An Action by Any Other Name


Um, I don’t think there’s an option for what you’re doing blondie…

Use this! No, push it! Pull it! Pick it up! No, take it! Open it! Look at it! No, examine it! Turn it off! Turn it on!


Ok, backing up; remember in those text and graphical text adventure games where you had to manually type in exactly every action you wanted your character to do? And you had to slowly figure out what words the game did and didn’t recognize? And then you had to figure out which actions worked on what objects in which situations? Infuriating.

Now jump to the LucasArts/Sierra days when we had a list of predefined actions. Astounding! Innovation! Now you didn’t have to guess what verb to type into the prompt to make your character progress the story… you just had to cycle though a list of about a dozen preselected verbs until something happened. This would’ve worked if it weren’t for the fact that many of your options could’ve easily been combined with other options.


Can I turn off Mr Loom?

Let me give you an example. Say you walk up to a door and you select “open” and then click on the door. Then, in true adventure game fashion, your character informs you that “it’s locked.” You then select “unlock” and click the door. Your character then informs you that you need a key to unlock the door. But you have a key in your spacial-bending infinite pocket. You select “use” click on the key then on the door. “That doesn’t work” your character says. GOLLY GEE WILIKERS! JUST OPEN THE FREAKING DOOR ALREADY!! DO I HAVE TO SPELL EVERYTHING OUT FOR YOU?!

Given how picky adventure games were about only accepting a particular verb on a certain item, the advent of contextual interaction icons/cursors were a Godsend. Of course, if developers had just gone with the one verb to rule them all, “interact” then I wouldn’t be having this rant at all. And where’s the fun in that?