Crowther’s Adventure: Tough Memes to Squash

Will Crowther, an RPG-er, created the first text-based adventure game for computers Colossal Cave Adventure in 1975.6 When Don Woods developed it into Adventure in 1976-1977 he added the Tolkienian elements of trolls and elves. —Helen Young, Journal of Tolkien Research

Well, yes, but Crowther had already started with the Tolkenian elements of underground dwarves, magic, and a call-and-response interface that invokes the spirit of riddles in the dark. The idea that Woods turned Crowther’s realistic simulation of a Kentucky cave into a fantasy game is a tough meme to squash. Here is a pertinent passage from Digital Humanities Quarterly:

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 9.52.58 PMDon Woods added rich layers of complexity and polish that turned Crowther’s code from a brilliant idea into a finished game, but Crowther’s humor, fantasy, combat and puzzles had already set a tone that would define the genre. In addition to the “Magic Word XYZZY” (see Example 5), players of Crowther’s original game encountered belligerent dwarves, a surprisingly resourceful bird, a rusty metal rod with magical powers, and help text that announces “MAGIC IS SAID TO WORK IN THE CAVES.”