But for a few, the idea that a story can be told in a completely new method is what entrances them. It’s become an engrossing enough subject that people can now go to college and study the concept in an official capacity. People get into massive debates about the importance of story in games, some say it’s as important as plot in p**n, others, that it’s the ultimate goal of digital entertainment (such as in the attached video).
But who got the ball rolling?
Well, not Nintendo. Games like Adventure (1975) proposed the concept of a fictional world deeper than what graphics could display, but weren’t terribly popular, and Pac-Man (1980) is arguably the first mainstream game with characters and bits of plot. But for the most part, what’s now known as Interactive Fiction remained within the confines of a relative few, whereas most everybody else was rather content to shoot aliens or bat a ball back and forth with sticks of light. —The 25 Best and Worst Nintendo Innovations – International Business Times.
Sigh… this author says the first interactive fiction games “weren’t terribly popular”? Compared to what? Somebody should have at least checked the Wikipedia entry for Infocom before publishing that article.
The only screens and computers capable of displaying graphics at the time would have been far too expensive for the general public. Pinball machines offered far more eye candy and 3D physics than anything the most advanced computers could do at the time. Consider that in 1977, the film industry could give us TIE fighters and X-Wings swooping through the Death Star’s trench, but Artoo’s stolen plans from the rebel commander’s briefing were cheesy vector line drawings.
In the early 80s, it was often the case that the top-selling computer games were in fact text-based interactive fiction. In part this was because, at a time when a dozen or more incompatible home computer systems were competing for market share, it was relatively easy to port text adventure games to different platforms while preserving identical gameplay.
But the graphics for the action games were very crude, and the sound effects were little chirps and squawks. Given that there simply wasn’t, at the time, a computer gaming audience trained to expect realistic graphics, professional voice acting, and 3D physics, saying that the early text adventures weren’t popular is misleading.
Before the widespread adoption of CD-ROM drives, if you played games on a personal computer at all, chances are you knew the text adventure genre well.