How To Deal With A Naughty 4 Year Old Boy Escaping to the Point and Click Adventure

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Escaping to the Point and Click Adventure

Some of my best gaming experiences; in fact, some of my best experiences during the last year of the 80’s and throughout the 90’s came from the amazing “Point and Click Adventure” genre. Also known as “Graphic Adventures”, each game was an absolute journey, deeply layered and immersive – I disconnected from reality and into a different world, allowing me to be someone else from the moment those discs were inserted to the moment I pressed that on/off switch and went to bed.

To escape my ordinary school life, all I had to do was get moving and I was instantly a pirate, secret agent, time traveler, space janitor, detective, archaeologist, wizard or king. Douglas Quaid had “Rekall”, I had my Amiga.

This was off “the book”; Point and Click adventures allowed the player to delve into a rich story, but actually be the protagonist, walk like them, answer like them, interact with other characters like them and make their decisions for them; each time being rewarded with further story, puzzles and riddles. Before the integration of real audio dialogue into the games when they arrived on CD-ROM years later (which I think spoiled them); a much cooler generation of limited-capacity floppy disk users were forced to read all the dialogue in their head (creating their own voices if they wanted) with a 16-bit soundtrack and sound effects to accompany them. It was a sublime experience.

I just preferred Point’n’Click

Often with intriguing stories and an intense need to solve the puzzle of the moment; players would put countless hours into the games without a break, playing all day, into the evening, and into the wee hours of the morning. With a tired mind, it could turn them into a trance-like, dream-like state, as if the dream they were having was right in front of them, but it was in full color, fully controlled, and lucid. These were the best dreams they had ever had. Everything outside the 4 sides of the screen in front of them fell apart and nothing else existed but adventure; the only reminder that they were still a human being they were looking at was the feel of their wrist and hand pointing with the mouse and the sound of clicks as they selected a verb and then an object.

It was a very personal and lonely experience; a journey that can only really be fully enjoyed when done alone. I was once sitting with a friend, together trying to solve a few puzzles of a certain game that was out at his house at the time. I felt like I was intruding on his experience, and he was definitely spoiling mine; this was an experience I wanted locked away in my bedroom, not his. It was akin to trying to sit and read a classic novel at the same time as another person, both peering over the same pages, one wanting to turn the page and go through it and the other wanting to hang around and get into the intricacies of the story and dialogue and use your imagination to enhance the scene. We were just two different instances of that spirit in two different ways of thinking. On his screen was the exact same animated collection of pixels, but I didn’t recognize this character, it wasn’t the same one waiting for me at home. We went through different things at different times; I had built a relationship with mine, and here was just a clone performing actions I wanted to save for later – it just wasn’t the same. Needless to say, I never tried to play Point’n’Click together again.

Graphic adventure piracy, before Monkey Island

It all started for me in 1989, when my uncle gave me a pirated copy of the (naughtily naughty) brilliant Delphine Future Wars – this dampened my appetite for the genre, however, as only one disk was handed over to (neither of us) a two-disc game, I only managed to solve a few puzzles before I was asked to “Insert Disc 2”. Without the disc, I couldn’t continue, which was frustrating to say the least, but it made me hungry for graphical adventures – I had to play more.

I used to order Amiga games from some sort of mail order catalog (I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called, or why I did it this way, as I could probably go to a computer store in town). However, I believe this catalog contained games that were not widely known or distributed at the time, perhaps from overseas. It featured a small ad featuring a game with quirky and exciting covers, like something out of a cool cartoon or 80s movie, which was accompanied by a stunning sales pitch – that’s when I had to find out what was going on at Maniac Mansion. And so it was ordered and the waiting time began (14-28 days I remember?). Every day was “Has the postman been?” routine, until one warm and hazy Saturday morning, it finally arrived. I remember opening the big brown bag and pulling out this amazing box. On the front, a large color version of what is shown in the catalog, but on the back, a strange painting of the story’s antagonists: Dr. Fred, Nurse Edna, and Weird Ed. If I hadn’t already been drawn in; The fact that inside the box was a huge poster showing a bulletin board with all sorts of plot related and character background references really cemented it. Maniac Mansion Disc 1 was in, and I was going to Maniac Mansion.

Adventures for a time without adventure

With a strong desire to point and click, and as the 90s arrived, many more titles followed; Zak McKracken and the Alien Minds, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Secret of Monkey Island, Operation Stealth, Loom, Day of the Tentacles, Corpse Cruise, Leisure Suit Larry, King’s Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest, Dark Seed , Dreamweb, KGB .. Some atmospheric and serious, some filled with incredible wit and humor; they came thick and fast, each taking me to a different place, time and life.

As the genre became popular and consistently filled the charts, it wasn’t long before sequels appeared that gave us even more adventures and even more time to spend with (as) our favorite characters.

However, as consoles increasingly came into the limelight with their gamepads, this meant the end of point-and-click (of course, consoles don’t use a mouse), and game sales at an all-time low due to the amount of floppy disk piracy; this meant the end of the Amiga. The PC continued with the genre for a while, but with a new generation wanting more shock value and graphically exciting games in real-time 3D; The whimsical innocence of Point and Click games as we know them was gone and the adventures were seemingly over. Fast forward 15 years or so… Although it lacks the authenticity of the interaction (less like a point and click, more like a Look and Touch adventure), in recent years with the intimacy of touchscreen devices and tablets, the Point and Click adventure is made I went back and was happy to see a reissue of some classics. It’s nice to see the genre becoming popular again, although unfortunately for me they’ve lost the charm that made the games what they were. Perhaps this is because the actual hardware used to reproduce them at the time is missing; with little storage space, processing power and graphics capabilities, the stories and characters really shined because they had to. Or maybe it was because of what else was happening (or not happening) outside the computer screen at the time. In an era before the internet, cell phones, social media, MMOs, and instant digital entertainment, there were few places to transpose the consciousness of a young boy looking for true adventure. With such a lack of escape options at the time, the Point and Click adventure was a Point and Click away from a completely different world.

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