Saturday, May 24, 2014

People are lazy in their skepticism

One very common phenomenon is that whenever there's something hard to explain in a photograph, most people just attribute it to "photoshop". This is, in fact, the lazy answer to every such picture. It's always "photoshopped".

People are really lazy in their skepticism and are, in my opinion, missing out lots of interesting research that could be done into such photographs. Sure, there are tons and tons of images out there that have been manipulated, but that's not always the true explanation. Sometimes the real explanation is much more interesting.

In many cases the photograph is actually completely genuine and unaltered, but does not depict what it might look like at first glance. A very good example is the so-called "time-traveling hipster" photograph:


This photo was taken in 1941 (at the re-opening of the South Fork Bridge in Gold Bridge, British Columbia). The man looks very out-of-place compared to all the other people around, way too modern, and many claim he's a time traveler.

Of course the lazy default answer people give is "it's photoshopped". But as said, this is just intellectual laziness and complete lack of curiosity on what the actual explanation is. The fact is that the photo is genuine and completely unaltered, but does not depict anything anachronistic.

The sunglasses he's wearing have actually been in use since at least the 1920's, he's wearing a Montreal Maroons sweater (an ice hockey team founded in 1924), and the camera he's holding is probably a Leica model first developed around 1935. His hairstyle isn't unusual for the time period either. The only peculiar thing about the man is that he's not wearing formal wear like most of the other people in the photo.

Another good example is almost any of the numerous photographs allegedly depicting levitation, such as for example:


Again, the lazy answer is "photoshopped". Yet most of these photographs are "genuine" in the sense that they have not been manipulated in any way, nor are they even hiding anything out of view (such as behind the person.)

The crucial thing to understand about this is that this is a still photograph, not a video. If there's any movement happening, we are not seeing it. And that's exactly what's happening: The man is actually jumping from the ground with his thighs / upper legs. The photo has simply been taken when he's at the highest point in the jump, giving the impression like he's just levitating there. (The wrinkles on his shirt are probably a giveaway that he's jumping.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I miss text adventure games

One game genre that I loved back in the 80's was the text adventure. Sadly, this kind of game is basically completely dead, and nobody makes them anymore, which is a real pity. I miss those games so much.

Yes, I know perfectly well about so-called "interactive fiction" games, which are being done by hobbyists to this day. While they are close (they are text-based, and all input is done by writing commands like "go north" or "take apple"), these are not, however, the kind of text adventure I'm talking about.

No, I'm talking about graphical text adventures. Most typically the upper half of the screen is a picture of the place, and the lower half is dedicated to text. Every room has its own picture, and the graphics are not purely decorative, but actually convey information and can change. For example, there may be a tree in the picture, which is not mentioned in the default textual description of the room. You could then write "examine tree" and the game would give a description of the tree. There might be an apple on the tree (again, which might not have been described in the default room description text), and if you "take apple", it will disappear from the picture. If there's a door in the picture and you open it, the picture will change to have the door opened. And so on and so forth.

In many cases solving a puzzle actually involved examining the room's picture, so it was an integral part of the gameplay. Even when the picture was mostly just decorative, it still gave a sense of immersion. I do not get the same feeling from purely text-based "interactive fiction" games.

One could say that there's somewhat of an overlap with point-and-click games, except that the game is played from a "first-person perspective" (of sorts, given that each picture of each room is quite static) and all commands are inputted by writing text rather than the mouse. There was a charm to it that I miss.

This is not a kind of game that sells nowadays, however, as the average gamer has the attention span of a goldfish. Also, making a full-blown graphical text adventure requires too much work for hobbyists to bother (since it's so much easier to make just purely text-based games). There might be some fully-graphical text adventure out there, but I haven't found any.

Man, I miss them. Thinking about them makes me nostalgic.