Perhaps it’s because I’m getting old, or because I stare at a computer screen all day but I just can’t play modern computer games. At least not for a very long time at a stretch, and certainly not for long enough to learn how to play one of the several big multiplayer games that seem to have sucked in all of my friends. I am drawn to the games I enjoyed in my youth, games that are graphically simple, emulated or otherwise. Nethack is one of those great games that just sucks you in and makes you want to play it, and since it is a turn based adventure game, you can play at your own pace and save at any moment and walk away from it whenever you wish to return to the exact point you were at when you left.
Even cooler than that, Nethack is open source and free, runs on practically every machine ever made and if you don’t want to bother installing it, you can just telnet into a game (in Windows from the command line Start | Run | cmd, or Mac from the Terminal app in Applications | Utilities) by typing telnet nethack.alt.org for almost the exact same experience.
In the telnet game, type r to register a login name and set a password, enter an email address so they know who you are. Next time you play just type l to login and you’ll be right where you left off (if you save your game by typing shift-S to save before you leave of course!) Then you can configure your settings by pressing o – this might baffle folks unfamiliar with Vim, just type :q! to exit the editor. You can watch other people playing by typing w, or play yourself by hitting p. Stuck, don’t know how to move? Just type ? and then b to get some help. Nethack is not simple, it is a huge and complex and hack and slash adventure game that is nearly impossible to beat. There is almost endless variability in levels and play style. It’s filled with quirky humor, and though it is a graphically low-fi experience, you can still get chills when a new monster pops out of the darkness, you’re poisoned and you have no cure poison vials left and you’re down to 2 hit points and you have to plan your next move. Get sucked into Nethack right now!
The Official Nethack Guidebook
The Nethack Beginners guide