Taking Inventory

An Adventure Tournament

by Jason Scott on Jan.20, 2009, under Interactive Fiction, Text Adventure History

compuserve_bird_babe_dude_troll_snake

As mentioned in a previous entry, the original adventure game, “Adventure” (or “Colossal Cave” depending on who transferred the game to what system) was a feature on the old (now-gone) time-sharing and information service Compuserve.  Like a bunch of the games at Compuserve, really wonderful illustrations and posters were created to promote them, even though they had no actual graphics. Such as it was for the advertisement I got from a posted item at a site called Daily WTF, the main admin of which I interviewed for GET LAMP.  (He’d done some unrelated-to-the-site work in interactive fiction.) The actual article this came from on there was not up to standards, mostly showing the ads for this and other adventure games, and then making fun of them.

Concentrating on this advertisement alone, there’s a lot being said here that’s really interesting to me.

First of all, this is in the 1982-1984 era, considering several factors of promotion and how they chose to spend their advertising dollars. (I might be off by a year, but 1982-1984 had some amazing ads made.) The poster on the left is by a man named Gray Morrow, who was a legendary illustrator whose work spanned decades and covered everything from comic books to science fiction covers, pin-up art and all manner of stylish graphic work.  Notably, he’s tried to incorporate aspects of the game Adventure into the painting, including the dragon, the dwarf with axe, the jeweled trident, and even the bird in a cage. Not bad.

The event itself is rather interesting; a nationwide “Adventure Tournament”. I have not the slightest idea how this would be conducted. (New rooms added to the games? There were expanded versions of Adventure available on Compuserve and perhaps this was one of the opening days for a new version.) What I do know is that compuserve was expensive, costing you upwards of $10 an hour to be on. Assuming this tournament cost you regular fees, then you were spending $10/hr or thereabouts to have the chance of winning a poster and two free hours. Pretty bogue. As an additional bit, you would even be charged for postage and handling of the poster being offered for “free”!

This whole event smacks of the sort of experimentation happening at Compuserve at the time.  Trying new events, making people revisit the games, or other properties, and always that huge hurdle of explaining these games and the experience of being online. It’s quite a piece.

If someone played in this tournament, I wouldn’t mind chatting with you, just to have the history of it. 

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