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Monday, August 7, 2017

Pilgrim in the Micro-World by David Sudnow 1983

Recently I reviewed a game called Ballz which is a game very similar to the old game Breakout.  I went to Wikipedia to try to find out what year it came out and saw that David Sudnow wrote a book about his obsession with Breakout. I decided to order it from It cost about $4.

In the past 6 or 7 years, I've become obsessed with certain games. Tripevo was my first puzzle app obsession.  I've had to delete games in order to cure my obsession.

David Sudnow was in a league off his own. Pilgrim in the Micro-World is David's memoir of his insane relationship with Breakout.

It all stems from the fact that David could not win. He studied the game in the most minute detail and chronicled his progress in a very technical way. Unknowingly, he also reveals some of his psychological doings.

David is a very good writer. At times I thoroughly enjoyed Pilgrim. In the middle, reading it became a chore. Toward the end, I was wishing that he'd simply get a baseball bat and smash the console out of his life.

I've chosen 2 passages (at random!) to quote.

Where can I put my eyes? How can I organize a way of moving that will pin down these five shots?  The moods that arise in the course of this frustrating struggle produce all sorts of minute hesitations, flutterings, and twitchings, and I can't hold the movements under control by tightening up the time, can't link each shot to the next by translating some effective emotional stance into a way of consistently pacing my play.  Somehow the eyes and hands must be freed to participate in a secret alignment I disturb whenever I try to intervene.

I'll visually improvise through the game like I did before I got the lowdown, only now I'm a bit wise to these layouts, and as the ball moves along it appears I'm glimpsing a trackedness to things, seeing a linearity to the paths along which it travels.

The best part of the book is when David visits the Atari programmers. They've already moved on to other games and have forgotten some of the details in the program of Breakout. Except for that chapter, which was fun, the book's 227 pages is more or less like the two passages above.

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