book cover

Crowdfunding Preview: ’50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to A.I. Dungeon’

Books Entertainment Kickstarter Videogames

You are standing in an open field west of a white house with a boarded front door. There is a mailbox here that you open. Inside is your copy of 50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to A.I. Dungeon that you have excitedly been waiting for. As you begin to read the book, a suspicious-looking individual holding a large bag tries to snatch the book out of your hands but is unable to. You have been waiting too long for this book and will never let go.

50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to A.I. Dungeon. Image by Aaron A. Reed

Nearing the end of its run on Kickstarter is a book that gathers together a ton of history of text games, and if you recall playing these gems, either when they were released, or more recently, this is a project you will definitely want to back before it ends!

What Is a Crowdfunding Preview?

A crowdfunding preview is a quick look at a project currently seeking funding on one of the various crowdfunding platforms, such as Kickstarter and Gamefound. These are items I find interesting, and I assume many of our readers will as well. Be aware that I have not yet received the product, so as such, this is only my take on the campaign and not an endorsement. I encourage you to check it out for yourself and decide if this is something you want to back

New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.

What Is 50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to A.I. Dungeon?

This fascinating book by Aaron A. Reed explores the history of text games from the past 50 years. Over the course of 50 chapters, it looks at one game per chapter, released each year from 1971 through 2020. Did you know that The Oregon Trail, which many of us remember as a game with basic graphics on the Apple II, started life in 1971 in a Minnesota 8th grade history class using a teletype and paper tape terminals?

It covers many different types of games as well, highlighting some forgotten gems and games running on all sorts of devices. Throughout the book, Aaron has interspersed maps, code snippets, and all sorts of extras that fit right in with the history of “feelies” in these games. And speaking of “feelies,” there is even a pledge level for that!

Example Page Layout. Image by Aaron A. Reed

Aaron A. Reed, the author, has experience with text games, having authored a few as well. His track record is solid with three previous crowdfunding campaigns that have all finished and been delivered successfully. He’s put together a 650-page book, available in both soft and hard cover depending on your pledge. The campaign is well put together as well, offering several links to find out more about other things Aaron has worked on, and even providing a sample chapter from the book about A Mind Forever Voyaging from Infocom.

What Pledge Levels Are Available?

The first pledge level is $25 for a digital edition of the book, in two different formats. You get a standard PDF with the full layout from the print edition, as well as an e-book version if you have an e-book reader.

The next level is $45 for the softcover edition of the book. Coming in at 8″ x 10″, this is a professionally printed version of the book, which is only available during the campaign. You also get the digital edition.

Your next step up is to $85 for the premium hardback with a faux-leather, foil-stamped cover. In addition to also receiving the digital edition of the book, you also get access to a portal with extra content for each game. The content ranges from interviews to source code, as well as links to play, download, or buy the games if available.

We now step up into the Collector’s Edition at $125, which includes everything from the Hardcover Edition, but it is now numbered. You also get a slipcase for the book, which also holds an additional booklet entitled Further Explorations, which covers extra material not found in the book. You also get a thank you credit in all editions of the book for pledging at this level.

At $185 is the Ultimate Collector’s Edition. This is the one that really grabs me because, in addition to everything in the Collector’s Edition, you also get custom-designed “feelies” in a display box. These really bring back the feeling of the ’80s text adventure that you were so excited to go pick up at your local game store. Inside you’ll find a poster map of your choice from three options, some computer punch tape from the ’70s, a floppy disk with a text file of the book as well as an original text adventure game, a hint book, and finally a reproduction of a cassette tape of Adventureland and Pirate Adventure from Scott Adams!

Ultimate Collector’s Edition. Image by Aaron A. Reed

Beyond this level are two additional levels. A Patron level at $395, which includes the Ultimate Collector’s Edition, a second Collector’s Edition book, and a one-hour event with the author on a subject of your choice. At $1995 you have the Commission level, which also gets you an original article written on the computer game of your choice.

Why You Should Check Out 50 Years of Text Games: From Oregon Trail to A.I. Dungeon

If, like me, you are a child of the ’80s and grew up playing these games, then this crowdfunded book is a complete no-brainer. The information found inside will not only take you back to those games but will also show you what has been happening in this gaming area since.

This book is a beautiful tribute to a gaming genre that many younger people don’t really understand these days and can provide a wonderful gateway to discovering games you never knew existed. It is well designed enough to be a welcome coffee table book and might even start some fun conversations with people who see it.

suspended map

Aaron has shown himself to be dedicated to this topic, having run a newsletter previously showcasing a lot of this information, and this book is the culmination of years of research for him. I’m a big fan of this style of book, and I would encourage anyone interested in gaming of any sort to check it out. It would also be a great surprise gift for someone you know who played these games but might not know this book exists.

Be sure to head over to the Kickstarter campaign as it enters its final days and get a copy for yourself. The campaign ends on July 7, 2022.

Click here to see all our tabletop game reviews.

 To subscribe to GeekDad’s tabletop gaming coverage, please copy this link and add it to your RSS reader.

Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.

Liked it? Take a second to support GeekDad and GeekMom on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!