England’s screaming? 3D Monster Maze (1981) and punk auteurism in 8-bit programming

[Meant for an internal Swansea University audience at this stage, but drop me a line, wherever you are, if this sort of thing appeals to you. It’s almost the definition of a work in progress though: please don’t expect much finesse.]

Dr Rhys Jones
Department of Media and Communication // Adran y Cyfryngau a Chyfathrebu
Keir Hardie 206, Wednesday April 26th // Dydd Mercher Ebrill 26ain

This talk will be given in English // Traddodir y sgwrs hon yn Saesneg

How do we theorise a videogame? What importance do we place on its history, genre, narrative or gameplay? In this work-in-progress talk, I explore such questions using one game in particular: Malcolm Evans’ 1981 debut, 3D Monster Maze (3DMM). A silent game programmed for the black-and-white Sinclair ZX81 microcomputer, it has been seen by some as the progenitor of first-person shooters and even survival horror. I suggest that, in examining single-author productions such as 3DMM, it is essential to focus on the nature and context of the tools used in their creation. I tentatively advance the concept of ‘punk auteurism’ as a way to explore the DIY nature of microcomputer programming, and the singular vision of its practitioners. Is this an adequate way to explore the shaping of programs such as 3DMM? Join our intrepid hero as he examines a labyrinthine world of competing theories and methodologies, and attempts to emerge from the maze with his credibility (partially) intact.

Sut fedrwn ni ddamcaniaethu gêm fideo? Pa bwysigrwydd rown ni ar ei hanes, ei genre, ei naratif neu’r ffordd o’i chwarae? Yn y sgwrs hon, sy’n waith ar y gweill, rwy’n ymchwilio i gwestiynau o’r fath gan ganolbwyntio ar gêm gyntaf Malcolm Evans, sef 3D Monster Maze (3DMM), a ryddhawyd ym 1981. Rhaglennwyd hi ar gyfer y Sinclair ZX81, microgyfrifiadur du-a-gwyn, mud, ac fe’i gwelir gan rai yn un o hynafiaid gemau saethu person cyntaf, a hyd yn oed gemau arswyd ‘para’n fyw’. Awgrymaf, wrth archwilio cynyrchiadau un-awdur megis 3DMM, ei bod yn hanfodol canolbwyntio ar natur a chyd-destun y dulliau a ddefnyddir wrth eu creu. Petrusaf wrth gyflwyno’r cysyniad o ‘auteuraeth byncaidd’ fel ffordd i archwilio natur DIY y broses o raglennu microgyfrifiadur, yn ogystal â gweledigaeth unigryw yr ymarferwyr. A yw hyn yn ffordd ddigonol i archwilio rhaglenni fel 3DMM? Ymunwch â’n harwr dewr mewn drysfa o ddamcaniaethau a methodolegau, wrth iddo geisio cadw’i hygrededd yn (weddol) gyfan wrth ddianc.

3 thoughts on “England’s screaming? 3D Monster Maze (1981) and punk auteurism in 8-bit programming

  1. Is there any chance for the talk to be recorded and put on Youtube? I’m interested to see it, and I know a few other retrocomputing / retrogaming fans who would be too.
    – Hanno

    1. Thanks Hanno. I wanted to record it but, sadly, the video capture software failed. But I do still want to put a version on YouTube. Give me a couple of weeks (I’ll be busy teaching next week and the week after) and I’ll see what I can do. I appreciate your interest!

  2. Hi Rhys,
    it’s been a month and I wondered if you managed to come up with a video yet?
    – Hanno

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