Get Lamp is a fascinating documentary that looks at the rise, fall and resurgence of the text adventure game.
Text adventure games were huge in the 1970's and early 1980's, mostly due to the fact that the machines were limited in power and so programmers and game designers created immersive worlds which required the power of the word to create the image in your mind.
Similar to Bedrooms to Billions, a documentary which looks into the micro computer scene in Britain in the 70's and 80's, this documentary is a chronological look at the rise of the video game industry but specifically the text adventure/ interactive fiction based genre.
It kicks off by talking about the importance of Adventure by William Crowther, the first text adventure game that emerged from the university mainframes and moves onto Zork, a smash hit text adventure.
The documentary then moves onto the creation of video game companies like Adventure Software and Infocom, both huge companies who laid the foundations of the billion dollar industry. It briefly discusses how they died out in the late 80's with the evolution of graphics and more complex games before reflecting back on the industry.
Get Lamp is an illuminating (pardon the pun) documentary that is informative and interesting. As someone who enjoys video games but hasn't had much experience with text adventure games at all I found this explained things well, featuring people who were there at the time as well as enthusiasts of the genre.
With tools such as Power Point, Twine and websites like the Internet Gaming Archive there has been a resurgence in interest in these types of games. I played The Hobbit as child in my friends house, he had a ZX Spectrum. I was impressed by the world created but the parser frustrated me.
The documentary had me thinking about the recent resurgence in text based games. For example there was an interesting take on the death of the interactive fiction in that with the advent of the internet text adventure is back, just in a modified form. We no longer >GET KNIFE but rather click links, explore the billions of possibilities on the web and go on a journey almost; we journey through the web. We do what interactive fiction asks of us; we read, make decisions and move on. I don't agree with this point but it is an interesting viewpoint and that is what I found this documentary did, it made me look at this genre of games in a different way.
For anyone with even a passing interest in video games this documentary is a fascinating look at a fondly remembered genre.
If you have been inspired to make your own text adventure then I have produced a series of lesson plans on interactive fiction using ppt and twine. Check here to see and download them.