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How adventure games came back from the dead

Rob Manuel | Feb. 6, 2013
From Colossal Cave Adventure to the Walking Dead, how PC adventure games almost perished and why they're coming back with a vengeance.

But it's not just great writing that's bringing adventure games back; these games force players to make difficult decisions about how their games play out. Bittar notes that uneasy choices in adventure games "force you to make a really hard decision, and ramp up the emotional connection to the story in ways I have not experienced before." Meaningful choices put the player right into the story and allows them to interact with a fictional world in ways no other medium allows.

"There's a reason why a person decides to make an adventure game instead of a film or a novel; the interactive element (when done well) can add so much more to the experience," writes Dave Gilbert. "It puts you in the narrative, and it allows you to experience and explore it at your own pace. The best adventure games actively reward you for exploring more."

Already, there's a new world of adventure games coming from both smaller companies and veterans in the business that are looking to return to a more story-driven approach to gaming. If you aren't paying attention you'll miss the growth of a genre where new voices can rise to the top to reach out to an audience that's probably never thought about picking up a controller. And with a wider audience, developers can start exploring different story genres such as romance, comedy, erotica, or even tackling bigger issues through the gaming landscape.

Creating your own adventure

It's happening right now, as a new generation tackles game storytelling on PC with free tools like the Twine game engine. More analogous to interactive fiction but not too far from early adventure games, Twine allows users to create their own text-based adventures that players can navigate via hyperlinks.

Available for both PC and Mac, Twine is simple and intuitive enough for anyone to use and allows anyone to develop a game that keeps track of choices the player makes as they move through your world. Only a year old, the free engine has already stoked the fires of inspiration by allows people to create stories ranging from your typical adventure to something far more personal. PC adventure games are back, and they have the power to be more powerful (and personal) than ever.

When asked about the future of adventure games, most of the developers just wanted to see it continue to flourish, though how is anyone's guess: Gilbert advocates the need for adventure games to "move forward everywhere" while Bittar sees the advancement coming from technology, specifically virtual reality, where we can further immerse ourselves in the worlds they create. The most important thing to learn from the adventure game revival is that developers aren't taking it for granted; they're learning lessons from how adventure games died out back in the '90s, and every developer I spoke to wants to prove that The Walking Dead isn't some outlier of the genre, but the start of a greater adventure ahead.


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