When people think “text adventure company”, a lot of people think Infocom, but others also think of Adventure International, which was not only the first company to sell text adventures, but one of the first companies to sell computer gaming software at all. Based out of Florida and run by the husband and wife team of Scott and Alexis Adams, this company lived a relatively short but fascinating life from the late 1970s through to the early 1980s. I have interviewed both Adams’ and one of their employees, Dan Horn, but the reach of this company extends far beyond that. One of the co-founders of Broderbund Software, Doug Carlson, got his start with Adventure International, and with dozens of contracted programmers and artists, a lot of people moved through the company in one way or another.
There were almost no exceptions to the rule that a software company did not survive the early 1980s without getting bought out or invested from the outside. Adventure International didn’t seek investment or money in that fashion and collapsed within itself. All parties I talked to seem to have bounced back from this experience.
As part of my research and archiving with the history of this company, I scanned in a catalog that I’d received when I was 13. It was one of the last catalogs they put out and show the company at the top of its game, at least in terms of the breadth of software and the face they put on to the world.
When the word “Adventure” is in the name of the company, you expect a lot of adventures, and AI didn’t disappoint. Scott created a bunch (the Scott Adams Grand Adventures) and they created additional games all the way up to the end. I thought the layout of the SAGA part of the catalog was particularly well done:
If you browse the pages, you can see the variety of software available – besides the expected adventure games, there was financial software, utility software, and even mailing list maintenance.
As a side note, when I was 12, I bought my first ever piece of computer software, and it was made by Adventure International: It was called Preppie! and was in some ways an obvious frogger clone (although the rules were slightly different). It was what felt like arcade quality at the time, and I bought it on cassette, meaning it was a 20 minute wait to play. And it was always worth it. Here’s what the game was like. (Youtube Video)
One of the great things about this documentary has been meeting a bunch of people whose names I only ever knew from brightly colored boxes.