A MIND FOREVER VOYAGING / Infocom / PC
 
 
Steve Meretzky really, really did not care for the Reagan administration. He voiced his displeasure at America's re-election of the man in text adventure form with his 1985 title A Mind Forever Voyaging, imagining the effect of Reagan's economic policy through a sentient supercomputer that can run detailed and accurate simulations of the future. Time has proven his vision of Reagan's policies to be alarmist and over-the-top ... but then again, I guess we should see how the Trump Campaign plays out over the next year before we pass final judgement.

Though the strokes used here may have been overly broad, Meretzky nonetheless accurately presaged some of the end results of Reagan's laissez-faire right-wing policy (which continued to a great degree even under Bubba Clittin' and Obama). An ultra-fundamentalist religious cult rising to power in the wake of extreme poverty and stratification isn't really an American issue as of this writing, but it's certainly an issue in other parts of the world ... and we've certainly still got plenty of religious nutters running around here, so give that one a little more time before you can call it completely dead.

More on-the-nose is the concomitant rise in power of the Border Security Force, a new Homeland Security-oriented branch of the military instituted just before the game begins. The real-life version right now is limited to fat rednecks on ATVs trying to stop Messicans from tookin' ur jurbs, but in the game world it's a paramilitary organization formed in response to the development of pocket-sized nukes and rampant terrorist attacks. If a cigarette pack nuke is ever developed I expect a hell of a lot worse than this from the U.S. government, that's officially time to head for the middle of a desert or a large uninhabited mountain somewhere. Gun control and isolationism are also major forces driving the political events of the game, and "joybooth addiction" serves as a rough counterpart for the epidemic of pain pill prescriptions and heroin habits.
 


AMFV puts you in the role of said sentient computer, and your job is to run simulations of the Plan For Renewed National Purpose, a very ambitious overhaul of both economic policy and federal criminal law proposed by a stereotypical Republican Senator who is preparing for a presidential run. You are housed in a research facility in the small town of Rockvil, South Dakota, and you'll initially run a simulation of life there under the plan 10 years from now. This sim makes things seem hunky-dory, but then you'll run a sim for 20 years out, then 30, then 40, then 50, with each new version of Rockvil turning into more and more of a hellscape.

The sims don't really contain puzzles. You're given a list of tasks to complete in each one, basic activities like eating in a restaurant and riding public transit. So you just wander around and do these things, recording them in your memory buffer so the scientists back at the lab can later see them. The only real challenge is in that you have very finite recording space, so you have to be careful when you turn your recorder on and off. But if you run out of space, you can simply exit the simulation and restart.

The one major shortfall is in that there was room here to develop actual puzzles in order to accomplish these objectives within each sim, but the game doesn't go that route. As the sims go on, you stand more and more of a chance of getting killed as you move about, with the final sim only allowing you a few turns before a roving pack of wild dogs rips you apart. But once you know where these deaths are, they can be avoided. To be fair to the game, there may have been room conceptually, but not physically. Reportedly a whole new interpreter had to be built to handle the raw amount of text in this game, and when it was finished it was completely full to its capacity. And of course, text adventures died out very shortly after this, so the project probably didn't have time to wait any longer for technology to advance. Can't help but wonder what a graphic adventure version of this game would have been like, though.

AMFV obviously leans on 1984 at times, and as with all similar dystopian fiction, it tends more toward cartoonish exaggerations to make a point than to actual nuanced attempts to predict the future. Even so, it's very well-written and it's fascinating to continue through the decades and see the gradual decline of Rockvil from cheery all-American small town into literal ruin.
 
 
Links :
 
Excellent documentary article on the making of the game
 
 















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