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15. MAZES

What is the pattern produced by 10 PRINT? The 1982 Commodore 64 User’s Guide says the program uses the two graphical characters “for the maze” (53). And the programmer who submitted the one-line version in the magazine RUN also described it as “drawing a continuous maze” (13). Surely, the program would be less interesting if framed as “Random Pattern of Lines.” But if it is a maze, what kind of maze is it and what cultural associations does that evoke?

An adult seeing a maze appear on the screen, after a young programmer has typed in and run 10 PRINT, could easily trivialize and dismiss it as simply a childish amusement. It is easy to overlook the cultural resonance and historical depth of the maze, which could be seen as nothing more than a flat, empty, puzzle-book diversion. The same dismissal can be leveled against short, recreational BASIC programs, which can seem trivial and of no importance. This chapter rejects that view and looks deeper into the maze—in part, to look deeper into 10 PRINT and the surrounding culture of creative, exploratory computing.

The maze synthesizes the program’s output as a visual trope that evokes a long history of meaningful mazes. Mazes can be visual renderings, textual artifacts, horticultural expanses, and architectural spaces. Situated as amusing puzzles, places of terror, behavioral proving grounds, or invitations to contemplative meanderings, in the West the maze’s meanings date back to the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Knossos, a bewildering and life-threatening space. In more recent times, mazes have served as spaces for playful movement and as commonplace diversions in puzzle books. Sometimes, mazes are abstract mathematical objects or scientific tools for studying animal behavior. And in computer games, the maze takes on an archetypal, structural frame for adventure, chase, and combat. A full cultural history of mazes throughout the centuries is outside of the scope of this book (for in-depth historical accounts of mazes, see Doob 1990, Kern 2000, and Matthews 1922). Instead, this chapter highlights the mazes throughout history that Commodore 64 users in the 1980s would have been likely to associate with the output they saw after running 10 PRINT.

WHAT IS A MAZE?

A maze can mean a structure, a network of connected passages that contains a navigable route as well as dead ends and backtracks. Or, a maze can have a more abstract meaning: a complex network of paths with or without a solution. In popular use, the meaning of the term “maze” has been stretched to cover intellectual puzzles, tangled legal code, and confusing, labyrinthine situations. 10 PRINT’s output can thus evoke a rich collection of associations by means of a simple yet resonant figure.

10 PRINT meets some of the criteria that William Henry Matthews establishes for mazes in his Mazes and Labyrinths (1922): they are “works of artifice,” not “‘labyrinths’ of nature, such as forests, caverns, and so forth”; they are endowed with “an element of purposefulness in the design” (182). They also betray “a certain degree of complexity” (183). Finally, he requires “communication” among the maze’s component parts and between its “interior and exterior” (183).

This short program is, indeed, a complex work of artifice. However, ironically, the compelling and captivating quality of 10 PRINT arises from the lack of an obvious, purposeful designer. Someone wrote the line of code, certainly, but the specific person who was the author was not named. The purposefulness of the design arises from a set of accidents, including the BASIC RND function and the appearance of the two diagonal line characters, elements that were themselves created anonymously. Furthermore, in 10 PRINT, communication among the component parts is established by accident, from gaps that appear between slashes. Overall, the construction of 10 PRINT’s maze is considerably more muddled than Matthews’ criteria would seem to demand.

As material, architectural structures, mazes have a finite size. But there is no limit to how long 10 PRINTcan be left running. As an endless production, 10 PRINT suggests the form of a maze, but it does not always offer a path or solution. As such, the program exists in between the two definitions of maze: a physical structure on the one hand and an intricate confusion on the other.

Mazes typically offer at least one path; the key structural difference is whether they offer more than one—whether they are unicursal or multicursal. A unicursal maze offers a single path along which walkers proceed, never making a choice about where to turn. A multicursal maze, by contrast, invites wrong turns, has dead ends, and may even have multiple paths to the exit or center.

In unicursal mazes, the navigable space is bounded and a single path is set; users have no directional decisions to make, save to follow the meanderings of the path, leaving their attention, mind, or emotions free to wander or focus elsewhere, while continuing to the end at the center of the maze or to a unique exit. The unicursal maze sometimes allegorizes temporality, offering a spiritual and contemplative space to the walker. Unicursal mazes can be traversed repeatedly and ritualistically for peace and spiritual comfort. In unicursal hedge mazes the hedges often limit one’s vision to an immediate and foreshortened horizon, suggesting enclosure and protection.

Multicursal mazes, by contrast, ask to be solved. Instead of following the unicursal maze’s predetermined path, visitors to a multicursal maze run the risk of getting lost as they attempt to find the exit.

The 10 PRINT program itself (not its output) can be seen as a unicursal maze. When inputting this program, beginning programmers follow a series of characters, copying them from manual or magazine to computer terminal. The program starts as a puzzle for those who have some understanding but not complete knowledge of BASIC and the Commodore 64. Once the code has been typed and executed and the programmer witnesses the maze, there is no returning to a naive view of this line of code— it is impossible to read the line without imagining its output. With some study, it becomes clear how the program produces this output: the single path through this short but initially tangled program is revealed.

Yet the program’s output also suggests a multicursal maze, because the patterm can apparently be traversed, or at least attempted, in several ways. Even though the maze generates itself anew line by line, it does so slowly, and at any given point a single screen can be interpreted and one can consider whether a solution is possible. To do so does require that the viewer make some assumptions about where the maze starts and ends as well as about other matters. (An exploration of this process appears in the remark Maze Walker in BASIC). In any case, the invitation to see this as a multicursal maze is clear to many.

MYTH, RITUAL, AND ALLEGORY

The novice programmers of the Commodore 64, particularly those who were young, would have no doubt been enticed by the depiction of mazes as sites for adventure. Mazelike environments, printed in modules and drawn by hand, were a part of Dungeons & Dragons, the popular role-playing game that began in the mid-1970s. Dungeon masters in that game plotted spaces, commonly on graph paper, full of monsters and fiends that were inspired by several fantastic and legendary sources, including the myths of ancient Rome and Greece.

The most famous ancient maze of myth is the labyrinth of Knossos, Crete, in which Theseus encounters the Minotaur, a horrifying hybrid, the cursed offspring of Minos’s wife and a bull (Minos + tauros). Like a basement or attic in Gothic literature (see Gilbert and Gubar 2000), the Knossos labyrinth is the hiding place for a defective, dangerous family member. Theseus arrives at Knossos and wins the affection of the king’s daughter Ariadne, who offeres him a means of returning from the labyrinth after he enters it to defeat the Minotaur. She suggests he tie a string to the entrance and unravel it as he proceeds through the maze so that he can follow it back to the entrance. Thanks to Ariadne’s thread, Theseus successfully makes his way through the maze, slays the Minotaur, and escapes. The allegory here invokes the danger of illicit desire; it also shows that those who hold tight to a predetermined path can succeed.

The Knossos maze is best understood in terms of Theseus’s narrative path through it, not as the space of the labyrinth itself. This transformation from multicursal, unknowable confusion to a marked and bounded pathway reflects the mastery of any system, from challenging, mysterious, threatening, and deadly to easy, known, mapped, and tamed. This original labyrinthine myth underscores the reality of many puzzles: when the solution is known, the puzzle seems simpler if not trivial. Rather than the fantasy of a warrior moving freely through an open map, the tale of Theseus teaches that success comes from adhering to a string, a particularly useful analogy in the unforgiving corridors of programming syntax.

Figure 15-1. The central labyrinth and maze patterns of Amiens Cathedral were built in the thirteenth century. Courtesy of Stephen Murray. ©1991, Stephen Murray.

The morphing of the maze from complex to simple (or at least understandable) is part of the Commodore 64 user’s ideal encounter with 10 PRINT, but the user is more like the creator of a maze than its explorer. Daedalus, the architect of the labyrinth at Knossos, holds a place of honor as puzzle maker supreme. Daedalus understands that planning, intentionality, and construction are integral characteristics of the mystique of the maze. 10 PRINTthus channels Daedalus more than Theseus: the program is a blueprint for a maze, not just a structure or image that appears without any history or trace of its making. And at the same time, 10 PRINT itself takes the role of maze creator: the programmer may be the maze’s architect, but the program is its builder.

The associations evoked by 10 PRINT may begin with the Minotaur’s maze, but they continue through history, adding to the complex symbology and sacred rites of Christian churches and then rising in the turf and hedges of the countryside. Mazes take on religious import on the floors of cathedrals and basilicas. Among the largest and most famous church labyrinths is at Chartres, France, built circa 1200 CE. It is a walkable, eleven-circuit labyrinth ornamented around its outer ring with lunations (Kern 2000, 153), and has been an object of endless speculation, from rumors of treasure buried under its center to theories about its functioning as a lunar calculator.

Church mazes are usually meant to be walked or crawled on the path to penance. The names of these include Labyrinth of Sin, The Path to Redemption, and The Path to Jerusalem. These pathways symbolized paths to Christian salvation, relating a Paschal instead of a Minoan mystery. Interestingly, the path of the meanderings in the labyrinths at the cathedrals at Chartres and at Amiens are exactly the same, even though the former is circular and the latter octagonal, as seen in figure 20.1 (Wright 2001, 60).

10 PRINT retains a dimension of spiritual mystery. The program certainly doesn’t seem to be part of any religious practice, but as code, 10 PRINT taps into the mazelike mystery that visual symbols and glyphs evoke: to type in a program from a manual is to follow the twisted line from code to output and back again. The programmer follows the single path of the code from ignorance to knowledge, a pilgrim’s path. 10 PRINT may not help programmers attain salvation, but it does offer an accessible means by which novice programmers can trace the steps of writing code to be initiated into the mysteries of a magic box, the personal computer.

As with a rosary and the Stations of the Cross, the Christian labyrinth is unicursal. None included dead ends or choice points until the fifteenth century, when multicursal aberrations appeared, as Helmut Birkhan explains, as a “symptom of the secularization of the labyrinth idea” (quoted in Kern 2000, 146). With this secular turn, the maze becomes a space of leisure as well as ritual, and is lined with hedges, marked by rocks, and surrounded by grooves. Church-like mazes and mazes that invite a ritual attitude surfaced throughout Europe, although several of these were more related to pagan rites of spring than to Christianity. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the faerie queen Titania ponders the ghostly outlines of abandoned turf mazes:

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable. (2.1.98–100)

As more and more pagan and secular mazes emerged alongside church and other labyrinth traditions, they retained some of their profound, sacred nature while also offering puzzle play and leisure.

Hedge mazes and 10 PRINT possess affinities that their material differences obscure. Hedge mazes need to be planned and plotted, but unlike most other mazes, they must grow in order to fulfill that plan. 10 PRINT’s maze does as well, albeit in a different way than bushes do: once seeded, the computer-generated maze grows without tending, growing until the viewer interrupts it.

Hedge mazes offer decoration in a garden, but as leisure devices instead of religious rituals, they also offer exhilaration and vertigo when they are “run.” Writing of a famous half-mile hedge maze at Hampton Court Palace near London, Matthews describes it as an “undiluted delight” to “scores of hundred of children, not to mention a fair sprinkling of their elders” (1922, 129). This way of encountering the maze was carried into video games such as Doom (1993) and Pac-Man (1980). 10 PRINT’s continuously cascading display echoes the playful zigzagging of children gamboling through the hedges.

THE LABORATORY MAZE

The maze traveler has had many manifestations: the brave warrior facing obstacles, the penitent disciple undertaking a divine ritual, the Elizabethan child experiencing vertiginous pleasure. But no discussion of the cultural touchstones of mazes (and their resonances for maze creators) would be complete without that humbler maze walker, or crawler, the laboratory rat. In the context of psychological testing, the rat’s encounter with the maze does not prove bravery, piety, or ingenuity so much as it reduces human agency and learning to behavioral conditioning.

The first maze constructed for rats by researchers was built in the late 1890s—but it was not originally used for testing the creatures. Willard Small of Clark University built a maze environment to allow rats to eat and exercise when they weren’t taking part in experiments. Small wanted the environment to simulate the burrows that rats inhabit in nature, but he modeled the first laboratory rat maze after the Hampton Court Palace maze (Lemov 2005, 25). The restorative maze is quite consonant with the purposes for which the Hampton Court Palace maze was built, although Small was attending to the constitution of rodents rather than royals.

John B. Watson used maze environments for more familiar research purposes: to determine whether rats could make their way through a maze under different experimental conditions. After his rats had learned their way through a maze, Watson blinded or otherwise maimed the creatures to deprive them of different senses. His work attracted public attention, and he was denounced in a New York Times editorial as a torturer. Watson, however, was sure of his behavioral science agenda, and he concluded that the same principles of operant conditioning that apply to rats apply to people as well. By 1916 he had moved on to experiments with infants. In one famous experiment he conditioned a baby, “Little Albert,” to fear a furry white rat and furry white things in general (Buckley 1989).

The use of mazes in experiments with rats increased greatly during the 1920s. Behaviorism, the perspective that all animal and human actions are behaviors, is now mainly associated with another American scientist, B.F. Skinner. His operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner box, is another famous environment for laboratory animals that was built decades after Watson’s mazes saw their first use. While Skinner’s name is better known today, Watson’s maze remains emblematic—and similar environments are still used for experiments today.

In 1959, one of the earliest computer programs written for fun—an example of “recreational computing”—depicted an experimenter’s maze. The program, perhaps the first computer program to draw a maze of any sort, was written for the TX-0 at MIT by Douglas T. Ross and John E. Ward. The TX-0 was an experimental computer that provided one of the first opportunities for people to program when not working on an official project. It also allowed programmers to work on the machine interactively, much as Commodore 64 programmers later would, rather than submitting batch jobs in the form of decks of punched cards. In the program that became known as “Mouse in the Maze,” a mouse moves through a maze, eating cheese. The mouse could also consume martinis, which cause it to become disoriented and degrade its performance. In this case, the environment implemented was not the hedge maze of diversion and fun, but a more staid experimenter’s maze. This essentially serious maze was then made playful with the addition of an amusing alcoholic reward and the simulation of appropriate behavior.

10 PRINT picks up on aspects of “Mouse in the Maze.” Its output is a regular arrangement of “walls” in a grid—akin to the display of that earlier program and similar to the arrangement of the stereotypical laboratory maze. “Mouse in the Maze” does not present the compelling creation of an inspired Daedalus, but a behaviorist experiment. This maze is a challenge to intelligence—not, however, a romantic, riddling intelligence, but a classically conditioned, animal kind. It also brings in the idea of the scientist, who may be indifferent to the struggles of the creatures lost in the maze.

But who is the user at the interface of 10 PRINT, the scientist or the rodent? When 10 PRINT runs, it may generate its maze relentlessly, but it does not trap the user like a rat. Instead, given the top-down view and the lack of a user-controlled maze walker, the computer presents the programmer with the point of view of the maze designer, offering in a sense to collaborate with the user in creating a new design. Amid the playful and religious connotations of the maze are those things the experimenter’s maze hints at: that the computer is a scientific instrument, and the walker of the maze might be not a Greek hero but a small creature driven by hunger.

THE COMPUTERIZED MAZE

In the early 1950s the mathematician and engineer Claude Shannon designed a mechanical mouse (see figure 20.2) that appears to solve the same kind of maze a real mouse might be expected to navigate in one of Watson’s behavioral experiments. Shannon, a foundational figure in modern computing, named the mouse Theseus, collapsing the mythological hero and his noble plight into a mere contraption guided by a mechanized system. Although featured in both Time and Life (“Mouse with a Memory” 1952; “Better Mouse” 1952), Theseus itself was not a sophisticated piece of artificial intelligence. It was simply a wooden mouse on wheels with a bar magnet inside and copper-wire whiskers. The true magic of this mouse resides underneath the maze, in a system of electronic relays that switch positions when the mouse’s whiskers touch corresponding walls in the maze above. The first time through a maze, Theseus blunders randomly, propelled by its magnet, flipping the relays underneath whenever it encountered a passage. The next time, Theseus navigates the maze perfectly, thanks to the relays underneath, which record the correct route.

This means of negotiating the twisting passages of Shannon’s maze was not mere novelty. As Time explained in 1952, Theseus is “useful in studying telephone switching systems, which are very like labyrinths.” Indeed, George Dyson argues that Theseus inspired the RAND Corporation engineer Paul Baran’s “adaptive message block switching”—the precursor to what is now known as packet switching, the protocol that defines the way data flows on the Internet (Dyson 1997, 150).

Aside from its significance to network computing, Theseus serves as a vivid example of an early connection between mazes and computers. Furthermore, Theseus shares a procedural resonance with 10 PRINT. Theseus “learns” through repetition, or looping, the fundamental process that is used to draw the 10 PRINT maze. And like a computer program, the mouse in Shannon’s maze is only the surface-level signifier of much deeper processes. Theseus in fact is not only dumb but, by itself, inert. The “brain” of Theseus lies in the relays hidden underneath the surface of the maze, much in the same way the on-screen design of 10 PRINT is generated by a piece of code, initially not very clear, which depends upon an invisible, low-level call to a pseudorandom number generator.

Computers did not completely change the cultural idea of the maze, but they did provide new ways to represent, generate, solve, and play in mazes. And, as computers came into the home and became widely accessible, they helped to bring mazes into daily life once again. In part, this happened thanks to the work of early computer scientists who wrote programs to generate mazes. But many popular mazes were not as computationally sophisticated. They were, however, integrated cleverly into enjoyable computer games that reached a mass audience.

It is useful to group these computer mazes by the point of view they offer to their interactors. There are first-person mazes, partially represented on a screen, which show the wall or passageway directly in front of the maze walker. There are also second-person mazes, textually represented, in which the maze walker is the “you” to whom the traversal of the maze is narrated. And, there are third-person mazes, sometimes fully represented mazes, in which the maze walker maintains a large-scale or omniscient view.

A significant early maze program is Maze, which presents a 3D view of a maze in which a player can see (and shoot) opponents. This program was created in 1973 at the NASA Ames Research Center by Steve Col-ley and Howard Palmer and later made into a multiplayer game by Greg Thompson. In 1974 the program was then expanded at MIT; Dave Lebling wrote a server that provided text messaging and supported up to eight players or robots. The same program was later ported to the Xerox Alto as Maze War.

The Maze environment was created for entertainment, but it was really little more than a convoluted battlefield—not a space to be explored or solved and certainly nothing like the entirely nonviolent English hedge maze. Other terrifying maze environments became a staple of early home computer mazes, and some contained a Minotaur-like threat. 3D Monster Maze was an early example, developed in 1981 and released the following year on the Sinclair ZX81. The game uses character graphics and features a randomly generated 16 × 16 maze with a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Although 3D mazes with some more exploratory aspects were offered in the Ultima, Wizardry, and Bard’s Tale series, the maze is more a frightening site for combat than a playful place of discovery in many first-person games. This can be seen as early as 1984 in the Commodore 64 game Skull, which allows the player to search for treasure and sends threatening skulls into the maze as opponents. Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and Doom (1993) make this perspective on a mazelike environment even more fearsome. Sound design, darkness, and the use of conventions from horror films that give the effect of seeing without peripheral vision all contribute to this effect. The first-person maze, in addition to connecting players to the perspective and to some extent the subjective experience of their maze-bound characters, is likely to inspire close and constant attention.

Many of the earliest computer-presented mazes are not visual; they are described textually, narrated to the player from a second-person perspective. Second-person mazes of a sort are found in early text-based games such as Hunt the Wumpus, a 1973 BASIC program by Gregory Yob. Hunt the Wumpus departs from the standard grid-based BASIC game by providing a playing field of a different topology, a dodecahedron. The player stalks and is stalked by a formidable opponent, much as the dinosaur later pursues the player of 3D Monster Maze.

Textually described mazes developed into their most complex and confusing configurations in text-based adventure games of the sort now called interactive fiction. The genre began with the groundbreaking Adventure, written by Will Crowther for the PDP-10 in 1976 and later expanded by Don Woods into a full-fledged underground adventure. Basing the game in part on his own caving experience in the Mammoth Cave system, Crowther includes a ten-room maze introduced with “YOU ARE IN A MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL ALIKE.” “YOU” works to connect the player to the character in the maze, although in a different way than first-person 3D games do. For one thing, that pronoun sometimes is explicitly used to address the operator of the program rather than to indicate the main character, as when Adventure outputs “IF YOU PREFER, SIMPLY TYPE W RATHER THAN WEST.”

From Hunt the Wumpus through Adventure, another notable difference is that second-person mazes are typically turn-based rather offering real-time play. They also are embedded in a broader context of simulated spaces. Sometimes these are confusing ones that, even if they are not called mazes, require that players map them on paper. In any case, they usually invite different forms of systematic, high-level thinking that allows the environment to be figured or puzzled out. The player’s activity is thoughtful and paced at the player’s discretion rather than being based on twitch reflexes.

When players draw maps of the mazes in Adventure, Zork, or other interactive fictions, they transform textually represented second-person mazes into visually represented third-person mazes. Such maps convey a sense of mastery of the maze even though a third-person perspective on a maze does not guarantee its safety or solubility.

Shannon’s Mouse in the Maze offered an early glimpse of the third-person computer maze, but this form truly erupted in the Unites States less than two years before the release of the Commodore 64, in October 1980. This is when the original Pac-Man arcade game arrived from Japan. In Japan, the genre of games inspired by Pac-Man is called “dot-eat” games (ドットイート), but in the United States such games are called maze or maze chase games.

Pac-Man cannot thread his way through the environment to find an exit—except for the tunnel that links the left and right side of the screen together. The playing field may be better described as being littered with obstacles rather than as being “a maze” in the sense that church labyrinths and hedge mazes are usually understood. Nevertheless, the playing field was called a maze from the beginning. The New York Times called Pac-Man “a circle with a big mouth that eats up dots in a maze while other big mouths try to eat it up” (Latham 1981), while Newsweek mentioned the “maddening Pac-Man maze” (Langway 1981). The puzzle the game poses to the voracious Pac-Man is not to get out of the maze, but to run through all of it while avoiding the pursing monsters.

Pac-Man’s maze is aligned to the axes of the display: the paths are either horizontal or vertical. But just as the tanks in Tank (1974) and the player’s ship in Asteroids (1979) can turn and fire in many different directions, it is possible to represent a maze that is not “orthogonal” in this way: 10 PRINT provides a very simple alternative, a diagonal maze. Third-person videogame mazes, in contrast, are almost always aligned as in Pac-Man, even those that predate the dot eater.

Magnavox’s infamous K. C. Munchkin (1981) is something of a Pac-Man knock-off that was itself knocked off shelves by a famous court ruling, Atari v. Philips. To players today, the game looks like just another maze game. With doors that open and close, only twelve dots on the screen, and other notable differences, it now seems impossible to confuse with Pac Man. The two games are similar in that they both feature mazes that are orthogonally aligned. But among K. C. Munchkin’s differences are that it allows players to take on the role of Daedalus, designing their own levels.

Other videogame mazes, and games with mazy environments, quickly made their way into the home, too. The game bundled with the classic cartridge-based Atari VCS in 1977 was Combat, which brought the convoluted battlefields of Tank into the home. Soon after, that console featured Maze Craze (1978), which allows players to compete in several different challenges in maze environments that were automatically generated.

All of these games treat the screen display as a single complete visual unit, like the board of a board game. The continuously scrolling maze of 10 PRINT at least suggests a maze that is larger than the screen, even if one cannot navigate around to see what is offscreen. Another interesting contrast to the single-screen maze is a close-up design that puts the player in a larger-scale maze, seen in the 1979 Atari VCS game Adventure (see figure 20.3). This console game is loosely based on the interactive fiction work of the same name, and features a hero who can collect treasure despite the efforts of three dragons. Unlike Pac-Man, in which the player can guide Pac-Man out a warp gate on one side of the screen and see him enter on the other side, Adventure contains numerous topologically impossible warps that are always hidden from view and can only be deduced. Instead of an overview map of the total maze, each screen is a closeup of simple paths, often emphasizing discontinuous fragments of other paths that can’t easily be reached.

Diagonal orientation of the sort produced by 10 PRINT did have a place in the design of early mazelike games. It emerged through isometric video games that introduced diagonal motion at the same time they challenged the picture plane through the pseudo-3D effect of isometric perspective. Two isometric games came to arcades in 1982: Q*bert, a completion/avoidance platformer on an isometric pyramid, and Zaxxon, an obstacle-racer emphasizing pseudo-3D elements. Neither is particularly mazelike compared to later isometric games from years after the first version of 10 PRINT. Ant Attack (1983) and Marble Madness (1984) are examples of games with more convoluted obstacle courses on fields that were larger than the screen.

Adventure (1979) for the Atari VCS featured a maze to navigate while fighting. dragons and searching for keys to enter castles. 10 PRINT seems to be a noninteractive 2D third-person maze, its single line of code produces an unusual twist on this form of maze, shifting it to a different axis than is traditionally used. This is accomplished by the simple selection of two diagonal character graphics. That design element introduces another complexity: even though the maze is built from left to right and down the screen, the walls and paths do not follow this axis of construction.

In the mid-1980s, it would be impossible for most users to consider a maze-generating computer program without thinking of the many computer games that take place in mazes. But, for many, the maze would also be associated with different types of terror, contemplation, experimentation, and play. Would the user be Theseus or Daedalus? The scientist or the rat? Pac-Man or Zaxxon? And would programming be meditating, dancing, escaping, solving, or architecting a maze? This richness seems to be part of what encouraged new Commodore 64 programmers to “enter the maze” by entering this program on their computer, to work at solving and understanding this code only to revise, extend, and reimagine it in their own programs.

Considering 10 PRINT in light of the cultural history of mazes situates the program’s output in a space of symbolic meanings and design principles—the many ways in which something can be seen as mazelike or designed to be mazelike. This view sheds light on the specific ways in which 10 PRINT both echoes and alters earlier notions of a maze. The output is not unicursal, after the fashion of early labyrinths, nor is it marked for traversal with clear entrances and exits, as in a meditative or hedge maze, nor is its system of paths continuous and fully explorable, as in a laboratory run for rats. Instead, 10 PRINT produces something of the visual complexity of later mazes, but this complexity does not address a particular purpose, and instead emerges out of an absolute simplicity of design. If 10 PRINT is a maze in a new and different way, this difference is based in deep similarity to the precursors it resembles, in particular, the way that all mazes arise out of shared principles of regularity on the one hand and randomness on the other.

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780262305501
Related ISBN
9780262018463
MARC Record
OCLC
1053145375
Launched on MUSE
2018-09-19
Language
English
Open Access
Yes
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