An Analysis on ‘Zork’

Image result for zork

 

When we first played Zork in class, I was very curious as to the outcome of the game. So, naturally, I chose to finish it.

Or, tried to finish it.

I don’t know what it is about the game, or the programming, but I found myself getting lose in the game frequently. I tried to wrap my mind around the concept of Zork — “okay, I tell it to go north. But how many feet does it take me each time?” I would reach places and reread the description over and over again, yet I could not for the life of me orient myself.

Which disappoints me, because I hate losing.

I would personally describe Zork as a game. Though again, the term “game” is pretty subjective. You can make almost anything a game — playing with a stick, kicking a ball by yourself, turtle racing.

The imagination is the only limit to making something a game, I would say.

As I played Zork I imagined myself running through the forest in manic, bewildered circles. Going north, north, north, west, west, south, east, north, north, east, east, south, west. Over and over again. It was kind of overwhelming and I became frustrated quickly.

This is such a simple game, why can’t I crack it?!

Image result for rage quit meme

Finally I tried another version, and it worked much better found on iFiction.org (the version we played in class had errors, and I could not proceed into the trap door). This version even gave me hints when I got to a certain point where I couldn’t continue on, like “you would need a machete to go further west.” This again, puts Zork in the “game” category.

I did wonder if you could classify Zork as a game, because it’s entirely text based. But Zork is based on algorithms too, like other video games. When you input a command, a reaction takes place.

For example, when I told it to “burn the house down” with a lantern I had found blindly fumbling through this virtual text world, the game responded tersely with, “You must be joking.”

I also have fun playing it, which is something that comes out of playing other video games. The simplicity and repetitiveness of the overall concept, as well as the tedious step-by-step mechanics is overshadowed just enough by my overwhelming curiosity to get to the end of the game.

Another element that Zork contains is challenge. Not all games are challenging, but games don’t HAVE to be challenging (I just prefer the challenging ones). The goal of Zork is to get to the end of the game. But what is the end? That is probably the biggest challenge of the whole thing. Usually, games begin with a predetermined ending. The player knows exactly what their playing for, and forms a strategy. But Zork does not fit into this category of games. Zork puts the player in this ambiguous world with no direction or prompt. Simply a small description of where you are standing. In addition to that, Zork has other obstacles including: getting around, remembering where you are, opening trap doors, fighting trolls, etc.

There is also satisfaction, which is a crucial aspect of classifying something as a game. If there were no rewards or benefits to playing a game (and those benefits could be anything that gives the player joy or happiness) then what is even the point of playing it? The player achieves satisfaction when they reach a new destination, find a new item, and come across a different challenge.

You can also die in Zork (a.k.a. lose), which I discovered after playing the other version of the game. When you die, you lose all of your belongings, but the game’s algorithms and code remembers what you did during the session. For example, before I died, I went in the house and drank water out of the glass bottle. I also took the sword and bag of peppers, along with the lantern. Then I went down the trap door, ran into a troll, and was swiftly killed. The game decided that I “deserved another chance” (literally what it tells you as you restart the game), and spit me back at the forest, all of my inventory gone.

 

The troll swings it out of your reach.                                         
The flat of the troll's axe hits you delicately on the head, knocking you out. 
Conquering his fears, the troll puts you to death.                             
It appears that that last blow was too much for you. I'm afraid you are dead.  
                                                                               
   ****  You have died  ****                                                   
                                                                               
Now, let's take a look here... Well, you probably deserve another chance. I    
can't quite fix you up completely, but you can't have everything.              
                                                                               
Forest                                                                         
                                                                               
>                                                                            

 

This time around, however, the items were not in the same spot. I found the glass bottle already empty in the field, instead of in the house. The brown bag was also in the house. I found this very interesting.

Unfortunately, I died a second time at the hands of the troll and became frustrated to the point of quitting.

Zork is definitely a game, in my opinion, and one I will probably continue playing until I reach the end.

 

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