"50 Years of Text Games" is now a book!
The pre-launch page for the 50 Years of Text Games book crowdfunding campaign is now live [update: and the campaign is now too!], and the campaign is launching in two weeks on June 7th! Here we go, folks!!
If you might be interested in backing, it would be a big help if you could sign up to be notified when the campaign launches, to help the algorithms see that there’s interest in the project.
Read on for some more details and other news!
I never heard of “50 Years of Text Games,” what is it? During 2021, long-time interactive fiction author Aaron A. Reed (that’s me) ran a blog where I did an in-depth analysis of 50 games from each year between 1971 (when the original text-only version of The Oregon Trail debuted) and 2020. Each game got a deep-dive digging into how it worked, why it was important, and what its legacy is today. You can read the original launch post for the series to find out more about it, or try one of the articles to get a sense for the style.
The basics: The book collects the revised final version of the entire series with new material and a carefully designed presentation. It will be available in digital, paperback, hardcover, and a couple deluxe versions with some pretty cool extras. Anyone who pledges for a physical edition will get the digital edition as a free add-on. The physical editions will be offset printed by a professional book printer, which means they will look and feel beautiful (not print-on-demand) and be durable collector’s items. The purpose of the campaign is to collect enough pre-orders up front that I can afford to do this offset print run of softcover and hardcover editions.
The campaign will run through June into the first week of July, and the book will hopefully be shipping by the end of the year.
I already read the blog series: why should I back the campaign? First of all, thanks for being a loyal reader of the series!! Going into this project with a community of supporters already behind me feels so much better than pitching it blind. Here are a couple reasons you might want to buy the book:
Each article has been revised at least a little (some extensively) since its appearance on the blog.
Images have been added, including maps and flowcharts for many games (even more obscure ones), screenshots, and excerpts from period design docs and vintage ads. Here’s an original map for Adventure International’s Pirate Adventure (1978) and a zoomed-in detail:
Each game includes a detailed release history. Here’s an example for Zork (it’s narrow because it’s a full-page sidebar in the book). These do not always chronicle every release of a game (which in some cases would be a big list) but try to capture all major or interesting versions and editions.
Lots of supplemental sidebars add extra anecdotes and additional details not present in the original articles.
I tried to extensively link to sources in the original articles, but the book version contains a full research bibliography for each game.
The book features a lengthy new introduction about the early pre-history of digital text games, covering seminal works like ELIZA, SHRDLU, Hammurabi, and the earliest times people could type text into a computer and get text back.
Each decade also has an introduction highlighting the larger trends and movements for those ten years, and how they fit in with larger moments in computer and gaming history.
The “Collector’s Edition” (which you get a peek at in the project’s header image up top) will come with a supplemental book in a custom slipcase containing articles on additional games (including fan-favorites like Planetfall, Anchorhead, and A Dark Room) and a detailed timeline of text game history containing over 400 items.
There will even be an “Ultimate Collector’s Edition” with some really extra-special perks (stay tuned for more news on this!)
I was a paid supporter of the Substack: do I get a discount? I’m happy to offer free shipping on your pledge to anyone who subscribed to the Substack at the paid level for at least a month. Details on this process will be available when you confirm your order on BackerKit.
Will there be a way to buy more than one book, or a mixture of editions? Yes… there will be “add-on” options at any pledge level where you can add additional copies to your pledge.
I'd like to buy multiple copies for a classroom, bookstore, or library. There will be a $1 “Bookstore” tier that will let you indicate your interest in this— I’ll contact you after the campaign ends to find out how many copies you need and get you bulk discount pricing. See also the next question.
Will there be another way for me to get the book that doesn’t involve crowdfunding or Kickstarter? Yes:
Assuming the campaign is successful, I'll be offering pre-orders afterwards on BackerKit until I’m ready to put in the final order with the book printer (probably in late September). You'll be able to place an order through BackerKit without involving Kickstarter.
After Kickstarter pledges and BackerKit pre-orders are fulfilled, there may be surplus copies left over from the initial print run. If so, I plan to offer these directly for sale on my website until they run out.
In the longer term, I'd like to release a print-on-demand version of the book to keep it available indefinitely. This will contain the same interior but be printed in a more basic fashion: POD tends to look and feel similar to a bound collection of laser-printed pages. There will likely be a paperback as well as a case-bound hardcover (which will look similar to a traditional textbook). This will be a good option if you’re interested in assigning the book to students. These versions will debut some time after the crowdfunded versions are delivered, probably in early 2023, and should be available on Amazon and from other major booksellers (via the established company Lightning Source).
Will there be more new content coming to the blog? I have a few more surprise posts in the works, including one on an obscure but fascinating 80s adventure by a well-known writer… stay subscribed to the series if you’re interested!
I’m so excited to unveil the campaign. Thanks to those who filled out the survey a few weeks back, which helped me figure out a few things. I’m grateful as always for your support. Let’s make this book happen!!