Screenshot of computer text game Adventure

Adventure, the first text-adventure game

Adventure - Twisty Little Passages

Willie Crowther/BBN 1972 and Don Woods/SAIL 1973

You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike.


Adventure aka ADVENT aka Colossal Caves is the next logical evolution of computer games, a complete text-based adventure game by Willie Crowther. It is written in FORTRAN on the venerable PDP-1 in 1972 while Crowther is working for Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Inc. (BBN), the Cambridge, Massachusetts company made up mostly of MIT students, which is awarded the contract to develop the ARPAnet for the U.S. government. Crowther is also part of the software team for BBN’s IMP, or Interface Message Processor, the original nodes used to connect the ARPAnet, which eventually evolves into the Internet. Crowther is inspired by the new fantasy themed paper-and-dice game Dungeons and Dragons which is extremely popular with the university crowd. More inspiration comes from his adventures as an avid spelunker. In Adventure, you must explore the vast Colossal Caves and return to the starting point with as many treasures as you can. The locations are based on his and his ex-wife’s exploration of the Mammoth Cave system in Kentucky, and their divorce is further impetus for Crowther to fill his time programming the game. Some fanciful D&D type magic is added into the mix for good measure. The following year, at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab at Stanford University, the game is discovered and expanded on by Don Woods, with Crowther’s permission. The original parser in the game is a rudimentary “verb-noun” structure, but the descriptions are very compelling. Again, access to the mainframe running the program through the ARPAnet allows the program to become very popular among university students across the country

Adventure, in fact, becomes one of the most influential programs in computer gaming history. For a shortlist of developers who are inspired by Adventure to beat a path to the burgeoning personal computer scene:  Scott Adams creates Adventureland in the wake of playing the original, going on to found Adventure International. The MIT graduates of Infocom, who parlay their interest in Adventure into the seminal Zork interactive fiction series as well as dozens of other text adventures. And Microsoft, who adapt the PDP-10 version into Microsoft Adventure for the TRS-80.  There are countless players who fall into the time sink of Crowther and Wood’s world of exploration, and then set off to blaze their own trail in the industry. logo_stop


Sources (inert links are kept for historical purposes)

External Links (click to open)

Web-based version of Adventure, with a slight graphical component

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