As gamers, we fondly remember certain titles that defined specific periods in our lives. Some of us grew up with one console or computer that became synonymous with our childhood or adolescence. That kind of impact is remarkable and likely beyond the scope of what the developers of those games ever had in mind. It’s a testament to what an integral part of our popular culture gaming has become.
There are specific games, however, that go beyond a personal transforma- tion. Some affect the industry as a whole, forever changing the way games are made and forging a path that becomes a well- trodden highway. They introduce elements that other games adopt and expand, and their impact is still felt decades after their debut.
Colossal Cave Adventure (CCA) is perhaps one of the most recognizable video games fitting this description. Will Crowther’s 1976 original was based on a combination of his hobby of cave explo- ration in Kentucky and his enjoyment of Dungeons & Dragons. Crowther came up with a text-driven fantasy adventure that captured the attention of Stanford’s entire Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. A graduate student there named Don Woods greatly expanded on Crowther’s game the following year, resulting in a groundbreak- ing text adventure that enamored players and created an entire new genre of gaming. Upon its debut, the simple text adventure bogged down the Stanford AI Lab time- sharing system so badly that Woods had his vacation interrupted by a call from a very annoyed lab administrator. It had become a phenomenon, appealing to people beyond Stanford’s campus. In an interview for this article, Woods explained the game’s attrac- tion: “I think Adventure showed people that computers were not limited to abstract simulations (e.g. Hunt the Wumpus) and simple rote procedures like managing the cards in Solitaire.”
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