Working PC version of old "Virus Wars" game?
February 9, 2008 7:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a XP-friendly version of the old "virus war" games.

I've got an eight-year-old who's now entranced with the idea of the old "virus war" games I used to play when _I_ was a kid, where you could program your own little algorithms, and see them "battle" graphically against each other. (I've explained to him several times that you can't program it to use a "Power Fist Attack" or an "Invincibility Shield", but he wants to prove to me that I'm wrong. And yes, I'm the kind of dad who regales his kids with stories of the computer games we used to play "back in the day". Thank god he cares.)

Anyway, since he's actually been getting into LOGO and other simple programming teaching tools, I thought this would be another fun thing to expose him to. I've tried Googling, but unfortunately the phrase "virus wars" has become such a cliche in tech journalism that it's pretty futile.

Any thoughts? As I recall, there used to be a bunch of variations on this theme, on Apple, PC, etc., and I'm hoping I can find one that's modern enough to run on XP. (Or maybe an emulator, I guess.) Thanks in advance.
posted by LairBob to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Core Wars is a classic in the genre, and there are several Windows-compatible simulators available, as listed at the bottom of the Wikipedia article.
posted by jedicus at 7:51 AM on February 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Are you referring to the game Life?
posted by Ferrari328 at 7:53 AM on February 9, 2008

Response by poster: YES!! Hive mind wins again!

Thank you, jedicus. (And Ferrari328, thanks also for the reminder on "Life"--I used to use it all the time when I taught programming, but it hadn't occurred to me as a great idea for my kid. He'll probably end up as much time with that as he will with Core Wars.)
posted by LairBob at 8:01 AM on February 9, 2008

Core Wars is the classic, but it's pretty wonky and computer programming specific. There's a wide variety of games where you program a robot or some other automaton to move and use its attacks against other programmed robots. Some of these games are logic puzzles, some are more all out AI challenges. Some involve writing code in impenetrable scripts, some have visual programming languages.

What I don't have for you is the name of any of these games :-( Drawing a blank right now. But if I were an eight year old I'd find the Core Wars assembly language pretty off-putting. Drawing some logic circuits to activate my Power Fist, though, that'd be aces.
posted by Nelson at 8:38 AM on February 9, 2008

Yeah, I was just thinking that after I downloaded Core Wars and took a closer look at it. I was actually more in my teens when I played it, and I had forgotten how assembly-like it was.

We'll keep looking, though--Core Wars was definitely what I was thinking about, but any other thoughts on kid-friendly programming games would be much appreciated.
posted by tangenjill at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2008

If you wanted to download an Apple ][ emulator, you could run the spectacular Robotwar, by Silas Warner.

By the time you got the emulator running, found a copy of the manual, and figured out the simple robot programming language, your kid would be eleven, the age at which I first programmed a robot that could consistently beat the ones that shipped with the game.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:26 AM on February 9, 2008

Have you checked out Colobot. I plan on getting my boy into it (IF nothing better comes along in the next 3 years)
posted by JonnyRotten at 9:37 AM on February 9, 2008

Robocode is a good programming game. Also check out this wikipedia entry on programming games. But I can't think of any which is really kid friendly.
You might consider something more along the lines of Lego Mindstorms. Here's a great Lego competition for kids First Lego League. However, it's more of a programming Science Fair project than a programming game.
posted by mister e at 10:11 AM on February 9, 2008

You may want to look at Robot Odyssey, which I believe has been ported to Java. It's less fighting and more questing, but I found it vastly enjoyable in Middle School. The main aim is to wire your robots to perform certain tasks which get more and more interesting and challenging.

It's the 'sequel' to Rocky's boots, which, if your kid is younger (3-6 grade?)may be more appropriate. In any case, both games use the same wiring interface and logic gates, so either is a good place to start.

I bet there there's a modern game that does the same thing with flashier graphics and slicker controls. I wish I knew what it was. :)
posted by Four Flavors at 2:44 PM on February 9, 2008

Thanks for the question LairBob - I've been looking for some similar things for my own kids.

I have a couple of the original Mindstorms sets and they love those - lately I'm trying to introduce Logo.

Of course - what they really want is a system to let them build their own games - there are a couple out there, but they seem to be aimed at schools and educational centers.
posted by jkaczor at 7:38 AM on February 11, 2008

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