The best games fire the imagination, and anyone who first typed commands like “get lamp” into Colossal Cave Adventure experienced how the game could conjure up a world of spelunking, puzzle solving, and treasure gathering with only words.
Will Crowther created the game as a programmer at Bolt, Beranek, and Newman (BBN), a firm that did much of the foundational work for ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet. He created the game to connect with his daughter, inspired by his experiences exploring Mammoth Cave, and by playing the recently released tabletop game Dungeons & Dragons.
After completing a build of the game in 1976, he uploaded it to BBN’s computer system and left for vacation. While he was gone, the game spread quickly and was discovered by a young Stanford student Don Woods, who expanded its imaginary world, adding longer descriptions, a larger map, and a roving pirate who randomly snatched items from players.
Colossal Cave Adventure inspired numerous games that helped launch the commercial computer game industry, including Scott Adams’ 1978 title Adventureland and Infocom’s Zork.
Others ported the game to personal computers, including a version by Microsoft released in 1979.
When Crowther and Woods created this mesmerizing game, they not only conjured up a world of great imaginative power but laid the foundation for an entire genre of fantasy games, setting computer gaming on an enchanting trip into the unknown.