Monday 4 May 2015

Text Adventure

The book itself isn't coming out until September, but I'm already looking forward to Michael W. Clune's Gamelife, a memoir of growing up through 1980s computer games. Partly this is because I'm pathetically right in the middle of the target demographic, having spent a ludicrous amount of time in my pre-teenage years typing variations on "LOOK ROOM" and "HIT ORC" into a Vic-20, while it responded "SYNTAX ERROR. READY:" with blithe indifference. Partly this is because Clune's previous memoir, about heroin addiction and academic life, White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin, was excellent. And partly because it has such a witty and clever cover (designer as yet unknown):

White Out's cover was also rather good, if less original:

Text adventures were weirdly compelling despite (because of?) their limitations. I remember the ridiculously difficult Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy game, which killed you at almost every arbitrary choice, and a King Solomon's Mines game that responded to commands it didn't know with "YOU TALKING PIDGIN, BWANA?". I even spent a vast amount of time writing my own text adventures in BASIC, destined to remain unplayed by anyone besides my indulgent father.

Clune's book will surely be more interesting than that last paragraph. It would have to be, really.


Emma said...

Looks like a fantastic book -- when I was a kid I got addicted to a Douglas Adams game called "Bureaucracy," in which you had to make a lot of simple, stupid decisions, care for a picky llama, and pay your taxes while keeping your blood pressure low enough that you didn't drop dead. Little did I know! LITTLE DID I KNOW.

Anyway. I'd never head of this author, but now he'll have a new digital customer, so that's something.

JRSM said...

Emma, I'm going to have to see whether I can hunt down an emulator that will run Bureaucracy. It sounds great, in the most annoying of ways.

drew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
drew said...

This looks great. I used to play text games on a computer in my father's lab at the dawn of this gaming period. Or I would populate the green screen with characters and then navigate around them with the arrow keys like an obstacle course, hoping that one day there would be something like a graphic user interface. Can't wait to read this....Thanks for posting!

JRSM said...

Those green screens! I had a job in a newsroom in the early 2000s, and the system the reporters used to file their stories still used those. It was horrible, yet vaguely comforting.

Location longue durée said...

As always - your articles are astute and insightful