November 9, 2007 4:02 PM |
["Beyond Tetris" is a usually biweekly column (except when it just doesn't show up one biweek) from Tony "Tablesaw" Delgado about puzzle games that transcend mere abstract action and instead plunge deep into the heart of problem-solving. This installment examines an omnipresent paper puzzle, the crossword.]
A few months ago, I got to play one of the biggest videogames I'd ever seen. The main screen was easily over ten feet tall (rear-projection), but there were other screens all over the place. In fact, it was more like I was inside the game, since there was an elaborate set around me.
There was only one button that hooked me directly into the computer, but there was speech recognition, and my location was important as well. There were four other players there with me, and the stakes were high: the winner could grab thousands of dollars, the other players would get a watch.
You might have seen me play a few weeks ago; it was an episode of Merv Griffin's Crosswords.
It was a lot of fun. The local coverage of the Southern California fires meant I didn't get to see my episode on the air, but it did play across the country. The basic rules of the videogame are that the host reads a crossword clue, you try to buzz in first, and if you get a chance, you announce and spell your answer. You can watch a little bit of me joining in the game on YouTube.
What's that? Crosswords is a game show, not a videogame? For you maybe. But for me—actually playing it—it was a very immersive computer-run game with innovative control mechanisms and a large crew of paid cast members and puppet masters to maintain immersion. A cross between a party game, a puzzle game and an ARG. For money.
But while it is a videogame, it's not a puzzle game under the strict definition of this column (the way clues are asked of the contestants, it's more like a trivia or party game), so I won't go into great detail about what it's like to play Merv Griffin's Crosswords. But my appearance on the show was, in many ways, the culmination of many, many years of solving crosswords, on paper and on computer.
Categories: Column: Beyond Tetris