The Classics are must-see, must-read, must-play works revered by The Verge staff. They offer glimpses of the future, glimpses of humanity, and a glimpse of our very souls. You should check them out.
A Mind Forever Voyaging is a text-based, interactive fiction computer game released by Infocom in 1985. Created by Steven Meretzky, who had previously designed the successful IF version of Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, AMFV is quite possibly the best text adventure game ever.
The best way to experience this game is to go into it without any prior knowledge of what the game is about, where and when it is set, or what your goals will be — no easy task in the age of the internet. That said, I’m not going to tell you anything about the game, in the hopes that, if you’ve never played it, you won’t go Googling for answers, but that instead you will search out the game (which is available on the internet), and experience it for yourself.
"Something about the format spoke to me at a molecular level."
The first time I played it was probably in 1986 or ‘87, when I wasn’t yet what anyone would consider a gamer. I was too young to go to arcades on my own, and too young to buy anything for myself. That said, I had played plenty of Atari games, and hadn’t yet found myself that enamored with them. I was obsessed with reading — around this time it would have been Little House on the Prairie and Judy Blume — so, when I encountered AMFV at a friend’s house, something about the format spoke to me at a molecular level. Here was a screen I could get absorbed in. I didn’t yet see the appeal of Super Mario Brothers (though the education-focused Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? and The Oregon Trail certainly held my attention during school hours), but A Mind Forever Voyaging? I could have played it all day long.
But I don’t think I ever came close to finishing it as a child. I played other IF games at the same friend’s house, and I loved them all, but AMFV stayed in my heart, and when I rediscovered it about five years ago, playing through to the end with new and adult eyes was a joyful, exciting experience. It’s a shame we don’t demand text-based games anymore, because they truly do offer a different experience than the visual spectacle of a modern video game. Maybe they’ll make one, in the future.