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War Of The Words: Text-Based Multiplayer Shooter

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Text-Based Multiplayer Shooter really shouldn’t work. I mean, it sounds less like a real game and more like a punchline to a joke about modern game design. But, in its own weird way, the medium-straddling mash-up actually ends up greater than the sum of its parts. Tense. That’s the first word I’d use to describe the experience of playing it. Go north, go north, turn east, map, go east, map, look, firefirefireohgodwhy. Those are the words I used to play it. Allow me to explain why it’s sort of brilliant after the break.

Text-Based Multiplayer Shooter is incredibly simple. You just navigate through a fairly confined, box-shaped level with the occasional barrier and – when you can “see” someone using the “look” command – quickly open fire in their general direction until they move or die. It’s kind of like Battleship in that respect, come to think of it. As a result, though, it quickly transforms into this frantic game of movement and navigation. OK, so I just went north a bunch; where am I now? Oh no, will someone shoot me while I’m entering the map command? Is someone right around the corner? I don’t even have a physical body, but I feel so exposed.

Firefights themselves, meanwhile, are chaotic, typically one-sided things. Most of my kills came from getting the jump on people, though I did have one back-and-forth affair where both of us hid behind walls one space to the north of our little Old West dueling range and emerged to blindly spray gunfire and congealed fear at one another.

It’s all so strangely intense for how little (read: basically none) visual or sonic representation there is. Maybe that’s it, though. I’ve gotten extremely used to relying on my senses in shooters, because well, most of the functional ones tend to have graphics and sound. Removing those from the not-picture, then, left me feeling hyper-vulnerable. Hm. Perhaps this means that the greatest weapons of all are our physical gifts – which shape our lives in thousands of borderline-magical fashions that we unfortunately take for granted.

Nah, that’s crazy talk. The greatest weapon is guns.

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Nathan Grayson

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