The Google Tech Talk by Jason Scott, a self-proclaimed computer historian, entails a screening of his movie “Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary”. As the name suggests, the film chronicles the history of text-based adventure games and their advent on the computer medium. However, this film utilizes a unique narrative structure in its “Interactive Edition” in which the audience themselves can decide what path the movie will explore – which in turns provides unique interviews to be played based on the viewer’s choice. The film focuses on the exploration of the allure of a Text Adventure game, the inspirations behind them, as well as how they have shaped the Interactive Fiction genre.
This documentary extensively delves into the origins of Text Adventure games: mainly, the exploration and attempted mapping of a three dimensional cave called Bedquilt Cavern. The cave, which is surprisingly deeper and more spacious inside it’s depths than it is on the outside, became the design philosophy and inspiration that became the game “Adventure” by Will Crowther. This simple seeming adventure game enraptured an entire generation of people by being the first “interactive” form of literature; as well as honing in on the obsessive nature of people that wanted to understand and “solve” the game to it’s entirety.
Eventually there came a game called “Zork” by Infocom, which revolutionized the foundations of interactive fiction that “Adventure” had built. The game expanded past the boundaries of a “text adventure” by offering vivid detail of settings and offering deep and complex puzzles that challenged the creativity and intellect of the players. Even for blind players, the interactive fiction genre games were a joy to play, because even though they lacked the ability to “see” the text themselves without a voice scripter – it allowed for them to “perform” and “pretend” to see, for them to experience and learn how to navigate through new and unfamiliar environments.
With the popularity of text adventure games at the time, it posed an interesting question to both the developers of the game and the players in terms of “interactivity”. This frames the problem of the interactive paradox into a larger lens, as the players wish to acquire more freedom and control of their path in the story, while an author or creator attempts to restrict the player in a boxed in playground of a on-rails narrative. The conclusion that most developers of interactive fiction have come to is that allowing a player too much freedom is chaotic – and offers them the power of control in ways that does not contribute to a story telling narrative; and so, their solution to such an issue was to attempt to come up with as many assumptions as they could on what actions a player could and would want to input, and go with the best that the limitations of their medium offered them.
Text adventure games offered a unique medium for not only literature-minded readers to become immersed in, but also a brand new genre for the community of gaming as a whole.