Ah, I disremember exactly what my first IF was. I do remember that one of the earliest was “Zork” - I’d bought a package that included Zork Anthology (Zorks 1, 2, 3, Beyond and Zero, plus .DAT files for a bunch of Infocom games with zero documentation, so they were absolutely worthless), Return to Zork and Zork Nemesis.
What I remember very clearly is that I’d tried some IF before and after Zork, and something in Zork just kept me coming back to it. It seemed much more alive, somehow. I was then about ten or eleven, maybe twelve, and I recall the following games from that period:
- Dungeons of Dunjin (have to replay that one, I have good memories)
- The Doppy and Pru trilogy (Strangest thing ever! Not in a good way)
- TZero (Fat chance of a non-english 11year old kid understanding that one)
- Deep Space Drifter, I think. Or some similar title. Was in DOS.
- Some Indiana Jones game
- The Mist
- Unkullian Underworld 1 and 2.
- And let’s not forget Gateway, the first IF I ever won (with extensive hints). Masterpiece.
There were others, of course. These are the earliest ones I remember. Back then, all I wanted was adventure games, adventure games, adventure games. I got to play a lot of greats and a lot of crap, but I was pretty omnivorous.
Now, I tend to look for games that’ll flick my switches, push my buttons. I want to go on gaming trips in which I can make an emotional connection. “Fahrenheit”, which I played recently, was one such game. In IF, the recent game I’ve played which did that was “Chancellor”, a game with which I connected very strongly, for some reason. I also connected strongly with “Across the Stars”. Oh, and Photopia, of course. I suppose there’s no rhyme or reason for these things.
Still, if a game is good, it doesn’t matter whether it’s “old-school” or “new-school”. I want to play a sort of game which is likelier to be found in new- than old-school, but I was hooked on “Adventurer’s Museum” from the very first couple of screens.
After a long hiatus of IF, in which I just played graphical adventures, I have to say it was great to return to it. Graphical adventures are relatively limited - you have fixed verbs and fixed hotspots. If you’re stuck, and want to see the rest of the story, you either resort to a walkthrough (there goes the gaming enjoyment) or brute force you way around it. IF has the potential to remove such boundaries. IF is limitless in its interaction - or it gives that illusion. I like that freedom. It’s much better to think “What can I do now in this place at this time?” than to think “Ok, what can I do with these hotspots and these inventory items?”. Sure, some IF games have very transparent mechanics, but that’s the fault of an author, not of the genre.
Personally, and I hope I’m not going too far off-topic, I prefer games with multimedia content. I don’t want games to rely on graphics, but I want my IF game to be an emotional experience, and emotional experiences shouldn’t be limited to any one medium. Sound, images and animations are extremely effective, and pictures can be worth a thousand words, and I wish more games used them, and used them well. I’m afraid that by sticking too closely to an all-text format simply because “text can do things other mediums can’t” (no argument there, but a well-placed sound or image or animation can do things text can’t, because it’s so immediate, and has the potential to seduce, enthrall, or frighten in a second - can induce serenity or paranoia very easily) we might be missing out on a real potential storytelling aspect of IF. The book metaphor has served us well, but Infocom was the first to say - despite their marketing: “Find out what it’s like to enter a story. Get one from Infocom. There’s room for you in every disk.” - that Shakespeare didn’t have to wonder about whether Hamlet did decide to kill Laertes after the fateful play, therefore skipping the rest of “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark”. IF isn’t a book, any more than adventure games aren’t movies, and I sometimes wonder whether we’re scared to admit that. And that allowing multimedia would be a way to admit we’re playing games, and trying to inject more art into them than there actually is.
Make no mistake, IF - and games in general - has the potential to be art. High art. I firmly believe this. And it doesn’t need to be cooped up in all-text format to do it.
Heh. Early-morning rant. Well, it was building up and had to come out.