Quest/Adventure Computer Games ... Going; Going; GONE?

By Len Green (March, 1999)
Courtesy of Quandary, I would like to sound an additional cry for help to save Quest/Adventure computer games from dying before it really is too late.

Although addressing this to all computer game players, I am particularly upset on behalf of two downtrodden species ... senior citizens and the female gender. I am one of the former; whereas my wife, two of my three children and six of my eleven grandchildren belong to the latter group. Why have the computer games developers seen fit to abandon us, and are seemingly in the process of delivering the coup de grace?

Women comprise 50% of the world's population. The number of elderly of both sexes is growing since retirement age is declining simultaneously with an increase in life expectancy. Both these categories have at least two things in common, perhaps for different reasons. A large number of both groups enjoy Quest/Adventures and many are extremely good at playing them. The vast majority intensely dislike shoot'em-ups and hack'n-slashes and maybe even arcade type games. At the risk of being labelled a male chauvinist pig, it may be that most women just don't get the slightest kick out of these genres ... blame it on the lack of testosterone or whatever! The old crones (like me) just haven't got the hand-eye coordination to succeed at them ... although they never attracted me personally, even many decades before I reached my present venerable age of three score and fourteen.

I know only a little about market forces and the like, but enough to appreciate that an extremely generous slice of the computer games trade is to be found with the adolescent male demographic. But I cannot accept or even believe that this is the ONLY market. I completely fail to understand how the game producers seem to have totally capitulated to this concept. It has reached the point where "pure" Quest/Adventures are now on the brink of complete extinction.

I can't remember where or when, but I once read that computer games in general, and possibly Quest/Adventures in particular, can only be played by two strata of society, i.e. adolescents and pensioners; since they're the only ones who've got the time! Broad sweeping statements of this nature are frequently oversimplifications. However, there is at least some truth to this. From personal experience, my own married children, now in their mid-forties, to some extent bear this out. Although they love Quest/Adventures, they are so busy struggling to make a living and bringing up their own three or four children, that they can only very occasionally afford the time. On the rare occasions they can find the leisure, generally during vacations etc., they usually have to make do with only the single best game going.

But even if this is true, it still leaves literally millions of women and girls and also older folk who have got the time and would play Quest/Adventures if only they were being produced to play.

I know of many elderly people who prefer sitting at a computer and interacting with a really good story ... whether it be a twee 'King's Quest' or 'Monkey Island' fable, a somewhat ghoulish 'Sanitarium', 'Ripper', or even 'Phantasmagoria', or a thrilling 'Black Dahlia', or 'Overseer', etc. It's certainly no worse than being a TV couch potato. Lately there has been a rapid growth of 'Golden-Years' homes and sheltered accommodation, and it seems to be constantly on the rise in the developed countries. I have heard that some of these places have widened their scope from Whist or Canasta or Bingo, and even (gasp! gasp!) introduced computer and Internet activities for their senior citizens.

At the other end of the spectrum my middle three grandchildren, girls aged 11+, have recently become addicted to the LucasArts and also Sierra classics (R.I.P.). I have found that all three play these games rather differently from the way adults play them. Most of the late adolescents and older players that I know challenge themselves to solve all, or at least most of, the puzzles in Quest/Adventures with minimal help from walkthrus, hint sheets, etc. I'm now going to make a rash generalization:- namely that most youngsters, boys as well as girls, play them very differently. They're more interested in the plot and narrative and the 'fun' than the puzzles, and they're not so competitive (even "self-competitive"). They haven't got the patience or interest in spending too long puzzling or working things out. They want to get on with the game and the story and finish them in two or three days, and couldn't care less how much help they take from walkthrus (or grandparents)! They also often play the games they enjoy several times ... just as they watch their favourite videos over and over again.

Incidentally, the not infrequent phone calls "Help me grandpa (or just as often, grandma), the walkthru doesn't help me ... I'M STUCK!" seems to do at least something in bridging the generation gap - in our cases, considerably over a half a century!

The above should not be particularly surprising. It exists in at least two other games-spheres. It is not at all unusual to find a few youngsters playing against septuagenarians in a Bridge Club, and certainly you'll find several kids mixed up with real old fogies in Chess Clubs.

So, how about it games' manufacturers? Enough of your so called "Action/Adventures", and "Action/RPG's", and so on. There are still a good many million of us out there willing to fork out our $35/$45 or so on a good 'old fashioned' Quest/Adventure ... alright, maybe only several hundred thousand! However, I'm pretty sure that there are enough of us for some games' developers to cover costs and even make quite a nice profit! How about two or three Quest/Adventures with a rattling good story, some immersive situation-puzzles, and very little or preferably no "Action". And they DON'T need to have the very latest in ultra high speed CPU's, 3Dfx video cards and accelerators, masses of RAM and/or hard disk space, and the like. Just a few simple darned good 'classical' Quest/Adventures would suit us just fine!

I thought I had played most of the Quest/Adventures which have been released during the past few years. That was until I happened to browse through many of the 140 Quest/Adventures reviewed in Quandary (+ 15 Action and/or Text Adventures). I was truly amazed to find 88 that I have NOT played. True, I have probably played two or three dozen which are not included in their list, some of which they have possibly not played or had time to review. There are doubtless more floating around

I believe I'm far from alone in stating that I personally prefer an older but first class game to many of the latest mediocre ones. Many recent Quest/Adventures are often crammed full with the very latest bells and whistles, but terrible on plot, narrative, characters, and good puzzles.

If we really can't get the manufacturers to produce good new Quest/Adventures, maybe we can at least influence them to re-release some more of the better golden-oldies. Some can possibly be simply reissued as-is, whereas perhaps others can be fairly easily upgraded with improved video and speech, etc.

If even this fails, how about some form of library system! If it can be done with books, it should somehow be possible with computer games.

Somebody would have to organize all this. Any ideas?
L. A. Green

Copyright © Len Green 1999. All rights reserved.