The History Of Zork

However, perhaps this is not a simple matter of cause and effect. Perhaps it‘swrong to assume that the availability of good graphics technology caused the decline of games like Zork. If “interactive fiction” has migrated to the margins of the computer gaming industry, it could be due simply to a lack of good marketing, not evidence of some inherent limitation of the genre. It’s quite possible that one day, when enough gamers are at last disillusioned with the latest 128-bit smoke and mirror show, interactive fiction titles will again enjoy the lucrative rewards won by Infocom during the heyday of the Zork trilogy. After all, the treasures of Zork are still there beneath the old white house, awaiting their discovery by new generations of gamers. Zork is not obsolete; merely under appreciated. Perhaps Zork is not the past of gaming, but its future. —Matt BartonThe History Of Zork (Gamastura)

I’m convinced that some people simply don’t have the gene that makes them love text-adventure games. Nevertheless, now that the rhet/comp crowd has started following James Gee into an exploration of the educational value of computer games, I think we’ll see more scholarship on IF.

Barton quibbles with my claim that “Zork” began as a simulation of “Adventure,” but he is right to note all of “Zork”‘s technical improvements. Of course, in order to recognize the need for those improvements, the “Zork” implementors first had to be both obsessed by and annoyed at “Adventure.”

Nevertheless, a good article that offers some of the close-reading that I missed in “Down From the Top of Its Game,” the 2000 MIT student project that tracked the rise and fall of Infocom. Barton offers some new interviews that contextualize the available academic information for the benefit of a general readership. Maintaining accuracy while not putting the general reader asleep is not an easy task, and Barton does a good job here.

(Thanks for the e-mail, Matt, but it was already in my RSS reader, thanks to Slashdot.)