Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cover to Cover: Infocom 1987 Catalog (cover-p.2)

Time to start another cover-to-cover series, as we look at interactive fiction pioneer Infocom's 1987 Product Catalog.  Infocom's classic text adventure games works of interactive fiction are still regarded as high-water marks for the technology; even as the art form has continued to advance into non-linear, postmodern storytelling in the hands of independent enthusiasts, most authors still rely on the portable, flexible, efficient Z-machine interpreter.

In 1987, the text adventure was still commercially viable -- while graphics were making substantial inroads, illustrations and mouse-based control were not yet de rigeur.  And Infocom's marketing division certainly understood what it was selling back in the day -- the company's ads and image were handled in a remarkably consistent style for most of the company's life.  We see the approach here, as the first three pages of this catalog focus not on individual products, but on the appealing mystique of a well-told story, starring the reader/player.  Infocom had no qualms about calling its creators "Master Storytellers" right on the cover:

Infocom took a remarkably highbrow approach to selling computer games, unusual in its appeal to the intellect.  The catalog opens with a number of laudatory quotes from computer magazines, augmented by major publications like Newsweek and Rolling Stone:

(Note in the fine print that Infocom had by this time become part of the Activision family, an acquisition due in part to financial challenges -- the golden age of interactive fiction was starting to come to an end, but the writing was not yet on the wall.)

Page 2 invites the reader into a world of the imagination -- the copy here tends to the hyperbolic, but it hasn't aged badly; the basic appeal of interactive, text-based storytelling is summed up quite nicely here:

With a suitably tempting introduction out of the way, next time we'll start looking at the pages promoting actual games.

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