In celebration of the 30th anniversary of my favorite computer game of all time, the BBC has released (ANOTHER) updated version of the game, with a new graphical interface. (See the original, the 20th anniversary mark I, and the 20th anniversary mark II.) That means that it’s been ten years since I played this game for the first time, sitting at my 6th grade English teachers desk. That boggles my mind.
This is an excellent, and very difficult game.
You will die, frequently, even if you know (more or less) what you’re doing.
The game was released by infocom, 30 years ago today. It came with all manner of doodads and gizmos (including pocket fluff, an empty bag, and cardboard sunglasses). It is a type of game known as a Text Adventure, and is playable on nearly every computer made since then (and even a few made before) thanks to the wonders of Virtual Machines. I’ve personally played it on everything from an Apple II to a Nintendo DS.
The game features original writing (and perhaps a bit of programing) by Mr. Douglas Adams, that is not available anywhere else. Mr. Adams is quoted as having said that the game bears “as much relationship to the books as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead does to Hamlet. ”
For my money, it is also the first work of Interactive Fiction.
Interactive Fiction games are a small subset of the ‘Text Adventure’ style of games.There are hundreds upon hundreds of Text Adventure games that are not interactive fiction. These games often have a sparse setting, and a more sparse plot. They don’t understand what you tell them, at all. They are frequently frustrating, and rarely fun. (Scott Adams released a lot of these back in the 80s.)
There are, however, a grow number of ‘Text Adventure’ games that are interactive fiction. These games are works of fiction in which the player assumes the role of the main character. In the best of these games, the player wanders through well crafted prose, marveling at the locations that the author has beautifully formed, conversing with the characters that inhabit this world of prose. The things the player says are understood, or at least misunderstood in a helpful (or amusing) way.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Text Adventure Game ticks those boxes in my mind. It marks the first time that a Novelist collaborated with the programmer to create not just a game, but an entire world which a player might lose himself as the protagonist. This was a story first and a game second.
The Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy was one of many incredibly rich and plot driven works that Infocom published in it’s heyday. No commercial works have been released since the late 80s (or the early 90s, depending on how far you stretch your definition of Text Adventure), but Text Adventures are not a lost art form, any more than the novel is. They are still being written, and written well. It’s about as easy to pick up a text adventure game as it is to read a book. (Well, okay, maybe not. But it’s not much harder.)
If you decide you want to try your hand at some interactive fiction on your own machine, you’ll need a few things:
- Gargoyle (available for all Desktop Computers)
- A game to play
Have fun, and feel free to post in the comments if you need some help!