Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

To Put Away Childish Things:Text Based Adventure Games

When I moved house, in June, part of the process, as anyone who has ever done it will know, was to clear out the loft. There was all sorts of stuff up there – books, VHS videos, a red box full of scratched 78 rpm records, a sink unit, a partially completed plaster cast set of twelve inch tall chess pieces, a large sack full of my mother's old handbags, a shopping bag full of old pairs of glasses, a couple of armchairs, numerous assorted empty cardboard boxes, A bag of 00 gauge railway track, a lava lamp, miscellaneous ornaments, a children's snooker table, a fully decorated Christmas tree, a shower unit, bottles of homemade wine from the late 1970s, wine and beer making equipment, assorted cushions, various computer games for various obsolete computers, a box of Rubicks-cube-style puzzles…


Hold on. Back up a moment. "Various computer games"?

Ah yes, various computer games. Those were the days. I had all sorts of different early computers - ZX80, Spectrum,BBC, Atari. Back in those days we'd moved on from "pong" and  monochrome Space Invaders and Asteroids were state of the art in graphics but what I always liked were text-based adventure games. Gamers today are used to astounding graphics, worlds with millions of locations, complex interfaces, on-line group quests and all the other paraphernalia that go with their fictional worlds. They would probably laugh at the quaintness of the old games.

But I remember the days when there were no graphics at all, when an adventure with two hundred locations was colossal, when the interface was that you typed <verb><noun> instructions on the keyboard and waited to see what, if anything, happened, when your adventuring was done solo.

I think the first text adventure that I played was Scott Adam's Adventureland on my old Atari. It's astonishingly crude by any standards. Go North – Take Lamp – Go West – Climb Tree.

Ah those were the days.

I did several of the Scott Adams adventures – Adventureland, Pirate Adventure, Ghost Town, and the Spiderman and Hulk Questprobe adventures. I moved on to Zork and Colossal Adventure and the (astonishingly good) Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy. I ploughed my way through fantasy adventures and science fiction adventures and even a text based Alice In Wonderland Game (which didn't get thrown away with the others: - even though the machine to play it on is unobtainable now, I filed it away, after all a collector is a collector).

I played for hours trying to solve the puzzles – which were sometimes fiendishly difficult. Even getting the damned babel fish into your ear wasn't all that simple when the vocabulary available was so restricted.

I endured the frustration of repeatedly dying and having to start over because I had forgotten to save or, more frustrating still, had saved but hadn't realised that there was some hidden item in a location I passed through days ago that I now needed.


And then I stopped. I don't know why. I probably bought a new computer and the old games became obsolete. I haven't touched a text based adventure since the mid-eighties. In fact I haven't really done any kind of adventure gaming since around then – but I have discovered, doing my usual minimal research for this blog post -  that the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy game is available – in its original form on line.


Which accounts for the rather abrupt ending that you are about to experience.


Must dash. Vogons are demolishing my house.