“Computer Games Have No Respect for you”

Posted: February 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Interactive Fiction, Text Adventure History | 7 Comments »

I love this article. While scanning in a bunch of artifacts, I found this newspaper column written in January of 1985. It was acquired by a clipping service for Infocom during the cycle of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (hence the paragraph that is outlined in yellow) and is nearly 25 years old.

Called “Computer Games, and Players, have no respect for you”, this article tells the travails of playing Interactive Fiction in 1985. Specifically, playing Infocom games, because the author mentions Zork, Suspect, and Hitchhiker’s Guide as the games she tried to play. In all cases, she hates the format and hates the tone of the games. It’s an enjoyable counterpoint to the rah-rah approach most articles (and, really, a lot of the documentary) find themselves promoting. People who normally didn’t engage with computers as game machines found themselves doing so for Infocom games and adventure games, and the process wasn’t always for their enlightenment or enjoyment.

Computer Games Have No Respect

You can see the full-size scan here. I went and tracked down the author, Gayle Gertler, and she’s still living in Providence, selling Southwestern-themed items (which she was interviewed about in the paper). It looks like she was an editor when she left in the 2000s, meaning she had a nice long run in the newspaper business. Maybe I should ask her what she thinks of these games now…

7 Comments on ““Computer Games Have No Respect for you””

  1. 1 Johan Herrenberg said at 5:41 am on March 4th, 2009:

    Nice article. I can’t say I am in complete disagreement with the lady. Infocom games are fun but tough, very tough.

  2. 2 gnome said at 8:21 am on March 4th, 2009:

    An amazing find. As for the lady, well, she does have a point I can understand, but can’t really agree. More of a matter of taste really…

  3. 3 Gregory Weir said at 7:21 am on March 11th, 2009:

    One lesson here: if you don’t like a game, don’t buy two more games created by the same people.

    But the treatment of failure in games is still a big issue… it turns people off, even today. It’s made worse by reactionary fans, who cried out that the new Prince of Persia game was too easy because it doesn’t force you to replay a big chunk of the level after you fail, but just lets you resume from just before the latest obstacle.

  4. 4 nick said at 8:15 pm on March 11th, 2009:

    If you weren’t so deep into post-production, I’d encourage you to interview her. As it is, I’ll wish you the best at getting through with the documentary!

  5. 5 DaveL said at 3:25 pm on May 26th, 2009:

    A good reminder that Infocom games weren’t for everybody. Suspect in particular was “Advanced” level, and Hitchhiker’s would have been if the Marketing department hadn’t had its way.

    I remember reading that article back in the day (Infocom spent zillions on their clipping service, for no apparent reason) and thinking she wasn’t playing the right game (“Wishbringer” or “Seastalker” would have been better choices).

    — Dave Lebling

  6. 6 Yllopyllor said at 5:34 am on May 30th, 2009:

    I could have done without the tedium of having to replay big chunks of those games, and was glad some of those games had a handy save function in them.

    It’s interesting often reading people’s negative reactions to how those old games would have so many deadly consequences depending on the actions and paths you took. Perhaps it’s because I grew up with games like these, but finding and experiencing all the deaths were actually often more interesting than trying to beat the game itself.

    I remember especially with Choose Your Own Adventure books, flipping through to find all the pages that said “The End” and then figuring out how to follow the paths that lead to the most interesting deaths. Getting a “happy ending” was almost always a disappointment.

    I guess games for me were never actually about trying to “win” but rather about trying to “experience” interesting or unusual things.

  7. 7 Jason Scott said at 9:34 pm on June 7th, 2009:

    I have been fascinated with the Infocom clipping service stuff I’ve been scanning, because I never before actually encountered an actual clipping service. At the time these were in business, I was way too young and it sounded almost mythical. The location of this service must have been astounding, getting hundreds of newspapers a week with a massive staff pulling the papers apart.

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