Back in the 1980s and 1990's, I loved video games (and I still do!), but my gaming sessions were generally quite different from what they are today. Graphics have changed and updated, voice acting has been added, new ideas put in to play. In this two part series, I'm going to go through the classic point-and-click genre from the 1990's, and then in part two I will discuss the resurgence of the genre and art within.
When we moved technologically past the black screen and white (or orange or green) words of text adventure games, to more fully immersive games with voices, background noise, graphics, etc. One of my favourite examples of a text based game is the classic Zork (which was also one of the earliest fictional interactive games). Zork didn't have you aligning a paddle on the screen and working your dexterity – it had you working your mind to solve the puzzles it had laid before you as you travelled the ruins of an ancient empire, laying deep underground.
We wanted more from games, then. We wanted to see these worlds for ourselves, rather than just experiencing them through typing commands of “go west” and “use key on chest”. We wanted to see the key, see the chest – see the West in the distance. The advent of the genre promised puzzle solving with immersive story for it's players, while other gamers were quite happy with killing and shooting or slashing the enemies on the screen. Point-and-clicks didn't offer enemies in the traditional gaming sense. You never had a “boss battle” with the big bad at the end of the level or game. Instead, the story became deeper and the puzzles harder.
Monkey Island Series In 1990 we were introduced to Guybrush Threepwood of the soon to be series of Monkey Island games. The Secret of Monkey Island introduces us to a rather bumbling fellow who wants to ever so desperately become a pirate. Throughout the series, he falls in love, gets captured by cannibals, does voodoo magic, acquires a real-to-goodness nemesis and learns he can only hold his breath for 10 minutes (not a second longer!). The games are set during the Golden Age of Piracy (which was between the 17th and 18th centuries), though the game seems more based on a comedic interpretation of old Disney pirate movies than with actual history (which was, of course, the fun of the game). These games are such an integral part of point-and-click gaming history, and we so well loved that people still purchase and play the games on console and Steam alike. You know a series is good when it's 28 years later and people are still forking out money to buy your game. Unfortunately, it looks like we won't be seeing any more games in the series, as the rights were bought by Disney and Disney has decided not to pursue future games.
Kings Quest and Sierra The Kings Quest series is one of my all-time favourite gaming series. It's fantasy, magic, and humour all rolled into one. The developer, Sierra, was the King of point-and-click adventure games in the 1990's. Sierra offered adventure games in many different genres as well, like Space Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest and Freddy Pharkas.
I started the Kings Quest series with number V, when I went to a computer game store in the local mall and purchased it on CD (which was a big deal as most of my games up until then had been on floppy disks). I explored the world as King Graham in the magical land of Daventry. I got to solve various puzzles, combine weird things together to help the King out of scenarios, and meet the most interesting of characters. King Graham and his family appear throughout the series – one game will focus on a couple members, another game will focus on another. My personal favourites were V through VII, although I have played all of the others. In the beginning, the games were much more text based, and at the end, with the eighth instalment, they took a weird turn into attempting more 3D looking graphics – an attempt I feel they failed at. Recently in 2015, The Odd Gentlemen took over the series with a non point-and-click game. I have yet to play this and am a little trepidatious due to it's veering away from a series I loved so much.
If you want to get into the 1990's point-and-click gaming spirit, here's some other great games from the time period to check out: Day of the Tentacle, The Flight of the Amazon Queen, Grim Fandango, Teen Agent, Full Throttle, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, The Broken Sword series and I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream.
With the introduction of Steam, old point-and-clicks are finding new life again. Re-releasing old titles for reminiscence sake and re-vamping others for an updated look and sound. Games you may have wished to play as a kid, but didn't have the $64.95 to shell out on a game that would only take you a couple hours to finish are now frequently under $10 – and if you wait for a sale (add them to your wishlist to see when a sale comes up), you'll get them even cheaper.
Some less known titles may also be available under abandonware, which are titles ignored by their manufacturer and owners and are thus no longer tracking copyright violations. This means you can get them for free with little to no moral blackening. All the games with none of the sin.
We're always waiting for the newest, best and most up-to-date games to be released, and often forget about the history that made these games possible. Explore the history of point-and-click gaming, rediscover an old love or ignite a passion for a new one. My heart will always be with the immersive storytelling of this genre – just as much in the past as it is today. In Part Two, I'm going to take you on a tour through the resurgence of the genre on Steam, why it's making such a come-back and why you should try your hand at a few.
Comment below what your favourite games are – have you ever played a point-and-click game?
Jess Armstrong lives in the cornfields of Southern Ontario, Canada where she's a fulltime procrastinator and loud mouth. She's also a giant geek, gamer girl, horror movie fanatic and player (and often DM) of Dungeons and Dragons. You can follow her on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.