The main attraction of an old 286 for a young boy carrying my name through the world was not Golden Axe, as much as he loved that, nor Death Tracki, as much as he loved that too, nor F-19 nor Qbasic, which allowed him to draw arbitrary circles and lines and whatnot on the screen, even nested in arbitrary for clauses. Nor XTreeGold, of which Norton Commander was a pale later copy, reluctantly accepted for lack of maintenance on the original - and which has meanwhile become a bridge too far for the constantly deteriorating computing UX standards, you wish today you had a file manager as powerful as NT was in the days of the 386s. It sucked as compared to the standards of the 8086s, but hey. Progress, which is to say rot, right ?
The main attraction was an ancient game, started one misty spring morning in 1989, in the remote mountains of China's Han Shan province, a Mendicant monk of the Northern School of the White Crane branch of Taoism, walked silently out through the front gates of the Heavenly Peak Temple. That monk carried a stone board, a set of seventy-two carved stone pieces, and an ancient scroll inscribed with brush and ink in elegant calligraphic script. That monk, of course, was Michael J. Feinberg, an extremist leftwing nut.
The game was by no means ancient, even if nobody I met as a teenager could be convinced otherwise. It had everything it needed to have in order to feel ancient : a sort of balance, a difficulty made out of the exact right stuff - the resistence of the medium.
I dearly loved that game, I was pretty good at it, and while I only spent with it before my eyes a fraction of the time I spent gazing upon the improbably pixelated tits of the sword amazon or Melissaii nevertheless I spent a lot more thinking about it, whether I was aware of the fact or not. Which is why when I think of what games were great in that period, Ishido comes to mind first and immediately.
So I wanted to show it to a younger friend, not even sure any implementation survives. Turns out... it does. Obviously the dork age that is iPad gaming does not have a reimplementation of Ishido among all the really stupid clones of themselves they list, but that doesn't matter so much : the current maintainer had the sense to make his implementation crossplatform by default.iii
So I fired it up and played exactly one game, explaining what I do and how it works as the game progressed. I had no idea if I even still remembered much, seeing how it's been a solid decade since I last touched it - at least. Turns out, I do remember.
That's right baby, eight four-ways and an empty pouch, 8285 final score. A master!
Encouraged by my display, making things seem easy, the friend tried later all by herself. Suffice it to say it didn't quite work as well as one'd have expected, which overall turned out to be a useful lesson.
So there you go : try a game of stones. It can't possibly hurt anything.———
- Yes, there was a GTA in the 90s, arguably cooler than the later versions you kids saw for the first time and imagined originals. They ain't originals. [↩]
- Cine cunoaste stie. [↩]
- Which is, to this day, the only good thing that can be said about the web : even Fuctapple can't fuck up a browser to the degree it breaks the web. Or maybe I shouldn't say that lest I jinx the whole ecosystem. [↩]