A Brief History of the Adventure Game
Combining interactive stories and beautiful atmosphere with challenging puzzles, compelling mysteries, and unusual worlds to explore, adventure video games have a history of pushing the boundaries of an ever-evolving technology.
From the late 70’s and early 80’s, technology loving Gen Xers spent countless hours sitting in front of computer screens imagining the intricate worlds of pure text-based games, such as Zork (1977) and Adventure (1976-1977). Many faced tragedies on The Oregon Trail (1971), and then went on to uncovered murders in Mystery House (1980), and save the kingdom of Daventry in King’s Quest (1984). Inspired by classic pen and paper games like Dungeons and Dragons, the first adventure games’ focus on story allowed them to draw from all kinds of genres and source materials. Developers like Sierra Entertainment and Lucasfilm created successful franchises that encompassed science fiction, horror, fantasy, romance, and mystery, as well as those tied into already established characters such as Indiana Jones (1982) and A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1984).
Innovation and creativity drove the industry to new heights, and as computers and gaming consoles made their way into the main stream, demand for video games grew. By the early 1990’s, ground breaking games such as Myst(1993), developed by Cyan, took gamers to places they’d never dreamed possible. Developers harnessed cutting edge technology to wow gamers with stunning graphics, complex and compelling stories, and increasingly difficult puzzles. Those gaming in the 90’s might remember how frustrating the microscope puzzle was in The 7th Guest (1993) or fighting zombies and solving the mysteries inside Alone in the Dark’s (1993) Derceto Mansion.
From there, a string of adventure games hit the market, including one of my all-time favorite adventure game series, Gabriel Knight. The creative brain child of writer and game designer, Jane Jensen and developed by Sierra Entertainment, Gabriel Knight took character and story to a whole new level. These games weren’t just about puzzles and graphics, playing them felt like living out at favorite mystery novel. Jensen wove compelling story and believable characters with intriguing gameplay and plots full of twists and turns.
Packed with tension, atmosphere, mystery, and romance each Gabriel Knight installment built on the last and pushed the boundaries of both story and innovation, first with traditional 2-D point and click puzzles in Sins of the Father (1993), then moving on to more cutting edge technology. In Gabriel Knight: The Beast Within (1995), the second installment, Sierra Entertainment experimented with a new technique in which live actors were shot in real-time video against a blue screen background. The characters and objects appeared on “virtual sets” consisting largely of photographic backgrounds. For the third and final installment, Gabriel Knight: Blood of the Sacred, Blood of the Damned (1999) used a custom designed 3D engine, the G-Engine, which allowed the player to control a free roaming camera and explore environments from multiple angles.
The 90’s were the golden age of the adventure puzzle game and consumers couldn’t get enough, but by the early 2000’s more action based console games became the forefront and classic adventure puzzle games were in decline, with only a few notable titles released between 1999 and 2006. As previously ravenous pc adventure gamers turned their attention to gaming online. MMORPG’s, FPS, and console gaming became the new wave. The adventure game survived mainly as niche genre franchises such as Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew Adventures.
As with most things, it seems that everything old is new again. The adventure game is re-emerging on tablets, phones, and consoles alike, pulling in a while new generation of gamers. With the invention of the tablet and smart phones, the adventure puzzle game has seen a comeback in recent years. Indie developers, such as Telltale Games (The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc…), and Games Omniverse’s series in development, (Danika Dire and the Startling Squall) are breaking new ground and breathing new life into the genre.
Do you love adventure puzzle games? Have you played anything new lately that you love? What are some of your favorite classics? Join the conversation on our forums!
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Content Created by: Heather L. Reid