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 and video gaming history. It would set the template for online multiplayer gaming in the form of MUDS and MOOS, allowing people from across the world to come to together, form communities, and embark on adventures together. For a shortlist of developers who are inspired by Adventure to beat a path to the burgeoning personal computer and video game 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. Bill Gates and Microsoft adapt the PDP-10 version into Microsoft Adventure for the TRS-80, becoming an early consumer product of the company. No less than Nolan Bushnell, the father of the video game industry, is a fan of the game in the early 70’s. There are other, 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)

Bushnell, Nolan K. “Of Muds and Moos” Electronic Entertainment, Sept. 1994, p. 112. Do you remember your first role-playing game? I do. It was back in the 1970’s, and the game was called Colossal Cave.
Image of Don Woods in 2010 from bencollsuss’ Flickr photostream
Don Wood’s Home Page
The Colossal Cave Adventure page

External Links (click to open)

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

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