The Adventure Game genre started in the 70's with the advent of computer mainframes at universities. The first know example being Colossal Cave Adventure created by Will Crowther. These were the early days of computing so software publishing houses were pretty much non-existent. It was up to individuals to create their own games and share them via the mainframes, many of these games have been lost to time but the majority were inspired by Tolkein and Dungeons and Dragons adventures. These games were pure text adventures that required you to imagine the envisaged world for yourself. These led to issues with the parser as you struggled to find the right vocabulary to solve puzzles and move on in the world.
Having an Amstrad CPC 464 and with my best friends at the time having a NES and Sinclair Spectrum my first introduction into Adventure Games was The Hobbit, which had a noun-parser interface. The game was tough as nails but I was impressed with the visuals which showed the locales.
With the increased power of computers many text adventure games were fleshed out with detailed colour graphics which showed locales, characters and items previously requiting just your imagination to see. However the key elements of the genre include storytelling, exploration, and puzzle solving remained.
The first big evolution to Adventure Games was when the parser-based interface was stripped back to a more manageable collection of verbs which could be selected by typing key letters or by using the mouse, this was popularised with the Apple Makintosh in 1984. This more intuitive interface allowed you to use, open or combine items in the inventory, opening up the possibilities and complexities in terms of story and ideas (for a good look at these check out Leigh Alexanders Lo-Fi game Lets Plays). Even though the technology evolved and led to sub-genres, the focus on narrative and puzzles remained true.
It was during the heady mid to late 80s and early 90's that Sierra Games came into prominence with Kings Quest and later Lucas Arts with Maniac Mansion.
The rising power of 3D graphics cards and budgets meant that many games were now going 3d with polygonal sprites, many thought that the traditional 2D games were considered old hat. I would play a few classic point and click games like Broken Sword in my formative years when I would have access to this software library with my purchase of a home PC (for home work purposes of course) however due to many issues with compatibility it wasn't always possible to play these games. It wasn't until the popularisation of touch devices, specifically the iPad, when I would get to play and enjoy classic games such as Sam and Max, Monkey Island, Beneath a Steel Sky and Myst.
A lot of the point and click games are difficult to play now as 90's game designers had no respect for your time, lots of trial and error which back then was not really a problem as not many titles available and prohibitive costs associated... Our skills to play these games have also atrophied, especially if you are under the age of 20. Broken Sword for iOS improves the experience for seasoned gamers as well as those new to the series by offering hotspots to avoid pixel hunting and providing layered clues for those unable to solve a puzzle. This makes these games enjoyable and less prone to frustrating logic puzzles that make no sense.
Critically and commercially successful games such as The Walking Dead game have gained widespread acclaim for what it added to the genre through its branching narrative and moral choices. It built on the shoulders of giants, creators like Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Charles Cecil. A new audience as well as more mature game fans are appreciative of these games, so much so that all have been crowdfunded into creating new projects.
There are new twists which allow the adventure game to alter and change and play with the technology like Simigo's thrilling Device 6, Steve Jacksons Sorcery and 80 Days. These are all novel twists on a very old Adventure Game idea but in an ever-changing medium that is very exciting indeed.
Since the rise of the internet there has been a democratisation of software, it has now never been easier to make your own games. Twine lets you create text adventure games of yore and there are many freely downloadable software which lets you create point and click games. There are many great examples of games created using the software online and I have linked to them below. I have also created some lesson plans to do with creating your own adventure game (both Twine and Point and Click) check it out if you're interested.