ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog


Gold fell into my filmmaking lap today. Pure, refined gold.

I recently put a teaser trailer to the GET LAMP/Text Adventure Documentary up on the site and uploaded it to youtube. Checking the referrer logs and a couple other sources, I discovered there was another location to view a copy of the trailer, and that a lot of people were viewing it that way.

One of the classic entities that bottom-feed the content related to media is a site called They collect trailers, put them up, classify them to some degree, and then allow downloads and messages with ads sprayed down both sides. Fair enough; hope the weather’s nice down there. The trailer’s licensed in such a way that they can do that.

But taken another way, this was spectacular. I have no affiliation with gametrailers. They put it up and subject their (large) audience against it, and between the first of September and now it’s been viewed over three thousand times.

But more critically than that, it allows people to comment on the trailers. And here’s the gold, because I get immediate, non-affected-by-me feedback about the effect of the subject matter and the approach I took with the trailer. I get it without being in the face of the person, inciting them to agree with me or be contrarians or otherwise change their output based my presence. I just get the flat-out reaction.

The reactions are here and here’s an archived version of same, as things are different with me betraying knowledge of the link and sending readers there.

The teaser trailer is obfuscative, no doubt about that – it never says “text adventures” (doesn’t say “get lamp”, either), it doesn’t tell you who anybody is or what, for example, Steve Meretzky (the first face you see/hear), is talking about. (He’s talking about his time at Infocom). The music is strangely sad. The shots are odd, although one is definitely of a computer-like nature (the printout of source from Super Stud, the pre-version of Softporn Adventure put out by On-Line Systems, later Sierra On-Line). But nobody says computers have much to do with it, other than maybe Nick Montfort using the term “Virtual World”. In other words, it functions like a teaser trailer often does, as a kind of fogged-glass glance into a room of activity without much clarity as to what’s going on until you walk into the front door. This delights and damns the audience, to various degrees. I know all this, so those choices were, if not 100% conscious, ones that I can observe looking at the final work.

So naturally, dropped without too much context on the group, we get a percentage who are just sideswiped with confusion, and enough to post about it:

And this is?


what are they talking about? a game? a movie? a book?

I’m confuzzled.

A percentage of these go on like this, something in the range of roughly 10 to 15 percent. They don’t know what the hell is being talked about and there’s scant little for them to then run off to. Obviously works but that’s not particularly obvious and besides, a lot of people don’t really feel like going on an easter egg hunt to get what the hell’s being referred to. So there’s one expected bit from the teaser trailer – some folks are just confused and they’re lost (for the moment, until, with luck, they hear of it in a more concrete form).

Next are the people who do know what’s being talked about, and want the others to know:

It’s a documentary film about Text Adventure games that were common on early computers. Hitchikers guide to the galaxy had an awesome one. The phrase “get lamp” came from one but I can’t remember what. It was a command to, unsurprisingly, get a lamp. If you’ve never played a text adventure you should try it once. They are real difficult. Especially the early ones that required exact wording for all the commands.

lvl54spacemonkey, thank you. was trying to write a sensible answer to this. And god yes, text based adventure games were awsome games. Miss these kind of games, where puzzles were solved, due to your imagination being able to create a picture of the scene at hand, just due to the text. Text adventure games and the adventure RPG’s you got in book form. Good times good times…… Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy stil is one of my favorite text based games! Just wish I could remember where “Get lamp” was from… though it could just be a general refrence to the way you played these games; “pick up toothbrush.” or “open door”.. “go west”. 🙂 again, good times… good times..

Haha, people who are confused are displaying their youth for all to see…..
….or maybe they’re just not geeks AND old… …like me.

its a text input adventure game…. you type WALK EAST and you get a back a description of your new surroundings. Kinda like your point and click adventure without the pointing or clicking or anything else really.
Think Monkey Island but played thru console commands and without comedy.

So what we see there are people who feel they want to explain the subject, who take enough of an interest to spur further discussion about what it is and what I’m doing the movie on (in some way). Obviously they don’t know me or what direction I might take, but this set of obtuse references was enough to make them reconsider the subject and tell others about it.

Then, of bigger interest, are the people who see it and aren’t pleased:

I didnt get the trailer. Sounds interesting…but I dont know what this is :/

text adventure film, rubbish

get lame

Hey, King of Kong was kickass….but this does look kind of boring.
Maybe it was just Billy Mitchell…

Kind of a dumb name, but i guess it fits.

And then, finally, the people who see it, get what’s being talked about, and are happy to see it. Some of them seem to know of me, even if they don’t know me personally.

Interesting, kinda taking an old and one of the very first concepts of interacting gaming and turning it into a film, this was before my time, so i don’t a whole lot about it, but it look very interesting none of the less.

The name’s not catchy at all, but otherwise it looks incredible.

Fantastic! I grew up on Interactive Fiction; I’ll have to find this when it comes out. I see the director has also created a BBS documentary, but that’s a bit before my time.

What do I learn coming away from this selection? Well, as expected, people are shut out by the odd approach to the trailer. There’s definitely people who would want to see a “text adventure movie”, while others are highly skeptical of the idea. The title is odd (hence I registered as well) and so any promotional material will likely say “the text adventure documentary” or similar subtitle under it. I should be mindful that people will have no idea what a text adventure is (I already was doing that) while others remember them with fondness. And some people are excited about it, just watching the trailer.

Not a total wow, not a total flop. It is very very bad to make a film to try and please the most people; you please nobody. Hardcores will like it, I hope, and as much of the general audience to bring in as I can I will. But not, ultimately, at the expense of it being cohesive.

More tea leaves to read between edits. Pure gold.

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