VGT – Text Adventures Part 2

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.

Hello to my old friend, the TRS-80 Model 1

Hello to my old friend, the TRS-80 Model 1

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.

A copy of an ad from the Scott Adams website

A copy of an ad from the Scott Adams website

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.

VGT – Text Adventures Part 1

I love to read, and in retrospect there are two main reasons why.

First, I had a mother who loved to read and she somehow imparted that love into me.  She would often go to the library and return with a stack of books that she thought I would like.  I would start at the top of the stack and work my way down.  I would be captivated by the stories and hours would pass by quickly as I turned page after page.  Especially during the summers, I stayed up late reading in my bedroom because I simply could not put the book down.

Heaven may be a stack of books

Heaven may be a stack of books

The second reason why I love to read is because of the early text adventures on computers.  I was probably 11 or 12 (the early 80’s) when I first played Adventure on my Dad’s original IBM 5150 PC.  The game was created by Will Crowther and Don Woods but it was so much more than a game.  I found myself in a valley, surrounded by forest.  I followed a stream and discovered that it flowed underground into a two inch slit.  Then I explored further downstream and came across a locked grate – it’s a good thing I picked up those keys when I explored the small building earlier.  I unlocked the grate and started to explore the Colossal Caves.  No longer was the computer a machine for word processing or calculating, it was an imagination device.

A world of imagination

A world of imagination

I found Adventure just this morning on the internet at a website called http://www.web-adventures.org/ and started to play it again.  It was java based and free.  It seemed primitive yet it still captured my mind.  Rather than intense graphics on the screen, I was utilizing the advanced processor of my brain.  I could see the dew on the grass and the rust on the grate.  I could even hear the sound of the stream flowing into the crack – the echo of the splash as the water landed somewhere below the ground.  I could even smell the leaves from the trees and the rich dark soil of the valley.  That’s the power of text, through a few simple words the power of the mind takes over.

Isaiah from the Dead Sea Scrolls

Isaiah from the Dead Sea Scrolls

The love and the power of text is also a part of my world view.  Traditional orthodox Christianity views the Bible as the final authority.  The text does more than just capture the imagination, it has authority over the lives of Christians throughout history and throughout the world.  It is  honored and treasured.  That is the definitive example of the true power of text.

For the next post in this Text Adventures Series, I will write about some of my experiences of playing text adventures designed by Scott Adams.  So fire up your TRS-80, get out the tape recorder, and let’s load some adventure games!