Adventure games saved my life (well, my afternoon)
Warning: this title may be a lightweight exaggeration. But the adventure games certainly saved my afternoon, and a huge embarrassment. Because earlier this week I found myself locked in my bathroom with no reasonable means of rescue. Then I immediately fell back on 40 years of adventure gaming, to perfect my heroic escape.
I love adventure games since I learned to read. In fact, they partly taught me to read. The first computer games I played (after, admittedly, Pong) were text adventures on my father’s Spectrum 48K. To this day, I still read the word ‘exam’ to mean ‘watch’. Solving problems based on the batshit logic of the genre has been programmed into me for four decades. But it wasn’t until this week that all of that training was so vital.
My wife, holy as she is, broke the doorknob on our bathroom door. Like, clean up. On the outside of the door is just a hole where a handle should be. However, inside, the other half of the mechanism remains, and that’s what rocked me in my crazy closing the door so that I could… sit quietly.
This mid-morning constitution completed, with a new spring found in my approach, I was ready to face the world. But I found that my available world suddenly became very limited. I was trapped, the useless doorknob, the door very categorically closed. Which was embarrassing.
Most importantly, I hadn’t brought my phone. yes I to know. What kind of clot is suitable for a poo without a phone to read? This sort. My wife was out, I was in the bathroom on the third floor of our converted loft, and the window falling was totally fatal. I would surely die? Or worse, miss me Kotaku change.
But did I shout out the window like an unfortunate victim of Carnage? No, I didn’t. Instead, I searched for inventory items.
I’d like people to know that this isn’t the first time I’ve applied my long-learned point-and-click skills in real life. I remember when I was a student, replacing the backdoor to our disgusting little rented slum with nothing but a bread knife and a pair of scissors. (We found out that our horrible landlord had glue on the previous one. And yes, we do change the locks of a rented accommodation. Ha.)
I am really proud of the calm I felt during my recent predicament. With a coolness that belies my usually frantic and panicked mind, I just scanned the room for useful items. The first two things I saw were a hair clip and, again after all these years, a pair of scissors. Not the same. If only. But with these in my inventory (hands), I got to work.
I figured the best thing to do was remove the doorknob. I was visibly tired of forcing the door open, but hearing a crack of wood, I realized I was just going to punch through the door frame, and that would be a whole other thing. I put the idea in my back pocket, aware that if I had to I could just take the Hulk out, but with a lot more to explain. Instead, I used [scissors] TO [screw].
It’s funny how much more this action reminds me of moving part escape puzzles now than the traditional point-and-click graphics that have punctuated my entire life. From Sierra’s first analyzer interface to the dying embers of LucasArts’ glorious 2D cursor-based escapades, these were the highlights of my gaming childhood. I’ve persisted with the genre through good times and bad, but at the same time I noticed another phenomenon: all new genres are destined to become adventure games.
Take the hidden object game. Remember this craze? Well go play any modern example and you’ll be surprised at how they evolved (if you ignore the cladogenesis that gave us all that came after Hidden people). Over the years, they started to add more narration, more moments between screen hunts, then puzzles, inventories, dialogues…
The same is already happening with room escape games. Where they started with Flash-based static screens, asking you to find hidden codes and solve convoluted chains of puzzles to uncover keys, more recently others are adding narrative focus, characters, inventories. more evident with persistent elements.
That is, it’s only a matter of time before the Battle Royales start offering dialogue choices, or have you pull out a key from the other side of a door with a pencil. , grabbing him from a sheet of newspaper slipped through the eerily large space beneath.
Like I said before you distracted me, the act of removing a screw with something other than a screwdriver now reminded me much more immediately of how many coin breakouts I’ve played. Which was appropriate given the circumstances. Frankly, at this point, anyone who still uses a screwdriver for a screw is clumsy.
The problem with sharp scissors for removing a screw is that they don’t have the light feel of a screwdriver and, as such, are much more prone to driving them deep into the hole. This is where the hair clip came in, which I had opened, to use the flat metal end to hold the screws forward.
Here’s the next moment that felt so adventure game. I haven’t deleted all four. You never need to remove all four, whether it’s a paint job or an air conditioning tunnel cover. Take out three, then let it spin and hang down by the fourth. This done, the cylindrical hole in the door was revealed.
I admit that I am not Andys’ most handyman. I rarely put the Y in DIY. Fortunately, my wife is a much more skilled human than I am, and she takes care of that aspect of being an adult. So I didn’t know, I’m ashamed to say it, exactly how a doorknob worked. They do, don’t they? Like microwaves and daytime soap operas, they’re not ours to reason with. But after I stuck my fingers in the hole, I realized it was a whole new puzzle.
I’m not going to drag him any further. I closed the scissors, dug them into the square hole in the mechanism still stuck inside the door frame, and turned them to pull the latch. AND I WAS FREE.
I was a GOD HERO.
OK, so also I was an idiot who locked himself in a bathroom with a broken door. I knew it was broken, but forgot at the time. But I definitely found myself quietly falling back on video game instincts at this point. It wasn’t so much that the situation or the choices were that interesting or unique, but rather that I just assumed it would work, because, you know, that’s always the case in adventure games.
I’m pretty much ready for anything now. Do you need a little sweater 200 years in the future? I got you. Do you want me to pass myself off as a man with a mustache, without growing a mustache? Easy peasy. Don’t ask me to miss a nasty goat.