This article is part of a series of comments I will be writing about games that changed my perception of what a good game is. Some of the games you may not know, some may not be on anybody else’s “best of” list, but they have changed me, and that’s why they are here.
Game #3: Leisure Suit Larry
My first computer was a 8088 PC. I was 14 then, and the first adventure I played on it was Larry.
Up until then, adventures had never included the character so that you could navigate him through the screens. I knew Transylvania, the Hobbit and Zork. Here was something new, somebody had reinvented how we play an adventure – first came text adventures, then graphics, then a character. And later, the mouse got added. And even later, everything was point & click. Now, adventures are more and more fully 3D environments. And the important bit to remember that the form may change, but at the heart, an adventure is about interactive storytelling. Whichever way you do it.
I learnt a lot of English from Larry. I’d had two years of english in school, and needed a dictionary to play. There are words in the English language that I still connect to this game, because I heard them there first: ribbed, hooker and pimp, of course. But also lint, cab, dumpster and even fire escape. When I was asked where I learnt so much english as a kid, I named Larry.
Larry 1 also had the now legendary age check, and that taught me two things: First, that you cannot use technical measures to prevent children from playing something you don’t want them to play. The parents need to pay attention to what their kids are doing. And secondly, that americans had a very strange conception of what was suitable for children. There is no violence in Larry, and the sex scenes are really harmless – most of them are covered up by black bars! My parents never objected to me playing it, at least not that I remember.
The end of Sierra Online and the killing of all those great adventures is a lesson in how big corporations can kill innovation and drive out the creative folks that their good fortune was built on. I look at Sierra today and weep, thinking of the good games and licenses that are forever lost.
Al Lowe, the creator of Larry, was my first hero in the adventure games business. He put humor in the game, so much of it, too – he even poked fun at Sierra themselves, and put co-workers or himself into the game. It was great stuff! I wish him that he gets an offer to make Larry 4 one day, because I want to play it. I would even like working on it myself.