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Adventure Games Then & Now
What is an Adventure Game?
Wikipedia defines adventure game in the following way:
"Adventure is a genre of video game typified by exploration, puzzle-solving, interaction with game characters, and a focus on narrative rather than reflex-based challenges."
Why are many adventure games held in such high regard by those that played them, years – even decades – after they were first released and in spite of their primitive graphics? Why are there such dedicated fans of all ages whose message boards and fan sites can sometimes rival those of newer popular games?
The answer can be summed up in one word. Story. The enjoyment of action or even RPG games is short-lived and fleeting. They quickly become repetitive and dull. The very nature of an adventure game is an involving story line – good plot development. It can be more involving and immersive than a good movie. You are no longer merely watching Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood, you have become Robin Hood! For a while, Sherwood Forest becomes your world.
The adventure game genre, once the reigning king of computer games, dates back to the era of what is generally considered the start of video games, PONG. In the early 1970s, the first text-based interactive fiction computer game, Adventure or Colossal Cave, was created by Will Crowther, a programmer and spelunker. The game was later ported PC in 1987. (The PC version of this freeware game can be found here.)
In 1979 Roberta Williams, after playing the game, was hooked, but thought that adventure games would be even better with images. Ken Williams, Roberta's husband, implemented her black-and-white graphic designs, and on May 5, 1980 they released their first computer game - an adventure called Mystery House. The couple sold their game to the only four software stores in Los Angeles county and also placed a small ad in the now defunct Micro Magazine. The game was an instant success. Thus was born the first graphical adventure game and what was to become Sierra On-line, a computer gaming pioneer that was once regarded as the industry leader. (Mystery House was written for the Apple][ and was later released as freeware by Sierra years ago in celebration of its 7th anniversary. You can get an Apple][ emulator here that includes Mystery House.)
Through Sierra, adventure games would pioneer the use of advances in new computer technology. To promote its new PCjr, IBM asked Sierra On-line to develop a game that would take advantage of its 16-color palette, three-channel sound, and large (for the times) 128K of memory. With its release in the summer of 1984, King's Quest: Quest for the Crown became the first animated, three dimensional "interactive cartoon." Thus was born the great Sierra "Quest" series.