Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)
Interplay's Wasteland is another member of Computer Gaming World's Hall of Fame, and rightly so: its post-holocaust setting was one of the most believable of its time, not because of detailed graphics or sound, but simply due to the way the user and program interacted.
Most adventure/role-playing games at that time had an absurd complexity of commands; it was not unreasonable to expect every key to be mapped to a command. Wasteland, on the other hand, had a generic "use" command that worked for just about anything: one could use an ax to chop down a door, or use the skill "move silent" to sneak past guards.
Even more impressive was the fact that the designers of the game allowed for multiple solutions to almost every puzzle. If something would work in real life, it would probably work in Wasteland; one didn't need to figure out exactly how the designer wanted the player to approach a specific puzzle. For example, one could sneak past the guards in the last paragraph, or knock them out, or try to fast-talk them, depending on how one wished to approach the problem (and depending on what one's character's strengths were).
Since it ran on the Apple II, Wasteland didn't have the memory or storage resources available to today's software; it confined itself to four disk sides. It achieved this by storing long text blocks in numbered paragraphs in the manual rather than on disk. Occasionally, in the game, the player would be prompted to "Read paragraph 39" or whichever one applied (a sort of early digital-to-analog link). Of course, bogus paragraphs were also included so that one couldn't cheat by reading through all the paragraphs.