Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary Goes Live

Get Lamp: The Text Adventure Documentary Goes Live

Gamers with a sense of history and a taste for text should check out Get Lamp, a new documentary about old adventure games.

There was a time, many years ago, when the quality of a game's visuals were dependent entirely upon the player's ability to conjure images in his head. The industry was dominated by "adventure games" that displayed "text" on a screen that players would "read," while interaction was handled through "words" the player "typed" into the game's parser. It sounds quaint now, but there was a time when this was mainstream.

For gamers who'd like to get a taste of that era, or old-timers looking for a heaping helping of nostalgia, Get Lamp might be just the thing: A new film from Jason Scott, the man behind the 2005 release BBS: The Documentary, that looks at the good old days of interactive fiction.

"In the early 1980s, an entire industry rose over the telling of tales, the solving of intricate puzzles and the art of writing," the Get Lamp website says. "Like living books, these games described fantastic worlds to their readers, and then invited them to live within them. They were called 'computer adventure games,' and they used the most powerful graphics processor in the world: the human mind."

The title, for the uninitiated, refers to the act of retrieving a light source for use at a later point in the game, typically in areas of pitch blackness where the risk of being eaten by a grue is abnormally high. While most famously associated with Zork, any adventurer worth his salt will tell you that no matter what you're playing, getting a lamp is an essential part of long-term survival.

Get Lamp includes dozens of interviews with people including Steve Meretzky, Scott Adams, Ian Bogost, Chris Crawford and John Romero, an introductory essay by Scorpia, a numbered coin, a DVD-ROM section with photos, audio recordings and games, and, aside from clearly-marked bonus materials, an entirely spoiler-free experience.

Unfortunately, all that goodness doesn't come free: The two-disc Get Lamp documentary lists for $45 in North America or $49 internationally. It may not be the cheapest independent documentary film you'll ever see but for fans of the genre, it's hardly the worst way you could blow a few bucks.

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Needs more Grue.

Will definitely see about getting this.

If I remember rightly though, you actually have to avoid getting the lamp in "Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail", as it was a disguised Holy Handgrenade of Antioch.

Does it include text parser graphic adventures? Our resident Yahtzee has dabbled in that, himself.

Words don't describe the ridiculous amounts of terror I first felt when the text box said "It is dark. You will likely be eaten by a grue."

45 dollars? What if you just want to see the documentary, not experience it and get all sorts of swag?

To someone who is just interested in documentaries about gaming, and not specifically text based adventures and ridiculous swag, this is sort of a slap in the face.

Curious...Heh, someone going digging through the history box for a lil retro adventure? Sounds like fun!

Man, I used to love playing and designing text adventures when I was a kid. Some of my most vivid memories are of places that only existed in my imagination, as described to me by the writing in them.

I hate the new term, interactive fiction. It sounds so lame and undescriptive.

The_root_of_all_evil:
Needs more Grue.

Will definitely see about getting this.

If I remember rightly though, you actually have to avoid getting the lamp in "Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail", as it was a disguised Holy Handgrenade of Antioch.

Text adventures are quite timeless, problem is very few people are dedicated to making them these days. They'll always be their for young designers to cut their teeth on though.

But I think I'll give this a miss. Not my era.

oktalist:
Man, I used to love playing and designing text adventures when I was a kid. Some of my most vivid memories are of places that only existed in my imagination, as described to me by the writing in them.

I hate the new term, interactive fiction. It sounds so lame and undescriptive.

Infocom was using "interactive fiction" by at least 1985, though I do often encounter the meme that somehow "text adventure" has been recently, and perhaps snobbishly, replaced. Since text-parser games can be mysteries or conversations or landscapes, rather than adventures, IF is a bit more inclusive. Also, the early Sierra games and a handful of Infocom games were among many that used both parser inputs and a graphic display, so the "text" part of "text adventure" is not always the most distinguishing term. I use text adventure when I speak with gamers, and interactive fiction when I speak to literary types. Both terms are useful.

Off-topic: "Get Lamp" means something completely different to a regular of the League of Gamers Kongregate chatroom. Just sayin'.

On-topic: Text adventures were before my time, but I've seen some of the modern Flash ones, and it's definitely a cool experience. This looks like something fun for anyone who can remember those days, or anyone with a fascination in gamer culture.

Interactive fiction isn't entirely a relic of the past. The medium has continued to develop in all the years since "Zork" and company were sold in stores, and some of the best purely text-based adventure games have been written in just the past few years.

Allow me to humbly offer the following video on this very topic, which I released just last week:

That is great, but what an evil price tag. It is likely to eat me.

Dennis G. Jerz:

oktalist:
Man, I used to love playing and designing text adventures when I was a kid. Some of my most vivid memories are of places that only existed in my imagination, as described to me by the writing in them.

I hate the new term, interactive fiction. It sounds so lame and undescriptive.

Infocom was using "interactive fiction" by at least 1985, though I do often encounter the meme that somehow "text adventure" has been recently, and perhaps snobbishly, replaced. Since text-parser games can be mysteries or conversations or landscapes, rather than adventures, IF is a bit more inclusive. Also, the early Sierra games and a handful of Infocom games were among many that used both parser inputs and a graphic display, so the "text" part of "text adventure" is not always the most distinguishing term. I use text adventure when I speak with gamers, and interactive fiction when I speak to literary types. Both terms are useful.

In that case, it's just outdated. Any videogame that tells a story could be called interactive fiction. Unless it's based on real events, in which case it's interactive non-fiction. As a term, interactive literature, I could live with. But the written word is not the only kind of fiction that exists, hence why I think that term is silly.

I wouldn't have called those early Sierra games text adventures. They were graphical adventures, even if one part of their control mechanism was text-based.

lacktheknack:

Words don't describe the ridiculous amounts of terror I first felt when the text box said "It is dark. You will likely be eaten by a grue."

I was the same, scared by a line of text..... yet 20 years later hordes of zombies coming at me just makes me reach casually for a chainsaw.......

Altorin:
To someone who is just interested in documentaries about gaming, and not specifically text based adventures and ridiculous swag, this is sort of a slap in the face.

It's a slap in the face because he wants to be paid for all the work he put into something that you don't even really care about anyway?

I don't play many text adventures anymore (for obvious reasons) but Blue Lacuna really blew me away. As a genre, interactive fiction isn't the easiest to get into, but if you can make it over that initial hump, it can be incredibly engaging and rewarding.

Andy Chalk:

Altorin:
To someone who is just interested in documentaries about gaming, and not specifically text based adventures and ridiculous swag, this is sort of a slap in the face.

It's a slap in the face because he wants to be paid for all the work he put into something that you don't even really care about anyway?

He's released the whole thing under a Creative Commons license, so if you're not willing to pay, feel free to acquire it through any other means you can find: http://inventory.getlamp.com/2010/08/08/creative-commons/

(I'm sure he'd rather you paid though)

I saw this film with my dad, and despite his total lack of video game knowledge, he agreed that it is a really good documentary. This film is seriously worth a watch whether or not you have lived through the glorious heyday of the text adventure, or interactive fiction as the doc would have me say.

 

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