries.

And while it’s not nearly as high on the scale of ridiculous schisms as the “fake geek girl” or a given day’s crossword kerfuffle, you’ll get some seriously funny reactions if you raise the question of solving puzzles in pencil or ink.

It’s been said that egotism is doing the New York Times crossword puzzle with a pen. (A quote hilariously misattributed to Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared three decades before the NY Times ever printed a crossword.)

I don’t know about that. I solve in ink, but that’s only because every eraser in my house has long since been rubbed away into nonexistence.

I guess what I’m trying to say is… it’s awesome that people are so passionate about the things they enjoy. Just try to remember that someone can still be just as big a fan as you and still disagree with you.

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