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Video games museum adds the first text adventures to its collection

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Adventure games nearly 40 years old go to The Strong museum

The Strong museum

Some of the earliest commercially launched computer games, including the text adventure Adventureland, is among a collection donated by the pioneering game designer Scott Adams to The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester, N.Y.

Adams, who wrote and programmed 1978's Adventureland, went on to start the games company Adventure International, which lasted from 1979 to 1985. Adams followed Adventureland with Pirate's Adventure (also called Pirate's Cove) the same year.

A news release from The Strong notes that Adventure International was one of the first independent game studios, and that Adams' games are "some of the earliest packaged computer games.

"These simple packages helped transform computer games into products while bringing text-based adventure games, which previously lived on mainframe computers, into the home for the very first time," said Jeremy Saucier, the assistant director for the Strong's International Center for the History of Electronic Games.

Adventureland, boasting a vocabulary of 120 words, tasked the player with finding 13 lost artifacts. It published on the Apple II series of computers, Atari's 8-bit personal computers, Commodore's PET, VIC-20 and 64, and other PCs of the era. It re-launched in 1982 with graphical illustrations.

Pirate's Adventure was a text adventure launched on a variety of early PC platforms in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Players used two-word, verb/object commands to navigate a fantasy land where the player is magically transported. On the adventure, the player has to repair a pirate ship, sail to Treasure Island and recover two treasures.

Notably, the player could not attack, fight or kill any living thing obstructing their progress. Typing in KILL ALLIGATOR, for example, returned the reply, "Sorry, I can't, I'm not feeling destructive." Responding with FEEL DESTRUCTIVE resulted in a message that said "OK, Poof! The game is destroyed!" forcing the user to start over.

Zork, one of the most well known and successful text adventures of the period, was written between 1977 and 1979, but first published in 1980. It spawned a number of sequels spanning 17 years across different genres.

The International Center for the History of Electronic Games at The Strong is "the largest and most comprehensive public assemblage" of video games and electronic games in the United States. Its collection includes the source code of nearly every coin-operated Atari video game from the 1980s. In 2015, it established the World Video Game Hall of Fame, honoring Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., Tetris, Doom and World of Warcraft in its first class of inductees.