By on September 26, 2003

This week’s Friday diversion is not one to pick up lightly. Nethack has been destroying the social skills and tanned complexions of geeks for years.

It’s a “Rogue-like” game that was originally written for old UNIX systems in the early 80’s as an adventure game that could be played on a TTY terminal. Think Diablo meets ASCII. It seems simple and ridiculous at first (and you die a lot), but the depth and the varying nature of the gameplay experience will keep bringing you back to try again.

Nethack has advanced a lot over the years. The original version now includes a Windows port that has graphics, and you can even get versions offering isometric perspectives or full-blown 3D. The worst part is that there’s a very well-done version for the Pocket PC, which means that my addiction to this thing has followed me out of the computer room.

“Nethack is one of my all-time favorite games, one I’ve been playing since 1200 baud was smokin’ fast.”

— Actor Wil Wheaton,

“In short, NetHack 3.1.3 is the most elaborate role-playing environment you are ever likely to explore. This is a place to return again and again, each time for a different experience. You’re really going to have to play it for a year or two and see for yourself.”

— “Fatal Distractions” by David Gerrold

“Thank you for the latest release of gradewrecker. My GPA just went in the corner and shot itself.”

— USENET posting, author unknown