When I was a kid, I had two different types of video game experiences: the console games I had in my room, and the games that I shared with my mother on the old IBM we had in the study. Everything that I played on the computer was a whole new breed from what was controlled on a D-pad and geometrically-signed buttons. We played adventures on it; moving tales that brought you the story at your pace and made your mind work. I suppose my question to the world now is, Where have these games gone?
Now, before you think back to what you played on a PC, let me clarify. The games I played didn’t have much to do with over-the-top scrolling of a character as they move throughout the world. These were the games where you clicked a spot and made the character move. You clicked an image or an item and dragged it into your inventory or where you needed it to go. Sometimes the games were animated, and sometimes they were live action. Most of the mechanics involved solving puzzles and exploration. In fact, some of the puzzles and levels in these games were so challenging that telephone hot-lines were created for players to call in for hints. I think the biggest thing about these games that I remember was that they were accessible to adults in a time when video games were wrapped for kids during birthdays and Christmas. I was allowed to skip bed time a lot due to the combined brain power and efforts of my mom and I during a particularly tough quest. I miss that experience.
One of my favorite PC adventures was called Torin’s Passage. In here, the player controlled Torin, a simple farmer with royal blood, who has to travel to the center of his world, where different types of worlds lie in between the top crust and the center. Each world offered a new type of people or challenge, and the player had to figure out what tools and tasks were necessary to travel deeper into the planet. There was something so satisfying about finally solving the puzzle that moved one on to the next challenge. I loved it.
Perhaps one of the more well-known PC adventure games was Myst, a first-person title that involved an unnamed player (you) being transported to a new world through a book. In this game, the player explores the abandoned island of Myst and travels to other places through the magical books they find. Again, the player clicks to move and picks up items they find. There aren’t any enemies to fight here; the only adversary is the challenge of figuring out how things work in these places. Myst turned out to be a huge success, by the way.
One last example that I remember is The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery. A supernatural thriller, the player controlled investigator and hunter Gabriel Knight as he traveled around Europe researching a potential werewolf threat. This game was almost completely live action, allowing the player to explore the European landscape and cities as they searched for clues to solve the mystery. Each chapter brought suspense and accomplishment with it, keeping me and players around the country in front of the screen for hours at a time.
So, why aren’t there games like this anymore? Well, that’s up to how you interpret the idea of an adventure game in the 21st century. Examples such as Uncharted, Journey, Brothers and others still satisfy some of the qualifications in that there is puzzle solving and exploration. However, I think adventure games had to become more marketable for the newer generation of gamers, so action had to be slowly added in to make them more appealing. Take Fable for instance. 20 years ago, Fable could have been a purely adventure title, where you explore, make money and build a life for yourself. Of course, that may be hard to perceive as fun now, considering that Fable has an action core to it. But that’s just one example.
I think that adventure games can still be created and made fun for the public. In fact, some may even become a breath of fresh air for the gaming community. It all depends on how one is made and whether or not a company chooses to use “retro” as a platform for the future titles. I certainly wouldn’t mind a new edition of King’s Quest, that’s for sure.