Monday night miscellany, part 3

I’m writing this way too late at night because of a recent (soon to pass, hopefully) addiction to a minor little strategy computer game called “Creeper World” (and its sequel). The games are a relatively simple strategy game, where you have to use various stationary weapons to clear maps of an ever-spreading ooze. Cheap ($15 for the two games) and probably worth the price. But I mention this only to note a peculiar, and not wholly desirable feature of the games. Most levels follow a similar pattern: first a frantic rush at the beginning to establish yourself before you get overwhelmed. Then, once you’ve established a decent economy and defensive perimeter, you’re in no danger of losing and “winning” becomes a slow slog of incremental advances that can take ages to complete. The better-designed levels of the game keep throwing new challenges at you, or add a time pressure that forces you to keep moving briskly. But more often than not the exhilaration of the initial phase of the game passes quickly, replaced by a mind-numbing exhaustion as you plod your way through the endgame. That’s not ideal game design, and it’s contributed to me both spending large amounts of time completing the game AND feeling less fulfilled than I otherwise would at victory. Still, not every game can have the polished balance of a “Starcraft,” and I’m glad small, independent studios like the makers of “Creeper World” are putting their work out. Now to just beat the damn game so I can put it behind me.

(Note: This post originally included three items, two of which I have retroactively split into separate posts. Click through to read about the perils and promise of a liberal arts education and the comparative (political) dangers of armies and navies.)