10 April 2010
Scorched Earth - PC
Brian was a genius. Still is, probably. I haven't seen him in a decade (we're not the kind of guys who call each other every Sunday afternoon to chat)
Through the magic of Facebook and the rare e-mail I hear he is alive and well.
A self-taught computer programmer who grew up in the Commodore 64 era, Brian was the kind of guy who could question anything and not come off as a know-it-all. We'd see a news item or documentary on TV and he'd say something such as "That doesn't seem right," and then explain why it wasn't. A new technology would emerge and he'd talk about how it probably worked - and he was usually right. I always thought he'd make a fine newspaper reporter, but he wasn't interested in the career path I had chosen.
Brian and I were friends in the middle of my college years. We were the only guys with real jobs at the time. He programmed computers and I was a copy boy at the Baltimore Sun. Maybe that's why we hit it off so quickly, or maybe it was because he looked so much like Michael Knight's evil twin from "Knight Rider" that I just had to get to know him.
Either way, Brian and I spent many an evening - especially during periods without girlfriends - shooting the breeze over late night cocktails. As a backdrop for these conversations, a video game was always being played. Most often that video game was an early PC classic called Scorched Earth. Developed back when DOS was still relevant, Scorched Earth was a turn-based strategy game featuring a tank on either side of a randomly-generated 2D map. The variety of weapons at your disposal was staggering but the interface was simple: Adjust your speed and altitude for one shot at a time. Then wait for your opponent to do the same. Scorched Earth is the archetype for an entire genre of games that has become more sophisticated since Brian and I stayed up until the wee hours discussing politics, health care, foreign policy and girls.
Of course, Brian was far superior at the game than I. This was also true for most of our other nerdly pursuits: Magic The Gathering, anything on Sega Genesis, arcade games. Having a friend such as Brian is humbling. You know he's smarter than you are and you know he has the mad skills in the dork Olympics that you'll never have. Yet he's still willing to hang out with you. Maybe that's the reason. It's like dating a chick out of your league. You know she could do better, she knows she could do better, but something about your charming self keeps her coming back.
By Victor Paul Alvarez