I’m thinking of a number between 1 and You’re Dumb

Since this is about adventure games, I feel like I should make my usual disclaimer explicit: this is a personal blog, I don’t speak for my company, and vice-versa. Any opinions I spew out here are not necessarily my coworkers’; in fact, when somebody at work tells me, “I read your blog,” it’s most often followed by, “I didn’t agree, but….”

harveybirdmanmentok.jpgApparently, “Yahtzee” Croshaw has a column in the back of PC Gamer now, and the one in the July 2008 issue is about how he’s bored with adventure games. They always devolve into the same old thing; and sure the SCUMM games were excellent, but that was in spite of their gameplay, not because of it; and ever since Half-Life came out and proved that action games don’t need to be mindless and shallow, do we even need adventure games anymore?

Fair enough. A few years ago, I would’ve probably agreed completely. When I first got into videogames, I was only into SCUMM games, because shooters were dumb. And even then, it was rarely because of the puzzles; the puzzles were almost always something you had to slog through to get to the next cool story moment. When Dark Forces proved that DOOM could have a cool story and characters, and then Jedi Knight and Half-Life proved that cinematic storytelling could actually be fun to play, I said, “Well, that about does it for adventure games.” Until I started working for Telltale, I can’t remember playing an adventure game since Zork Grand Inquisitor. (Which is still a fantastic game, by the way, one of the best I’ve ever played).

But that was eight years ago. I tend to like Croshaw’s video reviews, because buried amongst the Britishisms and dildos, there’s frequently some genuine, bullshit-free insight in there. Even when I don’t agree, I like hearing someone cut through conventional wisdom and hype and just get at the heart of whether a game is fun or not, and why.

And that’s why I was disappointed in that PC Gamer column, because it doesn’t say anything new. Basically, he says the exact same thing anyone says whenever the topic of adventure games comes up:

Myth 7: Adventure games suck because they’re artificially complicated and there’s only one correct solution to every puzzle and it’s never what you would do in the real world so you have to READ THE DESIGNER’S MIND!!!!

Whenever this observation gets trotted out on the internet, it’s invariably followed by a link to the Death of Adventure Games article from Old Man Murray. That’s the one from 2000 where a particularly ridiculous puzzle from Gabriel Knight 3 gets ripped apart, and adventure game fans and creators both get exposed for the smug, self-important bastards that they are. And as soon as you link to the OMM article, the crowd scatters like cockroaches, adventure game apologists hanging their heads in shame. The issue was definitively settled, eight years ago: Adventure Games Just Aren’t Cool Anymore.

And then the writer of that article went on to get a job at Valve, working on Portal, which is more like an adventure game than most adventure games I’ve played.

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