In this session, we’ll play and explore legacy text adventure games, take a look at free development software used to make them, and collaborate on an example of a text adventure game using primary documents from archival and special collections as its foundation.
Text adventures were popularized in the early 1980s as text-only adventure games that required users to manually enter commands in order to navigate, explore, and interact with the game world. Also known as “interactive fiction” these text-based adventure games were often unfair, frequently unbeatable by the average user, and often did not have happy endings. Developers of these games had to form incredibly intricate storylines and develop sound programming using conditional constructs in order to create interactive environments that were easy to navigate but frustrated users enough to keep them playing. Interactive fiction forces the user to interact with their world in order to change it and requires them to make a choice with every step they take. This has led to a niche following that still exists today because the players become so immensely invested in the game.
So how does this relate to the digital humanities? Game development requires serious attention to storyline, so text adventures lend themselves very well to narrative history. By creating environments based on historical documentation, we are able to build games that can follow the real path of an historical figure, event, or movement. We can use primary documents to build historically accurate game worlds that only allow users the options that a real person at the time would have had. Hopefully, the game that results is an immersive historical experience, providing context and insight that may have been overlooked before.