Text Adventures Illustrated

I am in the process of viewing the excellent documentary video by Jason Scott, GET LAMP (find out more at http://www.getlamp.com/). It is well worth the purchase price, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. In this two-DVD set, it features the main documentary (of the same name), as well as side features connected to the topic of text adventures.

As an Apple II user who started with the computer back in 1980, at the start of that platform’s “golden age”, I purchased the original “Zork: The Great Underground Empire” as sold by Personal Software. It took me a long time, but I was finally able to finish the game, after many maps and puzzle solving. Like many who purchased text adventures in this era, I found the richness of the descriptions enticing, and the puzzles challenging. And I wanted to get to the end of the game, to see what happened!

Scott’s documentary caught my attention completely while I watched his parade of people involved in this genre, not just with Infocom, but with all the other aspects of what became known as “interactive fiction”. As a history buff, I enjoyed the story of how it started, its transition from mainframes to the new technology of the personal computer, and how it developed and changed over time.

Like Scott’s previous DVD set, BBS: The Documentary (http://www.bbsdocumentary.com/) he uses his hours of taped interviews with people involved with text adventures, weaving together the different sections into a coherent story as told by many different people. My only disappointment with both DVDs is the same disappointment that my Apple II History gives: All three stories are those of the rise and fall of a particular technology. There is excitement during the years of ascent and peak, but then the discouragement associated with the story of the fall (the decline of BBSes, the decline of text adventures, and the decline of the Apple II).

Anyone who played and enjoyed this type of game back when they were popular, I would highly, highly recommend that you buy this DVD set. If you have at all enjoyed reading the stories here of the rise and fall of the Apple II, you will definitely enjoy the story of the birth of interactive fiction, and what it has developed into in the 21st century. It sells from Jason Scott’s web site for $40, plus $5 shipping.

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