Home > Books, Comic Books, Geek > The adventure-game magazines of the Eighties

The adventure-game magazines of the Eighties

Back in the mid-eighties, Fighting Fantasy1 books where everywhere; young geeks devoured them, and the bookshops where filled with a myriad of titles and their imitators. For the dedicated fan though, this wasn’t enough. The books painted a fantasy world, but the fans wanted more.

Cue Warlock, the short-lived Fighting Fantasy Magazine. For a fraction of the cost of one of the books, you could get a brief fix of your growing gaming habit. Better yet, you got to glimpse the development of these worlds. Warlock, featured maps, articles and monster profiles, and was pretty much a basic primer on how to build worlds. Many of these features would later be further developed into source books for Fighting Fantasy’s main setting. What made it stand out from the other fantasy gaming magazines of the era was the sense that things where being created before your eyes.

Smell the nostalgia. (Though it could just be the smell of old magazines.)

That and the mini-adventure stories. If you can have adventure books, then surely you can have adventure short-stories, and the idea that one can delve into a spot of gaming on a short bus trip has always appealed to me. I find that adventure books tend to be single sitting affairs, I open the book and try and finish it in one gulp. I may come back to it later to play other options, but if it’s any good then it should feel more like a thrilling fairground ride than watching a TV series.

The cool thing about short-form adventure games is that you can indulge and then leave them alone. They’re quick, fun and pretty much ideal for wasting time in those short moments. Even though the old Fighting Fantasy novels are now available as apps,2, I‘ve not seen short-story format adventures in the modern formats. Which is sad, as the appeal of the e-books is their portability. This is why I tend to read short stories on the train, after all. I’d much rather delve into a sword and sorcery game than play Angry Birds, especially when I’m in the mood for something a bit more interactive than a regular book, but I also want it to last the length of my journey and no longer.

Warlock, by the way, only lasted for 12 13 issues, but in that time developed two imitators. Proteus was filled with the contributions from fans, and some of these were very good. It was all about the adventure-game aspect, and lasted a little bit longer than Warlock. Also of note is the sadly very short-lived Dice Man. Edited by 2000AD legend Pat Mills, Dice Man was an adventure game anthology that let you play the characters form the 2000AD comic. The stories where told through comic panels, and this quirky little bit of comic book history was recently paid homage to in 2000AD’s Prog 2012 with a fun little Judge Dredd story.

I do wonder if this sort of thing will make a come-back. We have the technology, after all, and I recently discovered they’re as fun to write as they are to read. It would be nice, and I do get the feeling that they are due a glorious come-back. Time will tell.


1: Adventure Game books require the reader to make choices, rather than passively reading the story. All books draw you into a different world, but only Adventure Game books let you hit things once you’re in that world.
2: There is also a new generation of these games such as Jonathan Green’s Temple of The Spider God, exclusive to iPhone. Hopefully you’ll be able to read them on other things soon enough.

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Categories: Books, Comic Books, Geek
  1. January 12, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Phone apps are the logical step for this sort of game. All you are doing is basically replacing the ‘turn to page X if you want to…’ bit with a program saying ‘if Y GOTO X’ and then filling in the text with story… for a writer the skillset is more or less the same plus you can add in randomisers.

    A lot of facebook games are more or less this anyway – you complete quests and as you do a story develops and they are all pretty much ‘do quest a and find out x, then do quest b and find out y then choose if you want to do quest c or d or e…’

    Glad to see people are applying the skills of adventure book writing to this field now. It may improve quality…

    • January 12, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      In my experience, the ones that are most like an adventure gamebook tend to be pretty stand-alone. Black Chicken Studios produce their stuff as a seperate app, and Echobazaar only use facebook and twitter for promotional purposes.

      The stuff Tin Man are doing is very interesting.

      I find Zynga’s stuff (Mafia Wars, etc) less fun, they’re more ‘collecting things’ games than adventures.

  2. Alex Helm
    January 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    I used to love the Fighting Fantasy books! Had loads of those. 🙂

    I tried an experiment on rpg.net where I created the adventure story on the fly. I posted up the segment of the story and at the end of the segment gave a number of options for what the protagonist could do next and then the other people on the thread voted. I would then write the next segment based on which option won the vote.

    It actually went very well and lasted for a good few months and about 1400 posts (including the votes) before illness got in the way and I stopped. I really should restart it sometime…

    It’s the adventures of a Warhammer 40K inquisitor (what else?). Thread is here: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?544768-Let-s-Play-40K-Original-The-Emperor-s-Hand

  3. January 12, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Loved Warlock! And I have all 6? issues of Dice Man. Proteus also had an A3 sized poster in every week which adorned my bedroom wall as a young teenager.

    Incidentally Tin Man Games are developing a Judge Dredd gamebook for digital platforms, should be out later this year, and Black Library have already started releasing gamebooks in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40K backgrounds.

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