you are likely to be eaten by a grue


Last night on the way home from dinner at Weez's house, Lane and I got into a conversation about early computer games, like Adventure and Zork. My first introduction to computer games was Hunt the Wumpus, which I carefully typed into my father's TRS-80 computer back in the late 1970s, and saved onto our state-of-the-art cassette tape drive, but Zork was the first game I really loved. I bought pads of graph paper, and laboriously mapped out all of the various tunnels, paths, and twisty passages. I told Lane about Zork, and how it was like being part of a story--he's so much like me that I knew that would appeal to him immediately.

I got so caught up in talking to him about it that I missed our exit on the highway. "Uh-oh," I said. "That was our exit." His reply? "It is dark. There might be grues." I laughed so hard we nearly missed the next exit, too.

So tonight we set out to try to find a copy of Zork to play on our computers--and we were successful. It's not OS X native, but it works. And it was truly wonderful to sit on the couch, one child on each side, re-exploring the world I'd spent so much time in twenty years ago. They shrieked with delight in the Loud Room, when each command was repeated back to me as an echo. "Pick up the platinum bar." ""

After we'd played for a while, Lane asked whether it would be possible to find a copy of Adventure to play, too. I wasn't sure that would be as easy to find...after all, "adventure" is a pretty common word. But Google came through for us, and we quickly found Rick Adam's wonderful site, "A history of 'Adventure'", complete with downloadable versions.

It's a testimony to the power of these text-based games that they held the interest of my media-saturated six and nine-year-old sons for forty-five straight minutes--and would have for much longer if I hadn't realized it was getting late and sent them off to bed. Tomorrow I'll install Zork on their Macs, and buy them some graph paper.

I feel like a kid again. :)


Oregon Trail for me...I could use a dose of that right now, nostalgia is nice.

i play several of the older games from pc's which i play on macs using a program called dosbox installed through fink. i found many of my old favorites at

i guess my first real game was breakout on the 2400, but my c64 had digdug, which would have been the first game on a programmable computer

The Interactive Fiction community is actually still reeeeeeealllllly active online, with annual competitions & awards and everything -- along with ports of the interpreters to every platform you can think of. I wouldn't be surprised if you could play Zork on a mobile phone now. Start at and go from there; just make sure you have plenty of free time...

If you're looking for something OS X native...

Speaking of playing on a mobile phone... I've had at least one of several Palm-based interpreters for Infocom in my pocket on a daily basis for years. Lately, I've had a Handspring Treo 300, so my Palm and phone are one now :)

There're some nice shortcuts & conveniences for Palm users, too, including shortcuts and menus of commonly used phrases, mapping, notepads, invisiclues, and more. Pretty nice to get in a few turns on Zork while waiting in line, or to keep from dozing during a meeting. :)

Oh, great. More time sinks. Just what I need. :)

Thanks for the pointer, though.

Er...pointers, since l.m. posted while I was replying to Brian.


(at least not 'til the paper is done.)

As part of my intro class I had the college students play Zork, as well as a port of Space War. They're not just engaging for kids!

It sounds so wrong, but were the milestones after that really worthwhile. I was out to dinner with some folks in their late-20s who swore the original Zelda was a "classic." Maybe, though I don't think so. I might be more willing to think about Myst or SimCity or Tetris. It seems, though, that although fidelity and realism has increased, the basics--narrative, structure, etc.--haven't really improved much.

Aww I used to play Ghostbusters on my Commodore 64 all the time when I was little! I can remember my father showing me when I was in kindergarten how to type, "load gho*, 8, 1", into the console to start the game (after inserting the appropriate 5.25" floppy, of course). This almost makes me want to find an emulator + Ghostbusters for the 64...except that it's almost 1am now. :-)

Have you seen this? It's the best 404 error page ever.

I don't know how complete it is, though.

My boys (6 & 8) love Space Wars in MAME.
They like Joust, Puzzle Bobble and Marble Madness too.
(Yes, I picked lots of 2-player games, as I have 2 children).

There's a lot to be said for old sk00l gaming. If games are an art form, then this is just teaching our kids Shakespeare and Fitzgerald. I think the best experience, though, is if you can dredge an Apple ][ out of someone' basement. It's kind of like playing classical music with period instruments.

I missed the golden age of text adventures by a few years... but I am quite happy that there is an Java version of the Hitchhikers Guide Infocom game here:




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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on October 5, 2003 9:28 PM.

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