RECOMMENDED READING: Indiana Jones Fights the Communist Police: Text Adventures as a Transitional Media Form in the 1980s Czechoslovakia

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Jaroslav Svelch's paper for MiT7 (Media in Transition 7) "Indiana Jones Fights the Communist Police: Text Adventures as a Transitional Media Form in the 1980s Czechoslovakia" (pdf) (via Nick Monfort) gives an interesting look at how gaming in Czechoslovakia started with a number of unlicensed fan fiction-like text adventures like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom ("the original film was only released in Czechoslovakia in 1990 – it is likely that [developer František Fuka] saw it on a pirated VHS. For many players, this game was their first contact with this media franchise.") Later, a text game The Adventures of Indiana Jones in Wenceslas Square in Prague on January 16, 1989 takes a more blatent fan fiction style ("The game takes place during the Jan Palach Week in January 1989 that saw violence by the Public Security (Veřejná bezpečnost, the police force in the Communist Czechoslovakia) and the People’s Militia against a peaceful gathering commemorating the 30th anniversary of the death of Jan Palach. Indy is caught on Wenceslas Square, where the clash took place, and has to find his way back into the United States. This involves brutal disposal of the members of law enforcement")

[In] 1989, only 1.8% Czech households owned a computer... Video game console market was virtually non-existent. As for software, first mentions of original copies of computer games being sold in the country surfaced in early 1989, mere months before the Velvet Revolution... Despite these limitations, there was a lively community of home computer users, many of whom played computer games, including text adventures. Informal systems of distribution were in place, forming a shadow economy as well as a space for free sharing of software...

Although there was a vibrant text adventure market in the U.S. and the U.K., English-language commercial games could not gain a sizable following in Czechoslovakia due to the language barrier. The establishment of the domestic textovka as a national version of the international genre was an important step in the history of the Czech computing culture. For some time, text adventures comprised the majority of domestic game production. One of the reasons was that they were relatively easier to make. František Fait, lead programmer of the game …and what about that?! said: “We didn’t have time, knowledge or skills for anything more.” (Fait, 2011). This is not to say that any text adventure is easy to make, but that a passable text adventure is easier to make than a passable action game; in fact, all of the games discussed in this paper were amateur productions and only a few could stand comparison with foreign commercial titles in terms of gameplay and narrative complexity...

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