Graphic Adventures: Being a Mostly Correct History of the Adventure Game Classics By Lucasfilm, Sierra and Others, from the Pages of Wikipedia (By the Authors of Wikipedia, Collected & Edited by Philipp Lenssen)

Did you love to play graphic adventures as much as I did, and want to learn more about them? The book Graphic Adventures is the mostly correct history of the adventure game classics by Lucasfilm, Sierra and others, from the pages of Wikipedia. The book features the tales behind games like Loom, Labyrinth, Mystery House, Maniac Mansion, Space Quest, The Secret of Monkey Island, King's Quest, Myst, Zork Nemesis and Leisure Suit Larry. The book was based on the pages of Wikipedia articles, which were edited and added to. Many game creators, like Al Lowe, David Fox and Peter Langston, are interviewed and provide further historical background on these games.

The book has over 500 pages, loads of screenshots of the old games, and costs $29. By the authors of Wikipedia, collected & edited by Philipp Lenssen, with original interviews and more. Half the profits will go to the Wikimedia Foundation. (ISBN: 978-0-557-41207-5)

"Three thumbs up!"
–Al Lowe, creator of Leisure Suit Larry

→ Buy it on Amazon.

+ Preview the Table of Contents, Introduction and Foreword



This book covers the history of classic graphic adventure games by presenting exemplary members of the genre. It is also an experiment.

An experiment, as this book may only be mostly correct, but not completely so. That’s because these pages collect articles from the open, human-edited, and sharing-enabled online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which I partly edited and spiced up for the book. At Wikipedia, for most articles, everyone can just click Edit and make changes, for better or worse (usually for better, which is why Wikipedia, on average, is such a great encyclopedia). I hope you enjoy the results of that editing process as presented in this book, while taking it for what it is: a snapshot of articles in eternal motion, articles which undergo new edits and corrections as I write.

I’m a big fan of the genre of adventure games. One of the earliest graphic adventures I can remember playing was Sierra’s Leisure Suit Larry. (As kids, we weren’t making it far in the game, though... the maturity of the topics covered in Larry Laffer’s life were over our heads at the time.)

Some of the first graphic adventures I enjoyed solving right to the end were by Lucasfilm Games, now known as LucasArts. Instead of a text input field, these games presented a point-and-click interface. Lucasfilm games also had a focus on not letting you get stuck. Getting stuck, say, because there’s a locked door in front of you... but you forgot to pick up the key to it earlier on, and now can’t go back. In some of the games, like The Secret of Monkey Island, it was even impossible or very, very hard to die.

The joy of solving a tough puzzle – sometimes alone, sometimes together in front of the computer with your friend – was great. So was entering new areas in the game, discovering fantastic art work, novel characters, and fresh background music. Finishing a game right to the end was not always common though, depending on the game. I remember playing Maniac Mansion or Zak McKracken for endless hours as a kid and young teen, exchanging tips with friends, but never even getting close to finish it. Other series, like Monkey Island, were more feasible to finish.

(As adults, a friend and I went back to play Maniac Mansion again, this time with the explicit goal of finally making it to the end. We did!)

Now, let the experiment begin. What follows are by and large pages based on copies of articles from Wikipedia, with my own edits, moves, cuts and fades – and including further interviews and images –, but mostly cooperatively written by the many thousands of authors around the world. Authors who, perhaps, and perhaps like you, shared some of the same magic when they were playing these games years ago.


Graphic adventure games are a form of adventure game, distinct from text adventures. Whereas a player must type commands such as “look” in text-based adventures, graphic adventures revolutionized gameplay by making use of somewhat more natural human perception. Eventually, the text parser interface associated with older adventure games was phased out in favor of a point-and-click interface, i.e., a game where the player interacts with the game environment and objects using an on-screen cursor.

Graphic adventure games were introduced by a new company called On-Line Systems, which later changed its name to Sierra On-Line. After the rudimentary Mystery House (1980), and the first color adventure game Wizard and the Princess (1980), they established themselves with the full adventure King’s Quest (1984), appearing on various systems, and went on to further success with a variety of strong titles.

In 1984 a new type of adventure games emerged following the launch of the Apple Macintosh with its point-and-click interface. First out was the innovative but relatively-unknown Enchanted Scepters the same year. In 1985, ICOM Simulations released Deja Vu, completely banishing the text parser for a point-and-click interface. In 1987 the well-known second follow-up Shadowgate was released, and the company known today as LucasArts entered the field with Maniac Mansion – a point-and-click adventure that gained a strong following. A prime example of LucasArts’ work is the Monkey Island series.

In 1988, Sierra On-Line created Manhunter: New York. It marked a major shift for Sierra, having used a text parser for their adventure games before.

Later on, graphic adventure games were quick to take advantage of the storage possibilities of the CD-ROM medium and the power of the Macromedia Director multimedia-production software. Games such as The Journeyman Project, Spaceship Warlock and Iron Helix incorporated pre-rendered 3D elements and live-action video. By 1993, Myst represented a major milestone for graphical adventure games. It featured a first-person viewpoint and reached 6 million sales, making it one of the best selling PC games of all time.

The genre has since seen a relative decline. Reasons for the decline involve the ability for computer hardware to play more graphically and gameplay-advanced action games such as first-person shooters, or multiplayer online games. The popularity and sales of adventure games have made publishers less inclined to fund development teams for fear of bad sales.

In more recent times however, independent users have created many smaller graphic adventure games in Adobe Flash, a browser plugin delivering animations, sounds and more. Many of these games challenge the player to interact with objects in an environment, forming very short and basic point-and-click adventure games. (A popular sub-genre is known as “escape the room” games.)

Added to that, the graphic adventure genre has seen a rebirth with the introduction of new videogame hardware like the Nintendo DS handheld console, and the Wii, which allows the gamer to interact with the game in new and innovative ways. Some of these new play styles were naturally applicable to the method that adventure games are played; as a result, many developers have created new graphic adventures for these platforms.

→ My blog post on this

→ Download the digital editable version.