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Nick Montfort and Ian BogostDescribe your latest project.
Racing the Beam is our book about the first popular video game console, the Atari VCS (later known as the Atari 2600). In the book, we dig into how that console works and how programmers for the system innovated. There's discussion of the hardware, down to the level of the chips on the board, and an in-depth look at six of the many famous games for the system: Combat, Adventure, Pac-Man, Yars' Revenge, Pitfall!, and Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. We did a lot of research and thinking about how the way this system was designed in an existing culture of games, including early video games, and how it has lived on and influenced us all since its release in 1977.
Nick: Very different things, depending upon whether I'm writing conceptual poetry, interactive fiction programs, emails to my students, or a book about a video game system. In the case of this book, my main motivation was my interest in the creative process and in how it connects to the technology of computing systems. Having a collaborator provides great motivation to keep going on a project like this, because if you don't get the work done, you're letting someone else down rather than just yourself.
Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
Ian: In some ways, our book on the Atari (and the others we hope to publish in the Platform Studies series) rejects the very premise of the Geek Test. Geekdom isn't an identity or a way of life anymore, if it ever was. Geekery is an activity we all take part in, like swimming or going out for tacos.
Chess or video games?
What's your favorite blog right now?
Nick: The one I contribute to, Grand Text Auto, is still my favorite, but lately I've been most avidly reading the blogs of Jason Scott: ASCII and Inventory. Jason is just now finishing a documentary called Get Lamp, which is about interactive fiction. That's the topic of my first book, Twisty Little Passages.
Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
Nick: I have to say that I prefer novelist and interactive-fiction author Douglas Adams. Good thing I have Ian as a collaborator; it means we can cover all the bases in situations like this.
What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
Nick: I'll be boring and name the Exploratorium, which really is a great museum that deserves to be mentioned again. There and in San Francisco's Musee Mecanique, years ago, I got to play some of the arcade video games that we ended up discussing in the book.
By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
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Nick Montfort is Assistant Professor of Digital Media at MIT. He is the author of Twisty Little Passages: A New Approach to Interactive Fiction and the coeditor of The New Media Reader, both published by The MIT Press.
Ian Bogost is Assistant Professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture, at Georgia Institute of Technology and Founding Partner, Persuasive Games LLC. He is the author of Persuasive Games: The Expressive Power of Videogame Criticism and Unit Operations: An Approach to Videogame Criticism, both published by the MIT Press.