When Players had to Type in Commands to Navigate a Game

Amnesia comes with 436-page manual, and it offers challenges even 30 years after its release

Published: 30th December 2015 04:46 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th December 2015 04:46 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU: After a long and hard day of staring into the computer screen, she yearned to go to a simpler time - which still involved a computer screen; but back when the player had to put a bit more effort to make the protagonist move two feet across the room.

She snapped her eyes open, as though awakening from dreams of a distant land. The word “Amnesia” reverberated through her head. No, not ‘Amnesia – The Dark Descent’. This one was a text based game released in 1986, written by Thomas Disch. After a quiet debate in her head about the legality of old ‘abandonware’ games, she decided this was worth the trouble. She fired up her free open source DOS emulator and proceeded to play the game.

The game sets a background, and gives a description of the protagonist’s surroundings. ‘Cameron’ has lost his memory and finds himself in a hotel room.  The player has to enter commands by typing phrases such as “pick up towel”, “turn on the TV”, “walk out of room” and “tip the bellboy” to navigate their way through the game. Watching too much of the TV can put Cameron into a nightmarish sleep, and the lack of cash in hand could potentially create trouble for him.

Not in contrast with the game itself, her mind was now a blank slate, and her brain was in the game. The plain white room in her head transformed into a room with things like a table, computer, TV and door as the game narrated the surroundings. The map in her head was enlarged as she delved further into the story. Hitting a dead-end in most places in the game, she was tempted to use cheatcodes.

Alas, no one has ever played this game in like, 20 years. But the internet does have the 436-page manuscript for the game. She remembered those Goosebumps story books with alternate endings – this game was an interactive version of the same. Too impatient to read it and too excited to experience the game, she goes on with her random commands.

“Xavier Holdings, would you prefer a firing squad or suicide”. A wrong move pushed her character to be convicted for escaping prison and committing crimes that he probably had no part in. The “game over” letters flashed in front of her eyes once more.

There were several possible endings and endless permutations: an entertaining journey – but there’s no time. Oh look! Her lifes on Candy Crush had reloaded. Maybe we should play that for a while.

(The columnist is an economics graduate who spends her time preparing for the zombie apocalypse.

Twitter handle: @quaffle_waffle)


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