The Loneliness of the Long Distance Adventurer

By Rosemary Young and Gordon Aplin (July, 2002)
Quandary lives in Cyberspace. Like all websites it is accessed and accessible twenty-four hours a day from just about anywhere in the world, everyone knows that. What you may not know is that it is put together and uploaded from Fremantle, the port city of Perth, in Western Australia. Perth is known as the most isolated capital city in the world. It is many thousands of kilometres from anywhere. Perth has a population of around one million people and governs a state three times the size of Texas. The entire population of Western Australia is still less than two million people.

Perth has one daily newspaper which once a week features a small IT and Business section of around four pages. It sometimes has some useful PC tips but largely it is concerned with high-tech corporate wheeling and dealing and may report on a business application, or a laptop, digital camera or mobile phone. Oh, and it also features one game each week. The game review is lifted from another newspaper way over on the other side of the continent and is usually preoccupied with console action, sports or fighting. Apparently, we are the only people in Western Australia who find it incongruous that a console fighting or arcade game should feature on a page read mainly by serious men in suits.

Almost all of our television comes from the more populous Eastern States so there is nothing much 'local'. Although we can't say with certainty (we aren't big TV fans) computer games rarely rate a mention except when the topic of computer game violence pops up periodically. Over the years we have spotted ads for the various consoles but, until recently, very few have been advertising a specific game. So you can imagine our surprise when we saw three commercials for Sony's Virtua Fighter Playstation game during a prime time movie that featured Harrison Ford in a love story. Still, Sony can probably afford to throw money away on useless advertising.

Once upon a time our morning TV 'Today' show included an electronic entertainment section but it petered out very quickly and only featured a few action games along with some 'multimedia' titles. A few years back there were also two other shows (both now defunct) that featured games. One was programmed during kids' viewing time (early Saturday morning) and only looked at action games and was fronted by 'cool' teen males with a token female. The other held a nighttime slot and purported to look at PC and Mac applications and reviewed a game each week. The young (male) presenter of this segment positively raved over numerous action games ... not an adventure game in sight. Rosemary fired off a feisty letter pointing out the omission and reminding the programmers that there were all sorts of games and all sorts of game players, male and female. Just a few weeks later it was obvious that the letter made a huge impact. A female presenter took over for one review ... it was a Barbie game! Rosemary, as you can imagine, was over the moon.

The point of this ramble is not merely to laugh at the mainstream media, fun though that may be, but to illustrate some of the difficulties faced in finding information about adventure games when you live in an isolated region. Our newsagents stock the usual range of console and multi-genre PC mags that rarely mention adventure games let alone report on them favourably. Many adventure games are simply never released here so even if you have heard of them they're still hard to find. So anyone in Western Australia or any remote area without Internet access will still find it very difficult to learn about adventure games. They won't find information in the newspaper, nor on television, nor in games' magazines nor, sadly, in the shops.

When we first began looking for computer games back in 1987 before the Internet was widely accessible we faced almost insurmountable problems in finding games and information about games. The imported glossy magazines had yet to reach Perth and the few computer hardware shops that were springing up carried a paltry range of games of any sort. There were no dedicated games shops back then. The text adventures that we had found gave us the most fun so we looked for more. After many fruitless weeks of searching it seemed that no one in Perth could help so we phoned Infocom in the US at 1.00 am (our time). The startled employee we spoke to couldn't believe we were phoning from half a world away. He couldn't help us either but it no doubt gave him something to talk about over his morning coffee, "... those crazy Australians".

Still desperate we placed an ad in the then pitifully small computer section of the classified pages of the newspaper. We advertised to purchase text adventures or similar games. We got two replies and those two people are still our friends to this day. Now that's how you networked before the Internet came along.

Nowadays, of course, the Internet has made a huge difference and we have made many friends from all around the world because of our mutual passion for adventure games. We still live in Fremantle but we are no longer so isolated.

Copyright © Rosemary Young and Gordon Aplin 2002. All rights reserved.