Scott Adams, Computer Gaming Pioneer, to Speak at UWEC

Scott Adams, the computer gaming pioneer whose work during the early 80s helped spawn a new entertainment industry, will visit the University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire on Thursday, May 3, 2001 as part of the UWEC English Festival. He will participate in a free early afternoon round table (2pm, Badger Room), and also discuss his work in the Hibbard Humanities Hall penthouse, 4-5pm. 

The "Scott Adams Grand Adventures" are interactive short stories, in which the reader plays the role of the protagonist. The computer displays a few lines of text that describes a simulated environment -- a forest or a swamp, for instance. The player types short commands ("go north") or ("climb tree"), and the computer then describes what happens next. 

When combined with the player's imagination, the game-play was far more immersive than the blocky graphics and bleeping sound effects that home computers could produce during the early 80s. 

Adams called his creations "compunovels," but the genre is generally today known as "interactive fiction." The first such games, "Colossal Cave Adventure" and the "Zork" series, written in the late 70s, involved hunting treasures and battling monsters in a sprawling underground dungeon.  As a result, the "dungeon crawl" formed the basic plot for adventure/role-playing games for nearly 20 years.  

Adams, on the other hand, pushed the creative envelope with works that involved pirates, science fiction, the Old West, and the occult. His games were distributed in packaging that resembled a paperback book, emphasizing their reliance upon words.  The writing was minimalist, due to the tight memory restrictions on the early home computers (before even floppy disks were standard equipment, and when software was often recorded on ordinary cassette tapes).

The company Adams started, Adventure International, had contracts to write a series of games based on Marvel Comics characters (such as Spider Man and The Incredible Hulk), as well as the cult science fiction film Buckaroo Bonzai, and branched out into graphics as well. Adventure International declared bankruptcy in 1985, around the time the bottom fell out of the home computer market. Many of these games are now available online (see the Scott Adams pages at or 

In the mid 90s, text-based interactive fiction gaming underwent a kind of renaissance, as many professional programmers fondly remembered the games that first got them interested in programming. 

Adams now works as a senior programmer in Platteville, Wisconsin. His home page is He happens to share names with Scott Adams, the creator of the cartoon "Dilbert," but the two are not related.