Exploring Adventure Games: A Look into Playtime Evolution

Adventure Games/Playtime Evolution

Adventure Games/Playtime Evolution is an electronic game genre that focuses on exploration, puzzle solving and narrative interactions with game characters. The genre began with Colossal Cave Adventure in 1976, a text-based game that allowed players to input commands.

In the 1980s, graphical adventure games were introduced with Sierra On-Line’s Mystery House and 1984’s King’s Quest. They differ from text adventures by allowing free-moving characters and a variety of commands.


The gameplay in adventure games is often based on solving puzzles and following a narrative. They differ from other video game genres, which usually feature a more competitive environment and combat, as well as real-time elements such as racing and shooting.

Early adventure games were text-based, with the player moving a joystick or button to select options presented by a computer screen. Later games used graphical environments that could be navigated by the player using a mouse, or in some cases, full-motion video, such as that featured in Dragon’s Lair and Space Ace.

More recent adventure games have often reduced the available verb space by combining multiple actions into a single one, such as “examine” and “use.” The use of these combinations can be confusing to the player, and they can sometimes lead to unintentional game death, such as in Infocom’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where failure to pick up a piece of junk mail in the beginning prevents the player from ever finishing the game.


Adventure games are different from other genres of video games because they require a significant amount of narrative and puzzle solving. They also differ from other types of game play in that the challenge in adventure games is not based on fighting enemies or building armies, but rather on following the game’s script and solving its puzzles.

In the past, many adventure games used text parsers that required the player to type commands into a keyboard. This led to a style of gameplay called the “text adventure”. Infocom’s Deadline was one of the first modern graphical adventures and it introduced some novel elements such as a more complex text parser and character animations.

Later adventure games chose to simplify the verb space by allowing a single action for every object in the environment or in the inventory. For example, a single “examine” command would allow the player to see information about an object or to use it.


Despite the fact that they were once some of the most popular video games, adventure games eventually fell out of favor as home computers became more capable of handling better graphics and faster gameplay. This was due in large part to the popularity of titles such as Doom and Duke Nukem 3D.

Roberta Williams and her husband Ken Williams helped pioneer the genre of adventure gaming through their work with Sierra On-Line, releasing such classics as King’s Quest and Leisure Suit Larry. But even before her retirement in the early 1990s, she could see that adventure games were on their way out.

Today, adventure games have made a comeback thanks to indie developers like Telltale and new releases such as Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island. Some have even ventured into 3D gameplay, such as Myst.


A major part of adventure games is exploring the game world and discovering what can be done. Early adventure games, such as Colossal Cave Adventure and Infocom’s Zork, were text-based and used parsers to translate the player’s commands into actions. As hardware improved, graphic adventures emerged.

Many early graphical adventure games were divided into discrete environments that the player transitioned between. This approach suited the early computer hardware that these games were developed on and it is still used in modern adventure games.

However, as computers became more powerful, the adventure genre evolved to allow the player to interact with a greater variety of objects and the game environment. Some adventure games let the player touch an object to see a description of it; smell air for telltale odors; listen close to a door to hear overheard conversations; or use their mouse pointer to click on and select an action. This type of interaction allows the player to gain a greater understanding of the puzzles and environment in a more open-ended way than with the limited list of actions provided by a text parser.

Push on to read more