Back to Zork

Because “Return to Zork” was taken.

Did you know that there’s a hidden text adventure game hiding inside your Google Chrome browser?  I didn’t until I read about it this morning.

So, of course, I had to try it out.  Playing Zork on my TRS-80 was exciting for me way back when.  At university, there was a similar game that was available on the DEC system.  I can’t remember the name of it now.  Of course, I had to buy a copy of the Zork game for our computer science lab.  I wanted to provide the same excitement with my before/after school crowd.

Other than an intriguing and immersive game, it was a great opportunity for students to experience a bit of artificial intelligence, realize the power of working together to solve problems and experience a computer environment that went well beyond writing the programs that they were assigned in class.  You can tell, from this description, that this certainly was before the day of the internet connected classroom.

The program itself served to inspire a small group of students.  Once they’d played Zork for a bit, they needed more.  More, in this case, meant writing their own text adventure game.  Some of the techniques that they needed to be successful went well beyond the scope of what we’d covered in class.  The teacher in me was so pleased to see the computer manuals (which quite frankly are pretty dry reading) get well used.  Something this sophisticated needed more than code.  It required a pretty involved map and a number of challenges that had to be undertaken as their adventure progressed.  The conversations were priceless as they tried to understand the clients they were writing the game for.  These are the things that you try to address in class but it’s pretty far removed than writing practically for real people.

Then, there was a part that I didn’t see coming.  We were using an interpretive programming language at the time and they all knew that it was child’s play to type a break via the keyboard and then look at the source code.  Things like the map and the game’s vocabulary had to be encrypted and then later decrypted to avoid cheating.  (Like they hadn’t tried their best when first playing Zork…)

So, I played Chrome’s text adventure with a nice sense of context.

Screenshot 2018-10-02 at 11.15.21

Ah, the memories.

To access the game yourself, open the Chrome browser and do a Google Search for

text adventure

Then, access the game by opening the Javacript console with a CTRL-SHIFT-J or CTRL-CMD-J keystroke combo.

If you want to up your game, you can play the original Zork online these days here. Who remembers the small mailbox and the leaflet?

OTR Links 10/03/2018

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.