Adventure Before Adventure Games: A New Look at Crowther and Woods’s Seminal Program

Lessard pushes back in useful ways against the notion that modern computer games emerged fullly-formed from the coding experiments of Will Crowther — a notion I’ve helped to promote (though of course I’m exaggerating as I present it here).

I’ll want to read through the essay again in more detail, but here is part of the conclusion:

Previous accounts have often focused on the many aspects of modern computer games already present (if only in seminal form) in the original Adventure. Although they are not wrong, the process of ancestor-finding can sometimes lead to a minimization of differences.

Embedded narratives are a defining feature of modern adventure games and it is tempting to see them already existent in the original one. By shifting our perspective away from adventure games, we were able to see how marginal this aspect actually is in Adventure. What we can see, though, is that the game’s structure had all the potential to harbor embedded narratives. Although neither Crowther nor Woods pushed in this direction, others would soon see this.

Looking back at the reviewed cultural series, it is interesting to discover that no single influence or line of practice can fully explain Adventure’s specific form. Being neither fully a cave simulation, nor an adaptation of D&D, nor a hack, nor even a game, it appears at the crossroad of many existing traditions. —Games and Culture.