March 20, 2006

Adventure Lauded by Commercial Developers

by Nick Montfort · , 1:06 pm

At the current GDC, the First Penguin Award (which is not the first award of this sort and doesn’t have anything to do with Linux) goes to Will Crowther and Don Woods, says the press release.

The two “are credited with pioneering the videogame genre of Role Playing Games (RPGs),” which is one line of descent you could trace, I suppose: via Rogue, via tile-based graphical RPGs of the Ultima sort, etc. Adventure had a more fluent interface that was able to speak in something like English back in 1975, but it lacked many important RPG elements, such as a detailed combat system and the ability to control multiple characters or characters with different abilities. But, presumably the RPG genre still exists, while the same can’t be said for other genres and forms that more obviously grow from Adventure – say, interactive fiction, or “adventure” games more generally, or even action-adventures in fantastic environments.

The press release’s more amusing lines include “Over the years, Woods gave away over a hundred copies.” You can see the wheels of the merchant-brain spinning without purchase as they attempt to process what recreational code from the 1970s was like, how the distribution of software was free, and how this might be conceptualized as being like some shrinkwrapped snowboarding game that one can generously hand out to one’s buddies.

In the past, industry has noticed Crowther and Woods by just claiming their work and selling it. It is, certainly, good for these two to get some recognition from the industry they helped to create thirty years ago, when they showed some of the potential for fun that computers had. Still, the RPG, and even commercial videogaming overall, are only a few of the treasures from Adventure.