Advanced Search

50 Years of Text GamesClick to magnify
Full‑size Preview

50 Years of Text Games

Selected Option:

An exceptional survey of the form... thoroughly researched and full of joy.” —Emily Short (Galatea)

An awesome exploration of the long history of the genre.—Nick Walton (AI Dungeon)

Since a winter morning in 1971 when a teacher wheeled a teletype into his classroom to debut a game about the Oregon Trail, people have been telling interactive stories on digital platforms. From text adventures to VR poetry, MUDS to mobile romance sims, and chatbots to roguelikes, these games without graphics have pioneered new techniques for interactive storytelling, engaged imaginations with clever engines and beautiful prose, and explored the new terrain of fiction you can play.

Maps from the 50 Years of Text Games book

50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to AI Dungeon picks one text-based game from each year between 1971 and 2020 and studies how it works, what it's about, why it's special, and its lasting legacy. In-depth chapters dive into classics like Zork, Trade Wars, and Hitchhiker's Guide; beloved fan games like Galatea and Photopia; wild experiments from Dwarf Fortress to Howling Dogs; and breakout hits like 80 Days, Fallen London, and Lifeline. From personal stories to million-word epics, from games printed by teletypes to games downloaded on smart watches, this is the fascinating story of interactive fiction’s first half-century.

Page spread for the chapter on the 1990s

Page spread from the chapter on pre-1970s text games.

The book includes over 600 pages of in-depth coverage, including original maps and diagrams to reveal each game's structure; excerpts of text and source code to highlight the writing and design of each game; extensive version and release histories for each covered game; and a full index and research bibliography. An extensive chapter on the pre-history of interactive text games along with overview of each decade bring together major trends in the evolution of interactive fiction, and capsule summaries of nearly five hundred other noteworthy text games from the last half-century further broaden the context.

The digital version includes both a full color PDF mirroring the print book's layout, and a reflowable EPUB compatible with Kindles and designed to be accessible for screen readers.

A page from the book chapter on 80 Days running on an iPad Mini.

Also available: the companion volume, Further Explorations, a supplement with even more great chapters of text games history! 

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (1)
Discussions (0)
February 21st, 2024
Well written, thoroughly researched, excellently edited. Pictures, diagrams, notes - all informative, top-notch. This is not just a history of text games, but also a history of technology, and a look at how the society has progressed in the past 50 yea [...]
Browse Categories
$ to $
 Follow Your Favorites!
NotificationsSign in to get custom notifications of new products!

Product Information
Electrum seller
File Size:
59.76 MB
Original electronic Click for more information
Scanned image
These products were created by scanning an original printed edition. Most older books are in scanned image format because original digital layout files never existed or were no longer available from the publisher.

For PDF download editions, each page has been run through Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software to attempt to decipher the printed text. The result of this OCR process is placed invisibly behind the picture of each scanned page, to allow for text searching. However, any text in a given book set on a graphical background or in handwritten fonts would most likely not be picked up by the OCR software, and is therefore not searchable. Also, a few larger books may be resampled to fit into the system, and may not have this searchable text background.

For printed books, we have performed high-resolution scans of an original hardcopy of the book. We essentially digitally re-master the book. Unfortunately, the resulting quality of these books is not as high. It's the problem of making a copy of a copy. The text is fine for reading, but illustration work starts to run dark, pixellating and/or losing shades of grey. Moiré patterns may develop in photos. We mark clearly which print titles come from scanned image books so that you can make an informed purchase decision about the quality of what you will receive.
Original electronic format
These ebooks were created from the original electronic layout files, and therefore are fully text searchable. Also, their file size tends to be smaller than scanned image books. Most newer books are in the original electronic format. Both download and print editions of such books should be high quality.
File Last Updated:
August 04, 2023
This title was added to our catalog on October 19, 2023.
Aaron A. Reed
Publisher Average Rating