The year? 1987. The creator? Douglas Adams and Infocom. The genre? Frustrating interactive text adventure. The platform? Amiga or Commodore or Apple or MS-DOS. The title?


My dad bought a “family” PC in 1987. His company offset some portion of the $3,700 outlay for the machine, with its dual 360K floppy drives, 4 color display, and stack of manuals that almost weighed as much as the computer. There were two pieces of software Dad included: Lotus 1-2-3 (for work), and …


Imagine, if you will, taking all the fun parts involved in changing one’s mailing address (or, these days, email and cell phone number) and chucking those fun bits in the bin. The parts that are left, make those into an interactive fiction game. Also, make sure there are no images or music. One needs no joystick, for the obvious reason and because one types their actions into the game.

Take all of that and give it to the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and see what happens. Which they did, except that Adams’ brought the game to Infocom after his inspiration from his own change-of-address misadventure.

The game is appropriate for all ages, though the more ennui through life experience one accumulates the better one appreciates the subtle nuances of Bureaucracy. Or, as Doctor Evil laid plain in Austin Powers, “The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. ”

The game play is common with interactive fiction: navigate a finite space, collect certain things in a specific order, apply those things at a place, and arrive at a fruitful climax. Few, if any, interactive fiction games included a need to deal with a hungry llama. This game is brave enough to call attention to the llama problem in video games. But, I digress ….

There is no AI here other than the mind of Adams when he created the game. The best tools to get through it are a pencil and sheets of graph paper and the “feelies”, a set of extra items included in the game box. Mine are packed away in storage, but [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy_(video_game)#Feelies][Wikipedia says that the /Bureaucracy/ included]]:
– A pamphlet entitled You’re ready to move! from the fictional bank Fillmore Fiduciary Trust
– A flier advertising the fictional magazine Popular Paranoia
– A welcome letter from the player’s new employer, Happitec Corporation
– A Fillmore “Better Beezer” credit card application form (each sheet of the triplicate carbon copy form had different instructions and questions)
– A very skinny pencil (similar to those provided at banks)

The user interface was common when the game was released but would be neigh unrecognizable to today’s youths — a command line text interface.

All that said, it is still a funny frustrating fun game to play. I have it, and the other Infocom interactive fiction games, on my phone and tablet and laptop and eReader and … Every so often, especially when I travel where internet connectivity is anything but given, I will break out my dot grid notebook and a pencil and fire up my emulator.

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About Paul

I’m a Detroit expat recently returned from Tokyo living in Chattanooga. I’m a consulting security professional and father of two. I promise that my views and politics are mine; not yours or my employer’s or anyone’s. I follow no party or affiliation or anything. My things are released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license unless otherwise stated.

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