Computer games, on the whole, have improved over the last 40 years. But even if Arctic Adventure had been a bad game, it would have been far from the first typo-ridden piece of software to see print.
After all, this is a medium of salvation for thousands of the most detailed tinkerers out there. You never know who might need some guidance through a programming project.
Harry McCracken has a text adventure named Arctic Adventure saved on his computer. After almost 40 years, you can play it too—type in his old BASIC code.
The game is called Arctic Adventure, and you can play it right now, thanks to a text-based browser emulator for a personal computer that was popular in the early 1980s.
McCracken created the game in his high school days, channeling his love of adventure games by Sierra On-Line and Scott Adams. One day, someone told him the game’s code was broken beyond repair.
McCracken went on to write magazine columns for PC World magazine, Fast Company, and Time. He never got around to fixing the game until he recently tracked down a copy of The Captain ‘80 Book of Basic Adventures.
Text Adventure Game
Eager to see if the game still worked, McCracken entered the code into an emulator for his iPad. It was broken. He tried again. It was wrong. He tried again. It was wrong. Until finally, four hours later, he had found all of the typo-laden lines of code and corrected them one by one.
“I don’t think I could have done this without emulators,” McCracken said. “I was fiddling with the keyboard while I retraced my muddled path. In some ways, it’s a crazy sort of thing to do, but I love the idea that you can be hand-coded after all these years and still get something fun out of it.”
McCracken is no stranger to the internet. His blog is called Harry’s Place, and he’s written about his adventures with various computers and mobile devices like a mobile phone, a Palm Pilot, and an Atari 2600.
Through his blog and other outlets, he has built up a following of loyal readers who follow him for coverage of the latest gadgets and gizmos.
The Arctic Adventure story also spread beyond fans’ blogs. While McCracken is a little chagrined over all of the publicity, he is glad he got a chance to make things right. “I was surprised at how many people wanted me to fix this thing and get it published,” he said.
“It means a huge amount to me. I have a lot of brilliant fans who have been encouraging me for years. I thought nobody would care, but they did.”
Still, it took decades to get the game published; he has no regrets about that either. “I’ve got some stuff on my site that is six years old now, which is like 30-year-old junk,” he said.
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