Old school text adventures. Set in old schools.

Online searches often turn up interesting text adventures, either new or – from more technologically simpler times – historical. Pleasingly, a query in late 2014 revealed some text adventures from a quarter of a century or so ago which were set in academia.

From 1988, Dudley Dilemma is set in Harvard University. From the screenshots it appears to be a basic and standard text adventure. From even further back in 1987, Infocom themselves released the acclaimed Lurking Horror, which though initially set in a large MIT-like American university, soon veers off into somewhat unsettling horror.

Two other text adventures from back in the/that day I’ve been playing of late are Save Princeton and Ditch Day Drifter. Both of these can still be played by using a TADS-compatible interpreter (I’ve been using Splatterlight on my Mac).

The former of these, co-authored by Jacob Weinstein who also provided much of the information in this note, is unsurprisingly set in Princeton University. This is an “exaggerated, slapsticky version of life as an undergraduate”, where the aim of the adventure isn’t immediately apparent. A screenshot from near the start:

Screenshot from Save Princeton

Ditch Day Drifter, on the other hand, was developed in 1990 and is set in Caltech. According to Jacob this is closer to real life than some other text adventures situated in a university, since it portrayed Caltech’s “Ditch Day“, which is basically a big real-world adventure game. Another screenshot:

Screenshot from Ditch Day Drifter

Both games are quite enjoyable to play and, as you do with text adventures, experiment with to see what the parser recognises, allows and acts on.

Microsoft purchase MinecraftEdu

As reported in a thousand newspaper articles, a million blog posts, and seemingly a billion edtech tweets, Microsoft have now bought MinecraftEdu, the, well, education version of Minecraft. They seem happy, TeacherGaming seem happy, edtech commentators and journalists have something to write about, and future uses of Minecraft in schools especially seem more likely.

As the website now says:

Microsoft will release an entirely new version of the game called Minecraft: Education Edition that will have many features inspired by MinecraftEdu. Microsoft will also use their impressive resources and reach to bring Minecraft into far more classrooms than ever before. We believe that Minecraft’s educational potential has barely been explored and that there are exciting times ahead.

THE journal digs a little deeper on this and mentions the enhancement of OneNote to make development within Minecraft a little smoother. Which sounds like a good thing; one of the enduring problems with game, simulation and virtual world use in classrooms is the fragmented timetable, and lesson blocks of an hour or even less. The pupil or student needs to be up and quickly progressing with something on-point, relevant and constructive, rather than spending a significant proportion of each lesson block undergoing initialization routines, or using laborious tools and routines that suck time away from useful activity.

How will Minecraft sit within the roll-call of digital games, environments and simulations used within education?

Thankfully, we should be getting a clearer picture by now. The early days of speculation-oriented writing on the use of this specific technology have given way to an increasing proportion of articles, papers and reports containing data of Minecraft use in formal and informal learning situations. I’m looking forward to seeing quality research and meta-analysis of these works over the next few years.