The middle school years are some of the roughest in existence. When I was young, we called it junior high, but the net effect was the same. You were a young person going through changes – surrounded by other young people going through changes – and you were supposed to be taking classes at the same time. It was during times such as these, that I found true enjoyment in text adventure games. They were a welcome escape from the harshness of the middle school years.
Enter the source of such enjoyment – the Radio Shack TRS-80 microcomputer. I didn’t have one, but my best friend did. His dad bought it but I never saw him use it. Maybe it was because we were always using that thing. The standard TRS-80 came with 4K built in, but this one was upgraded to 16K by the addition of a massive expansion module. Games were loaded originally through a tape recorder, but eventually they purchased a floppy disk drive. But no matter how the text adventure games were loaded, they were a favorite activity.
We really enjoyed text adventures designed by Scott Adams (the game designer, not the creator of Dilbert). He is credited with writing the first games for personal computers from the ground up (rather than on a mainframe). The early games were simple and based on two word commands such as, “look box” or “get sword”. The parsing of the game only looked at the first three letters of each word, so we would often type, “loo box” or “get swo”. This parsing would limit the vocabulary – but I have found that sometimes when there is a limit placed in an area, that creativity really comes out in other areas. Some the games that really stand out in my memory were Pirate Adventure, Adventureland, and Pyramid of Doom. My friend and I would even draw maps on grid paper to keep track of where to go. We may have beat Pirate Adventure, but we could never get past the end of Pyramid of Doom in which we were near the top of the pyramid in a room and the statue of Pharaoh was awakened and slowly moving toward us. If any readers know what we were supposed to do about the statue, please let me know. Here is a link where you can try some of his text adventures online: http://www.msadams.com/downloads.htm
I found it interesting to discover that he is still creating games and recently announced the release of a Bible text adventure game called The Inheritance. That’s pretty cool. Perhaps Scott Adams was the original video game theologian! Go here for more information: http://www.msadams.com/ipreorder/
But wait, did I really say that he is still making text adventure games? I recently became aware of the fact that text adventures are especially enjoyed by the blind. Others may have moved past the magic of text but there is a large community of people who enjoy what is now called interactive fiction. Many of these computer users are visually impaired and have computers that read the text to them. The power of the word is stronger than the best graphic cards.