Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Adventure International Store

One of my fondest memories of the early days of computer gaming was visiting the Adventure International store in the Orlando, Florida area.

Inspired by the classic Crowther/Woods Adventure, Scott Adams had created an innovative interpreter-based text adventure system, enabling his original designs like Adventureland to be compiled and played across multiple platforms -- including limited 16K, tape-based systems like the TRS-80 Model I. In the early 1980's he parlayed his success into a major software publishing company, bringing a variety of interactive fiction, puzzle and arcade titles to the 8-bit systems of the day, notably the Apple II, Atari 400/800, TRS-80 and Commodore 64. His adventures remain classics today, and the company had a few hits in other genres, like the classic Preppie! (a Frogger-inspired game poking fun at the prep school stereotype popular at the time).

Even more impressive, Adventure International had a physical storefront you could actually visit. This was a real treat for me in my middle-school years -- even moreso than going to Walt Disney World on the same trip. The store had a variety of computers running the company's games, and they were all hanging right there on the wall for purchase -- old school style, in polyethylene bags with printed color inserts, instruction sheets and cassette or disk media. It was sensory overload in the early days of the industry when mail-order was the norm, and you never actually SAW games until you owned a copy; there were no dedicated game stores as there are today.

I remember seeing the array of titles on offer and wishing I had a little more discretionary income on hand, and far more time to hang out in the store, but I did pick up a copy of Pirate Adventure (second in Adams' series) and my brother got a replacement copy of the Special Sampler introductory game he had ordered, as we had been having problems getting the cassette tape to load (the new tape also had issues when we got home, and it turned out to be a volume adjustment solution in the end -- ah, those were the days!)

I still have copies of some old Adventure International catalogs around for nostalgia's sake, and I have replayed several of the original 12 games over the years. I actually got to correspond with Mr. Adams several years ago after tracking him down online. After the industry crash, his company folded and he took a regular programming job.

One like mine, I imagine, a path I might not have taken had I not gotten hooked on games back in the early days and wondered how they do that stuff. I was "paper carrier of the month" once, a dubious honor, and they printed a little standard-form profile of me in the newspaper including my "most admired person." While the other kids tended to list sports heroes or TV stars, I listed Scott Adams. And he's definitely still in that club.

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