Let Down by Academia, Game Pioneer Changed Paths

As a graduate student in 1980, Ms. Buckles became captivated by computers, and spent three to four hours a day using e-mail, a form of communication little known at the time outside universities and government. Although she didn’t play Adventure, she saw it as an emerging literary form that deserved attention, and she began interviewing people about their experiences. “When I started, I thought, ‘This is so fascinating,’ ” she said. “I knew I was a pioneer.” —Michael ErardLet Down by Academia, Game Pioneer Changed Paths (NY Times (will expire))

The “big finish” to my Princeton videogame conference paper was a reference to what Buckles is doing now… we corresponded briefly via e-mail after she surfaced on ludology.

I wouldn’t call Adventure a video game, but I like what Erard has done with the story of Buckles’s dissertation. I do think the chief weakness of her study is that she wasn’t writing from the perspective of a player, and I can certainly imagine why her German literature professors were puzzled by her choice of a subject. Still, she was a trail-blazer, and it’s nice to see her get some attention for her hard work. A sobering final thought, which puts my recent conversation with Eyejinx into context:

Established game researchers are familiar with the gantlet. “The response to Buckles’s work from her literature professors was rather typical, I am afraid,” Dr. Aarseth said. “And probably still is.”

At the same time… it’s overwhelming how much attention the sleepy field of text adventure studies (which used to be an obscure corner of literary research) is suddenly getting, now that it’s part of the prehistory of today’s video games.