Early Interactive Fiction: The First Interactive Fiction Game ~ Colossal Cave Adventure

by Roz Foster | a Ruelle Electrique Reprint

colossalCaveAdvent298The very first interactive fiction game was called Advent or Adventure, and later was widely known as Colossal Cave Adventure.  The game was written in 1975 by Will Crowther, a cave diver and programmer, who wanted to enjoy it with his two young daughters.  (The game is based on a cave that Crowther knew well, Bedquilt Cave in Kentucky.  Apparently, there’s a cave called Colossal Cave nearby; however, the details of the game are based on Bedquilt.)

Colossal Cave Adventure (entirely text-based) quickly spread across ARPAnet in 1977 and galvanized the first generation of video game designers.  It inspired Infocom’s text-based Zork along with Atari’s graphical version, Adventure.  It was only after playing an errant copy of ADVENT (found on developer Ken Williams’s work computer) that Roberta Williams was stirred to write and draw Mystery House.  (The game development duo would later create the popular King’s Quest series.)

Although it was text-based, Colossal Cave Adventure was the catalyzing spark behind a new creative genre: graphical adventure games. (See Wikipedia on Colossal Cave Adventure.)

This was a Ruelle Electrique Reprint and was originally published at Glopilot.



  1. Loving these posts on early interactive fiction. I’m wondering, Roz, what your take is on recent developments such as the new-fandangle “vooks” but especially curious the “Amanda Project,” which sounds like a wonderful virtual game of exquisite corpse: http://www.theamandaproject.com/
    Too enticing to not try and emulate. What say you?

  2. Thanks for the link to theAmandaProject.com! You’re awesome, Rashaan. This is right up my alley of interests, and couldn’t have come at a better time. You’re inspiring a project I’m working on with this link. Fantastique.

    Interactive fictions seem to not yet have graduated from fueling the paper publishing industry—or from believing the Web can serve as a publishing platform on its own. Newspapers have understood this deeply, but there remains an ingrained fetish for a good book in one’s hand (a large club that I belong to happily), which pushes with a great deal of force back at the movements forward of online or other electronic fictions (like the cold plastic, flat matte screen of a Kindle).

    Did Web fiction begin with those Japanese teenage girls who pump their thumbs into their blogged online novels? Or was it William Gibson’s ephemeral poem about his father, which vanished as the reader read? Whatever the case, when blogs began to conquer the wired portions of the planet, aspiring writers started using them as the latest marketing platform. They used them to write novels, gain attention and snag an agent or publisher to get their “real” book deal. Old news, or is it?

    Now, there are “real” interactive fictions like theAmandaproject.com—or maybe they should be called collaborative fictions (as “interactive fiction” seems still to connote text-based fiction games that have a set plot through which the reader/player finds her way). The Amanda Project embraces interactivity to the hilt, feeling more like an online role playing game with three game master’s guiding the story. I love how it integrates self-expressive content creation for audience members. Members can post stories, art, photos, etc. to a zine, liberated from the story but focused and connected through the story community.

    The A Project appears to have begun with accepting and embracing the Web as a new publishing medium, fully engaging audience interactions as its content. Yet, the paper publishing industry—Harper Collins—intervened recently (in September) printing the story as it’s been told, with more paper-based books to come.

    “Amanda’s story—and our website—have gotten so much attention that a big publisher, HarperCollins, has asked us to write about what’s going on!”


    This seems to have (momentarily) returned the power of authorship and distribution of accepted forms of art to a centralized, pre-internet establishment, reasserting its waning sovereignty over the world’s content.

    There’s a sense of excitement on the site about the paper-based books, as if the books legitimized the site. But hasn’t the opposite happened? Hasn’t the site re-legitimized Harper Collins? Plus, the audience wrote the story. Now Harper Collins wants them to buy it back from them? There’s something fishy here.

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