Throwback Computer Games: Zork

I’ve been playing video games for quite some time. The other day, as I was watching my kids play Animal Crossing, I thought back to what things might have been like if I’d been stuck in quarantine for a couple of months back in 1985. I’m pretty sure that was before I got an Atari even. The only computer games I had to speak of were the ones on my dad’s old Heathkit computer. Green text on a black screen. We had Space Invaders (the only copy I could find right now is the Atari one, but close enough). Eliza. DND. And, of course, Zork.

I remember playing Zork a ton, though I’m not sure how many times I actually did. For those of you too lazy to click through and play the game (shame on you!), it’s a fully-text-based game. You wake up in the middle of a forest, standing in front of a white house. There are no instructions at first, and you have to just sort of try different commands until you figure out what you’re supposed to do. Go north. Go west. Look. That kind of thing.

If you’re patient and stick with it, you begin to figure out what to do. You find equipment, and you go exploring in a maze beneath the house. And . . . that’s about as far as I ever got. If I had been in quarantine, I wonder if I would have beaten Zork.

The world may never know.

The bottom line, however, is that I would have been a whoooooole lot more bored than my kids are. No Netflix. No internet. A limited supply of board games. Dealing with “what to do” would have been a very different story.

I bring that up not to tell my kids how lucky they have it. No, I’m much more concerned about myself. Today I am just grateful we have all these ways to distract ourselves. Because if I was stuck here in the house with nothing more than Zork, and my kids had the same next-to-nothing to do?

I think we’d all go crazy.


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