Unlike the unfamiliar neighborhoods I had to traverse in my Driver’s Ed car, the Noopy landmarks were straightforward and easy to map: Tom Nook’s place. Able Sisters. The town hall. The dump. The museum. Neighbors’ houses, the river, the bridges, the cliff, the sea.

A Horse Draws Near

Sometimes you have to earn the horse, like a weapon or a boat or an airship. You acquire it by completing a fetch quest for a cranky farmer, or jacking a horse out from under some random villager. You are not punished for this because you are saving the world.

Blood Meridian for the NES

“Get those scalps,” I used to yell at the TV, because I didn’t know what that really meant. They were like gold coins or rubies; the more I got, the better I felt, because the best gift you can give a kid for a divorce is distraction.

Zork: a Treatise on Story

/You don’t know how to do that, the game spelled out, and /I don’t know the word /drag and /The door is already open, error messages which forced you to consider what words might work in each situation, substituting /move for /drag or /carry for /kick.

Becoming Summoners

After failing to write one word for four months, I decided I had to make the dissertation a game. I had to treat myself like a child—develop a system of rewards. The method came to me in a flash: eight proposed chapters, eight Aeons in FFX. The idea of a pilgrimage. My old, dusty idol.