"Adventure Quest" is a play steeped in video game history. Its direct inspiration goes back to the late 80s and early '90s, when point-and-click adventure games ruled with an iron fist. Titles like "Space Quest," "Kings Quest" and "Quest for Glory" have very strong memories associated with them, and the idea of making a play in the same style seems, well, novel.
Adam Swiderski is the director of "Adventure Quest," which is playing at The Brick Theater in Brooklyn throughout June and July. He says much of the crew is made up of true fans of the genre, all of whom have a "connection to Sierra-era adventure games."
But how does this actually play out on stage? If you've played one of these classic titles, many of the elements will be instantly familiar. Swiderski describes one such theme which runs throughout:
"There's a character in the show, and in order for him to do things he has to give commands. Back in the day it was all text parsers. Like if you you typed 'Stab Ogre' that wouldn't work but if you typed 'Use Knife On Ogre' that would work. You know, dealing with these games to get them to do what you want them to do, which was incredibly frustrating to people. I have countless memories of sitting there and typing in various combinations of objects and different ways of stating that I wanted to stab someone. So there's a lot of that frustration in the play."
There are even some direct references to specific games. An equippable fish, one of the strange items you can pick up in "Space Quest 5," plays a pivotal role. Even the music is an homage to those games:
"The guy who did the music, Chris Chapell, did it all with a SoundBlaster emulator, so it's all this old ChipTunes-style that recalls specifically stuff that was done in that era. Instead of settings we have screens, and every screen has its own theme. You know, like back in the day you'd come to the castle and you'd hear the castle theme every time you came to that screen. The same thing happens in the show."
There are a lot of breaking-the-fourth-wall moments, as well. Obviously the hero of an adventure game is on screen at all times, but on-stage that's just kinda odd. The playwright, Rich Lovejoy, actually made this one of the central themes, as a way of dealing with it. "It became about how the world is centered around this one guy and what that's like."
Swiderski has long wanted to bring video games to the stage, even writing an adaptation of "Grim Fandango." "I wrote a full draft on it, I was thinking about producing it. I talked to Tim Schafer at a Microsoft event when I was working as a games journalist. He was really excited about it. Unfortunately I lost the draft in a hard drive failure, so I don't know if that's ever going to happen."
Thankfully we should be able to get our old-school adventure fix with Adventure Quest. It'll be running at The Brick as part of a larger series of productions called The Gameplay Festival. Tickets are available online if you're interested.
UPDATE: Apparently the programmer of "Quest for Glory" is in full support of the play. Check out his thoughts at Destructoid.