From Zork to Halo and Back Again

This was originally written as a guest post for the website The Fictorians

When you start a conversation about storytelling in video games, it’s hard to not immediately jump to discussions about the writing in Halo, Call of Duty, Uncharted, God of War, and the other games that have graced living rooms across the globe. There’s a lot that can be said about the stories in these games–both how they’re written and how they’re presented. Some of these games tell expertly penned and deeply engaging stories, and there are some seriously talented people behind them. People like Ragnar Tornquist, Amy Hennig, and Chris Avellone have left their prints on the entire industry.

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Cheating death

Imagine you’re at a play–live theatre with an ensemble cast. The lights are dim, the set is immaculate, and the performances are impassioned and engaging.

And then, half an hour in, one of the actors flubs their line.

Instead of the other actors taking it in stride, everything stops. The stage goes dark, and you hear the director yell from offstage that they’re going to try it again from the top.

But it happens again, this time only ten minutes in. They restart again. And again.

It’s a pretty horrible way to tell a story.*

The sting of the Game Over screen is, often, no less awful, and for exactly the same reasons.

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This space intentionally left blank

(This was actually posted in mid-2016, but was given a bogus date so it’d end up the last post on the blog. Or the first, if you’ve decided to read this blog in chronological order like a psychopath.)

I’ve decided to cut off the current blog at this point, and archive a truncated version of my older site at

I’ve had a website since 1995 (!), and a blog since the early 2000’s. Most of the blog has survived over the years, despite moving from my own custom blogging software (none existed when I started to blog) to Blogger, to Textpattern, then split into multiple sites, then moved to Expression Engine, collapsed back into one site, and moved back to Textpattern. Oh, and then moved to WordPress, and then reverted back to Textpattern.

Despite that, I still retained my custom fields and comments. I know. It’s one of my life’s greatest accomplishments. Only my first year or so of posts were lost, written on a very early version of my own blogging software.

nearly recovered those earliest posts a few weeks ago. I suddenly remembered that there might be a backup. I dug up some old cloaked URLs the site had used and found that they were pointing to a directory on my parents’ internet provider’s site. They’d never switched providers, sticking with the same company through various acquisitions, and apparently I’d used the free web space the provider offered (5mb?) to host my original site. What were the odds those files were still around?

I contacted the provider, not expecting anyone to know what I was talking about. I was wrong. They said that yes, those files had probably been sitting in that same directory, untouched for fourteen years. Unfortunately, the server had been decommissioned. Totally scrapped, no way for anyone to ever access it again.

Here’s the punchline: it had been decommissioned less than two weeks before I sent the email.

Fourteen years, and I missed recovering my earliest blog posts by less than two weeks.