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RPGFan Chapters Exclusive Review: The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games, Third Edition

RPGFan Chapters Art of Point and Click Adventure Games Review Book Photo

It feels more than a little surreal to be sitting at my desk with an advance copy of Bitmap Books’ The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games next to me. If real life were more like Myst and books actually could link to other words, I think this title is a front runner for being an actual, bonafide Linking Book. Each beautifully-printed illustration practically leaps off the page, and the double-page spreads specifically look like you can fall in and get lost. Hundreds of exciting worlds sit right there in a state of glossy glory, with commentary from the most famous creators of these worlds alongside them. Screenshot choices are engaging and have a good range of moods, from awe-inspiring to “WHAT…it’s the Leisure Suit Larry age verification questions.” Though art is (rightfully) the focal point, there is an impressive array of interviews from well-known people in diverse roles who created these classic games, which only compounds the feeling of immersion, especially with nice touches like a unique pixel portrait of each interviewee. It would also make a fantastic Linking Book because of the specially-designed spine that allows the book to lay flat on its pedestal for easy Linking panel access…er…the table.

Myst references aside, because that’s as far as I’m willing to go with them, this book would make a handsome addition to any library, especially for anyone interested in a collection on video game history. First, it’s a fitting addition because of the unique relationship between the point-and-click genre and the written word. Before there were point-and-click interfaces, text parsers served a similar function using written commands as opposed to clicks. The article on the history of these games in the beginning of the book explains this in great detail, and the steps that helped point-and-clicks form and change over time. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this form of game is a technological fulcrum that helped bring us from text-based gaming to 3D graphics and the variety of interfaces we have today. I think this might be a contributing factor to the overwhelming nostalgia some have for these games. 

Photo Credit: Bitmap Books

Interestingly, nostalgia is a topic that is handled particularly well in the third edition, I feel. The interviews with Dave Gilbert and Dave Grossman strike a good balance between honoring your roots and not having ties to the past be a barrier when creating new games. I tried to reflect this in the chosen excerpts for the book’s preview, but I must emphasize that you don’t get the full effect–all the nuance–unless you look at a large proportion of the new Third Edition content. It’s fascinating to read Dave Gilbert describe his creative process as not being tied to past adventure games, then go on to read how Wadjet Eye became a publisher. They gained notoriety and established themselves professionally after Gemini Rue received praise and notice from major press outlets like Rock, Paper, Shotgun, Polygon, and Kotaku. Funny how this kind of mirrors early Sierra and LucasArts and the way many of their games “didn’t sell very well,” but thrived by word-of-mouth and are now part of our collective pop culture.  

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Similarly, this quote from the Dave Grossman interview sums up the current climate for creators continuing to work in the industry from the early Sierra and LucasArts times well: “We tell stories in each other’s universes…that’s just how it works these days.” In its current iteration, this book illustrates this trend repeatedly. You can see art from Telltale’s The Walking Dead while reading about the many roles and hats Grossman wore for Monkey Island and Day of the Tentacle, for example. I also DEEPLY enjoyed piecing together information from several interviews and illustrations about The Dig. This extremely ambitious but ill-fated project had a lot of hefty industry talent passing through and adding to it at various points. It felt like I was uncovering a mystery of my own, which not every book offers, and the effect would have been dulled without information in this newest edition. Finally, the number of games the Bitmap team covers in the amount of detail they have is truly impressive. You’re likely to find a title you don’t know and want to learn more about, whether you’ve grown up with these games or not.

Another aspect of The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games I profoundly appreciate is the realistic but hopeful prognosis it predicts for the genre. By creating a new edition and spotlighting games all the way through 2021 and discussing points of collaboration, such as shared voice actors between Wadjet Eye and Clifftop Games for Kathy Rain, this book shows that the genre is still growing and developing. There’s also some information in the interviews about porting both classic and more recent adventure games to platforms like the Nintendo Switch, which is also rather forward-facing. I’d love to hear more about that process and wish all of these studios and creators good luck in that regard, because that adaptation of the classic point-and-click/adventure game control scheme is still hit-or-miss in many ports. If you want an example of a good one, try Hero U: Rogue to Redemption, a recent Kickstarter project by Lori and Corey Cole of Quest for Glory and Sierra fame. (Their interview is in the second edition.) Looking ahead at these types of games, I guess you could say the ending has not yet been written. I know I said I’d stop with the Myst references and I lied, but I really like that one.

The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games, especially with the new third edition content, had me speculating all over the place and thinking about the variety of games Bitmap included, and which others I’d like to see. Point-and-Click is a very specific sort of interface used in a narrow range of games, and the titles in this genre expand far beyond that into hybrid games and games that borrow from other genres as well. Some cross into visual novel territory, and some reimagine the genre with Quicktime Events. I turned the pages and started thinking, “Would Firewatch fit here? I think the artwork would fit right in, but is it close enough to a point-and-click?” 

Now that the book covers titles through 2021 and we have a new Monkey Island title on the horizon with some of the original creators, maybe I’ll be lucky and see some of the fantastic artwork from Disco Elysium included in some future version of this book as well. Or perhaps I just want to see Lt. Kim Kitsuragi take his place among the greatest narrative adventure game companion characters of all time. Probably both. I guess what I’m saying is there was definitely enough interesting content to warrant a third edition, and I am still hoping for a further edition—or volume—in the future, depending on what studios or developers have in store for us. Conveniently, if you have a previous edition of The Art of Point and Click Adventure Games, you can purchase this new edition in PDF form for a fraction of the cost of the book. I love having that option, especially given the hypothetical circumstances I just described. 

I’ll leave my review with this imperative: Take this command and put it in your text parser right now.

[get book]

"What book? You'll have to be more specific."

...oh hell.

[get "The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games"]

"Which edition?"

How about the current edition that one can order now?

[get "The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games, Third Edition"]

"...ok"

The Art of Point-and-Click Adventure Games should be available to order today, July 15th, from Bitmap Books. Be sure to check out their catalog and stay tuned here at RPGFan for more Chapters book reviews.

The advance book copy used in this article was provided to RPGFan by Bitmap Books, and has been discussed with permission. Please do not re-publish this article or excerpts elsewhere without permission. 

Hilary Andreff

Hilary Andreff

Officially, Hilary focuses on proofreading and QA here at RPGFan and has been with the team since early 2017. You can also find her on the occasional podcast, doing a music review, or helping make a news post once in a while. Unofficially, she responds immediately to any talk of a Quintet game or the Shadow Hearts series and is known for pushing RPGFan's graphic adventure coverage. She may be one of the most likely staff members to make a friendship speech.