Pinback’s Top Ten Games of All-Time: #6
May 14th, 2008 by Pinback

#6: INFOCOM GAME (1980-)

You can get all righteous and indignant about the state of gaming, our children, and our society as a whole by going on a rant about how video games these days are morally bankrupt, paper-thin exercises in satisfying an ADD-riddled generation with brainless quick-trigger entertainment full of sound and fury signifying nothing, and back in the good old days, you actually had to be able to read and imagine things and use your wits to navigate literary mazes which were nothing less than high art, produced by silicon Shakespeares who saw fit to begift our land with their great and holy wonders.

You can do that, and some people might even listen to you, and some people might even agree with you (mainly people on this and similar websites). However, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to do that primarily because while these games often did feature well-written prose and displayed definite artistry in their presentation, I think this genre, more than any other, has lent itself to overstated, drooling adulation, primarily by (I suspect) those who feel a sense of intellectual superiority in saying that their favorite games required literacy, which if that’s your big claim to fame, good luck to you.

The fact is, for every poetic passage full of great evocative emotion and whimsical fantasy, there was far more of this:

> put cat in microwave
I don’t think the cat would like that.

> eat cat
Boy, I’ve got a line for that, but this is a family restaurant.


Alright? Fun, funny, and totally cool, this is. Great art, it is not.

But this is about the best games of all time, not the best Victorian-era impressionist sculptures.

And the fact is, the classic Infocom games (I have left it to the reader to pick his or her favorite, as there were so many of such a high quality that it is folly to pick one for this list) were just tremendous entertainment, mainly for two reasons:

Reason 1 is their goofy advertising slogan, which said in one way or another with great irony that their games “had the best graphics”. Ha ha ha, yeah, had the best graphics, even though they had no graphics. So clever! But goddammit, tell me you have any visual memory of any video game ever as crisp, vivid, and lifelike as standing in that field west of that white house. Because I sure as hell don’t. I can recall every inch of the first level of Doom, better than I can my own house, but I still only see it in 320×200 resolution. That white house exists, thoroughly and completely. And that just makes every moment of one of these games so much more real, more compelling than any graphics could muster.

Reason 2 is that finally unlocking that door and entering the hidden room is as satisfying as any experience to be found in any video game ever. It’s almost sexual. It was even better back when you knew you’d done it because the floppy disk drive would have to spool up. Just the thought of it is enough to bring on goosebumps.

So, that’s it. A genre which was nearly perfected in its time, and then left to rot, kept alive only by a small group of enthusiasts with a bad mailing list. No matter, they are timeless, and will be as enjoyable in a hundred years as they were right now, regardless of how technology moves forward.

One Response  
  • BoringClassGames writes:
    September 2nd, 20084:09 amat

    Can we do this in python?

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