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Down From the top of its Game: The Story of Infocom

review by Kurt Kalata - October 30, 2011

Down From the Top of Its Game: The Story of Infocom was published by Rolenta Press (which has put out a couple of other cool video game books like Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames) in 2010, but is actually a reprinting from a college paper back in 2000.

The central thesis of the book is that Infocom's downfall was not solely caused by the development of Cornerstone, the database software that massively flopped and drained substantial resources from the company. Personally, I didn't even know that was an argument - I guess maybe some interactive fiction fans were incredibly annoyed that the company was diverting so much of its resources away games and putting them towards boring business software, but I think in retrospect, most people realize that text adventures were simply falling out of fashion, and Infocom was doing a poor job adapting to new marketplace. Of course, there are many more reasons than that, which this book handfully illustrates. Indeed, the executives seemed to realize that Infocom's games might eventually go out of fashion and sought to diversify, which was where the idea for Cornerstone came from. Of course, that didn't quite work out in practice, for reasons which are, again, well explained. The best bit is this advertisement, teasing the likes of Sierra and other adventure game developers for their awful graphics.

It's a great read, but with a few fundamental issues. Mostly, much like GET LAMP, it does a fantastic job illustrating the history of the business and (to a lesser extent), why the genre is so fascinating...but it largely glosses over the games themselves. It talks about the creation of feelies for Deadline and a bit of about Floyd in Planetfall...but barely mentions any of the rest of their titles, other than that they exist. What about Trinity? A Mind Forever Voyaging? The collaboration with Douglas Adams on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the drama behind its failed sequel? While this was initially a history paper and such criticism would have originally been beyond the scope, but the result is that the book is just way too short, considering it's only 50 pages worth of content and sold for $10. The Zork article in the HG101 adventure game book is almost as long as this entire production. The font type is also large and the layout is rather amateurish. It's a great topic and what's there is good, but it feels like it's only half done.

You can view a sample at the Rolenta Press homepage.

Quick Info:


  • Hector Briceno et al.


  • Rolenta Press


  • July 2010 [first edition 2000]


  • 70


  • 0-668-05518-9

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