Computer Games

Comments (on the few computer games I play) by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated December 13, 1997

I don't play many computer games at all. Certainly none of the big ones - no online games, no arcade style, no adventure games, no wargames. And yes, I tried a couple of them, and gave them up very quickly - just not my thing.

The reasons are simple:

  1. I game for social interaction. I don't get that from computer games. Even an online game, with a living being on the other end, doesn't satisfy this craving for interaction, because I don't care for the interface - I prefer face-to-face.

  2. I work on the computer too much to want to spend my leisure staring at the monitor.
In fact, I don't even consider computer games to be "games", really - they're more puzzles to me.

With that said, there are a couple I play. In fact, I actually had to delete some from my computer, as they were sucking up my time. You know, Freecell, Bridge, Calculation Solitaire, Cribbage - the usual time wasters. I don't play them any more, thank heavens.

The ones I still play are simply computer versions of classic games - games I want to get better at. I don't play them often enough to get sick of them, or enough to feel guilty about wasting time. In fact, I don't even play them often enough to get better at them, alas, so it kind of defeats the purpose. But I click on them once in a while anyway.

The one I play most frequently (at least once a week) is called Go-Moku. It's published by "The Good Guys, Inc.", and is available as shareware on the net. The author's web site is if you're interested - I was interested enough to register. (However, as of this date he has only version 2.0 at his site - I actually prefer version 1.2. It's easier on the eyes, and version 2.0 has no improvement in the AI or rules. Search the web for "gomoku12*".)

Go-Moku is a very old Japanese game of connecting five stones in a row - sort of like an expanded tic-tac-toe with a much larger board. I first learned it over 30 years ago, when a Japanese foreign exchange student taught me how to play. (Hi, Sash!) It's a great game - I love it. Go-Moku, I mean - the computer version has some problems.

For one thing, it doesn't use the rules I was taught. I was taught that you cannot create a three-three to win - that is, you cannot place a stone to create two open-ended three-in-a-rows. This is too easy, and is only allowed for novices and children. You must win with either a four-three or a four-four. However, the computer version allows three-threes. Bother. It also allows you to place a stone linking six in a row, which is illegal. And it doesn't warn me when it has an open-ended three or a four - it's impolite. I was taught it was polite to announce "three" when you created an open-ended three - sort of like saying "check" in chess.

Aside from that, it's not bad. The AI isn't real bright - you can fool it into doing some silly, losing moves - but you can change the programming in two ways: attack/defense and "randomness". When I've gotten to the point where I can whup it pretty good at a given setting, I nudge the setting a bit, and it plays differently. So I really do get some practice at Go-Moku, even though it's not the best opponent.

Another game I play - about twice a month - is Awale. Again, it's available as shareware on the net, and again I found it good enough to register. Their website is

Awale, an old African game now played from Indonesia to the Caribbean, is known by many names: Awari, Ayo, Oware, Dakar, Jodu, etc., etc. It's in the mancala family, though not really that close to what we call classic mancala. (If there really is such a thing - there are well over a hundred different games played with a basic mancala set, just as there are many games played with a standard deck of cards.)

This game comes with rules for, I think, 13 variants, and has three levels of AI. I'm not very good at the game, so I haven't even tried the master level yet - it beats me easily enough at amateur. The variant I like the best is "non-ourous mode Awale", or whatever it's called. (The version I first learned from an African in 1971.) You can change the rules in many ways, which I like very much - I like customizable games with lots of options. In fact, if the Go-Moku game I have had this option, I would love it - change the rules so it wouldn't accept three-threes, or six in a row, and to tell me when it plays an open-ended three.

Awale is a very fine board game that I'd like to get good at - but have a long way to go, alas. This program does help me, so I play it. I don't have any complaints about it, though I might if I were an expert at the game.

That's it - I don't play any other computer games, and am not interested in learning any more! Oh, I suppose there may be some other computer version of a classic board game I should try - but I really do prefer face-to-face gaming, so it's okay that I don't know about them.

There was one I used to play a lot, which I still would if I could: Radio Baseball. But it's an old game with copy protection on a 360K disk, so I can't play it any more. Best computer baseball game I've ever seen - and I've tried and rejected a fair few. It only had one glitch - once in a while, for no reason I could ever figure out, it went wild with walks - it'd issue seven or eight walks in a row, ruining the game. Didn't happen that often, though. Wish I could still play it, but I donated my old 8088 to a school in a poor district, which still uses it, believe it or not ...

You know, I miss that 8088. I wrote five books on that machine. Since switching first to a 386 then a pentium, I have revised one book and written one 28-page booklet. Go figure.

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