OT: The unix game

Mark Wieder ahsoftware at sonic.net
Mon Nov 4 11:24:25 EST 2019

Posting from the Blockly listserv:

I'm a computer scientist at Bell Labs (now part of Nokia). A few weeks 
ago we launched an online coding game to commemorate the 50th 
anniversary of the Unix operating system, the very first version of 
which was built by Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie at Bell Labs in the 
summer of 1969.

The game is called "The Unix Game" and can be played at https://unixgame.io

In the Unix Game players solve coding challenges by constructing 
"pipelines" of UNIX text processing utilities (think: sort, awk, grep, 
head, ...) using Blockly blocks.

Blockly was a perfect fit for our use case as the game is as much a 
puzzle game as it is a coding game. For those of you familiar with the 
Unix utilities, you will know that some of these utilities are very 
powerful (like `awk` or `sed`), and just letting players solve 
challenges using a standard CLI interface with the real unix utilities 
would have made the game too easy - and also would have only made the 
game accessible to people that probably already know all the unix commands.

In using Blockly blocks to restrict the commands available to players, 
we wanted to make the game more challenging, but also to force people to 
learn something new about Unix. This certainly worked: over 6000 people 
already found their way to the game and we got lots of positive feedback 
- including from people who said they learned something new about the 
Unix utilities thanks to our game. Of course we've had our fair share of 
negative comments from real Unix hackers that prefer the CLI over any 
Blockly-like GUI - I'm sure this will sound familiar to people on this list.


  Mark Wieder
  ahsoftware at gmail.com

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