Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

The first computer game I ever remember playing was an educational game called In Search of the Most Amazing Thing, produced by a company called Spinnaker. The background was explained in a novella included with the game: in short, the player is searching an alien swamp for the "Most Amazing Thing in the Universe", though he/she doesn't quite know what it is. (Having never completed the game, I still don't know what it is.) Along the way, the player haggles with aliens (after learning their antenna-based language, of course), forages for food and fuel, and learns how pilot the "B-Liner", a combination dune buggy and hot-air balloon.

As a game, it left a lot to be desired: there were a very small number of things that could be done, and the fictional world was created mainly through the introductory novella rather than the course of play (though this isn't always a fault; it wasn't in Wasteland). The graphics , of course, were primitive; all graphics on the Apple II were. This forced game authors to find other methods of presenting a diegetic universe to the player. (Some games, like Zork, opted to forego graphics altogether.)

Despite all its faults, In Search of the Most Amazing Thing got me hooked on computer games. Unlike books, these games were interactive; I could determine to some degree the denouement (and let my imagination fill in everything that wasn't shown on the screen). I didn't know what hypertext was then (few people did; this was long before the World-Wide Web made it big, and besides, I was only six), but if someone had explained to me the concepts of nonlinear narrative (in simpler terms, of course), I probably would have shown them one of my computer games as an example.

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