Scott Adams (creator of the Dilbert comic strip), once said: “Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems.”
It was precisely this way of thinking that led me to try and play a popular video game on a glorified calculator.
Shorty after beginning my engineering education at Ohio State, I learned the basics of programming in MATLAB software. The programming language is rather simple to pick up, and commonly used for mathematical modeling and analysis.
I had a different idea in mind.
Upon learning basic coding structure, I began to study the program personally, and created what I proudly describe as “Matrim.” Specifically: the opening sequence of the popular Bethesda game “Skyrim,” but as a text based game written in MATLAB code.
In short: it is a calculator running a parody of Skyrim.
The ‘game’ begins with the easily recognizable chant of the menu music being written out on the screen. The opening menu appears with a logo created out of computer characters.
The “new game” and “load game” options both work, thanks to a bit of coding allowing MATLAB to save variables created as a workspace file to be named by the player. The game prompts the user to enter their name once, and uses this to save and load their settings and ‘game progress.’
After finding a script (the dialogue transcription kind) for the game online, I meticulously recreated dialogue scenes from the opening of the game, leading the player eventually to a fully-working character creator screen.
The player is asked to specify their character’s fantasy race, gender, and (in parody of the extensive character creator in the actual game) whether they would like to adjust their cheekbones. All of this is saved to be referenced later.
The game continues briefly, demonstrating an inventory system and allowing the player to make a few choices potentially leading to the character’s death and prompting a “game over” screen.
My friends were delighted to play through the opening, often laughing out loud as the game sarcastically poked fun at the player.
What was intended to be a simple personal exercise turned into a fun short-term project that begged the question: what other problems don’t exist that must be solved?