metzomagic.com Editorial

That reminds me of an adventure game ...

By Gordon Aplin (July, 2004)

Away from Quandary (though I am never really away from Quandary) I work for a large government department that must, of necessity, remain nameless. I get enough hate mail writing about adventure games so I am not about to encourage more by revealing what my paid employment entails. Now everyone knows that government employees don't do any work (one of my favourite lines is, "Why don't they let public servants look out of the window in the morning? Because then they would have nothing to do in the afternoon!"). So while I am waiting patiently for my turn to gaze down into the street from the fourth floor window I frequently need something to do to pass the time.

Now many of the people I work with can easily fill in the first fifteen minutes talking about the weather, the traffic, and the weekend's football results but, let's face it, you can only stretch out fifteen minutes just so long. Then the strained silence sets in and they start to get fidgety, a few even cast guilty looks towards the mountains of files stacked precariously on their desks. Fortunately, the madness soon passes and the conversation moves on to movies or books. This is the moment I wait for because there is usually an opening for me to announce, "That reminds me of an adventure game I played recently". The fact that I might have played the game years ago is irrelevant, all that matters is the opportunity to bring the conversation around to adventure games.

Obsessive, me? Not a bit of it. I am simply being devious in my proselytising. I will tell anybody who will listen (and many who won't) about the fun that can be had playing adventure games. It's a tough job but someone's got to do it. And the reactions I get are quite amazing. Once the initial shock that someone as old as me actually wastes his time 'with that rubbish' has worn off, and I have patiently explained the difference between an adventure game and a shoot-em-up, the response is usually quite thoughtful and positive.

I used to spend ages explaining that in an adventure game you might be a detective solving a mystery or a traveller exploring a strange new world, or an archaeologist (no, not like Lara Croft) uncovering the secrets of an ancient civilisation. I would enthuse about solving puzzles and wacky humour and interesting characters. And in most cases my colleagues would invariably say that they didn't know games like that existed. (Except, of course, for my younger colleagues who simply love the action games but also speak fondly of the adventure classics like Monkey Island and Discworld, though sadly, they believe the genre to be dead.)

But, while I have been extolling the esoteric delights of this or that adventure game, it has usually been difficult to convince my long-suffering audience to actually try a game, even when they do have a computer at home doing nothing. "I don't have the time", is the standard response. Short of offering to play the game for them it seemed that I had reached an impasse. The games that I described clearly didn't resonate with them. How could they? Unless you have played an adventure game, or maybe looked over the shoulder of someone playing one, it is difficult to appreciate their virtues. Non game players have nothing to relate to. I could wax lyrical all day (or at least until it was my turn at the window) about Guybrush Threepwood, Gabriel Knight, April Ryan or Kate Walker and their exploits but it didn't mean a lot ... until now.

Recently some new adventure games have appeared that may provide the hook that us adventure proselytisers need. They may be the catalyst to turn the non gamer into a casual gamer into a dedicated adventure fan. Just last week I was doing my usual adventure games are wonderful spiel and explaining that you might be a detective solving a mystery, etc when, in a rare moment of inspiration I mentioned that there are even games based on CSI and Law & Order. Ears pricked up. The earth moved! "I love CSI", a colleague announced (meaning the TV show as she didn't know about the game until I just told her). I explained that you play the game as a rookie crime scene investigator and you will be searching for clues using forensic tools alongside the cast of the TV show. "I've got to play that", said this person who had never played a computer game in her life and had always been too busy to try until this moment.

Gotcha! I smiled to myself and drew up the contract for her soul.

Copyright © Gordon Aplin 2004. All rights reserved.