Michael Abbott teaches undergraduates about the history of video games. They must play the old, ugly stuff. Defender? They can deal. Planetfall? It's a struggle. But there's this one game they just can't take.

Ultima IV.

Historic, important, innovative, (no, I've never played it), legendary role-playing game Ultima IV.

He gave them five days to play it. [UPDATE: Abbott e-mailed me more info about this class. It is a freshman seminar called The Art and History of Video Games. The students are 18 or 19 years old.]

Some of the students' problems:

• When I start a game I like to do it all on my own, but it's been impossible to do so with Ultima. I've asked friends for help, looked up FAQs/walkthroughs, and even searched for Let's Play Ultima 4 on youtube and am still uncertain as to how to get further in this game.

• I tried for awhile without any walkthroughs to get the full gamer experience sort thing and within the hour I gave up because of a combination of bad controls and a hard to get into story for me at least. It reminded me of a bad runescape.


Some of the teacher's woes:

I had supplied them with the Book of Mystic Wisdom and the History of Britannia, both in PDF form, but not a single student bothered to read them. "I thought that was just stuff they put in the box with the game," said one student. "Yes," I replied, "They put it in there because they expected you to read it." "Wow," he responded.


Abbott perseveres. He believes Ultima IV is too important, "too foundational" to remove from his syllabus, but he now also believes that he can't ask his students to "sink or swim."

Cue the stories from all of you old gamers about how in your days there were no mini-maps, video walkthroughs and floating arrows that pointed toward victory.


Unplayable [The Brainy Gamer] [PIC]