Stephen's Web Page - My Interests

Let us be honest here. I am an unreconstructed techie and quite proud of it. Things computery are my hobby - my vocation, if you will. I love to tinker with software and especially with software development systems. My academic career focused on implementing fairly exotic languages, and much of what I did there ended up being useful in my engineering career, too.

Something I'm really interested in, and wish I had much more time to indulge, is Interactive Fiction. This is what adventure games are now known as. Some years ago, while searching out old 8-bit micro games in a fit of nostalgia, I discovered that interactive fiction is still alive and well. Even though it is no longer commercially viable (or at least, not in its traditional form) it is nonetheless thriving due to the persistence of enthusiasts, the rise of the Internet and the development of sophisticated authoring systems that make it much easier for anyone to develop quite complex games.

Given my background in programming language implementations, it is only natural that my interest tends towards IF authoring systems rather than the games themselves. For once, this interest manifests in a concrete service to the IF community. My favourite text editing tool is Vim. One of Vim's many virtues is that it is extensible and so can offer specialized facilities for many programming languages. For example, Vim can use "syntax colouring" to improve the presentation of files being edited. One of the major IF authoring systems is Inform, and I am the maintainer for the specialized Inform support within Vim. To that end, I maintain an Inform/Vim Support Centre.

Something which I have become extremely interested in recently is Live-action roleplaying, or LRP or LARP. Basically, you can think of it as a kind of historical re-enactment, except that the participants are not replicating an historical event, but rather acting out a role in a story, often set in some fantasy or sci-fi context. The players dress up in appropriate costumes and live a story. Usually the players have no idea what the story is, and have to respond to events in a way appropriate to the role they are playing. It is immense fun and involves both acting and getting to hit people with swords. I currently play with a smallish group based in Cambridge, Cambridge University Treasure Trap. In the past I've also played with another group, The Cuckoo's Nest, based in Glasgow. You can also find me attending Maelstrom, a large-scale national system.

Of course, there are other things in my life besides computers and LARP. My wife and I are members of the National Trust, and we often visit NT sites in our area, particularly if they have a nice garden (although that is more my wife's sort of thing than mine). I used to fence foil at Wellesbourne Sword Club, although I have not done that for a long time now (and I really need to find a more local club). I do a great deal of reading, mostly of SF and mystery stories.

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