Strongbad on Thy Dungeonman 2


Read Part 1

Part 2: An Affectionate Critique

Homestar Runner show real affection towards the retro subject matter that it parodies, and the neat skewering of Text Adventure Games here is no exception. Traditional IF is mocked for:

  1. Faux-archaic style - “ye find yeself in yon dungeon”
  2. Intellectual pretensions - “people with better imaginations”
  3. Frustration, frustration, frustration - “You can’t get ye flask… I’m certainly not going to tell thou”

Thy Dungeonman is a caricature, but an interesting one. The depiction alludes to IF’s origin, IF’s rise and fall in the game industry, and IF’s present situation as a grassroots art community.

Faux-archaic style

There have been many versions of the history of Colossal Cave Adventure, however all agree that the ur-text of IF began as a spelunking simulation written by Will Crowther. Once in circulation, ports, edits, and varients complicate that history, but the massive expansion by Don Wood of the original brought Adventure fully into the Tolkein fan scene, morphing it into the fantasy kingdom of trolls and dragons that would later be repackaged and released as Zork I-III by Infocom - indeed, before the era of intellectual pretension, Zork was first promoted to players with advertising reminiscent of “Dungeons and Dragons.”

Although the writing for Adventure / Zork is mostly standard English and bears almost no relation to the laughably bad Olde Englishey in this clip, to me Strongbad’s parody echoes a widespread perception of fan-fic as derivative, characterized more by enthusiasm for imitation than by originality or craft. In this view, unlike Tolkein, an eminent scholar and linguist who devised whole conlangs within his created worlds, IF emerged from Tolkein-esque fan culture with an amateur, “do-it-yeself” mentality. Ironically, it is that somewhat maligned do-it-yourself mentality that would later enable IF to rise from the grave….

1 Response to “Strongbad on Thy Dungeonman 2”

  1. 1 Tassie

    I think some of the forced language pretension is exactly what I have found to be so frustrating about IFs. I’ll type a reasonable request and get no love from the program because I haven’t followed some obscure dictate of the genre. I know that IF authors can’t make allowances for every variant that a user might type in for “pick up ye flask” but, dammit, I’d like to see “pick up the flask” and maybe even “grab flask” or “pocket flask” work. I feel like I get about half-way into an IF and then I’ll get stuck, not because I don’t know what to do next, but because I can’t figure out how to parse what I want to do in an acceptable way.

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