Ever been stuck in a game? You’re not alone. Back in the 1980s, when I was cutting my gaming teeth, I remember being stymied by Colossal Cave Adventure. I was playing the Osborne Computer version, written by Mike Goetz I believe, and to win the game you had to amass 580 points by solving a series of puzzles and challenges to acquire all the treasure. I had figured out almost all the problems in the game but couldn’t complete it. At last a friend told me I could teleport from room to room with the secret word, XYZZY. Rushing home, I entered the code, it worked, and I went on to finish the game.
Without my friend’s help, I never would have solved Colossal Cave Adventure. At the time, a few advice books on how to beat popular titles like Pac-Man existed, and some game publishers even provided hint books, but, in general, friends furnished the only reliable source of help. Game magazines, such as Nintendo Power, eventually began providing advice on playing selected titles, but the ultimate resource for players—detailed game guides—didn’t emerge until the 1990s.
Game guides have proved popular for many reasons. They whet readers’ appetites for the games with abundant screen shots, offer clear solutions to seemingly insoluble problems, and reveal secrets that players would never discover otherwise. In the process, the guides document both the games themselves and gamer culture in writing and visually. They also last longer than purely digital media. For all these reasons, it is vital to preserve them.
That’s why we are so pleased that Prima Games, the largest publisher of game guides, donated more than 1,000 guides to the ICHEG collections. From Madden NFL to Might and Magic to Mortal Kombat to Myst, the guides in the Prima Games Collection are treasure stores of information on the contents and challenges of the games they cover. They will be as useful to researchers in the future as they have been to players in the past and present. It’s a fabulous gift for posterity.
Thank you, Prima Games!
By Jon-Paul Dyson, Director, International Center for the History of Electronic Games and Vice President for Exhibits