Brass Lantern
the adventure game web site


Addicted to the New

by Stephen Granade

We love the new. New experiences, new gadgets, new things.

We enjoy the old. Familiar surroundings, old friends, comfort food.

This isn't surprising. We're hardwired for it. On the one hand, new stimuli means new growth. When we stop striving for new things, we stop growing and start dying. On the other hand, we need a certain amount of stability to feel comfortable. If we become overwhelmed by change, we become irritable, or even ill.

When it comes to computer games, we tend to favor the new over the old, especially when it comes to new technology. We want games which push the envelope, which show off the power of our fancy new computers. Each new game should have better graphics and use the latest in 3D sound.

We also like new genres. Oh, sure, after a wildly-successful game there often will be a wave of clones as publishers try to recapture the success of the original. The game companies are trying to cash in on our desire for stability. But sooner or later we want something new again, and start looking for the game which will do more with an old genre or create a new one.

Beyond that, though, gamers are complacent. When it comes to adventure games, we only care about one thing being new: the graphics. We want new graphics, especially 3D graphics, but beyond that we're willing to accept the same old stories with the same old puzzles and the same old interface. Are we surprised that so many gamers view adventure games, the oldest genre of games, as moribund?

It doesn't have to be this way. Look at text adventures. They are the forgotten backwater of computer games. Sure, they were fine when nothing better was available, but once good graphics came along, their days as a commercially viable genre were numbered.

However, new things are still happening to text adventures. The "graphics" certainly aren't changing. Text is text, and old text adventures still look as good -- or as bad, depending on your point of view -- as they did then. Authors looking to do something new have had to take a different tack. In the last few years, wild experimentation has been the hallmark of text adventures. They're still text adventures, but they employ new styles and methods of presentation. They tweak expectations, pushing the boundaries of what adventures can do. Amazingly enough, even in the midst of this explosion of ideas, traditional text adventures are still made. There are games for the traditional fan as well as for the player looking for something new.

Maybe this is only possible in a genre like text adventures, one which is freed from commercial concerns and is kept alive by passionate amateurs who create their own games. Somehow, though, I doubt it. I believe it's possible to have graphic adventures which experiment with new possibilities. Some more recent adventures are doing just that: The Legend of Lotus Spring is nearly puzzle-free and is aimed at women; The Forgotten: It Begins was the first short chapter of a planned on-going game, one which was unfortunately not continued. They're a good start, but we need more unusual adventures. If we demand more from our adventures, maybe they'll surprise us and deliver far more than we ever imagined.

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