Thoughts on software and life.

Tuesday September 21

Hitchhiker's Guide Text Adventure

I played a lot of video games when I was a kid, but none of them affected me the way the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy did. I must have been eight or nine years old when my dad bought it for our old IBM PC jr. I'm not going to go off on the usual bitter diatribe about how text adventures are superior to modern 3D games. The Hitchhiker game was extraordinary not because it was a text adventure, but because it was so brilliantly written by Douglas Adams.

Now, the BBC has revived the game as a little Flash movie on their website, complete with illustrations. Playing the game as an adult, now twenty years later, it didn't take long to remember what made this game so great. It was the illusion, magnified by the curiosity of my young mind, that somehow this game had a special intelligence that exceeded the known limits of the computer. You knew the text parser wasn't that smart, and had a very limited vocabulary, but yet Adams would always surprise you with snappy responses to even the most unlikely of inputs. The game had a personality that I had never seen before, and have never experienced since.

Simply put, the attention to detail and unlimited imagination that flowed out of that game inspired me to want to write software at the age of 9, and I haven't looked back ever since.

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