Video Game of the Day is a daily show available on Amazon Alexa devices and here on this website. Each day, we briefly discuss the history of a single game, randomly chosen. If you would like to listen on your daily flash briefing, you can enable Video Game of the Day here: https://amzn.to/2CNx2NJ.
Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day!
On this show, we talk about modern games as well as the classics but today, we’re heading farther back into gaming history than we have ever gone and I could not be more excited about it. While it may seem removed from the games we play today, some argue that it influenced one of the most popular genres on streaming sites today, the survival horror genre. Today’s game is Hunt the Wumpus, developed by Gregory Yob and sold via mail order in 1973.
Hunt the Wumpus is a text-based game where the player is given a singular goal: to hunt the Wumpus. The Wumpus is a monster that lives in a cave made up of 20 different rooms. The player has entered the lair of this creature with only five arrows but each arrow has a special ability. Once shot, the arrow can move through up to 5 different rooms, even changing course mid-flight. If it enters the same room as the Wumpus, the monster is killed and the player wins.
While it may sound simple, it’s not quite that easy. Each room is given a number and if you tell the arrow to go to an impossible room, it will instead choose a random room to travel to. If you are unlucky, the arrow may even travel back to your room, hitting you instead. To discover the location of the Wumpus, you must move from room to room but there are several traps to discover as well. Two rooms in the cave are bottomless pits and entering them will cause an instant death. Two other rooms contain super bats which will pick up the player and take them to a random room somewhere else in the cave. Finally, running into the Wumpus itself will wake up the beast and cause it to eat you. If woken up by stumbling into its lair or by shooting an arrow, the Wumpus will travel around the cave, making it harder to find and defeat. While the game involves a good amount of luck, players can also succeed by mapping out the cave system and using deductions to increase their chances of hitting the Wumpus with their arrow.
When originally created, Hunt the Wumpus was distributed on tapes via mail-order containing the code in BASIC but in 1975, the code was published in Creative Computing magazine, allowing computer hobbyists to type out the code themselves and play on whatever BASIC-enabled device they had. While Hunt the Wumpus is relatively simplistic by today’s standards, the idea of hunting while also being hunted and managing a low amount of weapons has been cited as an inspiration for survival horror games such as Sweet Home and Silent Hill. The prey/predator dynamic has been used in a number of other games as well such as Alien: Isolation, Dead by Daylight, and Evolve. The Wumpus itself has also found its way into other mediums, including references in the card game Magic: The Gathering, the 1983 strategy game MULE, and even textbooks on programming artificial intelligence. Gregory Yob, unfortunately, passed away in 2005 but his game lives on and is playable on a number of websites through the use of HTML5 emulators.
Thank you so much for listening and a special shout out to Fyrebug for recommending this classic. This game was new to me but based on his request, I gave it a try and it’s a fascinating piece of gaming history so thank you Fyrebug for introducing me to this unique game. If you want to hear more episodes on other classic games, you can check out our archives at videogameoftheday.com. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day!
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