The "50 Years of Text Games" book is now available!

Hi folks! My book 50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to AI Dungeon (which many of you followed through my blog series back in 2021) is now available for purchase in ebook form, with versions available in PDF, EPUB, and TXT. Some physical copies are still available too and these will be shipping out to backers and pre-orderers over the next few weeks.

The book covers one text game from each year between 1971 (when The Oregon Trail was first played on a teletype) to 2020, with an in-depth analysis of how it worked, why it’s interesting, and what it says about interactive fiction. A huge swath of genres are covered, from parser games to hypertext to VR poetry to browser games to dating sims to MUDS to BBS games and more. It’s definitely a labor of love and I’m so happy to finally have it out and released!

The book has been revised and updated from the blog series, with lots of new material including maps and diagrams, release histories, new material on each decade and the pre-history of digital text, capsule summaries of over five hundred additional text games, and a full research bibliography for each of the fifty main games covered.

Please join me in celebrating the launch!! And you can find out more details about what’s inside the book and where to get it here:

–Aaron

(PS If you were a crowdfunding backer and don’t get an email with download instructions today, feel free to DM me here and I can investigate!)

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Congratulations! I’ve been hanging out for this to come out in ebook!

Edited to add: I’m really enjoying reading it in one place, rather than on the blog.

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Congrats! So glad I backed this, and very excited for my copy to arrive

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Congratulations on publishing! I’m waiting by the mailbox for my copy to arrive. I won’t eat or sleep until it does, I promise. :partying_face:

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My physical copy arrived promptly today - what a hefty book! Looking forward to poring over it again.

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My physical copy is nearly with me but I moved delivery to a more convenient day later this week. However I’m planning to start reading the ebook on my kindle shortly. Very grateful for all the effort that’s gone into a reflowable text version.

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I’m interested in reviews of this. I missed the initial crowdfunding but I’d consider a digital copy. I’d still like to hear some reactions, first.

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You can also see for yourself: the original 50+ e-mail newsletter articles are still free and archived on substack (you have to click through the “please subscribe” pop-ups, but whatever) and there are some samples on the book’s site so you can directly compare the chapters for A Mind Forever Voyaging (book sample vs. original article) and Trade Wars (book sample vs. original article). For Trade Wars in particular both versions have references that the other doesn’t.

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Received my physical copy today… badly dented in one corner :sob:

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Hi Stefan-- sorry to hear that! If you DM me with a picture of the book and box and the email address associated with your order, I can see if I have enough inventory to send you a replacement copy.

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It arrived almost instantly (I’m in the UK) and it’s a beautiful piece of work. Every time I open a random page I get gripped until at least the end of the chapter.

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I’ve been reading this slowly, to savour it. One chapter at a sitting, then time to think about it (and sometimes to revisit old games I remember from years ago).

Some of the chapters were surprisingly moving, too, especially the 1988 chapter about (then) Czechoslovak.

As an aside, it reminded me of some of the old pre-web text-based strategy ‘net games, which were basically PBM games turned into client-server things. I remember particularly the “Empire” (now “Wolf Pack Empire”), which I dabbled in back in the early 90s. The thing I most remember was the role-play that went with it in Usenet. The announcements from the Elven King of Mirkwood and his various rivals were the first exposure I had to anything like that, and obviously stuck with me to remember them 25+ years later!

So much of the pre-web Internet is just memories now, and I commend @aaronius for his research and rich references in the book as a jumping-off point for further reading. It’s an excellent book, and well worth buying.

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As someone who just started getting into text games a few months ago, I greatly enjoyed reading the original Substack posts for the historical contexts. I didn’t get titles like Photopia (it’s good but not the best), so I enjoyed referencing the blog posts

But what I also really liked about the original articles is how they don’t necessarily cover the “canonical” games. I’m thinking of The Fire Tower, which would not have been on my radar if Reed didn’t cover it. It’s now one of my favorite games.

I pretty much bought the digital book in order to support the blog’s effort, but it’s honestly a good read so far. I really enjoyed the chapters leading up to the games themselves because I don’t really know much about this history and it’s organized in a reader-friendly way. It’s a meaty book for sure: every page is full of delightful information, so it’s an easy recommendation from me!

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I just finished my copy today. I’ve been piecing it out, a few chapters at a time, reading it in order so that I can really appreciate the historical trends and movements. I can foresee dipping back in again to look at particular chapters a second time, or using it as a guidebook for games I missed along the way.

Not to mention lending it out (perhaps forcefully) to others.

Some of it was revelatory (there are whole sections of text games I’ve missed out on), some nostalgic, taking me back to the years I spent building MUSH environments when I probably should have been working harder on my AI dissertation.

Thank you so much @aaronius for this splendid work!

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