The following story is a personal one, about a game that I played and a project that I worked on many years ago. I want to tell it here, in this format, as something of a time capsule for those of you that played it with me and for those of you that did not. As I have been spending weeks now researching the Hitchhiker’s Guide books and series (for The Adventure Gamer), I could not help but to think back of my own small contribution to HHG fandom: the Hitchhiker’s Guide to TinyTIM. It was, in short, an occasionally funny collaboration by a bunch of kids who played a particular online game in the mid-1990s about the game itself and about life. Some of its short articles were brilliant and others were plagiarism, but it was all done with heart. Before I can explain the “guide”, I need to talk about the game that inspired it.
In the earliest days of the Internet, there were online games. A full history of them would be incredibly fun to research and write, but for our story the key date is 1980: the launch of “MUD”, the first “Multi-User Dungeon”. This system and its dozens (eventually hundreds) of clones, acted like a multi-user version of a text adventure game. In fact, early text adventures such as Colossal Cave were sometimes reimplemented in a MUD context. You moved around using commands like “go west” and talked to people by “say”ing and “whisper”ing. Basic programming languages were implemented inside the games, allowing young programmers to collaborate and extend the game as they played it without having to tinker with the source code. These systems predated Minecraft and modern open-world creation games by decades.