A book about text adventures is the latest essential addition to your videogame history library

The cover of Further Explorations
(Image credit: Aaron A. Reed)

Last year, Aaron A. Reed published 50 Years of Text Games, a fascinating history of the kind of games where you have to "get lamp" or "float down the Columbia river". It covered ancient classics like Hunt the Wumpus and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy through to more modern games doing fascinating things with letters on a screen like Dwarf Fortress and 80 Days. Now he's published a companion volume called Further Explorations, which covers stuff that had to be left out of the original—which focused on one exemplary game from each year from 1971 to 2020—but is no less interesting.

That includes games you may have heard of like Lovecraftian horror adventure Anchorhead, as well as more obscure games, like one with a simulated model of every Manhattan block south of 110th. Reed's just as good at retelling the story of famous Infocom classics as he is at unearthing things you've never heard of like Silverwolf, which was one of eight well-reviewed but now forgotten text adventures developed by a studio made up of Irish women who apparently dressed like cultists from the Victorian era called St. Bride's School.

The broader purview of Further Explorations lets Reed expand his coverage into text-adjacent genres like visual novels and hacking simulations, as well as broader discursions. An analysis of a game based on Stephen King's short story The Mist meanders into thoughts on the difficulties all videogame adaptations face, whether they're based on Roger Zelazny's well-loved fantasy novels in the Amber series, or one particular Monty Python sketch about buying cheese. (No, really, it's a game called Cheeseshop.)

Further Explorations is not entirely without visuals either, though many of the games it covers are—seeing a map of the sci-fi complex you explore in Planetfall or a flowchart of paths through Nine Princes of Amber helps you visualize what would otherwise just be words on a page. It ends with a timeline of the genre that goes all the way back to 1760, when the first interactive novel, Tristram Shandy, was published. It's exhaustingly complete.

Further Explorations is available on itch.io in epub and pdf formats, with physical copies available from Amazon, and both on DriveThru.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and Playboy.com, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.