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A Beginner's Guide to Graphic Adventure Games

by Stephen Granade

Perhaps you're interested in computer games, but find you don't have the reflexes that action-oriented games demand. Perhaps you enjoy solving puzzles and figuring out stories from disparate clues, the kind of person who really gets into mysteries. Perhaps you'd like to explore distant planets, or struggle against an ancient evil, or just participate in a great story.

If so, graphic adventure games may be for you.

Unfortunately, you've got a bit of a learning curve to master before you can understand what's going on in this genre of computer games. Terms like "Myst-alike" and "third person game" are thrown about with abandon. In this article I'm going to lead you through some of the thicket of history that surrounds adventure games.

A Brief History

In the beginning were text adventures. They told a story through text. The program would describe a situation, you'd type in your response, and the program would then tell you the results of your command.

As computers got more powerful and their graphic capabilities matured, graphic adventure games began to appear. The earliest ones merely added still pictures to text, showing you a room as well as describing it.

A screenshot from King's Quest

Then came Sierra On-Line's King's Quest. You still typed in commands, but it showed you locations instead of describing them through text. You maneuvered Graham around and about the kingdom of Daventry, solving puzzles and advancing the story.

Sierra had a near death-grip on this style of graphic adventure game throughout the mid-1980's. Newly-formed Lucasfilm Games, later renamed LucasArts, eventually began creating similar graphic adventure games.

A screenshot from Myst

The next big shift came in 1993, when Cyan released Myst. Instead of having you move a character around on-screen, Myst let you see the game world through the eyes of your character. It was a fundamentally different approach to graphic adventure games, one which changed the genre for good or ill.

The most recent trend has been the blending of other genres with adventure games. Action/adventure games, role-playing adventure games, role-playing adventure games with action, all have made their appearance in recent years.

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