Escaping into the Point and Click Adventure

Some of my best gaming experiences; really, just a few of my finest experiences alone throughout the last year of the 80’s and throughout the 90’s came in the amazing”Point and Click Adventure” genre. Also called”Graphic Adventures”, every game was a complete trip, deep layered and immersive – I tuned out of reality and tuned in to another world, letting me be someone else from the time these disks were inserted into the time I flicked that ON/OFF change and went to bed.

To escape my normal school kid life, all I had to do was boot , and I instantly became a pirate, a secret agent, a time traveller, a space janitor, a detective, an archeologist, a magician or a warrior. Douglas Quaid had “Rekall”, I had my Amiga.

This was past”the book”; Point and Click adventures allowed the player to delve in to a wealthy story but really be the protagonist, walk as these, respond as them, socialize with different characters as them and make their decisions for them; each time being rewarded with additional narrative, conundrums and puzzles. Prior to the integration of real audio dialogue into the matches when they came on CD-ROM years after (that I presume spoiled them); the much cooler generation of users of the restricted capacity floppy disc were forced to read all of the dialogue in their head, (creating their own voices if they desired ) with a 16-bit soundtrack and sound effects to accompany them. It was a sublime experience.

I preferred to Point’n’Click
Often with the interesting story-lines and with the intense need to win against the current puzzle; players could invest countless hours into the games with no break, playing daily, evening and in to the wee hours of the morning. With a weary mind this could transform them in to a trance-like, dreamlike state, like the dream they had been having was in front of them but it was in full colour, entirely controllable and lucid. These were the best dreams they’d ever had. Everything outside the four sides of the screen facing these crumbled away and nothing else existed except for its experience; the only reminder they were a human-being looking on was the feeling of their wrist and hand Pointing with the mouse along with the noise of this Clicks as they picked a verb, then an object.

It was a really personal and solitary experience; a journey which could only really be enjoyed thoroughly when done independently. I sat with a friend once, together trying to conquer some puzzles of a certain game that was out in the time, at his house. I had the impression I was encroaching on his experience, and that I was definitely spoiling mine; that was an adventure which I wished to have shut away in my own bedroom, not his. It was similar to trying to sit and read a classic book at the same time as another individual, both peering over the same pages, one wanting to flip a page and get it through, and the other wanting to hang around and take in the intricacies of this story and the dialogue and also apply imagination to improve the scene. We were just two different examples of that sprite in two different mindsets. On his display has been the specific same animated collection of pixels, but I did not recognise that character, it wasn’t exactly the exact same one which was waiting for me back home. We’d been through different objects at different times; I’d built up a rapport with mine, and here was just a clone carrying out actions that I wished to spare for after – it wasn’t the same. Obviously I never attempted co-playing a PointId Click again.

Graphic Adventure piracy, before Monkey Island
It all began for me in 1989, I’d given to me by my Uncle a pirated copy (naughty naughty) of the brilliant Prospective Wars by Delphine – that wetted my appetite for the genre, however since just one floppy disc was handed over for (unbeknown to either people ) a two disk game, I was only able to finish a few of the puzzles before being asked to”Insert Disk 2″. With no disc, I was not able to continue which was frustrating to say the least, but this had me hungry for graphic adventures – I needed to perform more.

I used to purchase Amiga games out of some type of mail order catalogue (I can not remember for the life span of me what this was called, or I had been doing it this way since I could probably go to a computer store in town) I think though that this catalogue contained games that weren’t widely known or distributed at the time, perhaps from overseas. Contained within it, a small advert showing a match with strange and exciting cover artwork, such as that of a cool 80’s cartoon or movie, that was accompanied with a captivating sales pitch – right there and then I needed to learn what was happening in the Maniac Mansion. And so it was arranged and the waiting period commenced (I seem to recall 14 – 28 days?) . Each day was a”Has the postman been” Regular, until a warm and fuzzy Saturday morning, eventually it had arrived. I remember opening the big brown jiffy bag and pulling out that amazing box. If I was not already drawn in; that inside of the box was a massive poster depicting a noticeboard with all sorts of plot related and character back-story references really clinched it. Maniac Mansion Disc 1 was in, and I was moving into Maniac Mansion.

Having a company craving for pointing and clicking, and as the 90’s arrived, many more names ensued; Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Secret of Monkey Island, Operation Stealth, Loom, Day of the Tentacle, Cruise for a Corpse, Leisure Suit Larry, King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Dark Chocolate, Dreamweb, KGB. . Some atmospheric and serious, some filled with incredible wit and humour; they came thick and fast, each carrying me into a different location, time, and life.
As the genre became popular and consistently filled the charts, it was not long until sequels appeared giving us even more adventures and even more hours to spend with (as) our favourite characters.

However, as consoles came increasingly more into the limelight with their gamepads, this meant the end of clicking and pointing (of courseconsoles don’t use a mouse), also with game sales at an all-time low due to the sum of floppy disk piracy; that meant the ending of the Amiga. PC’s carried on for a time with the genre but with the new generation wanting more shock value and exciting games in realtime 3D; the whimsical innocence of the Point and Click games as we understand them fizzled out and the adventures were apparently over. Fast forward 15 or so years… Although lacking interaction authenticity (less like”point and click”, more like”Look then Touch” experiences ), in the past few years with the closeness of touch display devices and tablets the Point and Click adventure made a return and that I was happy to observe the re-release of a few classics. It’s nice to find the genre getting popular once more, although regrettably, for me they have lost the charm that made the matches they were. Or maybe it was due to everything else was happening (or not going on) out of their computer screen at that moment. In an age before the internet, cellular phones, social networking, MMO’s and instantaneous digital entertainment there were few places in which to transpose the consciousness of a young boy who was seeking real experience. With such a lack of options at that time for escapism, the Point and Click adventure was a Point and a Click away from an entirely different world.

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