The Good Blind Fun of Zork

When I first read the title Zork I: The Great Underground Empire Pt. I  I knew I was in for a ride. Not only was the title completely non explanatory, but the beginning of the game gave little to no directions at all. To be completely honest, before starting the game I thought it would have been a game involving sorting or organizing because I registered ‘Zork and Sort’ together in my brain for some reason. However, after first attempt, you could say I was more than confused. During my first attempt of playing I was wholeheartedly confused by the entire situation. I had no idea what the game was about, how to work it or what I was even looking at. For about 5 minutes or so I would say I was looking at the screen, waiting patiently for the graphics to show up so I could have a picture of what I was looking at. Graphics are however, as I learned, not part of this game at all.

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The game screen is essentially  just a blank computer screen, white background and black text. Somewhat boring and ominous, as well as confusing for it to be a title page of a game. You start with a title saying “Welcome to Zork!” underneath it states

After these ‘instructions’ on the first page you enter on, there are no more rules to your knowledge. There are no step by step instructions, no graphics to look at, scrolls to read, or narration to give you a sense of direction. It is just you and a blank screen with an enter mark. After fumbling around on this homepage or a moment, I began guessing at what commands I should be inputting into the computer in order to gain a response for the game. I received a message from the computer “You can’t see any such thing” which appears every time to type in a phrase that the computer does not understand or does not comply with. Once I discovered that I needed to give commands and well as directions, I started to move around much better. I was able to enter the house after many attempts, and ‘look’ around the kitchen as well as the living room to an extent.

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I also was able to take a lantern, a bottle of water, as well as a sword. I also did discover areas of the house that I was not able to access or walk to which created a challenge for me. There were also areas of the house that were restricted to me by creation, a nailed shut door, barred windows, as well as a closed and locked back door. It was hard to decipher what was going on, where I was facing or what I was ‘looking’ at because of the lack of graphics.

I would not normally consider this interaction a ‘game’ per se because I did not see the usual, historical tell all to make this a game. For example, most if not all video games have graphics, sound, person to person interaction, direction, a story or narrative that is to be followed as well as a list of goals which are supposed to be, or desired to be completed. This was a completely different experience than I thought it would be, making me want to learn more.

Zork! Was created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology dynamic modeling group members Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling in 1977-1979. It was one of the first interactive fictional video games in creation, with a set of 3 different games:  Zork: The Great Underground Empire Pt. 1, Zork II: Wizard of Frobozz, and Zork III: The Dungeon Master. Each is created similar, with the use of common phrases and commands you can move around the world created for you, find hidden treasures and complete missions that are laid out for you, all without seeing the actual world you are exploring. Zork is a one in a million game, exceeding many expectations of non interest and blandness, Zork had me reaching back for my computer try after try after try. Even if I made little to no advancement in my quest, I constantly clicked try again for the experience of adventuring in a new world, even if you have to imagine the world entirely yourself.

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 5.12.31 PM.pngI can compare it to reading an interesting, confusing book. One that develops page by page in a world that you imagine yourself based off of prompts that are given to you. The unique use and expansion of creativity of the player is incredibly important which makes the game different to every user who plays. For example, there are many prompts that are given to you when moving around the outside of the house. A prompt reads “you are on the south side of the white house, a window is slightly ajar” and from this point on you can decide what you want your player to do. You can continue straight past the house into the vast forest, where a canyon and cliff side await if you venture too far. Or you could choose to break into the house through the window, and find yourself in a kitchen filled with peppers, water and dark corners which cannot be entered by your player. The house itself hold many secrets and hidden passages that can only be opened and explored if you are granted access, or find the appropriate tools to use on your adventure. The game is very player subjective, with no narrative or set of directions, each player can choose to conduct and go about their missions differently. Zork is an interesting, thought provoking, imaginative and intellectual game which stretches the aspects of what most people consider to be “a video game”.


Play The Game For Yourself! :

Or Google ‘Zork Online Game’ for more information


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