Tuesday, 17 September 2013


These entries are supposed to be about food and eating. Is it cheating, I wonder, to write about the eating of imaginary earth and diamonds? Let me do some explaining before this becomes too surreal.

There are those who will switch off immediately at the mention of the words "computer game". I will press on regardless in the hope of winning some converts to a series of games where, despite a complete lack of programming knowledge, I played a small part in their creation.

By way of introductory digression, it has occurred to me how many games (not just computer games) involve the winning of (artificial) food. Trivial Pursuit: different families have different names for the plastic shapes which one collects on answering certain questions: wedges, pieces of cake or slices of cheese. Then there are even the ancient party games where real food is involved: Bob Apple, Snapdragon, Egg and spoon races. And one we played at a birthday party - eating chocolate with a knife and fork.

Returning to the artificial and the electronic. Fruit machines, for instance. Three cherries in a row. And the earliest electronic games of all, Pacman, involved a yellow snappy creature gobbling dots and fruit in a maze. 

But back to this particular computer game. Repton. Not the public school in Derbyshire but the title of the game and the name of its hero, a green-headed yellow-shirted blue-trousered creature who has to explore caverns, eating diamonds and earth while avoiding monsters and boulders. There are other subtleties but I will ignore them for the moment. What distinguishes this game from others is that although there are some minor random elements, the game is almost entirely dependent on skill. Puzzles can be straightforward, fiendishly difficult or somewhere in between. There are "junior" versions of the screens intended to catch them young. By contrast, there is an "OAP" version of Repton who carries a walking stick. Later in the series, versions became available where Repton took on new roles: there are games set in the arctic, the oceans, the prehistoric era, outer space, and (my own especial pride although I did not design the graphics) a version set in the world of the Arabian Nights.

It may be a tenuous link between computer games and food, but I commend Repton and its successors to all. The trouble is the amount of time that can be spent...