PILGRIM IN THE MICROWORLD: Eye, Mind, and the Essence of Video Skill by David Sudnow

PILGRIM IN THE MICROWORLD: Eye, Mind, and the Essence of Video Skill

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A book-length discourse on mastering a video game--an old one, at that--might be considered an exercise in self-indulgence. But Sudnow (Talk's Body, Ways of the Hand) comes up with enough insights into problem-solving, strategy design, practice, and experience to produce a book that applies to general personal challenges. The game, an early descendant of ""Pong,"" is ""Breakout""--in which you try to clear alt the bricks across the top of the TV screen by lobbing a line-segment ""paddle"" against a ball served by a computer. You are given five balls and a game-design with built-in speed-ups, grand slams, deflections and other traps. Sudnow's own seduction-by-machine began at a party when the group sitting around his piano drifted off to try the host's new TV toy. His subsequent addiction led him to Atari headquarters, and to talks with programmers who spoke off-handedly of a one-ball clearing of the screen. There follow intense--and remarkably empathic--descriptions of Sudnow's attempts to match such top performance. His eye-hand skills, the tricks learned in playing jazz improvisations, the endless practice of particular sequences--all were to no avail. The Wrong Way to play the game. Endless hours of frustration later, Sudnow realized that the key to mastery was to play the game out (not to push the reset button at each error); to forget about perfecting subroutines, indeed to achieve a kind of zen forgetfulness, not keeping your eye on the ball or your hand on the knob. And by book's end he has achieved some stylish successes, some new senses of control over bleeps and blobs. An engaging personal experience with just enough social commentary to reassure parents that all those quarters may not be lost in vain.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1983
Publisher: Warner