Adventure Fans, Clubs and Help Columns
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Help columns were a regular feature of computer magazine in the 1980s. As Adventure games were perhaps the most challenging games to play frequently leaving players stuck and unable to progress the Adventure help guru was a must for most game publications. The popularity of “The Hobbit” and the challenges of the Megler’s world and puzzles and the possibilities of Mitchell’s parser saw many column inches dedicated to the game.
“PC Games: Australia Guide to Microcomputers” had the White Wizards ‘Adventureworld’ column where not only was help offered “Hobbit” players would frequently share their percentage scores including a few 100% complete. “The Australian Commodore and Amiga Review” Adventurers Realm’ column got other players to write in with solutions for stuck players awarding ‘Adventurer of the Month’ and ‘Zorker of the Month’ for help rendered. The Happy Hacker (Stuart Elflett) who ran the Adventure Club of Australia published a regular ‘Adventurers News’ letter where the clubs network of adventures pooled their knowledge to help others through the darkest dungeons. The Happy Hacker also penned an ‘Adventures Hints Column’ for Australia’s “The Commodore Magazine”.
Fans of “The Hobbit” seeking help and helping each other was an international phenomenon. Tony Bridge wrote help columns for the United Kingdom magazines “Popular Computing Weekly” and the “Micro Adventurer”. In November 1983 a distraught father and daughter wrote to ask Tony’s help in escaping the Goblins Dungeon in “The Hobbit” – so many players bête noir. In their letters players often shared their discoveries hoping others could explain their significance such as an excited player realising that the game recognised the words “ravine, stairs, rug, man and hobbit” wanted help identifying a place to actually use them in the game. (December 1983) Whilst in January 1984 there is an appeal from a player on how to finish the game! Having arrived home to BagEnd with all the treasure and the ring but not knowing the purpose of the trunk in that hallway.
Keith Campbell C+VG
[Image: A PCW Trade Show Far left and rear Keith Campbell and his C+VG Adventure Helpline Team the youthful Paul Coppins and Simon March Front of image Scott Adams with great hair (Adventureland) and Philip Mitchell (The Hobbit, Sherlock etc Beam Software). Source http://solutionarchive.com/interview_keith/
Keith Campbell’s Adventure game column was a fixture of the UK based magazine “Computer and Videogames” from its launch in November 1981. In the column Campbell provide tips and tricks to solving the adventure games that were popular across many different micros. This meant he was required to play the games on a variety of platforms and set up his home office with all the popular micros at his own expense, he even had to buy his own games to review. Frustrated players would write to Campbell requesting assistance when stuck. Campbell recalls that he could receive up to 250 letters a month. Tip and Spoilers were often printed upside down to help prevent player’s accidentaly learning too much in advance.
Campbell recalls how Terry Pratt called him from out of the blue to ask him to write an adventure help column for “Computer and Video Games”. Campbell an electrical engineer by day and TRS80 hobbyist at night had developed a passion for adventure games after being introduced to the Adventureland games of Scott Adams. In his enthusiasm for the medium he began hosting adventure competitions at his work social club, setting up a number of TRS in the room around which small teams clustered as they played simultaneously against each other and the clock. Campbell MCed the events, drawing useful maps and giving clues and help where needed. To create more game for these popular evening Campbell began writing his own text adventured in Basic.
Campbell’s Adventure evenings drew the attention of Pratt. His column for C+VG, in particular his popular Adventure Booklet specials that C+VG regularly published, attracted the attention of Melbourne House. In 1984 they published a book on Adventure games penned by Campbell that offers a guide to writing your own adventure game, perhaps the ultimate act of the dedicated fan.
It was through columns like those of Campbell’s and the Happy Hacker’s that adventure fans could speak to each other, trade secrets and arcane knowledge. Players recall that reading Campbells’ column in in C+VG felt like belonging to a club. One reader of C+VG recalls “I wasn’t big into text adventures but there was something about Keith Campbell’s little corner of the magazine that felt like a community, almost like a forum or newsgroup.”*
*Unofficial Who comment at http://www.rllmukforum.com/index.php?/topic/264460-computer-and-video-games/
References: Interview “Keith Campbell Musings of an Adventure Guru” http://solutionarchive.com/interview_keith/
Did you belong to the Adventure Club of Australia?
Did you ever write to a magazine for help in the 1980s?
How did you solve The Hobbit?
Image: PC Games: Australia's guide to micro entertainment, December 1984
Great reading this and remembering back to those days – I still think the text adventures gave us something that the graphical counterparts missed out on, probably the fill in with picturing the location details yourself and ‘seeing’ the description put you there, in a way that the Monkey Island, etc, never quite managed. I found the Zork series and a few others had been converted to be playable online – great for a revisit 🙂
Nice to be part of Australian video game history – hope you’re well.