[A version of this feature was originally printed in UK videogames bible Edge. It's about the use of Text in videogames, both in the mainstream and over in the world of Interactive fiction. It features material from Chris Avellone (Planescape Torment), Sheldon Pacotti (Deus Ex), Adam Cadre (Photopia, Shrapnel) and Emily Short (Galatea, Floatpoint). I've expanded it to fit in in some of the quotes I couldn't fit in Edge's word-count. Which were many. If you've read my Planescape Retrospective, you'll recognise some key riffs. This feature very much grew from that one. And enough waffle. Let's do this thing.]
In the beginning was the word. And the word begat a phrase. And the phrase was “Avoid Missing Ball For High Score”. Gaming’s public relationship with words started here, and continues to this day. It’s these first furtive fumblings which produced the most lasting signifiers which define games in the public eye, and will continue to do so as long as the form continues to exist in its current state. Icons like “Extra Life” and “High Score” are as much a signifier of gaming as any of the corporate mascots.
But this isn’t about that.
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